This page about the contributions of the ancient Romans focuses on outlining a number of different aspects and contribution of ancient Rome to modern society. A separate page has been reserved for a more in-depth look at ancient roman inventions and another dedicated to innovation in ancient Rome.
“Emperor”, “Caesar“: It is interesting that the titles adopted by Roman leaders were later re-utilised by other people and cultures. For example the name “Caesar”, clearly derived from Julius Caesar, is at the root of the word “Kaiser”. “Emperor” is of course broadly used in many languages and cultures.
In terms of Roman Literature the legacy of writers such as Cicero and Virgil have inspired many later generations of philosophers and poets.
Language: even non romance languages – anglo-saxon languages such as English have many words with Latin root.
Roman Law: particularly the legal system of countries such as Italy. Nevertheless even countries such as Britain have a great deal of latin terminology within them, showing the extent of Roman contribution to this fundamental pillar of structured societies.
A stable political system – the pax romana – which allowed free trade and a relatively free exchange of ideas and information, even if not fostering R&D as such. Many ancient Roman inventions which we enjoyed through the medieval ages and even today may not have existed if Roman hegemony hadn’t allowed them to become widespread.
The first encyclopaedic compendium by Pliny the Elder (Pliny’s Natural History)
Development of many military techniques, such as used by modern Police forces for crowd control.
Spread of many types of plant and agriculture as Roman contact spread as far as India and linked with trade routes to the far East. An example is the lemon tree, so common to us nowadays but only acclimatised in central Italy at the time of Pompeii.
The Eastern part of the Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, only fell in the early Renaissance period. This long period of continued cultural history spanning from ancient Rome through to the 15th century allowed many works of the classical past to be safeguarded and return into western culture after the middle (or dark) ages. Hence “the Renaissance”. Works previously lost were re-found and made public, also thanks to the invention of the printing press.
We should not conclude this short section without considering that there may be things which have NOT made it down to us because of Roman “interference” with history. For example…
A great many species of animals became extinct. It is an interesting anecdote that in the 19th century there were apparently many exotic types of plant within the ruins of the Colosseum, brought over from afar and protected by the relatively unusual microclimate it afforded. These have clearly since been lost following its gradual restoration and cleaning.
A number of civilisations were absorbed by ancient Rome, such as the Etruscans. Whilst this would at first sight be considered as a negative “contribution”; within the context of ancient Rome it is also important to consider the effects of “Romanisation” which brought a civilising culture to many of the peoples which were influenced (not just militarily conquered) by Rome.
An aspect which was considered positive even by some of the cultures of the day and is attested by the writer Tacitus when he describes ambassadors being sent to the emperor to ask for inclusion within the Roman domains and not necessarily being accepted or by rulers leaving their dominions in roman control rather than at the mercy of claimants to the throne.
A quick look at the varied links at the bottom of this page will give a general impression of the broad range and spectrum of contributions made by the ancient Romans.