Rome And Us

I decided to try something a bit different this week. I like the single topic format, because it appeals to my natural sense of form and it makes organizing the material a little easier. On the blog, I like using history as a jumping off point for commentary about the current age, so I though it could work for the podcast. This is the first effort and I’m not entirely pleased with the result, but I figured it might be a struggle initially. I probably should have narrowed the focus and used just one period of Roman history, but you learn through struggle.

That’s the challenge with this idea. Even small events have lots of angles to them and lots of interesting people. The time constraints of a podcast mean skipping stuff in order to make a point. That’s what I don’t like about this week’s episode. I found I had to be way to breezy with the material. That’s a warning to the Roman scholars. Don’t bust my balls on my very superficial use of Roman history. While I’m at it, the Latin scholars should know my Latin was never good, despite the best efforts of my Jesuit teachers.

Part of the inspiration for this week is the old BBC series Connections presented by James Burke. Instead of a multidimensional analysis of history, I’m thinking something similar for an analysis of the present. Historical analogies are never perfect or even very precise, but they can be fun and useful. It is one of those idea that sounds good in your head, but it may be much harder to make work than I realize, so I started with something easy like Rome. The history of Rome covers just about every possible human condition.

This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below. I’m now on Spotify, so the millennials can tune in when not sobbing over white privilege and toxic masculinity.

This Week’s Show


  • 00:00: Opening
  • 02:00: Marius and Sulla
  • 12:00: Slavery After Carthage
  • 22:00: The Praetorian Guard
  • 32:00: Crisis of Third Century
  • 42:00: The Cost of Citizenship
  • 47:00: Völkerwanderung
  • 52:00: The Death of Empire
  • 57:00: Closing

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71 thoughts on “Rome And Us

  1. And the middle class! Yes. Rome was a middle class city at first. Citizen soldiers of moderate wealth who fought the wars and went back to their farms. That was their source of resiliency. Same as the American Founders.

    Slaves and taxes destroyed the Roman middle class. By the end of the Empire, pleblians were selling themselves into slavery to avoid crushing taxes (which did not apply to the patrician class). When I hear current Democrats talk tax policy, I swear they have the same planned for me.

  2. Bravo! You hit on many of the events and themes that come to my mind and some that have not.

    That conflict between Marius and Sulla was pivotal in so many ways. Sulla didn’t draw first blood and wasn’t the first to break the rules – but once they were broken, he was ruthless.

    After he had himself declared Dictator, Dulls really tried to fix all systemic flaws in the Roman system that led to the conflict. But (as our host says) the real problem was that people had lost respect for the rules so Sulla’s reforms barely outlived Sulla.

  3. Any doubt Zman has on the format structure, of the single theme can be cast aside. This episode and the last were riveting listens.
    Within this the podcast, clean divisions and a comparison to the now >>the power of the watchmen, watching the watchman themselves, the dilution of value of money and citizenship, the nothingness of diversity. This was masterly.
    Over with the boss Remus, he is reluctant to extract quotes from zman such is the cohesive structure. He said to pull out one part is like pulling out a pillar, so tight is the structure.

  4. Off topic. New meme: I’d rather have Trump collude with Putin than Paul Ryan or John McCain!

  5. Z, you don’t articulate just what you don’t like about this week’s work, but I think it is masterful. Proper storytelling, which is ultimately how we communicate our culture to each other, has a beginning, a middle, an end, and a lesson. Each segment follows the pattern, the segments double back on and reference what was told before, and the entire arc of segments has its own progression and lesson.

    There is also a subversive element to this week’s work. I intend to share it with some normies, who I want to get sucked into the narrative, and only later find out where it takes them. Should be fun.

    So much of the current political and social conversation is just made-up straw man stuff. Being able to ground one’s outlooks and opinion into a meaningful historical context is so important, and so absent from the current conversation.

    I am guessing your dissatisfaction comes from an understanding that, ultimately, all this work does not do much more than shout “stop what you are doing, everyone”, without giving much direction or prescription other than the well known basics. But we need to fight the battle with every tool, and your storytelling skills are considerable, and should continue to be employed. I, for one, would pay to listen to this sort of work. It is a sort of melancholy inspiration, as it suggests that larger forces than our own are at work, and will prevail at continuing the sad path we are on. Melancholy as it is, it is still inspiring to actually understand or reinterpret new (to me) elements of human nature, folly, and history. It all fits together, doesn’t it?

    • I was dissatisfied with the podcast, mostly because I thought I had to rush through much of it to get to the point. Maybe that’s just the way to do it and I have to get used to it.

      • There is a balance between brevity and detail. I think you hit the balance well, for people such as myself who have only a passing knowledge of the history. There is always the option of expanding on one or two segments in a future podcast. Think of #52 as the “gateway drug” for the rest of it, to bring us back for more.

        It is fascinating how much is known about the Roman era.

      • My dear Z-Man, your Rome podcast is superb. Let me laud it with a line lifted from John Wayne: “You did good, Pilgrim.”

  6. Resurrected Gorgar pleased, wants to know:

    when will you close one with the Skrewdriver cover?

    • That’s Saga’s version of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. She’s a Swedish nationalist singer (and very good). Youtubes of lots of her work are out there.

  7. If this counts, had to truck one of the kids down to Philadelphia for a rowing regatta, one of my older sons, who is in college tagged along, Decided to play the podcast on the way down. His reaction was “who is this guy? This is really interesting.”

      • One of the recently gave me a “Pinochet’s Helicopter Tours” t-shirt. What do you think?

  8. Loved the praetorian guard/fbi comparison. You embody the best of derb when he was at his height. I read in gibbon that one of the praetorians actually forced the emperor to marry his daughter to him. And he was very low class, like a former gladiator from Slavic lands.

    • No, I thought it was one of the best yet. I like this better than simply a discussion of the dissident right for example, because anyone could do that.

      One thing more ominous about our situation compared to the crisis of the third century is that, while the various Germanic/eastern barbarians caused a brief discontinuity in civilization, in reality their genetic capital was as good or even slightly better than the romans’. We are dealing with fecund, low iq populations predominantly. So the situation is more akin to the Arab and Turk occupations of Italy in the late antiquity early Middle Ages. Ask yourself why there is such an abrupt drop in the level of civilization as one travels from north to south Italy! And this will be worse than that!

      • What I mean, if this was not sufficiently clear, is that the European barbarians had in their genetic potential the ability to restore or even surpass Roman civilization, as we ultimately did. With the groups the US is being overrun with, everything would suggest that they do not have the potential to maintain first world levels of civilization, judging from their countries of origin and IQ measurements. So the situation we face is more like that of the Arab occupations of southern Italy, where one can almost see a line within the same country where the economy and level of civilization plummets. That is why the Mezzogiorno as it is called, is always so backwards. And these were Arabs and Turks, who have in fact created greater civilizations than the groups invading us. Therefore, I fear that our situation will be worse after a century or so. But whatever, Nancy pelosi feels great about herself, so I guess it was worth it.

  9. Well, you might not have been entirely pleased, but I thought it among your better efforts.

  10. Super presentation — well balanced, interesting and timely. More history please.

    • … a timely addendum given the subject — as I finished reading this, I saw Tom Steyer’s new impeach Trump petition advertisement on the daytime game show being watched in my house (can’t stop the wife’s indulgence in that vice; she’s otherwise quite sane). Good example of hyper wealthy, self-absorbed lunatics spending milliions to destroy our system.

      • The Right should know better than to depend on TV ads. Journolists are the keystone in the Left’s bridge. Ad buys lead to commissions for people like Karl Rove and other hangers-on. Network profits cross-subsidize the losses on sportsball broadcast contracts. Facebook/Google ads is even worse. Most of the donor money would be better spent just giving it to Mike Cernovich or other clowns.

  11. For the second time since you began the podcasts, closed captioning was available. Sucks to be deaf sometimes (but sometimes it’s peaceful).

    • I don’t really understand why closed caption does not work all the time. I think it is a YouTube issue.

  12. I enjoyed your podcast, well done. I think I’ll get my ‘Rome’ series out and watch it again this weekend.

  13. I would like to expand on your treatment of the destabilizing effect of mass slavery which followed in the wake of Rome’s victory over Carthage. My source for information here is from the great Theodor Mommsen.

    The critical period was from the defeat of Hannibal to the birth of Caesar: about 200 B.C to 100 B.C. The massive influx of huge numbers of cheap slaves came first from Sardinia, then from Carthaginian controlled areas, including southern Spain. As the wars against the Macedonian and Seleucid powers rolled on, even more slaves poured in from the eastern Mediterranean. Talented, highly educated Greeks were among them.

    This presented an opportunity to put capital to work. With an enormous amount of gold now in Roman coffers, a shadowy banking elite emerged. They had at their disposal copious amounts both of slave labor and capital. But what they needed to complete their opportunity was land. Early in the 2nd century B.C., most of the Latin countryside surrounding Rome was in the hands of small farmers. The average holding was about seven acres. This small parcel, intensively cultivated, enabled the yeoman Latin farmer to raise all the nuts, olives, fruits, vegetables, livestock and grain he needed for his family. Grain was the cash crop. It was sent down to Rome in exchange for other goods, principally iron goods, cooking & storage vessels, etc. The capitalists wanted this land, and the best way to get it was to force the Latin farmers to sell. They accomplished this by buying huge amounts of cheap Egyptian grain and dumping it on the market. This bankrupted thousands of Latin farmers, who either abandoned their land and came to Rome to collect welfare, or sold out for what they could get and bought land in other parts of Italy, probably Tuscany.

    Using abundant capital to seize control of land from free citizens was one of the most damaging aspects of Roman behavior. By about 130 B.C., the brothers Gaius and Tiberius Gracchus had taken up the cause of badly need land reform. They were both murdered by the Roman Establishment, setting the stage for the ultimate struggle between Marius and Sulla.

    The point is that slavery/cheap labor needs an enabler. That enabler was/is the banking sector.

    We are in a similar situation. Is Trump our Gracchi, Marius, or Sulla? Time will tell. It’s simply enough to note that our present day Establishment do not like him. He threatens the cheap labor paradigm. History may not repeat, but it sure does rhyme.

    • If Trump has Praetorians in place, as I think Mattis and Kelly were selected to be, the civil war might not come to pass. Mattis, if you didn’t know, is a very knowledgeable historian, who carried a copy of Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” with him to Iraq.

      “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine.”

    • “Using abundant capital to seize control of land from free citizens was one of the most damaging aspects of Roman behavior”. All I could think of, at that point, was Bain, Cerberus, and their VC brethren. Yet another relevant element of Roman history.

    • This has been my read on this era for a long while. Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

    • Post-Punic Rome also has parallels to 20th century South Africa. The Boers lost control to the British due to an influx of British miners in the Johannesburg Gold Rush. The British furthered their domination by importing Indians and Chinese to serve as cheap labor in the mines when production moved underground. The remaining white miners fought a brutal strike in 1922, leading to their replacement by blacks.

      Fast forward to today, the mining industry has collapsed due to geologic reasons and corruption associated with the unions. Hundreds of thousands of mostly black miners were thrown out of work, and government finances are unstable due to the loss of mining revenue. Slums continue to form in all major cities.

      • The farmers of South Africa are another interesting parallel. While the high levels of racially motivated murders have attracted international attention, it isn’t as well understood as to why urbanized blacks (EFF) hate the farmers so much. The population boom in the 20th century created a large tranche of cheap labor, and in the post-apartheid times there has been considerable illegal immigration from the rest of Africa. Guess who was employing those illegals.

    • The Gauls went to war with their women and baggage. Their women would stand behind them, shouting encouragement and hectoring anyone who retreated. The Roman legions also had a large number “others” that followed the army around, providing services to the army.

        • Much of Caesar’s army was recruited from northern Italy…Celts. His cavalry were Gauls on one side and Germans on the other. It was commanded by Roman/Italic officers. This was the most highly trained, disciplined, and effective army the Romans ever produced. Caesar had served in northern Italy earlier in his career and was impressed with the qualities of the Celts he saw there. It’s no wonder he wanted them in his army.

      • Your usage is perfectly defensible. I was just telling you how it struck me, a misogynistic racist bigot homophobe deplorable. Perhaps it would similarly affect other listeners.

        I am aware that ancient armies had camp followers including women. And I am sure that at least one “trans man” (as we would now call her) managed to fool everyone and actually fight. But neither of these makes femaleness central within “army”, then or now. Men fight.

      • This reminds me what was done in WW1. The women didn’t fight but were used in this way:

        In August 1914, at the start of the First World War, Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather with support from the prominent author Mrs Humphrey Ward. The organization aimed to shame men into enlisting in the British army by persuading women to present them with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform.[3][4]

        This was joined by prominent feminists and suffragettes of the time, such as Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel.

        • Is this sorta like women going around telling men, “I want you dead so my newfound right to vote will matter more?”

      • Reminds me of the “advice” my old man gave me before going to college. In short form “Son, I spent four years in the Far East in the service, did all sorts of things in all sorts of places. Never had to go see the Pharmacists Mate for a shot in the ass. First fall in college on the GI Bill, got the clap from some girl right off the farm in Indiana. Appearances deceive. Remember that.”

  14. “Success is buried in the garden of failure” as someone said, though I wouldn’t call this experimental podcast a failure. I’m curious, though, as to your more general theory of history and whether or not you agree with the “Great Man” concept. Nietzsche said “the goal of humanity lies in its highest specimens” like a Caesar or Napoleon. Do you think an idea’s “time comes” or does a big enough personality have to seize the moment? Even though this crisis has been building in the West for awhile, no one before Trump got this much traction with the issues people cared about. Tancredo got obliterated; Buchanan becomes more relevant by the day, but he still lost on the battlefield. Perot alerted people to the stench of these trade deals, but to little avail. Trump has managed to put Trade, stupid wars, and Immigration front and center, so either he just happened to be at the right place in the right time, or maybe his “four-dimensional chess” boosters were at least partially right.

    • Nietzsche did go insane, so I’d take most of his pronouncements as tainted.

      The man and the hour have to meet. The collapse of orderly society enables ambitious men to grasp power, as Caesar, Napoleon, Lenin or the Austrian lance corporal. Sometimes an apparatchik bends a party to their will as the slow, subtle path to power, as Stalin or Mao or the Clintons.

      Trump, befitting his origins, is an opportunist who correctly read the zeitgeist. Remember, Trump is a former non-ideological Democrat supporter. Trump more closely resembles a belligerent Andrew Jackson, mixed with a dose of John Hancock.

    • I think of history as having both wave and particle qualities. The great men alter the flow of events, but they are often formed by the great wave of events. Napoleon could not have existed at any other time in French history, but if he had drowned in his youth, French history would have played out different. Now, within those great currents of history are smaller currents, some so small they exist in a single lifetime. For example, the present lunacy with Progressives exists in the current generation, yet it is a part of the great super-cycle that began in the English Civil War.

      It is entirely possible that we are witnessing the end of the super-cycle that began in the English Civil War (Roundhead versus Cavalier), the end of the attenuated aftermath of the American Civil War and logical end of American Progressivism as a civic religion. The current instability and turmoil is like the confluence of three great rivers.

  15. Bah. You are your own worst critic, Z. I saw nothing wrong with that at all.

    But – as always, I find myself thrust into the role as the Devil’s Advocate. It’s all well and good to limit our reflections of today’s America to Ancient Rome.

    But the proggies in my family would come back with this: look at what arose out of the fall of Rome – the dark ages literally set the stage for the Renaissance. That set the stage for the industrial age when set the stage for the atomic age. We are on a road here and while it may be the end of us, who is to say what comes next is not going to be better…?

    That would be THEIR rebuttal, not mine. Of course my question back at them would be that this IS a mighty fine road we’re on, but where does it go and why are we in this handbasket?

    Have a great weekend Z, and the rest a you boys too!

    • So Rome was great because it set the stage for losing Rome which set the stage for getting Roman stuff back?

      • Yup—proggie logic.

        The fall of Rome was paved with good intentions—so it’s all OK.

  16. I don’t think America is declining. In fact it is improving everyday as it is getting more diverse and less homogenous. The reason things seem bleak now is because white men are having a hissy fit that they are going to have to compete on a level playing field.

    Oh by the way, it has been pretty much proven that Trump colluded with Putin and Russia to steal the election. He WILL be brought to justice VERY SOON and Russia is going to have America put the hurt on them, which is necessary for two reason: 1. Russia is not diverse and needs to be taught a lesson and 2. America needs a good fight to bring us together

    • Seriously Tiny, you add some “tiny” joy to my life. Your choice of names to post under always give me a giggle. My guess you are someone who is somewhat on the right who has been cucked by his wife and everything else in your life is despair and lament.
      (gotta feed the troll sometimes or he will die)

    • *Whistles cheerfully as he sharpens his bayonet*

      ‘Soon, my precious… soon…’

    • Obvious troll is obvious.

      “Level playing field” my ass! Affirmative action, racial set-asides, policies designed to increase diversity, etc., represent the polar opposite of a level playing field. Funny how the utopian pursuit of impossible equality requires so much discrimination against White men and Asians.

      Truth is, there will never be a level playing field. Genetics alone has made it an unattainable ideal. Choose biology over wishful thinking.

    • I thought I put an end to trolling with my “proud homosexual” post. I achieved a record -35 downvotes! I think this proves me the troll king and tiny should retire.

    • Dear Lord, can’t Brock take the dick out of his mouth long enough to come up with something more imaginative to send out to you guys? This is actually a serious place and we expect any troll to bring some gravitas, not stale Politico boilerplate.

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