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From: "James Wynn" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Was Rome Worth the Trouble?
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2003 14:48:53 -0600

> Crush wrote:
> >Rome was not even considered worth the trouble for Alexander the Great
> > or his heirs to conquer.

>  Mantis responded:
> Not to give you a hard time, and granted there is always argument between
> historians, but I just read a book, THE FATES OF NATIONS: A BIOLOGICAL
> THEORY OF HISTORY (1980), where the author Paul Colinvaux wrote that
> Alexander avoided Rome as too tough (and possibly "too poor"?) for a
> proper victim of a war of aggression.  According to Colinvaux, the war of
> aggression requires that the aggressor have a technological edge over the
> victim, and the victim must have a resource that the aggressor wants.  The
> Macedonian phalanx famously carved up the Persians, showing the edge; the
> Persian empire had land and wealth.
> Oh, I see I'm not really arguing with you after all!  Since I put in the
> "too poor" part it falls under the rubric of "not worth the trouble" in
> your message.  I.e., it would have been trouble, since the technological
> edge favoring Macedonia over Rome was slight if it existed at all, and the
> potential rewards were much less than those offered by the pesky Persians.

Feel free to give me a hard time. My life is far to cushy as it is. :-)

Since we've agreed to agree, I'm possibly putting too fine a hair on it to
say I'd put more weight on the words "not worth" while you would
emphasize "the trouble". Perhaps Colinvaux has seen evidence I'm not
familiar with (in which case, I'm really sticking my neck out), but I don't
currently think the Italian interior would have seemed an imposing task to
the conquerors of Persia who toyed with conquering India.

1. Checking "The Chronicles of the Roman World" by Timothy R. Roberts to
refamiliarize myself with the general chronology, Magna Graecia (the Greek
colonies of southern Italy which were directly adjacent to Latium) seems to
have felt secure enough behind their phalanxes not to formally recognize
Rome until late in the 4th century. Tarentum first established a peace
treaty with her "as early as" 303 B.C. (twenty years after the death of
Alexander). I'm by no means certain but I *think* Magna Graecia fell under
the Macedonian empire during Philip II's reign (the father of Alexander the
Great). Carthage had diplomatically recognized Rome in 348 BC but only in a
general agreement to stop pirating off the Italian coast.  But she made a
more formal treaty with Rome in 303 BC. So it seems that Rome's neighbors
first viewed her as a *regional* power to be reckoned with at the very end
the 4th century, but even then the Italian Greeks considered the Romans and
presumably the rest of the Italian interior to be rustic and uncivilized.

2. At the time of Alexander and until the very beginning of the 3rd century
BC, the Italian interior was still divided between Romans, Etruscans,
Samnites, Umbrians, and Gauls who were all anxious to exterminate one
another. During this time, Rome was engaged in a war against an alliance
of some of these that it nearly lost.

3. As for technology, it wasn't until after she beat Pyrrhus (275 BC) that
the Roman manipulus was seen as a genuine answer to the Greek phalanx.
I don't know when the manipulus was first developed. Rome wouldn't have
warships or shipwrights until the middle of the 3rd century so Latro's
initial ignorance about them makes sense.

So Italy was conveniently proximate to the Macedonian Empire, strategically
divided, and technologically unrated. For Livy's patriotic opinion on
whether Alexander could have conquered Rome had he tried, see his Book 9:17.

What set Rome apart from all its local adversaries IMO was astounding nerve
coupled with exceptional discipline, competence and strategic imagination.
All this exhibited itself in steely tenaciousness -- a willingness to lose
and lose and see it only as an opportunity to adapt and adapt. But none of
her neighbors seemed to appreciate these virtues until they were practically
under her boot -- certainly not the Italian Greeks. So who was telling
Alexander that the Romans were "too tough".

As for being poor, that is surely true. It just seems obvious to me that the
Italian interior avoided the avarice of the previous Empires by not having
anything worth having in their eyes. No doubt the attitudes of the Magna
Graecians encouraged this belief. Rome had no significant mines.
The first minted Roman coins appeared in 310 BC in conquered cities (not
Rome itself) cast from loot melted down to pay the soldiers. Rome had no
monuments, history, scholars, or literature. The land was mountainous and
wild. What did Rome have to offer but slaves? Rome's civilization was
invisible to the eyes of the "civilized" world. The Etruscans were good
sculptors and artisans but the Greeks were as good or better.

All this to say that the idea of a disciplined, tactically competent Roman
century in 478 BC would surely be anachronistic -- of course, we don't know
that Latro's Romans were competent, but Latro certainly is. Perhaps Wolfe
will develop a rationalization for this in the next novel.

-- Crush


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