As the series Game of Thrones starts a new season,
depicting a bloody scenario of Kings and Queens
vying for control of lands and all-out supremacy,
we might be reminded that such a fiction was a reality in the past –
minus the dragons and the walking dead of course.
Empires have risen, and they have fallen.
国家 社会 或者政权都不可逆地走向衰退
Declinism, the state of irreversible decline of an empire, country, or society,
seems to be the natural order of things.
However great and powerful, empires always seem to crumble.
Historians look back on once powerful empires
and are divided concerning if the damage they caused and carnage they wrought
was worth the advances they gave to the world.
Today we’ll look at two such mighty empires, in this episode of the Infographics show,
The British Empire vs. The Roman Empire.
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We’ll start with the elder empire, that of the Romans.
The city of Rome dates back to the 9th century when it was ruled over by kings.
In 509 BC it became a Republic, and its biggest foe was the dominant power of Carthage.
The Roman Republic gave way to the Roman Empire after countless civil wars and political strife,
and it was formally recognized as an empire after the adopted son of Julius Caesar,
Gaius Octavius, took power over the free Roman Republic.
He became known as Augustus,
and is considered the first Roman Emperor.
After hundreds of years of war and competing factions plotting to murder each other,
Rome saw relative peace and did so for a number of years after him.
Peace inside Rome, however, did not mean Rome wasn’t busy spilling blood and expanding
We shall soon see how that developed.
In his seminal book Empire,
historian Niall Ferguson puts much of the very early British
monetary gains down to good ships and marauding pirates as exemplary thugs of the high seas.
Prior to that, parts of what is known as Great Britain now were ruled over by the Roman Empire
after the first Roman invasion of ‘the Britains’ by Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC.
It took a while for Britain to become the superpower it did, with England at the helm
and building slowly after the Norman invasions.
同西班牙 荷兰 葡萄牙以及法国等欧洲国家一样
Along with other European nations such as Spain, The Netherlands, Portugal and France,
Britain steadfastly began exploring and exploiting the world starting in the 16th century.
When Britain was finished exploring and warring,
it was the largest empire that has ever existed,
eliciting the epithet: “The empire on which the sun never sets”.
Back to ancient history and the Romans.
众所周知 由于距离较远且需要渡海 罗马对英国的入侵
As we know, the Romans invaded Britain, which was no easy feat considering the distance
and the sea crossing.
The entirety of the Roman invasions are too vast to recount, but the expansion of the
empire as we know it started with the invasions of the Roman Republic across parts of Italy
and the western Mediterranean.
Prior to being an empire, the Romans had heretofore fought with tribes from all over Europe, including
Celts and Germanic tribes.
Julius Caesar led conquests into the Iberian Peninsula,
what we now think of as parts of Andorra, Portugal and Spain,
and also against the Gauls spread across present day France,
比利时 卢森堡 荷兰 瑞士等国的高卢人进行过战役
Belgium, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.
Caesar didn’t stop there,
launching assaults against the Parthian Empire of now Iran and
Iraq, the Helvetii tribe located in modern day Switzerland, as well as moving into much
of North Africa.
When Augustus took power as the first emperor, Roman feet had already trampled on much of
Europe and its outlying regions.
在罗马势力全盛时 它已经征服了欧洲大部 北非部分地区
During its height, the Roman Empire defeated most of Europe, North Africa, including much
包括今天的突尼斯 利比亚 埃及 摩洛哥 阿尔及利亚
of present Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, as well as parts of countries in
the present day Balkans and the Middle East.
In all, the empire comprised of about 12 percent of the world’s population, compared to about
23 percent the British Empire consisted of at its zenith.
The British Empire went a step further and pushed into regions of the world that had
been more or less uncharted territory.
Much of Europe was attempting to the do the same, including Britain’s main rivals, the
French, the Spanish and the Dutch.
Britain became the colonial power in North America, only to lose some of it to what would
become the United States of America.
Part of the reason for this loss is Britain was just fighting on too many fronts, and
it didn’t want to lose its strength in other areas of the globe when perhaps a friendly
outcome could be produced with its lost colony.
Britain’s main threat was from Napoleon, but when he and his army was defeated, Britain
became the dominant power in Europe.
“Britannia rules the waves” was a slogan of the British, and for good reason, as its
当英国的船只驶入印度 南美 澳大拉西亚 亚洲的部分地区 以及非洲时
ships sailed into India, South America, Australasia, other parts of Asia, as well as Africa, expanding
its empire and becoming extremely rich through trade –
much of which it did with its former colony, America.
The Brits, stuck on a small island with perennially inclement weather, were an industrious lot.
They created machines that led to what is called the industrial revolution.
The machine of empire was unstoppable,
and historians now agree that Britain in all invaded
90% of the world’s countries at some point in time.
This leaves only 22 countries, including the likes of Sweden and Vatican City.
Britain exerted political and economic control over much of the world, and even where it
wasn’t holding power, it was passively subjugating countries to play into its hands.
Britain made lucrative economic deals with countries such as Thailand, and as payment
Thailand was never invaded.
There was a dark side to making all that money.
British imperialists took part in the slave trade – although later asked for it to be
Imperialists murdered and imprisoned wholesale indigenous people,
committed terrible crimes from Africa to Ireland.
Regarding military actions,
was to blame for mass starvation and death in India,
but it also gave countries infrastructure,
systems of justice and formal education, plumbing,
表面上的人权 交通体系 医药卫生体系
at least a semblance of human rights, transportation systems, medicine
and healthcare, science, industrial practices and literature.
This is why the British Empire is a very divisive issue today.
Looking at other more cultural aspects of Rome, we know that during the good ole days
life expectancy was about 20-30, but those that made it through battle or childbirth
could expect to live to a ripe old age as people do now.
If you were unlucky enough to be put into the Colosseum’s gladiatorial ring you might
die even quicker, but there would be around 50,000 people at times cheering on your demise.
Brutality was not uncommon in ancient Rome, with vestal virgins sometimes being buried
alive if they broke their vow and their hymens.
Many Roman bigwigs were unapologetic sadists, but perhaps the Romans could be seen in a
better light when we understand they had a holiday in which masters switched places with
their slaves, or at least allowed slaves to criticize them.
Hmm, good luck with that.
This was part of the Saturnalia festival.
奴隶们从事繁重的劳动 他们不会得到现金报酬 但是会被礼貌对待
Slaves did much of the grunt work, and didn’t get paid in currency but in kind.
As for those hardworking soldiers, they were given a ‘stipendium’ paid in denarius,
a Roman silver coin.
Under Augustus, a soldier is said to have gotten a pay raise in denarius equal to about
10 asses a day.
In 1686 it’s said that the British empire shipped in today’s money about 230 billion
包括茶叶 烟草 大米 糖等 以及奴隶
US dollars of goods to London, that included tea, tobacco, rice, sugar…and slaves.
One of the surprising things is that Britain achieved domination with relatively few soldiers
when we think about armies today.
In the time of the Napoleonic War, there were less than 100,000 British soldiers, with each
每人每天花费1先令 或者 12便士
private making one shilling, or 12 pence a day.
That’s less than 20 cents.
Their daily ration of food was a bit of bread, as well as some biscuit and beef.
There was a lot of money coming from the empire, but were the British at home living the high-life?
For royalty, the bigger merchants, the lords and the dukes, certainly, but if you’ve
但如果你读过狄更斯 你就会知道修补匠们 裁缝们以及英国的工人阶级
ever reads Charles Dickens you’ll know that life was grim for many of the tinkers, tailors
and British working classes.
帝国们都会衰落 罗马屈服于日耳曼的野蛮入侵 超支导致的经济危机
Both empires declined, with Rome succumbing to barbarian invasions, financial crisis due
to overspending, political corruption, societal decadence, as well as the weakening of its
The British Empire was perhaps too big for its own good, and when Britain had to pool
its resources for two great wars the decline started, and ended with Hong Kong’s independence
From 57 colonies and 25 percent of the world’s land mass, Great Britain was left with the
Falkland islands but still a relatively stable economy.
Winston Churchill once famously said,
“I have not become the king’s first minister
in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire”,
but he must have seen it coming.
The Roman Empire lasted longer, with a duration of 1,500 years in total, albeit not always
as an imperious invader throughout that time.
屋大维曾说 我来时罗马由砖头砌成 离开时它则由大理石铸造
“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble,” said Augustus, which
could be said not only of Rome but of the places it invaded.
In Britain for instance, the Romans landed in a fairly outback country and gave it sewage
道路 更为现代化的建筑 先进的农业生产方式 集市
systems, roads, more modern architecture, advanced agricultural practices, trading posts,
矿业 甚至是消防技能 随后文明程度相对不高的入侵者则摧毁了这些设施
mining, even fire-fighting skills, only for later less progressive invaders to destroy
much of that and lead Britain into what was called The Dark Ages.
As we’ve seen, the British and Roman Empires were at times brilliant monstrosities.
The question is, was all the heartache and bloodshed worth it?
Did it have to be that way?
That’s a question for you to answer, so please let us know in the comments!
Also, be sure to check out our other video called Russia vs the United States!
感谢收看 并且像往常一样 记得点赞 分享和订阅哦
Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe.
See you next time!
大英帝国与罗马帝国 - 历史比较