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The Roman's Burden

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Chapter Summary

As Gibbon once famously remarked, the surprising thing about the Roman Empire is not its fall, but rather its remarkable longevity. This very durability may well have led to the comparative silence that we find in our contemporary sources concerning the nature and intentions of Roman Imperialism as those living under the Empire in the main simply took Roman rule for granted: it was assumed to be an unchanging and unchangeable constant of their lives and as such no more worthy of comment than the weather. Kipling outlined a moral 'White Man's burden' and Pliny would have both recognised and assented to this version of the Imperial dream. This approach continued into the late Roman period where the notion of Rome's civilising mission was appropriated by Christian apologists such as Augustine and Orosius, whence it has had an important impact on later imperialist thought.

Keywords: Roman Empire; Roman Imperialism; White Man's burden



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