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Did Rome Really Fall?

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While I was taking a shower this morning something I had accidentally read last night on the web hit me like a rock:

Did Rome really fall?

Well, since Rome still exists, it actually never fell.

It rather adapted.

ψ

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About Man of Roma

I am a man from Rome, Italy. I’m 60 and a Roman since many generations. In my blog, manofroma.wordpress.com, I’m writing down my meditations. The idea behind it all is that something 'ancient' is still alive in the true Romans of today, of which few are left.

24 responses »

  1. The idea of Rome didn’t die…neither did that of Greece or the Renaissance…the three western peaks…now we are in an abyss…you of all people should agree.

    Reply
    • These three entities you mention are of the Greco-Roman kind, together with the other kind: the Judeo-Christian. Both are ingrained in us.

      I wonder what you mean by ‘abyss': decline of the West and its torch-bearer, America? Decline of white West also within the West itself, eg US and Europe (which is before our eyes)? Of capitalism and / or of democracy as we know it today? Decline of sound ‘human’ values & advancing metamorphosis into societies as evil as the one depicted by Aldous Huxley in ‘Ape and Essence’ ? Etc.
      Many are the black holes that can engulf us, some of them not necessarily bad.

      Reply
      • My position on this matter is obviously a personal one based merely on observation. And since I, like Socrates, know that I am ignorant, my observations could be incorrect. In my youth, I read many of the great works by authors from antiquity. I also lived and traveled throughout Europe when I was in my mid-twenties where I re-read many of the great works from antiquity (Greece and Rome) and the Renaissance while also going to museums at a very comfortable pace…not a two week whirlwind tour around Europe.

        There have also been great works of philosophy and art (mainly music) created post renaissance that hit chords…most of these men understood or revered the peaks of antiquity and the Renaissance. And, they also acknowledged how deplorable their current culture had become relative to those past peaks.

        When I walked among the architecture from the past representing those peaks, read the works, observed the art, and compared what is today…there is no question in my mind that we have slid into a valley or an abyss. All one needs to do today is turn on the television and observe what is, or watch people in their every day lives…including oneself.

        I also think the death of the Pagan religions which gave way to Christianity had a big piece in the decline. The Renaissance turned back to reflect on antiquity and the Pagans and the Myths…a rebirth and freedom of thought came to fruition. The Pagan religion, although often expressed in the human-centric form, nevertheless described the world around us in much more complex terms. Christianity focused man on himself and said he is evil and that life should be lived in order to go to heaven instead of hell.

        When I walked through the museums to observe the art, a major revelation came to me…time does not always equal progress as it relates to culture. The quality and technique of art in antiquity was far superior to the art produced once Christianity took the reigns…the dark ages…and it was only upon the Renaissance that art and culture once again rose to new heights. Now…look at our art and architecture and culture…abstract…buildings build merely for function and cost per square foot (skyscraper). The new religion is commerce, capitalism…profit. It is an empty culture.

        Reply
        • Your comment is extremely interesting and I agree with many things you say. I’ll take my time to ponder in order to better interact. Mind that I tend to reply to all comments. Thank you very much, Tincup!

          Reply
          • Thanks Man of Rome…to add to culture today…especially in America…not only is commerce number one…but a subset of that is Hollywood, entertainers (like Justin Beiber), and athletes…the new aristocracy…the new heros…the new philosophers and poets (rappers and hip hop).

          • I understand. I am not here to promote my blog, but this *post / discussion* around the topic you mention might interest you. I still have to reply to your comment, of course.
            Which I will do tomorrow. It is 10 pm here: time for reading before going to sleep. Ciao.

          • See my reply below, Tincup.

  2. I suppose it depends on whether you talk about the “idea” of Rome, the Roman Empire, or the civilization that Rome contributed ideas, etc. to. The question of which of those is still alive is interesting.

    Reply
  3. From what I have learned, Rome did not fall but merely slid into unimportance because it lost sight of its greatness while thinking it would always be the Center of the World. The New Rome is currently starting that slide.

    Reply
  4. Rome was the victim of “oi barbaroi” but, as Greece had done to Rome, Rome did to the conquerors thus transmitting Greco-Roman culture to the whole, then known, world. Rome did not fall, it just metamorphosed..

    Reply
  5. @Thomas
    @Douglas
    @Paul

    My post was open to speculation, starting with ‘Rome’ in the narrow sense: my home town that, differently from the great cities of Antiquity (Alexandria, Athens, Babylon, Antiochia etc.), lived on until today without any interruption, “never reduced to a semi-abandoned village but rather finding herself often in the middle of world events and, equally often, paying for that a price” as Corrado Augias put it in his ‘I segreti di Roma’ (2005).

    Of course, as Douglas observed, it progressively slid to unimportance – only to a certain extent though, since imperial Rome was resurrected into Catholic Rome, whose sphere of influence is world-wide.

    All the other meanings of ‘Rome’ mentioned by Thomas correspond to entities still alive, in my opinion, there including the Roman empire, which is today’s American empire in some way.

    So I think that Paul well sums my thought up: Rome shaped “the whole, then known, world. Rome did not fall, it just metamorphosed” … into us Westerners, eg Europe and the US (which are getting less and less Western by the way).

    Let me quote a beyond-any-suspicion source such as London’s mayor Boris Johnson who in his ‘The dream of Rome’ (2006) argued (I’m translating from my Italian copy):

    “Our European cities, our languages, cultures, religion: all in substance comes from imperial Rome and, most of all, it was Rome that shaped the European mindset”.

    I think he meant that by understanding why we are the way we are, the origin of our virtues and obsessions, we can better face our challenges in a world much bigger today than ‘Rome’.

    Reply
  6. @Tincup

    Dear Tincup,

    I had a very tough day, so my writing will be long and confused.

    ______

    Also my position is personal and everybody can be wrong if even Socrates felt he could be.

    I basically agree with all you say. Nonetheless, I will try to contradict some of your points, for the sake of dialectics, very thought provoking imo.

    I also think the death of the Pagan religions which gave way to Christianity had a big piece in the decline. The Renaissance turned back to reflect on antiquity and the Pagans and the Myths…a rebirth and freedom of thought came to fruition.

    Of course, to Christians there was an absolute, revealed truth that could not be disbelieved, which resulted in cultural decadence imo vis-à-vis classical antiquity where debate of ideas was richer, freer. Nonetheless Christianity added more attention to the simple, as it is expressed in the Sermon on the Mount and in other parts of the Gospel. Within the pagan Roman empire the ideal of the iron-willed sage reigned for a long time, eg a person who had all he needed within himself, “like unsinkable goods in his soul that can float out of any shipwreck”. But, who was that tough? The victorious élite of conquering Rome, they certainly were. Not the simple people, though, who in fact turned to Christianity or to mystery cults in search of salvation, compassion.

    When I walked among the architecture from the past representing those peaks, read the works, observed the art, and compared what is today…there is no question in my mind that we have slid into a valley or an abyss. All one needs to do today is turn on the television ….”

    I also notice a certain decline and, well, have barked in my blog against it so many times, lol.

    You add:

    Now…look at our art and architecture and culture…abstract…buildings build merely for function and cost per square foot (skyscraper)”

    I asked my daughter, an architect, about it. I told her:

    “Are there today architects that are comparable to the great architects of the Renaissance or of Antiquity?”

    She replied: “Japanese Kengo Kuma, American Steven Holl, French Jean Nouvel and Canadian architect Frank Gehry can be considered, according to my taste & views, peaks.”

    “Aren’t their works more abstract though?” I continued. “Well, – she said – in Ancient and Renaissance times volumes & forms were also geometrically abstract, though simpler: consider a Greek temple or a Renaissance dome. Beauty was achieved via such simple forms and especially via decoration. Today’s geometrical forms are much more complex, and beauty is resulting from geometrical complexity plus the materials that are being used. I confess I too prefer Renaissance and Antiquity works – she added – but one cannot copy that style today. Architecture necessarily reflects its time. This is our time and we must accept it. Period.”

    Ugh.

    I’d add that beauty in the Ancient World existed quite a lot and in every sense of the term, but you had the other side of the coin: a lot of suffering and injustice, sexual exploitation of children, slavery, general Crassus crucifying slaves all along the Via Appia to set an example after Spartacus’ revolt (well, possibly without that example the entire Roman society would have collapsed, who knows), the silver mines owned by 5th century Athens – ie Greece at its apex – where slaves worked in conditions possibly worse than those of a Nazi labour camp or a Gulag camp.

    Presumably, with Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonini Roman emperors more justice, wisdom, compassion (also to slaves) arose, not too far from Christian compassion and surely more ‘open-minded’, eg independent from any Absolute Truth.

    This is what Gibbon thought when he wrote: “In the second century of the Christian Era, the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized portion of mankind.”

    [a bit oblivious of Far-East peaks, which are not by chance resurfacing, but in any case]

    “The gentle but powerful influence of laws and manners – Gibbon continues – had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. [...] During a happy period of more than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines.”

    Philosophers as governors: the realization of Plato’s and Pythagoras’ dream (and Pythagoras and his followers realized it too, while Plato failed, as we know). Now, it is clear nonetheless that pax romana was achieved through force.

    You say:

    The new religion is commerce, capitalism…profit. It is an empty culture.”

    I cannot but agree. One has though to consider that the Medicis were rich merchants. The Italian Renaissance éclat can also be explained by Italy being perhaps the richest country in Europe at that time, and Northern Europeans were the poorest (who will later become the richest). Money is often crucial for the creation of beauty and what makes life meaningful. Focusing on beauty, we can create it after we have solved basic survival problems first. Ok, but there is also culture. A utilitarian culture can be affluent but not caring for beauty much. Why should I bother to dress with charm, if in the end I just have to protect my body from rough weather? Why should I build a beautiful watch if the only thing I need from it is to be told the exact time? Despite this utilitarian imprinting, typically Anglo Saxon imo, Americans went crazy for Apple products, because they are … beautiful. The thing is that to Steve Jobs (though not to Bill Gates) beauty did matter. This I believe to be Steve Jobs’ real contribution: beauty, since Google, in my opinion, is much more innovative. Beauty of course is not all. But it is something, at least to a Latin. Now it seems also to many Americans.

    Getting back to Christianity, has it in the end weakened the Roman empire as Gibbon argued? Hard to say. There are phases of history or of man’s life when people feel strong (the Renaissance, the Victorians, the Romans at their apex, youth etc.) so people rely on themselves rather than on salvation from a Divine Power and so forth. Older people, not by chance, tend to return to some sort of ‘religion’.

    Let us compare the Victorian poem Invictus with the Old Testament Psalm 91.9.

    Invictus

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    Psalm 91.9

    Because thou hast made the LORD,
    which is my refuge, even the most High,
    thy habitation:
    There shall no evil befall thee,
    neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

    Thus said, also Christian religion can be beautiful. Consolation is beautiful.
    :-)

    Reply
    • I am going to need to take a shower and sip on some red wine from Italy to go through this…lol…I will do so hopefully tonight.

      Reply
      • This is how I like to blog, actually. Thermae, and good wine, from anywhere it comes, or a pot of good beer, once in a while. In the US I particularly liked Sam Adams. Take your time Tincup.

        Reply
        • Ok, I had my pot of beer…Winter Hook…a northwest mirco brew:)

          “””Of course, to Christians there was an absolute, revealed truth that could not be disbelieved, which resulted in cultural decadence imo vis-à-vis classical antiquity where debate of ideas was richer, freer. Nonetheless Christianity added more attention to the simple, as it is expressed in the Sermon on the Mount and in other parts of the Gospel. Within the pagan Roman empire the ideal of the iron-willed sage reigned for a long time, eg a person who had all he needed within himself, “like unsinkable goods in his soul that can float out of any shipwreck”. But, who was that tough? The victorious élite of conquering Rome, they certainly were. Not the simple people, though, who in fact turned to Christianity or to mystery cults in search of salvation, compassion.”””

          Christianity is a topic that could in and of itself encompass entire books or dialectic debates about its nature and function. From my personal point of view, I defer this argument to Nietzsche, who covers much of his argument in “Birth of Tragedy.” But for the time being, I will use this quote.

          “Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life’s nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in ‘another’ or ‘better’ life.”

          Compare this to what you described above…. “Within the pagan Roman empire the ideal of the iron-willed sage reigned for a long time, eg a person who had all he needed within himself, “like unsinkable goods in his soul that can float out of any shipwreck”. But, who was that tough?”

          What should we strive for…to be tough…or to be disgusted with our-self and our life and live our lives in order to go to heaven? I dated a girl in high school. I even went to church with her god forbid. On the wall behind the priest the words were written, “You are not your own…you were bought with a price”. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is that inspirational? Is that going to make me tough or strive for something great? I am not my own? Then to whom do I belong? Jesus? Why? Because he claimed he was god’s son? Are you kidding me?

          “””I confess I too prefer Renaissance and Antiquity works – she added – but one cannot copy that style today. Architecture necessarily reflects its time. This is our time and we must accept it. Period.”””

          Ask your daughter what these architects could create if their masters gave them the freedom to truly create. Ask her what she could create given the resources and freedom to do so…without monetary and pre-conceived constraints.

          “”“I’d add that beauty in the Ancient World existed quite a lot and in every sense of the term, but you had the other side of the coin too: a lot of suffering and injustice, sexual exploitation of children, slavery, general Crassus crucifying slaves all along the Via Appia to set an example after Spartacus’ revolt (well, possibly without that example the entire Roman society would have collapsed, who knows), the silver mines owned by 5th century Athens – ie Greece at its apex – where slaves worked in conditions possibly worse than those of a Nazi labour camp or a Gulag camp.”””

          This is a tough problem that has existed through time. I have recently made some posts where it explores the idea as to whether or not most of us are indeed slaves today to a techno Oligarchy…of course slavery today is masked in much more subtle manners and tricks. I don’t know how to address this problem of the few versus the many. But, I will say, if the few are noble and appreciate noble aspects of life, that the whole will be far better off.

          And, as far as the many go, I would argue, as a society or civilization, we are only as strong as our weakest link. Therefore, assuming one can eliminate the fallacy of money, there is no reason children born into this world couldn’t receive excellent educations all the way to adulthood. A truly challenging and enlightening education is the key. Children are the most precious resource. Of course there will always be those with more brains and talent…and let them lead and enjoy the fruits of their talents. We are not all equal in ability.

          “””One has though to consider that the Medicis were rich merchants. The Italian Renaissance éclat can also be explained by Italy being perhaps the richest country in Europe at that time, and Northern Europeans were the poorest (who will later become the richest). Money is often crucial for the creation of beauty and what makes life meaningful. Focusing on beauty, we can create it after we have solved basic survival problems first. Ok, but there is also culture. A utilitarian culture can be affluent but not caring for beauty much. Why should I bother to dress with charm, if in the end I just have to protect my body from rough weather? Why should I build a beautiful watch if the only thing I need from it is to be told the exact time?”””

          I think I partially explained my point of view on this topic. There were a few family members from the Medici family that I believe were noble and wise and appreciated antiquity and therefore ensured resources were made available to artists and thinkers to create not only beauty, but, also freedom of thought. It was these types of noble rich men that broke the back and chains of Christian dogma and corruption. Without them, where would we be today? Indeed, money and power has throughout history been the precursor to the creation of beauty and other advancements.

          But I argue, and I will continue to argue, that money is a fallacy. It is not money, gold, or jewels that created all that is man made. Rather, it is the hand, the mind, the human being that has created everything that we see today and in the past. I don’t know how to replace the fallacy of money, for we cannot go back to trade and barter. But, there are many intelligent people that might be able to make a realistic proposal. A person’s currency is the level of intelligence within his mind and the energy to apply his hand to create. Again, we aren’t created equal. There will always be those that need to lead and therefore should enjoy relatively more fruits from their labor…but not billions of dollars worth. No man is worth a billion dollars.

          Reply
  7. That needs some more pondering. Tomorrow, or after the week-end, my reply, Tincup.

    Reply
  8. @Tincup

    I am leaving for a short trip. These days have been hectic. I have started to read your blog and I loved it. For example the history of your father, of you two brothers, of how you see the American dream, and that beautiful house with the glowing lights of the city before and wild nature behind. I’ll get back to that over at your blog. Now some hasty notes.

    Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life’s nausea and disgust with life”

    I am not here to defend Christianity since I belong to no religion, I am an agnostic. But historically, to be honest, the conception of the body, of this life on earth, of all that is beauty here, of the soul seen as a prisoner within our body – belonged already to the pagan world, to Orphism, to many mystery religions, to Platonism and neo-Platonism etc. I mean, the ancient pagan world only partly adopted Homer’s (or the Olympic religion’s) conception of how beautiful THIS life is, and Achilles’s ghost in fact tells Odysseus he would prefer to be a boorish peasant’s slave rather than king of Hades.
    Of course, Christianity won, and part of its legacy – derived from Pagan views – involves unfortunately some disgust for this world’s beautiful things and pleasures. But it is not only this, I believe.

    I agree that the type of money-is-all capitalism we now have engenders emptiness in our hearts and yes, there is this tendency to enslave people in some way (and of course IT etc technologies offer a great domination opportunity to those at the top).

    Nothing wrong that some people have more talent and are at the top. But meritocracy is not there any more, and the people at the top are often vulgar, not enlightened.

    Yes, we are ALL going down. I still have hope though. I believe in our species’ intelligence.

    Ciao

    Reply
  9. Absolutely. Rome is lucky!

    There was a city in ancient TN (India) called Kaveri-pattanam which was the capital city of major dynasties before about ten centuries or so… But sadly, there is no trace of that city left today. Based on literature and accounts, people today are guessing its location, but what actually led to its disappearance is still a mystery.

    I guess there are many cities in India and the world that have ceased to be. That’s why I said Rome is lucky :)

    Destination Infinity

    PS: Need to learn more about Roman history, MOR. I will, one of these days. Wishing you and your family a merry Christmas and a very happy new year :)

    Reply
  10. Rome never fell…. Rome was an idea… to bring brothers together.. to bring peace, prosperity , love, respect and brotherhood

    An Idea so beautiful can never fall… Rome fumbled.. it fumbled when a brother killed a brother.. it vindicated when the city covered the seven hills…

    It stood proud when it brought peace,prosperity, love and respect to its inhabitants… It fumbled again when corruption and slavery entered the city walls…

    Over the centuries it has fumbled again and recovered.. Rome migrated..Rome adapted…

    Rome is not bound by a piece of land…Rome is where there is peace, prosperity, respect and love between brothers..

    Rome can never fall.. Rome will fall only when the entire human race falls..

    Perhaps I jus blabbering and spamming.. Sorry

    Reply
    • How can you spam, you, one of my first Indian commenters! Only, you make Rome too big. The idea of Rome you refer to was embodied in the Treaties of Rome in 1957, that had envisaged a European federal state in a not so far future. Today though the European Union is going through a crisis. We will see what happens. Or, maybe you young people will see.
      Glad you popped in Falcon!

      Reply
  11. What I always found interesting is reading what people thought about the possibility of a fall of Rome, from the times when Rome was supposed to be falling. For example Augustine, in reaction of the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths under Alaric, wrote, ‘The Roman Empire has been shaken rather than transformed’ (City of God, 4.7). Elsewhere, though, Augustine argued that it ultimately didn’t matter whether Rome fell or not, because earthly cities always rose and fell, but the heavenly city of God would stand eternally.

    We like to term certain time periods as “decline” or “dark” and give them abstract names and draw arbitrary lines in the sand. But when you read the real thoughts of real people, it brings home the fact that all this time, people were alive and awake and asking questions and forming answers about how to deal with the situations and problems that came at them.

    Reply
  12. Pingback: A Berber from the Monti rione makes (today) jewels. The Berber Augustine (2000 years ago) shook Antiquity & Rome. Both changed (never to change) | Man of Roma

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