Aelius Aristides, The Roman Oration

"It is an age-old tradition that travelers who journey forth on land or water offer a prayer whereby they pledge to fulfill some vow - something they have on their mind - on reaching their destination safely.... The vow I took as I journeyed here was not the usual stupid and irrelevant sort, nor was it one unrelated to the art I profess. I simply vowed that, if I arrived safely, I would salute your city with a public address....

Some writer referring to Asia asserted that one man ruled as much territory as the sun passed over, but his statement was false, because he placed all of Africa and Europe outside of the are where the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. [This had been written of the King of Kings of Persia. The clear implication is that the Roman Empire is vaster than that of ancient Persia). Now, however, it has become fact. The land you possess equals what the sun can pass over, and the sun does encompass your land.... You do not reign within fixed boundaries, and another state does not dictate the limits of the land you control; rather, the sea [Mediterranean Sea] extends like a belt, situated in the middle of the civilized world and in the middle of the land over which you rule. Around that sea lie the great continents [Africa, Asia, and Europe] massively sloping down to it, forever offering you in full measure what they possess.... Whatever each culture grows and manufactures cannot fail to be here at all times and in great profusion. Hee merchant vessels arrive carrying these many commodities from every region in every season and even at every equinox [in other words, wihtout any break whatsoever, despite the time of year], so that the city takes on the apperance of a sort of common market for the world. One can see cargoes from India and even, if you will, from southern Arabia in such numbers that one must conclude that the trees in those lands have been stripped bare, [of aromatics from southern Arabia and various spices from India and points east] and if the inhabitants of those lands need anything, they must come here to beg for a share of what they have produced.... Your farmlands are Egypt, Sicily, and all of cultivated Africa. [North Africa, which was much more fertile in Roman times than it is today, was a major producer of grain and other agricultural products.] Seaborne arrivals and departures are ceaseless, to the oint that the wonder is, not so much that the harbor has insufficient space for all these merchant vessels, but that the sea has enought space (if it really does). Just as ... there is a common channel where all waters of the Ocean [Ancient Greek and Roman geographers believed that the three continents were surrounded by a single great ocean.] have a single source and destination, so that there is a common channel to Rome and all meet here: trade, shipping, agriculture, metallurgy - all the arts and crafts that are or ever were and all things that are produced or spring from the earth. What one does not see here does not exist. So it is not easy to decide which is the greater: the superiority of this city relative to cities that presently exist, or the superiority of this empire relative to all empires that ever existed ....

As vast and comprehensive as its size is, your empire is much greater for its perfection than for the area its borders encircle.... The entire civilized world prays with one voice that this empire endure forever.... For of all who have ever gained an empire, you alone rule over free men.... You, who conduct public business throughout the whole civilized world exactly as if it were one city-state, appoint governors, as if it were by election, to protect and care for the governed, not to act as slave masters over them.... One could say that the people of today are ruled by governors sent out to them only to the degree that they wish to be ruled....

You have divided into two parts all men throughout your empire... everywhere giving citizenship to all those who are more accomplished, noble, and powerful, even as they retain their native-born identities, [Aristides, for example, retained his citizenship in the Anatolian city of Smyrna while simultaneously possessing Roman citizenship] while the rest you have made subjects and the governed. Neither the sea nor the great expanse of intervening land keeps one from being a citizen, and there is no distinction between Europe and Asia.... No one is a foreigner who deserves to hold an office or is worthy of trust. Rather, there is here a common "world democracy" under the rule of one man, the best ruler and director .... You have divided humanity into Romans and non-Romans, ... and because you have divided people in this manner, in every city throughout the empire there are many who share citizenship with you, no less than the share citizenship with their fellow natives. And some of these Roman citizens have not even seen this city [Rome]! There is no need for troops to garrison the strategic high opints of these cities, because the most important and powerful people in each region guard their native lands for you.... Yet there is not a residue of resentment among those excluded [from Roman citizenship and a share in the governance of the provinces]. Because your government is both universal and like that of a single city-state, its governors rightly rule not as foreigners but, as it were, their own people....Additionally, all of the masses of subjects under this government have protection against the more powerful of their native countrymen, by virtue of your anger and vengeance, which would fall upon the more powerful wihtout delay should they dare to break the law. Thus, the present government serves rich and poor alike, and your constitution has developed a single, harmonious, all-embracing union. What in former days seemed impossible has in your time come to pass: You control a vast empire with a rule that is firm but not unkind....

As on a holiday, the entire civilized world lays down the weapons that were its ancient burden and has turned to adornment and all glad thoughts, with the power to realize them.... Cities glisten with radiance and charm, and the entire earth has been made beautiful like a garden.... Like a perpetual sacred flame, the celebration is unending.... You, better than anyone else, have proved the truth of the proverb: The earth is everyone's mother and our common fatherland. It is now possible for Hellene and non-Hellene [by this time the term Hellene did not refer simply to an ethnic Greek. It meant anyone who was a Roman citizen and who shared in the Greco-Roman high culture of the empire. Thus, Aristides, a native of Asia Minor, was a Hellene. A non-Hellene, or barbarian, was either someone from outside the empire or one of the empire's uneducated masses], with or without property, to travel with ease wherever he wishes, as though passing from homeland to homeland.... As far as security is concerned, it suffices to be a Roman citizen, or rather one of those people united under your rule....

Let us pray that all the gods and their children grant that this empire and this city flourish forever and never cease until stones float on water and trees cease to put forth shoots in spring, and that the Great Governor [the emperor] and his sons be preserved and obtain blessings for all."