Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Good Republic, Good Empire: Life

First time seeing this? Start here.

Or, alternatively, Security and Safety.

Empires, especially vast ones, bring order because order is necessary to successfully administrate large territories. In the ancient world, the establishment of order had several side effects, one of which was the beating back of the dangers of a chaotic, uncivilized wilderness of bandits, raiders, opportunists, and nature. In those times, typically only the strong triumphed; if you were weak, too bad: the safety and security of your life was only as good as you could enforce it. Empires changed that paradigm by creating systems in which the strong were also obligated to protect the weak.

A vivid example of that shift in paradigm is outlined in Plutarch's Lives and comes from the waning Roman REPUBLIC (not yet the Roman Empire) in 70BCE through the privately-owned Fire Brigade of Marcus Licinius Crassus. Crassus, one of the richest and most powerful men in Rome, organized his five-hundred slaves into a Fire Brigade, not for the public good, but his own. When a building was on fire, he'd send his slaves to douse the flames, but only after the owner of the property sold it to Crassus for a mere fraction of its true worth. If the owner refused, Crassus left to let the building and all surrounding properties burn, then returned later to buy the land for an even lower amount. Worse, it was alleged that Crassus maintained a second brigade of slaves, an arson brigade, whose task it was to start fires. In this way, Crassus exerted and grew his economic strength over others to take what he desired, more land, and ruined many lives in the process.

Enter Augustus, First Emperor of the Roman Empire. After a devastating fire in Rome 6CE, Augustus took Crassus' rather crass undertaking, augmented it with fire-fighting techniques and technology from Egypt (another empire), expanded it to cover the entire city, and institutionalized it as part of a consolidated public safety service that all citizens could benefit from. The Vigiles Urbani, or City Watchmen, did not only fight fires; they also patrolled the streets day and night to maintain order and combat crime.

The Roman Empire safeguarded the lives of its citizens through other systems too. The relative peace and order established within Rome in Augustus' time was expanded outward through the construction of great roads and the maintenance of a patrolled road network, rest stops, and garrisoned fortifications. Merchants and travellers were afforded the rare privilege of safe passage throughout the empire, a privilege sadly lost again after the fall of Rome. The empire also provided public welfare in the form of a corn dole for those unable to afford food and through public bathhouses to protect the citizenry (and thus the city) from disease and plague. Augustus' reign is so known for its unilaterally available services to the people that even the framers of the Constitution of the United States remarked that they wanted to inaugurate an "Augustan Age."

Sounds pretty august, huh?

My assistant, Albrecht Silver, a native Cassian, on how this relates to the Dominion:
"Order's a huge part of how the Dominion operates, and it has to be because we're not just talking Cassus and a few outlying systems when discussing Dominion space -- we're talking an entire galaxy with hundreds of worlds and a vast array of species. That's a whole lot more room than people who've lived on a single planet their entire lives can even imagine, and much like the "Ancient World" the Historian here was mentioning, it's plenty of dangerous space filled with pirates, outlaws, and hostile... well, everything. Yet, through diligence and order, the Dominion keeps it safe for its citizens to travel through and to do business in. Even in war, the Dominion normally talks first and uses overwhelming arms later, which keeps the soldiers mostly safe too. So say what you like about them, but so long as you're imperial, the Dominion'll do what it can to keep you alive and well."


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