There is more to life than the Democrats’ impeachment farce and American politics – the modern-day equivalent of the Romans’ “bread and circuses.” At least, I think there is! Anyway, that was the political tactic used by the Caesars to keep average Romans happy – and distracted.
Speaking of the Romans, a lot of people these days could benefit from some historical lessons-learned from Roman civilization and its subsequent demise. Are the antics of the Deep State that are being exposed almost daily a sign of the “end times” insofar as the American Republic is concerned? This National Geographic article provides some fascinating insights into the political and military careers of Julius Caesar, and of the values of the Roman Republic of his times (for better or worse, from our modern perspective). It’s very worthwhile reading on a number of levels and is well-illustrated – sort of like a travelogue. Here are a few excerpts from a great article:
The morning of September 21, 46 B.C., was a day of celebration for the citizens of Rome. A general was about to claim the highest honor a Roman could receive: a triumph, a spectacular celebration in which he paraded through the streets flaunting his prisoners of war and spoils of victory. This day promised to be like none other before it: Today was the first of four triumphs, all held to honor the same man, Julius Caesar. Over the next two weeks, Rome could look forward to three more giant parades.
By celebrating Caesar, Rome was also celebrating itself, because this general had enlarged and enriched the republic like no other man before him. In the Roman Republic, generals requested triumphs, but it was the Senate that granted them—only if a victory met a series of conditions. The win had to be a major battle (with a minimum of 5,000 enemy casualties) that ended a war.
While the Senate deliberated, the general would wait outside the city gates. If he failed to qualify for a full-blown triumph, he could be granted an ovatio (ovation), a slightly lesser celebration. In a city that viewed monarchs with distrust, the general would be allowed to be “king for a day.” Dressed in royal purple, he would ride in a quadriga, a carriage drawn by four horses. In his hands, he would hold an ivory scepter and a laurel branch. On his head was both a laurel wreath and a golden crown held by a slave, who was also given the task of whispering into the general’s ear reminders of his mortality.
In 60 B.C., Caesar had earned enough acclaim and power to form a powerful political alliance, the First Triumvirate, with Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus. Although these men were allies, they were also wary of one another, for each one had great power and influence. After Crassus’s death in 53 B.C., the relationship between Pompey and Caesar deteriorated into enmity. Confrontation eventually became unavoidable, and they finally faced each other in a four-year civil war.
Caesar was victorious, defeating Pompey’s forces at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 B.C. Pompey the Great fled to Egypt, where the pharaoh Ptolemy (Cleopatra’s brother) had him murdered, an act which disturbed Caesar, who, despite being an adversary of the general, still saw him as a Roman. The legacy of his former ally turned enemy would trouble Caesar as he turned to his future in Rome.
Before civil war broke out, Caesar had already chalked up some astounding military victories. Between 58 and 50 B.C., his forces waged a series of campaigns in Gaul, conquering new territory for Rome and defeating several Gallic tribes. The climax of the Gallic Wars came in 52 B.C. when the Romans won the Battle of Alesia, defeating a confederation of tribes led by Gallic chief Vercingetorix. Victories in Gaul, Egypt, and Pontus qualified Caesar for three triumphs, but he did not hesitate to ask the Senate for a fourth. Caesar scored a victory that led to the downfall of the remnants of Pompey’s forces, the defeat of King Juba I of Numidia in North Africa.
Parading captured foreign enemies before the populace was enthusiastically welcomed. Traditionally, they would be presented in chains or cages before the crowds and then executed. It had been six years since Vercingetorix’s defeat, and the Gallic commander had been in prison ever since. As part of his triumph, Caesar paraded the vanquished leader through the streets of Rome and then had him executed on Capitoline Hill. In addition to the processions, Caesar spared no expense for grand entertainments for the Roman people. Appian described the action:
[Caesar] put on various shows. There was horse-racing, and musical contests, and combats—one with a thousand foot soldiers opposing another thousand, another with 200 cavalry on each side, and another that was a mixed infantry and cavalry combat, as well as an elephant fight with twenty beasts a side and a naval battle with 4,000 oarsmen plus a thousand marines on each side to fight.
Caesar generously rewarded his troops with 20,000 sesterces—far beyond what they would have earned in a lifetime. He also gave a magnanimous sum of 400 sesterces to every citizen, distributed food, and staged gladiatorial combats and athletic events. The triumphs were long remembered for their pomp and splendor, but some historians believe they stirred up opposition to the conquering hero. To some, the grandstanding was at odds with Rome’s republican values of simplicity, discipline, dignity, and virtue. Caesar had spent extravagant sums on self-promotion, causing several Roman senators—such as Cassius, and Brutus—to grow wary of him, wondering what his true motivations might be.
Read the rest here. And we all know how that ended, don’t we? Et tu, Brute? Self-promotion frequently leads to political demise, as one of the worst “Seven Deadly Sins” is envy. We see that in play BIGLY among the political class as they grind their teeth watching POTUS’s political successes, don’t we?
Getting back to the Romans, I thank a long-time pal and erudite scholar for the inspiration and some of the content for portions of the next couple of paragraphs. It is easy for classicists – and those who actually benefited from a true “liberal education” that was heavy on the history of Western civilization and the classics – to appreciate how all-conquering Roman generals during their triumphal parades would be followed by their legions loudly singing bawdy couplets about their general’s vices, peculiarities, and infirmities (e.g., Julius Caesar was described by his soldiers as a “bald whore-monger”) in order to remind him of his humble imperfect humanity.
Also, a literate slave would be assigned to ride with the triumphant general in his golden chariot, holding a gold crown over his laureled head, but by tradition, the slave also would have to whisper in the general’s ear admonishments that he was neither a king nor a god but a mere mortal! Apparently, such wisdom against the sins of pride and arrogance did not endure with Augustus and all his post-Caesar successors. Think about Emperor Nero and the weak Caesars who presided over Rome’s decline and fall!
It is interesting to note that virtually ALL the Hollywood movies about Roman times ALWAYS portrayed the Romans as hopelessly corrupt, evil, amoral bloodthirsty oppressors, plotters and schemers against Christians, Jews, slaves, defiant Gauls, or Greeks, etc. Mel Brooks’ 1966 comedy, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” is memorable, what with Roman characters such as “Erronius” and “Hysterium” et al). The 2016 attempt at Roman comedy, “Hail Caesar,” was less memorable. The likely reason for the anti-Roman movie portrayals is the dominant Judeo-Christian tradition in Hollywood that will never excuse the Romans for crucifying Jesus, persecuting Christians for 300 years, and crushing a series of Essene/Jewish revolts in the early Empire.
Never mind the cultural, artistic, scientific, and engineering advancements made by the largest and wealthiest empire of its time. People tend to forget that “The Dark Ages” commenced after the fall of the Roman Empire! What is to be learned from the Romans? They’ve been studied for centuries, and many have provided their thoughts on that front. I will leave the art, science, and engineering lessons-learned to others and concentrate on a few political comments. Here are my two cents:
- Weak leadership. The “Caesars” (or “emperors”) in the declining years of the Roman Empire were weak and indecisive. A lot were murdered/assassinated by political enemies and even their own Praetorian guard. Frequent leadership changes resulted in inconsistent long-term policies, a waste of resources, and the exacerbation of political factions. This led to rampant partisanship and the advent of military dictatorships in order to “get things done” due to lack of compromise. One could argue that that’s exactly what we’ve seen since the Reagan era. Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama pale in comparison to the strong leadership in the Age of Trump. The ongoing resistance of the Deep State, Uniparty, and the legacy media to the Trump presidency is similar to the early stages of the political divisions in the Roman Empire.
- Corruption. Roman politicians had difficulty separating public and private responsibility and resources associated with each. Public resources were reallocated into the pockets of the politicians, and public services declined, leading to dissent among average Romans. We’ve been exposed to Uniparty corruption BIGLY over the past three years! We have gotten a glimpse of that in action as relates to the spike in US foreign aid to Ukraine during the Obama years, and Hunter Biden, Paul Pelosi, and others cashing in on kickbacks and payoffs. This has enraged a large slice of Americans and exacerbated the political division between Left and Right in the US to the point that many people claim we are already engaged in a “cold civil war.”
- Collapse of the middle class. The Roman middle class was crushed by cheap overseas slave labor brought in from all of the nations conquered as the Empire expanded its boundaries over the centuries. It was cheaper to own and use slaves than pay middle-class Romans! In the US, two policies foisted by the political class on the country have had a similar effect in depressing the American middle class. The first was the “free trade” incentives provided to offshore US manufacturing to countries like China, Japan, and Mexico. This created the Rust Belt in the Upper Midwest and destroyed thousands of middle-class jobs. The second policy was open borders which has led to a flood of illegal immigrants competing with Americans for low-wage jobs and depressing wages in general
- Multi-culturalism. The Romans attempted to absorb all of the nations they conquered into their Empire. Their strategy included letting vassal states maintain their own cultural heritages as long as they acknowledged Roman rule and paid their taxes. They didn’t press assimilation, which left the cultural divides, resentments, and political frictions in place. This also led to degeneracy and a loss of virtue as Roman ethical and moral principles disappeared, affecting the Roman society and their government. We are seeing the rise of multi-culturalism and retreat of assimilation in the US. The Democrats/Uniparty have been pushing “diversity” – a code word for multi-culturalism – down our collective throats for decades. The result? The Muslim Brotherhood in the Obama regime, the Squad in Congress, the use of English submerged in the public square, importation and dispersal of people who refuse to assimilate in growing pockets around the country, and the frictions which result.
- From volunteers to a paid professional army. The Roman legions absorbed personnel from conquered nations because the Romans themselves couldn’t produce enough men themselves due to their penchant for endless wars of expansion and conquest. Eventually, they had to pay hard currency to foreigners to man the legions, which politicized their ranks and turned generals commanding those legions into politicians. And some of those generals upset the political order and became dictators. We haven’t quite gotten there yet in the US, but there is no doubt that the flag/general officer ranks have become politicized especially during the Obama regime. And we’ve allowed foreigners to earn their US citizenship by joining the US military.
- Foreign wars. In my mind, this was perhaps the biggest contributor to the downfall of the Roman Empire. Romans were either fighting a war, recovering from a war, or preparing for a war since the days of Romulus and Remus. Wars of conquest, wars of expansion, wars for resources, wars for fame and glory, etc. The Roman Empire was almost always on a war footing even during times of peace. The endless wars contributed to many of the other issues cited above, including multi-culturalism, the collapse of the middle class, the shift to a professional army, and even corruption. The wars were a big drain on the Empire’s resources, too. The American Uniparty is all-in for endless wars in the Middle East these days. We’ve been “at war” since 9/11/01 with no end in sight. What are the mission success and exit criteria for US military forces in any of the countries to which they’re deployed in the Middle East? How many more dispirited paraplegics or people with PTSD do we need? How many more trillions do we need to spend, and to what end?
There are parallels between the Roman Empire and the US, and some of the root causes for the Roman Empire’s demise exist in modern America, especially over the past couple of decades in which most Americans have been virtually asleep while the Left have taken over America’s cultural institutions. The trend in America is not good but could be reversed with concerted effort, but that will require a political consensus to do so that does not currently exist. In fact, there is a large swath of erstwhile Americans who support open borders, multi-culturalism, and the cultural rot that persists. Changing their minds will be a real challenge, that duty from which patriotic Americans cannot shirk if the Republic is to be preserved. I expect more than a few Roman senators (and others) thought much the same way during the first few centuries A.D., but they apparently did nothing more than delay the inevitable.
What will be the fate of the American Republic? A cultural and spiritual renewal, or a continuing slide to oblivion as happened to the Roman Empire? It’s in our hands, folks. Demanding justice be served to ALL of the coup participants, no matter how high or how low, would be a great start!