Anglo-American Culture, Chapter One

Anglo-American Culture

Variously Written, Compiled and Edited

By

Ben Garrido

Mokwon University

Department of English Education

Chapter One, How the Romans Acculturated Britain.

 

Pre-reading vocabulary and phrases:

Assimilate:

Acculturate:

Carrots and Sticks:

Coercion:

Follow Suit:

            All through history, we can find examples of one group of people dominating another. There are simply too many examples to examine here. We can, however, study empires in history. With empires, we can see what works and what doesn’t for making an empire. One of the most successful and longest-lasting was Rome.

            While many scholars have studied why the Roman Empire fell, fewer have studied the more important question – why did it last so long? How did the Romans assimilate so many races and cultures? How did they convince so many people to accept their rule?

            One reason Rome was so successful is because it convinced people of its legitimacy in many ways all at once. This resulted in people from many nations, speaking many languages, all identifying themselves as Romans.

            The assimilation process followed this path: Rome first established economic ties between its sophisticated merchants and the less sophisticated British tribes. This created personal and business ties between the two cultures. Once Rome began expanding, it introduced more advanced administrative systems. These systems made Rome the center of British politics. Finally, Rome was flexible with the British Tribes. It allowed them to keep their religions, languages and some of their leaders on the condition that they remained loyal to Rome.

             There were other factors that help the Romans, as well. First, they were much more sophisticated than the British. This put them in a position to offer both very appetizing carrots to the British people and to threaten with very large, very scary “sticks.” Second, they didn’t care about preserving racial purity. Because they didn’t care about racial purity, Romans could freely marry with British tribes and solidify cultural bonds. Or, in other words, the Romans partially conquered British society with sex during the invasion of Julius Caesar.

When Emporer Claudius invaded Britian in AD 43, he took advantage of the previous relationships and economic ties. In order to understand why Britains eventually accepted Claudius’ rule, we have to understand the way the Roman armies impacted the economy. Roman military camps often grew into small cities that would trade with surrounding villages. London, for example, probably began this way. This is significant because Roman-style towns were virtually unknown in Britain before 43 A.D.  As such, accepting Roman rule had tremendous benefits for the people, especially in primitive areas. These included better farming tools, advanced agricultural practices and better farm animals – all because the Roman military camps were nearby.

In addition to helping the common people, Rome left the native British social structures mostly intact. This made it easier to convince native leaders to accept Roman rule. Rome also allowed conquered people to gain power, legitimately, within the Roman system. Even a native Britain, given the right resources, could attain Roman citizenship and rise to powerful positions in the Roman government or military. This gave the conquered people the chance to become important all throughout the empire – something they never could have done without Roman influence.

         Rome was extremely successful in assimilating Britain. They were able to transform an island full of warring tribes into a province capable of supporting some of the most prosperous and powerful societies in the entire empire.

This is not to say the process was painless, indeed Rome’s willingness to kill the people it could not acculturate had a large impact as well, but it worked because in addition to the forces of coercion, there were others in play. Put simply, the Romans offered ambitious Britains the opportunity to achieve greater glory within Rome than outside Rome. It may have even worked too well. Britain was still growing stronger and more wealthy long after Rome began to weaken.

Niccolo Machiavelli

On How Rome Became a Great State, Destroying the States That Surrounded It, and How It Took Foreigners Into Its Ranks.

 

Those who intend their city to become a great empire must endeavor to increase its population, because without an abundance of men it will never become a great city. This can be done in two ways: through love or through force. If it is through love, one must keep the roads open for foreigners who want to live in one’s city, everyone living there willingly. If it is through force, one will destroy the neighboring cities and send their inhabitants to live in one’s own city. Rome followed both practices so diligently that by the time of their sixth king, Rome had 80,000 soldiers. The Romans wanted to act like good farmers. They wanted to cut off the first, small branches of their empire so that the tree trunk of their empire could grow stronger.

The examples of Sparta and Athens demonstrate why this way of enlarging a state and creating an empire is effective: These two states had powerful armies and the best laws, and yet they did not reach the greatness of the Roman Empire, even if by comparison Rome seemed unruly and disorganized. No other reason for Rome’s greatness can be put forward than the one I have already suggested: Rome had enlarged the body of its state by both love and force and was able to give weapons to 80,000 men, while Sparta and Athens never surpassed 20,000 each. This was not the result of Rome having a better location, only that it had a different way of dealing with foreigners.

Lycurgus, the founder of the Spartan state, believed that nothing would corrupt his laws more than introducing new inhabitants into Sparta, and consequently did his utmost to prevent foreigners mixing with Spartans. Not only did he forbid intermarriage, citizenship and other interactions, but he decided that only leather money could be used in Sparta. He did this in order to discourage merchants from coming to Sparta with goods or crafts. The result was that the city could never grow in population. And as all of our actions imitate nature, it is neither possible nor natural that a delicate trunk (small population) will be able to sustain heavy branches (empire). Therefore a small republic cannot occupy cities and kingdoms that are more effective or bigger than it is. If it does, it will meet the same fate as a tree whose branches are larger than its trunk: holding them up with difficulty, the trunk will break in the slightest breeze.

This was the case of Sparta, which successfully occupied all the city-states in Greece. And yet the moment Thebes (a small Greek city) rebelled, all the other cities followed suit and the trunk remained alone without branches. This could not happen to Rome, as its trunk was so thick that it could support branches of any size. This is what made Rome powerful and great.

Study questions:

Compare and contrast the way Rome dealt with foreigners and the way 흥선대원군 (Heungseon Daewongun) dealt with foreigners.

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How did Rome use its culture to conquer Britain?

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Why is it important that Rome didn’t try to preserve its racial purity?

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Do you think Roman Emporers, compared to Heungseon Daewongun, could easily protect their traditions? Why or why not?

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