Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist by training so it is perhaps unsurprising that he finds the analogies between Petronius’s Satyricon and the cultural rot of our own age.
But I still praise him for the accuracy of his point by point comparison. Comparing the present age to post-republican Rome has become a common trope but Hanson points out just how accurate it is. Nothing new here, just the scholarly expertise of the author pointing out the exactness of the analogy.
Hat tip to Vox Day as he links to and quotes a very interesting article about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire by one of its modern descendants, an Italian chemist named Ugo Bardi. Vox is referencing in his title the science fiction story “A Canticle for Leibowitz” where a future world forms monasteries to preserve knowledge through a new fictional Dark Age as the analogy of us recognizing the coming Dark Ages after ours. Which also hearkens to Rod Dreher’s book “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation,” where he compares the present societal decay with the post Roman age that sparked the monastic age. Bardi in his article goes into the extant texts of Romans from the beginning of the Roman crisis under Marcus Aurelius all the way to end of the Empire in the Fifth Century to argue that the Romans never figured out either what was happening to them or that the Empire could end.
I’ve been fascinated by the spectacle of the Roman Empire since I was a schoolboy hearing about Rome from my Catholic grammar school nuns. Thinking that we are in an analogous situation is equally fascinating and depressing. But maybe there is still time to avert such a collapse. Vox thinks it’s probably too late for the US. I try to be more optimistic. If you find the current societal situation at all analogous to that other example of civilizational collapse then you might be interested in looking at both posts.
Two weeks ago I was watching Andrew Klavan’s podcast on the Daily Wire and he had an interview with Rod Dreher who has a book called “The Benedict Option.” I had heard the title before but thought it had something to do with Pope Benedict abdicating. But the Benedict of the title is Saint Benedict who founded the Benedictine Monastic Order. The sub-title of the book is “A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.” The thesis, as he explained it, is that America is no longer a Christian nation and in fact is now a place inimical to Christians trying to live their faith and raise their children in it. He drew the analogy of Benedict coming from an Italian town to the city of Rome about twenty five years after the last emperor was deposed by a Germanic King. Benedict found it a hollowed out and corrupt place. He decided that the only way to live a Christian life was to separate from the dominant culture and set up a separate society. According to Dreher this was the basis of the survival of Christianity and the remnants of roman culture in the Middle Ages.
Needless to say, I ordered the book. I’ve only started it but the introduction basically states that the majority of Americans are not Christians and do not support the traditional concepts as illuminated in the Bible. He believes that there is no chance that the culture will return to where it was even twenty five years ago but will instead continue down the progressive slope to Gomorrah. And in fact traditionalist beliefs will be criminalized.
Sounds pretty depressing. But instead, he says it’s an opportunity. He thinks this will be the start of a revival. And we should, like Benedict, gather the faithful and build a New Jerusalem.
When I finish the book, I’ll give you my opinion on his idea. For now, let’s just say I’m intrigued and I think this idea has relevance for even those who are not Christians but feel that all traditional values are disappearing from the Western world. After all it’s not that hard finding analogies between the present era and the Late Roman Empire. Perhaps this time instead of Attila the Hun being the Scourge of God it will be Lady Gaga.