Role Of Fear In Roman History

essay A

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

The focal point of this essay is to explain the role of Fear in Roman history. It would be evaluated and explained how paranoia lead to Roman expansion, and how well did it serve to protect the empire from attack. The role of fear would also be evaluated and examined in the context of Roman reaction to Christianity and in the Roman budgetary priorities. It could be well mentioned that fear has played a key function in the development and sustainability of an empire down the ages and the Roman Empire was no different.

But before the fear mechanism of the Roman Empire is ascertained it is important to evaluate the usage of fear in the political arena as a whole. The need of unification is an important aspect of any empire whatsoever. There are different factors that contribute to this unification model. Sometimes it is ethnicity or religion and other times it could be language but to sustain this unification over a long period of time a state needs to have the constant threat formulation.

It can be mentioned that an army is to be maintained to defend the boundaries of an empire and more often than not when the boundaries of a nation spreads beyond an optimum limit its needs more soldiers to guard them. These soldiers are paid and these are always professional soldiers but bread cannot be the only motivation for these men. The extra motivation comes as a well formulated model laid down by the statesmen. This formulation is the implementation of fear mechanism. (Border, 375)

It could be mentioned that if there is a constant threat of invaders then the motivation to guard the frontiers would automatically increase among the personnel who are guarding the boundaries. Additionally, the huge army that is to be maintained by the empire runs on the resources obtained from its citizen as taxes. The citizens are persuaded to pay the taxes willfully if they feel that paying taxes would be beneficial for them in the long run as that would ensure their safety by maintaining a large army and guarding the frontiers from invading armies. (Powell, 49)

For Rome these invading army consisted of different nationalities over different period of time. Initially, this threat was provided by the Etruscans and at a later stage it was provided by generals like Hannibal. During the latter parts of the Roman Empire the threats were instrumental in the form of barbarian invasions mainly from the northern European regions. These tribes included the Goths, the Visigoths, the Gaul, Vandals and the Huns. In a way these invasions, particularly the one lead by Hannibal, actually paved the way for the expansion of the Roman Empire.

It is an interesting fact to know that the fear principal that made the Roman Empire to stand and fight as a unified force against invaders was channeled to the mechanism for expansion. This is because with each invasion the imperialist forces of the Roman Empire found a newer issue to use the fear and paranoia of the general mass to compel its resources into attacking mode against the invading army and battled it out deep into their territory. As a result this was a new territory won by the Roman Empire and became the part of it.

Thus the fear factor helped the Roman Empire as a means of expansion too. (Powell, 50-53) During the middle part of the Roman Empire, specifically during the rule of Julius Caesar the same fear mechanism was skillfully implemented as a tool for raising army and taxes. In this case the invader was not from outside the empire but was a result of inter conflict for power. During the early days of Caesar the Roman Empire was ruled by the Triumvirate. It consisted of three major consuls as the leader of the senate. These were Pompey, Crassus and Caesar.

After the death of Crassus it was up to Caesar and Pompey to indulge into power struggle. Caesar won the crisis by motivating the senate into believing that Pompey was going to be a detrimental influence on the Empire and that he needs the support of the senate to defeat Pompey. That fact that Pompey was assisted by tribes from North Africa made the senate fearful of an invasion by non Romans and helped Caesar to victory. Later Caesar became the perpetual dictator in 44 BC and laid the foundation stone of the Roman Empire.

Thus it is obvious that fear or paranoia played a huge part in the right from the initial development stages political and military history of the Roman Empire. (Dos, 47-48) Sherman mentioned in his text ‘The west in the world’ that “a few thousand individuals controlled some 50 million people. ” (Sherman, 152) The system maintained “peace, collects taxes, and prevents power from accumulating with actual power exerted at the local level”. (Sherman, 152) Thus the system, by the time of Augustus, was aware enough about the use of the fear principal and the advantages of using it with success.

It is obvious that for a force of “few thousand” to control “5 million” it was important to impose various factors on numerous grounds in the socio economic political arena. The fear factors in this case was not just the paranoia of foreign invasions alone but depended on the internal military and political brute forces too. The fear factor was instrumental while reacting against the advent of Christianity too. Christianity only became the legal religion in 313 AD but before that it was seen as a menace for the Empire and skepticism was all surrounded about it.

In the initial stages of this religion it was seen as a threat to the Empire and the roman citizens were motivated into a paranoia that Christianity was in advance to overthrow the Roman outlook and philosophy of life along with the Empire itself. (Cunningham, 24-5) This paranoia was used by a great extent by Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) when he ordered the execution of thousands of believers of Christianity in the amphitheatre during the circus games. The same was applicable in a later stage in a different degree during Augustine. “For Augustine and other religious thinkers, church and state were not incompatible.

In fact, these men believed chat the slate should play an active role in ensuring the health of the church, in the early centuries of Christianity, heresy (expressing opinions that differed from official church doctrine) could he considered treason punishable by civil sanctions”. (Sherman, 182) In a way religion was used as a tool of administration where fear was used as an instrument to obtain subjection. It could be mentioned that it is but a common practice for the ruler to use any potential resource for ruling and the Roman Empire did exactly that using the fear principals.

The religion of Christianity, in the initial stages, was seen as a counter force of the Roman pagan gods in general and the state projected Christianity as a definitive force against the empire. This, much like the invasion paranoia, worked out quite successfully among the Romans and felt t was essential to remain unified under the traditional roman ways to sustain the force against Christianity. This emerged as hate campaigns against Christianity that often resulted in mass killings. (Tyerman, 233) Another important factor that worked against Christianity was that the slaves were a mass to be converted into Christianity.

Slave revolt was a constant fear for the Romans from the time of Spartacus and conversion of the slaves into a particular religion certainly yielded skeptical notions among the masters. It was looked up on as a unifying force of the slaves and the Romans knew quite well the threat of unification. This was more threat in the sense that this time the unification was taking place not in the vicinity of the empire but within it. This made it more difficult for the Romans. Thus fear and paranoia was harvested out of this issue as a need for roman confederacy.

Confederacy, that was so important for the sustainability of the Roman Empire. (Tyerman, 233-34) It could be mentioned that the Christians were seen as a different race and thus racial injustice in the form of xenophobia was planted deep into the Roman Empire. It is very peculiar to consider racism is an ideology where humans are separated into various groups in the belief that some people are superior because they belong to a particular ethnic or national group. It could be summarized that racism is the result of having negative judgments, beliefs, and feelings towards certain identifiable groups.

Peoples’ distrust or reservation of other races or cultures is to be expected: it is very natural to fear the unfamiliar. That is why there is a need for conscious and collective actions to change society. One of the most urgent concerns is the assurance of economic opportunities which should be considered an integral component of any social program to address the issue. The development of various alliance among groups within the community that have shown better success in eliciting response from the most distressed among Christians: the youth and women.

These efforts have efforts have achieved success because they have taken into consideration similar trends among other social that suffer marginalization. However, till the time Christianity was recognized by the Roman Empire had to go through severe turmoil in the hands of the Empire. (Tyerman, 237) The same fear mechanism was instrumental in the budgetary priorities of the empire too. It could be ascertained that there was a great demand for Chinese silk and Indian spices among the high ranking population of the Roman Empire. This was much opposed by many orators of the senate.

It was pointed out that a huge amount of fortune was running out as a cost of these luxuries. But it was soon pulled into the favorable conditions by the upper class Romans. (Gervers, 17-22) “The empire imported silkworms from China which opened a new, lucrative trade. The, royal court held a monopoly on silk production, and the finest silk was made in the emperor’s palace itself The court also controlled the profitable industry of purple dye, which was produced from shellfish from the shores of eastern Mediterranean. ” (Sherman, 207) It could well be mentioned in this context that this was the Empire’s method of using fear and paranoia.

Get access to
knowledge base

MOney Back
No Hidden
Knowledge base
Become a Member