F O U N D A T I O N S

(8000 B.C.E. - 600 C.E.)





Right from the beginning of time, propaganda was a favorite ruling tool for many leaders. Though its usage was not as vivid or colorful as one might assume from propaganda from recent history, it was just as effective in its manipulation of the common peoples. One main pattern in propaganda in this period was through art and architecture; though some forms were used through written records. However, because the main form of communication in this time period was not through written means (yet), propaganda remained mainly visual. Remember, propaganda was always reliant on different types of communication for its propagation.


The main purpose for propaganda during this time period was to fully establish and propagate political, economic, social and religious norms for each civilization. Foundations thus was essentially the 'experimental period' where leaders figured out effective methods in cementing in these societal patterns. With empires as far-flung as the Roman Empire, rulers needed ways to keep the peoples in order not only through oppressive, physical means, but through
psychological means. Without even realizing, citizens morphed into the type of society their leaders desired through these elusive tools.


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Relief of an Assyrian king

Let's first take a look at the Assyrians: arguably the first civilization to create a full-fledged empire. They achieved this by doing some major conquering with armaments of iron weapons and cavalry, and amassed a pretty good amount of territory in the Middle East. Despite its vastness, the empire nonetheless held well together due to the rulers' policy of hard-core ruthlessness towards their citizens.
But that was not the only way the Assyrians kept power and support of its peoples. Several kings employed relief paintings and sculptures, which glorified the Assyrian emperors and armies. Battles were shown with every gory detail, while emperors were simultaneously shown as religious authority figures. These artworks were shown not only publicly to its citizens but also to foreign visitors in Assyrian palaces; showing signs of not only politically but also nationally motivated propaganda.

Ancient Rome was yet another example of an amorphous society that employed propaganda to garner support for its leaders. The highly civilized society epitomized the peace, government and law of the time period, and they knew it. Leaders constantly glorified the empire while portraying rival societies as Barbaricum, or areas outside of the Roman Empire. For example, Julius Caesar wrote a withering account of barbarians during the Gallic Wars here:

"The various tribes regard it as their greatest glory to lay waste as much as possible of the land around them and to keep it uninhabited. They hold it a proof of a people's valour to drive their neighbours from their homes, so that no-one dare settle near them. No discredit attaches to plundering raids outside tribal frontiers. The Germans say that they serve to keep young men in training and prevent them from getting lazy."

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Coins embedded with kings
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Statue of Augustus
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Hadrian's Wall


Leaders also propagated the fact that even civilized societies could learn from the Romans, as lamented by Virgil's Aeneid. The emperors supported this claim by constantly glorifying themselves: printing themselves on every coin, looming in every public structure, and conveying a warrior-like yet benevolent image to the citizens. With the expansion of the empire through Caesar and Augustus, Roman propaganda became more unifying and inclusive in order to accommodate all of its ethnically and culturally diverse citizens. Hadrian's Wall reinforced the romantic ideal of Roman civilization with its superior and glorious arches. Thus, propaganda here was also used as a major political manipulating weapon-- overtaking citizens in its grandeur before they knew it.