Don’t Mess with Rome

There is a tendency by some to whitewash history in order to fit modern sensibilities, to speak of the Ancient Romans as a tolerant people who valued all cultures and in so doing equate that supposed tolerance to the multiculturalism of today. Well that’s one way to look at it, another would be to say the Romans didn’t tolerate anyone who wasn’t willing to bend to the Roman will and that’s something else entirely. The following story is just one example of the Roman will, their inclination toward tolerance and a slice of reality.

From the article:

The Roman Empire was a nice package of countries and peoples. But what happened if you didn’t want to become part of it?
The native Spaniards of a little town called Numancia decided that they were damned if they would be bullied by Rome. They were not damned, as it turned out, but they were annihilated. Rome itself admired them for generations.

Read the article here.


1 Response to “Don’t Mess with Rome”

  1. 1 100swallows January 17, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Thanks for the link. I left this passage out of my post because it was getting long. It was written in about 130BC by a Greek who admired the Romans. He was present at the destruction of both Carthage and Numantia. The Scipio he is writing about here is the one who beat Hannibal—Scipio Africanus—and the city is (was!) New Carthage, Spain.

    “Scipio, when he judged that a large enough number of troops had entered the town, let loose the majority of them against the inhabitants, according to the Roman custom; their orders were to exterminate every form of life they encountered, sparing none, but not to start pillaging until the word was given to do so. This practice is adopted to inspire terror, and so when cities are taken by the Romans you may often see not only the corpses of human beings but dogs cut in half and the dismembered limbs of other anuimals, and on this occasion the carnage was especially frightful because of the large size of the population.” From The Rise of the Roman Empire, by Polybius (p. 415 of my Penguin Classics translation)

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