What have the Romans ever done for us, eh?
With such a strong history of colonialism, it’s easy to see the effect British culture has had on the rest of the world. As far away as antipodean New Zealand, British culture has, in some way, seeped into the nooks and crannies of nearly every other nation, for better and for worse. But what about the other direction?
A recent trip to the British Museum, specifically the Roman exhibition, left us wondering just how far the opposite path travels. So what are the most significant contributions which these parts of our history have made to contemporary British culture?
In terms of historical fiction, there are few eras which can boast the influence of ancient Rome. Television and film are common examples of this, with the likes of Gladiator and Spartacus remaining among many viewer’s most-watched lists.
“gladiator fight” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by hans s
Also extremely popular are many immersive video games inspired by the Romans and their warriors and gladiators. Strategy game franchises, such as Total War, dedicate entire titles to the Roman historical era and are still available with online storefront systems like Steam. In a not-too-distant vein, there are online slots such as the Ave Caesar online jackpot, that are available alongside many real-money Jackpot Bingo games which utilise classic the Roman historical aesthetic and motifs to create an immersive online title with a twist.
Fish and chips might be quintessential British cuisine, but the creation of fast food itself owes a lot to Roman origins. Beginning at the time of Roman occupation of Britain, the Romans’ wealth and craving for at-home style cooking led to the creation of many fast-food businesses. In fact, there are even some indications that Romans might have been early adopters of what would later become the burger.
The Humble Toilet
Speaking of fast-food, it was the invention and spread of the plumbing and sanitation systems which shaped the world we live in today in the most drastic of ways. With the Roman creation of aqueducts came ways to expel waste, which the civilised world would eventually adopt as a necessity.
Of course, we did improve these systems somewhat. A shared urinal is one thing, but taking a push while being able to lock eyes with your seat-mates might not be the best facilitator of a smooth movement.
All Roads Lead to Tickets
We can, and often do, hate the current state of our roads. We also understand that their creation is a brilliant and very helpful thing, without which we would be ruined as a society. Of course, Romans didn’t necessarily invent the roads, as wearing paths into the ground with use is a natural/man-made phenomenon. They did, however, pave and expand their use to an unprecedented degree.
“Roman road” (CC BY 2.0) by Pot Noodle
Some roading paths laid by Britons and paved by the Romans, such as the A2 and A5 are still used today, though they are updated for the modern carts we call the ‘Toyota’.
This is just a choice few of the biggest contributions the Romans made to our society – and the world. Other common examples include the Latin language and the calendar though, as the other Roman elements of everyday life did, these would also witness an evolution.
Most importantly, this means a lot in understanding that, while we spread so many elements throughout the world, these elements themselves were rarely home-grown. A little food for thought next time you go travelling.