The fall of the Roman Empire never existed.
On March 14, in the Ott Auditorium, the SVSU history club featured professor of history Thomas Renna as the latest lecturer in its guest lecture series.
The discussion focused on the topic of empires and why it still exists in subdued ways today.
“In our transformation from conquest to commerce, we are still seeing many Third World countries trying to emulate various notions of empire,” Renna said.
According to Renna, the term “empire” actually has come to describe its own literary genre in and of itself, whether a person is talking about a terrorist empire or even the Microsoft empire.
“Rome is the mother of all empires,” Renna said. “It never collapsed, like you hear many people claiming it did. Instead, it still exists in different ways today.”
One of the first main points that Renna brought up, to prove this fact, is that we see physical evidence of Roman architecture scattered all across Europe, such as ruins, sewers, and aqueducts. He said that you don’t see this very often from other ancient cultures.
Additionally, most of the words in the English language come from Latin. Even the four great seafaring conquerors, including the Portuguese, Spanish, French and the Dutch, all used the Roman language in their nautical exploits.
The Romans had no concept of boundaries. Even before they went out to conquer, they thought they already ruled the world.
“The Roman Empire didn’t die,” Renna said. “It thrived until the fifteenth century when it was eventually taken by the Turks.”
Renna said that the Roman Empire was eventually split into three different geographic areas: the Byzantine Empire, Arab Empire and German Empire.
Eventually, what some people interpret as a “fall” was actually the Roman Empire crumbling into different kingdoms, or “imperiums.”
Renna also talked about the important role that religion played in the expansion of empiric ideologies during this time and how the triumph of Christianity over paganism led to the eventual spread of Catholicism, the term Roman itself being another word for “universal.”
Forty people attended, and according to history education senior Adam Doud, the lectures sometimes have even higher turnouts.
Doud is the vice president of the history club, and history senior Kerice Basmadjian is the club president.
“The idea for having a history lecture series started from talking with Dr. Brad Jarvis,” Basmadjian said. “We found a group of professors who were interested in the project and we basically ran with it from there.”
Basmadjian pointed out that the professors in the history program have written so many books, reviews and articles that the club wanted to give them a chance to speak in the limelight on their own specialized interest in the profession.
For example, Renna specializes in ancient Rome and the ancient Near East. He has written more than 160 papers and 140 book reviews on European history since he began teaching in 1972.
He has also written several books while doing extensive research in the secret archives of the Vatican.
According to Basmadjian, this is the second lecture that the history club held this semester. It sponsored two lectures last semester.
“Another thing we’ve been talking about is bringing professors from off campus to lecture alongside our own,” Basmadjian said. “Lately, we were thinking that we would like to invite Dr. Kilar from Delta College.”
Both Basmadjian and Doud are excited to continue offering this service to the campus community.
“I think it’s very interesting to listen to these lectures,” Doud said. “Because they’re basically very condensed versions of the kinds of content that you would expect to be exposed to over a semester-long specific course. It helps give you a much broader sense of history.”