Were Romans Obsessed with Violence? In many modern books written about Ancient Rome and her people, the Romans are often portrayed as brutal and unforgiving people who enjoyed violence and thought it amusing to see people being injured and killed to the point of obsession. It is my aim to establish whether this classification is justified or if it is simply an exaggeration of what a small group of people enjoyed.
While it is known that in Rome there were gladiatorial fights, public beatings and the keeping of slaves was legal (and common), it is also important to understand just exactly how advanced the Romans were. The Longman Dictionary of the English Language defines civilised as "of or being peoples of nations in a state of civilisation." And then defines civilisation as "a relatively high level of cultural development; specifically the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of records is attained." I think that by this definition, the Romans were civilised, the educated being able to write and detailed records being kept by many historians.
The Romans also had written laws and government, including (later) an assembly for the poorer classes. In fact, their system of law was actually quite advanced (even if it was designed to help the rich) - "The idea was accepted that a man's intentions ought to be taken into account, and there was less importance attached to what he did and what he meant to do. The next thing to become established was the notion that all men must be treated equally." This way of thinking was very advanced and not barbaric or uncivilised at all, in fact the same notion that all men should be treated equally was not established in America, Australia and other countries for many years.
It is now common knowledge that, in Ancient Rome, people often attended (and enjoyed) gladiatorial fights to the death, wild beast hunts, naval battles and chariot racing, all which often had religi...
Plutarch, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin Books, Middlesex, England, 1972
P Mantin & R Pulley, The Roman World: From Republic to Empire, Cambridge University Press, England, 1992
KR Bradley, Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, USA, 1989
Longman Dictionary of the English Languages, WM Clowes Ltd., Beccles & London, England, 1984
REC Burrell, The Romans and Their World, A.Wheaton & Co., Exeter, England, 1970
RH Barrow, The Romans, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1976
G. Alföldy, The Social History of Rome, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 1991