Negative Media Portrayal of Romans

Editorial Illustrator, Editorial Illustrators // Inky Illustration Agency
Artwork by Angel García Pinto

The Perception of Romans in media as bad guys is a theme that I find rather cheap, unfair, and unwarranted. Now, let me get this out of the way, I am not denying the Romans did a whole host of incredibly despicable things by modern standards. However, I am evaluating the Romans in relation to their civilizational peers, not in relation to our time.

There is this whole theme that Romans are the evil bad guys in TV shows and movies, they fall into that group of bad guys who you can give no character and freely stereotype. For example, I watched a show called Barbarians on Netflix, it was originally in German. It deals with Arminius and the Teutoberg forest disaster for the Romans. Not only did it cover the battle in a non-accurate manner, it presented an inauthentic dichotomy of freedom loving barbarians fighting the evil bad guy Romans. It is presented as the barbarians fighting to keep their ways, their gods, etc.

The thing is though; the Romans did not actually try to erase other cultures. They did not force Latin onto their subjects, and even other religions were well accepted so long as they made token recognition of the Roman Emperors as divine, which outside of Judaea was not much of an issue. The Romans succeeded in the early centuries by preserving local autonomy, not crushing the cultures of the societies they conquered. Producers who make this stereotypical content should be faced with much stricter criticism.  I want to see a show about the Romans where they are treated correctly, HBO did try with Rome but it was ended far to quickly and the second season was too rushed. Good show though. And of course I want to see a Byzantine show, but that is a whole other discussion.