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Thread: Was ancient Roman lifestyle closer to that of modern East Asia than modern Europe ?

  1. #1
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    Post Was ancient Roman lifestyle closer to that of modern East Asia than modern Europe ?



    The more I learn about the ancient Roman way of life, and watch documentaries about it, the more it reminds me of the "traditional" Chinese and Japanese lifestyle and values. Here is why :

    - Roman cities were organised on a grid pattern, and so were Chinese and Japanese cities. On the contrary, European cities since Medieval times have been more circular, with tortuous streets or irregular patterns adapted to the topography and type of neighbourhood.

    - One of the most important public buildings for the Romans were the Thermae (public baths & sauna), where people liked to socialised. The same is still true in Japan today. Hot springs with public baths are more popular than ever in Japanese society, and is seen as one of the best ways to relax and socialise at the same time.

    - Roman society was polytheistic and didn't mind mixing elements of different religions and philosophies together. Being atheistic was not a problem either. The same is true in Japan and (pre-/post-communist) China, which mix elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Animism.

    - Both Roman and Oriental temples were/are typically open, with pillars around the main hall, and a statue of the god inside. This contrasts with the hermetically closed churches, some of which look almost like castles (Romanesque period).

    - Prostitution was seen as a normal part of life in Roman society. It lacked the Judeo-Christian stigma. This is also true in East Asia. Sex with a prostitute or a slave was not considered as adultery by the Romans. Likewise, the Chinese used to have concubines in addition to their official wives. Many Japanese nowadays still hold similar views about prostitution.

    - Roman houses, like their East Asian counterparts, had roofs with undulated tiles built with a relatively low inclination. Many houses had a patio or walled courtyard.

    - Roman and traditional East Asian buildings were/are built more horizontally than vertically - usually on only one or two storeys. Typical pre-20th century European cities have houses built on at least 5 or 6 storeys (at least since the Renaissance), while churches and cathedrals rise high above the cityscape - something absent from Roman and Asian cities.

    - Many houses, temples and public edifices were painted in red in ancient Rome, which also happens to be the most common colour for Oriental houses and temples. On the other hand, Europeans have favoured unpainted stone or brick since the Middle Ages, or houses painted in a variety of colours in some countries (notably Scandinavia, Central Europe and Italy).

    - Depictions of monsters and beasts in Roman mosaics remind of the traditional Chinese or Japanese ones.

    - Both Romans and Buddhists (and Hindus) cremate their deads. Burial has only become predominant since Christian times, and cremation has only made its come back in Western society since the decline of Christianity.

    - Latin, like many other ancient Indo-European languages, has declensions, lacks articles, and typically places the verb at the end of the sentence. Japanese language follows the same pattern (although not Chinese, which has no declension and places the verb between the subject and object).
    Last edited by Maciamo; 27-11-11 at 09:51.
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    Maybe civilizations that reach the highest tier of development, in the end develop many of the same technologies and practices. I.e. if iron is the best material for weapon-making, it is then the inevitable highest universal material. Therefore we will see multiple civilizations world-wide developing iron weapons independently. Iron might be a bad example, but I think you get the gist of what I mean.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Templar View Post
    Maybe civilizations that reach the highest tier of development, in the end develop many of the same technologies and practices. I.e. if iron is the best material for weapon-making, it is then the inevitable highest universal material. Therefore we will see multiple civilizations world-wide developing iron weapons independently. Iron might be a bad example, but I think you get the gist of what I mean.
    There is a lot of truth in it, and same goes to:

    - Roman cities were organised on a grid pattern
    It was common when new cities were designed by city planners, like Alexandria or Manhattan, New York.
    Older cities are mostly circular in center, even Rome, this is how they start growing from kings court, and gard wall around it.
    Square grid brings many advantages, it's easier and cheaper to divide, measure, navigate, plan, build sewers, etc.
    Today we see reversed trend in the west. We became rich enough to afford building houses following the landscape.


    - Roman and traditional East Asian buildings were/are built more horizontally than vertically - usually on only one or two storeys. Typical pre-20th century European cities have houses built on at least 5 or 6 storeys (at least since the Renaissance), while churches and cathedrals rise high above the cityscape - something absent from Roman and Asian cities.
    Mostly this one comes to price of real estate, and logistics. Without elevators, it is impractical and time expensive to make people walk and carry things 10 stories few times a day. Also in city centers where parcels are expensive there is no other way but to build high.
    One can say that this one is more about practicality than similarities of cultures.
    Now even East Asia builds higher than Europe, but they have bigger cities and population density, plus lots of money.


    - Prostitution was seen as a normal part of life in Roman society.
    This one is only valid for cities. There were and still are none prostitutes in villages. Villages are always more conservative and lack privacy. For same reason there are rarely openly gay people in small communities.
    I would say that prostitution was as "normal" for Romans as it is normal in Western World. Today's wives, or ancient Roman wife's, looked at prostitution same way; it takes money from family, can infect them with diseases, and they are jealous of husband same way no matter what century.

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    Half of The Ancient Rome was located in Asia, and also Africa, so that would explain Asian Influence.
    ww.mitchellteachers.net/WorldHistory/AncientRome/Images/MapRomeEmpireAtHeight.jpg

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    I have published this article in the History section of Eupedia with a new introduction and updated comments.

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