This video is about Emperor Hadrian, and the wall he built in the north of England.
From British weekly Socialist Worker:
The brutality of the Roman Empire led ordinary people to fight back. Neil Faulkner looks at how resistance to the empire shaped Hadrian’s rule
Insurrection in the cities of Iraq. Mass resistance across Palestine. Foreign troops bogged down and facing defeat. A crisis for western imperialism in the Middle East.
This may sound like a description of the world today. But the date was 117 AD and the policies of bull-headed Roman emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) had set the region alight.
Trajan had first brought carnage and chaos to Dacia (ancient Romania), when he crushed the independent kingdom on Rome’s northern border, plundered its bullion reserves, took half a million slaves and replaced native farmers with colonial settlers.
Romania is “the land of the Romans” and Romanian is a form of Latin because Trajan’s policy of ethnic cleansing 2,000 years ago was so thorough.
Dizzy with success, he then went for Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq), which was the main tax base of the sprawling Parthian Empire at the time. Mesopotamia was among the oldest, richest and most heavily populated centres of civilisation in the world.
But the Parthians were stunned by the Roman blitzkrieg and melted away. Within three years Trajan’s 130,000 strong army had reached the Persian Gulf and he appeared to be a world-conquering colossus – a new Alexander the Great.
Then the Middle East exploded. The people of the occupied cities turned on their Roman garrisons and massacred them. The Parthian Army swept down from the eastern uplands and cut the long Roman supply line to Syria.
Deep in the rear – in Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, and Palestine – the Jewish peasantry rose in revolt against Greek landlords, Roman tax-collectors, and local puppet-rulers.
As news of the debacle spread, the European heartlands of the empire came under attack and Trajan hurried home. He died en route and the succession passed to his second in command – Hadrian.
Hadrian was a highly intelligent and far-sighted member of the Roman ruling class. The revolt in Iraq taught him three lessons that he never forgot.
First, the Roman army could be defeated. Second, the empire was over-extended and risked further defeats if it failed to retrench. Third, such defeats could spark a tidal wave of resistance that might bring down the entire system.
It is surely not a coincidence that the British Museum has chosen Hadrian as the subject of its major exhibition this year. His achievement was to manage the greatest U-turn in Roman history and end a centuries-old policy of aggressive, predatory, expansionary imperialism. And defeat in Iraq was the catalyst.