Pax Romana (C. Kelly, T. Holland, GM Tamás, A. Kennedy)

Pax Romana: civilising the barbarians or evil empire? Every generation seems to have its own attitudes to those Romans. Post-war films like Spartacus tended to cast British actors as Roman imperialists, with heroic Kirk Douglas fighting for freedom against the cruel Laurence Olivier. Today Americans are more likely to be marching in the legions as in The Eagle. Goodies or baddies? The famous ambivalence of Monty Python in asking, 'What have the Romans ever done for us?' seems as pointed as ever. In one account, the Romans followed the Greeks in teaching the world to be civilised. And while the Roman Empire was won by the sword, its makers also gave us the modern ideal of Republican liberty, and inspired the Renaissance as well as establishing the Roman Catholic Church. Popular history today, however, tends to emphasise the dark side of the Empire: the Romans were arch-militarist Caesars and oppressive exploiters, and either unfeeling moralists or depraved Caligulas. Christopher Kelly, Tom Holland, GM Tamás, Angus Kennedy