Last Updated 11 Feb 2020

The Role of Government and the Relationship Between the Individual and the State

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Lara O’Gorman The legacy of an empire is defined by its ability to conquer and make a mark on society. Many people throughout history sought to create empires as a way to establish their power. Often when one looks at the wide spectrum of history, some empires only last a few hundred of years and then dwindle out. After their fall, their legacy does not continue and their history is loss to the ages. Without a legacy, Rome would have ceased to exist, and would not have carried it’s ideals to post-classical civilizations.

Rome had a successful and functioning government that help established its power, grandeur, and impressive knowledge of the arts. Within society it is vital to have a dependable and structured government as to prevent uproar and rebellion. The importance of a stable and powerful government is portrayed in the literary work Lord of the Flies and the idealization of political rulers and the subordination of subjects is conveyed through the art pieces the Bronze Statue of the Emperor Trebonianus Gallus and the Marble Portrait of Marcus Aurelius.

Rome is remembered as a vast empire that stood above all surrounding civilizations with pride and honor. Rome, at it’s highest point, was thought of as immortal and impenetrable. It was only until the gradual decay of the empire that people thought of it as mortal. Before the detrimental rippling stages of the fall of Rome, powerful rulers and structured government was instilled within the empire. Several of these powerful emperors kept Rome under their rule by subordinating their subjects and by enforcing political unity. Other rulers used tolerance and active roles in society to appeal to their subjects.

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One ruler, Marcus Aurelius ascended to the throne in 161 AD and was deemed a philosopher king that was different from his predecessors. His philosopher status is recorded through the common depiction of him in a toga and adorning a Greek-inspired beard. He was interested in rational thinking and tolerated all different sects of religion. Some say that his openness was his downfall and that his optimistic view of all things caused him to allow one of Rome’s worst emperors into his line of heir. Aurelius had an active role in government and did not discriminate against lower class people moving up in the world.

He allowed people that were fit for government job, no matter what class, to have a say. This demonstrates his thought on his subordinates and how he not afraid to converse and involve himself with them. His openness is reflected in the calm and composed face of the portrait and how he is wise and is making a noble decision. Marcus was a fierce ruler and a good general, despite Rome’s loss against the Germanic tribes in war. The toga in which is realistically draped over his torso can be interpreted as a general’s attire. The militaristic style of his clothing suggest that he is the protector and is a strong ruler.

Marcus lived a life of luxury and suffered little. His wealth enabled him to surround himself with items of luxury. The emperor of Rome usually had portrait busts of their ancestors within his palace, which communicates the important and high position Marcus Aurelius had within society. The portrait busts were usually idealized, which can be see in the flawless bust that communicates that Marcus Aurelius was a strong, intelligent, and wealthy ruler. A second ruler, whom in contrast used his power and authority to rule his subordinates, ascended to power after the death of Decius in 251 AD at the battle of Abrittus.

There, Trebonianus Gallus took on the position of ruling the vast and expansionist civilization of Rome. The troops that Decius led claimed Trebonianus Gallus a suitable ruler due to his familiarity with the government and his influence as a senate member. Gallus, to prevent the Goths from attacking again, signed a peace treaty that stated he would pay yearly tribute to them. To demonstrate Gallus’ power over his subjects and ability to make executive decisions, the bronze statue portrays his arm are outstretched. This gesture is common with giving commands and looking down upon subjects from a higher point in society.

Once Gallus was instated as emperor, he found that his empire had become plague stricken and the Roman population was dropping. To gain admiration from his subjects he buried the dead plague victims properly and spared no expense. This action suggests a confident personality, which is further expressed in the facial expression. Gallus, however, was seen inept in all other political categories. He was indecisive about detrimental political decisions, which greatly affected the state. Due to Gallus’ lack of political leadership, rebellions sparked within the empire, causing Trebonianus to flee to the north with his troops.

The facial expression of the statue could also be interpreted as oblivious to his political duties and to the betrayal he would soon face. With the threat of defeat and possible death lingering over his army, Gallus was killed, along with his co-emperors. Trebonianus Gallus was not seen as a beneficial addition to the empire and caused a plethora of problems, along with a growing feeling of discontent within the empire. The lack of skills Trebonianus possessed called for the end of his life. Although Gallus lacked military skill, his statue portrait is portrayed with the hair and beard style that soldiers favored.

This conveys how leaders were idealized as to express authority and the greatness of the empire. When the leader of a united group becomes corrupt and unfit to complete his role in government, the subjects take action into their own hands. If discontent rises, rebellion and removal of power are probable. The mutiny that occurred with the homocide of Gallus, greatly demonstrates the importance of having a competent and understanding ruler as well as how the state is strong enough to react to problems that greatly affect the state as a whole.

The fall of the great Roman Empire can be credited to many factors, but what caused the empire to completely corrode was the invasion by barbarians. In 410 AD, the Visigoths were led by Alaric to Ravenna where they soon ransacked the city and caused Rome to finally surrender its title of immortal. Due to the empire being strained prior to the attacks because of corruption in government, loss of tradition, and an unskilled military, it was easy for Alaric to fulfill the prophecy of penetrating “the city. It was clear that after the invasion by the Visigoths, Rome would not come out of it alive and victorious. The lack of a stable and prosperous government was one of the main factors that enabled Alaric to conquer Rome, which conveys the vitality of a strong government head. Compared to the fall of Rome, the plot of the Lord of the Flies by William Golding further explains why it is essential to have a central authority and how lacking this political aspect can cause the downfall of a civilization.

The 1954 novel discusses the social perils that ensue amongst English school boys once authority is not there to advise them. The literary work commences with the introduction of a tall blonde boy named Ralph that is soon accompanied by the voice of reason known as Piggy. During the time it takes Piggy and Ralph to become acquainted, they both realize that there are no adults on the island where their plane has crashed. They are astonished by this information but they still ask the question “Aren’t there any grownups at all? ” The only reply that can be uttered is “I don’t think so. At first this information excited them and they become full of independence zeal, but later throughout the novel they begin to realize that a stable figure head is needed in order to have society function properly. Within society on the island, order is centered around a conch shell. This shell has symbolic value of order, normality, and power. Whomever holds the shell has the power to speak and to be heard. Piggy finds the shell within the first couple of stages of the plot and Ralph eventually uses it to signal the other children that were spread around the island by the crash.

When all the children gather round the conch, a political issue arises; Who will be leader? Between the two most influential people in the group, Ralph and the chorus leader, Jack, an election is held. To Ralph’s advantage, the children say “Let him be chief with the trumpet thing. ” The children recognize the conch as a centralizing factor and they search for stability in their new lives on the island. As with most empires and groups, irrational actions and discontent began to grow due to fear, anger, and power struggles. Power is wanted by the chorus leader, Jack, who sees himself as the most capable leader.

He wishes to be in control, so he seeks the most controlling role within the new society; a hunter. By being the leader of the hunting party, he controls life and death and to whom or what he damages. The fact that Jack becomes this strong blood-thirsty leader enables the group to break away and form a corrupt and independent kingdom on the island. Strife begins to arise and violent actions begin to break out as the quest for power comes to a head. One of the most dramatic scenes in the book is when Ralph and Piggy go to Jack’s fortress in search of peace and unity.

This peaceful venture turns into a bloodbath when the conch is destroyed and Piggy is killed by a boulder that is pushed from a mountainside by a chaos-consumed boy named Roger. Piggy was trying to remind the boys of the importance of rescue and how unity and peace should exist between the boys, but due to the lack of a strong and noble government, chaos and violence rules the kingdom of Castle Rock. The conch was the only remaining symbol of unity and stability, and it was crushed under the weight of a rock, which symbolically can be interpreted as the pressures of society and pure bedlam in society.

The dark side of man is portrayed in the actions of the boys at Castle Rock. Because of these actions, “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy. ” At this point in the novel, society is out of control and unorganized. The perils of man and the way society becomes tumultuous and coercive communicates the need for a stable head of government. For without a functioning government, chaos is able to run rampant and disorganization can spread wildly. Government helps to instill organization and keeps the people at peace of mind.

The government makes corporal decisions that are usually for keeping social rebellions at ease and to keep daily lives functioning. History demonstrates these points, whether it be through the art works or the literary works, but still manage to communicate the ideals and power of the ruler of the time. Whether it be for a demonstration of power or a depiction of what society is like when not controlled, the purpose of the portrayals is to call for the use of a stable government in order to make a legacy for the empire in which the ruler has sovereignty.

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The Role of Government and the Relationship Between the Individual and the State. (2016, Dec 25). Retrieved from

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