Monday, January 31, 2011
When In Rome...
"If our subconscious were attractive, we wouldn't have to bury it deep down within our selves"
The Ancient Roman civilisation dates back to approximately 1000 BC. During the reign of power wielded by Rome - over an ever increasing territory including most of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean - they gained a reputation for being a highly organised military and political empire, not well known for acts of kindness and mercy.
The Romans had a strict social hierarchy. The patricians or nobles were born into affluence, status, and influence, it has even been proven that the Romans committed incest in order to maintain pure aristocratic bloodlines. Marriage was hereby a calculated act, influenced by politics and material wealth. Roman society was dictated by the machinations of personal gain and power or influence over the masses. They grew their empire by conquest, by enslaving and absorbing the adjacent or opposing peoples as they expanded.
The Roman military was comprised mostly of citizens who served to recompense a "debt" to society for the use of land. While they were usually paid a stipend, citizens had little choice over participation, had to supply their own weapons and horses, and desertion would usually result in the death penalty.
Children had little or no value within Roman culture and were shown minimal affection. Unwanted children were often sold into slavery, or children were treated as household slaves until they were old enough to be married off. Even then, a son could not legally own property or hold influence while his father still survived.
For Romans violence and cruelty was simply an accepted part of life. The fact that they were a highly successful empire begs the question of whether this lack of empathy is a required part of human success. The Roman empire did fall eventually, but up until then they made huge leaps forward in technology, science and philosophy. Is it the human emotions and resulting empathy that hold us back?
The arena, the mainstay of Roman entertainment and society, was institutionalised and extreme violence for pleasure. The noxii (criminal class, or disgraced slaves), and those condemned to die had to fight publicly for the right to live or die, often heavily disadvantaged and outnumbered. In one day of gladiatorial events 8-10 blood matches would be held, the resulting arena being splattered with the blood of those who's crimes ranged from petty theft to heresy. The crowd drunk on violence, would cheer for the life or death of the condemned, the descision often being made on a whim by the highest ranking official present. The eventual and protracted execution was celebrated with cheers and laughter. This practice (public execution) has been carried on throughout history, still bloodthirsty, but thankfully less drawn out than watching men be ripped apart by wild beasts (damnati ad bestias).
Roman orgies were often serviced by women, young men and children who had no choice in participation, violence and rape seen as the obligations of servitude. Roman politics were often dominated by assassinations and cold hearted maneuvering. Obligations to familial ties and loyalty were seen as a sign of weakness and sentimentality would often bring about ones downfall. A sociopathic society in all its glory.
Throughout history violent and yet successful regime's and empires have all shared bloodthirsty origins. Is this how we have succeeded and become the most prolific species on earth? We exist in duality, we have propensity for great acts of humanity, but are also capable of indescribable acts of cruelty en masse - as individuals and as a group.
Are we in denial about our true nature? Can we really abolish war and suffering without denying some important part of our innate being? Is it our ability to ignore this "dark" side of ourselves that makes these acts possible? If we cannot express this "darkness" through our prescribed culture and society, do we then express it in private? Is it the desire to repress our true nature that has led to the rise in crimes of extreme violence against each other that benefit no one but the self?
"A tear dries quickly when it is shed for the troubles of others." - Cicero