A few days ago I initiated a response to the basic question of, has history repeated itself? Moreover, do we face some of the same challenges of prior civilizations with different names and different technology but with similar concerns and even similar outcome? It’s a difficult question to answer without gnawing away at reams of historical information. I noted a few similarities in the previous segment. I will summarize and draw some conclusions in Part III but understanding history is like reading a detective story, ultimately you are left to your own conclusions.
“Notwithstanding the propensity of mankind to exalt the past and to depreciate the present, the tranquil and prosperous state of the empire was warmly felt, and honestly confessed, by the provincials as well as Romans.” [Edward Gibbon author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire]
The symbol of the Roman state was their sacred bird, an Eagle.
Romans had their own polytheistic religious beliefs borrowed from the Greeks but given new names with slightly different personae.
Jupiter was chief ruler of the sky and personified law & authority. Roman Consuls swore an oath in his name before taking office.
Juno was Jupiter’s wife and sister, a daughter of Saturn and the mother of Juventas, Mars, and Vulcan. She was a part of a triad along with Jupiter and Minerva. They were worshiped on the Capitol (Juno Capitolina) in Rome.
Minerva was born full-grown directly from Jupiter’s head. She was the goddess of wisdom. Her other responsibilities were crafts, poetry, arts, education, and medicine.
Mars was the war-god who represented military power. He secured the safety of Rome but also had a peaceful side. Mars was conceived through a simple touch of the goddess of spring Flora on the belly of Juno. Mars was the patron of agriculture. Mars was very important as he was considered the father of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.
Venus was the Roman god of love, she was the personification of beauty and love. Venus was accompanied by her son Cupid, whose arrows instilled desire in the hearts of his targets. She was the mother of Aeneas who fled Greece after the Trojan War and brought civilization to Italy. This started the bloodline of Romulus and Remus, said to be the co-founders of Rome.
When a Roman leader displayed the standard of the republic, each able citizen swore an oath in obligation to draw his sword in the cause of his country till he had discharged a sacred duty of military service for ten years. The Roman Republic, sometimes lost battles, always victorious in war, advanced the empire borders to the west the Atlantic ocean; the Rhine and Danube on the north; the Euphrates on the east; and towards the south, the sandy deserts of Arabia and Africa. Over time the interaction with the indigenous people with their customs and vice and the financial problems of the state became greater than the aristocracy or the citizens could maintain.
Gibbon describes the culture changes were gradual but systemic. Constantine used Christianity in its beneficial, though imperfect effect on uniting the people as they had previously become fragmented in the prior two centuries. If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the many vices available before and after Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and decreased the ferocious temper of the later conquerors. Malice, ambition, moral turpitude, kindled a flame of discord giving rise to the decay from within. Romans became less interested in serving the state and more involved with acts of homosexuality, bestiality and frequent public ceremony. They loved a good party. (panem et circenses), “Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt”, said a first century poet lamenting the decline of the Roman Republic into dictatorship.
Army generals became leaders of the empire, and corruption was rampant. The military was transformed into a mercenary army with little loyalty to Rome. As money problems grew, the government hired the cheaper and less reliable Germanic soldiers to fight in Roman armies. In the end, these armies were defending Rome against fellow Germanic tribesmen.
Germanic barbarian tribes swept through the Roman Empire after the decline of the military. Groups such as the Visigoths, Vandals, Angles, Saxons, Franks, Ostrogoths, and Lombards attacking in turns decimated the Empire, eventually carving out areas for themselves to live. The Angles and Saxons populated the British Isles, and the Franks settled in France.
In 476 C.E. Romulus, the last of the Roman emperors in the west, was overthrown by the Germanic leader Odoacer, who became the first Barbarian to rule in Rome. The Roman Empire was brought down after nearly 1000 years.
It’s difficult to be objective and comprehensive in analysis of contemporary time because the changes are continual and gradual. It’s easy as I started with a quote from Edward Gibbon, to romance the past and decry the present. None the less there are indications we aren’t moving in a positive direction.
The Roman Republic started as a rebellion against tyranny. Their society evolved to include a wider group of people. Throughout its long history it often times was at war from within, and more often campaigning in distant lands to conquer and bring back wealth gathered after conquest.
They formulated methods to govern, wrote out laws to follow and created the largest and mightiest army of their time. They created a system of roads to improve transportation, divided agriculture and business zones and engineered public works for sewer and water well ahead of their time.
As described the Roman Republic destabilized gradually until the final tipping point and total collapse of the presiding government. Before that occurred however, internal conflict and catastrophe were often exploited to expand the power base of the ruling class. The public treasury was continuously drawn from to enhance the ‘feel good public celebrations’ and food give away program.
Written laws were ignored to the benefit of some and the imprisonment of others. Dictators took over using populist themes or through subversive acts of assassination & betrayal. And so we are brought into our time to see if comparisons can be made.
Where is the United States in the course of current events?
Are we on our way down or merely going through another transitional period?
The Strauss–Howe generational theory, created by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, identifies a recurring generational cycle in American history. What many of us naturally understand about the differences in generational thinking has been extensively researched and published in their 1991 book ‘Generations’. In 1997, they wrote a book called, ‘The Fourth Turning’. In it the authors expand their generational theory to focus on a fourfold cycle of generational types and recurring mood eras in American history.
The theory was developed to describe the history of the United States, including the 13 colonies and their Anglo antecedents, where their most detailed research has been done. The authors have also examined generational trends throughout the world and identified similar cycles in several developed countries.
Neil Howe studied what he believed to be America’s entitlement attitude of the 1980s and co-authored with Peter George Peterson, ‘On Borrowed Time: How America’s entitlement ego puts America’s future at risk of Bankruptcy’.
It’s difficult even with exacting scholarship to describe the steps followed and the consequences of a nation in ascendancy or in peril. Three of the areas which I’ve focused on in the past to explain serious future difficulties that lay ahead, are of the following:
- Confusing or equivocal interpretation of existing fundamental law. The example I would suggest is how our Constitution is gradually altered or undermined by the elected officials and judicial fiat.
- Poor fiscal policy where a permanent trend in spending from the public treasury is greater than public income. The difference between those two is made up annually through an increase in borrowing which grows to the point where the only option is to increase (quantitative ease) the amount of currency in circulation.
- Unethical behavior from public officials including but not limited to machination of events, cover-ups, bribes, and social networking within a confined group to advance career as well as power.
Current violation of our basic constitutional rights routinely occur however, there’s always a purported justification. Traditional media seems to always side with the government. The recent revelations of Edward Snowden explaining all telephone and email communications are recorded by the NSA for citizens in the US, doesn’t seem to arouse the ire of the public or most of the media. People have been routinely stopped, their vehicles searched without warrant. In some instances when a police officer is filmed during a stop or interrogation, the camera is confiscated and the individual is beaten or arrested. In some case arrests are made of U.S. citizens, indefinitely imprisoned without trial for years. Authorization from the highest executive has been given to use Drones in assassination, even of U.S. citizens.
There isn’t a current long term viable fiscal policy. Each time the debt limit is reached a new increase is passed under threat of shutting all (non-essential) government services down. At some point, reality will take over and there will be a shutdown as other nations lose confidence in our fiscal management and our ability to repay becomes questionable. This will signal the end of our Republic.
In recent months we’ve seen public officials from the Attorney General, the State Department and to the IRS brought before Congressional committee to investigate nefarious activities. Each time you could watch and learn from people practiced in deception and double-speak. Whenever the heat gets too high on one or more questionable activities, a public event or social hot topic is used as a smoke screen or diversion. See these posts for additional background details.
Final comment of comparison; we stand at the brink of participating in another war in the middle-east. Back in 2007, Joe Biden wanted to impeach President George Bush if he went to war in Iran without congressional authorization. As V.P. he now seems to be willing to go to war with Syria. If you go to this website, you’re likely going to see their recommendations put into policy by the Obama administration.
Abraham Lincoln – shot on April 14, 1865. His assassin, John Wilkes Booth escaped, tracked down and was shot and killed. Conspirators who helped plan Lincoln’s assassination were found guilty and hung. Lincoln died on April 15, 1865.
James Garfield – Charles J. Guiteau, shot Garfield on July 2, 1881. The president did not die until September 19th of blood poisoning. Guiteau was convicted of murder and hanged on June 30, 1882.
William McKinley – shot twice by anarchist Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901. He died on September 14, 1901. Czolgosz said he shot McKinley because he was an enemy of working people. He was convicted of the murder and electrocuted on October 29, 1901.
John F. Kennedy – On November 22, 1963, shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. His apparent assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed by Jack Ruby before standing trial. The Warren Commission was called to investigate Kennedy’s death and found Oswald had acted alone to kill Kennedy. Many others argued and investigated he wasn’t acting alone, a theory upheld by a 1979 House Committee investigation. The FBI and a 1982 study disagreed. Speculation continues to this day.
Other attempted Presidential assassinations:
- Andrew Jackson
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Franklin Roosevelt
- Harry Truman
- Gerald Ford
- Ronald Reagan
In spite of these murderous acts no known plot to take over the government was attempted. The closest to that idea was at the time of the Lincoln assassination whereby the leadership of the Union north were all to be killed that night. No standby leadership waited in the wings should that plan have been successful.
- Does history repeat itself? Part II (mikeliving.wordpress.com)
- A Primer on the Governments of Ancient Rome (history.answers.com)
- The Fall of the Roman Empire online (uqpipufa.wordpress.com)
- Who’s Really the Last Roman Emperor? (historyrepublic.wordpress.com)
- The fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Islam (3quarksdaily.com)
- Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire (History Channel – time-line)