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Like social status, political leadership in Athens depended upon a man's abilities and achievements. In the dynastic empires of the Middle East, political leaders were the sons of former rulers. In Athens, on the other hand, political power was open to all who could grasp the reins of state and solve the cities' problems. To become a leader in old Athens the politician had to enjoy the favor of a significant proportion of the city's citizens. To gain their endorsement, the leader had to satisfy their demands and needs. Consequently, politicians rose to power because they were able to persuade the populace that their programs were best for the city, and once in office the leader maintained support by carrying out programs that benefitted his followers.
The most successful politician of old Athens, Pericles, maintained his strength by operating a smooth-running political machine. Pericles ran the city of Athens in much the same way that a modern political "boss" would run the city of Chicago. One of Pericles' favorite techniques to gain political support was to extend the vote to those who did not have it. Once they obtained the prize, of course, they would vote for their benefactor in overwhelming numbers. Since Pericles, as head of the state, was responsible for all public projects, he controlled the parceling out of jubs. He naturally gave contracts to his political supporters; the Parthenon and the Erectheum on the Acropolis were built by people who voted for him in elections.
Although Pericles was much like a modern political boss in the way he gained power, he was decidedly unlike his twentieth century counterparts in his personal characteristics. In addition to proving himself to be a capable political leader, Pericles also proved himself to be a superior Greek,
As much as any man of his time, he fulfilled his potential. He was an excellent orator, author, warrior, and athlete. Though he was not an architect or sculptor himself, he was an able judge of art and saw to it that Athens was enhanced with the beautiful temples that now sit in ruins on the Acropolis.
Pericles was given political power because the Athenian political system encouraged such men co rise. All citizens were not only allowed, they were expected to participate in making the political decisions of the day. The Greeks believed that all citizens of the state were capable of sensible political decisions. They did not believe, as men of surrounding civilizations did, that order and progress depended upon the wisdom of a small elite. As a consequence, all Athenian citizens had a hand in deciding who their leaders would be and what policies they would pursue. A man who could cultivate popular favor and live up to the Greek ideals was likely to rise in the political system. Pericles was such a man, and the results of his leadership are testimony to the Greek faith that man is capable of great accomplishments.
This humanistic faith still lives in western tradition. The Greeks spread their way of life throughout the Mediterranean world by establishing colonies on every shore of the sea. Alexander the Great took Greek ideas with him
as he conquered the Middle East. And the conquerors of Greece, the Romans, so admired the values of the people they subdued that they incorporated their values into their own way of life. Christian philosophers too picked up the ideas of Hellas and worked them into their theology. At least two of the gospels, the Gospel of John end the Gospel of Luke, the Greek physician, are steeped in Greek philosophy. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Christian philosopher of a later age, revised Catholic theology on the basis of his reading of Aristotle. Renaissance scholars unearthed many of the remains of Greek life in the fifteenth century and were profoundly influenced by what they discovered.
Since the fifteenth century generation upon generation of western school boys have been raised on Greek literature. In the nineteenth century a boy's education was not considered complete unless he had translated from the original Greek the works of Homer, Hesiod, Plato, and Aristotle. Modern philosophers still argue over the profound meanings of the ancient Greek philosophers who raised almost all of the questions that concern twentieth century thinkers. Every world history book contains at least one chapter on the "golden age." Many modern buildings, especially government buildings, draw their inspiration from the architecture found on the Acropolis. The ancient Greek tradition of humanism has become the living tradition of western man. More than we knew, we are all Greeks, all the intellectual heirs of several generation of men from a few city states who set the standards for western man.
THE ROMAN EMPIRE
Stating the Issue
When Greece was enjoying her "golden age," Rome was but a tiny city state built around seven hills in the middle of the Italian peninsula. The hardy people who lived in the city devoted their lives to cultivating the lush soil of the Latium plain. When they were not farming they were fighting against the tribes who repeatedly invaded their homeland. As the Romans subdued each tribe they extended their domain to include ever larger portions of the peninsula. Finally, they confronted the Greeks themselves who had set up colonies on the southern toe of the "boot." After a short war, the little city was master of all Italy.
The Romans had conquered the peninsula almost by accident. They had fought against their neighbors to keep them from threatening Rome's security. But even after they had subdued all of Italy, the Romans still faced one great enemy, the African city of Carthage. Carthage dominated hundreds of towns on the shores of the Mediterranean and thereby controlled most of the commerce that plied back and forth on her gentle waves. The two rivals eventually became embroiled in a century-long series of wars which ended in the complete destruction of Carthage. At last Rome found herself master of the Mediterranean. It was but a short step to bring neighboring lands into a giant empire.
The government that fashioned the Roman Empire was the Roman Republic. Under the Republic the most powerful political body was the Senate. The Senate consisted of the wealthiest and most prestigious of the Romans. It made the laws, appointed the executive officers of the Republic, and directed the administration of the country. In general, the Senate looked to the past for guidance. Senate debates often hinged on whether or not a proposed course of action would continue the traditions of the Republic. But despite its conservative leanings, the Senators created the Roman Empire, a political entity unknown to the ancient world.
The Roman Empire was a giant creature, encompassing hundreds of different tongues and tribes, It included the sophisticated Greeks, the barbaric Gauls, the oriental Egyptians, and the savage Celts. The city of Rome itself was larger than any other ancient city; at its zenith it contained about 1,000,000 souls, many of foreign origin. The central government had to administer all of these different people spread out over an area that stretched from Egypt in the southeast to Britain in the northwest.
The creation of the Empire created mammoth tasks and posed virtually insoluble problems. Who was to have charge of the whole empire? How could the government see that its orders were carried out? How could the government in Rome decide what was good for the people who lived in Egypt? How
could the government bring about unity in an empire made up of so many different peoples?
These were but a few of the problems that confronted the Roman Empire. In solving them, the government had to break with tradition. The old seat of power, the Senate, gave way to the Emperor. The small farmer, the basis of Rome's citizen army, was displaced by huge plantations manned by slaves. The old patrician, land-based class succumbed to a rich merchant cla88. In short, the whole society changed; the government, the economy, and the social structure were all transformed. How the Romans met the challenge of change is the major issue of this unit.
IN THE DAYS OF CAESAR AUGUSTUS
Rome defeated Carthage in 202 B.C. Following their victory, the Romans devoted themselves to rounding out their empire. They subdued Gaul, Britain, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. The acquisition of all this territory challenged the Republican government. Opportunities for corruption multiplied as the Senate established provincial governments in lands which the Romans had conquered. Senators found many ways to enrich themselves from the fabulous bounty of the empire. The small farmer, the traditional backbone of the Roman economy, was displaced by the competition from huge plantations established by opportunistic government officials. People from every corner of the Empire poured into the city of Rome and swelled its population. Everywhere the old ways of doing things fell victim to the challenges of the new Empire.
For the government itself, the most difficult challenge came from the victorious generals who sought to impose their will on Rome. The Senate, guilty of great corruption, had enriched itself on the work of the Roman soldier. The soldiers demanded their slice of the pie, and willingly followed their generals who promised them land and riches in return for their support. One after another, generals would return from conquering a new land and work their way into command of the government. Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony followed each other in succession, each defeating his predecessor to gain power. The government of Rome belonged to the general who had the greatest army and who could keep it loyal by using his command of the government to distribute land and wealth to the soldiers.
This time of troubles lasted one hundred years. No one, it seemed, could long remain master of the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar did succeed in establishing himself as a popular dictator, but he was assassinated in the Senate chamber by a group of jealous senators. Not until his nephew, Octavius, had subdued Marc Antony and Caesar's murderers did a measure of orderly government return to Rome.
How Octavius was able to restore order to Rome is the subject of this reading. Upon gaining power, Octavius changed his name to Caesar Augustus (Caesar, after his uncle, and Augustus, to indicate that he was divine). He ruled the empire as dictator from 29 B.C. to 9 A.D. Finding out how Caesar Augustus ruled is no easy task. Very few official records remain from his reign. In the twentieth century we must depend almost entirely on Caesar Augustus' own description of his rule and the descriptions of those historians who lived during or shortly after his time. Reading XI contains various accounts from these sources. You will have to put all your historical skills to use in order to develop an explanation of how Augustus governed the Empire. As you read, therefore, keep the following questions in your mind.