The Impending Fall of the Roman Republic
Sound at all familiar?
Study history and study it well, my friends, for we can better recognize echoic trends, learn from the mistakes of our past, and challenge the solutions of old to break cycles. We live in an era of unprecedented information access. Many answers to the problems of our times lie in history books, if only you make the effort to open them and digest. Do not succumb to ignorance or distraction; fight for and stay on the path to great knowledge. Study the past to fix the present and plan for the future. History can help change the course of fate.
Prior to 140s BC, Rome was consumed by 100 years of war with Carthage and Greece. Rome finally conquered and became the sole superpower in the Mediterranean for the next 600 years, but the Republic itself was doomed after she lost its greatest unifying force: an enemy.
Rome became rich and powerful, bolstered by a massive influx of slave labor from the conquered. Veterans came home and couldn’t keep up, finding themselves homeless and unemployed. The military devolved from patriotic noble landowners defending their homes to anyone who needed a job. Wealth made the wealthy wealthier and personal gain took precedence over affairs of state, fueled by the rise of a progressive novus homo elite who were new to power with no ties to the old ways of doing things. These new men identified with the masses and raised popular causes. The likes of Scipio Africanus (who allegedly coined the term “Imperator”) introduced the cult of personality to Rome. The conquered peoples of the provinces became loyal to personalities, not to Rome, and saw a path to win their own status. A Rome of virtuous men in the image of Cincinnatus shifted to hedonism, selfishness, and individualism. Rome’s 350 year pledge against monarchy could not temper the greed and ambition of men.
Conservatives like Cato saw the breakdown, even making audacious displays of wealth illegal for fear of inciting uprisings. Ultimately, the Republic had survived for two reasons: the plebeian lower class were not poor enough to launch a revolution and the elites were unified enough that their rivalries did not become public. Those linchpins removed, Rome turned inward for conflict. Civil war was inevitable. The stage was set for men of wealth and influence to seize the reins of an otherwise functioning government and cast it back into a simpler format of sole ruler, whether benevolent or cruel. Rome would never recover from this transition to Empire, though it would take 1,500 years to finally die.
Did you learn anything from that preview? See any parallels? Get any ideas? Even in a short read, one can learn so much about the patterns of humanity. Events two millennia years ago ring true today. As I am spending 20 hours per week studying Roman history, I’ll be sure to share more insights in post to come.