Date: May 8, 2019
Category: History Essay
Greek and Roman Empires

The current essay provides arguments concerning the causes and consequences of the concentration of power in the hands of the ruling class in Ancient Greece and Rome. This work also investigates the reasons why the concentration of power and atomism led to the downfall of the Greek and Roman Empires.

The concentration of Power in Ancient Greece: City-States

The current work will be directed at providing an understanding of the backgrounds and consequences of the concentration of power in Ancient Greece and Rome. These two empires are closely connected with each other. Moreover, Ancient Greeks passed the heritage of the political system, scientific views and visions, and social order to Romans. The idea of the concentration of power in the hands of a small group of people (or one person) was also transited from one empire to another.

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The concentration of power in the Greek Empire was reflected in the creation and prosperity of numerous city-states, which existed from 750 B.C. to 323 B.C. They were created on the background of tribal bounds, which existed in the earlier civilizations. The institution of these cities had a secular-relationship character. It means that the major role in society was played by religion (gods and priests). Numerous leaders and commanders consulted with oracles before making any important decisions. Usually, the population of these cities was small. For example, about 35,000 people lived in the largest city-state of the Greek Empire, Athens. Consequently, one of the main characteristics of these communities was the establishment of close (even blood) connections among their members and common views. Perry et al. argued that the latter differed from the ones of people living in other city-states, and it was the main cause of wars. Therefore, much attention was paid to community relationships. People considered that their strengths lied in their social, psychological, economic and military unity. At the same time, these considerations existed only inside the borders of some particular city or location. It means that representatives of different city-states related themselves to different communities, which had their own goals. It was also connected with the existing distinctions in the directions of the development of various city-states.

For example, Ancient Sparta was a military city-state oriented at the expansion through the acquisition and enslavement of neighboring communities by means of its strong army. The society of this city was based on the soldiery. Soldiers were better trained and disciplined than the rest of the population of Ancient Greece. The considerable military force and cohesion made Sparta one of the strongest city-states on the Peloponnesian peninsula. Unlike Sparta, Athens was more oriented at the establishment and development of trade relationships with the nearest locations, as well as the social and political development of society. This city-state had developed navy and commerce. It put emphasis on political and personal freedoms instead of military disciplines. During the rule of Solon (from 640 B.C. to 559 B.C.), the social order was transformed form oligarchy (the rule of aristocrats) to democracy (the rule of citizens). All topical issues and top-of-mind concerns were solved at public negotiations.

Therefore, as Perry et al. pointed out, the strengths of Sparta, Athens and other city-states of Ancient Greece was on the background of close relationships among their citizens and their personal self-consideration as members of one united community. People who lived in one city-state had single political and social order, economy and art. At the same time, there existed considerable diversity among various city-states. When Sparta developed its military force, Athens was more engaged in trade. Moreover, the Spartan social order was based on discipline is contrary to the democratic spirit of Athens. On the one hand, differences in the orientation of city-states destined the direction of the future development and growth of these communities. On the other hand, these differences created the impossibility of cooperation among city-states because of the differences in perceptions and views. The concentration of power in small communities made cities unable to stand against the enemy. Constant wars between the most powerful city-states Athens and Sparta weakened them and made unable to stand against the Macedonian domination at the end of the fourth century.

The concentration of Power in Ancient Rome: The Military Authority

Ancient Greece evolved from Hellenic (800 B.C. – 323 B.C) into Hellenistic society (323 B.C. – 30 B.C.) and finally transformed into the Greco-Roman Empire that existed from 30 B.C. to the fifth century A.D. Ancient Rome derived numerous characteristics from Greece, like the concentration of power. The orientation of Roman city-states became less narrow because their political structure and the way of governance were too limited for rule over the whole empire. Rome became a republic in about 500 B.C. At the same time, during the period of the existence of the Roman Empire, governors clearly understood that the main power was concentrated in the military force. Rival general Marius introduced a policy that canceled financial requirements for entrance to the Roman army. Hence, numerous volunteers from lower social classes received the ability to enter the military forces in different parts of the Empire. Emphasis should be put on the fact, that these soldiers were devoted to their general, but not to Rome. Consequently, the power was concentrated in the hands of a limited group of people (the general and his familiars). The situation became even sharper in 100 B. C., when Julius Caesar was a rival general. He improved the army discipline and expanded the military force of the Empire. His strong leadership created order from the existing chaos in the disparate Roman army, which consisted of numerous differentiated armies located in different locations. This transformation of military order formed a background for further victories. The dedication and discipline of the Roman army were one of the major reasons for Roman success in becoming the world empire.

The replacement of the devotion of soldiers to their country by the strict following of the orders of their general facilitated the formation of private armies. The internal strife among various representatives of the upper class was one of the major reasons for the downfall of the Roman Empire. And no administration in the history has ever devoted itself so whole-heartedly to fleecing its subjects for the private benefit of its ruling class as Rome of the last age of the Republic.

The major problem of military forces was a considerable decline in the quality of training and skills. The field force had to take second-rate soldiers from the frontier force, thus lowering the quality of the army. At the same time, a considerable part of the military forces of the Empire was directed at solving inner conflicts among aristocrats instead of protecting it from foreign enemies. It also reflects the negative consequence of the concentration of military power in the hands of various groups of people.

 

This work described the issues of the concentration of power and compartmentalization, which existed in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. These issues were a result of the creation of Greek city-states and Roman private armies. The citizens of city-states and soldiers of private armies were highly devoted to the ideas of their communities or their rulers and generals instead of the ones of the Empire. It eliminated the possibility of uniting power to face danger from the side of foreign troops. This work argues that the decentralization of power was rather a significant issue that led to the downfall of the Greek and Roman Empires.