The Roman Empire: Louis XIV times
Part II of Dmitry Galkovsky's series of blog posts on the history of Rome and Christianity. An original translation.
In the last discussion there was a lot of speculation about the demise of the Roman civilization due to global climate change, environmental disasters and mysterious epidemics.
I strongly advise against using these kinds of arguments in discussions of historical topics. The physical world in which biological beings live is remarkably stable. It is immutable. When the first satellites were launched beyond the orbit of Mars, there was serious concern about whether they would be destroyed by collisions with the asteroid belt. Whereas it was mathematically clear that this belt is a belt only in people's imagination. Space is EMPTY and nothing happens there. EVER. We see the surface of the Moon all riddled with craters from falling asteroids. Only this is an element not of human, but geological history. For geology, the lower limit of the timeline is a million years. The earth's climate is very fluid, probably subject to some cycles. Only they are such cycles that a thousand years there is a flicker of hundredths of a second.
So when a historian (not a paleontologist) starts spouting off about global warming or cooling or meteor impacts, that is a very, very bad sign. This is the behavior of a confused man who tries to resort to a Deus ex machina to somehow get out of an unpleasant situation. In the most childish way possible. Or we are dealing with an example of classic quackery.
The same goes for all kinds of epidemics and famines. Both have occurred many times in the observed period of history and have always demonstrated the astonishing fragility of the individual human organism and the absolute stability of the human anthill. Even the death of millions of individuals led only to a small notch in the demographic graph. The single man is a mortal creature and sometimes not resilient at all. But even the smallest people has an astonishing resilience.
To talk about the death of Rome from epidemics is like reducing what happened to Russia in 1917 to a typhoid epidemic. Which did take place, and at a terrible scale. And there was a famine, too. And a world war. But all these things Russia would have shrugged off. Just as France at the same time survived Verdun and the Spanish flu.
What's more. EVEN if (let’s do some mental gymnastics) an asteroid had fallen down in Antiquity or the Gulf Stream had reversed its direction, the Romans would not have been terribly impressed. Everyone else would have died, but the Romans would have survived.
We are all under the influence of massive propaganda that has slandered Classical Antiquity for centuries. It's common to make fun of all sorts of Stalinists in the blogosphere, but they're not necessarily lunatics or shills. In most cases, they are ordinary people who are uncomfortable about changing the paradigm of their perception (and that is always uncomfortable and unpleasant). This is a direct consequence of decades of brainwashing, which has affected several generations of Russian people. But all this is nothing compared to the brainwashing to which all of us, Russians, Germans, Italians, Frenchmen, and Americans, have been subjected, regarding Antiquity.
Somebody managed to suggest that we are all descended from mean and not very smart people. Who, yes, chewed bubblegum, built aircraft carriers, but, in general, they were not very good people. Are Yankees really people? The Udmurts have spirituality, songs and dances. They'll just sing an Udmurt song, and everyone will understand that they're good people.
What happened to Antiquity is striking in its persistence. When the wretched Europeans unearthed some ancient public latrines in the 19th century, they first thought they were temples. Individual latrines, which were in every Roman home, also qualified as cultic structures where water was worshipped. When a sanitary commission worked in London in the 40s of the 19th century, it explicitly recommended that the authorities of the most advanced country in the world stop spewing shit and introduce the Roman system of sewers and toilets.
Only in the second half of the 19th century, with the invention of dynamite, Europeans were finally able to replicate the Roman efficiency of tunneling. "Cocceius' Tunnel," a kilometer-long transport tunnel with a system of ventilation shafts, was in operation until 1874, and even in the early 19th century people couldn’t even think of trying to build something similar.
Recently, in long-suffering Palestine, scientists have investigated the system of Roman aqueducts that had been burrowed into the rocks to supply water to three cities of the Decapolis (for religious reasons, it is EXTREMELY not recommended to know what this is) and first estimated that the drilling work would have taken 120 years. But data on the speed of Roman construction is abundant. All these aqueducts and stadiums were built at an AMAZING speed. A large construction took around four years.
The first permanent bridge over the wide Danube was built by Emperor Trajan, the second by the Englishman William Clark in 1849. Clark's bridge was called a “wonder of the world”. It is a big question how long that bridge will last; a newer bridge in Vienna successfully collapsed after 99 years. The remains of Trajan’s bridge, dismantled by the Romans themselves, remain to this day. In the 19th century, two piers were blown up to allow ships to pass.
However, in Romania some people recently expressed the version that the bridge was built by the Dacians themselves. Like, the Dacians were nice and welcoming, because of their high level of culture, but then the Roman subhumans came over the bridge. To rob and kill the gypsies.
Rome’s power was based on cement; many Roman buildings survived to this day - the Pantheon, for example. Then the inventors of concrete were killed and everyone ran out of it. We had to get by without concrete until the end of the 18th century, when some poor substitute was found and, incidentally, proudly named "Roman cement”. A substance of equivalent quality was invented only in the 1840s ("Portland cement").
At the same time, Ancient Rome was portrayed as some kind of monstrous slave-owning society, where poor slaves were hunched over under whips and worked for a bowl of gruel while the stupid and lazy Romans were living off them.
In fact, there is still no such thing slavery-free society. All countries have prisons with prisoners and the prisoners are slaves. Slaves work poorly and can only be used effectively on galleys, hence the Russian word "Katorga" (literally, a type of rowing ship). Slave labor was used in Antiquity, but not to any greater extent than slave labor in the United States. However, there was no ethnic divide between Romans and slaves, freedmen constituted an entire class and people sought to translate the slave-master relationship into a paternalistic one. The Romans had a carnival where for a day domestic servants became masters, and the masters served them. Ancient roads, aqueducts, stadiums, bridges were built by free men - professional tradesmen organized in special guilds ("collegia") or legionary soldiers recruited from free citizens. The Roman was not a parasite or a freeloader, but a great laborer, a man of Protestant work ethic.
Up until the middle of the 20th century people also whined tediously about the savage Roman homosexuality and pornography. But then they matured, reached an appropriate stage of societal development in the 60s, and shut up. It turned out that the Romans were not children, but adults. For the most part they had a healthy lifestyle, even with elements of asceticism (after all, the institution of nuns was invented in Rome), but they understood that a few percent of people had a different sexual orientation and tolerated it. That's all. The barbarians and children here were the repressed Europeans of the 19th century.
All in all, it's terrible. Imagine late 19th century Europeans on a tour of Pompeii. There are some fabulous frescoes there (where they belong, i.e. in a brothel). And so these 30-40 year old men shrug, blush, giggle, wink, and catch a glimpse of the "forbidden pictures”. Like a teenager who goes on the Internet for the first time. And these people, I repeat, are 30-40 years old, they are university-educated family men. And then in their underdeveloped brains all of Antiquity turns into a single brothel: bathhouses, restrooms, gyms, swimming pools and even stadiums ("in stadiums Christians were tied to tables and beastly raped"). SICK PEOPLE. Common European pre-war neuroticism.
By the way, don't think that people have now matured to the level of Antiquity with regards to sexuality. Ask the average modern person about pedophilia. He will start talking absolute bullshit. Soon breastfeeding will be declared pedophilia. It will take one or two more generations for the dweebs to become normal.
All ancient texts are distorted - firstly by insertions and "correct" translation, and secondly by the off-screen nudging of philistines. They seek to find some disgusting thing in the Ancients and emphasize it. All actions tend to be presented in the most unfavorable angle, any gossip gratefully picked up as immutable truth, the good is not noticed at all or announced as the rarest exception. The usual expressions are: "degenerates," "decadence," "ruin," "parasites," "murderers”.
And these same libelists themselves made a living out of leeching off Antiquity. Because they had nothing of their own, and there was nowhere else to take inspiration. They made a culture out of the Antiquity which they had slandered. Their armies, too. And their architecture. And then they had the nerve to proclaim: "A PRIMITIVE CIVILIZATION OF SADISTS." That's what sadism is. In its bare form.
Here's a common example of the slander, I swear this is the first example I stumbled upon on the Internet. A couple of Englishmen (Terry Jones and Alan Ereira) write about Trajan’s Column:
To enjoy watching people suffer and die was the very essence of Roman identity… People associated their emperor with a scale of horror fully comparable with Auschwitz – and perhaps worse…. Many of the images on Trajan's Column depict Romans slaughtering Dacians.
… It is ironic that we are left with so many contemporary images of a Barbarian people about whom we otherwise know so little. The Column celebrates Trajan's campaign in AD 101–6, in which he entered the kingdom of Dacia and destroyed the entire Dacian nation…
…Zalmoxis seems to have been regarded in a similar way to the Buddha, who was Pythagoras' exact contemporary (both are believed to have lived from 560 BC to 480 BC). But Buddhism survived and Zalmoxism didn't – the Romans were far from India, and distressingly close to Dacia. There was a sanctuary, but there were no statues of gods, and no altars or sacrifices. One Greek contemporary of Caesar, Diodorus Siculus, lists Zalmoxis as one of the three great non-Greek philosophers (the others being Moses and the Persian Zoroaster), but we know almost nothing of his teachings. We do know that he said the soul was immortal.
“ZALMOXISM”. Well said!
Reading ancient texts, let alone commentaries on them, you will constantly see the grimace of a 19th century neurotic low-life, distorted with anger. He was sicced on Antiquity like a puppy, and now he is attacking, but doesn't know who he is attacking and why. He just barks until his knees start shaking.
If you look at it with an open mind, you can see that those people were better and cleaner than us, and we should learn from them instead of barking.
There were, of course, Plato and Aristotle - a gnome, illuminated by the t̶o̶t̶a̶l̶i̶t̶a̶r̶i̶a̶n̶ ̶c̶u̶l̶t̶ great religion, might pat them on the back condescendingly: kind of almost like real people. Sometimes they even rise to the level of Christians. Accidentally.
But take Nero, for example, and try to look at him without bias. It is more likely that he was beautifying the center of Rome to match the increased level of domestic culture. Much like Haussmann did with mid-19th century Paris. On the other hand, Nero was moulded into some monstrous villain who purposely set Paris on fire and destroyed Montmartre. Why would he do that? - He was CRAZY. And so all the way. The philosopher Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor. Have you seen many men of such magnitude in our age? I haven't seen any. More Hitlers and Churchills. Or the latest jerk, who was caught with an ugly black woman with AIDS five minutes before the French presidential election. That's a classic “antique” - as the word was used in the 19th century.
There’s a very “revealing” passage in Herzen’s “Past and Thoughts”:
In the Vatican there is a new gallery in which Pius VII, I believe, placed an immense number of statues, busts, and statuettes, dug up in Rome and its environs. The whole history of the decline of Rome is there expressed in eyebrows, lips, foreheads; from the daughter of Augustus down to Poppaea the matrons have succeeded in transforming themselves into cocottes, and the type of cocotte is predominant and persists; the masculine type, surpassing itself, so to speak, in Antinous and Hermaphroditus, divides into two. On one hand there is sensual and moral degradation, low brows and features defiled by vice and gluttony, bloodshed and every wickedness in the world, petty as in the hetaira Heliogabalus, or with pendulous cheeks like Galba; the last type is wonderfully reproduced in the King of Naples . . . . But there is another - the type of military commander in whom everything that makes a good citizen, everything human, has died out, and there is left nothing but the passion for domination; the mind is narrow and there is no heart at all; they are the monks of the love of power; strength and harshness of will are manifest in their features. Such were the Emperors of the Praetorian Guard and of the army, whom mutinous legionaries raised to power for an hour. Among their number I found many heads that recalled Nicholas before he wore a moustache. I understand the necessity for these grim and inflexible guards beside one who is dying in frenzy, but what use are they to one who is young, whose career is just starting?
The methodology is clear. If it’s a young man, he is a punk. If he’s elderly, he’s senile. If he’s thin, he’s a weakling. If he’s burly, he’s a fatass. If he’s pretty, he’s a fag. If he’s smart, he’s ugly. If he’s brave, he’s a gangster. A pretty woman is a whore. A homely woman is an ugly hag.
So much for the “degeneration of Ancient Rome”. And all because they didn’t know the radiant teaching of Zalmoxism.
At the same time, Herzen, a smart and experienced man, did not simply reproduce primitive political propaganda. It was he, in turn, who fell victim to propaganda of a different order. When he was brought up on ancient culture (right down to the study of ancient languages), SOMEONE got to pick and choose and show this teenager a gallery of social freaks, as if they had been running the greatest civilization on the planet.
I believed for a long time that Western European monarchs invented numerical designations to successfully legitimize supposedly ancient ruling families. In reality, a small district governor, an accountant, or even a butcher in the conditions of a caste-based guild society achieved to secure a hereditary position for his offspring, then the word "district" turned into "count" - not a position, but a title, and then the newly emerged aristocracy began to name themselves with serial numbers, and usually going above and beyond. The secretary of the Smolensk regional party committee, Ivan Petrovich Marmyshkin, was transformed into the Supreme Arch-Secretary, but not Ivan I, but at least III, or even V.
But it was disconcerting that the especially zealous ones started with IX, or even XII. That seemed like overkill.
The light of truth shone through the treetops when I stumbled upon the remarkable Dutch beastie Vilain XIIII (that's right, with four Is). This is not a given name - it’s a family name. It can be traced back to somewhere around 1650. A specific person could be called, for example, "Charles Vilain the Fourteenth”. Or "Charles Vilain Fourteen." Or he could simply show his card, because he's not XIV, but XIIII (an older notation) - and how do you pronounce that? CARGO CULT.
It all fell into place when I learned how Roman emperors were officially titled. It was written like this:
“Imperator Caesar Divi filius Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, Consul XIII, Imperator XXI, Tribuniciae potestatis XXXVII, Pater Patriae”
This is what Augustus was called, and it translates to:
"Emperor, son of the Divine Caesar, Augustus, Grand Pontiff, Consul 13 times, Imperator 21 times, vested with the power of the People's Tribune 37 times, Father of the Fatherland."
But the men who began to imitate the rulers of Rome did not understand Latin. They were illiterate and took Consul XIII as titling by name, not by position. Not “secretary of the regional party committee 13 times”, but “Ivan 13 times”.
So much for Zalmoxism-Vilainism.
Original post by Dmitry Galkovsky, translation by RWA.