The End Of The World…

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Neither the weary, disciplined […] soldiers, ranked along the west bank, nor the anxious, helter-skelter tribes amassing on the east bank could have been giving much thought to their place in history. But this moment of slack, this relative calm before the pandemonium to follow, gives us the chance to study the actors on both sides of this river and to look backward on what has been and forward to what will be.

…its foundations were unassailable, sturdily sunk in a storied past and steadily built on for eleven centuries and more. There was, of course, the prophecy. Someone, usually someone in his cups, could always be counted on to bring up that old saw: the Prophecy of the Twelve Eagles, each eagle representing a century, leaving us with- stubby fingers counting out the decades in a puddle of wine- only seventy years remaining! Give or take a decade! Predictable laughter at the silliness of the whole idea. But in seventy years exactly, the empire would be gone.

[it] hardly foresaw its doom.

There are, no doubt, lessons here for the contemporary reader. The changing character of the native population, brought about through unremarked pressures on porous borders; the creation of an increasingly unwieldy and rigid bureaucracy, whose own survival becomes its overriding goal; the despising of the military and the avoidance of its service by established families, while its offices present unprecedented opportunity for marginal men to whom its ranks had once been closed; the lip service paid to values long dead; the pretense that we still are what we once were; the increasing concentrations of the populace into richer and poorer by way of a corrupt tax system, and the desperation that inevitably follows; the aggrandizement of executive power at the expense of the legislature; ineffectual legislation promulgated with great show; the moral vocation of the man at the top to maintain order at all costs, while growing blind to the cruel dilemmas of ordinary life– these are all themes with which our world is familiar, nor are they the God-given property of any party or political point of view, even though we often act as if they were. At least, the emperor could not heap his economic burdens on posterity by creating long-term public debt, for floating capital had not yet been conceptualized. The only kinds of wealth worth speaking of were the fruits of the earth.

Though it is easy for us to perceive the wild instability of the Roman Imperium in its final days, it was not easy for the Romans. Rome, the Eternal City, had been untouchable since the Celts of Gaul had sacked it by surprise in 390 B.C. In the ensuing eight centuries Rome built itself into the world’s only superpower, unassailable save for the occasional war on a distant border.

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    • Edger on June 11, 2010 at 7:25 pm
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    …king of the Visigoths, and all his forces parked at their gates. He might as well have been the king of the Fuzzy-Wuzzies, or any other of the inconsequential outlanders that civilized people have looked down their noses at throughout history. It was preposterous.

    They dispatched a pair of envoys to conduct the tiresome negotiation and send him away. The envoys began with empty threats: any attack on Rome was doomed, for it would be met by invincible strength and innumerable ranks of warriors.

    Alaric was a sharp man, and in his rough fashion a just one. He also had a sense of humor.

    “The thicker the grass, the more easily scythed,” he replied evenly.

  1. ….were clues to the autocratic nature of Obama.

    When I see Obama on the TV now, I see your basic political hack, one talented enough to get elected but a man of very limited vision and one who revels in punching DFH’s every chance he gets.

    Similar to Reagan in being a photogenic thug.

  2. already begun.

    “But,” my father protested, “things have been as bad as this before!  People were really pissed at the Vietnam War.”

    Despite the fact I was a small child, I remember the Vietnam War, or parts of it.

    That was 40 years ago.  The fall into a new Global Dark Ages will have lasted more than 100.  And the Vietnam War was part of it.

    • melvin on June 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    The Barbarians (Round Two)

    — Amir Or

    It was not in vain that we awaited the barbarians,

    it was not in vain that we gathered in the city square.

    It was not in vain that our great ones donned their official robes

    and rehearsed their speeches for the event.

    It was not in vain that we smashed our temples

    and erected new ones to their gods;

    as proper we burnt our books

    that have nothing in them for people like that.

    As the prophesy foretold the barbarians came,

    and took the keys to the city from the king’s hand.

    But when they came they donned the garments of the land,

    and their customs were the customs of the state;

    and when they commanded us in our own tongue

    we no longer knew when

    the barbarians had come to us.

  3. I would say they are not some external force or army.  They are the unattended demons who inhabit our own psyches.

    They are not exterior; they are interior.

    Today the battle is, must be, against the barbarans of our own souls, our insufficiently evolved human souls.  

    These barbarians can be defeated only through rigorous self awareness and consumate values.  

    Atrocities like the GOM oil spill, the economic meltdown, the foreclosure fiasco, and the killing of civilians by remote control drones — display to us those whose psyches have been completely invaded by the barbarians.

  4. from the longer article:

    Augustus, while seizing all power, had wisely left in place all the republican trappings. The empty show that resulted only emphasized the more the importance of how things were done – since no one wished to advert to the vanity of what was being done.

    Quite so.

  5. Notice how they’re all but forgotten after a couple of generations. They just kind of blend in to the haze of history. Still doin it.

    And what of the great mass of humanity who have died of hunger, poverty and imprisonment? Those tens of millions don’t even elicit a single memorial tear drop.

    Just lost in the haze. Still doin it.

    And we can’t forget all those tens of millions killed by professional armies going back to Sumeria. Forgotten in the dust, the side bar to history. Still doin it.

    And all those tens of millions killed by diseases, disabled by accidents and ravaged by disabilities? Not a major concern if not part of the larger family. Still doin it despite available cures, therapies and remedies.

    Dark Ages?      

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