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ROMAN EMPIRE -THE HISTORY... > 2. THE HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE ~ CHAPTER 2 and INTRO (56 - 84 and xxiii- xliii) (05/17/10 - 05/23/10) ~ No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Hello Everyone,

This begins the second week's reading in our new Spotlighted group discussion.

The complete table of contents is as follows:

SYLLABUS:

Table of Contents

Introduction xi - cvi
A Note on the Text – cvii – cviii
Acknowledgements – cix
Selected Further Readings – cx – cxi
Chronology – cxii –cxiii
Preface – 1 – 4
Advertisement 5

TOC – First Volume

ONE: The Extent and Military Force of the Empire, in the Age of the Antonines p. 31

TWO: Of the Union and Internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire in the Age of the Antonines p. 56

THREE: Of the Constitution of the Roman Empire in the Age of the Antonines p. 85

FOUR: The Cruelty, Follies, and Murder of Commodus – Election of Pertinax – His Attempts to reform the State. – His Assassination by the Pretorian Guards. p. 108

FIVE: Public Sale of the Empire to Didius Julianus by the Praetorian Guards. – Clodius Albinus in Britain, Pescennius Niger in Syria, and Septimius Severus in Pannonia, declare against the Murderers of Pertinax. – Civil Wars and Victory of Severus over his three Rivals. – Relaxation of Discipline, - New Maxims of Government. p. 127

SIX: The Death of Severus. – Tyranny of Caracellaa. – Usurpation of Macrinus. – Follies of Elagabulus. – Virtues of Alexander Severus. – Licentiousness of the Army. – General State of the Roman Finances. – p. 149

SEVEN: The Elevation and Tyranny of Maximin. – Rebellion in Africa and Italy, under the Authority of the Senate. – Civil Wars and Seditions. – Violent Deaths of Maximin and his Son, of Maximus and Balbinus, and of the three Gordians. – surpation and secular Games of Philip. p. 187

EIGHT: Of the State of Persia after the Restoration of the Monarchy of Artaxerxes p. 213

NINE: The State of Germany till the Invasion of the Barbarians, in the Time of the Emperor Decius. p. 230

TEN: The Emperor Decius, Gallus, Aemilianus, Valerian, and Gallienus. – The general Irruption of the Barbarians, - The thirty Tyrants. p. 253

ELEVEN: Reign of Claudius. – Defeat of the Goths. – Victories, Triumph, and Death of Aurelian. p. 295

TWELVE: Conduct of the Army and Senate after the Death of Aurelian. – Reigns of Tacitus, Probus, Carus, and his Sons. P. 327

THIRTEEN: The Reign of Diocletian and his three Associates, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius, - General Re-establishment of Order and Tranquility. – The Persian War, Victory and Triumph. – The New Form of Administration. – Abdication and Retirement of Diocletian and Maximian. p. 358

FOURTEEN: Troubles after the Abdication of Diocletian. – Death of Constantius. – Elevation of Constantine and Maxentius. – Six Emperors at the Same Time. – Death of Maximian and Galerius. – Victories of Constantine over Maxentius and Licinius. – Re-union of the Empire under the Authority of Constantine. p. 400

FIFTEEN: The Progress of the Christian Religion, and the Sentiments, Manners, Numbers, and Condition of the primitive Christians. p. 446

SIXTEEN: The Conduct of the Roman Government towards the Christians, from the Reign of Nero to that of Constantine. p. 514


Appendix I – 1084 - 1105

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 1 by Edward GibbonEdward GibbonEdward Gibbon

Note: This is a group membership selected book.


The assignment for this second week includes the following segments/pages:

Week Two - May 17th - May 23rd
TWO: Of the Union and Internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire in the Age of the Antonines p. 56 and INTRODUCTION - xxiii - xliii


We look forward to your participation; but remember this is a non spoiler thread.

We will open up threads for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers.

This book was kicked off on May 10th. This will be the second week's assignment for this book.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library.

A special welcome to those who will be newcomers to this discussion and thank you to those who have actively contributed on the previous Spotlighted book selection. We are glad to have you all.

Welcome,

~Bentley

TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL


'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I see that Cicero was mentioned in the narrative of this chapter. For those interested there is one recent biography of Rome's 'greatest politician'; "Cicero" by Anthony Everitt.

Cicero  The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt by Anthony Everitt

Publisher blurb:
This biographical account describes Cicero's career from his provincial origins through to his tragic end as the Roman Republic crashed around him. Throughout the text Anthony Everitt makes full use of Cicero's own words and those of his contemporaries.
Review:
"Everitt's first book is a good read that anyone interested in ancient Rome will enjoy. It is also the first one-volume life of the Roman leader in 25 years. To create a work that flowed and was therefore more colorful for the lay reader, Everitt, the former secretary-general of the Arts Council for Great Britain, has taken liberties when describing a person or a place that may annoy scholars. Yet reading this book is an excellent way to understand the players of the period and the culture that produced them. Bloody, articulate, erudite, sexist, slave-owning-Cicero and his circle were all that, but Everitt is careful to recognize that the orator was a product of his age. This is not strictly a political history; Everitt scrutinizes Roman society in discussing events of the orator's life and, when describing Cicero's marriage, acquaints the reader with various aspects of that institution and the home of the era. Throughout, he is willing to admit when the evidence for a theory is weak and when he is extrapolating from the assumptions of scholars." - Library Journal


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Thank you Aussie Rick for the add.

Folks, some personal business has delayed me from starting this thread. Will start posting tomorrow on this. Sorry for unavoidable delay.


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Cicero is mentioned a great deal by Gibbon and we have cited him previously. Who was this man?

Marcus Tullius Cicero (pronounced /ˈsɪsɨroʊ/; Classical Latin: [ˈkikeroː:]; January 3, 106 BC – December 7, 43 BC) was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.

He introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary (with neologisms such as humanitas, qualitas, quantitas, and essentia distinguishing himself as a linguist, translator, and philosopher.

An impressive orator and successful lawyer, Cicero thought that his political career was his most important achievement. Today, he is appreciated primarily for his humanism and philosophical and political writings. His voluminous correspondence, much of it addressed to his friend Atticus, has been especially influential, introducing the art of refined letter writing to European culture. Cornelius Nepos, the 1st-century BC biographer of Atticus, remarked that Cicero's letters contained such a wealth of detail "concerning the inclinations of leading men, the faults of the generals, and the revolutions in the government" that their reader had little need for a history of the period.

Cicero's speeches and letters remain some of the most important primary sources that survive on the last days of the Roman Republic.

During the chaotic latter half of the first century B.C. marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government.

However, his career as a statesman was marked by inconsistencies and a tendency to shift his position in response to changes in the political climate. His indecision may be attributed to his sensitive and impressionable personality; he was prone to overreaction in the face of political and private change. "Would that he had been able to endure prosperity with greater self-control and adversity with more fortitude!" wrote C. Asinius Pollio, a contemporary Roman statesman and historian.

Source: Wikipedia


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Here is a wonderful source on Cicero:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/cicero/#H1


message 6: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Master of Rome Series (new)

Vicki Cline | 1444 comments I thought that the section about language was interesting - that Latin spread throughout the Western empire, but the Eastern provinces retained Greek. Many important philosophical writings in the period Gibbon covers in Volume 1 were done in Greek, as was Marcus Aurelieus' Meditations. But today, the remnants of Latin are everywhere while Greek is pretty much limited to Greece itself.


message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments A very true statement Vicki...my grandfather studied Greek and Latin while in private school, yet by the time I went to high school, Greek really did not have a place in a classical high school education (just Latin).

Do you think the spread of Latin within the Western provinces was due to the spread of Christianity, etc. And in the Eastern provinces not so much.

It is astounding in a way how powerful, erudite and influential the ancient Greeks were and nowadays it is true that Greek is really a language only for a very small country.

Thank you for your insight Vicki.


message 8: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Master of Rome Series (new)

Vicki Cline | 1444 comments An interesting point about Christianity, Bentley. That certainly maintained actual Latin, but I think probably the Romance languages were fairly well established by the time Christianity was "official" although I don't really know the timeline. Maybe someone else has a clue.


message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Yes, maybe one of our experts on this time period might be able to jump right in.


message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 19, 2010 11:09PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments In Chapter Two, Gibbon branches out and discusses toleration of religion and a certain degree of religious concord. The Age of the Antonines was a prosperous one for the Roman Empire and Gibbon presents the Antonines as being tolerant, fair and just.

Somehow during this period of time, the Greek, the Roman and the Barbarian all felt that despite the different names of their deities; that they were all celebrating the same gods. How they figured that out is unsure.

The philosophers were touched upon including some of the more celebrated schools (Stoics and Platonists) as well as Cicero and Lucian.

Gibbon also initiates discussion concerning the general organization of the government and the various roles of magistrates, pontiffs, etc.

One major point and distinction that Gibbon makes between the Greeks and the Romans is that the Greeks promoted a narrow policy of preserving without any foreign mixture, the pure blood of the ancient citizens and this is what checked their fortune and hastened their ruin; unlike the Romans who embraced expansion where there was great pride by all citizens from the Alps to the extremity of Calabria in that all natives of Italy were born citizens of Rome.

Gibbon points out there were differences and distinctions between the inhabitants of Italy and the provinces.

And it was fair to quote Seneca in terms of history and experience: "Wheresoever the Roman conquers, he inhabits."

The Romans were sensible and saw first hand the influence of their language; they did not believe that it was in their best interest to be insular like the Greeks so they wanted to extend with the progress of their arms and to its full extent..the use also of their Latin tongue.

The Greeks on the other hand did not want to relinquish their language to barbarians and believed to a large extent that their language was reserved for Greeks.

Additionally, the Romans were astute enough to realize the charms of the Greek language, but they asserted the dignity of the Latin tongue, and the exclusive use of the latter was inflexibly maintained in the administration of civil as well as military government. The Romans assumed their power and exerted it through adoption of their government and their language.

And what would any of these early civilizations be without some discussion about slaves. It was interesting that Gibbon pointed out that the jurisdiction of life and death over the slaves which was a power often exercised and often abused by their owners, was taken out of the private hands of the master and reserved to the magistrates alone.

In fact, any injured slave could obtain either his deliverance and freedom or at the very least - a less cruel master. In this regard, the Roman civilization appears to have been more civilized in the treatment of their slaves than was the case in the South.

In fact, in Rome, the slaves at the very least had some hope.

Gibbon pointed out surprisingly that folks automatically "obeyed" in the Roman world and this obedience was uniform, voluntary and permanent. Rome established authority over its foreign dominions and in many instances in the case of local and foreign governance, the civil magistrate seldom required the aid of a military force. People just obeyed. They did not question and maybe they figured if they did, they would be killed.

The Roman emperors liked to build things: roads, buildings, monuments, aqueducts, baths, sporting venues, theaters, temples...really anything that would glorify the extent of their power, reach and control.

Gibbon amazes us further by stating that ancient Italy alone contained 1097 cities! The provinces were thriving as well: London was enriched by commerce, Bath was celebrated for its medicinal water, and Spain was flourishing.

Gibbon makes a distinction between the eastern empire and the western one. Gibbon stated: "The east was in the immemorial possession of arts and luxury; while the west was inhabited by rude and warlike barbarians, who either distained agriculture, or to whom it was totally unknown."

The Romans (to their credit) brought so many flowers, herbs, fruits to other parts of Europe from Italy, olives were carried to Spain and Gaul, cultivation of flax was transported from Egypt to Gaul and this enriched the whole country.

So many areas of Europe owe a great deal to Roman influence and ingenuity. However, Gibbon also pointed out that the most remote countries of the ancient world were ransacked in order to supply the pomp and delicacy and luxury of Rome.

The Romans took furs from Scythia, amber from the Baltic region, precious stones, aromatics from Asia, and always looked out for Rome first and foremost.

Rome was single minded: they intended to unite the barbarians that they had conquered and force on their subjects an equal government and a common language; one has to admit that the Romans were more successful in meeting this goal than the Greeks.

A question that many will have deals with the composition of the Roman army. How did Rome impress soldiers from its conquered nations to fight with honor and courage for a country which was not theirs? Gibbon surprisingly notes that "Spain, Gaul, Britain and Illyricum, supplied the legions with excellent soldiers, and their men constituted the real strength of the monarchy. Their personal valour remained, but they no longer possessed that public courage which is nourished by the love of independence, the sense of national honour, the presence of danger and the habit of command."

It was odd; but Rome ended up trusting for their defense - a mercenary army. I guess the soldiers were excellent enough so even though they did not have independence, they were not free but they certainly knew that their survival and their status in life now depended on their soldiering.

For Gibbon, it was freedom which made all of the difference and finally mended the puny breed of pygmies as Gibbon called the people of the Roman world. The author felt that the lack of freedom and independence are what promoted a diminutive nature in mankind and contributed to degeneracy.

A great deal of ground is covered in Chapter II and the above are just some of the highlights.

By all means please focus on any of these topic areas or other topics in Chapter II and please feel free to initiate discussion, make comments and/or ask questions.


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 20, 2010 01:31AM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Here are some of the major quotations from Chapter Two;

Subject Matter: Religion, as viewed by the people, the philosopher, and the magistrate

"The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful."

Location in Gibbon: Chapter 2 - in Penguin Edition on page 56 in the section titled Universal Spirit of Toleration

Subject Matter: Powers of sovereignty, abused and lost if committed to an unwieldy multitude

"Under a democratical government the citizens exercise the powers of sovereignty; and those powers will be first abused, and afterwards lost, if they are committed to an unwieldy multitude."

Location in Gibbon: Chapter 2 - in Penguin Edition on page 61 in the section titled Freedom of Rom

Subject Matter: Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition, and slavery in Rome

"Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition, was not denied to the Roman slave; and if he had any opportunity of rendering himself either useful or agreeable, he might very naturally expect that the diligence and fidelity of a few years would be rewarded with the inestimable gift of freedom."

Location in Gibbon: Chapter 2 in Penguin edition on page 68 in the section titled Enfranchisement

Subject Matter: Roman monuments, erected at private expense for public benefit

"Among the innumerable monuments of architecture constructed by the Romans, how many have escaped the notice of history, how few have resisted the ravages of time and barbarism! And yet even the majestic ruins that are still scattered over Italy and the provinces, would be sufficient to prove that those countries were once the seat of a polite and powerful empire. Their greatness alone, or their beauty, might deserve our attention; but they are rendered more interesting by two important circumstances, which connect the agreeable history of the arts with the more useful history of human matters. Many of these works were erected at private expense, and almost all were intended for public benefit."

Location in Gibbon: Chapter 2 in the Penguin edition on page 70 in the section titled Roman Monuments

Subject Matter: Beneficial consequences of the power of the Empire

"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the improvements of social life."

Location in Gibbon: Chapter 2 in the Penguin edition on page 78 in the section titled Improvement of Agriculture in the Western Countries of the Empire

Subject Matter: Agriculture, the foundation of manufactures; the value of luxury

"Agriculture is the foundation of manufactures; since the productions of nature are the materials of art. Under the Roman empire, the labour of an industrious and ingenious people was variously, but incessantly employed, in the service of the rich. In their dress, their table, their houses, and their furniture, the favourites of fortune united every refinement of conveniency, of elegance, and of splendour, whatever could soothe their pride or gratify their sensuality. Such refinements, under the odious name of luxury, have been severely arraigned by the moralists of every age; and it might perhaps be more conducive to the virtue, as well as happiness, of mankind, if all possessed the necessities, and none of the superfluities, of life. But in the present imperfect condition of society, luxury, though it may proceed from vice or folly, seems to be the only means that can correct the unequal distribution of property. The diligent mechanic, and the skilful artist, who have obtained no share in the division of the earth, receive a voluntary tax from the possessors of land; and the latter are prompted, by a sense of interest, to improve those estates, with whose produce they may purchase additional pleasures. This operation, the particular effects of which are felt in every society, acted with much more diffusive energy in the Roman world. The provinces would soon have been exhausted of their wealth, if the manufactures and commerce of luxury had not insensibly restored to the industrious subjects the sums which were exacted from them by the arms and authority of Rome."

Location in Gibbon: Chapter 2 in the Penguin edition on page 80 in the section titled Arts of Luxury

Subject Matter: Latent causes of decay and corruption, in the long peace of the Empire

"It is scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and corruption. This long peace, and the uniform government of the Romans, introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire. The minds of men were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius was extinguished, and even the military spirit evaporated."

Location in Gibbon: Chapter 2 -in Penguin edition on page 83 in the section titled Decline of Courage

Did any of these make a difference when you were reading them?

I sensed a lot of truth in the quotation about religion cited on page 56. The government with its tolerance could manipulate the people because of their beliefs; they saw usefulness in their populace believing in the wrath of gods or in their beliefs on morality and faith. Much like our own government holds sway over our country's fears, dreams and legitimate and/or misguided biases. Oddly enough after just finishing the discussion on Jefferson I sensed he shared some of the Romans' and the author's views on the value of an agrarian society.


message 12: by Patrick (last edited May 20, 2010 07:59AM) (new)

Patrick Sprunger Bentley wrote in message 10:

"In fact, any injured slave could obtain either his deliverance and freedom or at the very least - a less cruel master. In this regard, the Roman civilization appears to have been more civilized in the treatment of their slaves than was the case in the (American) South.

In fact, in Rome, the slaves at the very least had some hope."


I wonder to what degree this is due to lessons learned after the Spartacus slave uprising of 73 BC. The Antonines, in the second century AD, conceivablly could have mastered the social forces created by a combination free/slave population well enough to prevent massive disruptions.

The American South, by comparison, was always wary of a possible armed uprising. They notably lacked any contingency plan and responded with the severest form of oppression. When the first real test of slaves asserting free will came in 1800 (Gabriel's Rebellion), the American South became even more fearful and responded the only way they knew how - by tightening their oppression even further, increasing the cruelty of the slave institution.

Gabriel's Rebellion put a spark to an extant (but marginal) movement to solve slavery's long term problems. But the ideas that resulted failed to realize an integrated society. Among the forerunners of early 19th century emancipation schemes were (A) creating territory west of the Mississippi for freed slaves, (B) creating or acquiring territory in Latin America for the same purpose, or (C) sponsoring slave colonization of Liberia. It is easy to find the obnoxious flaws of each scheme.

Had the American South paid greater attention to the Roman model, the sectional crises of the 19th century may have been avoided. But, from the luxury of hindsight, I prefer the decisive test of the American Civil War to put the matter to rest forever. (This doesn't mean I think the 19th century followed an elegant blueprint for social revolution in America, but a dramatic resolution of the slavery question was necessary by that point. 80 years of equivocating and compromise wasn't even chipping away at the stone.)

Finally, I am reluctant to romaticize over the Romans' relative enlightenment pertaining to slavery. Though an ancient people incredibly score higher marks than recent Americans, they nevertheless failed to solve their labor and economic issues without resorting to keeping other humans in bondage. Though I understand how this was in keeping with the traditions of human civilization up to that point, I nevertheless feel our contemporary revulsion to the idea is not unique to our time. There must have been a conscientious bloc of Roman citizens who deplored the practice.

An interesting question is whether the relatively enlightened manumission schemes and legal recourse in fact solved two problems: (A) Venting pressure in an orderly way to prevent another Servile War, and (B) to placate the doves and ancient abolitionists in Roman society.

P.S. For what it's worth, the Roman scheme for slaves' rights is more closely followed by medieval Scandanavians than any other group I can call to mind immediately from history. Icelandic saga is full of accounts of slaves earning their freedom and even reaching high status (within a generation or two).

Also, the Narración of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's shipwreck and subsequent enslavement by American Indians in 1528 (a fascinating book, by the way)* shows that Mississippian Indians even found a practical scheme akin to the Romans. What's fascinating about this is that they reached the conclusion independently - there was no cultural transfer between the Romans and pre-Columbian Indians.

* The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca by Alvar Nunez Cabeza De VacaAlvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca


Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Patrick wrote: "Bentley wrote in message 10:

"In fact, any injured slave could obtain either his deliverance and freedom or at the very least - a less cruel master. In this regard, the Roman civilization appear..."


I think that the fact that the American South Slaves were black Africans and visibly different while Greek and Roman slaves were usually other Europeans makes a difference in the attitudes of the "owners".


message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Very interesting Patrick...the Romans became less oppressive and the South more.

I think you can get some help on the thread called the Mechanics of the Board.


The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca by Alvar Nunez Cabeza De VacaAlvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca


message 15: by Patricrk (last edited May 20, 2010 06:52AM) (new)

Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Patrick wrote: "Bentley wrote in message 10:

"The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca (I used the "add book/author" tool, but did not get the nifty picture format others use. What am I doing wrong?)

The default is for the link instead of the picture. You need to click the picture box at the bottom. Bentley slaps my hand on this about once a month as I forget. And I also mess up the italics when I cut and paste.



message 16: by Patrick (last edited May 20, 2010 07:12AM) (new)

Patrick Sprunger On quotes:

Subject Matter: On the building of internal improvements and public works

"But if the emperors were the first, they were not the only architects of their dominions. Their example was universally imitated by their principle subjects, who were not afraid of declaring to the world that they had spirit to conceive, and wealth to accomplish the noblest undertakings... The opulent senators of Rome and the provinces esteemed it an honour, and almost an obligation, to adorn the splendour of their age and country; and the influence of fashion very frequently supplied the want of taste or generosity." Link (final sentence, p. 27)

Proceeding into the next paragraph, Gibbon describes how the civic pride, mingled with private vanity, "trickles down" to the petit-bourgeois. Herod's father, Julius Atticus, enjoyed a financial windfall after he, incredibly, found a cache of buried treasure.

"According to the rigour of law, the emperor might have asserted his claim... But the equitable Nerva, who then filled the throne, refused to accept any part of it, and commanded him to use, without scruple, the present of fortune. (Atticus)... insisted, that the treasure was too considerable for a subject, and that he did not know how to use it. Abuse it, then, replied the monarch, with good natured peevishness; for it is your own."

The "abuse" of the windfall wealth took the form of an aqueduct, which benefited a community bequeathed to Herod.

Interesting!

Speaking of the American South (see messages #10 and 12), this sounds a lot like what we'd call libertarianism and the "invisible hand" today. In very recent terms, this is essentially the Reaganomic belief that prosperity "trickles" down from a benevolent fountainhead represented, not by the state, but by private individuals who, under the influence of wealth, find no course other than altruism to guide them.

I think the idea is fascinating and wonder how many times politicians (be they from Virginia or Vienna) have relied on this strain of Gibbon's narrative. But the cynic in me wonders how effectively this private/civic largesse actually trickled down.

This borders on the "In The News" conversation thread located elsewhere in the History Book Club's columns, but the test of a'la carte republicanism being conducted in Colorado Springs today is gradually resulting in only rich neighborhoods being lit by functioning streetlights or adequately canvassed by police patrols.

Does anyone have any thoughts on how well the anecdote of Atticus's treasure trove actually manifested in philanthropy?


message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 20, 2010 06:56PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Patricrk wrote: "Patrick wrote: "Bentley wrote in message 10:

"The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca (I used the "add book/author" tool, but did not get the nifty picture format others use. What am I doing wrong?)

..."


Yes Patricrk - remember to always add the final

And thank you for helping the other Patrick


message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Patrick wrote: "On quotes:

Subject Matter: On the building of internal improvements and public works

"But if the emperors were the first, they were not the only architects of their dominions. Their example ..."



You raise an interesting point...do you get better results by being altruistic or by being dictatorial like a Stalin. I think in the long run benevolence will buy you more good will; but I think in the short haul it might appear that dictatorships work better with huge populations which border on anarchy or are uneducated and do not appreciate civility and good will because they have not received much in the way of either.

That is an interesting story about Colorado Springs and a sad one to boot.

I have absolutely no knowledge about the anecdote of Atticus's treasure trove and how it might have manifested in philanthropy...we might have to depend upon one of our group members to help us with that.


message 19: by Patrick (last edited May 21, 2010 07:28AM) (new)

Patrick Sprunger Bentley wrote: "You raise an interesting point... do you get better results by being altruistic or by being dictatorial like a Stalin. I think in the long run benevolence will buy you more good will; but I think in the short haul it might appear that dictatorships work better with huge populations which border on anarchy or are uneducated and do not appreciate civility and good will because they have not received much in the way of either."

Anyone with four and a half minutes can hear some very contemporary thoughts on this subject on Thursday, May 20th's edition of All Things Considered . An Indian journalist explores how India and China essentially entered the global economy from the same point at the same time, but different applications of democracatic practices resulted in a far stronger Chinese growth.

This ties in with our discussion by contrasting the benefits of a fast versus slow growth prospectus. Democracies, like the United States, are designed to grow slowly and naturally, with an expressed preference for low risks and as few disaffected citizens as possible.

A totalitarian regime or empire (like China, Stalin's USSR, or Rome), on the other hand, has a high level of comfort with the maxim "if you want to make an omelette, you've got to break a few eggs."

I wish I was more familiar with the ancient world. Certainly I'm oversimplifying things by projecting modern precepts on the Romans. But if I had to guess which the Antinones were more like, Thomas Jefferson or Josef Stalin, I'm going to go with Stalin. I will not be offended if someone tells me I'm wrong.

If Gibbon, who undoubtedly heard of the radical ideas of Adam Smith, made a point of conveying the Atticus anecdote, he might have embellished it as a sort of free-market fable to make a (then) unfashionable statist system look more compassionate to his contemporaries.


message 20: by Patricrk (last edited May 21, 2010 09:22PM) (new)

Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Patrick wrote: "Bentley wrote: "You raise an interesting point... do you get better results by being altruistic or by being dictatorial like a Stalin. I think in the long run benevolence will buy you more good wi..."

Cuba would be a counter example. I haven't heard of riots in India demanding more government control.

I think that this chapter is more about Gibbons view of the world than about the Romans. I would be tempted to say he had his world view and selectively found the evidence to support it in his sources. Reminds of the Geology maxim "If I didn't believe, I wouldn't see it."


message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Yes, there is a lot of opining going on with Gibbon; but I still believe that this is a great classic and that he was a meticulous and very much a classical historian of the first rate. It is quite a work; yet Gibbon does have strong opinions and most any historian does.


Patricrk patrick | 475 comments It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and corruption. This long peace, and the uniform government of the Romans, introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire. The minds of men were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius was extinguished, and even the military spirit evaporated. The natives of Europe were brave and robust. Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Illyricum supplied the legions with excellent soldiers, and constituted the real strength of the monarchy.

Looking back to our discussions on why soldiers fight in the discussions on The First World War by John Keegan John KeeganJohn Keegan, I find this passage hard to swallow. I don't think a bred in martial spirit is necessary in humans. It is a matter of training and group pressure. I think the Emperor was probably so set on keeping his throne that he did not provide the military training needed as he was afraid it would be used against him. I have a problem opinionating on why technology didn't advance. Any ideas?


message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 22, 2010 12:30PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Maybe they were busy traveling to all parts of the globe for military actions and much of the globe may have been barbaric, uncivilized, uneducated and not so much inclined towards technology.

Maybe the fire of genius was extinguished as Gibbon states and people just existed and did not care to think or felt that they had the freedom to do so.

I do believe that if folks had to fight every day to keep what they had or have; I think they would learn better fighting skills than those who do not. I did previously use the word opining:

o·pine (-pn)
v. o·pined, o·pin·ing, o·pines
v.tr.
To state as an opinion.
v.intr.
To express an opinion

As far as the Emperors keeping their throne...we will find out soon I believe that this was very hard to do.

I think Gibbon's language is flowery but I think his research is sound. He is highly opinionated as was Keegan and to me seems less biased towards the Brits and biased against other groups, countries, parts of the world. Keegan was not over the top in this regard but biased he was.

But we are not discussing Keegan but Gibbon and the Roman Empire so I will get back to that.

Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon

John Keegan John Keegan

I wish I had more ideas about some of the theories put forth by Gibbon but I do not. I am thoroughly enjoying reading him though. And I think at the end of Keegan I felt rushed and I thought he could have done a better job with the last two chapters.


message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 22, 2010 12:36PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Here are some achievements of the Romans recently nominated as World Heritage Sites;

The Antonine Wall was built by the Roman army on the orders of the Emperor Antoninus Pius following the successful re-conquest of southern Scotland in A.D. 142.

For a generation from 142AD to about 165AD the Antonine Wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. The Antonine Wall was added to the UK Tentative List this year and would form an extension to the Frontiers of the Roman Empire Transnational World Heritage Site presently consisting of Hadrian’s Wall and the Upper Raetian German Limes.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is one of the world’s most renowned and spectacular achievements of waterways engineering. Built as part of the improvement of transport to provide the arteries of industrialisation, the structure was a pioneer of cast iron construction and was the highest canal aqueduct ever built. As such, it is one of the heroic monuments which symbolise the world’s first Industrial Revolution and its transformation of technology.

The twin Anglo-Saxon monastery at Wearmouth and Jarrow - 'one monastery in two places' - was the creation of one man, Benedict Biscop, who travelled abroad extensively (to Rome and elsewhere) from in the 650s on and had returned determined to build a monastery 'in the Roman manner'. The first historian of the English people, Bede, was a member of the community from the age of seven, having been entrusted to Benedict Biscop c. 680.
Culture Minister, David Lammy, said: “Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape has just been successfully inscribed to become the 27th UK World Heritage Site. Earlier this year we put forward Darwin at Downe as the UK’s 2006 nomination for consideration in 2007. We now need to turn our attention to the running order of nominations for 2007 and beyond.

“I am extremely pleased with the nominations for 2007 to 2009. The Antonine Wall will be an important addition to the existing Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage site. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is world known and an impressive example of waterways engineering in the late 18th century. And the twin Anglo Saxon monastery at Wearmouth and Jarrow are a historic legacy of Benedict Biscop's vision in the seventh century which produced Bede, the greatest scholar of his day, who shaped European thought."
Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, said: “The nomination for Wearmouth-Jarrow recognises the unique international contribution the site and its greatest inhabitant, the Anglo-Saxon scholar Bede, made to the development of European learning and culture. The inscription of the Antonine Wall will complement the recent joining of the Upper German-Raetian Limes and Hadrian's Wall to form the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site and will strengthen international cooperation on conservation."

Patricia Ferguson MSP, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, said: “The Antonine Wall is an outstanding international archaeological treasure. This touch of Roman civilisation in central Scotland is a reminder of the many European links our country has and this bid for World Heritage Site status is widely supported, not just in Scotland and the UK, but by other countries that share this heritage.



message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 22, 2010 06:38PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Here is book on Google which discusses the age of the Antonines as a period of intellectual sterility:

http://books.google.com/books?id=G0-H...

By the way..not sure I buy this either.


message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments This is an interesting write-up on Roman Life:

http://www.roman-empire.net/society/s...


message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments This is pretty interesting"

Stele names Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus as Egyptian Pharaoh

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sci...


message 28: by Kw (new)

Kw Estes | 3 comments I realize that this is coming a bit late, but I just finished the chapter and wanted to bring attention to a few items.

Gibbon talks much about works for the "pleasure of the meanest citizen", and this is all well and good, but it hardly amounts to much when we know that about half of Rome's population were slaves. So in reality, even these "meanest citizens" are under-girded by a vast class who can tend to more menial duties whilst all the others hang out at the baths or whatever else. I also find it interesting that later in the chapter Gibbon completely contradicts the idea of "private deeds for public good" by telling us that "a few individuals were enriched at the expense of the Public" through commercial expeditions (sort of reminds one of the glory days of Bush the Younger).

I also found this quote from p. 84 quite interesting:
"A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste."

There is something in me that can't help but believe that the cynics of every age believe this about their civilization, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Gibbon was not only talking about ancient Rome.

Lastly, the final paragraph by Ch. 2 seems to say that the demise of Rome came from its lack of freedom and democracy. This seems quite important, and I just want to know what other people think of this and whether or not I have completely misconstrued what is being conveyed by Gibbon.


Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Kw wrote: "I realize that this is coming a bit late, but I just finished the chapter and wanted to bring attention to a few items.

Gibbon talks much about works for the "pleasure of the meanest citizen", and..."


I had gotten the impression that Gibbon wasn't much in favor of democracy so I wouldn't think he would attribute lack of that for a reason for decline. While he may have meant his remark about a "a cloud of critics ..." for the current time as well, I find it ironic as the great inventions of the industrial revolution were just around the corner and who the classical composers were at the time he was writing. Am I being too accepting of what Gibbons writes and what he meant is entirely different? Have I overlooked all the sarcasm?


message 30: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 23, 2010 04:23PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments I think you are both right. There is a lot of veiled sarcasm for sure; I agree with KW...on the other hand...I see Gibbon as being quite similar to Barzun (he had his opinions so why not weave these into the story with innuendo).

I wonder if Gibbon was so immersed in the task at hand in writing this opus that his focus was more on the past than what was happening in the present. He seemed to me disengaged from his own community at the time almost a slave himself to his task.

He also does in part skip between ancient Rome and his time period in some of his criticisms so all is not lost on him.

By the way KW.....nobody is ever too late to comment and thank you for contributing and doing so. I agree with you that a lack of freedom, slavery of its people and other captured foreigners as well as a lack of the ability of its populace to have a fair say in their life is what he hammers home as being some of the causes for the demise of Rome.


Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Bentley wrote: "I think you are both right. There is a lot of veiled sarcasm for sure; I agree with KW...on the other hand...I see Gibbon as being quite similar to Barzun (he had his opinions so why not weave the..."

I think slavery also was a large part of the reason there was little technology advancement. Why try to invent machines to save labor when slaves do all the hard work anyway?
after all you don't want your neighbors thinking you can't afford enough slaves!


message 32: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments I think you are right Patricrk.


message 33: by Patrick (last edited May 24, 2010 07:07AM) (new)

Patrick Sprunger Slavery doesn't necessarily impede development of better technology. Eli Whitney's mechanical cotton gin boosted the efficiency of slavery as an engine of production in the antebellum American South - and in the process became a guarantor of the slave system. The gin maximized the efficiency of a workforce; slavery represented the minimum possible overhead for labor costs. The two paired together cemented the slave system to the extent that nothing less than a cataclysm could break it down (notably civil or servile war).

If slavery is complemented by technology, I don't see how it coincides with any great cultural progress. And I think Kw's Gibbon quote about "the decline of genius" and "corruption of taste" reflects that. Democracy/egalitarianism seems essential in order for a civilization to reach its full potential.

That said, I share Patricrk's suspicion that Gibbon wasn't democracy's greatest booster. While Gibbon may or may not find slavery anathemic to cultural greatness, he probably preferred monarchism to democracy to preserve cultural integrity. To tell you the truth, he was probably on to something. But the failure of that mindset, to me, is the preference for haute culture over the public welfare. If one must decide between a ruling literati with cultured salons and proficiency in ancient Greek and a society in which the basic needs are met for every citizen, I'd choose the latter.


message 34: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 24, 2010 10:32AM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Good post Patrick. Adding technology to the slavery issue does not show great cultural progress; nor did it depict that for the Southern US. However, the South prided itself on its culture and its being such a genteel place for the plantation owners that is. It is odd how from the beginning of time there were slaves to do the owners bidding and each society and class of people thought it was OK. There seems to be always an undercurrent.

I am not so sure that monarchism was any better than democracy when it came to having slaves and/or promoting/owning them though.

It is odd how societies delude themselves into thinking that some folks are worth less than themselves.


Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Bently wrote It is odd how societies delude themselves into thinking that some folks are worth less than themselves.
It is part of our tribal mentality. That's why we notice the appearance of people we speak to (are they in our tribe?), support sports team, etc. I think it is hard wired into humans to create sub groups that that are "real people" while all others are "subhumans". Even if it someone from the same family who isn't a member of this group. After all, those in the Goodreads History group are clearly a superior class.


Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Patrick wrote: "Slavery doesn't necessarily impede development of better technology. Eli Whitney's mechanical cotton gin boosted the efficiency of slavery as an engine of production in the antebellum American Sou..."

I look at this a bit differently. Whitney came out of a slave free state and can't really be counted as part of the slave culture (quibble - not really important). What the cotton gin did was provide the technology that made an agriculture product (upland cotton) then essentially worthless into a resource for an existing market. It didn't make growing cotton any more efficient, it did make the processing of upland cotton more efficient. I agree with all you said about the effect this had afterwards.

I've always wondered if slavery was really more economical than paying someone only for the time they work and letting them buy their own food, housing etc the rest of the year. I think part of it was the uncertainty of whether you could get get a work force during harvest time or hoeing time or when workers were needed. Now of course this work is done with expensive machines.

I don't understand what you mean by "If slavery is complemented by technology ..." Could you explain a bit more?


message 37: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Patricrk wrote: "Bently wrote It is odd how societies delude themselves into thinking that some folks are worth less than themselves.
It is part of our tribal mentality. That's why we notice the appearance of ..."


You are making me laugh...


message 38: by Patrick (last edited May 24, 2010 01:27PM) (new)

Patrick Sprunger Patricrk asked: "I don't understand what you mean by "If slavery is complemented by technology ..." Could you explain a bit more?"

The sentence was redundant. It essentially repeats my point about the mechanical cotton gin increasing plantation profits.* As the beginning to the second paragraph, I tried to contrast how technology interacts with slavery, but culture itself does not.

Bentley contends that the antebellum South had a very vibrant and genteel culture, despite the peculiar institution. He states that the very leisure personified in the faux-aristocratic airs of the Southern gentry is due to the presence of slaves to perform the menial work. I see his point, but think there might be an illusion at work.

The Southern antebellum culture, with all its courtly affectation, feels a little manic - almost like it's contrived to conceal a very unpleasant reality living beyond the verandas and receiving rooms. The honorary colonels and gentlemen callers and Southern belles feel like stage actors. In order to sustain their routine, a cadre of servants must toil and the land must be plundered relentlessly.

Not merely theatric (and thus artificial), the Southern antebellum pageant itself feels very retrograde. If I have categorized it correctly, I feel it's a synthesis of Francophilia and Creole influence. The former fetishized a defunct way of life, the latter was a sort of inferiority complex unto itself.** Where is the Southern art and literature from the antebellum period? Who were the enduring Southern economists and what were its statesmen's values? Why did the South export raw cotton, then buy finished goods from elsewhere when it could have controlled the whole means of production locally? Even the innovation that defined the plantation business model was developed by an outsider.

By contrast, the American Northeast, Old Northwest, and West were developing striking new features, almost by the day. The growth of cities like Chicago and Cincinnati and St. Louis represented unprecidented economic growth. Northern statesmen saw the importance of funding improvement projects to develop rail and river transportation to unite the growing sectors into a unified, national economy. The period of the early 19th century saw the appearance of new universities, produced a school of distinctly American literature and painting, and made New York the rival of European capitols for both finance and culture. All of this took place above the Mason-Dixon line. It seems to me the most striking difference was the presence and absence of slavery to depreciate wages and capital.

Now, we're not here to talk about the American South. We're here to talk about the Romans. But Gibbon is too brief on slavery to answer questions about slavery's effect on Roman haute culture. Furthermore, he was working from secondary sources and was influenced by centuries of academic bias. (He also lived in a world that permitted slavery, and that's kind of a biggie.) We, on the other hand, have the benefit of more recent hindsight and the vocabulary necessary to talk about extensive socio-economic effect. If I can demonstrate that slavery impoverished the culture, as well as the economy, of the American South, it can be inferred that Roman slavery was a contributing factor to its "decline and fall."

.............................................

*Industrial methods also increased the profits of traditional industry, and in the process created unique discontents. By reducing the number of hours needed to perform a task, increasing output, and reducing waste, industry in the North made the worker disposable. If a worker was hurt, aged, or infirm, (s)he was readily replaceable. Increased turnover leads to labor surplus, which drives wages down. Those left by the way side have no where to turn to in a world without social relief (entitlements). When facing homelessness and starvation, the perverse safety net of slavery actually has an unlikely benefit. You raise a really interesting point, Patricrk. ("I've always wondered if slavery was really more economical than paying someone only for the time they work and letting them buy their own food, housing etc the rest of the year.")

**In my understanding, "Creole" refers to the offspring of Iberian (or generally, European) colonists. The first generation of Spanish born in the new world divided their identity between old and new Spain. In time, the Iberian identity grew more diffuse. But colonial Spanish society was so stratified that class identity was paramount. Even as "Creole" became a new identifier, it was elevated above "indigenes," "slaves" and "mestizo" (mulatto). Another related term is "hidalgo," meaning "sons of something." The Creole had a vibrant culture, but were relegated to lower social status than Iberians. I think this led to a pathological inferiority complex, extending at least to the Louisiana Purchase, if not beyond.


Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Thanks for the explanation. As the plantation (an agriculture factory) was introduced into the colonial South before cotton was king, that cultural veneer was in place when cotton allowed it to expand into the rest of the south. I firmly believe that Slavery is a significant factor in the decline of the Romans and the cultural poverty of the South.


message 40: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 24, 2010 06:54PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments I am not sure I would attribute those statements to what I intended to convey.

I think I said:

However, the South prided itself on its culture and its being such a genteel place for the plantation owners that is. It is odd how from the beginning of time there were slaves to do the owners bidding and each society and class of people thought it was OK. There seems to be always an undercurrent.

The point that I was making is that this is how the South viewed itself; although many at that time might agree. I was trying to point out the dichotomy between slavery and the sordidness of the life of the slaves on one hand and the antebellum South on the other and how similarly they viewed the slaves as not equating to one of them. I also do believe that because they did have the slaves to do the manual and back breaking labor, they were able to enjoy their lives as gentlemen and enjoy the fruits of the slaves' labor.

The South however and specifically Charleston was very rich at that period of time and financed much of the union...do not forget that element. The Union when it was starting out was only too glad to take that money. The North was not in the same monetary league as the South until much later.

Folks, slavery probably did contribute to some of the decline of the Romans but maybe it was more that the people did not enjoy freedom themselves and it did stifle their creativity.

Let us try to get back to the Romans.


Patrick Sprunger Sorry, Bentley. Thanks for keeping me in line.


message 42: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments It is not a problem; just a nudge (smile)


Eliza (ElizaC) Kw wrote: "Lastly, the final paragraph by Ch. 2 seems to say that the demise of Rome came from its lack of freedom and democracy. This seems quite important, and I just want to know what other people think of this and whether or not I have completely misconstrued what is being conveyed by Gibbon"

I read this almost the exact opposite way. That freedom and peace led to complacency which led to the demise of their courage and genius.

Gibbon states on pg 82 of the Penguin Classic Edition

Nonwithstanding 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 the Romans. "They acknowledged that the true principles of social life, laws, agriculture, and science, which had been first invented by the wisdom of Athens, were now firmly established by the power of Rome, under whose auspicous influence, the fiercest barbarians were united by an equal government and common language, The affirm that with the improvement of art, the human species was visibly multiplied. They celebrate the increasing splendour of the cities, the beautiful face of the country, cultivated and adorned like an immense garden; and the long festival of peace, which was enjoyed by so many nations, forgetful of their ancient animosities, and delivered from the apprehension of future danger."

It almost seems like things were too good and that they stagnated.


message 44: by Kw (new)

Kw Estes | 3 comments Eliza wrote: "Kw wrote: "Lastly, the final paragraph by Ch. 2 seems to say that the demise of Rome came from its lack of freedom and democracy. This seems quite important, and I just want to know what other peop..."

I agree that Gibbon did evince a belief that the material prosperity of the Roman empire was one of the major causes of its downfall. I don't feel, though, that this would in any way contradict the idea that a lack of true freedom and democracy was also a major factor in the same. In fact, the two may be equally true. Though today we tend to associate "democracy" with the (often noxious) affluence of the West, the two are not necessarily concomitant. While Rome was certainly a wealthy and secure empire, the people of Rome had very little say in what direction the empire should be headed or what policies should be implemented. It was an exceedingly top-down operation in which those who deigned to oppose the emperor were often done away with fairly mercilessly (the crucifix was a popular method). So while there may be good reason to believe that Rome fell in large part because of a creeping "fat-and-happy" syndrome, this does not mean that a lack of diverse voices and democratic values did not also play a role.


message 45: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Eliza wrote: "Kw wrote: "Lastly, the final paragraph by Ch. 2 seems to say that the demise of Rome came from its lack of freedom and democracy. This seems quite important, and I just want to know what other peop..."

Yes Eliza I do agree that the citizens of Rome became too accustomed to success and luxury and this easy life extinguished the internal fire which produced genius. Sounds familiar (smile).


message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 26, 2010 08:25PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Kw wrote: "Eliza wrote: "Kw wrote: "Lastly, the final paragraph by Ch. 2 seems to say that the demise of Rome came from its lack of freedom and democracy. This seems quite important, and I just want to know w..."

KW it never is just one thing that brings about a culture or an empire to its knees...it is always it seems a bunch of little things. Think of the US for example what would be the bunch of little things that could undermine our fine country. There are things that seem quite familiar to me as I am reading this. Do Americans really feel that they have a voice or have we been subdued in a way too. Do all empires get fat and happy first, start enjoying too much the fruits of their labors and then fall apart? This is actually a very interesting read. We learn from history the fact that we do not learn from history. Some excellent points made by you as well as Eliza.


Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Bentley wrote: "Kw wrote: "Eliza wrote: "Kw wrote: "Lastly, the final paragraph by Ch. 2 seems to say that the demise of Rome came from its lack of freedom and democracy. This seems quite important, and I just wan..."

I think what you need to encourage genius is a culture that allows upwards mobility, that values workers (no slavery) and has a system that allows the potential for rewards for your works (patent monopolies, copy rights, etc). If they don't have these then the culture goes stagnant but that doesn't necessarily means it declines. In short I don't really agree with Gibbon on this premise for the decline.


message 48: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Patricrk wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Kw wrote: "Eliza wrote: "Kw wrote: "Lastly, the final paragraph by Ch. 2 seems to say that the demise of Rome came from its lack of freedom and democracy. This seems quite important..."


I know you feel that way Patricrk. I agree with you wholeheartedly with the fact that to encourage genius in a culture it must allow upward mobility, it must value workers and it must allow rewards for ingenuity. All of these are great things and they do encourage genius.

But on the other hand I do not negate or disbelieve the points that Gibbon has made about decline.


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