Why the Romans fascinate me, and why they should fascinate you too…

A watershed moment in history is defined as a moment which changes the rest of history thereafter. Think of the Battle of Hastings, The Formation of the UN, or the Second World War. Moments which most definitely changed our world today. I believe the Romans to be a watershed civilisation, a civilisation which indefinitely defines our culture and our modern world.

What do you know about the Romans? You probably had to learn about them for the Junior Cert, and know some basic fun facts. You might recognise some names like Julius Caesar or Constantine the Great. But really most people tend to be fairly clueless about them. I think this is a mistake, our modern world, so many parts of our culture and our tradition comes from these Italian warriors who conquered half of Europe.

The first thing you really need to understand about the Romans is the sheer length of time they’ve existed for. From 510 BC to 1453 AD, the Romans existed in some form or another. To put that in another term, that’s like if I started a civilisation today and that civilisation was still alive and kicking in 3986 AD. By 3986 we’ll all have spaceships and our alien overlords will be telling us what to do, but my civilisation will still be going.

This is one of the reasons their impact is felt all throughout our lives. You wake up, check the time on our clocks which feature Roman Numerals, and get out of bed. You brush your teeth and wash yourself, you might take a bath; because Romans were big believers in public health and sanitisation. You might use the toilet or the sink, you have the Romans to thank for your modern plumbing systems. You might read the newspaper with breakfast, just like someone in Ancient Rome might read the news carved into a slab at the market. Maybe you think you’ll read a book instead, well the Romans invented that too.

You think you might be going insane because you’re suddenly noticing all these Roman things, well good news you just got a letter in the post for your yearly check-up. You then realise that the Romans also came up with the postal system. You drive to the hospital, upon roads which the Romans perfected. You drive over arched bridges which the Romans popularised. You arrive at the hospital, which is built of concrete, first used by the Romans. The doctor examines you with a selection of medical tools, which you realise are a Roman invention. This is the moment you realise that there is no escape from the Romans, they are everywhere.

Now perhaps that last paragraph was a bit hyperbolic, but I didn’t even mention our Architecture, Culture, Language or Religion all heavily influenced by the Romans. We wouldn’t be speaking English, or even using the alphabet we do, if not for the Romans. Ireland’s town skylines wouldn’t be overcrowded with Christian church spires because Christianity never would have flourished if not for Constantine the Great.

Our foods would be substantially different if not for the Romans. They popularised the using of many different types of spices, and many foods still eaten today, like fish, sausages, pork, oysters and many more,  were widely consumed in Ancient Rome.

The GPO in Dublin bears Roman spires outside, Cork City Courthouse does too, and The Bank of Ireland bears the domed and rounded look, along with Roman pillars, all three of these buildings have been extremely influenced by the style of Roman buildings. Isn’t it quite ironic that our government buildings bear the style of an empire which died out 700 years ago and who never even set foot on our island?

 Luca A. O’Connor – New Ross No Name Club May 2023