Ancient Rome And India: Similarities And Differences

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Ancient Rome and India – Military

Similarly with India, once certain leaders gained access to power through, society would benefit, as leaders had to convince people that they should be King and actually care about the people – Ashoka with infrastructure, and “multiple temples, a new forum, bathhouses, theatres.”

Politics and military were inextricably linked, as it showed the commander’s leadership abilities. This is similar in India, as the kshatriyas fought in military, and this supposedly enhanced their ability to lead with strategies. E.g. of politics and military being closely linked : Marius made heaps of political reforms, senate tried to pay him to stop making so many wars, he still wanted to continue so he raised his own legion and because he was so popular amongst the people, they supported him in his actions.

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Marius’ success as a militant commander with the Roman Republic, reflects that one man could gain complete control over a city, as the support of the people and military prowess supplied him with enough power to do so.

Therefore , the military is the primary avenue through which one can gain complete power. This is also reflected in ancient India, as Ashoka took his position as the emperor of the Mauryan Dynasty, as he defeated his brother (opponent) with his own army, and he ultimately had the supreme power as the ruler of India.

Change : In the early vedic period, anyone could be part of the armies as the vedas did not explicitly differentiate between the varnas. Whereas, in the late vedic period, this changed and the caste system became more enforced due to the Manusmriti and Bhagavad Gita which outlined that the kshatriyas were the only ones who should perform warrior tasks in order to fulfil the “cosmic man”. These religious texts also gave the kshatriyas a powerful image, as patriotism and honouring your country was valued by the gods, hence enhancing their honour and reputation in Indian society. (Religion significantly impacted military practices , and this bought honour and image to higher classes).

Change : In the Roman Kingdom, the King had absolute power, and the Senate had limited power (and the King was not always selected through lineage, but this was most frequent) – had to be chosen by Romans – and candidates were chosen for voting , by a Senate member.

Roman Republic – 509 BC, the King lost power and Senate (was still made up of patrician men) were given increased power – Roman assemblies (most power) made final decisions on things like laws, trials , etc. Senate also chose consuls and controlled Rome’s finances.

Roman Empire – emerged the “imperator” Augustus– word used to honour military skills and “restorer of republican” – because he promised he wouldn’t turn the republic into an Empire, but he did. The image they were trying to show was that they only controlled the Republic and led the Senate, when really they could change/alter the Senates’ decision as they had the most power (had King like privileges, authority and powerful image, as he had the people’s support)- Senates just had illusion of power.

In India, figures were able to take control over several governing systems of society, through military prowess. For example, Chandragupta Maurya conquered Magadha (today’s Bihar), and by taking control of this city, he extended his influence all over India with the “Mauryan Army, … which has “600,000 infantry, or foot soldiers, 30,000 cavalry, or soldiers on horseback, and 9,000 war elephants.”

In addition to this, the Mauryan’s military skill extends beyond Chandragupta’s rule, in legitimising their image of power, as Ashoka used his family’s equipped army and defeated his brother Bindusara, in a war, in order to gain access to his father’s throne within the Mauryan Empire. Soon after his success, he became known as the newfound emperor of their dynasty. Hence, revealing that his military capabilities were the only factor necessary in granting him with the position of power, along with creating a legacy which would live beyond him, as he still considered as “the most successful and powerful ruler of the Maurya Dynasty.”

In addition to this, the Indian Army was depicted as successful, according to the resources that their army had acquired, as a Maharaja’s wealth.. was measured in how many elephants he owned.” This further reflects the powerful image of the Mauryan Army, as their acquisition of 9,000 elephants not only led them to conquer India with their army, but it also exhibited their army to be of prestige and prosperity.

In comparison to India, the commander of the Roman legion was voted in by the people, whereas in India, it was decided by the social hierarchy that the kshatriyas would serve in the army and take charge (or exception, the Mauryans who seized the area and took control by force, even though they were not kshatriyas, they were shudras). E.g of people voting : Gaius Marius “voted each year for 5 years”

The commander was rewarded for their work, where they took the money and could use it in order to help advance their position and spread their influence, whereas in India, the commander of the army took the money and resources as a given, his action of taking it was not justified by the ideology that he deserved it as a result of his victory.

In Rome, there is a greater emphasis upon the dignitas and glorias of the commander, whereas in India, it was more important to perform your karma according to your social status, and for the kshatriyas it meant succeeding battles, and this gives you good karma, hence bringing you closer to moksha (samsaric cycle ends).

Achieving success in the military was a way to bring selfish honour upon the commander and his family, by adding to their list of honourable deeds , whereas in India, it was about building an empire by seizing larger areas, more resources and more money (more focused on economic gain rather than honourable image). This is evident in several of the ancient artefacts which depict key Roman leaders, as God-like individuals, as their power is legitimised through their association with divine powers. (Use Augustus of Prima Porta).

Rome introduced the Cursus Honorum in order to distribute power amongst aristocratic members evenly (body of formal individuals who had executive roles within Roman society) – Quaestor (financial/money sector of admin), Aedile (admin, temples and buildings), Praetor (6 or 8 ppl being judges), Consul (leaders of the military and politics), Censor (kept count count of population , who could and couldn’t vote), Tribune of the Plebs (like a council, spoke on behalf of ppl and their opinions), Princeps Senatus (in charge/head of Senate, elected by all patricians, needed to have been consul for 5 yrs)  leaning towards a more democratic society- power was spread out. Different to India, as the maharaja continued to have power synonymously with the priests over time (aristocrats were always viewed as superior – due to religion and social status) – even though the kshatriyas (Maharaja’s) had to justify their power with military prowess, protection, wealth, etc – to maintain power – use coinage example.

Ancient Rome and India – Economics


Agriculture was one of the biggest ways to advance the economy in both regions. In Rome, aristocratic Romans bought and created farms (latifundia), and they bought “war captives” to work so hard, which increased economic production (slaves weren’t paid).

B) ARISTOCRATS WERE TOO UPPER CLASS FOR THIS ACTIVITY AND NO ONE ELSE WAS WILLING TO DO IT, AGRICULTURE WAS THE BIGGEST FORM OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY. This maintained power and image for the aristocrats in India, as the vaisyas and the sudras conformed to their role of farming in order to make up the “cosmic man”, and through this they acknowledged that they were inferior and had to obey the kshatriyas and brahmins. AND it also benefitted the kshatriyas’ image, by implying that the Maharaja cares about the people’s protection and he is doing what he is necessary in order to do so. This trusting relationship between the kshatriyas and the village people, meant that the ppl supported and had faith in the Maharaja’s leadership- hence sustaining their power ( w support).

The maharaja “protecting its people” as an excuse for taxes, is similar to the patronage practice in Rome, as in return for protecting the lower classes (protection – India, protection/money/help in Rome) , the nobles were given respect, admiration, affirmation that they are superior. This barter system which reflects values such as trust, faith and support from lower classes, sustains aristocratic superiority. – B) – in (ROME) it kept the patricians in power because all the money being generated through crops was going straight to them and the slaves were not paid, so they could not break out of their poverty cycle , even by working.

Whereas in India, the Maharaja’s encouraged the vaisyas and sudras to work as farmers, as long as they were paying their taxes (which benefitted maharaja economically), but it also gained their trust which was vital in securing his power, due to the image of a caring and trustworthy leader who proved himself to be worthy.

In Rome, the coins which contained images of the imperator/emperor/princeps, served as propaganda to portray the individual as powerful/significant. Reflecting an portrait on coins was a change that occurred at the end of the Roman Republic, as Julius Caesar began this practice. Devices such as religious or historical allusion, was utilised to legitimise the emperor’s position of power. This is evident in the coin depicting Augustus, which uses the civil war as an excuse to show that Augustus can bring stability, through the image of the courthouse. This accentuates the emperor’s image by legitimising his position of leadership was necessary as the people’s support (especially the plebeians who were illiterate) and belief in the emperor’s leadership skills , meant that they would want him to stay in power, thus allowing him to completely control society. In comparison to India, the image of the Emperor was depicted as it kept that individual ruler in power, rather than the empire itself, as this was a selfish act to bring gloria and dignitas to the emperor himself and his familia. In contrast, the Mauryan Army’s coin utilised the image of rich resources, such as elephants and wheels. This demonstrates that the whole Empire was trying to become powerful, rather than just one individual, as the elephants, which are a symbol of wealth, demonstrate to all classes (sudras and vaisyas as well – illiteracy) that their acquisition of such resources demonstrates the Empire’s success in leading India. Hence, allowing people to place trust and support the maharaja, as he was legitimised as the one who would bring success for all of society. However, both methods advanced and solidified their image and power and they allowed them to spread an image of preeminence (not necessarily gain control, but trust, which makes it easier in acquiring control.

In India, the maharajas charged tithes (taxes), as the Manusmriti justified this as an integral part of the Maharaja’s duty. As enforcing the caste system , legitimised the Maharaja’s ability to be powerful in the sphere of the economy. Whereas, in Rome, the Senate could advise the King and Emperor in the Roman Kingdom and the Empire, meaning suggestions regarding the economy could be made. Or further than this, in the Roman Republic, which was increasingly democratic, extended this role to a quaestor – even though he was a patrician, these decisions were not just confined to the King.

Ancient Rome and India – Social/Family Status

In the sphere of family, both Rome and India had male figures as the heads of each family. In India, they were known as the “grihapati” and in Rome, they were known as the “paterfamilias”. This patriarchal notion, crafted the criteria for power within both ancient countries. All leaders, in any sector, whether it was military, politics or even just a unit of a family, are all meant to be male. This was the strict and uniform social norm.

In the Roman Kingdom and the Early Vedic Period, the Senate and the Sabha were bodies of elderly people who gave advice to the King, but were decreasingly losing power in the Late Vedic Period and in the Roman Kingdom and Empire.

Caste system in both.

Plebeians tried to become magistrates but were stopped by priests who did not ordain them, which stopped them from serving in office. (same as India, priests are unrefutable and hold utmost power as they can stop and start any occurring decision, and they are considered to be at the top of the hierarchical, their supremacy in the caste system is justified and guarded with sacrosanctity). This also reflects that priests and purohitas, all Brahmins for that matter , supported only patricians or kshatriyas in leadership positions, and their sacrosanctity meant that they had significant power in ensuring this happened. Except in India, Brahmins had the most power.

King’s were often blessed by the Divine Right in religious ceremonies (Abhishka ceremony) or as shown in coin propaganda (connected to Venus), to show that the kings/emperors also had sacrosanctity. It connected secular and religious power.

Patricians and kshatriyas could change laws to benefit them , although the change of the manusmriti legitimised many acts in the favour of the Maharaja e.g taxes. – Women were respected in India and were given an education.

In Ancient Rome, there were two primary classes in society ; patricians (aristocrats and nobility) and plebeians (commoner’s, 90% of the population. This made it easy to divide power, as you were either on one side or the other, and the patricians had the most power in society, even though there was a tribune for the plebeians, although many of their suggestions could be dismissed by superior patricians in the cursus honorum. This also indicated that power was held by those who had access to money, resources, and and education, all the factors which make the patricians upper class.

In comparison to Rome, Ancient India had four classes, also known as varnas , brahmins (priests- not most rich but most respectable and prestigious), kshatriyas (warriors, used to be kings, or belonged to royal families), vaisyas (farming labourers), shudras (servants to other 3 classes). This was introduced in the Early Vedic Age, but became more dominant by the Late Vedic Age, due to texts such as Manusmriti and Bhagavad Gita. Brahmins were at the top of the hierarchy, as they were considered as the carriers/ the epitome of knowledge, all-knowing beings, as god had passed this on to them. They were also considered to always be thinking/revolving their lives around Brahma, considered divine and communicators of Brahma’s knowledge, not hereditary BUT THE CRITERIA ; learning and possessing knowledge of almost everything (does not have to be hereditary). This was a key difference to the Romans, as the Indians had two aristocratic classes which worked synonymously together (military and religion). This signified the power and image of individual’s from both the kshatriya caste and the brahmin caste, as the Bhagavad Gita legitimised their position in society by honouring patriotism and serving one’s land and by justifying Brahmins superiority with sacrosanctity , as they reflect god’s knowledge in human form. This was sustained and legitimised through the creation of new Brahmin words such as “brahmajnani, ,acharya, upadhyaya, , , pandit, manushyadeva, bhudeva” and other religious texts such as the Dharmashastras, indicates what names the sudras may use when speaking with Brahmins, and degrading names which Brahmins are entitled to call Sudras, as they are “padajas” – “eternal slaves”. Therefore , due to religion, the caste system was legitimised and implemented, impacting all areas of life such as economics, military, politics, etc. Adherance to the caste system is reflected in Maharaja’s Hastin’s inscription, which reveals that irrespective of the Maharaja being a King, he still acknowledges Brahmins to be superior than him, due to their religious justification. Hence he is paying them grants as a physical confirmation of his inferiority, as religion was not argued with in India. In Rome, however, the King, Princeps or Emperor was the most superior position , as they were often justified to hold religious, military and political power, all in one.

In the beginning of the republic, plebs and pats worked in harmony with each other as they both prioritised the protection of Rome. But once Rome had peace and security, internal conflict began to occur.

Judgement Military Economics Social/ Family structure

Rome – Military is most important.

In Rome, the military was vital in securing power and control over Rome, as proven by consuls such as Gaius Marius. As a plebeian it was against his social status, to be a consul, as being part of the cursus honorum/Senate, meant that you had to be a patrician Marius’ success as consul with the Roman Republic, reflects that one man could gain complete control over a city, even though the Senate,which consists of the supposedly superior patricians, tried to pay him to stop making so many wars, the support of the people and military prowess supplied him with enough power to do keep his consulship and be Rome’s leader. Systems such as coinage was more useful in attaining a positive image of the emperor, by alluding to religious and/historical notions, which legitimise their position of power. This gains people’s trust and faith , due to the effectiveness of the propaganda, and this sustained their position of leadership. Was important to an extent, in gaining power and image, as it divided society and allocated extensive roles and privileges to patricians, however this wasn’t binded with religion, hence it could often be argued with. Especially since this class distinction was a change due to the internal conflict which began to occur within Rome, once peace was restored.

India – Social status is most important.

In India, the military was one of the key avenues in which empires and dynasty’s enhanced their image of power and secured their position of power, as resourcefulness, wealth and military prowess were essential in gaining the people’s support, which was needed in both countries. E.g. The Mauryan dynasty seized and took control over India due to their military prowess. In addition to this, Ashoka and the Mauryan army led India through military dominance. Economic was essential in depicting image of power, although instead they used resources and beliefs regarding wealth to persuade people to trust and support empires. Was imperative to the development of power and image in India, as it clearly distinguished between who should and should not have access to leadership positions. This is due to several religious and legal texts which have legitimised and binded Indian society to follow their social caste, in order to fulfil the “cosmic man”, as religion is superior over all. Power was explicitly justified with sacrosanctity and the BG and M, stated the brahmins and kshatriyas to hold this right. Even though there were a few exceptions, (the Mauryan Dynasty), it was more consistently evident for members of each caste to operate within their parameters.  


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