Rome, ISIS and Peace
Rome’s archaeological authority will be restoring the Temple of Peace in the Roman Forum. The intentions for this are not limited to historical or archaeological interests but are about bringing attention to a reality so lacking in today’s world, that of Peace. Rome will show its historic commitment to peace by rebuilding sections of the Temple even as the threats of ISIS loom over the city.
Ironically enough the Temple of Peace is a monument to Rome’s understanding of peace in a pre-Christian context and as such is based in a notion of peace not so unlike that of ISIS.
The Temple of Peace was built by the emperor Vespasian in around 75 AD to celebrate the end of near constant war waged from the civil wars of 68 AD (that brought about his ascension as Rome’s first plebian emperor) to the Jewish Wars, which brought about his wealth and dominance in the eastern provinces.
The peace celebrated in Vespasian’s temple was not about the mutual respect that comes with the belief that man is made in the image of God but it was about Roman victory that brought about subjugation and or elimination of Rome’s enemies.
According to the ancient Roman & Jewish Historian Josephus, the siege of Jerusalem under the reign of Vespasian ended with over a million Jewish deaths and near 100,000 Jews enslaved and would come to its conclusion at the siege of the palace fortress of Masada in 74AD.
This surely does not give one today the warm feelings and blissful thoughts we tend to associate with peace but it might bring a little insight into the mindset of ISIS type Islamists when hearing the reoccurring rhetoric about how they identify themselves as a religion of peace. ISIS and other like totalitarian political ideologies codify peace in terms of the hegemony of their system – subjugation of enemies.
Peace in this context can not to be understood as the bliss one obtains in union with the Divine nor the serenity of one in union with humanity and the world. Peace is only a product of submission to the Roman Law or in the modern case Sharia Law.
I look forward to the Temple’s restoration to be completed on Rome’s traditional birthday April 21st and hope it stands as a reminder to future generations to always be wary of the way the word Peace is used in the world and in history.
Paul Anthony Encinias.