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‘The Keen Eye of Discontent’
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon: Summation 6
© 2023 James LaFond
SEP/4/23
Severus may have been the author of the decline and fall of the civilization that he tried to salvage according to his brute means. But the actors, were the two sons that he attempted to leave in joint stewardship of the empire. As re-constituted by Severus, the empire was embodied as a nation in the ruler. Thus, by splitting the rule between his two sons he split the identity of the nation every bit as much as the bipolar two party system of declining America has sundered this nation beyond the salvation of a shared identity.
The sons were raised by the same woman, Julia, the matron of the arts and scholarship who supported the work of Philostratos, the author of the Gymnastica circa A.D. 220. A joint war against the barbarians of Caledonia failed to unite the brothers under their father’s will and demonstrated to the barbarians beyond the wall that Rome’s will was waning and the long view now favored their tribal cause over the imperial cause of civilization.
With the passing of Severus, imperial life became at once rule by a panel of experts appointed by Julia, and a duel of assassins until one son was slain by the agents of the elder. The ascension of Caracalla, worst tyrant to date of Rome, who slaughtered thousands of relations and associates of any who supported his brother in any way, cast the state back entirely into the hands of the military. If one replaces physical death with character assassination, combined with rule by experts then and now, then America currently serves as good analogue for the Rome of exactly 2,000 years ago.
Gibbon notes accurately something overlooked by most readings of Ancient Roman politics and governance, that until Caracalla, aggression was a quality of the good rulers, with men like Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius who took much action, doing so for the general good and in so doing traveled extensively. Conversely, terrible petty tyrants such as Tiberius, Caligula, Nero and Commodus stayed at home and tormented the creatures of the imperial city, which was an entirely parasitic entity. However, but with Caracalla, who Gibbon describes as “The common enemy of all mankind,” he took his horror show on the road.
The 50,000 man Guard, now consisting of many barbarians, traveled with him. He taxed the people and the senate [1] in as many ways as possible and depleted the great store of wealth built by his father, all very predictable to anyone who has known ultra-rich adolescents. He behaved like the little buddy of the soldiers, who became less soldierly with all of the privilege assigned them. Perhaps his worst atrocity was the slaughter of random mobs of citizens in Alexandria, for mere fun. This fiend journeyed about the empire that he was bequeathed and destroyed as much of it as he could.
His mother, Julia would kill herself out of shame. Yet her sister and, niece and daughter would yet influence emperors from behind the scenes.
Caracalla “esteemed the army” and considered his subjects as “of little note.” The quality of the army was much reduced by its use being primary the plunder of friendly cities.
Macronius, a miserable political functionary, managed to slay his master, Caracalla before he was disposed of. He was soon supplanted and his son murdered, by the backers of one of Caracalla’s cousins, who was a slender homosexual priest of the sun in Syria who was ruled by his mother even as he was sodomized by various professional athletes and dancers. Ellagaballus [2] was the label affixed by posterity upon this spermatoriam of decadence. The refusal to behave as a man under the power of his soldiers doomed him. The transgender affectations, rule of young men by single mothers instead of fathers, rule by experts, and increased proxy police actions in the A.D. 220s is very similar to America in the 2020s, to include the killing of an imperial assassin by a barbarian guardsman from Scythia, a land never ruled by Rome or any of the empires it supplanted.
Eventually a decent emperor gained the purple. A.D. 222 March 10, Ellagabalus, [2] crowned his rein of just over 3 years by trying to have his 17 year old cousin murdered, for being more popular with the soldiers. The soldiers would butcher him and raise his cousin Alexander as emperor. Yet he too was a Mamma’s boy, whose mother, a close relation of Julia, Mamia and his grandmother, Misa, Julia’s sister, consulted experts and made decisions on his behalf, not only in his youth, but when he became a man.
He would take the name Severus but was no blood relation, although this was fabricated for him. He would show great moral courage in the face of mutinous troops, much like noble Pertinax had. However, these troops would eventually split over the cause of killing and avenging him, as they continued to plunder the empire they had been gathered to police, and murder the emperors they had been mustered to protect.
This is not very different from U.S.G. agencies assassinating JFK, pushing out Nixon and Trump and even openly preying upon the citizens they supposedly serve, with the staging of mass shootings. One must admit to admiring the Roman’s for their candor. For there is no notion that an armed functionary of the Roman Imperial State was a civic servant. Rather he was an instrument of oppression, as all government officials are in all nations and times. Alexander, not long before his assassination, would dismiss a legion, by placing upon them the ultimate insult of calling these mutinous soldiers, mere “Citizens of Rome!” which is to say a slave of the government.
“I will no longer style you soldiers, but citizens... Me you may destroy, but you may not intimidate.”
This helpless youth disbanded an army with a few sentences.
Much of the accounts of Alexander are based on an attempt at hagiography aligned with the Cyropedia of Xenophon and plagued with omissions.
“The abilities of that amiable prince seem to be inadequate to the circumstances,” is a statement in which Gibbon questions the veracity of the author of the Life of Alexander, who omitted some major aspects of civil war.
The guard would eventually hate Alexander for his virtue as much as they had hated Ellagabalus for his degeneracy.
The legions began imitating the guards and plundering the empire, featuring officer murders.
“Reserve your shouts until you take the field…” had been a pointed menace of Alexander when he dressed down the troops he had disbanded as mere citizens. And, when he was slain by other soldiers, fighting men would again find more employment in contests with other military forces in the future, rather than their preferred plundering of civilians.
“The pride and avarice of his mother cast a shade upon his reign...” and the weakness of this emperor coupled with his irritating moral dignity would summon like demons characters of pure power.
Gibbon points out that the importance of this study was examining how monarchies fail, as Gibbon was a monarchist. It is mentioned that the worst emperor in Roman history, Caracalla, was the man who extended the status of citizen to every free person of the empire, which is to say, still less than most of the people, as most folks were slaves.
Gibbon’s examination of this crucial period in Roman decline ends with a review of the economics of pillage and taxation in ancient Rome, Carthage and Egypt and a conclusion that the existing records are not complete enough to make a determination.
“Gaul was enriched by rapine as Egypt was by commerce...”
The chronistic irony that Spain was the Peru and Mexico of the Old World and the oppressor of those two places in the New World cannot be passed up by Gibbon.
“From the faint glimmerings of such doubtful and scattered lights,” Gibbon computed that 15 million pounds would have been the annual revenue of the Roman empire. Augustus, the “artful” founder of the empire is reflected upon as an incremental assassin of human liberty.
“From the 8th to the 40th part,” is stated as the excise and tariff rate of the Roman empire, much of it applied to imports from India. He notes that the ancient were not able to cut diamonds and that as the empire declined, the use of Eunuchs increased. Are these much different from te many gay and transgender political appointees of today?
Augustus had managed to impose a 5% inheritance tax, eventually abolished by Justinian 500 years later.
“...and waited with impatience for his death,” was the common sentiment of Roman slaves for their masters, described in a long sentence of fine wit.
“...the farmers of the revenue,” serves as a fine reminder of the basic structure of a state.
Caracalla doubled the inheritance tax to 10%, which was reduced to the historical rate of 5% after his death. Alexander would also reduce tribute levels to a 30th part. Tax increases are related to a noxious and invasive weed that would “darken the land with its deadly shade,” in future Roman ages.
“..who knew no country but their camp,” is the author’s summation of the military brutes of the frontier who would broker power in Rome upon this expanding tax base. It might have been Alexander’s reduction in the increased revenue inflicted by his vile predecessors that doomed him to die at his army’s “bloody hands.”
Gibbon leaves the fate of Alexander for the next chapter.
Notes
-1. The senate was not supposed to be of the people, but over the people, something that the false notions of American Imperial Ideology cannot fathom, that the political class is over and not of the people.
-2. from Ella “a god” and gabalus “to form as plastic,” was granted to this gay priest of the sun. His idol was a conical black stone that was said to have fallen from heaven.
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Sam J.     Dec 25, 2023

"...Perhaps his worst atrocity was the slaughter of random mobs of citizens in Alexandria, for mere fun. This fiend journeyed about the empire that he was bequeathed and destroyed as much of it as he could..."

Tucker Carlson gave a speech and said that is exactly what the rulers of the US are doing right now.
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