69 million page views

Rome, Hungary... nothing new under the sun

Reader comment on item: Middle East Provocations and Predictions
in response to reader comment: Islamic Chaos Threatens The West

Submitted by Michael S (United States), Sep 16, 2015 at 20:12

Hello, Dave

...by classical historian Mikhail Rostovtzeff. To summarize as best I can: He theorized that all civilizations eventually declined because the original animating principles, often conceived by elite founders, became diluted and were lost through overly ambitious expansion. For example, Rome's decline could be traced to its imperial conquests and the subsequent inclusion as citizens of vast numbers of rough people in Europe and Asia who had no previous experience with, or knowledge of, Roman democracy. The impetus for such inclusion can be noble, in that people want to share their civilization's successes with others. But eventually, too many benighted newcomers destroy the system. Unfortunately, history may be repeating itself through the West's immigration policies.

Rostovtzeff was correct, though he only gave half the story. Yes, Rome eventually disintegrated because, essentially, "the conquered overwhelmed the conquerors". This also happened to Rome's conquerors, the Ostrogoths, who eventually got absorbed by the local (very mixed) Italian population. It also happened to the Mongols, who conquered China and then were absorbed by it.

The other half of the story, is that without conquering all those people, those countries would not have been "great". We can therefore lament the fall of Rome (and of Europe, a fall now in progress) at the hands of formerly subject peoples; but without having conquered those peoples, Europe would not have been "great", and there would be nothing to lament.

I have seen the "Golden Age" of Rome described as the time of "Five Good Emperors" of the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty: Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, during a "period of prosperity from 96 CE to 192 CE". Territorially, Rome reached its apex under Trajan in 117 CE. That coincided with the crushing defeat of a Jewish rebellion.

96 CE, moreover, was approximately the time when the Apostle John wrote his epistles and the Book of Revelation. John was the last living close companion of Jesus; and his epistles reveal that in his day, the church had largely been taken over by men who rejected John's teaching ("Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us."). The book of Revelation also reveals the "seven churches, which are in Asia" to have largely fallen into apostacy.

The coming of Rome's "Golden Age", then, was marked by increased wealth, yes; but also by the scattering of the Jews and the apostasy of the Christians. Before this time, Rome had been the crucible of new religions, of new ideas, of new everything; and coincidentally, of a 200-plus year period of one conquest after the other. Before the Golden Age, in short, Rome was vigorous; but during it, it became flabby.

One can trace parallel periods for Europe and the US. Europe was a vibrant, expanding enterprise from the late 1500s until the end of WWII. During this time, the Industrial Revolution transformed humanity, largely from factories in Britain and America. Since WWII, this vibrant growth and ingenuity, along with world-wide conquest, gave way to relative peace and stability (regulated by the UN Charter), to unprecedented wealth and availability of cheaply-obtained products, to apostasy in both Judaism and Christianity, and to decadence and obesity.

The migrant crisis now plaguing Europe is not an isolated event. Ever since the collapse of the British Empire, and kindred empires of the Dutch, French, etc., Western Europe has hosted ever-increasing populations of people coming to the "mother country" from its former possessions. They've come there, largely because the "mother country" had become rich, filthy rich, ludicrously rich.

As for America, our period of true greatness was not when we landed a man on the moon; it was when we conquered an entire continent, when major new religions found expression: Baptists, Mormons, Pentecostals, Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and others. Those religions, in turn, overspread the earth alongside Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc. missionaries from Europe. Whole continents were spiritually transformed during this period. At the same time, industry and technology flourished.

Nowadays, we have a sense that the world is being vitally transformed by computers getting smaller and smaller, and having new "aps" written for them. This has had a great social impact; but in real terms, compare this to the harnessing of electricity itself, without with computers would not exist; or the discovery of 90% of the known elements, of the building of railroads, which still ply the same routes they did 150 years ago. Up until the early 1800s, man could only travel as fast as a horse could gallop or a ship could sail -- which was also his condition 3000 years ago. The steam engine changed that in the space of a few years. THAT is what I call a vibrant, lively civilization; the situation we now have, in our "Golden Age", wherein people can eat all they can hold and puke the excess into flush toilets with PVC plumbing, and take a selfie of them doing this to post on Facebook, is not something I would call "vibrant".

Yes, we are following in the footsteps of Rome, and of all the "great civilizations" of mankind. Every now and then, such as when Syrian migrants want to kick down fences and take over our country, we sense that something is afoot' but, as Solomon said in the Bible,

Ecclesiastes 1:9King James Version (KJV)
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Thank you for your comment.


Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Follow Daniel Pipes

Facebook   Twitter   RSS   Join Mailing List

All materials by Daniel Pipes on this site: © 1968-2023 Daniel Pipes. daniel.pipes@gmail.com and @DanielPipes

Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum.Daniel J. Pipes

(The MEF is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Tax-ID 23-774-9796, approved Apr. 27, 1998.

For more information, view our IRS letter of determination.)