It is commonly understood that multiple aspects of the political, social, military and economic systems represented by the Roman Empire reach deep into the history of today’s Europe. The standing and tangible remains of the Roman Empire in cities and museums throughout Europe are visual markers for the memory of the Roman past.

The Roman Empire and the actions of the emperors who directed it laid the foundations of urbanism, administrative structure and law for the medieval and modern European societies which followed. The Roman Empire promoted religious toleration and guided retention of ethnic identity along with a universal rule of law and rights of citizenship. Later European culture witnessed the recurring Roman influences on artistic traditions, town planning and architecture. The Renaissance in fact can be characterized as a return to some of the cultural norms established by the Roman Empire in the Route theme regions and western Europe.

The Roman Emperors were the leaders and guardians of a complex political structure which was built on the rule of law and limited autonomy in self-governing colonies and municipalities. The rule of law, after the emperor Caracalla’s decree of 212, included universal Roman citizenship throughout the Empire. After the decision of the Illyrian emperors Constantine and Licinius in 313, religious tolerance was guaranteed by law. This established Christianity as the leading religion in the Empire which was to form a major underpinning for medieval and later European culture. The political effect of Christianity on human rights also cannot be ignored. The “new” religion advocated respect for individuals of both genders, regardless of social status.

The appreciation of wine and its consumption in social contexts which is promoted on a regional basis in the wine part of the Route continues a tradition that stems from the introduction of the beverage by the Romans. Although we lack any written accounts of daily and special social gatherings (Roman convivia) in which wine was featured on the Roman Danube, we can judge that such gatherings took place frequently based on the large amounts of discarded wine storage and serving vessels which have been recovered on all the habitation sites in the Route. Perhaps it can also be allowed that the spirit of the Latin word convivium, “eating together” “enjoying together” can also be continued into modern European culture where wine is prized and considered a necessary accompaniment to good living.

Michael Werner, Professor of Roman Art and Archaeology, Department of Art and Art History at The University at Albany (State University of New York) and President of the Scientific Committee of the Roman Emperors Route and Danube Wine Route