Monday, June 26, 2017

Roman society and culture

Roman society and culture.
The Pax Romana meant prosperity to many people, but the wealth was not evenly distributed. Rich citizens usually had both a country home and a city home. Such houses were often equipped with modern conveniences like running water and baths. The average Roman on the other hand lived in a poorly constructed apartment building with very little furniture. Most residents of the city of Rome were farmers or artisans who barely made a living. To divert their attention from their problems, the Roman government provided free grain to residents of the capital, as well as public entertainment. Romans were fond of the theater, especially satires and comedies. Their favorite pastimes, however, were more brutal sports such as chariot racing in the huge Circus Maximus racetrack in Rome, where spectacular crashes might occur. They also enjoyed gladiatorial combats between humans or beasts or sometimes both in the Colosseum, Rome’s great amphitheater. So important were such entertainments in Roman society that the poet Juvenal once observed that only two things interested the Roman masses: “bread and circuses.”

The practical Romans applied the scientific knowledge they gained from the Greeks in planning cities, building water and sewage systems, and improving farming and livestock breeding. Roman engineers surpassed all ancient peoples in their ability to construct roads, bridges, aqueducts, amphitheaters, and public buildings. Perhaps the most important contribution of Roman architects was the use of concrete, which made large buildings possible in terms of both cost and engineering. The Romans often based their buildings on Greek models. Unlike the Greeks, however, they also knew how to build the arch and vaulted domes, and emphasized size as well as pleasing proportions.

Greek influence was also strong in the arts, though a number of Romans produced works of great originality, especially in literature. Virgil, a contemporary of Augustus, was one of the greatest Roman poets and author of the Aeneid an epic poem that told the story of a Trojan prince named Aeneas, a legendary ancestor of the Latins. The poet Ovid wrote love lyrics and the Metamorphoses, a collection of myths written in verse. Another poet, Horace, wrote of human emotions in his odes, satires, and letters. The Romans also valued works of history, such as the Annals, a history of Rome under Augustus and his immediate successors, written by Tacitus.

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