5 Quotes on the ‘Glory of Rome’

Colin Ricketts

3 mins

26 Jul 2018

At its height, the metropolis of Ancient Rome was the largest city the world had ever seen. Its white monuments and temples stunned visitors, while Roman culture and values were exported throughout a vast Empire, conquered through impressive military might and linked via an extensive bureaucracy and highly developed infrastructure.

The ‘Glory of Rome’ or the ‘Glory that is Rome’ could refer to any or all of these characteristics. The ‘Eternal City’ developed a mythic quality, facilitated as much through self-reverential propaganda as much as factual achievement.

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Here are 5 quotes on the ‘Glory of Rome’, some ancient, some modern and not all expressing admiration.

1. Polybius

Who on Earth is so careless or lazy that he would not wish to learn how and under what form of government almost all of the inhabited world was conquered and became subject to the rule of Rome in less than 53 years.

—Polybius, Histories 1.1.5

The Histories are an originally 40-volume work by the Greek Historian Polybius (c. 200 – 118 BC). They describe the rise of the Roman Republic in the Mediterranean sphere.

2. Livy

It is not without good reason that gods and men chose this place to build our city: these hills with their pure air; this convenient river by which crops may be floated down from the interior and foreign commodities brought up; a sea handy to our needs, but far enough away to guard us from foreign fleets; our situation in the very centre of Italy. All these advantages shape this most favoured of sites into a city destined for glory.

—Livy, Roman History (V.54.4)

Roman historian Titus Livius Patavinus (64 or 59 BC – AD 17), or Livy, recounts the geographical advantages that helped make Rome destined for glory.

glory of rome

3. Cicero

Behold the man who conceived a great desire to be king of the Romans and master of the entire world, and accomplished this. Whoever says that this desire was honourable is a madman, since he approves of the death of the laws and liberty, and considers their hideous and repulsive suppression glorious.

—Cicero, On Duties 3.83

Here Roman politician, philosopher and celebrated orator Marcus Tullius Cicero clearly states his opinion of Julius Caesar, juxtaposing the values of those who supported the dictator against his own Republican ones.

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4. Mussolini

Rome is our point of departure and of reference; it is our symbol, or if you like, it is our Myth. We dream of a Roman Italy, that is to say wise and strong, disciplined and imperial. Much of that which was the immortal spirit of Rome resurges in Fascism.

—Benito Mussolini

In a statement written on 21 April 1922, traditional anniversary of the founding day of Rome, Mussolini evokes the concept of Romanità or ‘Roman-ness’, linking it to Fascism.

glory of rome

5. The Mostra Augustea (Augustan exhibit)

The imperial Roman idea was not extinguished with the fall of the Western Empire. It lived in the heart of the generations, and the great spirits testify to its existence. It endured the mysticism throughout the Middle Ages, and because of it Italy had the Renaissance and then the Risorgimento. From Rome, restored capital of the united Fatherland, colonial expansion was initiated and achieved the glory of the Vittorio Veneto with the destruction of the empire that had opposed the unification of Italy. With Fascism, by the will of the Duce, every ideal, every institution, every Roman work returns to shine in the new Italy, and after the soldiers’ epic enterprise in the African land, the Roman Empire rises again on the ruins of a barbaric empire. Such a miraculous event is represented in the speech of the great, from Dante to Mussolini, and in the documentation of so many events and works of Roman greatness.

—Mostra Augustea 434 (14)

From 23 September 1937 to 4 November 1938 Mussolini used an exhibit called the Mostra Augustea della Romanitá (the Augustan Exhibit of Roman-ness) in order to equate Italy’s Fascist Regime with the continuing glory of Ancient Rome under Emperor Augustus.

The last room of the exhibit was named ‘The Immortality of the Idea of Rome: The Rebirth of the Empire in Fascist Italy’. The above quote is from the exhibition catalogue’s explanation of this room.