3 min read
Photo by Mathew Schwartz / Unsplash

The Society

Originally, patricians, plebeians, and slaves were the only classes in Rome.

Patricians were the upper class who could vote, make laws, and have political offices. These were restricted to people who could trace their lineage to the city's founders. They owned land and usually had lots of slaves.

Plebeians could vote, but they couldn't work in politics, they could have their businesses and work on farms, etc. Plebeians also formed the army, but they soon got fed up with their treatment and decided that they would not fight anymore unless they were given the same privileges as the patricians.

Slaves could not vote, couldn't own land, and could only work for their masters. People who were captured in wars or couldn't pay debts were made slaves.

After the Plebeians got the same rights as the Patricians, one more class was added, the proletariat, who were poor and could not own land.

The Army

The Roman army was one of the best-organized armies in the Mediterranian from the start. Instead of using the Greek or Macedonian phalanx, they made their formations called legions. The legions had different ranks of men each of which had different equipment and strategies.

The first rank was the hastari, which were soldiers with large rectangular shields, javelins, and swords. With them were the leve, soldiers with no shields, a spear, and javelins. The leve went in front of the hastari, stabbing the enemy with their spears. Then, when the enemies got too close (or if they had archers), the leve would retreat behind the hastari, who had shields.

The second rank was called the principes, which were armed similarly to the hastari, but with higher-quality weapons and armor. These were better-experienced soldiers and were used if the hastari failed and had to regroup.

The third rank was the triarii, who were the best soldiers in the whole legion, like today's marines. They were only used in the most desperate situations and were armed like the hoplites, with long spears and swords. If the principes had to regroup, the triarii charged in and held off the enemy until the principes regrouped. Along with the triarii were the rorarii and accensi, who were the least experienced soldiers.

There were 300 leve, 900 hastari, 900 more principe, and 2700 triarii, rorarii, and accensi, in all, a legion was 4800 soldiers (without horsemen).

The hastari originally had bronze helmets and no shields, but when Fluvius Camillus became general, he decided to change the bronze helmets to iron and give the hastari shields.

The Fall of Rome

The fall of Rome happened because of many factors. These are:

Roman soldiers did not fight so well anymore. When the empire was split in 476, many of the Roman soldiers stopped being loyal to their empire. They only fought because they were paid to and could not do any other job.

Political rulers stopped being respected by the people. They were formerly revered as gods, when Christianity was made the national religion, the emperors were not counted as gods and they were not so respected anymore.

The Roman Empire could not find so much silver anymore, so the coins they made had less and less silver content, thus making inflation and the money worthless.

Germanic tribes started invading Rome. When the soldiers stopped being loyal, the government hired Germanic people to bolster their armies, but when the Germanic tribes attacked, these mercenaries left the Roman side and joined their countrymen, thus Rome was sacked and burned.

Africans in Rome

Many of the ancient Romans were not racists. In fact, no laws were prohibiting other races to hold political power, or even becoming emperors. Some Roman  Africans became politicians, generals, writers, or even emperors and popes.

Some examples are:

Tiro, who was a slave to a Roman philosopher named Cicero. Tiro invented shorthand, and when his master died, he set up a shorthand school in Rome. He died in 4 BC.

Terence (born around 190 BC), another African who was a slave in Rome was let go because of his skills. He wrote six plays that were famous for his time.

Lusius Quietus was a Roman general who was very successful. He was highly regarded by Emperor Trajan, who named him his successor to be emperor.

Africans also became popes in Rome, like Victor, Melchiades, and St. Gelasius. Victor was also originally a slave but was let go because he wanted to serve in the Church. He sent a letter to the Eastern churches to observe Easter at the same time as the Western churches and contributed greatly to Christianity in Rome.

(to be continued)