5 Things Romans Were Famous For

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Even nowadays, after centuries, we owe so much to the Latin culture. Romans have been forerunners when it comes to law, engineering, and administration, but they also distinguished themselves in other remarkable fields, sometimes even deplorable ones such as corruption… Romans were famous for many MANY things, but let’s focus on 5.

An Ancient Scourge

Corruption in ancient Rome was truly record-breaking. There was even a ceremony to “bribe” the gods called evocatio deorum. Roman generals were actively trying to convince the enemy cities’ gods to favor them in exchange of even more majestic temples.

But it was not just about gods and wars, bribing was occurring even more often among politicians and administrators. The poet Sallustio reminds us how the North African king Giugurta left Rome shouting “The city is for sale!” because he managed to buy every single general and senator who was fighting against him in the first place.

Firefighters

Firefighters were “born” in ancient Rome. In 22 BC emperor Augustus established the first public contingent of firefighters. Starting with 500 men, they became 7,000 in 6 AD. They were organized in 7 cohorts, each responsible for two regions of Rome.

They were equipped with buckets, pumps, axes, picks, spatulas, and mats soaked in vinegar. In the Urbe (where only public buildings were built in stone, while houses were made of wood), fires were recurrent and devastating.

Engineering

The Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1st century BC) wrote: “The unspeakable greatness of the Roman empire lies in three things: aqueducts, sewer systems, and paved roads”. Water traveled along a deep trench at the top of the arcades, which was often covered to prevent evaporation and contamination.

The aqueduct system quadrupled the water supply into Rome, enabling its rapid expansion and causing its population to rise due to the health benefits of fresh, running water. Deep valleys and ravines could be spanned and rivers traversed by bridges composed of superimposed arcades, without fear of wind shear or currents.

First Hospitals

Romans assimilated and expanded the Greek health care system and made it accessible to the vast majority of the population. The first doctor to appear were of Greek-Hellenistic origins and they were treated with little respect since many of them were slaves captured during the Roman campaigns. They opened the first tabernae medicorum, which also served as first aid posts and schools for training disciples.

In 77 BC, with the arrival in Rome of the doctor and teacher Asclepiades, medicine began to be considered a scientific discipline. In 10 AD emperor Augustus allowed doctors to form associations which helped promote some sort of public health system.

All Roads Lead to Rome

The Romans built many roads that still exist nowadays. At the peak of Rome’s development, no fewer than 29 great military highways radiated from the capital. The late Empire’s 113 provinces were interconnected by 372 great roads. The whole comprised more than 400,000 kilometers of roads, of which over 80,500 kilometers were stone-paved.

The streets were usually 5 meters wide to allow the circulation of two side-by-side wagons. The method varied according to geographic locality, materials available and terrain, but the plan or ideal at which the engineer aimed was always the same. The roadbed was layered. The road was constructed by filling the ditch. This was done by layering rock over other stones.

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