During the medieval ages, Rome was at the pinnacle of its grandeur and magnificence. This civilization was so strong that it was impregnable from the outside.
During this period, the barbarians attempted to persuade Rome to grant them citizenship in exchange for taxes. Regarding this issue, senators in the Roman senate debated whether to award citizenship to barbarians or not.
Who constituted the barbarians?
In the Roman Empire, barbarians were people who were not Roman citizens or who did not speak Latin. Residents of Roman-occupied lands outside the Roman Empire itself were also known as barbarians.
The motivations behind the barbarians’ desire for citizenship is comparable to those of modern immigrants seeking the nationality of a developed nation.
Roman citizens were eligible for government and military duty, in addition to earning other perks of citizenship. A Roman citizen might also vote, marry a freeborn person, and engage in business.
The essence of the famous debate in the Roman Senate:
The granting of Roman citizenship to barbarians was a frequent topic of debate in the Roman Senate. Senators and eminent thinkers contributed views to the conversation. This conversation included both pro- and anti-argumentative perspectives. The debate concluded with a beneficial resolution for the Roman Empire and its citizens.
The renowned Roman Senate Debate from the movie “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”
Gaius Metellus Livius suggests before the Roman Senate that the barbarians be granted Roman citizenship. Other senators are very incensed by this suggestion and oppose the concept of granting them citizenship, seeing them as barbaric killers. They say that it is impossible to consider these roaming killers to be their brothers.
The senators argue that granting these individuals Roman citizenship would be disloyal to Roman citizens who are loyal to the Empire, such as Egyptians and Assyrians. As a punishment for waging war against Rome, they ordered the crucifixion of barbarian commanders and other slaves.
Roman Citizenship as a Valuable Reward:
The senators saw Roman citizenship as a precious honor that could not be given to barbarians cheaply.
They say that it cannot be distributed as freely as bread.
The words of Livius Gaius Metellus:
Gaius Metellus Livius, the Roman senator who offered the plan, protests against it by addressing his objection to Caesar. He requests permission from Caesar to consult a philosopher in front of the senators and said that he anticipates a sensible conclusion.
The philosophical argument:
A slave-turned-free man and a philosopher says that by annihilating barbarians, we not only repeatedly taught them not to attack us, but also instilled fear in them. According to him, they have left their communities in ashes and their people dead, but the hate they leave behind is eternal. This hostility isolates them from their regions and taxes, resulting in starvation and sickness. Their demand of barbarians is straightforward: “No War.”
The philosopher then proposed the concept of efficiently using the barbarians. He suggests transforming these individuals into “Men of Peace.” He suggests settling these people on abandoned Roman property and allowing them to earn a livelihood, from which they would provide a portion of money to the government in the form of taxes to the Roman Empire.
Slaves or Liberated Men?
A senator rejects the notion of granting these barbarians land as citizens and instead proposes allowing them to reside there as slaves. The philosopher disputes the notion and explains that a man named Nigel formerly had 20,000 slaves on his family estate, but they have all been emancipated or sold and are no longer useful to the Empire. He asserts that free people are more productive and lucrative than slaves.
The philosopher hypothesizes that if the barbarians are treated equally by the Roman Empire, they would spread the news and earn a favorable reputation. Accepting them as equals means transforming them into human shields and Roman peace ambassadors.
The Senator’s Response:
Following the conclusion of the philosopher’s discourse, the senator answers. He argues that Rome has never been stronger than it is now. He says that equality, freedom, and peace are what have kept the Roman Empire intact and powerful to this day. He claims that our opponents, who are constantly ready to kill us, such as the millions of Jews and Greeks, would believe that the Romans’ weakness is the reason for adopting barbarians as citizens. They will thus be assaulted us from all sides, resulting in the “fall of the Roman Empire.”
The Views of One More Senator:
A senior senator addresses the senator’s concerns, focusing on the phrase “the end of the Roman Empire.” He claims that an empire does not fall due to a single catastrophic event. According to him, an empire starts to decline when its subjects lose faith in it. He asserts that he has something significant to say due to his considerable experience working with great emperors like Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, and Marcus Aurelius.
“Open the Gates or Risk Destruction:”
According to the senior senator, empires either expand or perish. Through senators, individuals make their views known. It is the responsibility of these senators to inform the populace that Rome will not perish. He claims that they shall be destroyed if they do not open the gates of their dominion to the barbarians. According to the rule of life, which is either growth or death, he asserts that they must pursue expansion and extend the empire. This will cause the core of the empire to expand with them. The senator asserts himself and suggests to the fathers: “We must transform ourselves just as we have transformed the empire.”
The result of the Senate discussion:
Following the senior senator’s speech, the Roman Senate agrees with his remarks. They announce the end of the conflict, recognize the barbarians as citizens, and propose the expansion of the Roman Empire.