William the Bastard—not being shielded by the nobility of his father, Robert I, Duke of Normandy—could see how terrible the Roman Oppression was. He knew of a land across the waters that was inhabited by pagan wildfolk. He dreamed himself a Kingdom across the sea, where they could focus on what matters—people surviving, but not only surviving. People being free of the subjugation imposed by tyrants who control all wealth.
William the Bastard also wanted to discard the symbol of oppression the Romans had attached to him. The Romans’ Catholic system was arbitrary, based on philosophy and spirituality they were simply unable to comprehend. Throughout history the Romans only knew how to steal from other civilizations. When they were starting up, the Greeks to the East were all the talk on the Roman’s psychic broadband.
Oh, the beauty of the Grecian temples. Every Roman dreamed of making the sea voyage to witness the Colossus firsthand. From all the stories people told, no one at all was shocked when news reached them that an earthquake had toppled that ridiculous thing. How the hell did they even build it?
One thing the Romans were sure of was that the Greeks knew what they were doing. And like the idiots the Romans were, they decided to focus on Greek Mythology. While the Greeks had become atheists because of how ridiculous Greek Mythology was, the Romans packed all the temples and copied down the stories word for word.
When the Romans went back home, they changed the names of the Gods and it made them feel so proud to be as progressive as those Greeks. Surely now they would soon be building marble temples of their own. But the Romans were surrounded by pagans who didn’t care about them, so the Romans had to build up their self-esteem so they could take on that real go-get ‘er attitude so they could get their neighbors to drop by for a drink and a party. And they went back to the Greeks, trying to learn some of that Grecian swagger.
It’s a pity they never dropped by the Oracle at Delphi. She would have set them straight. Instead, the Romans decided it was hard to build up courage without a pint of mead in their stomach. So they invaded all the taverns and inns in Athens and Thebes; on the coastline or looking over a green valley from the mountainside. They kept hearing the same songs being sung by bards and in their drunkenness the Romans thought that if they could learn to sing those songs then they could be more popular.
So the Romans learned these songs all the bards sang, and they learned the history of the Trojan War. Holy shit! The Romans couldn’t believe everything that happened in these stories. Gods fighting in this war with all this… how long had the Greeks been there? So the Romans realized what they needed to be really popular was to have a really awesome history.
How could they have a really awesome history? Well, they debated it and decided the best way was to write fanfiction based on the Grecian epics. Hoorah! The Romans were the best ever! And when the big night arrived for Virgil to present the totally excellent real accounting of how the Romans are actually totally descended from this guy named Odysseus, the Romans declared a feast for all the neighboring pagan tribes in honor of their own excellence.
They did find themselves with a packed hall, all their neighbors pigging out on the food the Romans had bribed them with. Virgil sat at the back of the crowd, the jitters making his knee bounce up and down as he looked around to see just how much everyone liked him. But they were all looking at the bard who was tasked with the most important job of making this excellent real history as totally bad ass as it was in reality. Because then all the women would want to sleep with him.
Everyone agreed it sounded nice, but they thought it went on a little too long and who was this Ulysses guy anyway? Why was he important? Why should they care? Virgil stormed away before he started crying and decided he didn’t care about them anyway: he was sure all the Romans would love it. And so The Aeneid went down in history until eventually someone said: “No way, that story is bullshit.” But no one cared anyway.
The Romans were getting frustrated at how hard it was to get people to like them, and it was expensive sailing back and forth across the Ionian Sea. But they were sure they could still find something in Greece that would solve this conundrum. This time the Romans couldn’t afford any more trips, so they had to make sure they looked in the right place. No more temples, no more taverns. This time they noticed this strange phenomenon called education.
The Romans found the colleges where the sophists were talking talking talking to all these students that were held in rapt attention. What a very strange thing indeed. They would have expected this kind of thing to happen in a temple. But even though it was totally boring, the Romans figured this was where the Greek’s glory came from.
They were right this time. The Romans bought thousands of scrolls with the texts of all revered philosophers that the sophists were teaching, and they secured this most revered treasure in water-proof barrels so not one letter would blotch on the return voyage. This knowledge quickly permeated Roman society and they learned the power in it.
They synthesized all the knowledge and took this science and philosophy to their pagan neighbors. But instead of impressing them, the locals were scared, not understanding what the Romans were doing with their word magic. Finally! The Romans had a reason to look down on those pagans.
The Romans were stock full of resentment from all those fruitless years of trying to interbreed with their neighbors. What did they know! They were stupid if they couldn’t see the awesomeness of the Romans. If the locals weren’t going to respect them, the Romans were going to force them to, with all the awesome power of this knowledge.
The Romans were the civilization of technology. This pursuit of technology led to a millennia-long Reign of Terror. And it all started because the Romans just couldn’t woo the neighboring tribes into interbreeding with them. The Romans decided that, if their damn uppity neighbors weren’t going to be their friends, they were going to make the damn pagans like them.
The Romans decided that they needed to broaden their knowledge so they sailed all across the Mediterranean and bartered for any scrolls they found that dealt with engineering and architecture so they could at least impress those pagans with temples and monuments as glorious as the Greeks had. Never mind how long the Greeks had been around. The Romans had just as much right to the fine Grecian culture, they felt. After all they believed the same thing! The Romans had actually paid attention to the sophists, so why couldn’t they bring the Grecian culture back home with them?
After all the texts had been gathered and the techniques had been taught to the citizens of the small but loyal city, the Romans set the process of decadence into motion. And the Romans knew that it was all or nothing now, baby. They had this one chance to impress the pagans with their technical skills (since they had spent most of their money on booze during the journey). The government convened to plan their biggest scheme yet.
After a short debate it was totally obvious that they knew the answer. Think about it: All the Grecian city-states had really impressive monuments but none were fancier than those in Athens. Why was Athens better than the other city-states? The Romans figured that Athens was the best city-state because it had the most awesome temple of them all up on this hill that could be seen all around the city.
It made perfect sense to the Romans. To make friends first you have to appear as awesome as you really are. So clearly the Athenians had built that temple, the Parthenon they called it, to inspire the Athenians to be so awesome. The Romans decided to start off with their version of the Parthenon, and they decided to just call in the Pantheon because they didn’t know what it was supposed to be about and they figured any belief system could use the temple—especially Greek mythology (why weren’t anyone talking about them anymore? And after all that effort to change the names!). Despite not understanding the point of temples, the Romans knew all the architecture, so they were sure this would finally get them laid.
After all the plans were drawn up, the Romans set to constructing their magnum opus. First they cleared an area on top of their greatest hill ever. Then they wished there was a marble quarry nearby. After bickering and moaning, the plebians resigned themselves to pushing the carts the patricians were gesturing at, back and forth, back and forth, for too many hours every day, back and forth along this kilometer-long trail they had made when searching for the quarry.
Weeks passed, and the plebians kept complaining more and more—they were even starting to talk about how the overseers never really seemed to do anything. But the patricians were just thrilled with the progress because they realized they could turn the path to the quarry into an actual road like they had in Greece.
After marble had been stockpiled at the building site, the Romans decided that they really liked the idea about paving the road. The patricians knew they were onto something because the road-paving team could literally just take the marble out of the quarry and lay it down on the ground and they’d pave the road without even eating into the stockpile at the building site.
After the paving crew was organized, the patricians remembered that they still hadn’t drawn up the blueprints for the Pantheon. They raided the technical schools and found all the most awesome architects-in-training to spearhead this truly inspired mission.