January 04, 2004

The Gibbon-o-Matic

The Gibbon-o-Matic:

Gibbon-o-Matic!: In the second century of the Christian era, the Empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilised portion of mankind.* The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour. The gentle but powerful influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence: the Roman senate appeared to possess the sovereign authority, and devolved on the emperors all the executive powers of government. During a happy period (A.D. 98-180) of more than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the design of this, and of the two succeeding chapters, to describe the prosperous condition of their empire; and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall; a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth.


*I think that at the time the Han people of the Central Country would have disagreed.

Posted by DeLong at January 4, 2004 10:13 AM | TrackBack

Comments

But oh , the english, "And at the word, a hundred swords were plunged into the breast of the unfortunate Probus.

Posted by: big al on January 4, 2004 10:41 AM

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Han-o-matic

After 200 years, Han rule was interrupted briefly (in A.D. 9-24 by Wang Mang or , a reformer), and then restored for another 200 years. The Han rulers, however, were unable to adjust to what centralization had wrought: a growing population, increasing wealth (!!) and resultant financial difficulties (!!!) and rivalries, and ever-more complex political institutions. Riddled with the corruption characteristic of the dynastic cycle, by A.D. 220 the Han empire collapsed.

Posted by: wren on January 4, 2004 02:02 PM

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Han-o-matic

After 200 years, Han rule was interrupted briefly (in A.D. 9-24 by Wang Mang or , a reformer), and then restored for another 200 years. The Han rulers, however, were unable to adjust to what centralization had wrought: a growing population, increasing wealth (!!) and resultant financial difficulties (!!!) and rivalries, and ever-more complex political institutions. Riddled with the corruption characteristic of the dynastic cycle, by A.D. 220 the Han empire collapsed.

Posted by: wren on January 4, 2004 02:04 PM

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By the end of the 2nd century AD the Han Empire had virtually ceased to exist. The repression of the Taoist rebellions of the Yellow Turbans and related sects marked the beginning of a period of unbridled warlordism and political chaos, from which three independent centres of political power emerged.... The short and turbulent period of these “Three Kingdoms” (San-kuo), filled with bloody warfare and diplomatic intrigue, has ever since been glorified in Chinese historical fiction as an age of chivalry and individual heroism.

encyclopedia britannica

Posted by: edward on January 4, 2004 04:52 PM

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I am glad to see that Tertullian had good sense:

[T]he practice of shaving the beard . . . according to Tertullian, is a lie against our own faces, and an impious attempt to improve the works of the Creator.

I did not realize I was so much in accord with the teachiing of the Fathers.

Posted by: jam on January 4, 2004 05:23 PM

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Ah, but it can be said in mitigation that the period of the Three Kingdoms did produce some good literature

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/7119005901/qid=1073265446/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_1/002-5075996-0471241

although I find the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) of greater interest from a strictly historical viewpoint.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on January 4, 2004 05:25 PM

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Ts'ao Ts'ao of the Three Kingdoms period was one of the most amazing people in human history. He nearly founded a Chinese dynasty, he was a lyric poet, he was a military theorist (and a successful warrior who beat the nomads at their own game).

And on top of that he's the villain in a lot of Chinese operas and novels, supposedly the most treacherous and ruthless the world had ever seen. (In truth he was only normally treacherous for a dynastic founder; but the Confucians hated him because he didn't even pretend to be a Confucian.)

The most familiar style of Chinese poetry came into its own under his rule; he and his two favorite sons were all talented poets, and one of the two, Ts'ao Chih, is on most short lists of the great Chinese poets.

Ts'ao Ts'ao dabbled in millenarian Taoism and some of his poems very effectively express megalomania. Most megalomaniac poems are the fantasies of losers, but not his.

Posted by: Zizka on January 4, 2004 08:38 PM

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It is worth noting, as long as we're talking about the heroes of the Three Kingdoms era, that one of Ts'ao Ts'ao's opponents (or to be precise, the sworn brother of one of his opponents), was later elevated to deityhood, and has done quite well for himself in that profession, being one of the most-seen-by-westerners Chinese deities: Guan Di (once, Guan Yu), the (currently) god of commerce, shrines to whom may be seen in a substantial portion of Chinese businesses (he's the guy with the long beard (long and silken, that he reportedly wrapped in cold weather to protect), red face, and frequently a halberd and green clothes).

Really, not only is Chinese history really larger and longer than European, it's often more fun (you often had apocalyptic cults (white lotus, say -- or the above mentioned yellow turbans) running around and seriously affecting politics and such, even, if I remember, resulting in a dynasty being founded by a WL sectarian...)

Posted by: BSD on January 4, 2004 09:33 PM

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It is worth noting, as long as we're talking about the heroes of the Three Kingdoms era, that one of Ts'ao Ts'ao's opponents (or to be precise, the sworn brother of one of his opponents), was later elevated to deityhood, and has done quite well for himself in that profession, being one of the most-seen-by-westerners Chinese deities: Guan Di (once, Guan Yu), the (currently) god of commerce, shrines to whom may be seen in a substantial portion of Chinese businesses (he's the guy with the long beard (long and silken, that he reportedly wrapped in cold weather to protect), red face, and frequently a halberd and green clothes).

Really, not only is Chinese history really larger and longer than European, it's often more fun (you often had apocalyptic cults (white lotus, say -- or the above mentioned yellow turbans) running around and seriously affecting politics and such, even, if I remember, resulting in a dynasty being founded by a WL sectarian...)

Posted by: BSD on January 4, 2004 09:38 PM

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Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought after reading this snippet that the point was a parallel between the Roman Empire circa 200 A.D. and America today, the Han Dynasty comment being an interesting aside.

Am I unbelievably obtuse? Or perhaps the other commenters passed by the theme to comment on the more interesting aside. Or maybe it's just one freaking a.m.

Anyway, the comparison (if that was the point) is instructive. Successful nations such as ours take a lot for granted.

Posted by: jackson on January 4, 2004 10:27 PM

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Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought after reading this snippet that the point was a parallel between the Roman Empire circa 200 A.D. and America today, the Han Dynasty comment being an interesting aside.

Am I unbelievably obtuse? Or perhaps the other commenters passed by the theme to comment on the more interesting aside. Or maybe it's just one freaking a.m.

Anyway, the comparison (if that was the point) is instructive. Successful nations such as ours take a lot for granted.

Posted by: jackson on January 4, 2004 10:28 PM

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Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought after reading this snippet that the point was a parallel between the Roman Empire circa 200 A.D. and America today, the Han Dynasty comment being an interesting aside.

Am I unbelievably obtuse? Or perhaps the other commenters passed by the theme to comment on the more interesting aside. Or maybe it's just one freaking a.m.

Anyway, the comparison (if that was the point) is instructive. Successful nations such as ours take a lot for granted.

Posted by: jackson on January 4, 2004 10:28 PM

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I agree that the Warring States period seems more interesting from a historical point of view. Although it's damnably hard to find decent english language sources. Everyone wants to write about modern China - which doesn't interest me nearly as much.

Going back to the original quote and Jackson's post - I'm not sure what the best historical parallel is. I tend to look at the Brits or Dutch, rather than the Romans. In Roman history, the question, it seems is if it is the end of Gibbon's best time to be alive - or does it parallel the end of the Republic more closely.

We'll find out, if we live long enough.

Posted by: Ian Welsh on January 4, 2004 11:21 PM

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A fun comparison between the Roman Empire and the American Empire: a href="http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/us_rome.htm">http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/us_rome.htm">http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/us_rome.htm

Posted by: Danny on January 5, 2004 06:09 AM

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Gibbon attributes the fall of Rome most importantly to the corrosive effects of Christianity. Is this religion on course to destroy its second great empire?

Posted by: BobNJ on January 5, 2004 07:14 AM

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Gibbon attributes the fall of Rome most importantly to the corrosive effects of Christianity. Is this religion on course to destroy its second great empire?

Posted by: BobNJ on January 5, 2004 07:19 AM

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My mother is a devout Christian who read Gibbon's chapter on Christianity for a book club. Gibbon's chapter was written with heavy irony -- he was really saying that Christianity weakened Rome, but his expressions, on the surface, defended Christianity in all sorts of preposterous ways. My mother's conclusion was that Gibbon was a great man of faith, but pretty gullible.

Posted by: Zizka on January 5, 2004 08:50 AM

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In my recent readings on foreign policy, a post 9/11 requirement for proper US Citizenship, at least in my estimation a number of the writers cite the Roman empire as an example of what can go wrong. In its time the Roman Empire ruled over what they considered at that time the know world. Often they sent out their legions to the far outshirts of the empire and they lived out the rest of their lives often bringing the "best" of Roman culture with them and then assimilating it into or replacing it with the local culture and practices. This lead to a period of great wealth but it also diappated Rome's abilty to project its power because no one really wanted to be banished to the hinterlands, away from fair Rome, for their lifetime. THe Roman's who were posted in this manner intermarried with the locals and soon while they still considered themselves loyal Romans had no real idea what Rome wanted them to do or not to do. Relatively soon theirafter Rome fell and became a distant memory of its former greatness.

The lession the writers on foreign policy seem to be presenting to their readers is that America must be carefull about its current position in the world because in a historical blink of an eye positions can be reversed and ...

In the Post 9/11 situation by failing to obtain UN approval and then acting on our own "pre-emptively" we have now given others the precedent to do the same. Should the Russians preemptively attack Chechnia? Should China preemptively attack Taiwan? Should for that matter New York City attack Westchester and Long Island or pre-emptively become the 51st State, but I digress, sorry.

Brad, if I may be so bold and discourteous to call you Brad, what book were you quoting as I am not as eloquent or well read as some of the other commentators.

Posted by: Karl on January 5, 2004 10:46 AM

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The obvious empire to compare Rome to is not the American or the Chinese, but the European Union - similar territorial reach, similar linguistic diversity, similar arrogant disdain for the opinions of the subject peoples, and similar belief that forcing people into a superstate abolishes war.

Though Rome's 2nd century AD armed forces were, of course, almost as powerful as those of Europe today!

Posted by: PJ on January 5, 2004 11:50 AM

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Both Ts'ao Ts'ao's epic supervillainhood and Kuan Yu's ascension to the status of major deity were caused by a single mammoth novel written more than a thousand years after they lived. 'The Romance of the Three Kingdoms' by Luo Guanzhong is one of the four most influential novels in Chinese literature (the other three being Journey to the West, Bandits of the Water Margins, and Dream of the Red Chamber). The best English translation is by Moss Roberts. There's an abridged edition available (only 500 pages) if you want the main narrative, but be warned, the work has addictive properties.

History isn't only what happened. It's also what people in later times think happened, and the ways they act on that belief. In that sense, 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' created, or re-created, the history of the end of the Han dynasty.

Kuan Yu became the God of, um... War: The Good Parts -- that is, courage, loyalty, honor, integrity, keeping faith even with the faithless. You can see where this might have applicability in business, and indeed he is venerated by those concerned with loyalty, military affairs, commerce, giving birth to sons, exorcising spirits, etc. Do not confuse him with the God of Wealth, however, who reigns at Chinese New Year, and frequently has an altar in East Asian places of business.

Posted by: Canadian Reader on January 5, 2004 12:08 PM

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I thought I was one of the few who saw the parallels between Gibbon's "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" and what is presently going on in our country.

I am not convinced that Gibbon attributed Rome's downfall to Christianity. I have read the whole thing and I came away with the impression that Gibbon traced Rome's ruin through its rulers and their decisions.

Gibbon is decisive in attributing the beginning of the fall of Rome to Diocletian. I found the parallels between Clinton and Diocletian to be haunting.

Again, Gibbon's book is about the empire, its leaders, their decisions, and the impacts of those decisions.

Posted by: Walter Kasun on January 5, 2004 12:59 PM

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Ts'ao Ts'ao has been rejected from the line of legitimate Chinese emperors. In the orthodox succession, the chalice passes from the Han to the pretty-much-insignificant state of Shu (coexistent with Ts'ao's Wei dynasty during the Three Kingdoms period) before being passed in turn to the Chin dynasty which usurped power from Ts'ao's Wei dynasty. This period is often called the Six Dynasties period in order to avoid calling it the Three Kingdoms period.

Chinggis Qan's Yuan dynasty, by contrast, is considered legitimate. The official biography of the Yuan founder makes him seem like a standard average Chinese founder. The fact that he was in no sense at all Chinese and had to be talked out of exterminating the Northern Chinese is not mentioned. He's part of the canon and part of the succession.

The excoriation of Ts'ao Ts'ao predates the novel, I think, though the novel sort of fixes the judgement. It's extremely hard for me to understand because he really was one of the founders of the most-prized Chinese poetic traditions ("shih" poetry). The contribution od Shu to Chinese culture is imperceptible.

Posted by: Zizka on January 5, 2004 01:10 PM

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PJ -- well, I guess we can expect the EU to last another 5 or 6 centuries then!

One of the pitfalls when identifying the cause of the Fall of Rome is making absolutely sure that the cause of the fall wasn't there right to begin with, because Rome was actually the model of the successful empire. One of my Sunday School teachers assured us that sexual perversion caused the fall of Rome, but they were pervs from the get-go.

Extra Credit question: the Roman Empire actually lasted another 1000 years, in Constantinople. What's with this "Fall of the Roman Empire" shit? Aren't the Greeks white people?

Posted by: Zizka on January 5, 2004 01:17 PM

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"I am not convinced that Gibbon attributed Rome's downfall to Christianity. I have read the whole thing and I came away with the impression that Gibbon traced Rome's ruin through its rulers and their decisions.

Gibbon is decisive in attributing the beginning of the fall of Rome to Diocletian. I found the parallels between Clinton and Diocletian to be haunting."

Good Lord! Mithraism,Isis Worship, I felt Gibbon was talking about the fading of Rome's founding virtues and values and Christianity was the most egregious example.

And I would put Gibbon much closer to the Tolstoy side of historical causation and decisive leadership than Carlyle's side.

And Clinton the cause (cause, not symptom is implied by your post) of the decline of American civilization? Just when I thought I knew how crazy Republicans are,I am newly astounded.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on January 5, 2004 02:08 PM

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"...the Roman Empire actually lasted another 1000 years, in Constantinople..."

I'd say in fact the Roman Empire lasted as late as 1920s, which is practically as long as there were any Empires at all. You see I personally consider the Ottoman Empire as the Eastern Roman Empire under new management -- the Turks after Latins, Greeks, Armenians, and even, I believe, Vikings being in management.

Posted by: bulent on January 5, 2004 02:19 PM

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Well, then, there was the Holy Roman Empire in Aix, Salerno, Vienna, etc. And Russians called Moscow the "Third Rome". And Avignon. And Ravenna. And the Spaniards MUST have claimed to be Rome at some time.

One of the late Western Emperors who was recruited from the military was named "Gustavus" (= "Gustaf").

Posted by: Zizka on January 5, 2004 02:36 PM

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My only question is, if there is heavy irony in Gibbon's account of Christianity, then isn't there also heavy irony in this passage as well?

The *image* of a free constitution was *preserved* with *decent reverence*: the Roman senate *appeared* to possess the sovereign authority, and *devolved* on the emperors all the executive powers of government.

Only the image of a free constitution was carefully preserved, with all the decent reverence we have for the dead. The Roman senate only appeared to have any sovereign authority at all, and the devolving of executive authority was done when all the rest of authority was also taken by the previous first citizens (er -benevolent and not so benevolent tyrants) that preceeded the good and noble emporers mentioned by Gibbon. Why doesn't Gibbon mention what happened to the citizen elections?

It seems to me that the Rome which represents any the political virtues we think about today had already fallen.

Posted by: jml on January 5, 2004 02:55 PM

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"the most civilised portion of mankind"

Department of Bullsh*t?

Posted by: tsquared on January 5, 2004 03:46 PM

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> isn't there also heavy irony in this passage as well?

Oh yes.

> Why doesn't Gibbon mention what happened to the citizen elections?

Because Gibbon assumes that the reader knows to some degree? And also has no illusions about political power?

Since the Ottomans have been mentioned here, it somewhat chimes in with Brad's evocations of the Topkapi Palace of the 'Sick Man of Europe'. Gibbon was a pragmatist and a Tory; his idea of good government is predicated upon the notion of great leaders who sustain the myth of democratic subservience through their actions. That is, he likes emperors who are republicans in all but name; and if you can't have a republic, at least have a benevolent dictatorship run by a smart and capable imperator.

Also, it might be worth considering Macauley's understated allusion to Gibbon in his essay upon Machiavelli:

http://www.bartleby.com/27/24.html

'Decent reverence' is a very carefully chosen term.

Posted by: ahem on January 5, 2004 03:55 PM

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> isn't there also heavy irony in this passage as well?

Oh yes.

> Why doesn't Gibbon mention what happened to the citizen elections?

Because Gibbon assumes that the reader knows to some degree? And also has no illusions about political power?

Since the Ottomans have been mentioned here, it somewhat chimes in with Brad's evocations of the Topkapi Palace of the 'Sick Man of Europe'. Gibbon was a pragmatist and a Tory; his idea of good government is predicated upon the notion of great leaders who sustain the myth of democratic subservience through their actions. That is, he likes emperors who are republicans in all but name; and if you can't have a republic, at least have a benevolent dictatorship run by a smart and capable imperator.

Also, it might be worth considering Macauley's understated allusion to Gibbon in his essay upon Machiavelli:

http://www.bartleby.com/27/24.html

'Decent reverence' is a very carefully chosen term.

Posted by: ahem on January 5, 2004 04:00 PM

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> isn't there also heavy irony in this passage as well?

Oh yes.

> Why doesn't Gibbon mention what happened to the citizen elections?

Because Gibbon assumes that the reader knows to some degree? And also has no illusions about political power?

Since the Ottomans have been mentioned here, it somewhat chimes in with Brad's evocations of the Topkapi Palace of the 'Sick Man of Europe'. Gibbon was a pragmatist and a Tory; his idea of good government is predicated upon the notion of great leaders who sustain the myth of democratic subservience through their actions. That is, he likes emperors who are republicans in all but name; and if you can't have a republic, at least have a benevolent dictatorship run by a smart and capable imperator.

Also, it might be worth considering Macauley's understated allusion to Gibbon in his essay upon Machiavelli:

http://www.bartleby.com/27/24.html

'Decent reverence' is a very carefully chosen term.

Posted by: ahem on January 5, 2004 04:05 PM

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> isn't there also heavy irony in this passage as well?

Oh yes.

> Why doesn't Gibbon mention what happened to the citizen elections?

Because Gibbon assumes that the reader knows to some degree? And also has no illusions about political power?

Since the Ottomans have been mentioned here, it somewhat chimes in with Brad's evocations of the Topkapi Palace of the 'Sick Man of Europe'. Gibbon was a pragmatist and a Tory; his idea of good government is predicated upon the notion of great leaders who sustain the myth of democratic subservience through their actions. That is, he likes emperors who are republicans in all but name; and if you can't have a republic, at least have a benevolent dictatorship run by a smart and capable imperator.

Also, it might be worth considering Macauley's understated allusion to Gibbon in his essay upon Machiavelli:

http://www.bartleby.com/27/24.html

'Decent reverence' is a very carefully chosen term.

Posted by: ahem on January 5, 2004 04:10 PM

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> isn't there also heavy irony in this passage as well?

Oh yes.

> Why doesn't Gibbon mention what happened to the citizen elections?

Because Gibbon assumes that the reader knows to some degree? And also has no illusions about political power?

Since the Ottomans have been mentioned here, it somewhat chimes in with Brad's evocations of the Topkapi Palace of the 'Sick Man of Europe'. Gibbon was a pragmatist and a Tory; his idea of good government is predicated upon the notion of great leaders who sustain the myth of democratic subservience through their actions. That is, he likes emperors who are republicans in all but name; and if you can't have a republic, at least have a benevolent dictatorship run by a smart and capable imperator.

Also, it might be worth considering Macauley's understated allusion to Gibbon in his essay upon Machiavelli:

http://www.bartleby.com/27/24.html

'Decent reverence' is a very carefully chosen term.

Posted by: ahem on January 5, 2004 04:15 PM

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Karl

Re: what to call B---, the guy who runs this website.

I dare not call him by his familiar name, since a few months back, I believe, he called himself the Holy Roman Emperor, of all things. So if you address him in a post about Roman type stuff, maybe it would be safest if you called him at least H.R.E. Brad, or at the very least "The Big Guy."

Posted by: northernLights on January 5, 2004 05:20 PM

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Regarding ahem's comments:

Thanks for the reference to Mcauley's article.

One difference between us is that I think that the citizen electons (organized by tribe) were important up until Caeser won the civil war. The tribes were semi-artificial contraptions formed to weight the votes in proportion to wealth and social status, but they were real elections with votes cast by real, ordinary citizenry, and which had real effects on who got elelcted and what bills were passed. Otherwise political candidates wouldn't have spent so many resources attempting to manipulate and buy votes that might be held for elections and on days during which voting on proposed legislation was allowed. But the tribes were slowly stripped of any real power by the end of Augustus' reign. The only question is whether elections had been formally abolished by the beginning of what Gibbon thinks is the golden age. I forget, but if you think about the fate of elections in Rome, it helps put the poltical system of the Roman Empire in perspective.

As for the Senate, I think this was a shell shortly after Octavian (Augustus) became the first first citizen. I think he increased the minimum wealth requirement for ex-office holders to retain their senate seats, and then established a private slush fund to top up any poor senator who was short. So the Senate had been completely bought early in the first century. Then some bad first citizens (or tyrants) terrorized the rest of any residual, uppity shows of independence out the Senate starting shortly after Augustus' death.

So I have never understood why anyone thinks the fall of the Roman Empire had anything to with the fate of democracy or republicanism or any kind of lawful political system at all. Under Augustus the fear was of banishment to the Crimea or Britain, or confiscation of wealth. Under Augustus' successors it was fear of death. But the result was the same -an effective personal dicatorship by the first citizen/emporer. It had nothing to do with any government or political system we would be interested in today.

Posted by: jml on January 5, 2004 06:27 PM

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Well, Brad, you certainly screwed up that analogy by making the Han comment!

:))

People should check out Jerry Pornelle's blog and his ongoing bits about Republic vs. Empire.

Jackson came close to the point. Too bad the beggars whispering in the ear of Ceasar aren't from the street.

QM

Posted by: Jody Dorsett on January 5, 2004 09:58 PM

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"Well, then, there was the Holy Roman Empire in Aix, Salerno, Vienna, etc. And Russians called Moscow the "Third Rome". And Avignon. And Ravenna. And the Spaniards MUST have claimed to be Rome at some time."

Subject to correction by HRE Brad and other contributors better informed than I on matters of history:

U-uh. Those states, i.e. "Holy Roman Empire" par ci par la..., were merely attempts to pretend for political advantage. Roman Empire is either in Rome or, in case of Eastern Roman Empire, Konstantinopolis.

And Constantinopolis was established by the Roman Emperor himself-- (and the Turks later took over "office" fair and square, as Latins, Greeks, and Armenians did before them, through the *conventional* methods of taking office at the time. One should remember that Turks lived in "Roman territory" for about four centuries before taking over office in Constantinopolis.)

Mehmet II did have plans for taking Rome as well, and I have no doubt that he would have moved the government to Rome then.


Even the territories of Eastern Roman Empire and that of the Ottoman Empire at the times of their respective zenith were nearly identical, the Ottoman territory being just a little larger, I believe, perhaps because the populated territories widened in the mean time.

The Ottoman Sultan called himself Kaiser of Rome. The Greek population of Konstantiopolis and environs were referred to by the Ottomans as "Rum", meaning Roman. (The Ottomans -- and now Turks -- refer(red) to "other" Greeks as "Yunan", meaning, I believe "Ionian", which the Greeks don't like to hear at all; they want to be called Helens and their country to be called Hellas.)

As to *democracy/republic*, well, that was really in Greek *cities* only. In the territories of Rome proper, there was democracy / republic in Rome only and it was for Roman citizens only. And at that, it was always a matter of contention among powers that be: do we need democracy/republic? And I believe politically motivated assasinations have been commited over that matter. Once Rome fell, democracy/republic dissappeared from surface of the earth -- until 1789.

Posted by: bulent on January 5, 2004 10:14 PM

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JML,
Any coincidence was certainly broken in America by Andrew Jackson. Previous to that the simile was accurate because the requirements for voting meant that one had to be a member of the moneyed establishment.

The one saving grace that may prevent America from following the Roman pattern is the current inclusiveness of the Franchise in America. Unlike the Tribes of Rome, most Americans don’t have vested interest in an American Empire…unless one’s 401K is heavily invested in companies which profit by war.

Posted by: Jody Dorsett on January 5, 2004 10:15 PM

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Prof. DeLong is not MishMish the Dog-faced boy, so there is, I think, no real need for obsequy.

Unless, of course, the professor insists.

Posted by: BSD on January 5, 2004 10:38 PM

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Gibbon gave a lot of reasons for the decline of the Roman Empire. He credits Diocletion for rolling back the tide of barbarism while also saying his government reforms didn't do much preserve the empire long term. This is probably what Walter Kasun was refering to when he mentioned Clinton, who rolled back the right-wing anti-intellectuallism but was unable to effect permanent change.

Another cause Gibbon gave was the establishment, by Augustus, of the Praetorian guard. This small army stationed in Rome was supposed to protect the Emperor - but killed more than its share of them. The coorelation here, obviously, is between the Praetorian guard and Clinton's zipper.

The most oft repeated cause of conflict, and therefore one of the main reasons cited as the reason for the decline is the lack of an adequate means of determining succession. Nerva and Trajan were political generals (are there any other type?) who won the empire at the head of their legions. Trajan started the wise procedure of adopting the most talented of his underlings that the empire will fall into competant hands. The Golden Age cited by Brad was the result. That Golden Age ended when Marcus Aurelius reinstituted heretitary succession when he had Commodus. Bad things happen when the incompetant sons of leaders take over when daddy is gone. I can't think of a Cinton tie-in for this one.

Can't blame the French for Rome's problems. They were the backbone of their armies after J. Caesar. But you can blame the Germans (known in those days as "New Europe".)

Posted by: LowLife on January 6, 2004 04:05 AM

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On the point of whether "Rome" fell when Rome fell, perhaps Gibbon (despite a taste for his own cheek) was being literal. "Roman" depends on Rome. Add in the fact that Rome's inability to defend itself, and the cataclismic results, seem to have marked the end of something momumental, and Gibbon's title seems to make pretty good sense.

But then, I like things simple.

Posted by: K Harris on January 6, 2004 04:11 AM

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I search for forum like this long time.You website is very good!I will come next time !

Posted by: role on January 6, 2004 08:29 AM

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Bulent -- in support of your point, in China of the relevant period the word for "Rome" (Lo-ma I think) did refer to the Seljuq and later the Ottoman Turks.

Posted by: Zizka on January 6, 2004 10:34 AM

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Alas, not Alexander the Great, not Hadrianus (spell?), not Alpaslan, and not Osman, and not Ataturk were very successful in changing certain habits of the natives of Anatolia.

10,000 years ago, the natives of Anatolia built a city near Konya, which is being excavated these days (I think the Britts are intensively involved), a city with homes so densely packed that they didn't have any streets! They entered and exited homes through ports up in the roofs! They had to, for some reason God knows what,live all in close proximity of each other, hearing each others' noise and smelling each others' smell!

Today Ankara does have streets, but in return hundreds of people live under the same roof in apartment buildings! The same sense of densely packed homes is still there! Cars are parked all over the pavements! No place to walk! Something I'll never get used to, despite my 35-40 years in this town. And I'll never understand either.

Posted by: bulent on January 6, 2004 02:32 PM

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Mr DeLong, I suspect that you are about to be hit by blog-spam! I've seen some posts that are content-free whose poster indicate a website.

Ziska, I've read somewhere that the Romans of the Antonine period did commerce with China. There would be Chinese texts with mention to an An Tun ruling in the west.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on January 6, 2004 03:44 PM

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There's quite a literature on the Chinese knowledge of Rome starting during the Han dynasty. There was almost no direct contact before Marco Polo though.

Just as Europeans knew China differently depending on the route (Cathay=Khitai=North China=overland route; China or Sin or Nan-chia = the south and the sea route, except that Nan-chia = the South from the perspective of the Mongols via the land route) --

Just so did the Chinese refer to Rome as Ta-ch'in, Lo-ma, Li-gan, and Fu-lin. As far as I know, Lo-ma only appears during the Byzantine period and means Turks as often as Greeks.

Both Chinese and Roman historians preferred clippings from older histories to contemporary observations, so figuring out what is actually meant is a job. Most names seem to refer to the Roman terminus of the trade route, rather than to the capital.

An Tun's embassy to China (probably unofficial) was in AD 166.

Hirth: China and the Roman Orient. Coedes has a book in French on the Latin and Greek references to Rome, which are very sketchy and inaccurate. Some of what I've said is probably npt up-to-date -- there's a lot of new stuff, though I don't remember it changing my mind much about the basics. (Xin-ru Liu, Si;l and Religion is especially goo -- she has another book too.)

Posted by: Zizka on January 7, 2004 12:14 PM

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"Once Rome fell, democracy/republic dissappeared from surface of the earth -- until 1789."

I think this is pretty wrong, though I guess
it depends somewhat what you mean by
"democracy/republic"? Universal sufferage?
Then the Romans didn't have it and it didn't
come about in 1789. Elected legislative bodies?
There were quite a few countries/nations
that had them well before 1789? Ditto for
elected heads of state (kings even).
Also even if history was on your side the
statement should refer to the rise of Ceaser
(or actually Marius) rather than the fall
of Rome - though it is true that the *idea*
of the Republic survived the Republic itself.

Posted by: radek on January 7, 2004 01:36 PM

____

"Once Rome fell, democracy/republic dissappeared from surface of the earth -- until 1789."

I think this is pretty wrong, though I guess
it depends somewhat what you mean by
"democracy/republic"? Universal sufferage?
Then the Romans didn't have it and it didn't
come about in 1789. Elected legislative bodies?
There were quite a few countries/nations
that had them well before 1789? Ditto for
elected heads of state (kings even).
Also even if history was on your side the
statement should refer to the rise of Ceaser
(or actually Marius) rather than the fall
of Rome - though it is true that the *idea*
of the Republic survived the Republic itself.

Posted by: radek on January 7, 2004 01:38 PM

____

Well, yeah, I realized that after I posted it -- I mean I should have at least written something like "18th century".

By "democracy/republic", I meant a regime driven by popular vote or consent at least or about at a scale as it was in ancient Greece. Magna Carta, for example, to my modest knowledge, was really a deal between King and lesser lords -- "people" didn't figure much in it.

My biggest oversight perhaps is/was 1776, as a milestone. You see I was born and raised in Turkey
and our Republican education system has from its beginning in 1920s been heavily influenced by European/French sources. So, by some strange working of the brain, I have been perceiving 1789 to have occurred before 1776. This I realized about a year ago or so but keep forgetting it.

Let me take a short cut and just rephrase my statement:

Once Rome fell, any hope of democracy/republic was gone until 18th century.

Posted by: bulent on January 7, 2004 02:40 PM

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"By "democracy/republic", I meant a regime driven by popular vote or consent at least or about at a scale as it was in ancient Greece."

Out of curiosity then, what was the percentage
of enfranchised populace in the Greek city
states? Slaves were excluded, and I'm pretty
sure ex-slaves. I suspect the lower orders as
well. It's been awhile since I read up on this
but I think the right to participate in public
decision making was also limited by property
ownership. So what was it 15%? 30%? 50%?

"Once Rome fell, any hope of democracy/republic was gone until 18th century. "

I still think this is wrong. At the very least
there were quite a few instances of "free cities"
or merchant's republics - and I don't mean the
Italian ones necessarily. Some of the Hansa towns
were pretty much functioning democracies, or
a number of the pre-Muscovy Russian city
states like Novgorod. The Polish gentry (and
initially the richer peasants and burghers as
well) elected their kings and the gentry itself
contituted from 10% to 30% of the population.
Many of the germanic tribes that contributed to
the fall of the Roman empire were themselves run
fairly democratically. All this well before the
18th century.

Turkey or not, I think you're looking at this
from a very WESTERN European perspective. I.e.
if it didn't happen in France or England (or
its offshoots), then it must not have happened
at all.

So perhaps the proper statement would be
"Once Rome fell, any hope of democracy/republic in France or England was gone until 18th century."

Posted by: radek on January 7, 2004 03:44 PM

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