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The Modern Romans (part 4)

Despite awesome military power, America is confused about its goals.
Witness the recent "Vietnam Moratorium."
Britain's sun has set.
What has led to the declining power and prestige of the two English-speaking powers?
This fourth in a series explains.


THE BIG NEWS of the future could be the decline and ultimate fall of Britain and the United States.

And you could be reading those headlines already — while not comprehending what you are reading!

How many are aware of the full significance of America's October and November "Vietnam Moratoriums"?

We saw the headlines. We heard the dissent. But has the true import of these occasions really been understood?


Elements of National Power

Why are certain nations great? Why have certain nations gained the respect and admiration, sometimes the envy and jealousy of the rest of the world, for their leadership, their productivity — while others have stagnated or even gone backward?

Why are some nations strong and others weak? And not only in the military sense of a large standing army or of a strategic, geographical location, but in an overall sense of a bountiful economy, possession of raw materials, industrial capacity, resourcefulness, ingenuity, inventiveness, the genius of their people, good health and a cultural heritage.

What is the most important element of national power?

Believe it or not, it's none of the aforementioned elements. These are important aspects of national power. But the biggest factor that makes any nation great — that acts as a catalyst for all other elements — has been lost, passed over and forgotten in this modern age of materialism.

This key factor is national character — the combined character of the people making up the state.


Character of Early Rome

Strong, vibrant, moral character was the foundational underpinning of early Roman society.

Rome was sustained first not by its famed legions, its effective use of military power, but by the character of its citizens.

"First, at the bottom as it were of Roman society and forming its ultimate unit, was the family. . . The most important feature or element of this family group was the authority of the father . . .

"It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of this group [the family unit] upon the history and destiny of Rome. It was the cradle of at least some of those splendid virtues of the early Romans that contributed so much to the strength and greatness of Rome, and that helped to give her the dominion of the world." (Rome: Its Rise and Fall, by Myers, pp. 11, 12, 15)

But gradually, the family began to crumble, as we showed in detail in Part I of this series.

The time-honored virtues of honesty, frugality, patriotism — no longer nourished and preserved in the family unit — withered. Eventually the twin economic evils of confiscatory taxation and inflation ruined Rome's economy. The maintenance of a huge military machine plus an overstuffed bureaucracy consumed much of the Roman "tax dollar."

With inflation and the high cost of living came unemployment and welfare(ism). This, in time, gave rise to the ugly spectacles of the Roman games and other endless rounds of sports and entertainments to keep a restless population quiescent. The significance of this was made clear in Part III.


Overlooked Factor

History also reveals that because of decaying conditions at home, the great bulk of the descendants of the original Roman stock eventually fled the Italian peninsula to outlying parts of the Empire.

The five reasons for Rome's fall deduced from the writings of noted historians of the Roman world:

(1) The breakdown of the family and the rapid increase of divorce.

(2) The spiraling rise of taxes and extravagant spending.

(3) The mounting craze for pleasure and the brutalization of sports.

(4) The expanding production of armaments to fight ever-increasing threats of enemy attacks — when the 'real enemy was the decay of the society from within.

(5) The decay of religion into myriad and confusing forms, leaving the people without a uniform guide.

". . . the native stock declined. The decay of agriculture . . . drove numbers of farmers into the towns, where, unwilling to engage in trade, they sank into unemployment and poverty, and where, in their endeavors to maintain a high standard of living, they were not able to support the cost of rearing children. Many of these free-born Latin's were so poor that they often complained that the foreign slaves were much better off than they — and so they were. At the same time many were tempted to immigrate to the colonies across the sea which Julius Caesar and Augustus founded. Many went away to Romanize the provinces, while society was becoming Orientalized at home. . . The Roman thus gave away to the Easterner in Italy, while he made a place for himself in the provinces." (Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire, pp. 200-202)

Left in positions of political power in the homeland were the descendants of freed slaves. These people — largely from the Middle East around Syria — were of entirely different stock and temperament. The impact of the race change in the Roman homeland has not been fully understood by historians.

The "new Romans" were indeed different. They "did not spring from the soil of Rome, their recollections and affections were elsewhere. Whilst the statesmen and leading men wore themselves out in trying to preserve what remained of the ancient spirit and old customs, down below amongst those classes of the populace which were constantly being recruited from slavery, there was a continual working to destroy it." (Historians History of the World, vol. 6, p. 365)

Prof. T. Frank, writing in the American Historical Review, July 1916, vol. 21, p. 705, said: "This Orientalization of Rome's populace has a more important bearing than is usually accorded to it, upon the larger question of why the spirit and acts of imperial Rome are totally different from those of the republic."

With this gradual but thorough change of temperament and population came a severe drop in patriotism and national feeling. The freed slaves, after all, had little regard for ancient Roman traditions and cultural heritage.

It . . . even before the frontiers of the Roman Empire had been pushed out to their greatest extent, the military spirit that animated the early Romans had become extinct, and all enthusiasm for the military life and the military virtues had been lost.

"Under the later empire, service in the army grew so unpopular and even odious that many cut off the fingers of the right hand in order to escape military duty . . . [A recent article in the Los Angeles Times revealed the growing problem of dissent, resistance to orders, demands for constitutional rights — even underground newspapers — among American servicemen].

"The empire was made up of hundreds of cities; but the citizens of these towns, with very few exceptions, took neither pride nor interest in imperial affairs . . . Men were no longer willing to die or to live either for their city or for the empire.

"It was this lack of spiritual ties binding in a vital union the cities and communities of the empire that the statesman-historian Guizot maintains was a chief cause of its dissolution. With the first blows of the barbarians it fell to pieces." (Rome: Its Rise and Fall, by Myers, pp. 449, 451, 452)

The formidable army of the Empire could not save Rome, which had been eaten out — cancer-like — from within.

In fact, the final overthrow of the Imperial government was dealt by mutinous Roman legions whose soldiers had been recruited from neighboring "barbarian" nations.

Rome at its fall was not the same as Rome in the early days of the Republic, neither in the racial makeup of its people, nor its ideals, nor its national spirit.

The conclusion from all this is that nations can change character — and change drastically. And the changes are usually not for the good!