We are Rome!
Where we are, there is Rome. We borrow our philosophy from the Greeks and get on with the business of conquering the world. For us Romans, the world is all that is the case. The importance of oaths in our Classical world cannot be overstated. Oaths underpinned the legal system in Greece and continue to do so in our sacred Rome. One of the concepts that we Romans have learned well is that of the oath. To wit, p. 159 in the text, “Caesar did not show mercy twice.” We know the quality of mercy, but we are not to be made the fool.
What is an oath to us? An oath is a conditional self-curse consisting of three components, 1) a declaration, an assertion of a truth, or promise of future performance or forbearance, e.g. “We will be your ally in the future.” 2) a superior power upon which the oath is made, usually one of our gods, e.g., “so help me…, or by Jove” 3) the nature of the curse that you are calling down upon yourself, hence the self-curse nature of an oath e.g., “…may I be struck down by the wrath of Jupiter should I violate my oath.”
For us Romans, trust is essential. Fides is a great deity of ours, the goddess of trust and good faith. She is one of our oldest and most venerated deities. To breech an oath is to offend against the divine. Even Cicero makes this much clear. Who are we Romans? We Romans are the people who keep our word and value the doing so in others. Woe be it upon those who break an oath in dealing with us.
An oath is a statement validated by superhuman power, Caesar, later the divine Julius, in this case. Phillip Freeman provides numerous examples of how Caesar, in the fashion of the Great Alexander, and as a future Napoleon would imitate in the same manner but without the same success, confirmed defeated leaders in their original positions upon condition of an oath of loyalty to Caesar and thus Rome. Violation of the oath is the greatest offense not just against Caesar and Rome but against the goddess herself requiring the swiftest and greatest retribution possible which is often death to all men the prison of slavery for all women and children, standing structures razed to the ground, assets seized as war booty and utter devastation of the land. The text makes clear that our Roman notion of the sacred oath animates so much of our combat actions and political policies. For those who violate an oath of alliance made to Caesar, it was not the gods they had to fear, it was wrath of Caesar that puts the fear of the gods into the violator. Ask the Eburones Tribe about the wages of rebellion after having earlier surrendered, that is if you can find any left to ask. Ask Ambiorix, king of the Eburones; if you can find him - let us know!
We Are Rome!
To the book in itself. This is the third book by Phillip Freeman that I have read. This one, as with the others, has a very pleasing and easy narrative style which makes the book read like a page turning novel. The book provides an enjoyable reading experience, almost a guilty pleasure, as a welcome distraction from reading German philosophers whose last names start with “H”. My only criticism is the battle descriptions with no accompanying maps.