March 25, 2004

You Want War? I Got Your War RIGHT HERE!

I've been on a Roman history kick now for a few years. I find ancient Rome to be absolutely fascinating. Romans were so advanced in terms of culture, technology, art and pretty much every other area you can imagine.

But, jeez oh criminey those people were brutal. The way Romans made war makes the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns today seem like chess matches by comparison. You want to talk about a culture of death? Forget Islamic extremism; the ancient Romans make suicide bombers look like pussies.

If you took aside a Roman emperor--say, Augustus--and you told him that Gaul of the Long Hairs was rising up against Roman rule, and you gave him the option of a precise, targeted strike to take out their leader, or a flurry of nukes to flatten the whole country, he'd choose option two without hesitation. People are so often impressed by Rome's artistic and technological achievements, it's often forgotten just how ruthlessly efficient and bloodthirsty they were when it came to making war.

And I'm not talking simply about killing non-Romans here, either. Romans had no qualms about killing other Romans. Heck, the term "decimate" comes from the Roman practice of going through the ranks of a Roman army that either revolted or fled from battle, and killing every tenth soldier as punishment. Gawd. How would you like to be part of the count off? Hey, buddy, I'll give you 3,000 sesterces to switch places with me. Then again, they weren't all that hesitant to do themselves in, either. I just finished reading a book about Roman history where the term "fell on his sword" was used so frequently, I started wondering if everyone in ancient Rome just naturally offed themselves in that manner. Oops, looks like it's going to be a crappy day; I guess I may as well disembowel myself.

I don't know why I'm so amazed by Roman brutality. I just find it fascinating to try and put it into a contemporary situation. If Augustus were leading the U.S. today, Iraq wouldn't just be a smoldering heap of radiation, pretty much the whole of the Middle East would have been given the nuclear treatment by now. Any perceived threat to the U.S. would be annihilated and any survivors would be rounded up and crucified upside down.

Seriously, those guys meant business.

Posted by Ryan at March 25, 2004 01:20 PM
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