One of the most cringe-worthy falsehoods I’ve ever encountered is the (widespread claim that the Roman Empire ruled the entirety of the “known world” at it’s height.
Quite simply, this notion is ridiculous to the point of being as close to an “obscenity’ as I can imagine:
- It is completely asinine, even from a “Eurocentric” perspective:
The fact that the Roman Empire (and the Greeks before them) tended to differentiate between their own civilization, and various sorts of foreign “barbarians” is both a necessary and sufficient condition for refuting the claim that the Romans ruled the “Entire known world”.
Think about it: the primary reason for “Hadrian’s wall” was to serve as a barrier between Roman-controlled areas of Britain, and areas controlled by indigenous “barbarians”.
Quite simply: the fact that the Romans resorted to defensive fortifications of that sort necessarily means that they were confronted with a population who they did not “rule”, and who they had not subdued.
In other words: Even the Romans themselves (tacitly) acknowledge the existence of “outsiders” existing beyond their political control.
2. The “silk road” necessarily involved trade with cultures outside of Roman control — up to the point where the Romans themselves (tacitly) acknowledged the existence of their own trading partners:
3. Most importantly: the various cultures/populations/Empires outside of the above-mentioned Roman sphere of influence KNEW ABOUT THEMSELVES.
The conceit that the Roman’s influence spanned the “known world” is not only “Eurocentric” to a truly appalling degree, but it also requires summarily ignoring the existence/influence of OTHER cultures/populations/Empires — which were often equally influential over their OWN spheres of influence — to the point of sometimes interacting with/influencing one another.
A great example of this is the pervasiveness of Buddhism (which originated on the Indian subcontinent) all around South-East Asia. At the time when it first spread, that region already contained various powerful empires with their own (overlapping) spheres of influence — China, Japan, etc.
Quite frankly, the fact that China, Japan and India knew about one another while the Romans were (largely) ignorant of THEIR existence refutes the claim that the “known world” = “Europe/the Middle East”.
Quite frankly, the Romans — especially at the height of their power (before their Empire was divided into “Eastern” and “Western” halves, and the Western half purportedly “fell”) — were both ignorant and arrogant:
- To a great extent they were ignorant of the existence of a myriad of (in many ways equally powerful — but geographically distant) Empires: the Indian subcontinent, China, Japan, etc.
- Inextricably wedded to the above ignorance was the arrogant notion that their Empire was unilaterally superior in every possible way to any other cultures which existed — even ones they didn’t actually know about.
(This isn’t to say that this particular combination was somehow “unique” to the Roman Empire: in some form, it has been a defining characteristic of every such Empire — the Chinese Emperors considered China to be the “middle Kingdom’ (center of the world), while the Japanese Emperors considered themselves to be the descendants of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu:
So, yeah: ignorance and arrogance go hand in hand, historically — and “Eurocentrism” is indefensible, and bespeaks a level of willful ignorance I can’t really comprehend.