Historical Fact & Fictional “What ifs?”


I cannot consider myself a history buff, because I do not put as much effort into learning about more as I could. I enjoy history, always have, and do not shun learning something more, but I do not avidly look for that something as much as my father did when he was younger. One of the key points in history I like to learn more about, however, is that of the Roman era; from the founding of the Republic, to the growth of an empire, and then ultimately, its fall.

First, I’d like to share what I believe to be some little known Roman facts.

  • 1:) The term dictator comes from the Latin (like most things in the English language) from the ranks of the Roman Republic. The dictator was a military leader that was given absolute control within the Republic under emergency measures. Once the emergency situation ended, the dictator’s power was returned to the Senate. Julius Caesar was the last to hold the rank. Caesar refused to step down and return his power, at the end of the Gallic Wars. This incited civil war within the Republic, which resulted in the deaths of Pompey. He marched back into roman territory with a legion at his back, and fought his way back. Contrary to the idea that Julius Caesar declared himself emperor, only to turn around be back-stabbed by his friends, the event of the Ides of March only occurred 5 years after he was declared Dictator in Perpetuity. Though the majority of those who vied against Caesar on the Ides of March were Senatorial supporters, it was Julius’s adopted son (Octavian, later known as Augustus Caesar) that would end up taking control of Rome afterwards, tearing the Roman Republic down, and bringing in the birth of the Roman Empire.
  • 2:) The Roman Republic and Empire were responsible for many technological advances that no one managed to duplicate for more than 1,000 years after the fall of Rome. Two of their major technological advances that took AGES to duplicate, was the invention of aqueducts and cisterns. In a time, prior to 500 AD, they made sewers and water systems. Yet, in medieval times, 1,000 years later, they still had no duplicated this, and were still emptying chamber pots by hand into ditches, and dumping buckets of water out of windows. A little taste of my what-if portion of this post… What would have happened regarding the Buebonic Plague if sewers had existed in the time? The story of the volcano in the city of Pompeii revolves around a man who was an engineer of the time. He investigated a aqueduct “pipe” that was responsible for carrying mountain water into the town being in need of repair due to the gas emitted from the volcano that was about to erupt. The time period after the fall of Rome was called the Dark Ages. Did anyone ever wonder why? This is one of the reasons why. Perhaps the major reason why.
  • 3:) The fall of Rome was not a quick thing. It took many years to reach its conclusion, and there were a few points in history where the empire managed to retake some of its lost territory. However, throughout the fall of Rome, the barbarian invaders were jealous of Rome’s wisdom. To punish this, they burned libraries. And what do you think happened, when the only medium for storing knowledge was destroyed?

So, the Dark Ages were called the Dark Ages because of the lost knowledge with the fall of Rome. Cisterns and Aqueducts were not the only thing lost, a general sense of knowledge was lost. All of Rome’s advances forgotten, the people reverted in time, basically, with how they lived and how they did things. How they survived, how they built their homes and towns, how they gathered the necessities of life. How long did it take for sewers and water systems to return to daily life? Well, depending upon your definition of sewers, there were various attempts throughout the years to create run-off trenches to let gravity and the downstream flow of waste and water to travel into moats and even rivers throughout medieval times. Even in the 1800’s, there was still dead-end attempts and flabbergasted people with sewer concerns. As confirmed in a newspaper heading from the 1800’s stating “India Is In Revolt, and The Thames Stinks.” There are various instances in history where people died from the stench of poorly disposed of waste. Outhouses seems so simple, in comparison to what was done prior to their existence, and it wasn’t until the 1900’s, that indoor plumbing and sewage disposal was funneled below grounds into a sewer of proper function. The Roman cisterns first came into existence in 800 BC. Imagine that? Slightly more than 2,000 years before our current era has figured out how to do it right, the Romans already knew how. And it was all lost when the Barbarians that invaded Rome decided to say “You stupid smarties! What are you without books?” and burned the libraries. Well, they made a point. Unfortunately, it did nothing to prove a point worth proving.

And now, my “what if?” question. What if the Roman Empire had not fallen? What if the Romans had staved off the Barbarians, and instead of crumbling and losing knowledge, continued to grow? What if the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, and Huns had all fallen beneath the might of the Roman Legions, and the Roman empire had expanded its control in all regards? Pushed further south, deeper into Africa? Pushed up to the North Sea, taking over what is modern day Germany and Denmark, and perhaps even advanced into a naval invasion of Scandinavia? What if they had pushed east, and taken modern day Hungary, pushing their eastern borders beyond the Caspian Sea, and to the Ural Mountains? What if they had pushed further into the Middle East? Before the Roman Empire, each great Empire was eclipsed by another, and consumed the entirety of the previous Empire. Rome did not do that. Rome was the largest of them all, but they did not extend as far east as Persia and Greece had. They took Asia Minor and Isreal, but Persia and Greece extended all the way to Modern day India. the Mongolian Empire took nearly all of Asia, and attempted to extend into Europe, because they did not know how to transport supplies over such a great distance, and basically destroyed their own empire BECAUSE of how much territory they claimed. What if they had Rome’s technology? Could they have survived it? Could they have conquered Asia & Europe? What if Rome never fell, and instead, continued to grow? It split into two different Empires, led by two different Emperors, because they began to feel that a single entity could not control the vastness of their Empire. What if it continued to grow and continued to split, forming the boundaries of our world’s nations through its continued expansion rather from the contention between the subsequent powers that rose up after the fall of Rome? And what if, one day, the entire world was a division, in some way, of that Roman Empire? Where would our technology be now? If that 2,000 years had not been spent trying to duplicate something lost, but instead expanding upon it? Where would we be now? The current technology could very well have been discovered years ago. When would computers have come to be? planes? trains? automobiles? What would people have thought about the year 2,000 had the Roman advancements been allowed to flourish and grow rather than be snuffed out? Would the Buebonic Plague have been as devastating? Would the idea of a round world and expansion to the new world have happened sooner?

And so I come to that sci-fi story idea I had a while back. I think I would like to explore the idea of a world where the Roman Empire had not fallen. Of course, it would not be called the Roman Empire, as this would be a world other than Earth, and its layout would be different than the cartographic layout of the Earth. However, I do plan to do some research into Latin, and making a Roman-esque society that has grown into the space age while other worlds … like… Demeteria (yes, it will be in the same cosmos) are still in a medieval society. In the world for this story, they main character is interested in knowledge, and he’s from a world that, while libraries were not lost, the progression of time has led to the populace’s forgetfulness regarding things that used to be. People can go to a library and read about it, but they live in a society that has things so easy now, that they’ve forgotten many things. Something I plan to work on in time, and I’ll be jotting down notes here and there, but I shall not put any effort into writing for it just yet, as I still have much to do for my other two series. And with nothing published yet, I cannot do with distractions.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Just wanted to dump some of the stuff rattling around in my head down, so that it did not vanish in time.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Sci-Fi, Writing

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