Notes on Mark Koyama on Rome on Medium...

Should-Read: Publius Aelius Aristides Theodorus (155): From The Roman Oration: "This city... covers mountain peaks... covers the land intervening, and... goes down to the sea...

...where the commerce of all mankind has its common exchange and all the produce of the earth has its common market. Wherever one may go in Rome, there is no vacancy to keep one from being, there also, in mid-city.... She rises great distances into the air, so that her height is not to be compared to a covering of snow but rather to the peaks themselves. And as a man who far surpasses others in size and strength likes to show his strength by carrying others on his back, so this city, which is built over so much land, is not satisfied with her extent. but raising upon her shoulders others of equal size, one over the other, she carries them.... If one chose to unfold, as it were, and lay flat on the ground the cities which now she carries high in air, and place them side by side, all that part of Italy which intervenes would, I think, be filled and become one continuous city stretching to the Strait of Otranto.... Of this city, great in every respect, no one could say that she has not created power in keeping with her magnitude. No, if one looks at the whole empire and reflects how small a fraction rules the whole world, he may be amazed at the city, but when he has beheld the city herself and the boundaries of the city, he can no longer be amazed that the entire civilized world is ruled by one so great....

The sea like a girdle lies extended, at once in the middle of the civilized of the civilized world and of your hegemony. Around it lie the great continents greatly sleeping, ever offering to you in full measure something of their own. Whatever the seasons make grow and whatever countries and rivers and lakes and arts of Hellenes and non-Hellenes produce are brought from every land and sea, so that if one would look at all these things, he must needs behold them either by visiting the entire civilized world or by coming to this city. For whatever is grown and made among each people cannot fail to be here at all times and in abundance. And here the merchant vessels come carrying these many products from all region in every season and even at every equinox, so that the city appears a kind of common emporium of the world.

Cargoes from India and, if you will, even from Arabia the Blest one can see in such numbers as to surmise that in those lands the trees will have been stripped bare and that the inhabitants of these lands, if they need anything, must come here and beg for a share of their own. Again one can see Babylonian garments and ornaments from the barbarian country beyond arriving in greater quantity and with more ease than if shippers from Naxos or from Cythnos, bearing something from those islands, had but to enter the port of Athens. Your farms are Egypt, Sicily and the civilized part of Africa.

Arrivals and departures by sea never cease, so that the wonder is not that the harbor has insufficient space for merchant vessels, but that even the see has enough, if it really does.

And just as Hesiod said about the ends of the Ocean, that there is a common channel where all waters have one source and destination, so there is a common channel to Rome and all meet here, trade, shipping, agriculture, metallurgy, all the arts and crafts that are or ever have been, all the things that are engendered or or grow from the earth. And whatever one does not see here neither did nor does exist. And so it is not easy to which is greater, the superiority of this city in respect to the cities that now are or the superiority of this city respect to the empires that ever were....

The present regime naturally suits and serves both rich and poor. No other way of life is left. There has developed in your constitution a single harmonious, all-embracing union; and what formerly seemed to be impossible has come to pass in your time: maintenance of control over an empire, over a vast one at that, and at the same time firmness of rule without unkindness....

When were there so many cities both inland and on the coast, or when have they been so beautifully equipped with everything? Did ever a man of those who lived then travel across country as we do, counting the cities by days and by days on the same day through two or three cities as if passing through sections of merely one?... It might very well be said that while the others have been kings, as it were, of open country and strongholds. you alone are rulers of civilized communities.

Now all the Greek cities rise up under your leadership, and the monuments which are dedicated in them and all their embellishments and comforts redound to your honor like beautiful suburbs. The coasts and interiors have been filled with cities, some newly founded, others increased under and by you.... Taking good care of the Hellenes as of your foster parents, you constantly hold your hand over them, and when they are prostrate, you raise them up. You release free and autonomous those of them who were the noblest and the leaders of yore, and you guide the others moderately with much consideration and forethought. The barbarians you educate, rather mildly or sternly according to the nature that each has, because it is right that those who are rulers of men be not inferior to those who are trainers of horses. and that they have tested their natures and guide them accordingly.

As on holiday the whole civilized world lays down the arms which were its ancient burden and has turned to adornment and all glad thoughts with power to realize them. All the other rivalries have left the cities, and this one contention holds them all, how each city may appear most beautiful and attractive. All localities are full of gymnasia, fountains, monumental approaches, temples, workshops, schools, and one can say that the civilized world, which had been sick from the beginning, as it were, has been brought by the right knowledge to a state of health. Gifts never cease from you to the cities, and it is not possible to determine who the major beneficiaries have been, because kindness is the same to all.

Cities gleam with radiance and charm, and the whole earth has been beautified like a garden. Smoke rising from plains and fire signals for friend and foe have disappeared, as if a breath had blown them away, beyond land and sea. Every charming spectacle and an infinite number of festal games have been introduced instead. Thus like an ever-burning sacred fire the celebration never ends, but moves around from time to time and people to people, always somewhere, a demonstration justified by the way all men have fared. Thus it is right to pity only those outside your hegemony, if indeed there are any, because they lose such blessings....

You have measured and recorded the land of the entire civilized world; you have spanned the rivers with all kinds of bridges and hewn highways through the mountains and filled the barren stretches with posting stations; you have accustomed all areas to a settled and orderly way of life.... Though the citizens of Athens began the civilized life of today, this life in its turn has been firmly established by you, who came later but who, men say, are better.

There is no need whatsoever now to write a book of travels and to enumerate the laws which each country uses. Rather you yourselves have become universal guides for all; you threw wide all the gates of the civilized world and gave those who so wished the opportunity to see for themselves; you assigned common laws for all and you put an end to the which were amusing to describe but which, if one looked at them from the standpoint of reason, were intolerable; you made it possible to marry anywhere, and organized all the civilized world, as it were. into one family....

The gods, beholding, seem to lend a friendly hand to your empire in its achievement and to confirm to you its possession—Zeus, because you tend for him nobly his noble creation, the civilized world; Hera, who is honored because of marriage rites properly performed; Athena and Hephaestus because of the esteem in which the crafts are held; Dionysius and Demeter, because their crops are not outraged; Poseidon because the sea has been cleansed for him of naval battles and has received merchant vessels instead of triremes. The chorus of Apollo, Artemis and the Muses never ceases to behold its servants in the theaters; for Hermes there are both international games and embassies.

And when did Aphrodite ever have a better chance to plant the seed and enhance the beauty of the offspring, or when did the cities ever have a greater share in her blessings? It is now that the gracious favors of Asclepius and the Egyptian gods have been most generously bestowed upon mankind. Ares certainly has never been slighted by you. There is no fear that he will cause a general disturbance as when overlooked at the banquet of the Lapiths. On the contrary, he dances the ceaseless dance along the banks of the outermost rivers and keeps the weapons clean of blood. The all-seeing Helius, moreover, casting his light, saw no violence or injustice in your case and marked the absence of woes such as were frequent in former times. Accordingly, there is good reason why he looks and shines with most delight upon your empire...

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