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Posthumous volume from Braudel now available
by Louis Proyect
16 March 2002 16:25 UTC
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(Although I am not prepared to say that this previously unpublished 
work by Braudel written in the late 60s is on a par with his others, 
it certainly seems worth purchasing if you have an interest in world 
history from the world systems perspective. Titled "Memory and the 
Mediterranean", it begins with the Paleolithic background and 
concludes with a chapter on the Roman empire. This is an excerpt from 
that chapter.)

Why was Rome so successful?

In this process of conquest, Rome benefited from its central 
location, which gave it the advantage of overland communications. 
Roads built outwards from Rome helped to reinforce this natural 
advantage. In 313 B.C. the censor Appius Claudius opened the Appian 
Way which ran to Capua and eventually to Brindisi; the Via Salaria 
and the Via Flaminia ran to the Adriatic, and the Via Cassia crossed 

Rome also had the good sense, in the light perhaps of its comparative 
weakness, to treat its conquered peoples leniently, deliberately 
adopting a policy of patience and to some extent fair dealing. Those 
populations seen as ethnically and linguistically close to Rome were 
eventually admitted to full Roman citizenship. Tusculum was the first 
to receive this privilege from the quasi-legendary dictator Camillus. 
To those less close, a sort of half-citizenship, under Latin law, was 
sometimes offered. On the sites of former cities, or on land not yet 
settled, colonies were created, either Roman (in which case they were 
peopled with Roman citizens), or Latin (with some autonomy but fewer 
rights than the former). Another possible status was that of ally, 
socius, with or without treaties granting equal rights.

As I suggested above, though with some hesitation, this might be 
described as a "fair" policy. But was Roman bona fides perhaps a myth 
invented after the event? Rome certainly made a point of respecting 
the letter of the treaties, putting morality and legality on its 
side. But hypocrisy was never entirely absent from a strategy which, 
after dividing Rome's enemies, now set about devising different 
levels of status for its new associates.

A central location and a common-sense policy would nevertheless not 
have amounted to much without the backing of military might. Forged 
in the course of the Latin wars, the Roman legion was the instrument 
of victory. The first citizens belonging to the five "Servian" 
classes fought in the heavy armour of the Greek hoplites: helmet, 
breastplate and round shield; other classes adopted lighter armour, 
with pectorals instead of breastplates, and long oval shields. 
Legionaries with low incomes, and therefore poorly equipped, had been 
granted pay since the siege of Veii (Isola Farnese). The Roman 
foot-soldier borrowed from the Samnites the use of the javelin 
(pilum, a long slender blade set in a wooden shaft). The practice 
became established of disposingthe legionaries according to social 
status. The most lightly armed, the mis-leadingly named hastati 
(misleading because in fact they did not carry spears) formed the 
front lines; then came the principes and finally the triarii, a 
reserve army of heavy infantry in the third line. This order was more 
flexible than that adopted by the Greeks. Roman soldiers did not 
fight in close formation: a gap separated each man from his neighbour 
and successive lines were drawn up in quincunxes, so that in retreat 
one line could fill the gaps in another without difficulty. 

Discipline was strict, even though this was not a regular army. Every 
night, the men had to pitch camp to protect themselves against 
surprise attacks. Cavalrymen were as a rule supplied by the allies, 
but were few in number.

Finally and significantly, Rome benefited from division in the enemy 
ranks: internal quarrels kept Alexander's successors, the Greek 
kings, at a distance, and the Carthaginians and Greeks were at each 
others throats in Sicily, oblivious to the world around. Rome took 
advantage of these distractions to embark on the conquest of Italy, 
patiently weaving its web, and constantly repairing any damage. In 
the end, it emerged strong and self-confident, a match for the Greeks 
and Carthage, greedily eying Sicily across the Straits of Messina and 
beyond it the rest of the Mediterranean, to which the island held the 

Louis Proyect, lnp3@panix.com on 03/16/2002

Marxism list: http://www.marxmail.org

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