Friday, March 4, 2011

New Topic: Rome

When did Rome fall? Perhaps a more appropriate question is: what is the Rome that fell? During the Republic and into the Empire, Rome was a city that, through alliances and conquest, grew to encompass the Italian Peninsula and then spread geographically into Western Europe, North Africa, and the Levant. The larger Rome grew the less Roman the empire became. Instead of conquering and instituting direct rule over the Provinces, Rome left local cultures intact and ruled indirectly through provincial governors. Yet, just as non-Greeks of the Greek empire were Hellenized, so the Provincial leaders of the Roman Empire were Romanized, meaning they were given a Roman education, spoke Latin, often held office in the Roman bureaucracy, and looked Roman. On the local level, the Provincials were taxed but, for the most part, left alone and hardly noticed Rome’s presence. Rome which began as a city became a Republic, then an Empire, and then an idea. With each new phase, the definition of Rome changed.
Historians referred to the Western Empire when answering the question, “when did Rome fall?” Tiberius first divided the Empire, but Diocletian received the credit for Rome’s division. After Diocletian, the empire was unified again but split permanently in 395 by Theodosius I. Regardless of who split the empire, its division showed that the empire was too big for one man to govern adequately. The point at which Rome outgrew itself is debatable. Machiavelli believed that the empire had grown too large when Rome expanded beyond the Italian Peninsula. After leaving Italy proper, the Empire gobbled up provinces which they could tax. Those in Italy became tax exempt and consequently spent more money on luxury items. The Italians became comfortable and were less inclined to leave Italy either to govern provinces or to fight in the army. The Empire relied on Provincials to fight and govern in the Provinces and eventually in the city of Rome. The Eastern Empire was not exempt from the West’s weaknesses, but lasted to 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. Why did the East last nearly one-thousand years longer? The fact that the Eastern Empire was far wealthier than the West and the eastern capital, Constantinople, was impregnable played a part in the East’s longevity. Nevertheless, the Rome Empire had outgrown the ability to properly govern such a vast empire.
The third century was one of chaos and decay. Despite the fact that the empire lasted for another two hundred years, the decay of this century could never be undone. Some good emperors came on the scene and added years to Rome’s life. Before modern medicine, once gangrene set in, it was impossible to stop it completely. Despite amputating the infected limb, the patient eventually died. With the end of the Pax Romana, defending the Rhine-Danube boundary became more difficult. In order to keep the barbarians at bay, Rome garrisoned the army along its river boundaries. Keeping the army in one spot became increasingly expensive and taxes had to be raised. Since the tax was on land, once the citizens could no longer pay their taxes, they left the land vacant and untaxable. As more land fell out of taxation, the more taxes were raised. Apparently enough land was left vacant that Constantine felt he had to repopulate the Italian Peninsula by settling barbarians on the vacant land. The political administration of the third century was worse. During this time, Rome was ruled by incompetent emperors such as Caracalla and Severus Alexander and was in the midst of civil war. Also, the Barbarians crossed into the empire more frequently and were repelled less successfully. Occasionally strong emperors, such as Diocletian and Constantine, came to the throne and temporarily restored stability. Perhaps it was the actions of the good emperors that allowed Rome to continue another two hundred years.
In the end it was the Barbarians infiltration that brought the end of the Empire. The barbarians first appeared as auxiliaries and then federate contingencies within the army. As Romans became less inclined to serve in the army and legionnaires lied about the number of men in their legion. Rome looked more and more to the barbarians for defense against other barbarians.
In the East, the Visigoths petitioned the Eastern Emperor, Valens, to let them settle south of the Danube. Valens agreed but failed to uphold his word. In 378, the Visigoths killed Valens at Adrianople and roamed unhindered within the Balkan region. Under Theodosius I, the Visigoths established their own kingdom within the Empire. This was the first of the German states to take up residence in the Empire and eventually the first in a trend of independent German kingdoms. By the end of the fifth century, although the barbarian kingdoms of the Ostrogoths, Franks, Visigoths, and Burgundians had replaced what was once the Western Roman Empire, the East remained intact.
In the West, the barbarians infiltrated the army all the way to the top, and then infiltrated the bureaucracy. In the early fifth century, Stilicho, a barbarian and powerful Roman general, became the emperor’s regent setting a dangerous precedence of barbarians becoming the power behind the throne. Despite being a good leader, Stilicho allowed Alaric to remain in the Empire. Once in the Italian Peninsula, the Visigoths under Alaric sacked the City of Rome in 410. A few years later, the Vandals under Gaiseric took North Africa and its grain supply from Rome, severely weakening Rome’s Mediterranean trade routes. In 455, Gaiseric took Rome and sacked the city for two weeks. The capital was moved to Ravenna, and it would take centuries for Rome to fully recover. Ricimer succeeded Stilicho and Orestes succeeded Ricimer as the barbarian in power behind the throne. Under Orestes the barbarians took complete control of Roman Empire. Orestes set his son, Romulus Augustus whose mother was a Roman, on the throne. Romulus Augustus aspired to act as the emperor of Rome should, so his father deposed him, sent him Ravenna to live out his life, and took control of the empire himself. The final blow to the Roman Empire came from Odoacer, the Ostrogoth general in Italy. He besieged and took Ravenna and officially deposed Romulus Augustus, the last Roman to sit on the throne in the West. Thus, when he was deposed, Rome was then ruled by Barbarian kings and Rome became another Barbarian Kingdom.
With the Barbarian defeat of Rome and deposition of Romulus Augustus, Rome fell. It did not transition but was taken by force and became a Barbarian Kingdom under a barbarian king. Perhaps the people on the local level did not notice Rome’s fall. But on an administrative level it was hard to miss the Barbarian in the palace. With Rome’s irreversible weakening in the third century, the Barbarians saw the opportunity to either invade or infiltrate Rome. Those who infiltrated, the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, did not mean to bring Rome’s fall, but they did. The invaders, especially the Vandals, full well intended to defeat Rome. In the end, Rome’s weakness, the infiltrating Goths, and the invading Vandals cause the decline of Rome.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Israel's secret war

There’s been a lot of chatter about the worm that infected Iran’s nuclear facility. Israel has been blamed. The only evidence is circumstantial at best. Who's to say that the US didn't finally do something about Iran and send the worm? Can we say that it was a bad thing? I hope Israel does do something about Iran soon. And I hope the US has the spine to back Israel up. While the world has been standing idly by, Iran now has a nuclear weapon. Economic sanctions may work for a while. True the process is slow. But let's examine the real source of terrorism. Iran funds al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. China financially funds Iran, and Russia militarily funds Iran. Let's not leave out the millions of dollars worth of weapons that Russia (out the "goodness" of their hearts) gave Lebanon. If Iran acquires the capability to mass produce nuclear weapons, then... well you do the math. Perhaps the superpowers should stop feeding the mouth that bites them.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Voices of Liberty

The Liberty Bell: 70% copper, 25% tin; product of Pass & Stow. 12" circumfrance arround the lib. Tolls in E-flat. Home: Philidelphia (America's 2nd captial). To the passer by, this is all they see. We listen to stories of how our grandparents met and how our dad crashed his first car, but do we stop and listen when the tour guide tells us how the Liberty Bell got it's crack, or why it was rung in the first place. Do we stoop to read the incription left behind for those who came after: "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land unto All the Inhabitants thereof Lev XXV VX
According to the Liberty Bell home page :"Tradtion tells of a chime that changed the world on July 8,1776, with the Liberty Bell from the tower of Indpendance Hall summoning the citizens of Philidelphia to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon."
Feuled by passion for liberty, voices cried out against they tyranny of a government who was lording its power over the people, forcing the voices to submit to its will. Those voices have now been silent over 200 year.
The grave--the final rest.
Row after row of silenced voices.
First to a whisper, then, as time moves on, History forgets those voices and they fall silent. Time, life as we know it moves on unaware Of past revolutions, rallies, voices that changed the world And some who made the ultimate sacrifeice so we could Live free. So we mock the sacrifices that made us free, Because we silenced the voiced by our silence...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Whether we define the American Revolution as a real revolution or not is still debated. That is until you compare it with the French Revolution, then there is no comparison. First, let's look at the leaders of both movement (yet I called them movements). Second we'll look at the ideologies/philosophies behind both movements. Thirdly, we'll look at the events of both as they unfold. Lastly we'll look at the consequences, or you could say the outcome of both Revolutions.
I'm not going to be able to put all this in one blog, but that gives anyone reading this an idea of where I'm headed.
The French Revolution started at quite conservatively. It was sparked by the king calling the Estates General (the legislative body which hadn't been called in over a hundred years) on 2 May 1789. However, King Louis XVI was not strong enough to stand up to the people, especially the 3rd Estate--consisting of upper middle class (bourgeoisie) and everyone else, who took advantage of the situation and started making demands of the king. France was bankrupt and owed more in loan interest than they were making. Thus, taxes on bread, salt, etc. were extremely high and people were starving in the streets of Paris.
Leaders of the early French Revolution were mostly upper Bourgeoisie and lower nobility mere looking for a little reform--these men were also adherents of the Enlightenment thinkers such as: Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, etc. The lower nobles wanted enough reform to become upper nobles. Conservatives at this time (royalist--upper nobitly) wanted to take France back to feudalism (in other words, take power away from the king who was absolute at this time). Lafayette, a name that should be familiar to Americans, was a leader in the early part of the Revolution. He had returned from the American colonies, after supporting our revolution. Political "clubs" sprung up in France out of which sprang Revolution leaders. Major ones are: The Girondan's and the Jacobin's. Lafayette, Roland, Mirabeau, Sieyes, Bailly, etc. were Girondan's. Once considered liberal until the Jacobin's came to power under Danton and later Robespierre. The Revolution was constantly shifting "left" and doing away with those on the "right." This continued until it peaked during the TERROR under Robespierre, who claimed the title the "Incorruptible."(the title alone show's the level of his egotism and arrogance). Sound familiar? The people finally turned on Robespierre and his "lieutenants" (Couthon and Saint-Just) and sent him to his own guillotine. It is said that Couthon went his execution screaming in terror, Saint-Just went passively, and Robespierre, who had unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide by a gun under his jaw, faced his execution "bravely." But how brave could a power-hungry, agenda-pushing madman be? The French Revolution solved little and created more problems financially that it solved. It also paved the way for Emperor Napoleon to take charge, and make the people willing to give up their freedoms that they had fought for during the Rev. to have the stability (finacially, politically, and militarily) under Napoleon.
That was a very brief overview. Now let's look as some of the leaders of the American "Revolution."
When the last of the Stuart monarchs died (ANNE), the crown of England passed to their German cousin, George Elector of Hanover. George I was German and cared little for England or her colonies. So, under George I, II England was run by a Prime Minister, and the colonies became completley self-governing. The Colonist still thought of themselves and Englishmen, and, under the English Bill of Rights, legally possessed certain rights. One of which was the right of representation in Parliament. When George III came to the throne, he was thoroughly English and didn't care for the interference of the Prime Minister or Parliament. He also made all of the colonies royal colonies and appointed a governor for each to represent him in America. These actions are among a total of 27 allegations against George as stated in the Declaration of Independence. At this time England had a sizable war debt was George was looking for a way to relieve that debt. So one of his advisors suggested raising taxes on the Colonists (stamp tax--on all legal documents, the tea tax, etc.). These taxes were only part of the "Intollerable Acts" that cause outrage among the colonists. Boston lead the way in voicing that outrage. One cry of the Revolution was "No taxation without Representation." Colonists merely wanted their rights as English citizens. They were not looking to kill their king like the French did in 1782. Men like Sam Adams, best associated with the Sons of Liberty, John Jay, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Paul Revere who were eduacted in the philosophies of the Enlightenment (Montesquieu--check and ballance on government, Locke's Separation of Powers) and certain Biblical truths which were held by most colonists (it was Biblical principles which balanced out the Enlightenment ideas and kept our revolution from going to the extremes of France's--France had no real foundation, no unchanging, absolute authority). These men banded together to preserve government, not abolish it. These were men of integrity, principle, and real courage. In signing the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their own death warrants. They were committing an act of treason to stop Britain's tyrannical/dictatorial rule. George Washington, after winning the war, was offered the title and power of a king. He looked at those who were offering and ask something to the effect of "have we come so far just to end up where we started" (a complete paraphrase). Then he turned and went back to his farm. He was at heart a farmer (of a large plantation) and, when he completed his duty to his country, this was the life to which he wished to return. But our other leaders saw the character in which he lived, fought, and which allowed to so easily give up absolute power (something no one else has done) they knew that he was the right man to lead this new country.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Socialized Medicine

Days after Obama pushed his health "care" "bill" through Congress, headlines in local papers read: "Kids Can Be Denied Coverage...," and "Gap found in Health Care Law." I fear that many more gaps will reveal themselves before the year's out. But one thing is for sure, free America will soon be a thing of the past. Welcome to the wide world of Socialism (an umbrella term for Communism, Natsism, Fascism, etc.). The last free nation in a not so free world has fallen to the plague that is Socialism. No nation has survived this plague without adopting Capitalism (China). And those who haven't, will suffer the same fate as the USSR--crumble from within; or England--where it's a miracle if you can get a hold of the medicine you need; or France--who's in her 5th Republic and whose people are completely apathetic; or like Canada--whose people would come down to the US for serious surgeries because they would die waiting in Canada; or like in any nation with Socialized Medicine-- where some women have their babies in elevators and taxis while waiting to get into the ER, where people die in hospital waiting rooms because there aren't enough doctors... Must i say more? Well Welcome America...You chose it, and now you must live with it... or fight it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Plymouth --harbor of religious freedom (1620)

Let's go back to where it all started... In 1497, the English, under Cabot explored the 'colonial option'. Lead by Spain and Portugal's example, England began exploration of the New World. Well that's all very interesting, but the important question is why. Why leave Europe? What was the motivation? What events lead to those motives? Modern historians will tell you that explorers were purely motivated by gold, adventure, and fame. It's true that those things motivated some. But they weren't the ultimate motive. To get to the root of it, let's look first at the rise of the Tudor dynasty. In order to end dynastic conflict in England (between the York's and Lancaster's) once and for all, Henry Tudor, a descendant of John of Gaunt's Welsh mistress (later wife), came to the throne as a Lancaster. In order to unite England, Henry (VII) married a Yorkist. But let's move along. The Tudor England peeked under Henry VII's granddaughter, Elizabeth I. Under her reign, colonization was sketchy at best. In the 1580's, Ralegh lead the colonizing effort, resulting in the Roanoke colony. As seen from history, Roanoke was a failure. To this day, historian can only speculate as to what happened to the colonists. I know what your thinking, "okay, fine. What's the point?" I'll get there soon. Let's skip forward to 1620 and the Plymouth colony. First, we'll see what motivated the Pilgrims to leave England for America. To do that we must start with Martin Luther and 1517. According to Richard Dunn, in that year he "inaugurated the ideological controversy" which tore Europe apart and cause a religious exodus out of Europe. By the mid-to-late 1500's, France, Holland, the Holy Roman Empire, and England were facing civil unrest between the Roman Catholic Church and the new Protestant denominations (primarily the Calvinist, Lutheranism, and Anglicans. These tensions lead to all out war by the beginning of the 17th century. Back in England, Elizabeth dies without and heir and the throne of England goes to James Stuart VI of Scotland (Ist of England). Unlike Elizabeth, the Stuart's were less interested in maintaining religious harmony in England. Under the Stuart dynasty, religious tensions escalated between two Protestant factions: Puritian's--who saw that the Anglican Church was becoming more and more Catholic, but believed that they could purify it from within, and the Separatist's who believed the Anglican Church was beyond saving. The Separatist's left England under intense religious persecution and went to Holland--the first modern Republic. But the Separatist's children started to become Dutch, instead of holding on to their English heritage. They were enticed with the promise of religious freedom in the New World, and in 1620 they founded Plymouth Colony where they could worship God freely.
Paul Johnson--one of my favorite authors--wrote, "to the people of America--strong, outspoken, intense in their convictions, sometimes wrong-headed but always generous and brave, with a passion for justice no nation has ever matched." Coming from someone who's not an American himself, that's a huge compliment. We Americans are, or at least were, all of those things. We are the most prosperous nation on earth, and I fear that it is our prosperity--the result of generations of hard work--may be our downfall. We've focused so much on pursuing the "American Dream" that we've lost sight on what really matters, who we really are, and why this great nation was created. What we need, as a nation, is to get our focus back where is belongs; that is if we want to save the last free nation from self-destruction. It's time for self-examination--to find the source of the "cancer" that's destroying the nation before it too late. In order to do that, we need to take a trip into the past--to see when it all started.