How did Rome maintain control?

The people, conflicts, and daily life of the Roman army.

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How did Rome maintain control?

Postby Vastatio on Wed Sep 19, 2007 1:48 am

As the Republic/Empire grew how did Rome maintain day to day control over the vast provinces and other conquered territory?

Collective Punishment? Mass executions?

How did Rome deal with rebellions?
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Us Iron-Handed Oppressors

Postby Aldus Marius on Wed Sep 19, 2007 4:43 pm

Salve, clare Vastatio!

It has seemed to me that Rome kept Her peoples and Provinces best by largely leaving them the heck alone.

'S true! Not Hollywood-true, maybe, but true. Once the military thing had been sorted out, all we were really interested in were the taxes and the paperwork getting done. Those essentials having been seen to, we just hung around letting them see us be a buncha Romans. Built towns and the infrastructure to go with, and a Legion or two to make sure nobody from outside the frontier disturbed the construction-work. (If it was an Eastern Province, it probably already had towns and amenities, so we left them in place unless they were trouble-spots, only changing the government.)

Eventually it'd occur to Vindorix on one of his forays into town that, Hei, it was kinda nice to have running water and a postal service, and our wine was pretty good too, and maybe he shouldn't have let the offspring raise such a stink about our being there. He might move into town himself, or more likely think of things he could sell there. The army forts, like military installations everywhere, had to have their vici or "restaurant rows" just outside the main gate, so a cook could make an excellent living. So could a craftsman, as the troops always wanted souvenirs...and in many cases, nicer equipment than Mater Roma had issued them. The civilian administrators, of course, were loaded with disposable income. When the conquerors become customers, and you begin to know them as faces and personalities instead of a wall of shields, things change.

Too, those soldiers eventually had to retire. When they did, we set them up in veterans' coloniae all over the Province. There they married native wives, had children exposed to both cultures, and served, in the same day-to-day fashion, as one very effective means of Romanising the natives by example and by their mere presence. They also provided a 'tripwire' or front-line defense against any invaders, able to hold them off until the active-duty guys could get there. Again, the merchants appreciated the business, and feuding warrior-tribes got to experience life without hot-headed chieftains retaking their fields every other year.

These were perfectly natural developments for peoples that might have already been doing business with Rome indirectly for centuries. The things people really get gitchy about, like their homes, their families, their religion, their livelihoods...for the most part, we did not make laws about these things. (No matter what the Christian propagandists tell you [and I'm a Christian, and even I know the stuff they say about Rome in Sunday school is pap].) We let them live in their accustomed manner, as long as that didn't make our jobs any harder than they had to be. We even had one Emperor, Hadrianus, who toured every Province in order to get a better feel for the customs of the people there and to adapt methods of governance to fit. "Iron-handed oppression" would've been cheaper, nonne? >({|;-)

Rebellion, otoh, was dealt with swiftly, severely, and thoroughly. It took a lot to set us off, but once they had, we made sure it was a terrifying experience that no one would be eager to repeat. Slap 'em hard the first time and there won't be a second; a harsh policy by today's standards, but I look about me and can't see that modern squeamishness in foreign policy is working any better.

Does this help?
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Re: Us Iron-Handed Oppressors

Postby C. Cornelius Rufus on Wed Sep 19, 2007 9:03 pm

Aldus Marius wrote:Rebellion, otoh, was dealt with swiftly, severely, and thoroughly. It took a lot to set us off, but once they had, we made sure it was a terrifying experience that no one would be eager to repeat. Slap 'em hard the first time and there won't be a second; a harsh policy by today's standards, but I look about me and can't see that modern squeamishness in foreign policy is working any better.
Slap 'em hard the first time and there won't be a second

There is an excellent pair of articles in this month's Biblical Archaeology Review about Hadrian and the 2nd Jewish Revolt. Apparently the success of this revolt has been seriously under-estimated and it took some of the most extreme actions in all of Roman history to put down the rebellion. Of course, when it was over, there were dead bodies everywhere. Seems that even one entire Legion disappeared from the record books. And for the Jews, more than 500,000 dead and over 600 towns razed never to be heard of again. The Romans even changed the name of the province which was an unprecedented step.

Marius, I like your comments above and agree with them. And I think you are right also that when necessary the Romans could be mighty ruthless.


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