Thursday, December 23, 2004

Ancient and Modern: "Whatever one thinks of the EUtopia that is Neil Kinnock's pension, the EU does not in these respects work like Rome. The order of the day is not conquest for the sake of self-enrichment, but international treaty obligations voluntarily entered into by expanding numbers of member states under the guidance of a wise and benign autocracy in Brussels, working in everyone's interests, leading to peace and prosperity for all.

"That may be a EUphemism for voluntary tyranny, but it is at least voluntary. There was nothing voluntary about Rome; and if one of the outcomes of the Roman empire was peace and prosperity over wide areas for long periods of time (and it was), that was not a vision that had turned Rome into an imperial power in the first place, though Romans were well aware that an empire without it was in the long term ungovernable. The break-up of the Roman empire in the West, however, does indeed provide food for thought.

"Foreign incursions into the Roman West began in the 3rd century ad. After a number of scares they were dealt with or petered out, but it was now clear that the empire was vulnerable to serial attack, and the last hundred years of the Roman empire in the West is the story of Rome’s relationship with 'barbarians'—the various Germanic Goths and non-Germanic Huns looking to settle within its domain. (The Eastern, 'Greek' half of the empire based in Constantinople/Istanbul, which had emerged as a separate entity after 395, survived as the Byzantine empire till 1453.)

"The problem Rome faced was: do we fight to keep the barbarians out, or are we prepared to make concessions? Being pragmatists, they compromised."

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