Sunday, 3 January 2016

Virgil isms...

Virgil - Wikimedia commons
Publius Vergilius Maro... also known as Virgil (70 B.C. – 19 B.C.)

While making notes on a recently read historical book “The Wall Rome’s Greatest Frontier by Alistair Moffat” I noted down a quotation by the poet Virgil. 

Alistair Moffat writes that the following words “had found divine support” during the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor.  For me also, the words sum up in a nutshell what I see as the Ancient Roman expansion policy in Britannia, and in general...with some reservations. 

In The Aeneid, Virgil has his character—the god Jupiter—say something like this (there are slightly varying translations of the actual Latin text)

“I set upon the Romans bounds neither of space nor of time: I have bestowed upon them empire without limit…to impose the ways of peace, to spare the defeated and to crush those proud men who will not submit.”

If brought up with this ideology, I can see from where the post Augustan emperors got their 'green light' during the ensuing four centuries to acquire the extent of the known world as the new Roman Empire boundary. According to texts I've read, as conquerors the Roman Empire generals wanted, where possible, to acquire new lands without any blood shed and they desired to impose their form of peace as painlessly as possible. Sometimes that meant fairly instant negotiation with tribes who were terrified of the impact of the Roman Army machine- such capitulation claimed as successful strategy leading to a peaceful result on behalf of the Roman Empire. 

On the other hand...I have some doubts about the efficacy of the parts of Virgil's quotation about Rome sparing the defeated. I suspect that was generally very difficult: harsh lessons learned by subdued peoples was easier to effect after 'heads rolled' at the top of the Celtic Tribal hierarchy

I'm very glad to be writing about enemies of Rome (i.e the Caledonians and their allies) who became very difficult for the armies of Rome to crush. 

Acclaimed to be the greatest ever Ancient Roman poet, Virgil’s most famous work is the Aeneid. Having ‘borrowed’ techniques from other ancient poets like Homer, the epic poem of the Aeneid’s 12 books charts the journeys and tribulations of the fictitious Aeneas as he battles his way from Troy to the location where the city of Rome will eventually have its foundations. The Aeneid is essentially the pre-Augustan history of Rome woven into an epic poem.

Other quotes by Virgil are very recognisable and you may also feel you’ve read these sentiments before.

They succeed, because they think they can.

They conquer who believe they can.

Endure the present, and watch for better things.

Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance.

Fortune favours the bold.

Love conquers all.

Fortune sides with him who dares.

Fury itself supplies arms.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll add a post about the poet Virgil.


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