“Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the war of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians as they warred against each other, beginning to write as soon as the war was on foot, with expectation it should prove a great one and most worthy the relation of all that had been before it; conjecturing so much both from this, that they flourished on both sides in all manner of provision, and also because he saw the rest of Greece siding with the one or the other faction, some then presently and some intending so to do. For this was certainly the greatest commotion that ever happened among the Grecians, reaching also to part of the barbarians and, as a man may say, to most nations. For the actions that preceded this and those again that are yet more ancient, though the truth of them through length of time cannot by any means clearly be discovered, yet for any argument that, looking into times far past, I have yet light on to persuade me, I do not think they have been very great, either for matter of war or otherwise.”
In 1629 Thomas Hobbes the philosopher (or we should say the social scientist) translated into English, Thucydides “Peloponnesian War.” Above is Thucydides’ introduction. He believed that this was the greatest war that had ever been fought among the Greeks. And in this belief, he was probably right. And in a sense every major war that was fought afterward in which European peoples fought amongst themselves became the greatest war. After the Peloponnesian war, Sparta fought with the other Hellenic city states such as Thebes until they wore each other down. That allowed the related Macedonian nation to conquer the Greeks and that led to Alexander’s conquest of the Persian empire. And the squabbling of the successor kingdoms of Alexander’s generals was the incubator for the Roman empire.
But when the rotted corpse of the Caesars’ world disintegrated sometime during the 5th century A.D. it formed the fertile soil that nurtured our Western civilization. And now the United States of America is approaching the point where it will need a new name. Calling it a democratic republic is sort of a bad joke. The form of the government is some kind of self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And its extent is no longer defined by the outline of the fifty states. Much like Rome it has many vassal states that while technically not American territory nevertheless are almost completely controlled by America.
And like Rome the American Empire has an enormous amount of momentum. Even in the midst of precipitous decline in many aspects of its existence the shear mass of this human organization is staggering to behold. And because of this scope it will take a long time for the creature to die. Unfortunately, we will be the witnesses to the early stages of this downfall. And it is already on display. Just as the Roman republic died with the destruction of the small Roman farmers so our society will degenerate into a feudal existence with the dominance of the corporate oligarchs over small independent businesses. And in fact, the last few years has greatly accelerated this process.
And our age’s equivalent to the Roman “bread and circuses” is the vision of welfare and the metaverse where everyone commits slow suicide to make room for the depopulated Gaia model. It almost makes 5th century Rome sound humanistic.
I was recently skimming through Macchiavelli’s “History of Florence.” It begins with the Fall of Rome and after the Carolingian period quickly devolves into endless petty wars between a long series of German Holy Roman Emperors named Frederic, French Kings named Louis and Neapolitan Dukes named Rodrigo battling the Popes for control of Tuscany and Lombardy. And it occurred to me that someday that will be North America. Idiotic descendants of the Pilgrims will be warring endlessly with some Asiatic warlords and Neo-Aztecs for possession of Lake Winnipesaukee. And if that’s the case then my ancestors might as well have remained in Southern Italy and at least have had the comfort of snow free March weather.
If I were a Stoic, I’d look at the whole thing as the way of the world and just make the best of it without whining about it. But my ancestors made a tradition of bitterly complaining about just about everything that was outside of their control and just about everything was outside of their control. At the same time, it meant trying to make the most of the things we could control; family, food and friends.
But just as Thucydides did with Athens and Tacitus did with Republican Rome, we will get a chance to see up close and personal how a once free people get turned into serfs. It won’t be pretty but it will be momentous. I hope the movie version has good CGI effects.