Category Archives: Rome

What the Romans Did Not Know

Charles Van Doren’s History Of Knowledge has always struck me as one of the most profound and least appreciated grand histories.  I first read it in 1993 or 1994. With its emphasis on the state of knowledge, Van Doren’s book offers a useful paradigm for the level of development of each Great Power. Here are a few lines about Rome that stuck with me over the years:

The Romans always possessed a fierce respect for and love of law.  …Everywhere that Rome conquered they took their law with them and gave it to the peoples they ruled. (p. 67)

Rome in the latter days of empire… An emperor would be chosen by a gang and would rule only so long as he pleased the assassins. (85)

The ancient empire … was thus crippled at its heart by a political disease which no one knew how to cure. (85)