|My friend Kahunah at Dogs of Atlantis and I are having a debate over what the current state of our country is. He sees it resembling the end of the Weimar Republic, and I thought of Rome. I told him our loss of the Soviet Union as rival was akin to Rome losing Carthage. And, to quote Augustine:|
“Moreover, a people becomes avaricious and luxurious by prosperity; and it was this which that very prudent man [P. Cornelius Scipio] Nasica was endeavoring to avoid when he opposed the destruction of the greatest, strongest, wealthiest city of Rome's enemy. He thought that thus fear would act as a curb on lust, and that lust being curbed would not run riot in luxury, and that luxury being prevented avarice would be at an end; and that these vices being banished, virtue would flourish and increase the great profit of the state; and liberty, the fit companion of virtue, would abide unfettered.”
-- Augustinus, Bishop of Hippo, City of God, I, 31
Scipio Nasica lost his case, and Carthage was despoiled.
The result of this? Consider the following, written in 1961 during the days of the Kennedy White House -- considered by many as our last days of innocence:
“Wherever crowds gather in suffocating numbers, wherever rents rise steeply and housing conditions deteriorate, wherever a one-sided exploitation of distant territories removes the pressure to achieve balance and harmony nearer at hand, there the precedents of Roman building almost automatically revive, as they have today: the arena, the tall tenement, the mass contests and exhibitions, the football matches, the international beauty contests, the strip tease made ubiquitous by advertisement, the constant titillation of the senses by sex, liquor and violence -- all in true Roman style. So, too, the multiplication of bathrooms and over-expenditure on broadly-paved motor roads and, above all, the massive collective concentration on glib ephemeralities of all kinds, performed with supreme technical audacity. These symptoms are the end: magnification of demoralized power, minifications of life. When these signs multiply, Necropolis is near, though not a stone has yet crumbled. For the barbarian has already captured the city from within.”
-- Lewis Mumford, The City in History (New York: 1961), p 262; quoted in Arthur Kahn, The Education of Julius Caesar (New York: 1986), p. x.
Not too long after 1961 -- indeed, perhaps because of Kennedy sucessfully standing up to the Soviet premier, Russia declined as a power and fell apart. And the threat of Russian reply held the United States in check from anything too extreme. As did our reply check the Kremlin. And both of which kept Germany divided long enough to prevent her rise to power again [unlike the Treaty of Versailles, which attempted to do the same thing]. Without them, who is to check us from devolving into a war such as Rome had with her Italian allies 90 B. C. over the question of Citizenship? Or check us from the next generation after that war, when Julius Caesar wound up witnessing the fall of the Roman Republic?