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A Sense of Destiny

Nations (city-states), like individuals, differ in their sense of purpose and direction. For example, some individuals are capable of achieving greatness within the span of a lifetime and some nations began to strive for greatness a generation at a time. Past and current historians have written extensively about the achievements of a few city-states from the ancient world, which have included Athens and Rome, because of their importance to the development of Western history. Both of these extraordinary city-states have been studied by generations of scholars, current and past, who have been captivated by the task of attempting to find those cultural elements that were used to motivate these cities to greatness. The study of the classical world brings an awareness of the extraordinary circumstances that led to the founding of these cities and the events that shaped their rise to prominence. Both Athens and Rome were surrounded by other city-states that were competitors in a struggle for survival. It has been said, for example, that the Romans fought a thousand armies in the first three hundred years of its existence.

The Latin historian, Livy, spent forty years writing his "Ab Urbe Condita -- From the Founding of the City," a work that came to consist of 142 books. Described as a moral writer, Livy was attempting to identify both the strengths of Roman character, as well as their weaknesses. These cultural characteristics -- the basis of their civism-- eventually would lead to the rise and the decline of the Rome Republic (and later the Roman Empire). In his first five books, Livy provides his reader with many insights into the basic character of the Roman citizen that would help shape the ancient world's most powerful city-state. Livy begins his work with those popular myths related to the founding of Rome, including the notion that the early Romans were refugees from the destroyed city of Troy, and the myths related to Romulus, Remus and the she-wolf. He also describes the tales of the Sabine women. More important from a political perspective, is the founding of the patrician party (the aristocratic order) and the rule of kings in close relationship with the Etruscans. Among the myths is the important story of the finding of a human head that gave rise to the Roman belief that Rome was destined to become the center of the world.

Book one also describes the founding of the centuries that were to be organized according to wealth, which determined military structure. The desire for a king was at first paramount to the order and the organization of Roman society, but later the kingship became soiled by arrogance and eventually the last of the kings was driven out of Rome. Two consuls, who would serve as the executive heads of state and also serve as military leaders, eventually replaced the kings.

In the Second Book, Livy introduces the reader to the socio-political Orders and the conflict that began to rage internally between the Patrician Party (the nobles) and the Plebeians (the common people). Because the two Orders needed each other, a struggle began for recognition and influence on behalf of the Plebs. Livy describes how this struggle eventually evolved into the formation of a state within a state, as the plebeians gained officials (tribunes) that had the power of the veto and who worked to advance plebeian political power. Almost every year the Romans held a levy whereby the legions were formed. At times the tribunes prevented this levy in order to assert their demands for land reform. As time passed, the senate, made up of patricians and ex-consul leaders learned various means to manipulate the politics of Rome and yet maintain a certain degree of civil harmony. When threatened by invasion or attach the Romans often elected a dictator who had absolute power to organize the state for total war. At times these individuals were credited with saving the state in times of severe distress.

In Book 3, Livy describes the struggle between the consuls, representatives of the patricians, while the plebeian represented by the tribunes. As a part of this struggle, the Plebs demanded to have access to the laws of Rome and a commission was organized to send representatives to Athens to study the codification of laws. The Romans allowed this commission, in the form of the decemvirs, to take over the power of the consul as Roman law was formally written in the Twelve Tables. According to Livy, Appius Claudius gained control of the decemvirs and used its power to peruse the maiden, Verginia. The father of Verginia put her to death rather than have Appius dishonor his family. (He was of the plebeian order). This event caused the Plebs to seize the center of the City and to force the decemvirs to abdicate their commission and to revert the government of Rome back into the hands of the consuls. The reputation of Rome was soiled when the Romans were asked to settle a diplomatic conflict between two allies and the Senate voted to take the lands of the Ardeates for themselves. Later, to reclaim their good name, the Romans were forced to rectify this error in judgment in order to win support of the surrounding populations. Citizenship often was granted as a means to build support and to win the loyalty of surrounding peoples.

In Book 4, Livy describes the creation of the office of censor, whose task it was to insure the moral conduct of the population and to survey the wealth of citizens so that they could be assigned to a place within the Roman socio-political structure. The creation of this office suggested the extent to which the two Orders were being united and integrated after centuries of division. At about the same time, the office of military tribune was created as a replacement for the two consuls. The creation of military tribunes opened the way for the Plebeian Order to gain access to the highest executive and military offices of the state and ti gain access to the Senate. During this time, soldiers would be paid for their service from the treasury of Rome, which had an enormous effect on the institutions of Rome. This change began the process of allowing the Romans to create a vast military complex that, in the future, would be used for the expansion of its emerging empire.

Livy describes the siege of Veii as an important change in military strategy, as the Romans had typically followed a military summer season. For the first time, the siege lasted all year round and the Plebs were required to be away from their farms, which often fell into deterioration, and yet they were required to pay the war tax. The siege of Veii seemed impossible and so the Romans named Furius Camillus as dictator. Veii only fell after the oracles were consulted and the Romans were able to drain a lake and to tunnel under the city walls to an area directly under the city's citadel. The siege lasted for ten years. Soon Rome would face one of its greatest challenges when Italy was invaded by a great wave of Gauls (modern day France) and almost all of northern Italy was over-run. Rome was burned and Camillus was called back from exile, due to his trial following the fall of Veii. Camillus was able to defeat the Gauls and to convince the Romans not to abandon their city and in the process he became known as "the second founder of the City".

Some of the moral qualities that emerge from Livy's first five books are telling of the nature of a people who are destined for greatness. These include descriptive characteristics that have civism qualities, which also became a part of the mindset that influences the culture of a people and helped to prepare them for future challenges. These descriptive characteristics include some of the following traits: a sense of vision, a sense of practicality and flexibility, a willingness to be accommodative, a high degree of patriotism, a sense of innovation, a strong sense of the preservation of individual and societal freedom, a desire for moralistic and legalistic leadership, an obedience to religion and higher authority, a love of order and structure and peace, a sense of justice, a stoic determination and tenacity, a spirit of redemption, a willingness to be conciliatory, and a respect for honesty, and loyalty, as well as a great respect for endurance in the face of danger.
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