Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Empire Falls Back

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

We've grown up with a Christian-Roman version of European and world history, primarily the Fall of Rome. The Romans --we are taught --created a great empire characterized by a sophisticated system of arrow-straight roads that made possible commerce and travel from the far flung reaches of empire from Briton to Constantinople, from Carthage to Germania.

Just outside the borders of empire, we are taught, lived uncivilized, untutored barbarian hordes intent upon harassing, plundering, threatening the Pax Romana that defined the Greatest Empire the world had ever seen. The term Pax Romana always rang false with me. Was it ever at peace but, rather, an Orwellian perpetual war, the 'corporatized' taking of human life required to keep the Leviathan afloat?

Much speculation about the fall of Rome is false. Fundamentalist Christians in America believe Rome fell because it indulged orgies, homosexuality and the feeding of Christians to lions. The more informed may cite Gibbon and sum up the fall of Rome in a phrase: loss of civic virtue. While no one pretends that Rome was in all ways and all times virtuous, the 'loss of civic virtue' applies as well to fiscal profligacy, arrogance and, perhaps most importantly, the consequences of conquest.

Conquest is thought necessary by nation-states like Rome, forgetting that an imperially ambitious nation substitutes conquest for real productivity. Instead of employing persons, Rome seized their farms and sent them off on wars of aggression and conquest. Obvious examples are Dacia and Gaul both of which Rome invaded for 'gold'. More recently, George W. Bush attacked and invaded Iraq for its oil. Little has changed but names and commodities. If you are still inclined to believe the Bushco cover story, please tell me how many bona fide terrorists were captured by Bush and cite a scintilla of evidence that they were anything but Iraqis defending their nation, their homes and families, against an aggressor, a thief, a war criminal. If the Bushco case against 'detainees' at Guantanamo and elsewhere were sound, then why did Bushco so adamantly deny them 'due process' or protections afforded them under the principles of the Geneva Convention? What had Bush to hide but war crimes and atrocities?

More than ever, I remain unimpressed with the assertion that the attack and invasion of Iraq had anything whatsoever to do with the faux 'war on terrorism'! Without an 'imminent threat', the U.S. attack and invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq are war crimes as are illegal detentions, torture, murder and other atrocities.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Iraq had anything to do with 911. Someone in the Bush administration had a bright idea: "let's call the opposition to U.S. aggression and conquest by the name 'Insurgent'!" I would not be surprised to learn that this 'phrase' was tested by a DC based consulting firm and focus group.

It takes tremendous courage to speak out against the machine, the Evil Empire, Moloch, Big Brother, the M.I.C. When the Crown persisted against the colonies, William Pitt rose to protest in Parliament:
If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms! Never! Never! Never!

--William Pitt,
Many of Rome's enemies were at least as civilized as Rome and, by some standards, more so. Former 'Flying Circus' mainstay Terry Jones, a medieval scholar with several documentaries to his credit, may have pinpointed the source of many myths about Rome --Rome itself. It was Rome, primarily --not its conquered provinces --that wrote its history. Like American historians biased against the Native Americans, Roman historians were surely biased against non-Roman civilizations. The 'Empire' may have written off its conquered as 'uncivilized, savage and barbaric' though many were 'organized, motivated and intelligent individually and in groups, tribes, cities, nations'. Few, if any, posed an 'imminent threat' to Rome. Few, if any, had intentions of overthrowing Rome or plundering the empire. There may have been no terrorist threat to the citizens of Rome. The story of Rome from the point of view of the Britons, German, Gauls, Greeks, Persians, and Africans, is, perhaps, a foretaste of the contrarian history of the United States that is sure to be written.
The Vandals didn't vandalize - the Romans did. The Goths didn't sack Rome - the Romans did. Attila the Hun didn't go to Constantinople to destroy it, but because the Emperor's daughter wanted to marry him. And far from civilizing the societies they conquered the Romans often destroyed much of what they found.

--Terry Jones' Barbarians

Terry Jones vs The Empire
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Chris Stafford said...

What a fascinating video. Thank you for that. I've always been fond of Julius Ceaser's descriptions of Gaul - a dark, sinister land where the Gauls hang their captors from trees and death lurks around every corner. But, I guess he had ulterior motives. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks to Jones for digging up the truth. And thanks Len for including this with your excellent essay.

Keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...

The barbarians were subsistence farmers trying to live in peace. The Romans were capitalists, sucking the blood from hard working villaqers and farmers. It's unfortunate that the Capitalist PIGS are still around today. Until we face reality and are prepared to die for our principles, like the Vietnamese and JFK, we are ignorant sacrificial lambs. We deserve what we get.

William said...

I concur with Chris, a fascinating video.

It proves conclusively that history is written by the victors of conflict, and "woe to the vanquished".

Things are certainly no different here in AmeriKKKa, as careful study has shown time and time again. The textbooks from which our children "learn" are carefully constructed narratives designed to bolster the "city on the hill" fiction. That our history is at variance with historical fact becomes ever more clear, as information continues to be disseminated from reputable sources, largely via the internet.

The "Owners" cannot afford to have this information become common knowledge, hence videos such as this one will rarely, if ever, be shown by the MSM.

My sincerest appreciation to you, Len, for my continuing education. Rest assured that when my grandchildren begin to bring their history books home from School, I intend to make them aware of the untold stories.

Unknown said...

Anonymous sez...

The barbarians were subsistence farmers trying to live in peace.

I agree with everything else you say about Rome. Certainly, you are correct: the 'society' of Rome was 'top heavy' and elitist. Like the U.S. today, a tiny percentage at the top owned almost everything. Wars of aggression were 'perped' on their behalf --just as U.S. wars are waged to benefit just one percent of the U.S. population.

The great fire of Rome points up the extreme disparities of wealth and income in Rome. Rome burned because everything not owned by the nobility was a fire hazard due to extreme and widespread poverty.

Your analogies to U.S. empire are right on target.

Respectfully, however, Jones argues persuasively that the so-called 'barbarians' had a stronger, broader based economy than did Rome. They were not really 'subsistence' farmers. That they were not was perhaps their downfall. Both the Celts and 'Dacia' were rich in gold. Rome did not have any gold but the gold plundered in conquest. Rome had been essentially bankrupt for quite some time. The control of trade motivated Rome's conquest of Carthage which was at the time in a position to dominate trade throughout the Mediterranean and beyond the 'pillars of Hercules'. Certainly, the coliseum was popular with the masses for whom wealth DID NOT TRICKLE DOWN. The were penniless; the 'games' kept them distracted with 'bread and circuses'.

Only one class benefited from Rome's conquests: a ruling elite, an increasingly tiny percentage of the imperial population. Like the U.S. today, all classes but the tiny ruling elite got poorer. By the time the Praetorian Guard literally sold the empire to Didius Julianus the sale was transacted in Greek Drachmas --not worthless Roman sesterces.

Julius Caesar's conquest of Britain was clearly motivated by stories of the riches that could be plundered in that far flung Island.

Jones makes the point that the European Celtic tribes were more loosely allied than the 'top-down' authoritarian empire. Celtic trade, in fact, very nearly surrounded Rome and extended farther than even the empire. Their science and mathematics was superior to Rome.

Secondly, the new excavations are, at last, revealing sophisticated cities, a network of interconnected roads and trade routes, luxurious clothes, a more egalitarian society. At last. their calendar was much more precise that the crude calender used in Rome where some holidays were celebrated MONTHS out of season.

The so-called 'barbarians' were likewise advanced in their treatment of women who were at least equal to men and, in some cases, superior. Women, also, were not denied positions of authority, leadership and power. The most famous case is that of the Iceni Queen Boudicca who very nearly drove the Romans out of Britain.

Were these people REALLY barbarians? I don't think so.

Crazy Liberal said...

Whoa! The parallels between ancient Rome, Nazi Germany and the U.S. are amazing in the video.

In the U.S. it reminds me of Manifest Destiny (a total scam), the Vietnam fiasco, Desert Storm and the recent wars we have going on now. Actually, they were/are all scams to keep the MIC well fed.

Saddam Hussein was a threat bent on destroying America (Yeah right!). And now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is acquiring nuclear weapons (Booga Booga! Run for your lifes!). Let's attack Iran before they attack us (Read: Iran's got oil, let's attack and enrich the one percent U.S. elite even more.)!

*Sigh* Unfortunately, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Crazy Liberal said...

Oh yeah, how can I forget. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Uncalled-for.

Anonymous said...

Another case of the machine replacing the human. Roman military tactics, with hard training and harsh discipline, kept the Romans on top of the heap for hundreds of years.
No matter that many of the societies they conquered were far more humane than the SPQR guys.
Another tragedy.
Thanks for posting this.
Don Smith

Dago B. said...

Nice essay, and the similarities between (military)empires are ongoing.
Interesting refences to the Celts, who were multitheist, and apparently far less Patrician in their cultures.

Women owned property and fought & traded alongside the men, and were not seen as chattels.
The Celts are still found throughout Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Wales, Switzerland, Turkey, Bulgaria...etc etc.) and are flourishing, the Romans have been confined to Rome!.

Anonymous said...

9/11 not 911...

Grung_e_Gene said...

Economics brought down the empire and the need for more and more wars to energize the economic base, combined with the loss of competent civil base or officials and most likely a plague and misunderstanding of agriculture.

Anonymous said...

Wow!!!!!!!!!!americans with a freaking clue about whats going on. This in spite of living in a hyperbalic chamber of bullshit. I salute u all.