Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Metaphor of the Roman Empire

JN Sylvestre, Sacco di Roma ad opera dei Visigoti, 1890 -, 2013
JN Sylvestre, Sacco di Roma ad opera dei Visigoti, 1890 -

by F Guzzardi

"The two greatest problems of history," stated J. Reid in the first volume of the Cambridge Medieval History "are how to make reason of the rise of Rome and of its decline."

 The decline of Western countries (Europe and USA) is strangely reminiscent of the fall of the largest empire the world has seen Rome.
The economy is moving in other directions and this is not a matter of chance, In a world that moves to another speeds than that of the Romans, centuries employed by Rome to abdicate, are comparable to decades of today - reading the 'historical analysis of the Roman Empire, there is a great similarity with the problems that is facing the West.

 We now live in Western countries, much the same way they lived in the ancient Romans, we can be owners, obey the laws promulgated by the State, we take our wealth from trade and exchanges. In the Middle Ages, roughly from the fifth to the fifteenth century, things were different; during feudalism (IX-XII century), it may be said that they went in reverse order: the individual property no longer existed, the state was gone, the rare coin , the non-existent town, trade nil, the only source of wealth was land, to which the mass of men was linked from bondage.

 The official historiography trivializes the problem of the end of Rome and the whole ancient civilization attributing it to the invasions of Germanic peoples in the fifth century, but it is an explanation that does not hold. The Romans were accustomed for centuries to fight the barbarians, and to overcome them. The hordes of Germans popping for fertile countryside destroying and burning everything, belong to the popular imagination, not the story. The Visigoths under Alaric who sacked Rome 25 August 410, gathered in Pavia before the assault, we know that there were more than 20,000 women, children and old including: in front of them, there was an immense empire, which stretched the its laws, its order and peace from Scotland to the Persian Gulf, Sudan to the Danube and the Rhine But an empire that was already dead on his own, worn, rotten, spoiled, and the fall of the Roman Empire was not a sudden collapse, but the result of a corrosion that went on for centuries - there are states that have not even lived as long as it took Rome to fall.

To understand what happened, you have to be referred to as had been the Roman Empire and what he lived. Rome, a small village of poor peasants and brave, by dint of its neighbors contend the good land to wheat, had left without knowing it to conquer the world, building one of the largest and most long-lived empires in history without having a clear plan of expansion. Before subdued the closest neighbors to secure their borders, then went on to fight and defeat new enemies on new frontiers, initially only required to do what the circumstances of the moment. Italy submissive; Carthage, possible rival and mistress of the sea, destroyed, and finally, the entire Mediterranean basin subdued. The soldiers won enslaved the conquered countries made ​​lots, their wealth and their treasures - especially those of the East - brought to Rome. The Empire was "a civilization that did not fail nor force, nor in maturity, nor of manhood," as described by H. Urs von Balthasar (Das Ganze im Fragment and the Italian translation: The whole in the fragment, Jaca Book, Milan): Few civilizations were so sure of themselves, so conscious of his own greatness.

 The Rome of the time of Augustus and Virgil , that , in the following century , the good Emperors Antonini , wanted to come back and complete the civilizing work of Athens : Pax Augusta , the order everywhere , law, non-corrupt administration , a liberal state that reduces its services and, consequently , its needs , to a minimum. But his immense wealth were divided not between all the Romans , but among their leaders , the rich, senators and generals, perhaps two hundred families : people immensely , fabulously rich and powerful .

These Romans were not content to enjoy life with great goods at their disposal , but were careful to place the capital because it gave an interest. Then bought the land or made ​​themselves attribute by right of conquest and there produced the cheap grain , thanks to slave labor , thus forming possessions so wide that, for example , in the third century of our era , the whole of Tunisia current did not belong that seven people. And the small farmers , unable to withstand the competition of large landowners , they were forced to give up little by little , low- price their lands. However , the Romans were also coming silks from China , spices from India, Levante art objects that the West did not produce. So little by little , finished the conquest, the money looted in the East returned to the East. The Romans had nothing to export in exchange for their imports, but even if they realized , nothing could stop the bleeding gold. All this lasted about two centuries and suddenly , around 200 , it was realized that there was more money in the Empire. The Emperors could well devalue the currency , put lead in gold, multiply the bronze pieces , no purpose . The prices of the necessities of life soared . In 344 the Egyptian wheat cost 6,680 times more than in 294 . Half a century later , it would take 16 tons of bronze coins for to bay 25 kilograms. All trade became impossible . ( The tax burden , of course, went up : they were trying to make money in any way , and taxes hit both on the person , as his goods. Who lost his , in particular, was the middle class , the " bourgeoisie" , more and more harassed and impoverished ) .
What happens in the West today, reminds us of the fall of the Roman Empire, which was not a sudden crash but a long downward slide, propitiated by the idea of being invincible, and perhaps they were from the military point of view, but it is the nature the man who urges us to let our guard down - Rome is the metaphor of the decline Euro-American, and the Huns, the Germans, the Barbarians, the Vandals - is called  China, India, Brazil, Africa ...

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