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Why Did Virgil’s Use Of Propaganda Essay

In the fifth and fourth centuries Rome’s tyrannical rule was defeated, and an aristocracy of patricians became the ruling class. The common people, the plebeians, had been weakened in society after the King’s defeat, but to meet the demands of the people, Tribunes were put into power as the heads of the plebeians. Up until this point, the “task of maintaining a body of law was met through oral traditions”, but the tribunes “demanded that laws should be reduced to writing and made public”. This made the development of a common alphabet for the Roman people a priority, and the Latin language was soon established.

The resulting Twelve Tables became one of the earliest known Roman establishments of the written word. Literature, such as Virgil’s Aeneid, soon started the tradition of using the written word as a form of propaganda that could be geared toward the literate and therefore more influential in society. Other “literary propaganda in the form of letters, treatises, published books and speeches” from more strictly political circles were also made and used in abundance. For the illiterate there were other forms of communication such as public speaking, which were readily available.

With the emergence of the Roman Republic, the Senate, consisting of the patricians of the society, became “the governing body and the only body where debate was possible”. To debate properly in the Senate, “one had to know the persuasive art of rhetoric and oratory, or public speaking”. Cicero and Quintilian, both men of political influence in the Roman Republic, were well known as “quintessential figures of Roman rhetoric”, and they both used this art to promote the power of a leader and to gain influence.

Public speaking was not only used in the Senate, where only the lites could participate in the debate, but it was also a popular pastime at the Rostra and at public games and festivals. Cicero states in one of his most important speeches that, “The opinion and feeling of the Roman people in public affairs can be most clearly expressed on three occasions: at a meeting, an assembly, or a gathering for plays and gladiatorial shows”. Since these shows were very popular amongst the masses, political leaders, such as Julius Caesar, took advantage of these gatherings to promote himself and his reputation to the common people.

The public speaker’s corner, the Rostra, was used for meetings from the political leaders to the common people, or just as a place for the common people to practice their public speaking, and was another way to pass information. There were other places besides the Rostra where information was spread in ancient Rome. As architecture became a form of propaganda, many buildings and structures were built as a pose to the emperor’s power and influence. Public bathhouses such as the Baths of Agrippa built by Augustus for the common people became “one of the few places where large numbers of Romans gathered daily in an informal context”.

Information was communicated from one person to another during this time, and many people of power used this as an opportunity to try and promote themselves. The use of bathhouses was not limited to the common people as “even the supposed private baths that were attached to the houses and villas of the Roman elite were common gathering places of the hosts and their guests”. Another form of communication that was brought about by architecture was the Roman road. With the expansive territory that the Roman Empire encompassed, it took many months of travel to arrive at a destination in order to communicate a message.

The invention of Roman roads helped to decrease the travel time, so it became the most rapid option for transportation available at the time. It was not only used for trade and personal interests, but also as a military weapon. The use of roads allowed armies to arrive at destinations faster to defend their borders, or attack their enemies. It was also easier to send reinforcements and provisions to the armies, and deliver orders to and from Rome. A popular propaganda for the elites of Roman society, which was also used as a form of communication, was the use of portraiture.

This visual communication was “an important source of information on the value systems and social norms of the Roman state” that the leading class wanted to demonstrate and help develop ughout the society. “Beginning with Augustus, the emperors of the imperial period made full use of the medium’s potential as a tool for communicating specific ideologies to the Roman populace”, and any person who had their likeness made into a portrait was known as someone of good value and morals. Hannibal is another famous figure who had a portrait made for him.

Although he was an enemy of Rome, the Romans admired his characteristics and strength enough to make portraits of him. Music is another effective medium of communication for the illiterate, which was very important and beneficial to military and political life. A large metal wind instrument called the cornu was used to announce an important meeting, and was also associated with the arrival of the emperor.

However, it was used on the battlefield as a primary tool to announce troop movement, although it was also used at religious ceremonies, such as sacrifices, processions and funerals. Julius Caesar is reported to have used trumpets to withdraw his troops from battle. ” Coinage was a privileged form of communication for the elites that the common people, who were illiterate, were capable of understanding. The pictures portrayed on the coins allowed for the announcement of aims and ideas that concerned all Romans during the third century BC, and for the patricians to advertise their clan’s power in the second century BC.

Later, political leaders such as Caesar, Augustus and Nero used coins to mass communicate to the population, inscribing images legitimizing their right to power, and conveying the successes and victories that they had gained for the benefit of the Roman Empire. The images were understood by the illiterate, and the Latin inscriptions on the coins were geared towards the literate, as well the elite in further areas of the Roman Empire as Latin became the language of commerce and power.

Even with the majority of the population being illiterate, almost every technology was able to convey a message thoroughly and effectively, for all to understand. Political leaders and other influential persons effectively used these forms of communication as propaganda. Although one of the oldest countries documented, the Roman State had a surprisingly vast number and variety of technologies that were used for communication within the Roman Empire.

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