Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day; One upped

October 12, 2011

Okay, a friend came up with some very interesting theories on how long it took to build Rome. That and my reply:

He wrote:

I think you covered all the main possibilities, but let me suggest a couple other possibilities.

1. Rome could really be understood as Rome when it became distinct from every other concentrated population that enjoyed division of labor. The distinguishing features – that which allowed the Romans to believe they were superior — were the Cloaca Maxima (Greatest Sewer) and the aqueducts. With abundant clean water running in for drinking and bathing and flushing the sewerage out, the Romans could not only sustain greater populations than anywhere else, but they believed in the own exceptionality. Kinda like New Yorkers. The Cloaca Maxima may have been finished in 600 BC, but that was really just to drain the lowlands among the hills (the Suburra). The first aqueduct (Aqua Appia) was finished in 312 BC, and so, but that measure, Rome was built in 441 years.

2. I once took a multi-disciplinary course combining literature, geography, history, and probably some other things I didn’t even notice. A theory of imagined landscapes was introduced. To summarize it to the point of disservice, the theory suggests that locations become places when people begin to agree on their identities. So Chicago might have become Chicago when Carl Sandburg called it the City of Broad Shoulders and Hog Butcher to the World. If this is so, I would say the Rome became Rome when Vergil wrote the Aeneid, grafting it onto the Greco-Ilian tradition. Rome was no longer just the conqueror and exploiter of Greece; it was the offspring of the Greek & Trojan tradition, the exponent of the whole Mediterranean. As Zeus/Jupiter and Hera/Juno made finally made their peace following the fall of Troy and then the death of Dido (Queen of Carthage), so Rome could bring peace (Pax Romana) to the whole human world (albeit by subjugation). Vergil died in 19 BC, intending to continue revisions on the poem. He left orders for it to be burned, but they were disregarded as the poem was good enough for everyone else, if not him. (Frankly, I think the last scene sucks, but I know there’s much debate about that). So if we take the imagined literary landscape theory, Rome took 734 years to build.

Si valetis, valeo.

I replied:

If it is true locations become places when people begin to agree on their identities, then is it also true when people begin to disagree on their identities the locations cease to exist? If so, then you may have identified the Occam’s razor argument for why multiculturalism is self-destructive.

If one of its goal is to promote multiple identities within a society, then won’t the fulfillment of that goal entail the destruction of the society?

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