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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Decline and Fall

A fascinating and erudite essay on Brussels Journal by Takuan Seiyo will tell you, amongst other things, why bits of historic Poland look like Antwerp, the whereabouts of Sobieski's heart and other things. I highly recommend it. Seiyo looks to Gibbon for his introduction:

These are not happy days for Americans, particularly if raised on traditional American values of Northern European provenance. Conscientious work as redemptive virtue, thrift, self-reliance, self-restraint, Biblical ethical principles, modesty, high-minded civic culture, love of liberty, distrust of centralized power,

America’s ruling elite – once the embodiment of such values and now a putrid trench running from Wall Street to Madison Avenue to Washington DC to Hollywood -- has debauched and upended them as thoroughly as though it has been teleported directly from 3rd century Rome. It has deployed the full arsenal of Roman degeneration: unsustainable spending, shaving the coins of the realm, excessive taxation, disincentives to work and saving, wanton waste, corruption on an enormous scale, opulent narcissism at the top, lax borders, importing foreign populations, degrading the value of citizenship, promotion of sexual deviations and excesses, undermining the family unit, trampling on traditions, inuring the populace to “free” handouts and soul-corroding entertainment.


Anonymous said...

There is a song somewhere that has a line that goes summink like. "America has abused a world that once loved it well". The trouble is that we in Britain seem to have improved the ability to fast track American imports - and a lot of their stuff really isn't worth importing, in any sense of the word. Modern American TV...YUK! Bring back Walter Cronkite!

Coney Island

Anonymous said...

No modern specialist in late antiquity would recognise the old Gibbon-esque description of the Later Roman Empire. No modern specialist in late antiquity could do anything but laugh at the idea that Rome fell because of sexual immorality.

If you're interested in a sound analysis of the actual political and military mechanics of the fall, along with the late imperial background, try Peter Heather's The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History.

Tom said...

Peter Heather's The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History... yeah OK...

It's interesting to note that the old Iranians had a big hand in dragging down the empire - bumped off two Roman Emperors one apparently kept as a court pet until he got too annoying and was then killed and his skin used as a lampshade - Dubya did y'all know that?

Anonymous said...


I'm really not clear on what you're saying. If you don't like Heather, read Ralph Mathisen, read John Drinkwater, read Hugh Elton, definitely read Arnold Jones, read Ian Wood, read Danuta Shanzer, read Glen Bowersock, read Cyril Mango, read Peter Brown, read Chris Kelly. Read pretty much anyone who actually knows the subject. Read anyone who holds academic qualifications on late antiquity and who can read the languages.

Read something other than half-assed misinterpretations of Gibbon by pundits who wouldn't know Ammianus if he came up and sodomised them. Read something by people who actually understand the language, culture, literature and structures of late antiquity instead of ill-informed articles written by people who derive their understanding of the later empire from Wikipedia's page on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.


Budgie said...

Just as what was a fashionable view of the decline of the Roman Empire a hundred years ago may be wrong (or right) so current views may be right (or wrong). Simply because a view is current, does not make it correct.

I know of no major civilisation or empire that emerges, or continues, where the 'traditional' family is wrecked to the extent to which modern Western civilisation's families are.