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Expert: Globalization Dates Back To Romans

Expert: Globalization Dates Back To RomansChallenging popular views that globalization is a modern phenomena, Tufts’ Bruce Hitchner says it may actually owe its start to the Roman Empire. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.09.04] While the Romans lacked the modern tools of globalization - including world-wide communications systems, multi-national corporate powerhouses and lighting-fast systems to transport currency, goods and people - they may well be responsible for introducing the concept to the world. Bucking popular views, Tufts' Bruce Hitchner says the era of globalization may actually have begun more than 2,000 years ago.

"It is not implausible that something similar to the economic, political and cultural changes we associate with contemporary globalization have recurred in history, albeit on radically different scales and time frames," Hitchner, chair of Tufts' Classics Department, wrote in a new paper that has been attracting international attention.

Challenging popular views, the Tufts professor asserts that globalization is a cyclical process that dates to the Roman Empire.

"[Hitchner points out that] the empire integrated people, culture, technology and ideas on an unprecedented scale," reported the London Times. "Instead of McDonald's and Coca-Cola, amphorae of wine and olive oil became ubiquitous from York to Alexandria. Ambitious Gauls and Jews were taught to speak Latin in schools just as middle-class children in Jakarta and Sio Paulo learn English today, while columned temples and amphitheaters sprang up everywhere as office blocks and cinemas are springing up today."

Though they didn't have today's tools at their disposal ("modern globalization is much faster and more complex," Hitchner says), the Romans essentially employed the same concept that underlies contemporary globalization.

"Globalization, after all, is fundamentally about market expansion, the rise of new political, social and cultural movements, and changes in the state and its institutions," he wrote. In essence, the Roman Empire offers scholars an early look at globalization in action.

The Tufts expert and other experts in his field believe his analysis of history may help provide an important framework for modern leaders and scholars. "[His work] may give us fruitful ways to understand the processes of global change in our own world," a Stanford University classics professor told the Times.

Hitchner's research, for example, sheds light on some of the long-term effects of spreading cultures and ideas on a global scale.

"The Roman Empire brought a largely stable, peaceful environment, but, as it transformed the world, it also brought enormous resistance as people realized that their cultures were being overwhelmed," Hitchner told the Times.

It's a problem that many of the world's leaders are currently facing.

"Today's anticapitalist protests and the rose of terrorist movements such as al-Qaida find parallels in the rebellions of the empire's early years such as Boudicca's uprising and the slave revolt led by Spartacus," reported the Times.

And it isn't likely to go away permanently.

"The rise and fall of global systems," Hitchner wrote, "is a normal tendency in long-term human history."

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