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General History/If Rome hadn't fallen


QUESTION: Hi! If Rome averted its fall and instead continued its existence and existed till today what would the world be like? I live in Finland so would it be also likely that Finland would have sooner or later become part of Rome? And let's assume that we'd have advanced to the same level of technology as today so what kind of society would Rome be with today's technology? Especially if it would be Rome with the emperor having the largest amount of power an emperor of Rome has ever wielded.

ANSWER: Hi Mika,
Tough question because there are so many historical what ifs.

1. Rome had slaves, up to 40% of the population, plus in the final centuries of the empire, the Romans invented serfdom which rendered many more people into a lifestyle almost as bad as slavery. It's possible that slavery would not have ended in Europe without the fall of Rome, so if Rome never fell, there might still be slavery.

2. Slavery has a way of stifling innovation. For instance, a Greek scientist once asked the Roman emperor to finance his new invention, a steam engine. The emperor refused because he did not want to face the social consequences of replacing all of those slaves with machines. So it's possible that even today, Europe may not have had an industrial revolution if the Roman Empire was still around. Totalitarian governments like the Roman Empire rarely enjoy technological innovation, so I would question whether today's technology could exist without democracy or some other weakening of centralized authority.

3. Would Rome have expanded if it had survived? This is a 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg?' question. Rome stopped expanding several hundred years before it fell, so if Rome had survived, would it have resumed expanding? Perhaps not, although one reason Rome fell was because it stopped expanding, so for Rome to survive, perhaps it had to keep expanding. If Rome had kept expanding, we would all speak Latin or derivations there of. The Germanic and Slavic languages may have been wiped out.

4. If Rome had survived, North Africa and much of the Middle East would have remained Christian. Islam would be a smaller religion today than it is. I also doubt the Protestant Reformation could have happened under a Roman-style centralized state. The late emperors had a close relationship with the early church, and the church and state propped each other up.

5. We would probably drink more wine and less beer today if Rome had survived. We might cook with olive oil instead of vegetable oil although there are parts of Europe where olives and grapes do not grow, so maybe climate is a greater determiner than culture.

6. If Rome had survived, we would probably be using a modified Roman system of weights and measures, perhaps updated to meet modern requirements of accuracy and precision. There would have been no need for the Metric System. The Metric System only caught on because Europe at the time was divided into many different states, each with their own system of weights and measures. The Metric System was based on universals and was politically neutral so almost everyone adopted it. If Europe had remained unified, Rome would have simply imposed their own system of weights and measures onto their subject peoples.

7. If the empire had survived, all of Europe would be using Roman Law today. Countries that use juries, the presumption of innocence, and the adversarial system whereby the prosecuting and defending attorneys argue the case in front of the judge or jury, would not have these.

8. Emperors are not keen on individual rights, so if the empire survived, people would be less free. Without freedom, there is less technological innovation.

9. Today's educational system might be very different if Rome had survived. Roman education emphasized reading, writing, and speaking with almost no emphasis on math or science. Roman schools prepared sons of the upper class for a lifetime of telling other people what to do. They had no need for science since Romans believed every problem had already been solved. Romans found the answers to their problems by reading history, not through science. This is one reason the empire fell -- they could not solve new problems. So again, I seriously doubt that modern technology could exist under the Roman Empire.

Hope this answers your question,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Do you believe that Rome would have expanded toScandidavia and Finland? And let's say that Roman Empire existed today with current tech but with Roman religion. Do you believe that Emperors would be using surveillace tech intensively to make sure that everyone followed the law and worshipped the Emperor? And as a male in a Rome with strong emperor how would my life be different in responsibilities and freedoms?

Hi Mika,
1. Rome expanded for two reasons: to secure natural resources and trading opportunities and to conquer an enemy they saw as a threat. So if Rome had survived the 5th century and was still around in the time of the Vikings, Rome may have conquered Scandinavia as a way of pacifying the Vikings. Also, at different times, Scandinavia has offered attractive trading opportunities. For instance, Sweden has iron ore and Norway has off shore oil. I don't know enough about Finland to know if the Romans would have been attracted there or not, but you know more about Finland's natural resources than I do.

2. If the Romans had modern surveillance technology they would absolutely use it to ensure people obeyed the law. This is an exception to what I said earlier about totalitarian states disliking technological change. Any technology that serves the interests of the state will enjoy the state's support. This is exactly why so many people are angry at the recent scandals. A great democracy like the USA should not behave like a totalitarian regime.

3. If you were living in a modern Roman Empire, your life would almost certainly mirror your father's and your grandfather's. If they were poor, you would be poor also. If they were rich, you would be rich, too. Most people would be poor. There was almost no middle class in the Roman Empire. There would be almost no social mobility. Your lifestyle would be determined at birth. Intelligence or talent would not allow you to rise, nor would a lack of intelligence or talent allow you to fall out of the upper class if that's where you were lucky enough to be born. If slavery and serfdom still existed, you might be a slave or a serf.

If born poor, you might not receive an education. Without democracy, people would not vote to create schools for their children. Roman education was not a public or governmental function. Instead, parents paid for their children's education via tuition in what are called private school here in the USA. In the UK they are called public schools. I don't know what those schools are called in Finland. A modern Roman Empire would probably prefer to keep most people ignorant. People who can't read are less likely to think about things like freedom and democracy. With limited education, your job opportunities would be limited.

You would probably be more fearful of random arrest by the police, since the police would not have to prove you guilty before they could arrest you. The police could arrest you on a whim or to appease political or social pressure to arrest someone, anyone, for a crime you did not commit.

Hope this answers your question,


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C.M. Aaron


My interests are pretty diverse: military history, technology, and social trends for most historical eras, general U.S. history, European history, especially Roman and early medieval history but also the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, European colonialism in Africa, a little bit of Asian history, especially as it relates to European and American imperialism. I'm also pretty good with presidential history.


I've read hundreds of history books on various subjects. I've also been writing historical fiction for about twenty years. Story development drives my research. I am also a tour guide at a local museum.

Bachelor's degree in history and geography.

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