October 27, 2012

Days of Future Past - the end

We come at last to the end of our tale. The historically acute might have captured a few clues  I sprinkled in the last installment. This tale is not fiction. nor is it an apocalyptic vision of my own creation.  Rather is is a cliff notes version of a Reader's Digest condensation of the end of the Roman Republic. The dear Leader was Mithridates. The group seeking Roman citizenship were the Italian peoples who lived outside Rome. The real events unfolded very similar to my descriptions.

It took just over two centuries for Rome to grow from a regional economic poser to a dominate superpower that controlled much of the civilized world. Culturally, militarily and economically they had no equal. We think of the power of Rome during the Empire, but the growth and hegemony really took place during the days of the Republic. They defeated their only rival, Carthage, in a series of trade wars writ large, and the borders stretched from Britain to Egypt, from the Danube to modern Iraq.

The events I described took place in the century before the death of Christ.  I intended to continue the tale a little further to describe how each succeeding politician subverted the Constitution in an effort to "save the Constitution".Other politicians spouted the same words to save the people from tyranny only to assume the mantle of power themselves. Finally Octavius was declared Consul for life and ultimately Emperor by the Senate. and as Augustus Caesar ruled the Roman Empire. Amazingly, the Romans continued to hold Senatorial elections for the next four hundred-plus years, pretending the republic continued to function.A Roman of 130 AD, would certainly claim his government was a republic.

Why did I waste your time with this tale?  I have opined often that  history never repeats, but human behavior does. I was studying the last days of the Roman Republic and saw many comparisons to our modern situation. Of course we can always find patterns if we try hard enough.  You can find a similar path during the French Revolution -- reform, republic, chaos, empire, tyranny. America has proved one of the few historical aberrations; revolution did not lead to chaos and dictatorship of one kind or another. There is still time.  The Roman Republic made it about four hundred years before Caesar Augustus was declared Emperor.

We must always be vigilant.  Freedom is a precious thing. In Roman times the power of the government increased incrementally. Those who hunger for power can always rationalize their excesses by claiming to solve "emergencies". Taking away our freedoms in the wake of 9/11 is no less dangerous than twisting the meaning of the commerce clause to support a "health care crisis".

Two thousand years later the faint scratchings of VVV still marks the walls of various cities and towns who found themselves under the boot of Roman Repression.  Do not fool yourself for one moment by thinking it cannot happen to you.


Erin O'Brien said...

Well done, hoose.

You would really dig this podcast. You can get it free on iTunes.

I don't keep up with it as I should but no one does history like Carlin. Perfect for long car rides.

Joe said...

I listen to him on a regular basis!

Calin accompanies on my daily walks. He just takes too long between podcasts.

I also like to listen to "stuff you missed in history class" and believe it or not "This American Life" from PBS radio.

Podcasts are way cool.

Ed Bonderenka said...

I used to listen to "This American Life" and "Car Talk", but I can not bring myself to tune in NPR much anymore.
Yes, I caught the allegory.
I've heard the comparisons to "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" since I was a ten year old. It was a topic of conversation among the adults in the 60's.
I always wondered if it would happen in my time. I can stop wondering.

Anonymous said...

The decline of the Republic in the 1st century BC is particularly interesting as a modern comparison, especially with selective editing! The fall of the empire was for different reasons. Mostly the weight of the bravura racy, corruption and weak leadership


Anonymous said...

If the country keeps at this division between the states and parties I can see another attempt at breaking the union.

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