By Richard K. Munro
Rome conquered and endured due to its organization, superior communication systems, superior professional military and its basic legal and economic stability. One great weakness of Rome, however, was its lack of a formal system of executive succession. During the era of “Good Emperors,” the Emperors adopted the person thought best to succeed. This fell apart when Marcus Aurelius died and was succeeded by his son Commodus. Also for some reason, Rome stopped developing economically and technologically. Theoretical steam engines were invented but never used except as a parlor trick. The Romans had presses for olive oil and could have easily developed the printing press but did not. Perhaps their dependence on slave labor hampered or discouraged technological and economic innovation. Gibbon was convinced that Christianity destroyed the Empire by destroying its military virtue.
But the root cause, I believe is that philosophically and morally pagan Roman society was rotten to the core. Sex was for erotic pleasure only and the rearing and education of children were neglected. The Romans were extremely hedonistic and dedicated themselves to Bread and Circuses. In Rome by the 3rd century, there were over 180 festivals a year -which meant free food and games. I believe the Romans stopped thinking and working. The barbarians were numerous and warlike and increasing armed and trained in the Roman fashion. We forget that many of the barbarian leaders were Roman citizens and had been officers in the Roman army.
Nations and civilizations which discover how much easier and soft it is to live for ephemeral pleasures without worrying about anything permanent in the world of the mind and the soul, soon find their mental muscles turn to mush and they cannot think about difficult economic, social and political problems. They prefer emotional outbursts instead of thought and sustained the intellectual effort. Uneducated, indisciplined people become incapable of organizing their experience into a logical pattern and become impotent to plan or train for changes in the future or very important to recall the lessons of the past.
In short, only the educated are free and the uneducated will lack the wisdom to sustain and make a more perfect Union. Surely, this must be considered a warning to our own “permanent” and “highly-advanced” civilization. In the years to come we may find out how fragile our civilization really is.