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In 1776, the year that the thirteen colonies of the British Empire declared their independence and thus began the great experiment of our Republic, the English historian and member of Parliament Edward Gibbon published the first volume of his masterwork The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  In it, he wrote:

The empire of Rome was firmly established by the singular and perfect coalition of its members. The subject nations, resigning the hope, and even the wish, of independence, embraced the character of Roman citizens; and the provinces of the West were reluctantly torn by the Barbarians from the bosom of their mother-country.  But this union was purchased by the loss of national freedom and military spirit; and the servile provinces, destitute of life and motion, expected their safety from the mercenary troops and governors, who were directed by the orders of a distant court. The happiness of an hundred millions depended on the personal merit of one or two men, perhaps children, whose minds were corrupted by education, luxury, and despotic power.

Much has been made of the analogy between the current superpower status of the United States and the golden age of Rome.  Some on the right warn of the moral collapse of Rome, such as far-right Rep. Tom Tancredo, who warns in his new book In Mortal Danger that America’s "moral decay" puts us at risk of the same fate as the Roman Empire, while some on the left believe that imperial adventurism on the part of the most dominant Republic since the Roman Empire which is leading us to risk encountering their fate.

But perhaps the most glaring warning that the history of Rome can provide us is not to its fall, in 476 AD when Romulus Augustus was deposed by Odoacer of the Foederati of Germany.  The worrisome moment for Americans should not be the end of the Roman empire, but the end of the Roman Republic.  And that came nearly five hundred years earlier.

Gabinius, one of Pompey's intimates, drew up a law which gave him, not an admiralty, but an out-and out monarchy and irresponsible power over all men. For the law gave him dominion over the sea this side of the pillars of Hercules, over all the mainland to the distance of four hundred furlongs from the sea. These limits included almost all places in the Roman world, and the greatest nations and most powerful kings were comprised within them.  Besides this, he was empowered to choose fifteen legates from the senate for the several principalities, and to take from the public treasuries and the tax-collectors as much money as he wished, and to have two hundred ships, with full power over the number and levying of soldiers and oarsmen.

When these provisions of the law were read in the assembly, the people received them with excessive pleasure, but the chief and most influential men of the senate thought that such unlimited and absolute power, while it was beyond the reach of envy, was yet a thing to be feared.  Therefore they all opposed the law, with the exception of Caesar; he advocated the law, not because he cared in the least for Pompey, but because from the outset he sought to ingratiate himself with the people and win their support. The rest vehemently attacked Pompey.

-Plutarch, The Parallel Lives, Vol. V, The Life of Pompey

In 67 BC, Tribune Aulus Gabinius introduced the Lex Gabinia to the Roman Senate, as a response to the sack of Ostia, a seafront town at the mouth of the Tiber River which leads to Rome, by pirates.  The law granted to Pompey Magnus the powers of proconsul, which was almost unlimited authority, in order to vanquish the pirates and secure the seas of the Mediterranean.  As recounted by Plutarch and other period historians, the opposition to such a law in the Senate was fierce.

I, for my part, assert first and foremost that it is not proper to entrust to any one man so many positions of command one after another. This has not only been forbidden by the laws, but has also been found by experience to be most perilous. What made Marius what he became was practically nothing else than being entrusted with so many wars in the shortest space of time and being made consul six times in the briefest period; and similarly Sulla became what he was because he held command of the armies so many years in succession, and later was appointed dictator, then consul. For it does not lie in human nature for a person — I speak not alone of the young but of the mature as well — after holding positions of authority for a long period to be willing to abide by ancestral customs.

-Catalus’ speech to the Roman Senate, 68 BC, as recounted by Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book XXXVI

Catalus had good reason to be suspicious.  The Marius of whom he spoke was Gaius Marius, a renowned general of Rome who had also been elected Consul an unprecedented seven times.  The Sulla was Lucius Cornelius Sulla, another general who eventually contested with Marius for the control of the Roman legions in the First Mithridactic War, with the ultimate result being Sulla breaking the historic tradition of Roman Legions not fighting in Italy when he marched his legions to Rome to defeat Marius’ force of conscripted gladiators.  Eventually, Sulla became the first dictator of Rome since the Second Punic War, and the first dictator ever to be granted such powers with no limit on his term in office.

Yet, after only two years in power as dictator, Sulla resigned his post, after crafting a series of laws meant to prevent the exact grab of absolute power that he himself had conducted.  Yet, merely twelve years later, Pompey’s empowerment under the Lex Gabinia began the unraveling of those laws, and the fall of the Republic, which was completed under the reign of Augustus Caesar.  Pompey’s ascendance would be eclipsed by that of Julius Caesar; the murder of Caesar would lead to another civil war with the emergence of Augustus and the end of the Republic forever.

These are deeply famous events; the story of Julius Caesar and Octavian and Pompey Magnus are part of our collective consciousness since at least Shakespeare.  But lost in all of that is the moment in 68 BC when political opportunism unraveled the laws which protected the Roman Republic from the dictatorial ambitions of men.  

We have a clear parallel in our nation’s history.  After the resignation of President Nixon, and the exposure of the vast array of abuses of executive power that took place under his administration, there were numerous laws that were passed to attempt to make certain that no such abuses could again take place in our Republic.  Some of those reforms have once again come to the forefront of the nation’s attention, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  Other aspects of the work of the Church Committee and other Congressional organs which laboured to prevent the abuses of the Nixon era from being repeatable have been less noticed.

As we all know, those efforts have been targeted by the Bush administration.  They have explicitly and openly declared their intention to restore executive power to the place it held before the reforms that took place after Nixon, and have in fact attempted to even exceed his use of authority.  They have done so just as Pompey and Caesar sought the powers taken and then repudiated by Sulla.  And just as Rome under those men, the threat is not to our nation, but to our Republic, and the injury can be permanent if we do not treat it rapidly.

One thing leads to another; and once set going, the downward course proceeds with ever-increasing velocity. There is the case of the ballot: what a blow was inflicted first by the lex Gabinia, and two years afterwards by the lex Cassia! I seem already to see the people estranged from the Senate, and the most important affairs at the mercy of the multitude. For you may be sure that more people will learn how to set such things in motion than how to stop them.

-Cicero, On Friendship

The famed orator and lawyer Cicero knew a great deal of what he was speaking; he lived to see and abet the rise to power of Pompey, to participate in the Senate’s rebellion against Caesar, and to be killed at last by Mark Antony before the ascendance of Octavian to his role as the emperor Augustus.  But what he says here cannot be more true: there will always be more people who see the examples of tyrants and despots and who seek the lessons of how to achieve such powers for themselves than those who will see such actions and endeavor to find ways to stymie and defeat them.  That is why this ground, this essential right of the freedom of our persons under the habeas corpus, must be held.  It falls upon us to demonstrate not only to those who wish to rule with impunity now, but those who would rule our children and our children’s children that this downward course can and will be stopped in its tracks by the power of the American citizen.

After the passage of the Lex Gabinia, it took Pompey less than three months to decisively defeat the pirate menace that led to the granting unto him of nearly unfettered powers, leading many Romans to question whether the threat had truly been so grave if it was surmounted with such rapidity and ease.  Sadly, we cannot hope in the present that our would-be rulers should be nearly so competent at executing the tasks from which they derived their rationale for the expansion of their authority.  But less than twenty years after the Lex Gabinia, Julius Caesar led his legion across the Rubicon and the Republic died.  

The Republic died, but the Roman Empire lived on for another five hundred years.  And that is the peril we too face today.  Not the end of America, but the end of our Republic, the legacies of Washington and Jefferson like those of Cicero and Cato to be replaced with those of leaders such as Caligula, Nero, and Titus.  Unless we do something about it, and do not simply idle as the Lex Gabinia of our Republic rises up to consume it.

Originally posted to Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:37 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you very much for reading... (200+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kimberley, wozzle, JekyllnHyde, Alumbrados, Superskepticalman, Angie in WA State, Marek, northsylvania, pb, Chance the gardener, miriam, RichRandal, melo, yogriz, teenagedallasdeaniac, natasha, CalifSherry, Tulip, TaraIst, Dump Terry McAuliffe, espresso, badger, Categorically Imperative, RunawayRose, RAST, Jim W, VetGrl, LEP, cookiesandmilk, polecat, PhillyGal, Plutonium Page, The Maven, frisco, Carnacki, Abou Ben Adhem, bumblebums, madhaus, calipygian, bronte17, m00nchild, litho, BlackGriffen, leveymg, ScantronPresident, highacidity, Benjaminwise, roses, Ignacio Magaloni, peraspera, standingup, ornerydad, Boxers, matt2525, wonmug, bewert, antirove, georgia10, aitchdee, Eddie C, hhex65, psnyder, BarbinMD, averybird, emmasnacker, TexDem, oldjohnbrown, Dallasdoc, jlynne, casperr, Republic Not Empire, brainwave, Boppy, waf8868, On The Bus, lizah, joliberal, snakelass, grrr, Rxtr2, Dave925, walkshills, bwintx, mosesfreeman, rolet, justjoe, sawgrass727, joanneleon, chumley, bloomer 101, radarlady, 3goldens, DianeNYS, Alexander G Rubio, Elise, blueyedace2, franziskaner, PBen, Philoguy, Alien Abductee, Webster, Simplify, truong son traveler, Valtin, catleigh, Turkana, oyka1, cris0000, LNK, Inland, annefrank, Little Lulu, bmaples, babatunde, Yamara, sfflyman, wiscmass, dsteffen, bartman, Erevann, Norbreacht, npbeachfun, Jim P, Prof Dave, Denny in Seattle, pmc1970, occams hatchet, FrankFrink, esquimaux, Major Danby, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, Ellicatt, Yellow Canary, buhdydharma, akasha, greenearth, SarekOfVulcan, Lefty Coaster, blueoasis, robokos, figleef, arbiter, nilocjin, LibChicAZ, taraka das, paul2port, DSPS owl, PapaChach, bleeding heart, Jjc2006, Dinclusin, rage, doingbusinessas, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Dianna, righteousbabe, Dreaming of Better Days, kurt, scoff0165, shaharazade, DanC, kurious, bstotts, Friend of the court, Grannus, AntKat, bigchin, jimijam, One Pissed Off Liberal, J Royce, Noor B, terafnord, dotsright, jessical, howardx, uniongal, gloriana, Allogenes, Jimdotz, java4every1, Uncle Cosmo, Near Vanna, chicago jeff, BlueInKansas, Big Tent Democrat, Dion, madgranny, TexasTwister, Captain Nimrod, keikekaze, MichiganGirl, aseth, willb48, Statius, MKinTN, Light Emitting Pickle, Justus, wheelsme, MrBoomer, Miss Mannered can see my introduction to this project here.

    See Elise's action items for this project here.

    See OrangeClouds115's entry for the series here.

    See budhydharma's entry for the series here.

    Join another fantastic action campaign, to send a copy of "1984" to every Representative who voted for the Military Commissions Act here.

    Queries for this project can be sent to restoringourconstitution at gmail dot com.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:38:15 PM PST

    •  It's an easy read, so no need for thanks... (16+ / 0-)

      I like your diaries generally, but especially this series you've started. Great work.

      "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders." Molly Ivins

      by VetGrl on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:40:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In year MMVII Emperor Gorgonius Buchus, anointed (6+ / 0-)

        as America's decider, has decided to send his legions embattled in Babylon's civil war, to attack the Persian Empire as well.

        The Party of Failed Occupation / The Party of Desperate Escalation / The Republicans Misled the Nation

        by Lefty Coaster on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 11:57:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  With the upcoming 2008 election... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LEP, bwintx, justjoe, kurt, Captain Nimrod

          looking like an even greater debacle than 2006 for the GOP, it appears that the Bush Administration is destroying what it can before it has to leave office to an administration that will have to take some steps to clean up the mess Bush has created in the name of ideology, religion, corruption, and greed.

          (BTW, "Rubicon," by Tom Holland (Doubleday, 2003) is an entertaining read on the time period.)

          They're trashing the place and looting the country because there is no one who can stop them, and there is no interest on the part of the congressional Republicans in either chamber to save their own necks or their own country by actually being bipartisan for the common good and general welfare. Not on the whole unlike the Roman Senate in the Late Republic. After all, they haven't had to think that way since 1994, they see themselves as proteges and benefactors of their patrons, and too many of them came to office dreaming of being the next Newt Gingrich or Tom Delay. They are the modern counterparts to Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus. They cannot, will not, see any reason to help their fellow Senators, Congressmen, and Americans to care for their democracy, republic, and country use to power of the legislative branch to rein in the excesses of the executive.

          In light of this inclination of Capital Hill Republicans to huddle defiantly in the equivalent of their bunker waiting for Berlin (which I think is the better historical metaphor) to fall whining over the ingratitude of the American people, what we are left with is to resolve to push the incoming administration to prosecute as many of them as we can to spend as much of the rest of their lives in prison as possible.

          There's a certain circus-like atmosphere to the GOP, but the clowns there don't wear face paint and rubber noses.

          by Superskepticalman on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 03:14:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree (0+ / 0-)
            I thought this was the case back when the potted plant was president-it's clear now that the present incompetent is far more competent at such mulctings than Ron or his dad ever were. Or, perhaps they were simply casting the seed on all soil, hoping for the right time...
            Back at the time of the first gulf war, it occurred to me that the national guard used then was getting valuable experience controlling a population. You know, just in case that experience had to be used at home, say, if people got up in arms over being scraped raw by crooks. Hm.
            I'll see if I can get my public library to acquire a copy of Rubicon. Thanks for the referral, Superskepticalman.
    •  Bravo, Jay (18+ / 0-)

      Edward Gibbon, is the corner stone to understanding our founding fathers...

      Once someone reads Gibbon's Work, their Perception is forever changed.

      "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

      by npbeachfun on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:55:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Gibbon's magnificent prose (7+ / 0-)

        should be part of everyone's education -- like Shakepeare. And as npbeach said above, reading it brings us as close to the spirit of our founding fathers as we are liable to get. Naxos puts out a terrific (though abridged) audio version on CD. I feel ready to listen to it again (and again).  

        I understand that Rostovtzeff's classic volume, Rome (1927), is preferable as history, however. It is likewise supposed to be very readable and is on my list.

        •  Gibbon's work is a literary masterpiece (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt, Allogenes, jfm

          but we know a lot more about the Roman Empire now than we did then, partly thanks to archaeology, and partly to scholarly work on the ancient Middle East, which among other things led to the rediscovery of the Manichaean religion, a major rival to Christianity.

        •  Gibbon, the Freud of Roman history (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          People still quote Gibbon because of his prose and because quoting him sounds so authoritative and because everyone's heard of him and because that's just What One Does when writing about anything Ancient or Medieval, but virtually every conclusion of his is now discredited or highly disputed.

          Did the Roman Empire even "fall?"  Medievalists are finding more and more that the answer is "no."  For it to have "fallen," you'd have to go along with all sorts of Gibbon's value judgments that just don't belong in formal history.  

          One of my problems with Gibbon, in fact, is his unabashed imperialism, which strikes me as something quite different than the spirit of the founders.

          As an aside, this reminds me of a great aphorism told to me by an early medieval historian: "Rome fell because of whatever you don't like or think people shouldn't do."

          Think you live in a free country? Try forming a union.

          by exiled texan on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 08:33:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Wow. (27+ / 0-)

      The worrisome moment for Americans should not be the end of the Roman empire, but the end of the Roman Republic.

      Thanks for explaining why I have the username I have.

      Great diary. Rec'd.

    •  Recommended! 1st rate history (13+ / 0-)

      and politically right on.

      The Roman case makes a particularly good argument for materialist analysis: the repeated social turns to dictatorship were because the social antagonisms had risen to a fever pitch. The production of wealth in the society became more and more unevenly distributed. The old slave society had birthed a society still slave, but with a larger middle-class and a now significant artisan/city laborer class.

      Democracy fell because Roman democracy and its leadership could not see a way forward within the context of the political and social forms available to them.

      Marx realized that world productive surplus would grow, thanks to technology and greater productivity of labor. The battle over this surplus would be intense, pitting rich against poor, owner against worker, city against countryside, and nation state against nation state.

      Hence, he predicted that the social and political forms of society needed to change; that while peaceful modes were preferable, social revolutions -- like the French Revolution -- were the most likely, due to the tenancity in which the old order holds onto its privileges.

      How convenient to have someone come and take over the executive in the name of the people and wield it in favor of their oppressors, knowing when to throw some bones the former's way -- and all in their name! This has been the way of dictators from Sulla to Napoleon to Stalin.

      Nevertheless, the failure of the Russian Revolution and its spinoffs hasn't changed the underlying dilemma or picture for our world. Either we find a way to get rid of the old constraining form of private property in the major means of production and fixed wealth of all countries, or the promises of capitalist democracy will cede to antidemocratic dictatorship.

      Only a socialist transformation can assure democracy. Many of you reading this can't or won't believe this, will react viscerally and with passion instead of cold intellect. Please reread this diary and this comment and see if you don't find its thesis more compelling, even if it's not convincing to you at this point.

      Never In Our Names

      "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."

      by Valtin on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 08:35:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Romans never practiced democracy... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, Allogenes

        ...except in very limited fashion. They prided themselves on having a "mixed constitution" (note the small c) with democratic bits (the popular assemblies), aristocratic bits (the senate), and monarchical bits (the consuls, later the emperors).

        Their form of government was the Republic, in which every citizen had a voice. Not an equal one, but one.

        Democracy in the Athenian sense (all free male landowners voting equally on all legal measures) flourished very briefly (less than a single century), and with very limited success. It was a system of government moderately workable for a small city, much less so for a nation, especially one of hundreds of millions.

        If we would be the Land of the Free, we must again become the Home of the Brave.
        Justice Holmes: "When you strike at a King, you must kill him."

        by khereva on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 04:03:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Athenian democracy lasted longer than that. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          oldjohnbrown, kurt, Allogenes, jfm

          From the reforms of Cleisthenes to the loss of independence to Macedon was nearly two centuries.  And semi-independent Athens retained its democratic institutions for another more than 200 years, until Sulla put an end to them.

          There were brief interludes of oligarchy during this long stretch, but, until Sulla, Athens always returned to its democratic institutions in short order.  And the whole stretch was well over 400 years.

          Katrina was America's Chernobyl.

          by lysias on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 04:42:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  "Stasis" ... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ThePenIsMightier, kurt, Allogenes, jfm

        The underlying social disorder which paralyzed most of the Greek city-states during the historical period of the Athenian/Spartan coalitions and led to their inability (or lack of public will) to defend themselves -- most of the states were so divided between political factions that they were far more interested in using a potential invader to settle local political scores than in resisting conquest.  I find it interesting that the better-documented states such as Sparta,Athens, and also Rome, went through a period some 2-3 centuries before their flouruit as we know it, when similar hostilities between the rich-growing-richer and the poor-growing-poorer were fixed by a massive internal reorganization and redistribution of wealth -- as under Lycurgus in Sparta, and Solon in Athens; I forget any name associated in Rome but I do remember that an equalitarian redistribution of land was a key factor.  In other words, what I see from the ancient world, and also from sociobiological studies, is that it is the natural course of events for, in an unregulated environment, those who command greater resources to be able to accumulate greater resources, geometrically, until a catastrophic event.  

        Success of a society may very well depend on its ability to regulate and sabotage this natural process; for instance, the medieval system of redistributing the strips of land allotted to peasants in any district was a deliberate attempt to prevent families from accumulating large disparities of wealth, and this in fact helped maintain economic stability in Europe for about 700 years, until the aristocrats were given legal rights to completely alienate their farmlands and turn the peasants out.  By contrast, lacking such redistributive systems, America has gone in less than 300 years from an economy where the gap between rich and poor farmers was the difference between 10 and 300 acres, to one where more than half the population owns no land (or other capital goods) at all, while the average working farm requires a minimum of 500 acres to survive economically.

      •  Valtin, I stumbled onto a fellow's writings (0+ / 0-)
        some time back, who proposed a really sensible, albeit unlikely to be implemented without a lot of heaving and groaning, solution. The title of one of his rather lengthy tracts was "The Political Struggle for the 21st Century". It makes, unfortunately, for ponderous reading and he has an infuriating habit of repeating certain ideas, but I got over that by assuming that it would benefit me occasionally to have things repeated, since, as one plows through it, differing insights occur that might not otherwise. Oh, yes, another title was, simply, "Why". Both constitute remarkable, yet obvious proposals. Unlikely to be implemented, I say, mainly because the merchantilist mentality is so deeply entrenched, reinforced by republican America's narcissistic insistence on I me mine.
        Have you noticed that a grasp of history usually is beyond the mouths that roar what slithers into their ears?
        I salute your posting!
    •  Nomination for the Senator Byrd Award (0+ / 0-)
  •  The myth of Cincinnatus (47+ / 0-)

    I wonder, Jay, how much the mythology of the Roman Republic contributed to its downfall.  People here, like perhaps those there and then, take their form of government for granted and cannot imagine its changing.  Thus we may perhaps be blinded to those very changes happening under our own noses.

    Was it easier for the Roman Senate to grant Pompey or Marius the powers they abused because of the legend of Cincinnatus, given similar powers only to lay them down and take up his plow when the task was done?  Did they tell themselves comforting lies and abet tyrants?  Are we doing the same, fetishizing our Founding Fathers while ignoring the Pompey Minimus who leads us today?

    Fascinating diary.  Thanks so much.

    -4.50, -5.85 Conventional opinion is the ruin of our souls. -- Rumi

    by Dallasdoc on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:46:46 PM PST

  •  I like the analogy with Rome (9+ / 0-)

    but there are some major differences, not the least of which was the ability to control the collegia through the men of honor who controlled small armies of ex legionaires through the period of the Roman Civil wars.

    There are also some similarities. Our country was founded by Pirates Privateers and Smugglers Patriots who didn't like too much British government regulation of their business activities with the French.

    In the cable series Rome Octavian and Mark Anthony engaged in the murder of the Senate and the confiscation of their wealth. We have for a long while seemed to lack that sort of boldness in our military, although the times they are a changing.

    I also liked that the assassin of Cicero managed to get in the line mmm peaches, do you mind if I indulge in a few?

    Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

    by rktect on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:49:46 PM PST

    •  Our country was also founded (13+ / 0-)

      by slaveowners, don't forget, who had good reason to fear the British were going to take away their property.

      Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

      by litho on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:53:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I actually hadn't forgotten that (4+ / 0-)

        but there was a difference between the small maritime states ratified before New Hampshire, whose leading citizens were mollases smugglers (to make rhum with an H) and pirates who made sure they got a piece of any cargo passing through the Atlantic, and the larger plantation states like Virginia and North Carolina where tobacco required huge numbers of slaves to pick the crop.

        The pirates tended to favor minimal government regulation, liberty, equality, fraternity and a bill of rights, while the slaver states saw things differently.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 03:56:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Have you ever ... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rktect, kurt, Allogenes, jfm

          read any of the "charters" of 18th-century pirate crews?  These articles of contracted cooperation between ungoverned freebooters might have been the real model for the eventual Constitution ... they were remarkably egalitarian <grin>.

          •  I strongly agree (0+ / 0-)

            My impression is that one of the main differences between Privateers and Pirates was that Pirates worked off their own commissions as freebooters or what our modern Congress calls filibusters.

            Most of what I know about the articles comes from my own experience as one of the hay balers of the Burnt Island coast guard. Though I'm sure that might vary from the articles which 17th century pirates signed onto, there was clearly some shared history with English Common law going back to the Magna Carta.

            The revolutionary French concepts of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity might also have provided an influence for the final draft of the Constitution.

            The most famous pirate utopia is that of Captain Misson and his pirate crew, who founded their intentional community, their lawless utopia of Libertalia in northern Mada-gascar in the Eighteenth century.(42)

            Misson was French, born in Provence, and it was while in Rome on leave from the French warship Victoire that he lost his faith, disgusted by the decadence of the Papal Court. In Rome he ran into Caraccioli - a "lewd Priest" who over the course of long voyages with little to do but talk, gradually converted Misson and a sizeable portion of the rest of the crew to his brand of atheistic communism:

            "...he fell upon Government, and shew'd, that every Man was born free, and had as much Right to what would support him, as to the Air he respired... that the vast Difference betwixt Man and Man, the one wallowing in Luxury, and the other in the most pinching Necessity, was owing only to Avarice and Ambition on the one Hand, and a pusilanimous Subjection on the other."
            Embarking on a career of piracy, the 200 strong crew of the Victoire called upon Misson to be their captain. They collectivised the wealth of the ship, deciding "all should be in common."

            All decisions were to be put to "the Vote of the whole Company." Thus they set out on their new "Life of Liberty."

            Off the west coast of Africa they captured a Dutch slave ship. The slaves were freed and brought aboard the Victoire, Misson declaring that "the Trading for those of our own Species, cou'd never be agreeable to the Eyes of divine Justice: That no Man had Power of Liberty of another" and that "he had not exempted his Neck from the galling Yoak of Slavery, and asserted his own Liberty, to enslave others." At every engagement they added to their numbers with new French, English and Dutch recruits and freed African slaves.


            The pirates certainly seem to have had more fun than their poor suffering counterparts on naval or merchant vessels. They sure had some pretty wild parties - in 1669 just off the coast of Hispaniola, some of Henry Morgan's buccaneers blew up their own ship during a particularly riotous party, which like all good pirate celebrations included much drunken firing of the ship's guns.

            Somehow they set light to the gunpowder in the ship's magazine and the resulting explosion totally destroyed the ship. On some voyages alcohol ran "as freely as ditchwater" and for many tars the promise of unrestricted grog rations had been one of the main reasons behind leaving the merchant service to become a pirate in the first place. However this sometimes backfired - one group of pirates took three days to capture a ship because there were never enough sober men available. Sailors in general loathed a "drink-water" voyage - one reason being that in the tropics the water tended to get things living in it and you had to strain it through your teeth.(33)

            No pirate celebration would be complete without music. Pirates were renowned for their love of music and often hired musicians for the duration of a cruise. During the trial of "Black Bart" Bartholomew Roberts' crew in 1722, two men were acquitted as being only musicians. The pirates seem to have employed music in battle, as it was said of one of the men, James White, that his "business as music was upon the poop in time of action."(34)

            For some men the freedom that piracy offered from the constrained world they had left behind extended to sexuality. European society of the 17th and 18th centuries was savagely anti-homosexual. The Royal Navy periodically conducted brutal anti-buggery campaigns on ships on which men might be confined together for years. In both the navy and the merchant service it was considered that sexuality was inimical to work and good order on board ship, as Minister John Flavel wrote of seamen to merchant John Lovering: "The Death of their Lusts, is the most Probable Means to give Life to your Trade." B.R. Burg in Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition suggests that the vast majority of pirates were homosexual, and although there isn't really enough evidence to support this, nevertheless to indulge in these things a pirate colony was probably just about the safest place you could be. Some of the early buccaneers of Hispaniola and Tortuga lived in a kind of homosexual union known as matelotage (from the French for 'sailor' and possibly the origin of the word 'mate' meaning companion), holding their possessions in common, with the survivor inheriting. Even after women joined the buccaneers, matelotage continued with a partner sharing his wife with his matelot. Louis Le Golif in his Memoirs of a Buccaneer complained about homosexuality on Tortuga, where he had to fight two duels to keep ardent suitors at bay. Eventually the French Governor of Tortuga imported hundreds of prostitutes, hoping thereby to wean the buccaneers away from this practice. The pirate captain Robert Culliford, had a "great consort," John Swann, who lived with him. Some men bought "pretty boys" as companions. On one pirate ship a young man who admitted a homosexual relationship was put in irons and maltreated, but this seems to have been the exception rather than the rule. It is also significant that in no pirate articles are there any rules against homosexuality.(35)

            For purposes of comparison Merchant Seamen

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 03:50:19 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Proscription wasn't merely a military thing... (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rktect, Dave925, Elise, greenearth, kurt, Allogenes

      the Second Triumvirate put lists of people on the walls of the Forum, saying that anyone who would kill a man on the list would receive his fortune.  Sulla did the same thing, and Lucius Sergius Catalina was often (probably unfairly) accused of killing his brother-in-law during the Sullan proscription.

    •  this is the problem with analogies (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      All in all, I agree with the diarist.  It's just that, as any historian will tell you, history does not repeat itself in any predictable, avoidable manner.  In fact, in any given historical episode, people typically just learn whatever lesson they wanted to learn; that's why our country, for instance, can't decide if "the lesson of Vietnam" was that fighting guerilla wars in faraway lands isn't worth the trouble or that America loses when it loses its will or that American imperialism will be its own downfall.  People take from history whatever will support their own mental furniture.

      Think you live in a free country? Try forming a union.

      by exiled texan on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 08:43:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There've been a couple of diaries (30+ / 0-)

    already about Robert Harris's Imperium, a novel set at the time of the lex Gabinia and whose main character is Cicero -- one of those diaries, unfortunately, by yours truly.

    The founding fathers of the US certainly looked at Rome in the same terms you use in the diary.  They actively sought to recreate the glory of Rome, which existed before the Caesars, and to avoid the causes of its downfall -- which they believed came when men put their individual interests ahead of the public good.

    (Ok, maybe that idea of interests actually arose during the renaissance, but the founders thought it came from Rome...)

    Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

    by litho on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:49:46 PM PST

  •  Sulla, by no means the gentle soul depicted... (5+ / 0-)

    His legal reforms did attempt to patch the damage done to the Senate and Republic. He also was the first to introduce proscriptions-- death lists of "enemies of the state" whose property was confiscated, and who were to be killed on sight. His struggle was less motivated by concern for the health of the Republic, and more so by his personal rivalry with Gaius Marius.

    The recent comparison to the Lex Gabinia is facile at best, and depends heavily on a serious misunderstanding of the late Republic and the factors that encouraged its deterioration.

    If we would be the Land of the Free, we must again become the Home of the Brave.
    Justice Holmes: "When you strike at a King, you must kill him."

    by khereva on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:52:22 PM PST

    •  Well... (13+ / 0-) be certain, it is hardly a complete portrait (nor do I claim it as such) of the history of any of these individuals.  It is rather a warning of the dangers that such alterations of our basic agreement of how we govern ourselves can pose.

      This is an analogy.  It is not a synonym.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 04:55:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I own "The Works of Edward Gibbon" (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elise, Jay Elias, Allogenes

        The set of 15 volumes, but worth the time.

        "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

        by npbeachfun on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:05:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good thing I like to read... (5+ / 0-)

          ...too much great stuff out there.

          The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

          by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:06:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  dont read new history- (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Elise, Jay Elias, greenearth, Allogenes

            Its BS read history books printed before 1950-

            Not New Editions... because they take things out

            "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

            by npbeachfun on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:14:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well... (6+ / 0-)

              ....if you're like me and you enjoy military history, you're missing out on lots if you don't read current materials.

              Martin Van Creveld and Robert Pape are both exceptional reads.

              The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

              by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:17:05 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  But a lot of pre-1950 history (6+ / 0-)

              has inaccurate information.  There's been a lot of new research on the Classical world.

              Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

              by Statius on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:29:01 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  we all learn that in school (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Republic Not Empire, Elise, Allogenes

                what we don't learn is Context-

                I read the The Constitution Debate in college and my father read us The Federalist Papers. I thought I had understood them.... but I lacked Context, I never truly comprehended them until I read Gibbon.

                "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

                by npbeachfun on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:46:58 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  we all learn what in school? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Abou Ben Adhem, Allogenes

                  Sorry, I can't follow the argument that we should ignore current scholarship on Rome.

                  Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

                  by Statius on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:50:52 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Edward Gibbon was sickly (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    walkshills, Allogenes

                    He spent his life Reading Roma History- Born in 1737

                    No TV, No Radio, just him and his books.

                    I find it difficult to believe a Historian today, knows more about Rome, then Gibbon forgot.  Of course when Archeologists discover new works, I cant wait to read them.

                    I could be wrong, but I fully believe it is hubris to believe We Know More???

                    Why, were don't have the time they did nor the education- After I received my PHD my grandparents were Shocked to learn how much I didn't know?

                    After I read a few old book of theirs I was Stunned... There were so many things the Author Assumed I the reader knew, I found it hard to grasp that my Immigrant  grandmother who was only educated until her 14 birthday was better educated then me?

                    "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

                    by npbeachfun on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:23:48 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I also don't believe in such a hubris, but... (4+ / 0-)

                      it also seems like a wild overgeneralization to say that we shouldn't read history books about Rome past 1950.  I am also working toward a PhD, and am staggered by what I don't know.  But I can think of one scholar, for example, that revises thinking on the early Christian cult of the saints.  I can't disregard his work.

                      Education is definitely different now, no doubt.  I just want to caution against such blanket statements, that's all.

                      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

                      by Statius on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:32:47 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I Respectively Disagree, (0+ / 0-)

                        My philosophy is simple- Why read somethings that quotes from the Source when the original source material is Available...

                        then again my degrees are in Journalism, Comparative Cultures and Theology. All of them Rely on source material.

                        "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

                        by npbeachfun on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:07:07 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Primary sources (6+ / 0-)

                          The sources -- Livy, Gibbon, Polybius, Plutarch -- are historians who themselves rely on documents (primary sources) we no longer have access to.

                          To say we should read only primary sources is absurd. It would mean every person having to reinvent the wheel. The problem is in finding modern histories that are reliable and accessible to the general reader. It requires some sleuthing, but it is not impossible.

                          Of course we should read primary sources as well, but keep in mind that you are mostly not reading them in the original language and there are often problems in translation, critical editions, and interpretation. This mania for reading sources only, without interpretation can  be a form of fundamentalism.

                          Rostovtzeff's Rome (1925) gives a different interpretation of Rome's decline than Gibbon, for example. It is a standard work that everyone should read (I haven't yet, I'm sorry to say).  And there is still an awful lot of good work being done -- unfortunately, a lot of it is still in academic journals.

                          •  I am able to read several languages (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            I have read Rostovtzeff, Flavius Josephus and I love academic journals.

                            This diary was Edward Gibbon: whose work is a wonderful window into American History an our founding fathers.

                            I don't like all this revision history: we are Not a Judo Christian Country- we are the First Modern Secular Country.

                            I dont know how many ways I can say this...It is my strong believe that we have more to learn about who we are and how our country begin by reading History Books written before 1950.

                            If you want to know the truth, I worry that all of the books in the library's will be put on the web, where it is easy to delete information. Information is Power and as someone mush brighter then me once said "History is Controlled By The Winners"  

                            "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

                            by npbeachfun on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 11:43:06 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  What to read (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            npbeachfun, ocdiamond

                            A lot of great history is pretty timeless. The great historian J.B. Bury is responsible for a lot of the content of the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, still today a fine reference source. And there are a lot of others, Moses I. Finley on slavery in antiquity comes to mind (1987), for example.  

                            The Oxford histories are a good place to start, paying careful attention to bibliography.

                          •  relying solely on primary sources (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            is freakin' bonkers, and will get you laughed out of any graduate history program on the planet.  

                            History, like pretty much everything else, is something that constantly evolves as we assess and (attempt to) fix the problems of our predecessors.  Why throw away all the insights of people who looked at the sources before you did, or rely on secondary sources whose conclusions have long ago been disputed, tossed out, or refined?

                            Think you live in a free country? Try forming a union.

                            by exiled texan on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 08:56:52 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  we are talking about two different things (0+ / 0-)

                            I am not making any references to Graduate School.

                            I am only talking about understanding American History and context: Every Founding Fathers read Gibbon's work, so it is a wonderful source for understanding what they were Debating and Thinking.

                            I was educated in California: taught that most Californians supported the union during the Civil War- yet I am unable to find a single source to support that.

                            Seventy-Five Years In California by William Heath Davis  and other biography's completely contradict that.

                            "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

                            by npbeachfun on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 03:37:54 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  Tell me again how education used to be better??? (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      blueoasis, Allogenes

                      Children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannise their teachers.
                      -- Socrates

                      Wes Clark -- The President we were promised as kids.

                      by Jimdotz on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 10:01:54 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  14 year old girls could read... (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        zedaker, Allogenes, Jimdotz

                        My grandmother knew 4 languages, read Greek Philosophy, played Jazz Piano and helped run a store, keeping the books yet, she only had an 8th grade education.

                        I do love your quote, it is a repetitive theme: That same grandmother was Bad for playing Jazz Piano, at lest once in her life she went to an opium den at lest once "Because she wanted to know what the fuss was about"and she had a lover she lived with before she married my Grandfather.

                        Yet, when she became a mother of teenagers She Hated Elvis, Told my mother that she couldn't go out with that boy "my father" because he was a Hood! She was also convinced her children were on the Pot...

                        My mother turned crazy when I was a teenager also.

                        Still that has almost nothing to do with education.

                        "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

                        by npbeachfun on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 12:35:34 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  Socrates should know... (5+ / 0-)

                        if Aristophanes was any reasonable judge, he was the cause of much of that.

                        An excellent, and thoroughly unappreciated, discussion of the Gadfly is I. F. Stone's Trial of Socrates. Philosophers hate it because it strips away his veil of perfection. Classicists hate it, because it demystifies Athenian politics. It's wonderful.

                        If we would be the Land of the Free, we must again become the Home of the Brave.
                        Justice Holmes: "When you strike at a King, you must kill him."

                        by khereva on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 04:13:06 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                •  I'm jealous (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  npbeachfun, Allogenes, Statius

                  I was getting Curious George and Winnie the Pooh, and you were getting Madison, Hamilton, and Jay!

                  And I always thought of myself as precocious...

                  Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

                  by litho on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:24:41 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  No, read the source works. (6+ / 0-)

              The various source materials from just about any period in history, if you dig deep enough, are so rich and chaotic and self-contradictory that no linear narrative can describe it. Any later historian who tries to convey an accurate sense of the period has the same impossible task as the cartographer trying to depict the world on a flat sheet of paper.

            •  Not true, there are some truly brilliant (7+ / 0-)

              historians writing now.  We wouldn't have the analyses of everyday life that we have now if it was not for the new social and cultural histories published since the 1970s.  There has been wonderful work published over the last thirty-five years.  You just have to look for university presses.

              "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, volume three, issue 18

              by Noor B on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:56:21 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  yeah, things like (0+ / 0-)

              value judgments and glaring bias.  History before 1950 (and ESPECIALLY Gibbon) was deeply flawed in its outright cheerleading for certain things and dismissal of others out of hand.

              Gibbon reads nice if you want nonfiction Shakespeare, but you want an accurate account of the 4th and 5th centuries?  You best head for Peter Brown, Julia Smith, and some of the other newcomers who've done a lot to fix the problems with the old stuff.

              Think you live in a free country? Try forming a union.

              by exiled texan on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 08:49:39 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmm... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boppy, Jay Elias, greenearth, Allogenes

    "Some on the right warn of the moral collapse of Rome, such as far-right Rep. Tom Tancredo, who warns in his new book In Mortal Danger that America’s "moral decay" puts us at risk of the same fate as the Roman Empire, while some on the left believe that imperial adventurism on the part of the most dominant Republic since the Roman Empire which is leading us to risk encountering their fate."

    They are both right.  It was the combination of those that led to the fall of Rome.  So, sounds like we are screwed.

  •  We learn from History... (11+ / 0-)

    ...that we don't learn from history.

    Nicely done, Sir!

  •  Moral Decay? (18+ / 0-)

    I always find it funny when "moral decay" is argued as the basis of the fall of the Roman Empire, by those who would return as to theocracy. Weren't the last centuries of the Roman West, the same centuries that saw the rise of Christianity, and Christian theocracy?

    So what are those folks trying to say, that we should stay away from Christianity as a source of moral decay? Or are they just mumbling pretty words again?

    •  Mostly... (11+ / 0-) is just dirty fantasies based on Bob Guccione's Caligula if you ask me.  As I said before, the mores of ancient Rome would qualify as utterly depraved by modern standards at any point in its history.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:11:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  More mores. (5+ / 0-)

        Well, we would call them depraved, and they would call us depraved. How would they see the position of the father in our households, the disrespect of the children? The all-encompassing social services, and minutae of laws regulating everything from haircuts to plumbing?

        Everyone's depraved to the others. But that don't mean I wanna go back to Rome - at least not without some modern firepower.

      •  The "moral decay" argument, whether made in (12+ / 0-)

        reference to the Roman empire or not, drives me nuts. I think it was Thomas Frank who remarked that the moral crusaders get elected over and over and yet they never "solve" the "problem" because the problem is what lets them get elected over and over.

        "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders." Molly Ivins

        by VetGrl on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:25:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If I may... (9+ / 0-)

          ....I'll reply to this with a quote:

          And if you are thinking how awful these sentiments are, you are perfectly correct, these are awful times, but you must remember as well that this has always been the chiefest characteristic of the Present, to everyone living through it... the Present is always an awful place to be.

          -Tony Kushner, Homebody/Kabul

          That is the sentiment to which they are appealing.  We do not understand the present as we do the past; therefore, the more fearful of us venerate it and campaign for its return.

          The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

          by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:30:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I would be careful, (9+ / 0-)

        if I were you, about calling the mores of ancient Rome "utterly depraved."

        There was more consciousness of ethics, of civic duty, of the moral purpose inherent in creating an upstanding, educated, and responsible citizenry, in the REPUBLIC of Rome, than anything I've seen in the latter-day, bottom-line, short-term-profit-only, modern-day predatory capitalist society that has increasingly defined this country over the last 30 years.

        Rome produced stellar philosophers and rhetoricians such as Cicero--who was murdered for his ideas, his hands and head cut off as he fled the city for the umpteenth time, having opened his mouth once too often in protest as his beloved Republic died around him--certainly more than we have had in our public discourse since JFK, at best.  (Ask not . . .)  

        The sickness of our current society, which refuses to acknowledge any sort of collective responsibility or purpose and which continually blames the victim (see Katrina, see immigration, see poverty, see I've-got-mine-screw-you, etc) rivals the Roman EMPIRE in a number of ways.  It's just less overtly insane.  Insane and excessive it is, nonetheless, just locked away where we're never confronted with it.  

        Utterly depraved?  We have Cheney for that.  We certainly don't need to go back as far back as the Roman Empire . . .

        "We're a peaceful nation," said GWB, announcing the air strikes. So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is peace. --Arundhati Roy

        by mozartssister on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:55:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joanneleon, greenearth

          ...I don't really think I'm saying such, just thinking of what Tom Tancredo and the like would think of them.  I'm not really into such evaluations.

          Still, a good and valid point.

          The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

          by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:26:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  utterly depraved? hogwash. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        averybird, kurt, Allogenes

        Romans were by and large quite conservative morally. They were, the vast majority of them for the vast majority of their history, peasant farmers who abhorred innovation and novelty.

        They did enjoy a hobby of expressing moral outrage at indecent behavior, for which reason writers like Suetonius and the authors of the Historia Augusta made big bucks scandalizing their readers with lurid tales of the naughty rulers and their oh so naughty cohorts. Some folks take this as literal truth, and then generalize this to the rest of the population

        What folks forget is, if all Romans were this depraved, then who, pray, is being scandalized? Most Romans would raise not a single eyebrow in Lake Woebegone.

        If we would be the Land of the Free, we must again become the Home of the Brave.
        Justice Holmes: "When you strike at a King, you must kill him."

        by khereva on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 04:18:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  What have the Romans ever done for us? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          [thanks to Eurotrib]

          What have the Romans ever given us?

             REG: Yeah. All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have [the Romans] ever given us in return?!
             XERXES: The aqueduct?
             REG: What?
             XERXES: The aqueduct.
             REG: Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.
             COMMANDO #3: And the sanitation.
             LORETTA: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?
             REG: Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.
             MATTHIAS: And the roads.
             REG: Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads--
             COMMANDO: Irrigation.
             XERXES: Medicine.
             COMMANDOS: Huh? Heh? Huh...
             COMMANDO #2: Education, Health...
             COMMANDOS: Ohh...
             REG: Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.
             COMMANDO #1: And the wine.
             COMMANDOS: Oh, yes. Yeah...
             FRANCIS: Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.
             COMMANDO: Public baths.
             LORETTA: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
             FRANCIS: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this.
             COMMANDOS: Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.
             REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
             XERXES: Brought peace.
             REG: Oh. Peace? Shut up!

             Monty Python, Life of Brian

    •  Gibbon certainly thought so! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      npbeachfun, Allogenes
    •  mumbling pretty words (0+ / 0-)

      Gibbon hated institutional Christianity, which is his right, fine, but his attribution of it to the "fall" of the empire is ridiculous.  

      As they say, "The Roman Empire fell because of whatever you don't like."

      Think you live in a free country? Try forming a union.

      by exiled texan on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 09:04:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you so much for this (7+ / 0-)

    I had emailed Unitary Moonbat for this detailed account of the end of the Roman Republic, and I am glad you were able to do this.

    Excellent, and recommended, thanks.

    9/11 didn't change the Constitution!

    by Prof Dave on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:15:45 PM PST

  •  The most important series on Dkos (8+ / 0-)


    That's what this is.  

    Question authoritarianism

    by m00nchild on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:20:13 PM PST

    •  Thank you very much... (10+ / 0-)

      ...for the extraordinary compliment, but I'm sure that such a thing is well beyond us.

      Those who came long before me changed American politics.  I'm just hoping that we can get a bill out of committee.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:47:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's one I would desperately like to see (5+ / 0-)

        make it to conference -- the rewriting of the AUMF...

        Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

        by litho on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:26:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  you are humble (7+ / 0-)

        and don't deserve any pie.

        but i really believe this is the issue of our lives.  do we as Americans collectively stop tyranny or do we go the way of the Republic.

        all of the other major issues of the day tie into this key defense of our values and way of life.

        and there are levers yet to pull that can help us engage our opponents.  we just have to convince one another that we are heirs of those who came before us and follow in their footsteps.

        starting first with our ability to block funding for the wars our would-be tyrants are insisting are ours to be waged. if one bill fails, then another and another until the name Republican means nothing but failure, incompetency, and intransigence in the heart of every American.

        and our opportunities continue on into intense oversight and scrutiny at every corner by our representative who we helped elect into office.  a roadblock at every opportunity in the spirit of a true opposition.  it's time for Democratic leaders to pay the piper, we helped get them into power to lead us and they owe us on principle -- if they honor that sacred democratic trust

        and with enough momentum and public fury our efforts could lead to impeachment and removal from office of officials like Gonzalez, Cheney and Bush who have soiled the privileges of their office in the pursuit of absolute power.  even Supreme Court justices who claimed powers they didn't have to install these despots in 2000.

        we can do this if we have the resolve to claim the moral authority on this issue.

        i've been feeling very cynical and unempowered lately.  but i have to break that.  we all have to.  there's so much we have to do to come to the aid of our nation.

        Question authoritarianism

        by m00nchild on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:23:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I second that, moonchild (5+ / 0-)

      And a great big hat tip to Jay and his friends for this series.

      "We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Republic, Tiro, remember my words."--Cicero, in Robert Harris's novel, Imperium.

      by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:29:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The basic problem (8+ / 0-)

    But what he says here cannot be more true: there will always be more people who see the examples of tyrants and despots and who seek the lessons of how to achieve such powers for themselves than those who will see such actions and endeavor to find ways to stymie and defeat them.

    So correct, sir. Because at the base of things, it is this that causes the downfall of any republic -- Rome's or our own -- and the downfall of any enterprise whether it be your local village or a big corporation.

    History shows us first and foremost that most men (people) are greedy, self-serving creatures whose lust for power can be immense. People who think themselves immune are the most laughable characters in the books.

    There is something wrong with our republic, all right. In particular, it's Bush and this crop of republic-destroying creeps. In general, it's human nature I fear.

    Excellent diary. Thank you.

    "There are four boxes to use in the defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, ammo. Use in that order." Ed Howdershelt

    by JuliaAnn on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:32:42 PM PST

  •  The Lex Gabinia is another variety of the (9+ / 0-)

    State of Exception, as laid out in a book by that name by Giorgio Agamben.

    Here's some info from

    Two months after the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration, in the midst of what it perceived to be a state of emergency, authorized the indefinite detention of noncitizens suspected of terrorist activities and their subsequent trials by a military commission. Here, distinguished Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben uses such circumstances to argue that this unusual extension of power, or "state of exception," has historically been an underexamined and powerful strategy that has the potential to transform democracies into totalitarian states.

    The sequel to Agamben's Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, State of Exception is the first book to theorize the state of exception in historical and philosophical context. In Agamben's view, the majority of legal scholars and policymakers in Europe as well as the United States have wrongly rejected the necessity of such a theory, claiming instead that the state of exception is a pragmatic question. Agamben argues here that the state of exception, which was meant to be a provisional measure, became in the course of the twentieth century a working paradigm of government. Writing nothing less than the history of the state of exception in its various national contexts throughout Western Europe and the United States, Agamben uses the work of Carl Schmitt as a foil for his reflections as well as that of Derrida, Benjamin, and Arendt.

    Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

    by Statius on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:34:06 PM PST

  •  A series of issues (12+ / 0-)

    I think that there is a serious tilt towards authoritarianism in America because of the extreme power found in the executive brance.  Specifically, the military-industrial complex is overwhelmingly powerful.  Also, the intelligence agencies (especially since they are now mostly housed in the military) and federal law enforcement create a power base in Washington that is simply overwhelming.  The temptation is simply too great to use these tools for nefarious ends.

    We are at serious risk in this country, and we need to think as liberals and defenders of the Constitution about how to reduce the power of the executive branch.  This may mean reducing the Military-Industrial complex, this may mean increasing Constitutional protections, and other things I have not thought of.

    But at the end of the day, we as American believers in our modern republic need a long term plan to reduce the power of the executive.  If this makes me sound like a right-wing crazy bent on reducing government to nothing, keep in mind that I am talking about the portions of the government that are capable of destroying our republic, not the portions that support our citizens.

    And none of us want to end up in the American Empire with a few families telling us what to do for the next 500 years.

    9/11 didn't change the Constitution!

    by Prof Dave on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:38:55 PM PST

  •  Great Diary. Highly Recommended (n/t) (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boppy, Elise, greenearth, Allogenes
  •  This one is headed for Diary Rescue (5+ / 0-)

    "America! F*%# Yeah! Coming again to save the mother-f*%#ing day!" -- Team America

    by FischFry on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:40:41 PM PST

  •  Have you read Robert Harris' Imperium yet? (5+ / 0-)

    It's a novel of Cicero's life as told by his slave Tiro. It has some problems, but the section on the Lex Gabinia is great.  Real behind-the-scenes political thriller.

  •  Washington and Jefferson would weep (9+ / 0-)

    if they saw the way we squandering everything away.  

    They would be no less than shocked at the way their own story is being rewritten as lies.

  •  Great Diary (7+ / 0-)

    Ive been watching the Rome series off and on but the brutality and militarism hits to close to home and freaks me out. It was enlightening to read the part of their story that led to Ceasars death . The Greeks too had their moment of falling from grace with Pericles. When will we ever learn.  

  •  Fine diary, conclusion not quite on. (8+ / 0-)

    The Republic died, but the Roman Empire lived on for another five hundred years.  And that is the peril we too face today.  Not the end of America, but the end of our Republic,

    While a lot parallels ancient Rome, we are at a time and place where the fall of the Republic does equal the fall of the nation. That one man makes all the decisions (with a chorus of boot-licking Republicans, and too many Democrats without any clue) has put us in a place where we can be militarily and economically devastated within days of, say, launching nuclear attacks against Iran. Which, because of fallout, will amount to a nuclear attack on Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Azerbaijan, and eventually, the people of every other nation on earth, including Americans.

    This simultaneous disruption of normal human behavior will be unmatched in history. And the world will devote themselves to undermine America in every way possible. Starting with the economy.

    Even barring a nuke attack, the policies Bush has set make us insanely vulnerable to the rest of the world's agreement to end the threat we've come to pose to it.

    But I don't mean to take away from the heart and thrust of this excellent diary.

    The Bush crimes will continue every single day for the 746 between 1/04/07 and 1/20/09. Every single day. Our plan to stop him is...?

    by Jim P on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 05:59:45 PM PST

    •  Your alternate conclusion is speculation (5+ / 0-)

      No one can know all the consequences of Bush's insane policies. The world is far too complex, and humans are far too powerful, for such long-range predictions to be made with accuracy.

      What we can know is that only destruction, in many varieties, can result from this criminal madness.

      •  Long-term? If you consider a year or 2 long-term. (5+ / 0-)

        There's quite a record of China, Russia, Brazil, India, and many other states meeting specifically to counter US influence in the world. It's not really that hard to predict if you've been following these developments--political, economic, military--for the past four years.

        Though most Americans remain unaware, the rest of the world long ago took notice of the Bush 2000 Campaign's acceptance of PNAC's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" as their national security strategy. It called for war against Iraq, Iran, Libya (since removed), North Korea, China, and Russia.

        Their official strategy adopted about 14 months later when they were in office summarized RAD and laid out a strategy for "full-spectrum dominance" of every nation on earth. The rest of the world has not been unaware of this, as the new premier of China said in a speech broadcast throughout Asia when taking office in March of 2003.

        The worldwide countering the US is in process right now. It has not yet hit high-gear.

        The Bush crimes will continue every single day for the 746 between 1/04/07 and 1/20/09. Every single day. Our plan to stop him is...?

        by Jim P on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:28:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I may be off here... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jim P, greenearth, blueoasis, Tanya, Allogenes

          but on a slight tangent, hasn't the creation of the European Union, been somewhat another example of other world powers coming together to counter US preeminence, albeit maybe from more of an economic motivation? (though I wouldn't doubt that the motivations might have changed by now)


          "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God."

          ~Susan B. Anthony

          by Erevann on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:36:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Precisely, and that counter-pressure will return. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jim P, blueoasis, Allogenes

          In the 1950s, the big organization in opposition to the Cold War was the non-aligned movement.  Both India and Indonesia were major players in this movement, which sought to find a neutral path during the Cold War.  These were countries that refused to align themselves with either the US or the USSR, while maintaining diplomatic ties to both.

          You can bet this alliance will reconstitute itself if necessary, and it will be much broader than the original non-aligned movement.

          "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, volume three, issue 18

          by Noor B on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 08:33:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  For example: Shanghai Cooperation Org. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blueoasis, Tanya, Allogenes

            Or SCO

               NEW DELHI, Feb. 14 [2007](Xinhua) -- Chinese, Indian and Russian foreign ministers met here Wednesday, reaffirming their trilateral cooperation was not directed against any other country but intended to promote international harmony and understanding.

               The three ministers emphasized the strong commitment of India, Russia and China to multilateral diplomacy, [interesting because Putin and others have talked about the unilateral US--jp] according to the Joint Communique issued after the trilateral meeting.

            ...They stressed that terrorism should be combated in a consistent, sustained and comprehensive manner without any double standards.

            Each of these 3 nations have participated in war games with each other in the past two years. And Russia and China have been moving in on the oil-development business in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and China has an oil-sands deal with Canada! Russia is going to sell Brazil missiles... All the international alliances and business going on that specifically excludes the US--that's one of the big hidden stories going on.

            The Bush crimes will continue every single day for the 746 between 1/04/07 and 1/20/09. Every single day. Our plan to stop him is...?

            by Jim P on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 09:09:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You are right.... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              The economic cooperation by the other powers of the world will bring down the American Empire.

              That we bribed India (who did not sign NNPT) with nuclear technology was an attempt to pry them from aligning with China and Russia after we attack Iran.

              I don't think they will work against their own best interests in the area, and that is to align with China, leaving us with our 'friend' Pakistan as the only place in S Asia that is friendly to us.

              What do you think N. Korea is going to do while we are "distracted" by Iran?

              Does anyone really think China can keep Kim Jong Il out of S. Korea?

              What about Japan?  

              -6.5, -7.59. All good that a person does to another returns three fold in this life; harm is also returned three fold.

              by DrWolfy on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 04:19:52 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  standing army is the decline into the abyss (14+ / 0-)

    eisenhower saw it coming, standing army war machine.  romans went down this road also.  but they didnt have capitlism driving the spiral.  with standing army its easy to use like a tool.  use it to make sure your interests are  well maintained.   huge defense budgets  fueled by corporations who have the newest and lastest.  they dance hand in hand, dance of mutual destruction.  

  •  No way any American Empire will last . . . (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, greenearth, Dianna, Allogenes

    . . . 500 years, not with incompetents like the Bush/Cheney gang running the show, collapsing the economy, and pissing off potentially stronger powers.  It's much, much later than the neo-cons think for imperial dreaming.

    "Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure." -- White Rose letter no. 1

    by keikekaze on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:13:13 PM PST

    •  Is Bush worse than Caligula (4+ / 0-)

      or Nero?

      The Empire survived some spectacularly bad rulers, especially in its early years.

      Course the diary is about the end of the Republic, not the Empire, so we're getting a bit off topic here...

      Israel has one legitimate and urgent demand to make of the Palestinians: that they not attack Israelis.

      by litho on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:20:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The diarist seemed to me to suggest . . . (6+ / 0-)

        . . . in his last paragraph, that we are currently at a crossover point between republic and empire in our history, analoguous to that point in Roman history that was then succeeded by 500 years of empire.  Perhaps I read it wrong, but I was pointing out that no contemporary American Empire will last 500 years, partly because we do not now enjoy the luxury of the relative power vacuum in Europe in which Rome flourished during its early centuries, partly because Rome was not faced (as we are) with several alternative means of planetary environmental destruction immediately at hand, and partly just because technology has speeded everything up, including history, since Roman times.

        Is Bush worse than Caligula or Nero?  I very much doubt that Caligula's and Nero's administrations, or regimes, were much more misguided overall than Bush/Cheney's.

        "Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure." -- White Rose letter no. 1

        by keikekaze on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:32:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Nero? Bush? Fiddle vs Guitar... hummmmm (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dave925, greenearth, Allogenes, keikekaze


        "A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen" James Madison (-6.88, -6.26)

        by npbeachfun on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:36:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm so glad I Netflixed ROME (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave925, Elise, greenearth, Allogenes

    it actually helped me follow the historical timeline and details in this diary.  

    Great Diary Jay, many thanks!  Although I do hope we aren't actually crumbling before our very eyes.....

    Evolution is so obsolete, gotta stamp your hands and clap your feet! Gotta dance like a monkey, dance like a monkey child. New York Dolls

    by espresso on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:21:38 PM PST

  •  Powerful stuff, Jay! We're doomed to repeat (5+ / 0-)

    history, unless we learn from the past and strike down those who would have us repeat it.

    We are facing a clear tyranny, IMHO.  How dare these "executives" announce that our Congress has no authority?  How dare any of our Congressmen (See Arlen Specter today on CNN) make pronouncements that clearly deviate from our Constitution?  How dare these people pronounce themselves our "unitary executives?"  IMHO, that's treason against our Constitution and our Republic and we'd better get them out of our White House with the powers granted to Congress IMMEDIATELY!

    No dictatorship for America!!!  No unitary executives for America!!!  Of the PEOPLE.  By the PEOPLE.  For the PEOPLE.

    George W. Bush and Richard Cheney swore to protect and defend the CONSTITUTION of the United States.  Not the people, not the troops, not anything or anyone else.  THE CONSTITUTION.  And there's a clear reason why that is what they are sworn to protect and defend.  Both of them have done exactly the opposite and I call that immediate grounds for impeachment.

  •  I like the diary (9+ / 0-)

    Recc'd  it.

    But strongly disagree with the premis of the parallels you describe.

    The Marian/Caesarians were Populists who were the forerunners to Caudilloism.

    I do not see the parallels today.

    IF anything, today parallels Sulla's rise, backed by the Patricians and the Senate, against Marian (a continuation of the Gracchi movement imo) Populism.

    No longer commenting on substance. Snark is welcome.

    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:39:41 PM PST

    •  Of course I fully endorse your action items (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elise, Jay Elias, greenearth, Tanya, Allogenes

      No longer commenting on substance. Snark is welcome.

      by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:42:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree strongly... (7+ / 0-)

      ...on your analysis of the political factors at play.  In fact, I made mention of that early on in the comments.

      But the parallel that I am examining is the ramifications of the legal path taken.  While the cause of the Caesarians was populist and in opposition to the nobility, the consequence was the dissolution of the Republic, which while it was a deeply flawed and aristocratic system, was far more like our current government than the empire that followed.

      Despite the embrace of Catonian symbolism by my libertarian fellows, I think Cato and his cohorts were rather odious.  But, it was still they who were on the side of the Republic in the end.  You are right that Sulla had more in common with our current leaders in terms of philosophy and rhetoric, but the legal ramifications of the abrogation of the basic laws of the Republic and the violation of them by our current leaders are ones I think have merit.

      The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

      by Jay Elias on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:46:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Authoritarians (5+ / 0-)

    Are the same going back 5000 years or more. They can't stand the fact they don't have the power to do whatever they want. They must be resisted because they are always bad for the people.

    Do Pavlov's dogs chase Schroedinger's cat?

    by corwin on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 06:54:58 PM PST

  •  Well... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    averybird, Dave925, greenearth, Allogenes

    House Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq but would require President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military.

    It looks like the Dems are now caving.

    Completing the creation of a dictatorship by default; a de facto dictatorship.

    A dictatorship.

    It's good for your enemies to think you're a little crazy. As long as you can back it up.

    by dov12348 on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:00:17 PM PST

  •  This is one hell of a project... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlynne, Elise, greenearth, Allogenes

    and one hell of a historical allegory of the danger we're in these days.

    Thank you my man. You make me want to get to reading my ancient history! I swear I'll die before I read all the things I've got on my list.

    Incoming email. I'd like to find a way to contribute to this. :)


    "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God."

    ~Susan B. Anthony

    by Erevann on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:31:25 PM PST

  •  Whoah! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I just made a comment on diary on about righwingers blaming the collapse of  the Roman Empire on Gay people. I pointed out the Empires imperialist over extension as the far more likely cause of the collapse, as well as a snarky comment about Christianity to rile up a fundi- troll over there...
    And then I come to visit Daily Kos and this is the first diary I read...Wierd!
    Anywho, I love your diaries Jay. Keep up the good work!

    •  But they did not comment.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      on the idea that the Empire, by its very existence was wrong, and by their comments (or your take on them here) I believe the tacitly want and embrace Empire.

      Sad, real sad....

      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." Seneca

      by Ralfast on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 10:03:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course they want thier empire (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Imperialism is only bad when other people do it. But our great Christian tough-guy nation is spreading democracy (bombs) to all those poor little brown people who don't know any better! We are helping them, this is for thier own good (and our oil)!

  •  If you like the Old Testament (4+ / 0-)

    You'll find the same story of the assumption of absolute power by the state at the insistence of a naive populace:

    Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

    [1] And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
    [2] Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba.
    [3] And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
    [4] Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
    [5] And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
    [6] But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
    [7] And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
    [8] According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
    [9] Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
    [10] And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
    [11] And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
    [12] And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
    [13] And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
    [14] And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
    [15] And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
    [16] And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
    [17] He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
    [18] And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
    [19] Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
    [20] That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
    [21] And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
    [22] And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

    Might and Right are always fighting In our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning. Might can hardly keep from grinning. -Clarence D

    by Myrkury on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 07:47:38 PM PST

  •  Titus wasn't all that bad (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave925, Elise, jessical, Allogenes

    Now Domitian, he was a nut ;)

    Great diary, too many people miss the fall of the republic comparison. It's the most legitimate historical situation with which to compare ourselves.

  •  Bravo Jay, Bravo! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elise, jessical, Allogenes

    This diary should scroll continuously across the bottom of every TV screen in America.  

  •  bush can do whatever he wants (0+ / 0-)

    he's the king, remember?

    Which presidential candidate has been beating Republicans for a quarter century? Hillary for President

    by EmperorHadrian on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 09:33:05 PM PST

  •  Thank you... (5+ / 0-)

    ...for a great diary, and series.  Having finally reached the end of the comments, I can say that they were just as good, and if lacking the rolling proto victorian prose quotes, this was more than made up for with sheer love for the time, the issues, and the sweep and particulars of history.  This is our bribe for actually writing action letters, isn't it?:)

  •  It's over. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Tanya

    Look at Drudge's recent attacks on Gore, a confused (at best) media, the right-wing attacks on anyone and anything that challenges their lunatic delusions... We've long pas the point where the Constitution could save us. We have a societal problem, not unlike to Romans in fact, and befopre a new society can be built, this one is going to have to collapse, fracture (hopefully not as bloodily as, say, Yugoslavia).

    Bushco isn't the cause but the symptom of a disease of a country finally torn apart by its contradictions, exacerbated by looming crises (energy, health, etc.) that will force a reshaping of its world view on some, while others will fight to the death to resist it.

    The best you can do is think long-term to protect yourself and your family.


    by Lupin on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 10:25:06 PM PST

    •  Ah Lupin, you leave out so many possibilities! (0+ / 0-)

      Although it's a toy, look how fast the IPod spread, YouTube, netroots, et al.

      The internet enables viral marketing, for good or ill.

      So whip up your brain cells, take a few mikes of acid, and viral market ideas of freedom and human rights. And responsibilities.

      Listen Before You Talk.

      by ormondotvos on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 12:18:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think so (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Myrkury, ormondotvos, Tanya

        With all due respect, I disagree with the impact of the various technologies/products you mention.

        Obviously neither of us has a crystal ball and only time will tell. But my diagnosis is based on the notion that the American Society will not survive as it is now, meaning as a single entity, the stress of the next decade.

        If anything, I suspect the technological factors you mention will speed up the collapse, not provide the glue to hold it together.

        Period of societal upheavals will present great opportunities: that is, after all, when new fortunes are made. But they will also come at a huge price.

        Historians of the future might go back to the 60ies to find the first cracks in the societal consensus that was the United States. Personally, I felt we'd reached some kind of watershed moment during the Clinton Impeachement. (I argued as much on the old alt.impeach.clinton newsgroup.) Look back and see how much more has been trashed since then.

        I know that a flat exprapolation of the past to predict the future is not a sound method, but one can't help feel that the trend is irreversible.

        I was in Moscow in 1989, when Perestroika had just begun, and I had a somewhat similar discussion with our young Georgian intrepeter. I could foresee the total collapse and transformation of their society whereas he only saw the incremental changes promised by Perestroika.

        Now I would dream of arguing that Russia was better off under Communism, but the changes it underwent between, say, 1987 and 2007 were huge. I believe we are very much on a similar path.

        OVER HERE: AN AMERICAN EXPAT IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, is now available on Amazon US

        by Lupin on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 12:47:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Beautiful. Perfect. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Readable, enjoyable, logical, heartfelt, well-intentioned and fun to soak in. Hotlisted, tipped, and rec'd. Great work.

  •  Brilliant diary and brilliant series. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elise, Allogenes, LightningMan

    History is replete with empires which rise and always fall. What's in question is when they fall and not if.

    If we take action then we can help to delay the fall. If not then the fall may come in as little as a few generations. If the true indicator is the fall of the Republic then that time is near.

    Thank you all for picking this fight. I will join in. I'm not the writer that you all are but I can fight with the best.

    -4.25, -6.87: The next great step will be taken from here.

    by CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 10:31:34 PM PST

  •  Stellar diary, Jay. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elise, Allogenes, LightningMan

    And thank you for all of your considerable efforts to preserve our constitutional democracy.

    As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. - Justice William O. Douglas

    by occams hatchet on Wed Feb 28, 2007 at 10:32:56 PM PST

  •  My impression is that after the first fall of the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Allogenes

    Roman Republic, various forms of Republicanism made various minor comebacks over the coming centuries.

    My impression has always been that the title 'The decline and fall of the Roman Empire" did a good deal to create a false impression that the empire built up to some glorious peak, then disintigrated and fell prey to outside invaders,

  •  500 Years Is a Long Time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But our slave era could be 5000 years because of technology and overpopulation. In establishing the United States, the Europeans in this country had an enormous space to play with and interplay with native Americans to induce additional ideas of freedom. We have no such space to go to. And, on top of that, once a dictatorship forms, it will have all the additional power of technology to torture and spy in ways the Romans never dreamed of.

    So, the stakes are much higher in our age.

    But, we also have a better record of history to show us the way, both to point out the bad and to remind us of the good. The Romans could go back to the Greeks and look at Athenian democracy. We can do that, too, but we can tap into many other cultures to see what worked and what didn't.

    So, the standards are much higher for us, as well.

  •  The Empire never ended (0+ / 0-)

    Also, the pace of history has accelerated- things that took decades or centuries back then could easily happen in months or years now. Compare mail delivery by horses to instant messaging, crude hand drawn maps to GPS and Google Earth- or catapults to cruise missiles. It has been an exponential increase, not merely a linear one- most of the speeding-up has happened in the last 2 centuries (but mostly the second one), and most of that within the last 2 decades (again, mostly the second one.)

    If the vast majority of the population were not kept sleepwalking through a life of routines and distractions, maybe everything would have already happened by now.

  •  A great quote from Pompey (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Myrkury, Tanya, Allogenes

    which resonates today:

    Stop quoting laws to us.  We have swords

    What are you reading? on Friday mornings
    What have you got to learn? (or teach) on Saturdays

    by plf515 on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 02:57:30 AM PST

  •  What Republic ? (0+ / 0-)

    It is hard for me to think of either Rome or America as Republics.

    A Republic should be a country where the law making and decision making is done by people who are

    1.  Drawn from the people and
    1.  Who represent the people's wishes and
    1.  Who are removable from office by the people very quickly -

    If they start making laws and making decisions that are designed to favor themselves personally instead of the people, or are designed to favor the people who are bribing them instead of the people.

    Any "Republic" that is not designed to be a true Republic will, and should, fall.

    Why would anyone want to save it?

  •  Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

    I tried explaining this at a family dinner a couple of years ago, but fell far short of your excellent diary.

    In TX-32, visit Sessions Watch to keep an eye on Pete Sessions

    by CoolOnion on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 04:04:20 AM PST

  •  "Quo vadis, Republic?" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Iran and Empire, Senator."

  •  Another aspect: (0+ / 0-)

    Legally, the powers of the counsel granted by the senate were limited in two ways: it was only operative outside the Italian penninsula, and it was for a limited term.  In practice, there is no way that one can put either geographic or temporal limits when there is a grant of absolute power over armies, riches and the known world.

    In this country, Bush manipulates foreign events solely within his control and entirely secret in order to influence and control domestic politics. Congress doesn't even know where he's operating, or what he's doing.  but we feel safe because under law, he just has absolute power over non americans outside the us, not over us.  I think that's ridiculous.

    It's the proto-fascism.

    by Inland on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 05:48:11 AM PST

  •  Et Tu, Bushtae? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The knife in back of our Republic. Thank you for a powerful, insightful overview and some first-rate scholarly writing. We often hear about the parallel between Ancient Rome and Modern America--now the allegory is detailed and undeniable.

  •  The Lex Belli is our biggest danger . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    . . . and has been for some time. The Law of War abrogates constitutional limits on government and abrogates the rights of the people. To stop the abuse of executive orders, we have to do something about what has become a perpetual state of national emergency, a perpetual state of war, where the Lex Belli is supreme. Look! George W. Bush has made public what has been secretly done for a long time: citizens of the US can be declared to be "enemy combatants," and under the Lex Belli, enemy combatants have no rights whatsoever, though they may be granted priveleges. That's all we've had for a long time, with a government that exceeds the powers granted to it by the people; our rights have been replaced by priveleges.

  •  the right wing noise machine is the enemy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If the democrats want to try to save the republic (and remain in power)they must shut the mouth of the right wing noise machine through legislation.

    •  um, no. (0+ / 0-)

      as much as the right wing noise machine is toxic, that's censorship and an infringement of 1st amendment rights.  You can't legislate away Hannity as much as we'd all love to.

      Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

      by Statius on Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 12:54:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  New dKosopedia Entry (0+ / 0-)

    Jay, I've been inspired by everyone's efforts on this series and set up a dKosopedia Index for the series as well as announced it in a diary.

    Thanks so much for kicking this all off!


    dKosopedia Entry:

    Question authoritarianism

    by m00nchild on Fri Mar 02, 2007 at 12:22:22 AM PST

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