A View From My Window – Pt. 1

| August 25, 2019

1967 Blizzard

This interesting Telegraph article from 2005 is a take on how/why Rome “fell”. It seems to be an exaggeration because Rome as an empire was already split into provinces with local caesars and subcaesars. This eventually formed the basis for what became the various nations and rulerships of Europe, and, no, the Barbarians did not destroy Rome. The Empire as a governing entity had already fallen into decay and was done by 476 AD with the death of Romulus Augustulus. The article linked reviews books on the subject by authors with differing views.


How do we compare, and how would anyone prognosticate the future of the USA based on past history? I don’t think we’ve peaked yet, but that the “peak” will likely come when people decide to leave for other planets (e.g., Mars) because they don’t like Earth any more. There is a distinct difference between the Roman Imperium, which was a class-based society, and the USofA, which is not. As we’ve frequently seen, having lots of cash does not mean you have any “class” at all.

In the Imperium, if you were born into a family of tax collectors, that was what you were, period. There was no wiggle room. Even if you had a bright idea, you had no chance to do anything with it. In the USA, the opportunities to choose your own path to follow have been with us since the start of Europeans moving to North America and deciding what they wanted to do with their lives. The only ‘stuck in the mud’ group is the hyperwealthy – ‘but we’ve always been lawyers, why do you want to be a cowboy?’ Even that has eroded over time.

A quote at the end of the article: “Bryan Ward-Perkins’s “but” is based on a mass of closely interpreted archaeological evidence. Setting his face firmly against scholarly fashion, which dictates that everything about “Europe” must be “positive” and that no cultures are allowed to be more sophisticated than others, he argues that the demise of Rome led to a collapse of general living standards from the 5th to the 7th centuries so severe that the result was effectively “the end of civilisation”.

Because Rome’s complex and highly developed economic, social, military and cultural infrastructure folded with the empire, a huge range of material goods, taken for granted across the whole Roman world by rich and poor alike, could no longer be produced, let alone delivered. No more fine pottery in massive quantities from far-off places for any who wanted it; little by way of coinage, or brick, tile and stone building (and what there was, like churches, much smaller than before); luxury goods only for the few, and these locally produced; agricultural productivity in decline; severely restricted levels of literacy (no more of those Pompeian walls covered in graffiti); insecurity the norm. Simplicity was the order of the day and the effects were felt from peasants to kings. It took centuries to get things back to where they had once been.

Edward Gibbon argued that this world was inherently unstable, doomed to collapse. Peter Heather disagrees. Multiple emperors, admittedly, did cause sporadic and dangerous civil wars. But the problems generated by, for example, slow communications over massive distances, rigid economies and reactive bureaucracies were not new; tax increases to pay for the military did not lead to revolt, since provincials still saw benefits outweighing disadvantages…. – article

The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather and The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization by Bryan Ward-Perkins  — both are available directly from Amazon for about $14++ each.

While there are many similarities between the USA and Rome, partly based on the fact that until the Roman Senate elected Gaius Julius Caesar as its Dictator (Monitor and Primary Speaker), Rome was a republic. The Republic was voted out by the Senate and the Imperium came into existence. The observation that Rome’s real issues were slow communications, among other things, is valid. If the  Imperium had, at the time, had the instant telecommunications we take for granted now, and the speedy transportation systems that have been in place since the first cross-continental rail line was built in the 19th century, they might still be in business.

To be clear on how much we’ve advanced, when my family lived on a farm in the 1950s, we had to put up with a party line. Party lines were still in place in some areas in 1968.  The first home refrigerators, the monitor top machines, became available in the 1920s. Until closed stoves such as woodburning ranges were developed, people cooked their food in the fireplace, whether it was in the center of the home or in the kitchen. Central heating did not exist until the development of the home furnace and forced air, usually fired with coal. I used to go down to the basement and help my Dad pull the clinkers out of the bottom of the furnace.  And road salt was not used in the winter: it was the cinders, which were tossed out and ground to small particles and spread on the road surface. We also had snowchains on the tires for the winter months.

The bulk of what we take for granted comes in the last 90 to 130 years. This includes the electricity we all take for granted by flipping the wall switches or plugging something into an outlet. When our local power outage happened last winter (388,000 people lost power) in the middle of a sloppy ice/snow storm, restoring power to the entire county took from the 1 AM notice to the power company until 6:30 PM.

And yet, the entire power grid in the UK failed earlier this month, causing a national blackout, because the eco-friendly wind power grid failed completely and its backup, a gas-fired power plant, failed.  https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-7367413/Renewable-energy-blackout-risk-warns-National-Grid-outage.html

And this is exactly why we must never take such things as electricity for granted.

Rome took a long time to disintegrate. The eastern Western Roman Empire had already begun to disintegrate, as noted above, while the Western Eastern Roman Empire, located in Constantinople remained stable and survived.

If we pay attention, we can prevent the same collapse. If we take what we have for granted, well….

More later.

Category: "The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves"

Comments (24)

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  1. AW1Ed says:

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    – George Santayana

    I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive.”
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

    “But not yet.”
    – AW1Ed

    Thanks, Ex. Good read on a lazy Sunday, and looking forward to Part 2.

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    Outstanding Mi’Lady. There you go again, bring historical facts into the argument. History is replete with examples of empires/dynasties ect failing from with in. I personally believe this is why history is not really taught in the US school systems much. What better way to control the population if the do not realize that it is deja vu all over again. A person has the ability to do and/or become anything that they want in our country, all it requires is the desire and the drive to achieve. No one holds anyone back other than themselves. History is also replete with examples of those who have exceeded against all odds.

    You are correct too in the taking for granted the power grid. If one had to look at the main thing that has improved the standard of living for the whole world, it would have to be the harnessing of electricity. Without a steady, reliable power supply, life as we know it would grind to a halt. No water flowing thru the pumps, food spoiling within a few days, and people dying left and right without climate control. The list goes on.

    When the power went down on evening past the FIRST thing I did was check my cell phone. It working told me that it wasn’t an EMP strike, just something broke. Granted it was a major something, but I knew that already, the poco (power company) boys and girls were already being dispatched on the trouble. Right behind them were the Ma Bell Techs. We have portable generators to plug into the remote SLIC sites for when the back up batteries drain down. If you still have a land line at home, keep you an old school hard wire phone handy, it will generally still work where the electronic phones that require ac power won’t. Had me some coldbeers and read my books by candlelight. Poco had the blown out transformer substation repaired and running six hours later. For those that bitch about what a journeyman line construction tech makes, suck it up buttercup, we’re worth every dime of it, and then some.

    The grid is vital and important. It must be protected at all costs. Solar and wind are semi nice add ons, but nothing beats a continuously turning armature running at 50 – 60 cycles turning out massive amounts of wattage.

  3. thebesig says:

    Yup, a common misconception that people have is that Roman civilization collapsed and disappeared. That didn’t happen. Her economic and political infrastructure collapsed, but the civilization survived.

    the Late Antiquity is the period when Roman civilization transformed from what we commonly associate it as, to what we associate with Medieval Civilization. The units of the Roman Army already started to look like what we’d associate with European Armies during the beginning of the Medieval Period.

    Roman civilization would’ve completely disintegrated; however, had it not been for the fact that both the invaders/immigrants and the Romans been Christians. The Roman Emperors embraced Christianity partly because they saw its ability to get people to close ranks and to follow a hierarchical order without the force of arms. The Germanic Kings leveraged this.

    Thus, they turned to the Romans that were already there, specifically the local Church Diocese, to assist with administering the urban and surrounding areas. The Church leveraged this relationship to convince the Germanic Kings to support them in their efforts to gather Roman and Greek knowledge gained up to that point… And to expand on it. For their part, the Germanic Kings converted to Roman’s denomination of Christianity to gain legitimacy over the local population.

    This would set a trend that would ultimately lead to the West’s rise again. The Church would end up developing what would later be labeled as the “scientific method”. They would also introduce the concept of constant technological improvement as well as mechanization. They would’ve brought the industrial age into the picture sooner in one of the kingdoms had they not been stopped by the monarchy.

    Some factors that lead to the decline of the Roman Empire included a shift to a mini ice age, uncontrolled migration, efforts by emperors to overtax the rich which sacked the incentive to generate wealth, etc. There were other factors as well.

    • Fyrfighter says:

      “The Church would end up developing what would later be labeled as the “scientific method”.”… wait a second, i thought that those of us who “cling to our guns and bibles” are the ones that deny science???
      and “Some factors that lead to the decline of the Roman Empire included a shift to a mini ice age, uncontrolled migration, efforts by emperors to overtax the rich which sacked the incentive to generate wealth, etc”.. are you sure you mean the Roman Empire, or are you talking about the democrat platform as instituted by obama, and hoped to be advanced by the current clown car of candidates??

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        Maybe it’s both, Fyrfighter.

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        And just to be clear, those who cling to their guns don’t deny science. You can’t have guns and ammo without science and engineering, right? No, that isn’t us.

        We just deny the scams that are labeled “science” but are nothing but money-grubbing scams and grabs for power over those weak-minded enough to follow the scammers.

  4. Cameron Kingsley says:

    Not be a wise guy but I think you got the Western and Eastern portions of the empire mixed up. Constantinople which was in what would become known as the Byzantine Empire was located in the east and survived to 1453 while the western portion would ultimately end up collapsing.

    • thebesig says:

      If you’re referencing my post, I didn’t get the two mixed up. Even during the height of the Roman Empire, East and West had some slight differences.

      “The West” is a reference to the Western Roman Empire and its successor kingdoms. It’s this portion of what was once the entirety of the Roman Empire that would later rise as empires themselves and spread Western Civilization across the Atlantic and elsewhere. What we associate as “Medieval flare” is associated with Western Europe, as things looked a little different in the eastern half of the Mediterranean.

      “The Church” is a reference to the Roman Catholic Church, headed by the Vatican in Rome. “The Eastern Church” would be a reference to Constantinople.

      Ex does mention both East and West in her post above.

    • OldSoldier54 says:

      Correct. The “Empire” was based from Rome.

      The “Eastern Empire” was based on the Eastern provinces that survived the dissolution of Rome, as a power, by quite a few centuries. It’s capital was Byzantium = Constantinople, named after Emperor Constantine, I believe. They called themselves Romans, but they were really Greeks (Thracians mainly, IIRC)

  5. A few good things came out after Rome fell in that people in the DNA chain invented a great salad, opened up a Flea market off of the Belt Pkwy in Brooklyn NY, a casino in Las Vegas and his ghost inhabited Perry Whites office in the Daily Planet’s news building.

  6. 2banana says:

    Those are reversed.

    “Rome took a long time to disintegrate. The Eastern Roman Empire had already begun to disintegrate, as noted above, while the Western Roman Empire, located in Constantinople remained stable and survived.”

  7. Stacy0311 says:

    Party line phones were still in existence in Texas up to at least 1982.

  8. CDR_D says:

    Minor quibble, EX…Romulus Augustulus did not die in 476. He was sent into retirement by the Magister Militum of the West, a certain German named Odoacer. Odoacer administered the remaining western provinces in the name of the Eastern Emperor Zeno, until he was implicated in a plot against Zeno with the Eastern general Illus; whereupon Zeno dispatched Theodoric the Ostrogoth to the West to get rid of Odoacer and administer the West as a kind of Viceroy. Romulus Augustulus retired to his estate in Campania, tended his gardens, and died in obscurity sometime later. No one knows when.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Progressives will miss civilization they depend upon when it’s gone and not one moment before.

    • OldSoldier54 says:

      So it would seem.

      How can so many people not only be so blind, but so utterly lacking in common sense?

      It’s like watching very large scale suicide, in slow motion.

  10. Slow Joe says:

    I disagree with the whole concept that history repeats itself:
    a) Some aspects of history might seem similar, but the conditions and the succession of events and decisions that led to it are very different.
    b) All those who argue history repeats itself do so in hindsight and are not capable of pointing to specific events who would trigger the “repeat”.

    I also disagree with the comparison between Rome and the US. Yes, I am perfectly aware of the influence republican Rome had on our founding fathers, but the Roman republic was hardly like ours. Rome was more like an elite country club in which the patricians decided what was best for the rest, electing the leadership from among themselves.

    By the end of the Republican period, Rome was slightly more democratic, with the office of the Tribune supposed to defend the little guy, and the Consuls being selected mostly from the nouveau riche of the equestrian class instead of the old patrician elite, but corruption and mismanaged of the provinces, plus the post-Marian reform professional armies, were a recipe for civil war and the rise of the Empire.

    We are NOWHERE near that.

    • Slow Joe says:

      If anything, the founding fathers went out of their way to correct the mistakes of the roman republic, trying to keep at a minimum the power of the state over the individual, thus guaranteeing the last 243 years of a functional republic without any type of dictatorships.