What did the Romans even do for us?

Doubtless we all know the Romans – the huge Empire, magnificent buildings and incredible works of literature. But it is often hard to discern how much of Ancient Roman civilisation has been carried on into modern day life, and whether they’ve benefitted us in any great way.

In today’s blog post, we discuss what the Romans did for today’s world and how countries could be much different if the Romans hadn’t become so powerful and spread their ways and concepts across Europe (and eventually the world).

1. Plumbing/Sewage and Water Supplies

Rome was one of the first Ancient cities to develop advanced water transport mechanisms, via the use of aqueducts. These genius wonders of architecture supplied public fountains – which the poor families collected from – and private villas. Aqueducts were tall arching structures with extremely slight downward angles so water would flow towards the cities.

Not only this, but aqueducts were utilised for carrying water to farms for irrigation and supplying bath houses where hot springs weren’t near.

Drains connecting to the main Cloaca Maxima carried away excess fluids that built up on the streets, but this was more for the purposes of preventing flooding than sanitation.

However, many of the plumbing systems the Romans used in their public toilets, underground sewage systems and water supply lines are the basis for what we use today.

2. Armies and Town Walls

During the Ancient times, tall, thick stone walls were considered impregnable, practically the best method of defensive for a town or city. As there were no inexpensive or logical means for getting over of through a wall, they popularised and came into widespread use from at least 2500BC.

But it was our good friends over in Italy that decided building properly designed walls around all their settlements was a good idea. And they were right.

When new areas were conquered, battlements were established at astonishingly quick speeds to defend them. If stone or bricks weren’t available in the region, dirt was piled up high all around and hardened in the sun.

As an army travelled, it was able to set up a camp in a perfect formation that was precisely the same as all other legions at the time. Therefore, every soldier would know where each part of the base was. Wooden walls and tall, reinforced gates were built on the borders, and passwords were used to allow visitors or convoys in. Sharp, pointed stakes were twisted into the ground and walls to snare any invaders.

Much of the organisation in our modern armies can be traced back to Ancient Rome and the cleverly designed legions.

3. Our Languages

Hundreds of millions of people around the world speak Romance Languages – ones that are derived from Latin – and some of them don’t even realise it.

Spanish, French and, of course, Italian, are the most common Romance Languages. Many of their words are extremely similar or practically identical to Latin words. “Amigo” in Spanish means “friend” just as “amicus” in Latin.

Rome helped spread the common letters of the alphabet we use today.

4. Trade and Interest

Rome also introduced the money lending system to Britain, by letting the Britons borrow money to pay for expensive Roman goods then asking for it to be payed back at an extortionately high rate of interest.

Around the golden age of the Empire, the Romans believed in the concept of client kingship, where once a barbarian region was conquered, connections would be made with loyal foreign monarchs/leaders. They would be placed on the throne in control of that area and could directly report to the Emperor.

Widespread trade was used extensively inside and outside of Rome’s borders. This created fairly good relations with Rome’s neighbours, and allowed a successful economy to thrive in the Republic/Empire.

Rome’s way of trading with other kingdoms and Empires to make friends and boost their wealthy is not dissimilar to global trade which almost all governments conduct nowadays.

5. Public Sports and Entertainment

We must all know this one!

Governors of towns and often the Emperor would host ceremonies and athletic events to please the people (and amuse themselves).

Anyone who decided to surrender to Rome or simply give up their old life to try and become a citizen was greatly rewarded with feasts, games and often gruesome fighting contests.

This all made for a very sporting population and a very civilised people, and public events brought people from wealthy and poor families together, just like sports today.

One difference is that going to your local amphitheatre would be at no cost to you, as everything was at the expensive of the host.

I hope you enjoyed this post!

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Take a tour of Ancient Rome

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