The Influence of Ancient Rome on Modern Civilization

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Many people believe that Modern Civilization has been greatly influenced by ancient cultures, mainly Greek and Roman.

The Great Empire and Republic of Ancient Rome is thought to have set the laws that guided moral conduct which are still present today in several nations. Other real life influences include building of a democratic nation, language and literature, modern art, rule of law, legislation etc. There is a direct relationship in several aspects between Western Society and Roman culture (Spielvogel, 35).

First of all, the most common influence is the Roman law on the civil law.

The Romans had a system of rule of law which has been a framework upon which the current society develops its laws. The Romans had various forms of law which included public law (in the instances where the government was involved in setting laws such as taxation law), private law (when the state was involved in setting and implementing laws that affect individuals and safeguard life). In addition, public international law has been shaped by these ancient laws. Just as in the current civil law in the West, there existed the rule of law, the jury and indictments. The ancient courts allowed the same defense mechanisms as the modern civil law. It was believed that a person was to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Today, the same still applies with treating suspects before the court rules their verdict. The written law which is in form of the constitution also originated from this period. They had laws, rules and ethics that guided the way of life and a way of punishing those who broke these laws. However, currently some of these laws have been amended while some have been dropped altogether. Finally, the process of making laws in the modern society is very similar to the ancient culture. According Carl (pg. 241), this process involved an assembly of citizens coming together to propose various laws which would be later approved by the representatives. In the West, the same process applies whereby the members of the parliament propose bills which are either approved or disproved by the legislative bodies.

The impact of ancient classical literature and art on modernization is clearly evident in the world today.

The works of many famous authors are still being studied and most have been adopted in the current art. Roman literature include poetry, histories, plays, drama and other forms of writings. A number of plays, for instance, Shakespeare’s “Even” were adopted from Julius Caesar’s “The Comedy of Errors” (Carl, pg.260). These works, among others, have had such a powerful impact on the field of literature such that English writers such as Milton and Samuel Johnson referred to these classical stories to develop themes that have had a huge impact on modern literature. Many writers have been influenced by the Romans and today’s literature resonates with themes borrowed from these forms. Plays, drama and modern films have adopted many theories, stories and myths from the past cultures. Classical literature is being studied today because they portray the society as it is, in a dramatic way. Ancient stories and mythology which were believed by Romans to be true have been passed on over generations even today. Modern books and movies are filled with references from classical literature. For example, T.S. Eliot’s book “The Waste Land” has a lot of references from “Ovid”, and to some extent, more of Eliot’s work including “epic poem” have been influenced by Latin literature. Also, J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels feature some Latin names (Minerva and Luna) and a number of Roman references which include the werewolf Remus Lupin (also known as Romulus) ( Carl, pg. 266). Also, this literature is responsible for the spread of Latin language, which is the mother of almost all modern languages including Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. Some English words have their roots from Latin, and that is why most educators encourage students to study Latin so as to better the understanding of the English language. Ancient art has also greatly influenced art in the West. For example, ingraining pictures of emperors in coins and statues originated in Rome although most of these art forms were borrowed from the Greeks and later transmuted during the golden age. It was a common thing to witness the display of this art in form of sculptures of their patriarchs or matriarchs to express their importance and wealth. There are also famous paintings that trace their origin from Rome and are still considered as invaluable in the society, e.g. Pompeii painted by Pompeian painter and the Roman Wall Painting.

Another great influence is the Roman architecture.

Most of the architectural designs in the world today have been adopted from the Roman architecture. The construction of designs of column arches and domes, and modern bridges used almost all over the world today originated from Rome (Gabriel, pg. 252). For example, the US White House and other iconic buildings have employed this idea in their construction. Different types of pillars with various decorations are also used today. Many cities have borrowed most of the ideas from the ancient Roman Empire in terms of their planning and design. The empire had a unique design in the construction of military centers and colonial towns. They considered fortification of buildings, space utilization and prioritized maneuverability during construction of ideal city plans. These plans have been adopted by modern cities including Paris and London, which were built based on the Roman Styles (Reid, pg241). They have also laid down a complicated network of aqueducts all over the city similar to ancient Rome. These aqueducts consist of underground pipes and canals which are used to provide water to the people. In the current society, underground tunnels have been adopted and are well developed to include relaying of water and draining of wastes. Also, modern fountains were inspired by ancient engineers. The use of concrete instead of marble as the main materials for building originated from Rome. The construction of a complex and vast road networks today is similar to what the Romans had. There was a complicated road system that constituted of several roads that connected major cities and towns to the capital. It made it easier for the rulers to access their empires and also eased transportation of farm produce to the cities for trade. The Romans also constructed large public places like theatres and public baths which have been developed and introduced into the world today. They also include places where people would go to have fun and interact. The Colosseum was a well-known theatre where mass entertainment took place. About 45,000 people would gather and enjoyed gladiators’ battle, bullfighting, wrestling and other forms of entertainment (Huntington, pg. 38).

The modern religion has been influenced by ancient Roman religion.

Before the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, the Romans worshipped idols and other gods. Emperors were held in high positions and worshipped like gods. However, the slaves during this period became the first to be converted to Christians because of their suffering. Christianity was legalized in 313 A.D. and the worship of other gods was abolished. This led to spread of churches all over Rome, which further increased as a result of expansion of the empire. The branch of Christianity that is associated with Rome is the Roman Catholic which uses Latin language. The Vatican City is mainly known for its Roman Catholicism belief, with the head of the church being a Pope. They believe that there is only one God, and the core of this religion is that their savior is Jesus Christ. This religion further spread around the world and into the West. It is estimated that about 40% of the world population today are Christians with Roman Catholic belief, with some differences between the original Catholicism and the modern belief. This has led to a split between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox (Runciman, pg365). But what kept the Christians together is their spread of love and forgiveness. People needed to work together for the greater good, and by faith and belief, Christian teaching brought civilization into the world. Some religious festivals are also associated with Christianity in the world today. For example, Christmas is a festival that is celebrated by Christians annually on the 25th of December because they believe that it is the day that Jesus Christ was born. Others include the Easter Holiday, Thanksgiving and the Good Friday. Some countries have made these days national public holidays to allow people to celebrate with their families.

Lastly, the expansion of the Empire has had other major impacts in the world today.

This include ancient philosophers who laid down the foundation for modern research. For instance, Anaximander wrote about nature and studied the solar system. He computerized the distance between the earth and the sun, however with slight errors due to the poor technology at the time. Moreover, he proposed the theory of evolution which was built upon by other philosophers. Another example is the mathematician Pythagoras, who is the first person known to use the term ‘philosopher’ (Clark, pg. 12). He developed mathematical laws and believed that the universe operates according to these laws. Many theories proposed by these scientists are still studied today. Researchers have simplified their scientific facts into forms that can be understood easily and applied in a real life situation. Other scientists who helped shape modern science include Xenophanes (Father of Geology and Paleontology), Leucippus (proposed the atomic theory), Hippocrates (Father of Medicine) and Herophilus (Father of Anatomy).

It can therefore be concluded that the Romans have had a great influence on civilization in the world today.

Most of the amenities that we enjoy today including literature, law, religion, architecture and medicine can trace their roots to the Roman culture.

Works Cited

Clark, Victoria. Why Angels Fall. New York. Macmillan. (2000)

Carl, Richard. Why We’re All Romans: The Roman Contribution to the Western World. Berlin. Rowman. (2010)

Gabriel, Richard. The Great Armies of Antiquity. Praeger. Westport. (2002)

John, Julius. The Decline and Fall. Munich. Byzantium. (2009)

Runciman, Steven. The Great Church in Captivity. New York. Cambridge. (2005)

Colin, Roberts. The Birth of the Codex. London. Oxford University Press. (1983)

Huntington, Samuel. Clash of Civilizations. Washington. Mueller. (1991). 6th ed.

Spielvogel, Jackson. “Western Civilization.” Western Culture (2016): pp 32-. Cengage Learning.

A Brief History of Western Culture. Khan Academy.

November 13, 2023



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