Essential Knowledge: Part V

Rome is such a big topic, it not only deserves a post of its own, but it can be studied in isolation as it encompasses so much of Western history. The most obvious reason for this is the Romans were around for a long time. The traditional dating of the start of the Republic is 509 BC and the end of the Western Empire is 476 AD. That’s roughly one thousand years and it was an action packed and dramatic thousand year run too. Rome features some of the most colorful characters in human history.

There is something else. The Greeks were a culture, but the Romans were a civilization that incorporated the culture of the Greeks. Culture is the spirit of the people, the world view that results from their shared history. The Greek culture was a product of the people and their place in the eastern Mediterranean. It is their literature and philosophy, their understanding of man’s relationship to other men and the world in general. It is the structure of their language, which is a reflection of how they thought about the world.

Civilization, on the other hand, is the end point, the destination of culture. It is the tangible product of cultural yearnings. Culture is the belief in self-governance. Civilization is a constitutional assembly. The Romans adopted Greek culture and built a mighty civilization. Because Rome carried the spirit of the Greeks throughout the known world, planting its seeds throughout Europe, knowing the Romans is to know the essence of Western culture. You cannot know the West, without knowing Rome.

Traditionally, you learned about Rome by reading Gibbon. You can buy the The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from Amazon for $133.00 or if you want to read it from a tablet, you can get it for two dollars, which is one million Canadian dollars.There are many better options than this, which we will get into next, but having some familiarity with Gibbon is a good idea, as you will find that later writers refer to him regularly. Spending a couple of dollars to have him in your digital library is a good idea, even if it is just as a reference work..

Then there is Latin. Learning some Latin is a good idea for anyone who likes knowing stuff. One of the worst things to happen to education in the modern age is the end of Latin instruction in the schools. Knowing even a little bit helps expand your language skills as an English speaker. In the case of Roman history, it is a good idea to have some basic knowledge of Latin, which means buying a primary school grammar used by home schoolers. You are not going to be reading Caesar in the original, but you get enough of the basics.It’s not necessary, but recommended.

The most basic way of thinking about Rome is to break up its history into three periods. The founding through the Republic, the Empire starting with Augustus and then the late Empire, when things got squirrely and the Empire was in decline. A recent book that will take you from the founding through the Empire, but stopping at the Late Empire, is Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. It was a best seller and it a great read. An excellent study on the transition of Rome from a Republic to an Empire is The Breakdown of the Roman Republic: From Oligarchy to Empire.

A particularly important period in Roman history is the third century, when the Empire was staggering from one crisis to the next. This is the period that gave rise to Diocletian and Constantine, two people who have cast a very long shadow over Western history. It used to be a topic of study in the US Army War College for both military tactics and crisis management. It is fair to say that without Constantine, there is no Christian West. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine is the only book I know of that focuses just on this period.

A controversial book on Late Empire Roman military tactics is The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century CE to the Third by Edward Luttwak. It is controversial for two reasons. One is that Luttwak is not a historian or classicist, so he is treading on people’s turf. More important, he offers an alternative to the dominant view of how the Roman army managed to keep the barbarians at bay, despite the numerical advantages of the barbarians. It’s an interesting read on a topic that has implications for the modern era.

Finally, for those who like podcasts, one of the best history podcasts ever is also on the history of Rome. Mike Duncan’s podcast is incredibly well done and it covers the entire history of Rome to the fall of the Western Empire.  For those who like a long, dramatic retelling of history, Dan Carlin’s Death Throws of Rome is fun and informative. You can always get the narrated version of Gibbon from Audible, which is becoming a popular alternative to podcasts. Think of audio books as long play podcasts.

Finally, this brings us back to Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies. The collapse of the Western Roman Empire has two interesting angles to explore. One is why it lasted so long despite the external stresses and the internal conflict. History books do a good job of covering that material. The other angle is why did the Western Empire collapse when the Eastern Empire continued on? That’s a subject that offers some insights into why a thousand years later the West was ready to roar past the rest of humanity.

72 thoughts on “Essential Knowledge: Part V

  1. Pingback: Are We Rome? | We Seek the Truth!

  2. Thanks Z-Man. I read you regularly, but don’t comment enough. Appreciate your discussion and recommendations on Roman history. I’ve listened to both the full Mike Duncan series and Dan Carlin’s Death throes of the Republic (with his massive 6-hour finale). I’ve read a few books as well. Striking the many parallels of the late Republic and our current Republic; your observation about the displacement of the common Roman yeoman farmer with zero-cost foreign slave labor by the wealthy elites is spot on. Is Trump Tiberius Gracchus or Marius (he’s not Old Money like Gracchus, more New Money like Marius)? Hopefully not; not (don’t want him to suffer the same fate, but the wealthy elites really HATE a class traitor).

  3. Oh, when I saw you get to Greece, I was curious what you’d have to say about Rome. Good choices! 😉

  4. Thanks Zman and others for the great references. I will make good use of them in learning about this interesting part of history.

    One of the things that I wonder about from an anthropological standpoint, and this goes to previous discussion of the loss of manhood in post WW2 Germany, is what happened to Italy, France, etc. since those people’s once dominated huge swaths of the world at one time and did it via military might. I say this from the minimal perspective of the performance of the Italians in WW2 under Mussolini and the French in WW1&2 and the jokes about “I have a French rifle for sale: like new, never fired, only dropped once.” I know that is not necessarily a fair depiction of the individual fighting man and that most of the blame goes to the political and military leaders, but history kind of does beg the question “Where has all the brass gone?” Just wondering.

  5. There is a lot to be said for seeing Roman stuff “on the ground”. We see photos and videos of what they built and it does not give us much idea of the gigantic scale of their work.

    My dad turned me into a bit of a Roman History nut and I have been to ruins and museums all over Europe. Israel and the middle east next year.

    There is Rome itself, much of Italy and lots still left in the Provinces. Merida, Spain is amazing. A small town with two an astonishing number of things to see, all within walking distance.,_Spain#Main_sights Medieval and Moorish stuff as well.

  6. There is a Roman road running across the fields back of mine, it passes a place called Thingwall a Viking meeting place…gotta love history. Oh and Mary Beard is doing a good job populising roman history here without getting all touchy feely.

  7. It may be that Israel’s wealth came from their role as “labor contractors” for Roman construction, that is, slave traders undermining the wage economy. This led to expanding foreign wars for resources to keep the economy alive, and an increasing trend of citizens consigning themselves into slavery (workfare) over rising taxes.

    It became a vicious economic cycle, leading to the 5th century, where the Empire could no longer pay guards to keep the roads and trade open. Near half of the known world’s population died In starvation and war in the next generation; thin soils couldn’t sustain the large trading families shipping pottery from Ireland or olives from Syria.

    Perhaps this is why Good King Jesus was such a pivotal figure in the turmoil of the early Empire- he was most likely the royal bastard of Emperor Tiberius (code named ‘Pantera, soldier of Sidon’, when open political loyalties could get one killed) and of Miriamne Herodias. Herod tried to kill him in the tradition of killing all related males threatening to one’s own sons. As Tiberius’ only surviving child, and the legitimate heir to the thrones of both Israel and even Rome itself, his political importance cannot be overstated. Poor stern, just Pontius Pilate was ordered to kill himself as soon as he returned to Rome. To have allowed Tiberius’ only son to be killed by a baying mob!

    I mention Israel because I believe the Semitics-what we call Jews and Arabs today- are two factions of a larger ancient demographic. Their racial culture traits- chauvinists “managing the livestock”, slave trade systems, and flipping the story to make the slavers into justified victims, seem to lead to a consistent cycle of results.

    The Bronze Age collapse and the predation of the Sea Peoples (another branch?),
    the economic collapses of Iron Age empires (Egypt, Persia, Rome),
    the rise of Islam- the “other sons of Abraham”- as vassal mercenaries,
    Middle Age banking to fund wars; which led to the citizenry, not a king, responsible for the war debt (“Anglo-Dutch system”),
    modern innovations such as Bolshevik communism,
    and income taxes levied in proxy by the eight Jewish families that own the Federal Reserve (both created in 1913)- taxes that funded two World Wars and the debt piracy of the World Bank and IMF (created, along with the Bretton Woods system and League/U.N., largely by Jewish agents such as House and White.)

    Not to lay blame, but only to look for a pattern- it seems the innovation of signaling systems by slave raiders, what we call social narratives, are a remarkably successful demographic stratagem. Another example of demographic strategem (evolution guys, what is the proper term here?) would be increased testosterone/extra quadriceps in African Negroids; they were faster, more aggressive, and more sexually aggressive than the older Capoids (Bushmen, Pygmies, Hottentots), and thus able to replace them in a few thousand years as the dominant race in Africa.
    Or the example of Han Asians, whose oppressive conformity led to unified dominance and colonization from China.
    Yet another would be of Arab Semitics, the ‘wild men’ pushed into their inhospitable desert corner, whose rape culture we see at work today.

    I think that the Semitic’s terrible origins in the Fall of the Ehdeen- the meteoric destruction of the Sumerian Fertile Crescent- the Garden land, the Pardes (“orchards”) or Paradise, now a desert of nomadic herders- created a race of slavers through traumatic evolution: only the worst survived. It may be even worse than that. If conditions were similar to the movie, “The Road”, they may have been cannibal slave raiders. An inscription in an Egyptian tomb by a hiding priest at the time reads, “The hunger is so great, parents are eating their own children.” The earliest writings of the Habiru (“refugees”, now ‘Hebrew’) long before the Bible, were about managing the livestock.

    If we, human beings, the goyim, the infidels, were the livestock- well, they were chosen by the god to harvest us-
    bringing even the mightiest Empires to collapse.

    • Simply put, increased percentages of psychopathy may be baked well into the cake that has written our histories.

      • Worse yet when other populations adopt such successful strategies, breeding their own psychopaths.

        The spiral of lunacy- because ‘paths will do anything to get to the top of the tree.
        We on the lower branches think they are talking to us, and hoot back with our willingness to climb into those upper branches. As long as I can rain sh*t on you, down there! Monkey see, monkey do.

      • When a race of lying psychopaths writes your history, you get frauds like the increasingly ludicrous Holocaust story, intersectional Feminism, historical reparations, gender fluidity, political officers and domestic spies listening for offensive words, Donmeh Saudis and Bolshevik Communists, Quantum Fund’s Open Society network, Trotskyite neocons and pussyhat marches, Hollywood and the NY Times, Muslim refugees and Islamophobia, and 70% bloc voting for the Democrat Party.

        Why? Because it works.
        Nature is above morality.

        • can you show me where morality is in the periodic table?

          want to know the one single law in god’s universe? watch a lion chase down a gazelle.

          • Thanks, oh proud octaroon, allow me to beg our host’s gracious indulgence for going off on a tangent.

            The reason we study history is to find out what happened, and why- that we might keep it from happening to us.

            What we’re seeing today isn’t ordinary-grade stupid- this is weaponized stupid.

            Everyone believes their own bullshit.
            Especially when some of their own feed it to them- so they think they are fighting on the side of righteousness.

            Try convincing a BLM or Muslim that they are a danger- or a government employee, or a wolverine. Or a Nazi-hunting Red Diaper from Brooklyn.

            They don’t know what they’re doing.
            They have mythified, and thus lost, the reality and truth of their past.

            I cannot blame them of conscious conspiracy any more than I could blame Negroes of conspiring to cause a prison rape epidemic.

            But, I can recognize that the Aryan Brotherhood formed in Florida prisons because 98.4% of such rapes there were black-on-white.

            I don’t believe the scorpion when he wants a ride across the river.

            American Empire is facing stresses and influences familiar to Rome.
            No, this isn’t people being ordinary, or stupid.

            This is enemy action.

  8. If I may suggest ‘The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization’ by Bryan Ward-Perkins. It’s available on kindle now, as well as paperback. Frankly, the author encourages his readers to think again by reclaiming the drama and violence of the last days of the Roman world, and reminding us of the very real horrors of barbarian occupation (with using some modern references). He makes use of a range of contemporary archaeological evidence, he looks at both the wider explanations for the disintegration of the Roman world and also the consequences for the lives of everyday Romans, in a world of economic collapse, marauding barbarians, and the rise of a new religious orthodoxy (sound familiar?). He also looks at how and why successive generations have understood this period differently, and why the story is still so significant to this era.

    • I recommend this book, too. While Ward-Perkins does not venture past the scholarship on the Fall of the Western Empire, there seems to be this overall trend in academia of denying that any civilization fell with great suffering and violence. The archeological evidence of great fires is ignored; the accounts of cities being sacked are poo-pooed; the disappearance of pottery, coins, and other goods of complex manufacture are ascribed to “transitions” or “new economies.”

      I think that David Goldman is right (I only disagree with you over your globalist economics, Herr Spengler). Modern Western man cannot handle horror. Post-Modernism is just what the pansies who seek to rule our world hide behind to avoid confronting nature’s harsh reality. It is the intellectual manifestation of a gross psychological weakness.

      • what are you reading?! the mongols? tamerlane? muslims? no one is poo pooing the depredations of these groups. are we no longer referring to the dark ages?

        • You may want to read some of the recent “scholarship” on the Bronze Age collapse and the end of the Indus Valley Civilization. Ward-Perkins does great work cataloging and refuting the post-modern rot infecting recent scholarship about the fall of Rome. A simple Internet search will find several articles denying the violent nature of the end of the Indus Valley Civilization. Here is a podcast with a group of scholars discussing what appears to be the non-violent consensus about the Bronze Age Collapse::

          Here is another in which the academicians seem to be tripping over themselves in their haste to deny that the Mayans engaged in human sacrifice:

          Does this make my thesis a bit clearer? Trust me, the po-mos just haven’t gotten started on Tamerlane and the Great Khans yet. The goal of their project is nothing less than a complete rewrite of history on their terms. Soon killers like Timur the Lame and Genghiz will just be misunderstood pastoralists who ruffled a few feathers as they sought new pastures for their herds in response to climate change.

          • c’mon, even the BBC doesn’t listen to the BBC 🙂

            The bronze age collapse *is* a mystery, a nice juicy mystery. it fascinates me to no end. as far as i know, the only written accounts of it are in egypt (one of the only, if not the only, civilation to survive that period). the speed of the collapse makes me think it was a combination of natural and man made events.

            also, i note that you put the word scholarship in quotes 🙂

  9. Essential Knowledge VI: Comments thread needs a more effective sorting and reply mechanism. It’s more fun when you can mix it up with people a bit.

  10. For those with an interest in the Eastern Empire and how it survived, Edward L Luttwak also wrote The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. It is clearly written and full of interesting and relevant details (if you have an interest in grand strategy or ancient military practices). It surpasses his Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire by far IOMHO.

      • Eastern Empire- “Belisaurius”, the great and loyal general, called back time and time again to save the empire, only to betrayed time and time again by Emperor Justinian

      • It’s ~500 pages of dense but clearly written prose covering over 1000 years of comparatively neglected history starting in the early 400″s AD. You should feel free to read it yourself if you have interest in the period. So, ANY summary cannot avoid discarding a lot of potentially relevant information. IMHO Luttwak does a better job than most of discerning the pattern-demonstrating information within the high noise level of historical detail..

        Arguably the Romans, as the Byzantines actually called themselves (though they spoke Greek as the official language by ~500 AD), helped save a divided and disorganized Europe from the onslaughts of the Steppe Nomads of whom the Huns were only the first, and the Muslim hoards until the advent of the Turks.

        Their critical threats were the Persians to the SE and a succession of barbarian horse archers from the NE. They Byzantines’ key insight was that the Huns were not a one-off. Wave after wave were to be expected. This is because The extensive Eurasian Steppe provided a natural migration corridor from Manchuria to Hungary for horse pastoralists who discovered that their compound-bow-centered weapons and tactics made them nearly invincible against old Roman-style heavy infantry armies ion open ground. Each steppe warrior traveled with up to 20 remounts which fed off the steppe grasses along the way. So they were able to travel light and fast, giving them strategic superiority as well: They usually could arrive before word of their coming reached the cities so that they could prepare themselves for attack.

        Once the Byzantines realized that they could not hope to prevail in a stand-up fight against the barbarians, they began to employ all the tools of statecraft simultaneously AS A SYSTEM: An almost invincible capital that sheltered a strong fleet; A small but potent standing army that they used only after their recruited barbarian allies had had a chance to ‘display their valor’; Always pitting one enemy against another by bribery and treachery; Using social and religious prestige to awe the simple; Dynastic marriages; An effective (control but not over management) economic and taxation system; An elite system that able lesser folk could join by serving the state well, etc.

        They arrived at this system pragmatically and emphasized various aspects at various times as circumstances required. A number of times that made surprising comebacks after nearly disastrous mistakes. But finally their margin was used up, just as ours is now being used up: Hence a worthy study.

        • Thank you for that illuminating distillation, Al. This comment section is chock full of excellent comments, with yours being exceptional example, and I look forward to checking out Luttwak’s work. Much appreciation to Z Man for his mentally satisfying posts and all the great commenters!

  11. “Traditionally, you learned about Rome by reading Gibbon. You can buy the The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from Amazon for $133.00 or if you want to read it from a tablet, you can get it for two dollars, which is one million Canadian dollars.”

    the way things are going with trudeau, it might be 2 million, from the country in the upstairs loft apartment, not invited to the party downstairs. LOL Until we pull your shirt over your head and punch you out!! I’m goin to Timmies for coffee. I’m a big fan and you are the first stop every day

  12. “The Greeks were a culture, but the Romans were a civilization that incorporated the culture of the Greeks.” Yes, and the Romans readily conceded that the Greeks were much smarter than they were, and turned to them for intellectual matters. Archimedes was a key asset for the Roman legions, having created a distance measuring device for roads and other gadgets. Hate to think what happened to the Roman soldier who murdered him, against orders.

  13. Interesting historical side note: Gibbon was a member of the House of Commons and was struggling to complete Volume I during the time period when Parliament was debating what to do with the rebels in the American colonies. He was in some ways living through an echo of the history he was writing.

    He came down on the side of complete and total war against the rebels in the Colonies. He seemed to understand that allowing the American Colonies to secede from the Empire would be the beginning of the end. Time proved him correct.

    • Went to a distant relative’s wedding near Portsmouth, at Gibbon’s estate. Quite the spread. I don’t know if his books paid the freight, but something sure did. The owners are reduced to renting part of it out to pay the bills on the thing, and we were busted and heavily reprimanded after being caught sneaking into the private garden for a photo shoot of the bride.

    • Burke was the greater man, then. He asked of the Parliament and the King’s men never mind losing, rather, what they thought they were going to do to rule that enormous and likely bitter land if they won. The truth was the British never actually ruled the American colonies, that state having been beneficial to both sides, and only woke up one day to discover that this state of affairs had grown beyond their capacity of influence.

    • what are you talking about? the British empire did not peak until early in the 20th century. Losing *some* of the North american colony was insignificant at the time.

  14. the HBO mini series “Rome” is by far the best cinematic treatment of the topic. John Milius produced (and wrote?) it so you know it’s going to raise your T levels!

  15. While it would be great if more folks learned about the Roman Empire ( including me) let’s not forget that many (most?) college students and perhaps many adults under the age of 45 have absolutely no idea who was Adolph Hitler, who fought whom in WWI or II and what were the causes thereof, who was Stalin, believe Castro was a decent chap and Cuba is a nirvana where everything is free, and think Abe Lincoln was a liberal democrat/progressive.
    Check out youtube and see folks being questioned about very general history or current affairs; it’s hilarious and frightening at the same time.
    I saw one guy on youtube walk around some college campus holding a poster containing several photos of about 6 or so historical figures which included a photo of Hitler and Stalin, He asked students, “which one is HItler’s picture?”
    Many could not do this; they were clueless. They even had no idea who he was.

    And these young “adults” vote.
    One reason that the Brooklyn communist and life long agitator/demonstrator/complainer/bitcher, overall leech on society, and parasite, Bernie Sanders, received so much support from young “adults.”

    By the way, I believe it’s GW University which has recently removed American History as a required course for their HISTORY MAJORS !!

  16. Thanks for some great suggestions. Having concentrated in US History, have some gaps other than having read Gibbon and specific items related more to how the Founding Fathers derived their approach to government.

    • It’s a huge topic that I find endlessly fascinating. A Classics professor used to post here in the comments. If he still stops by, I’m sure he will have a ton of suggestions.

      • Carl Richard. The Founders and the Classics, and The Battle for the American Mind.
        I haven’t read the second one.

      • You know, I wouldn’t be half surprised if he still stops by pretty regularly but tends to keep his thoughts to himself, as he doesn’t live in a free country or work in a free profession. Fortune may well favor the brave, but she’s been known to mutter that in some circumstances, discretion is in fact the better part of valor…

  17. From Gibbon’s first volume, published in 1776, speaking of Rome, A.D. 117: “The terror of the Roman arms added weight and dignity to the moderation of the emperors. They preserved peace by constant preparation for war; and while justice regulated their conduct, they announced to the nations on their confines that they were as little disposed to endure as to offer an injury.”

    To me, the protection of our borders and the the rebuilding of our military are by far the most important things Trump must do. The Rome of the Antonines should be our model.

    • For the last 5 years more foreigner children have been born within the borders of the United States than white children in the land their forefathers conquered.

      The Baby Boomers are enormous faggots, parasitic leeches, destroyers of the last remnants of Western civilization, but they are really the last truly American generation. In 20 years when they’ve all retired or kicked the bucket America will be one of three groups: 1) a lot of old white people in nursing homes, 2) various species of foreigner—Mexicans, Nigerians, Moslems, Indians, Chinamen—mostly on welfare, and 3) a small sliver of young white men getting screwed in every possible way to try to keep this shit show afloat.

      To all the Boomers reading this: guess which group I belong to. Yeah, thanks for consigning me this to my fate, you selfish assholes. (If you’re not a Boomer but are over the age of 30, just take a moment to remember the America that you nevertheless got to experience, but was already sold and thoroughly down the river by the time I was a teenager.)

      We all know how to solve this problem and save Western civilization, and secure the existence of our people and a future for white children, and we must hope and pray that His Majesty does what must be done, no matter the cost and no matter how terrible, the thing for which his loyal supporters cast their final ballot.

      • I take it that you are aware that the Boomer tag is simply marketing. There is no way that folks born in 1946 think the same way as those born in 1964. Yet that is supposed to be the Boomer Generation.

        And you are wrong of course. If you look at wages, you’ll see that the 70s (when many Boomers entered the work force) is when wages started the down hill slide. The folks that had the really good deal were the Greatest Generation, after the war. They got the cheapest houses, were more likely to have pensions and had good paying jobs. I can play the blame game too.

      • “Chinamen” on welfare? Takes a real nutjob to think that. The Chinese work ethic is astonishing. Puts whites to shame.

        And the idea that all of the people of all the other races and religions you so despise are lazy bloodsuckers is equally absurd. It’s a statistical argument – too many of them do bad things. But as you yourself point out, too many of us whites do too many bad things too these days.

        Finally, we offer them free shit then complain when they take it? Who is the incompetent idiot in that scenario?

      • Quit your whining and put the blame where it belongs … on your fellow white man, William J. Brennan Jr. for his sneaky footnote that changed everything about the 14th Amendment.

    • The great change in Rome, in my view, was after they defeated Carthage and Corinth. The result was a influx of slaves and treasure. This upended the Roman social order. Large landowners suddenly had a cheap slave workforce. They used it to subvert the smaller landowners. You had a flood of dispossessed people into towns and the rise of a mighty landed oligarchy.

      Beware of cheap labor. The price is very steep.

      • Is there a good history that covers from the founding to the defeat of Carthage and Corinth. That has always seemed to be the more interesting part to me.

        • The Mary Beard book is the best I’ve come across for the general reader. When I use the phrase “general reader” I mean normal people, not academics. The more academic stuff is close to unreadable at its best. I’ve come across papers that are just word salad with footnotes, lots of footnotes.

        • I would suggest reading Theodor Mommsen for the best and most complete understanding of Republican Rome. There is a reason Mommsen won the 1902 Nobel Prize. Volume three covers the period you are interested in. And yes, industrial scale slavery destroyed the yeoman farmers. And Greek culture destroyed the Roman aristocracy. There was also a shadowy banking system at work. See this…

      • Importing grain from Egypt had a huge effect, too. It was cheaper to grow grain and transport it over the sea than it was to grow it in Campagna and transport it by wagon. Why Ostia became so important to the Roman economy, why they were able to provide free grain for the citizens of Rome, and why so many farmers were bankrupted, moved into town to go on the dole and why the latifundia expanded and wealth inequality was so bad. Ultimately why they lost the republic.

      • and citizen soldiers, who fought those wars on behalf of Republic returned home to neglected/bankrupt farms. Eventually, many of the were forced to sell them, move to the cities and become dependent on public dole. Their land was bought by rich speculators who employed slaves to till the land. There are so many parallels between Rome around 146 and US today. Let’s hope we manage to avoid civil/social wars that eventually wrecked the Republic & ushered an Empire. Great read was “Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization.” Scipio cried as his soldiers were pulling down Carthage’s walls, knowing that same fate eventually befall Rome.

      • Agrarian, Industrial, Technology Ages. Finally death of the Natural Human and his Soul as we move away from Nature and live in a virtual state of reality.
        I do believe our primal urge to stop this path we’re on has just begun and manifested itself in the Rise of Trump. I hope so.

      • >>>Beware of cheap labor. The price is very steep.

        The Boers have come to understand this very well. The dirt people in the USA understand it now, but the American Leadership Caste not so much, if at all.

  18. Best book on it: The Fall of the Roman Empire by Michael Grant. Amazingly short. Excellent read. Best read with some foreknowledge of the history, though. Gibbon is actually funny as hell, especially with his treatment of the German tribes viewed through the pretentiousness of the Germans of his day. One thing about reading Roman primary source material as opposed to Greek is that the Romans tend to talk more about concrete issues rather than things in theoretical constructs or in the way they wished things to be, and that even includes Aristotle. Read a Roman and then look up what he is talking about in a standard textbook and the two will reflect each other. If you read Greek primary source material and then look the subject up in a textbook or primary text with extensive scholarly commentary you will find contradictions and inconsistencies out the wazoo.
    The speeches and letters of Cicero are direct reflections on actual events as they are occurring, and the histories by the Roman authors and even the Greeks under Roman influence are much more objective that those of the earlier Greeks.
    Cultural context is important, though, and in order to get that it’s a good idea to have some references that can provide this. Classical dictionaries and atlases help. The two volume set Roman Civilization by Lewis and Reinhold is a standard college text for classics majors. The Ancient City, by Fustel We Coulanges. Religion of Greece and Rome by Rose.
    One really important topic that is often overlooked is the transition from the empire intomlate antiquity and the influence on events of that time that served to set the stage for feudal culture in the middle ages. The Grant book does a good job of this and there are many books on late antiquity. It also helps to read some stuff on the early middle ages.
    The transition into Christianity and the pagan reaction is important. Celsus on the True Doctrine and any readings into Julian give some insight as well as The Christians as the Romans Saw Them by Robert Lewis Wilken.
    Family and Civilization by Zimmerman covers well the transition from Roman law regarding families and civil disputes into Canon law and ecclesiastical courts.

    • My theme here with these posts is to imagine a general reader with little exposure to the material. With Rome, the material one can recommend is endless. Naming “one book to read” on the Greeks or the Civil War is possible. People interested in those topics always have a favorite book. When it comes to Rome, everyone has a dozen favorite books. But, that’s what the comments are for, to extend the topic with other suggestions.

    • i am guessing that feudalism and serfs arose from the late empire trend of freemen voluntarily becoming slaves of wealthy land holders, to avoid the predations of state appointed tax collectors.

      • It was a combination of people seeking out strongmen to live under and the Empire reacting to this by passing laws requiring people to stay put and remain in their occupations while doing the same for their offspring. A lot of it had to do with maintaining a level of tax revenue flow. We have a somewhat similar situation with health insurance being the thing that keeps people in their current jobs. They look for big stable companies (benefits big business as they get those people most likely to remain in their jobs and they spend less on retraining) that offer insurance, and they lose the insurance if they move. The government doesn’t have to aim at moving targets and the job market remains constricted because of lack of movement. No different than tying a serf to the soil.

        • Excellent and original, Doc.
          I see the income tax as another feudal system (like communism is)- we are paid in scrip, issued by the company store.

          The strange ecosystem of income tax code results in fractal social effects such as disparate impact or HR Stalinists; women are inducted into non-production jobs to pay income taxes.
          (Govt employees recycling taxes are cash flow puffery.)

          Non of the social or political economy can be calculated using cost-of-goods-sold accounting. Pension planners beware!

          • The bit about putting people into unproductive jobs just to put them in a position to pay taxes is a theme I noticed some time back. That’s why the Dems think of an economy as some sort of perpetual motion machine that they can gas up and control the accelerator and brake as needed.
            I always think about the Farmers General in France. Set up to collect the salt tax. Then they got involved in enforcing the internal tarrifs, etc. Ended up being the largest “private” employer in France. When your largest employer is a Government Sponsored Enterprise you know you’re in big trouble. That’s what we’re headed for with health care and the universities. This has to be stopped or our grandkids are toast.

  19. Roman legend had it that Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus in 753 BC. The Empire finally expired in 1453 AD when the Turks conquered Constantinople. The Empire wasn’t much in the end, by a continuous history of 2,206 years is impressive.

    By the way, the end date of 476 AD for the Western Empire is not quite correct since the Emperor in the East was able to occupy parts of Italy and Sicily for some time afterwards. The West is only cut off when the Arab conquests began around 700 AD.

    • You can spend forever getting historians to agree on the start and end dates of the Roman Empire. The fall of Romulus Augustulus always seems like a poetic end point for the Western Empire.

    • Those Germanic Tribes that took down Rome in the 5th Century were not trying to destroy the empire so much as take it over.

      The Gothic and Vandal Kingdoms in North Africa and Southern Europe continued to function as classical civilizations – until the Arab Muslims showed up a century later and plunged Europe into the Dark Ages.

      • Ah, Monsieur Pirenne!

        Gregory of Tours would disagree at least about hinterland Gaul under the early Merovings; it was already becoming quite Mad Max. Northern Italy, too, was becoming a wasteland en route to Lombardy.

        I mean, maybe we COULD have had a “Hyborian Age” in Europe and North Africa where the new Gallo-Germanic nations settled in, and were able to resist the Arabs. But we didn’t. We got bandit-kingdoms, Justinian’s Plague, and the Lombards.

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