Rome Recycled

By Sarah Halper

World Civilization

There are many discoveries throughout history that are treasured and valued for their ingenuity and timelessness whether used for good or ill, such as propaganda, modern warfare, and modern architecture. Much of how we live today can be traced to the Greco-Roman world. Modern-day conveniences such as highways, plumbing, and better-secured archways are things people today take for granted, but which all stem from the Greco-Romans (Burdett, 2008). 

Alexander the Great was one of the first leaders to inspire the confidence of his people. No matter the circumstances, even when they were direly futile, his followers would praise his accomplishments and sustain their belief in him. This trickery that Alexander used on his people is known as “critical geopolitics.” The concept is that “intellectuals of statecraft construct ideas about places, these ideas influence and reinforce their political behaviors and policy choices, and these ideas affect how we, the people, process our own notions of places and politics (Blij, Murphy, & Fouberg, 2007, p. 246)." Alexander the Great’s own geopolitics were reflected in his enthusiastic speeches to his men: “Alexander exhorted his men in a short speech, stating that unlike their previous battles, this next one was for all of Asia and that he had no doubts of their courage and devotion (Adams, 2006, p. 171).” Alexander delivered this sort of speech multiple times throughout his career as conqueror and general, and never failed to raise his soldiers’ spirits, and in doing so Alexander was thought to be a “god,” beloved by his men (Adams, 2006, p.142). Another method of trickery Alexander practiced to gain the worship of his men was to drink a potion from his physician which was rumored to be poisoned; this “story again played into Alexander’s image, as unconcerned by rumors and having full trust in his men (Adams, 2006, p.142)."

A more modern day approach to “critical geopolitics” is also referred to as propaganda. This sort of psychological warfare was introduced most famously in World War II through the “microphone technology” of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (Linebarger, 1948). For Hitler to complete this feat, he first needed to create a speaking environment in which he could perform. During these speeches Hitler was able to “exaggerate his presence to make him seem almost god-like (Linebarger, 1948, p. 224).” Furthermore, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill similarly made use of the radio to brandish his own form of propaganda against the Nazis. Propaganda and critical geopolitics do not necessarily have to stop at just words and word of mouth; they can also be delegated through symbols and manner of dress, such as through the Nazi swastika. 

Warfare strategies and technologies continue to evolve throughout history. Because of the Greco-Roman’s ability to conquer civilizations through unexpected strategies and frank determination, there is a lot to admire and duplicate today. A technique that Alexander taught his men included riding destriers into battle with the reins in their right hand so that their weapons (swords, etc) could be free for fighting in their left hand. This caused pandemonium in Alexander’s enemies, including the Persian army, which Alexander met in battle with “soldiers riding on horseback—to push the Persians back (Bauer & West, 2006, p. 156)." This new strategy helped Alexander conquer Asia.

Adolf Hitler relied on surprise attacks during World War II, much like Alexander did.  The German army relied on what would later be called a “very unique, very deadly, and historical weapon called the V1 (Fighter Factory, 2010)." The V1 was a bomb manufactured to fly “overhead at low altitude before the timing mechanisms expired, and the bomb fell to earth, and exploded (Fighter Factory 2010)." Like Alexander, Hitler relied on the newness of his weapons strategy. No one at the time was expecting a hit from above the clouds, so there was no way (at first) for the people to protect themselves, leading to many deaths.

The Greco-Romans are also responsible for laying the foundations for modern architecture.  Modern conveniences such as plumbing, piping, and water supply exist due to the Romans’ precise detail when it comes to improving the “arch and/or circle (Burdett, 2008, p.11).”  Engineering went hand in hand with architecture, as the Romans were one of the first to create the aqueduct, a water channel built on arches to transport water to towns. To date, civilizations have created underground piping systems in which water is transported, not unlike the Roman aqueducts, and countries like Italy still use the aqueduct water system (Rauh, 2010).

Rome’s Colosseum is a structure fashioned from massive pillars and arches which made a large circular open arena.  It is an extraordinary achievement of “architecture and engineering: a circular structure that not only was not weak, but was actually stronger and more massive than most polygons; as time and war have demonstrated (Burdett, 2008, p. 11).”  There are many noteworthy theaters and stadiums modeled after the Colosseum, which can hold “tens of thousands of patrons for performances (Hatchwell & Bell, 2002, p. 152).”  The Hollywood Bowl is one giant arch whose seating expands throughout the entire front of the stadium. Because of the way that this theater is fashioned, the sounds elicited from the stage are amplified and prolonged, similar to the Roman amphitheaters.

Other modern buildings were modeled after Greco-Roman buildings like the Parthenon.  These include the Lincoln Memorial and the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. These buildings have large-scale lengthened pillars, extremely tall doorways, and perfect symmetry.

Another Roman marvel was their construction of highways and the fact that they “systematically maintained an intricate transport network of such vision and extent… effectively bound ALL of Europe and the Mediterranean Basin into one huge commercial system (Burdett, 2008, p.11)." In modern times, roads and highways are so essential and ubiquitous that one can easily see the effects that the Greco-Romans had on the evolution of infrastructure.

Greco-Roman influence has been vast, from the development of propaganda and warfare strategies to laying the foundation for architecture and engineering developments. Although people continue to develop more elaborate technologies, the basis for a lot of our modern day conveniences rests solely with the Greco-Roman world.  


Works Cited

Adams, Winthrop Lindsay. Alexander the Great: Legacy of a Conqueror. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2006. Print.

Bauer, S. Wise., and Jeff West. The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Charles City, Va.: Peace Hill, 2006. Print.

Burdett, Paul S. The Roman Achievement. Ocean, NJ and Montreal, PQ, 2008. Print.

De, Blij Harm J., Alexander B. Murphy, and Erin Hogan. Fouberg. Human Geography: People, Place, and Culture. 8th ed. New York: J. Wiley, 2007. Print.

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