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‘Something Great and Inexplicable’
The Roman Conception of Victory by Julius Evola, 16 May, 1943


Reading from Metaphysics of War, Arktos, 2001, NY, pages 125-31

Evola begins this essay by noting that the ancient Romans—meaning the Romans of the prehistoric period—were the most devout of men, had a higher regard for their ancestral faith and their deified patriarchs and extra-human powers than any other people known to them. It seems to be partially this concept, this memory venerated by near ancients concerning far ancients that buoyed his deep-felt notion that Man had descended from a higher order, not risen from a lower form. By putting such historical sentiments together with readings of Indo-Aryan works surviving into out own time in the Sub-continent of Indian, Evola believed he glimpsed a higher origin of Aryan tradition, marking him, while opposed to the specific ethno-religious precepts of Judaism, as a mind in alignment with the Scriptural dictates of The Fall of Man from Grace.

He continues with an expansion of the notion that all ancient men of tradition had developed “a sense of history and time” congruent with the notion that the actions of Man interacted with the will of higher powers on a converging basis, something of an event horizon glimpsed only be men of action and men of faith, when the human and supra-human worlds momentarily correlated and cross pollinated. This offers a metaphysical answer to the oft-lamented managerial class, libertarian complaint of the so-called “law of unintended consequences.”

Some such notion might be explained as a process of rationalizations of actualities, for instance Plutarch stating that Rome could not have succeeded so far beyond all other nations without divine favor. This ancient form of rationality, however, horrifies the postmodern mind, who must resist considering the spiritual impact of the hundreds of millions slain in the remorseless quest for unprecedented ease implicit in the Anglo-American Order of 1704 through 2001 or descend into guilt-ridden oblivion.

As repugnant as such notions appear when applied to our own desecrated time, the rites of the ancients take on the reasonable mantel of rectification, of an attempt to interpret human action as a reflection of a higher will, to attain not only a sense of moral and metaphysical direction but “of transfiguration and higher justification.”

Evola’s discussion of the college of priests known as Feciales, who were in charge of consulting the higher powers and determining if a just war could be launched—in an age when just war counted for something more than economic interest and an appeal to the lowest fears of a cowed body politic—begs the question, oft summarized by fantasists and speculative writers, if the ancient had a link to a higher consciousness which we have, somewhere on the road to everywhere, lost. Even in the Christian and Islamic and Judaic experiences, where prophets are only widely acknowledged when ancient, a closer linkage with a higher origin is both implicit and explicit.

The fact that the imperator—which comes down to us in definition as an emperor, which we see as a decadent manifestation of ease—was in actuality a term reserved for the victorious war chief, who, in his surviving and triumphant person was seen as evidence and expression of a higher will having been imposed on the human plane, being at the root of Roman piety, sheds light on the formation of the early Christian church, as Roman conventions were not simply supplanted but in a sense refreshed by Christian ideals, particularly those of Paul and Augustine of Hippo. In this view, such men as Turtillion appear more as backward-looking mourners of a lost sense of the aesthetic sacred as they do rebels against a lingering cult of materialistic power. Reading Evola reshapes the early Christian martyrs as reactionaries against degenerate forms of once sacred vigilance rather than our modern grafting of revolutionary fervor. The Christian view of ancient Roman religion is certainly muddied by the emergence of Christianity in the later stages of Roman degeneracy, kind of like conceptualizing the Founding Fathers of the U.S. based on the modern puppet politicians of our day.

The fact that the ancient Romans, who we see today as legalistic materialists, began their reign over men as men whose art of war was rooted in not giving battle when the gods were against it, should infuse us with some caution in our characterization of their civilization. Evola reminds us that the Romans perceived of victory as more than a mere human function, but something greater, with our idea of the Christian Soldier flowing not from the ministry of Jesus in Judea but from the Roman super structure that would absorb Christianity as its state religion three centuries later. It was on the Seven Hills of Rome and in the actions of Horatious at the Bridge where the crusader zeal was re-forged from ancient Aryan ideals, not on Cavalry. [1]

In Evola’s final hour essay [for Italy was on the brink of conquest by massive allied powers and her senior and dominant ally, National Socialist Germany, was rocking form back-to-back defats which deprived it of near a million men in a war in which they were outnumbered better than 10-to-1, Evola seems to be simultaneously offering hope in the darkest hour and in disaster. Ironically, his prescription for just war and the intersection of human and extra-human planes seems to echo in the triumph of industrial warfare over his beloved tradition since before his generation and into the conflagration that engulfed his nation even as he penned this essay. [2-5]

The victory of a chief in ancient Rome assuming the aspect of “independent divinity” is reflected in the Christian doctrine of the crucifixion and points out certain parallels between the Flavian dynasty, which was in power as the first gospels were committed to writing [circa A.D. 71], that speak to more Roman influence on Christianity than we are commonly at ease with. However, Christianity did become, under Constantine, highlighted by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, the state religion of Rome. [6]

The one thing that all of the postmodern readership should take from Evola’s exposition of warrior metaphysics—which was a small slice of his scholarship, which ended abruptly with the dashing of Italian hopes in 1943—with his only other effort at war a 1950 essay on the decline of heroism, a reminder that the modern Christian military man or athlete who acknowledges his victory as belonging not to him, but to God, is practicing a humbling heroic convention—indeed a realization or admittance—that he is but an actor striving under infinitely greater force than that which is apparent to the uninvolved, and that his sentiment, is far more ancient and far more northern-minded, than the first appearance of the God of hosts in Scripture, at the most liberal antiquity of 1800 B.C. [7] and seems to date to a period of ultimate origin.

Perhaps Evola was right and we have come down through the ages of our ancestors in a fallen fashion. That would not put him far off from the scholars who excoriate him and yet cling heavily to their own legend of Man’s Fall from Grace.

Notes

The serendipity of Stalingrad and Tunis in 1943,and most especially Gettysburg and Vicksburg 80 years earlier, seem to argue for the Roman metaphysical ideal so important to Evola, that Fate is real and malleable and that there is real tangible linkage between warriors and the higher power or powers.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatius_Cocles

2. The Africa corps, under Erwin Rommel, in his absence, surrendered in May 1943, the very month Evola published this piece, the very month that the fall of Fascist Italy became certain, when 250,000 of the best, and best-led fighting men in WWII became suddenly ineffective POWs, abandoned by their Fuhrer to the pits where his ego alone echoed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrika_Korps

3. The German Army Group South had already surrendered in Stalingrad in February 1943, making these two events together parallels to another heroic struggle against overwhelming material superiority 80 years earlier in the American Civil War when Gettysburg and Vicksburg, both lost by the outmanned and out gunned Confederacy to the Union in 1863 and which doomed that war effort. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Stalingrad

4. July 1-3 1863 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gettysburg

5. July 4th, 1863 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Vicksburg

6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

7. http://www.icr.org/article/calendar-antiquity-genesis/

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