Which Tradition From Ancient Rome Did The United States Adopt

Roman Language

The ancient Roman language, Latin, revealed itself to be more durable than the Empire that spoke it. Latin still holds a place within the world today due to its acceptance in the form of English and other languages all over the world. To start, it is important to note the widespread use of Latin in the United States. We even recognize this today in the terminology of everyday English—words like ‘liberty’ and phrases like ‘carpe diem’, for example.
When the United States was founded, Latin became the language preferred by many of the founding fathers. Although Latin today may not be ubiquitous like it once was in the Roman Empire, it still remains the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and many codified legal systems. Some scholars believe that this is due to an effort in the early 19th to 20th centuries to move away from the Church’s governing power and find a new national identity.
However, Latin played a much bigger role in the U.S. laws. Legal terminology like ‘habeas corpus’, ‘plaintiff’, ‘crime against humanity’, ‘amicus curiae’, ‘mala in se’ and ‘in re’ all became part of the Federal Legal vocabulary. Latin phrases remain the common law terminology and continues to be strongly ingrained in court cases.
This legal jargon and legacy of Roman terms have not only served as a language guide, but have also made it much easier to communicate across nations who share a common language and often share similar legal practices as well. Latin is also seen as an especially old language that is seen as timeless. As Latin was used by different countries and empires, it has become an important part of the U.S.’s constitution as it provides reliability and permanence to the document.

Roman Religion

The most widespread form of religion in the US is Christianity, and therefore it is important to look at the influence that ancient Rome had on this faith. Christianity derived from the Roman Empire, and it has maintained some of the practices and beliefs from this time period.
Today, Sunday is regarded as the day of rest for many US citizens and for some, the day of worship. This tradition was adopted more than a millennia ago by the Romans and it makes sense as Sunday was associated with the sun from the gods, hence what we refer to it as today.
Christmas is also mostly associated with the birth of Jesus, however the date of the 25th of December was originally a pagan holiday that the Romans celebrated due to their association of the date to the solstice. Moreover, the Bible speaks of certain rituals that the ancient Romans engaged in and thus passed on. The practice of baptism bears resemblance to a particular Roman tradition of baptism. The tradition of procession and worship on Palm Sunday also has its roots in ancient Rome.
In addition, the ancient Roman religion was polytheistic and when Christianity arrived in the US, it banned any practice that was not related to their own faith, in a way outlawing the traditions of a ‘pagan’ Roman lifestyle. Consequently, it is likely that many of what we call superstitions are really the forgotten rituals stemming from ancient Rome.

Roman Entertainment

Although ancient Rome is not associated with the modern US entertainment industry, it has still had a significant influence on the type of entertainment that we exist in today. One of the most obvious features in ancient Roman entertainment that is still enjoyed in the United States is the popularization of gladiatorial combat.
Over time, the exact type of combat changed, but its structure still remained the same – a battle between two opponents in the presence of a large audience. This type of combat was very popular among Roman citizens and it even inspired the modern forms of professional sports in the US like boxing and wrestling.
Another type of entertainment that has been ingrained in US culture since its inception is theatrical performances. Theater wasn’t invented in Roman times, it was developed under the influence of their predecessors, however the concepts and philosophy of theater originated from the Roman Empire. It thoroughly developed in their society, bringing about the art form of tragedy and comedy.
Ancient Rome is also famous for its dramatizations of the events of mythology. Although the ways of storytelling may have changed, the subject remains the same and can be found in the Hollywood movies of today. Though they have been modernized, ancient Roman beliefs and stories still exist as a cornerstone of certain aspects of entertainment.

Roman Statuary

Ancient Roman sculptures are also a testament to the impact of their culture in the United States. The Romans have been widely praised for leaving the world a physical legacy of their culture, unlike the Greeks. The U.S. has attracted much of their bounty – and even their treasures.
In particular, one of the most prominent displays of Roman statuary in the U.S. is placed in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. This sculpture, entitled Victory, depicts a triumphant Roman general. In addition to being a show of reverence to the ancient Romans, this work also serves as a reminder of the hard-won freedom that the United States owes in part to their predecessor culture.
Furthermore, statues of the Roman gods and goddesses were often looked upon with admiration by those of the United States in the early twentieth century, leading members of the Roman Catholic Church to opt for their replication in many churches. For instance, marble statues of Mary and other iconic figures that were actually modeled on Roman gods continue to be seen in numerous churches today.
Finally, heritage sites, such as the ruins of the Colosseum, are proof of the lasting impact of the Roman culture and encourage curious visitors to learn more about this rich heritage. As such, it is safe to say that the remnants of ancient Rome have left a lasting impression on the United States.

Roman Architecture

As time has gone on, the Romans have left their mark not just on the United States’ religious, legal, and entertainment tendencies, but their architecture too. Statues and grand buildings are evidence of the wealth and power that once was Rome. Thus, is was and is to this day, an attractive feature.
Today, the federal housing sector and policy is largely based on the Roman insulae model. In simplest terms, this model consisted of five or six-story buildings made of brick, between which were gaps that served as streets.
Moreover, the urban planning of cities, like Washington D.C., were inspired and modeled by the Roman Empire. The Roman grid form served, and still does, as an effective way of laying out a city so that it is more organized and easy to govern. This grid model can still be seen in Washington D.C. by the city’s grand design.
Furthermore, the iconic red brick that was used by the Romans in their villages, cities and houses has also become popular in the United States due to its simplistic beauty. This is seen in the historic buildings across the U.S such as churches, universities, governments and throughout metro stations.

Roman Influence on the American Identity

The U.S. has been indelibly shaped by the ancient Romans, not only through their law, culture, and entertainment, but also through the legacy of identity that they left. Such a legacy is signified by the power of the Roman government, its collectivism, and its ability to retain order within a large populace.
For example, the organization of the United States military is evidence of this influence as their system is based on the Roman hierarchy. Therefore, the ranks of soldier that we find today such as lieutenant and captain were based on equivalent titles in the Roman Empire.
Furthermore, Roman values such as courage, loyalty, loyalty and dedication were also imbued into the American culture. They were the basis of many a hero found in the American Revolution and in the 1800s thus making them an integral part of the way the country identifies itself.
The same can be said in relation to the current U.S. healthcare system as well. Roman remedies are a noteable part of this system and helped make it stronger. Through the utilization of the natural remedies that Romans used, America is able to create better and safer treatments in order to improve the overall health of its people.

Roman Influence on Education

The Roman Empire also had a major impact on U.S. educational systems. Perhaps the most prominent legacy is the concept of seven liberal arts – taken from the trivium and quadrivium used by the ancient Romans. This system was designed to teach those in the fields of rhetoric, logic, grammar and arithmetic – the four required studies of a ‘free man’.
Furthermore, the Latin language taught in many universities today was also prevalent in Roman-era education. Latin was the language of the upper class and was seen as a sign of prestige and a way to be considered a part of the educated and powerful. Consequently, it is not a surprise to find many Latin classes in modern universities as they provide students with access to what was once a language of love, power and governance.
The practice of using lectures, tutorials and seminars – which were originally developed by the ancient Romans – are still employed by many US educational institutions. Moreover, the use of ‘classes’ structure is also rooted in the educational structures of the Roman Empire.
Finally, the ancient Roman practice of using mottoes like ‘Non Sibi, Sed Omnibus’ (not for ourselves, but for all) is still taught in US schools to instill the value of service in us. These mottoes serve as reminders to the students of the importance of being a citizen beyond the scope of just oneself.

Roman Ethics

Ancient Roman ethics have been paramount in the development of the morals held by U.S citizens. By popularizing ideals such as justice, equality and charity, they have been able to shape our current issues and views regarding them. Perhaps most iconic are their ideas surrounding justice.
This is seen in the symbolism of the ‘scales of justice’ which still stands as the symbol of the court system of the United States. Additionally, the idea of a court of appeals is also rooted in the Roman justice system whose courts had tribunes with various powers, and a duty to provide justice.
Roman perspective on the value of equality is also deeply embedded in what is important to the US now. Their culture stressed the importance of common welfare and the responsibilities of citizenship. Furthermore, the Romans also valued charity and volunteering, something which is still seen in modern society as acts of helping the disadvantaged.
Moreover, the Roman law of ‘culpability’ is another concept that is still found today. Romans held that one be held accountable for their own actions, a law which is still used to this day in the United States. Lastly, the Romans had an idea of the ‘higher ground’ or rules that extended beyond the usual realm of law. This idea of “honor,” was grounds for court cases and has remained important in the American justice system.

Roman Economics

Ancient Roman economic practices have also permeated throughout the United States. Unlike other cultures however, their practices mainly became incorporated into the United States’ financial system in the form of coins.
The most popular coin was the denarius, which featured the Roman god of war Mars on the side. The coin’s design was said to represent strength and courage. This became a prominent part of the US’s economic identity when the US adopted parts of the Roman monetary system.
As the US adopted the coin system, it too adopted the introduction of tariffs and taxes. This also echoes Roman practice as the government had a strong interest in issues of taxation and commerce. Consequently, aspects of what was once the Roman economic system is still seen in the United States today.
Furthermore, the arch became a common architectural feature in US financial institutions as it was often associated with safety and stability – concepts that banks strive for. This is the same architectural feature of the Roman forum, gateway and other Roman monuments.
Lastly, the Roman clasps, grip locks, and paper fasteners, called tabulae, are also still seen in use today. These clasps and locks, which were designed as a secure way of keeping documents safe, have been a popular way of securing documents and messages held in high priority.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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