To The Daily Sun,
Nations rise and fall on the same principles that have been in effect since man.
Israel fell. Once to the Babylonians and again to the Assyrians and finally to the Romans who brought law and order. But! Why did Israel fall? History has shown that they had forgotten their God.
The pattern that existed throughout history has been similar in the conditions that lead to a nations greatness and eventually their downfall.
"Rome lived upon its principle till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt;and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung. That was their return cargo." — The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade ( 1871).
Industry does not stand alone as the only stalwart of a nation. Its people and leaders determine which direction the nation rises or falls. Rome faced a myriad of ills that other nations faced and survived for generations. They endured invasions, famines civil war and political intrigue yet reached peak of grandeur. As Rome's boundaries increased. Egypt, Athens, Carthage, Syracuse and Marseilles became subservient to Rome.
From 500-27 BC, civic rights and duties were defined, nobody could dominate the other. The senate governed. A citizen body of Plebeians and Equites (aristocracy) became a powerful principle of unity and balance. Civil unrest followed as generals vied for power. Julius Caesar became the supreme ruler, followed by Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD) who is credited with founding the Roman Empire. For a time peace and order allowed prosperity and the population to grow. The infrastructure grew as well.
A law in 218 BC restricted senators from engaging in trade. So in retaliation the upper class limited opportunities for the lower. Mines in Macedonia as well as throughout Italy were closed. The state set prices for gain. The market suffered. The state resold it at a subsidized price. Free grain was distributed to lower the class. In order to increase their popularity, demagogues increased the number of those who qualified for free grain. Increase in taxation and banking system problems literally drove farmers off their land. Sicily, Italy's fertile bread basket became deserted. Rome consumed an enormous amount of grain. Revenue needed to be increased in order to provide free grain. Most of the taxes were collected from the farmer, which discouraged farming.
Gibbon wrote his history on the second century BC. It was then that historians and scholars believe Rome commenced its decline. Agriculture, trade, freedom and interference from the government appeared to take the energy from the people.
Farmers deserted their land as depopulation commenced. Any who disagreed with the emperors were either killed or intimidated. The state expanded its power into private lives, industry and commerce. As the bureaucracy ballooned, many went to work for the state, which required even more revenue. It monopolized mines, quarries and other once private enterprises. Laws were enacted under Augustus that penalized the unmarried or childless. Population was declining.
The tax base needed to be increased. Wage and price controls were set. The currency was devalued over and over again through inflation. Rome suffered plagues and barbarians were at their borders. It was during this period they stopped their expansionism. From 235 to 284 most emperors died violently. Civil war and unrest grew. Diocletian's rise to leadership seemed to stop the anarchy. It was said that he was immune to the opium of power. He was called a "philosopher-king." His retirement was said to have ensured Romes downfall.
Slavery diminished, but was replaced with the Roman Coloni, who were legally bound to the soil, who were compelled to give a sizable amount of produce to the land owner. If one ran away, he could be brought back in chains as a slave. Taxes were accessed per acreage, which oppressed the landowner also. A growing government needed more revenue. The imperial bureaucracy and administrative districts doubled under Diocletian.
A secret police came into being under Hadrian (117-138). Informers opened a network that created a state police force. The military expanded. Scholars have written that at this time they had grown soft and unreliable as soldiers. State restrictions on trade grew. Exporting grain, wine, oil and gold were prohibited. Foreign trade declined. the monetary system that had sustained them for a thousand year disintegrated. Barter in kind replaced even taxes. Legionnaires were paid in food.
The curiales, an upper middle class, administered Roman municipalities but were forbidden to join the army, the church, or civil service. Concessions were offered to shippers under Claudius (41-54), which became a demand and, eventually, state control.
People received a sustenance. Grain and other foods were distributed freely to Romans. Under Septimius Severus (193-211), olive oil was given free of charge. Pork rations ensued. Wine was free. The state fixed prices.
The idle rich increased along with the idle poor, who lived on a permanent welfare system. As their numbers increased they organized into a powerful voting block. Would be emperors sought their vote. The strength of Rome was its middle class, it was taxed heavily in order to fund the an eve growing bureaucracy.
Deficit spending ensued. Silver coins gradually began to lose their silver content and finally disappeared.
Foreigners sought Roman citizenship by joining the army as more young men of Rome found excuses for failure to serve. Cynics infiltrated their education system who grew beards and long hair. Dressed slovenly and attacked the middle class. Morals declined. Rioters burned cities. Romans who once felt safe to walk freely lost that freedom.
The rise in taxes and inflation drained the nation of its strength. Edward Gibbon's 1787 "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" lists five important principles that lead to the downfall of Rome.
— Undermining of the dignity ad sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.
— Higher and higher taxes and the spending of public monies for free bread and circuses for the populace.
— The mad craze for pleasure, sports becoming every year more and more exiting and brutal.
— The building of gigantic armaments when the real enemy was within the decadence of the people.
— The decay of religion-faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life, and becoming impotent to warn and guide the people.
Alexis de Tocqueville saw, in 1831, America's greatness and wrote " Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good good, America, will cease to be great."
Marcus Tullius Cicero, born 106 BC, died 43 BC in Alpino, Italy, wrote, "A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to is victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear."
Cicero could have been writing about all tyrants, Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Mussolini and even a warning about our day could very well be eminent.
Gene F. Danforth
- Category: Letters
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