The Similarities Between Declining Rome and the Modern US

Victor Davis Hanson – The Daily Signal May 20, 2019

Sometime around A.D. 60, in the age of Emperor Nero, a Roman court insider named Gaius Petronius wrote a satirical Latin novel, “The Satyricon,” about moral corruption in Imperial Rome. The novel’s general landscape was Rome’s transition from an agrarian republic to a globalized multicultural superpower.

The novel survives only in a series of extended fragments. But there are enough chapters for critics to agree that the high-living Petronius, nicknamed the “Judge of Elegance,” was a brilliant cynic. He often mocked the cultural consequences of the sudden and disruptive influx of money and strangers from elsewhere in the Mediterranean region into a once-traditional Roman society.

The novel plots the wandering odyssey of three lazy, overeducated, and mostly underemployed single young Greeks: Encolpius, Ascyltos, and Giton. They aimlessly mosey around southern Italy. They panhandle and mooch off the nouveau riche. They mock traditional Roman customs. The three and their friends live it up amid the culinary, cultural, and sexual excesses in the age of Nero.

Certain themes in “The Satyricon” are timeless and still resonate today.

The abrupt transition from a society of rural homesteaders into metropolitan coastal hubs had created two Romes. One world was a sophisticated and cosmopolitan network of traders, schemers, investors, academics, and deep-state imperial cronies. Their seaside corridors were not so much Roman as Mediterranean. And they saw themselves more as “citizens of the world” than as mere Roman citizens.

In the novel, vast, unprecedented wealth had produced license. On-the-make urbanites suck up and flatter the childless rich in hopes of being given estates rather than earning their own money.

The rich in turn exploit the young sexually and emotionally by offering them false hopes of landing an inheritance.

Petronius seems to mock the very world in which he indulged.

His novel’s accepted norms are pornography, gratuitous violence, sexual promiscuity, transgenderism, delayed marriage, childlessness, fear of aging, homelessness, social climbing, ostentatious materialism, prolonged adolescence, and scamming and conning in lieu of working.

Homosexual marriage in ancient Rome. Click to see: Gay marriage and homosexuality were part of moral landscape in Ancient Rome

The characters are fixated on expensive fashion, exotic foods, and pretentious name-dropping. They are the lucky inheritors of a dynamic Roman infrastructure that had globalized three continents. Rome had incorporated the shores of the Mediterranean under uniform law, science, institutions—all kept in check by Roman bureaucracy and the overwhelming power of the legions, many of them populated by non-Romans.

Never in the history of civilization had a generation become so wealthy and leisured, so eager to gratify every conceivable appetite—and yet so bored and unhappy.

But there was also a second Rome in the shadows. Occasionally the hipster antiheroes of the novel bump into old-fashioned rustics, shopkeepers, and legionaries. They are what we might now call the ridiculed “deplorables” and “clingers.”

Even Petronius suggests that these rougher sorts built and maintained the vast Roman Empire. They are caricatured as bumpkins and yet admired as simple, sturdy folk without the pretensions and decadence of the novel’s urban drones.

Petronius is too skilled a satirist to paint a black-and-white picture of good old traditional Romans versus their corrupt urban successors. His point is subtler.

Globalization had enriched and united non-Romans into a world culture. That was an admirable feat. But such homogenization also attenuated the very customs, traditions, and values that had led to such astounding Roman success in the first place.

The multiculturalism, urbanism, and cosmopolitanism of “The Satyricon” reflected an exciting Roman mishmash of diverse languages, habits, and lifestyles drawn from northern and Western Europe, Asia, and Africa.

But the new empire also diluted a noble and unique Roman agrarianism. It eroded nationalism and patriotism. The empire’s wealth, size, and lack of cohesion ultimately diminished Roman unity, as well as traditional marriage, child-bearing, and autonomy.

Education likewise was seen as ambiguous. In the novel, wide reading ensures erudition and sophistication, and helps science supplant superstition. But sometimes education is also ambiguous. Students become idle, pretentious loafers. Professors are no different from loud pedants. Writers are trite and boring. Elite pundits sound like gasbags.

Petronius seems to imply that whatever the Rome of his time was, it was likely not sustainable—but would at least be quite exciting in its splendid decline.

Petronius also argues that with too much rapid material progress comes moral regress. His final warning might be especially troubling for the current generation of Western Europeans and Americans. Even as we brag of globalizing the world and enriching the West materially and culturally, we are losing our soul in the process.

Getting married, raising families, staying in one place, still working with our hands, and postponing gratification may be seen as boring and out of date. But nearly 2,000 years later, all of that is what still keeps civilization alive.

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6 responses to “The Similarities Between Declining Rome and the Modern US”

  1. Jewish scholars have said they introduce homosexual deviancy to destroy a nation
    not just ancient rome, but they tried to do it in Germany, buta certain Austrian chap puta stop to it all, so they brought it to the UK and USA, they funder New labour to allow PIE
    and assited this by making homosexuality legal
    What is interesting is that scholars say Bill Clinton was Caligula born again
    and their careers are identical, strangely although israel exports all this filth, the place where it has taken hold the most is israel, where even Netanyahu keeps young bumboys as Obama did

  2. zionists come in all colors, sexes, religions or non, and nationalities. they have nothing to do with jews. grow and learn.

  3. Another Story By Another Ridiculous Out Of Touch Academic

    First of all as Hanson said in the very first sentence of his nonsense article, the story about Petronius, is that is a satire! In other words, its not true. So the whole article is written about a fantasy story, no more real than Humpty Dumpty or Jack and Jill. What is the point of that!

    Hanson, REAL people are dying, around the world! And all you can do is tell us about a fake Petronius about his FAKE life, about his FAKE experiences and all to teach us what? A moral? About what? Idleness? Really!!!! What about you Hanson, what do you do all day? Sit around on your pompous ass and write stories about stories that are not even true and that are 2,000 years old too boot! What do you do Hanson to contribute to stopping evil that is being committed by your country? I tell you what you do…. you tell stories about fake stories while you pull in a six figure salary that you benefit from while your country is murdering thousands of people every year around the world. Tell me Hanson, what did you ever do in YOUR ENTIRE life that contributed to well being and health to society, instead of leaching and selfishly serving yourself with mindless and heartless talk of a lying history that you teach every single day!

    And now for some real perspective. Professor Hanson if you ever read this….resign your post, its people like you that distort the truth and reality of the world, for out of touch academics are a poison to society and are just one reason for why the world is in such turmoil! Shame on you Hanson! Shame, Shame, Shame! Now every body, read why, …instead of satire, I will give you all a love story for the ages, and as it was told me its all ALL TRUE. I warn you all, this will make you cry, I was told this by an old Muwekma whom is now long dead, when I was much younger and more naive and very infatuated with the USA, but this started by re-education, from being a serious physicist to a more rounded wiser human being….I warn you all, its not for the faint-hearted…ok you have been warned….

    So Hanson lets now fix this. Let’s tell instead of a REAL story! Now read carefully Hanson, you might learn something, that’s if of course if you are capable to learn anything, or don’t you even have a heart?

    Once upon a time, hah scratch that (id do html but this site doesn’t allow it, so I use the vernacular – note to Admin. please let us use html in our comments, not just for links! it makes things so much more elegant!), back to our story…. there was a great people that had lived peacefully for thousands of years, their name was Muwekma-Ohlone. Well I should write just Muwekma. For Ohlone is just a bastardization of the Spanish word Oljon, but the Spanish are never well known for naming people in polite ways. Oljon was surely meant to mean something more derogatory than what is generally understood today as “big-eye”. You can imagine what that really meant 400 years ago! So from here on I will refer to these great Coast People as The Muwekma.

    Before the white man came, the Muwekma were A NATION of people that populated every square inch of territory around what is today known as the San Fransisco Bay Area, including where Standford University resides today. Yep, right in the place where Prof. Hanson writes his fantasy tales about about fantasy people about fantasy futures, were a great Nation of People called the Muwekma.

    These people were kind and respectful and you will soon see trusting and loving.For thousands of years they lived peacefully and with harmony with their lands and those around near them. Yes they knew about their neighboring Nations, they even traded with them, like the fearlessly independent Apache. The Muwekma had a government of elders, they had lived in communities like the US today that calls them Counties. They helped each other in times of need and they celebrated in times of joy.

    They respected the animals so much, that they honored them, including the deer and the much ferocious Grizzly Bear. Ferocious? Really? They had lived with the great Grizz. for nearly 10,000 years and never did they thought of slaughtering it. A Nation of People that totaled from estimates from 500,000 to 1 million people around the Bay Area, and they never once thought to slay the the Great Grizz. Even the Spanish when they arrived didn’t do that, even after 200 HUNDRED YEARS of being there, the Spanish as selfish and racist as they were didn’t go on a killing spree, at least not like they did with the much blood thirsty Aztecs! But in less than 1 life time, yes only 75 years!, the European white man, now known as Americans, poured into the West and soon after, the most majestic animal of the Americas, the Great Griz. was extinct! In just 75 years. Let’s put this in perspective. The Muwekma are known to have populated the California Bay area for over 10,000 years. For 10,000 years, they developed a Nation of People that to some estimates, as I stated totaled 1 million people. And not one of those 1 million Muwekma ever thought of killing off the Great Griz. But with only few 10s of thousands of new arrived Americans, in one life time, Ursa Majestica was gone. Think about that! How can 1 MILLION Muwekma live with Grizzly, when a lousy few 10s of thousands of Americans could not. Even some Muwekma were asking this question, when the White American started killing everything…by the time they got their answer it was too late.

    It was in these early years when a white man called Dawlson (sic. that’s how it was spelt to me) arrived in California. He was young, brash and of course naive. But he had courage, at least it was thought to be courage, when he once came across a river, which some now call it the San Francisquito Creek, others more racists call it Ohlone Creek, but I will call it what the old Muwekma man called it, Muwekma Water. Dawlson came from across from the other side of the High-Sierras, like Humphrey Bogart, running away from a bad past.

    Dawlson, wasn’t a bad man, he just made some bad mistakes, and was just looking for a new opportunity to find his place in this New World. Just like many people today, all over the world, looking for a way to live without having to deal with the bad situations that they find themselves in, when more powerful people play god and push their evil agendas that they have no control over, and have to deal with them. Dawlson was just another pawn like many of us today, in a world that he had no control over. And so Dawlson found himself crossing the Muwekma Water some time around 1820.

    The Muwekma waters were not very busy in those days, a small creek if you will. But even small creeks attract big animals that need to drink. So it was on that faithful day as Dawlson crossed the Muwekma Water when he heard a scream. He wasn’t sure if it was a human but it sounded like it! He got back on his horse and headed for the scream, and sure enough … there was the source of the scream. Running wildly and frantically through the woods and beating away the brambles it was a native girl. Twisting and turning through the thickets, Dawlson could make out she was running away from something.

    There it was….a grizzly! It was chasing her. And it was angry!

    Dawlson admitted years later that he was scared. Very scared. That grizzly was big. VERY BIG. But he took one more look at the girl, and he couldn’t abandon her. He charged at the grizzly, with his horse fighting every inch of the way. His horse knew better! His horse knew that what he was doing was crazy! His horse wanted nothing to do with that monster!

    Dawlson with ever bit of strength man-handled his horse and with as much soothing in his voice as he could, cajoled his horse on wards! Dawlson had only one musket to shoot with, and knew he couldn’t stop that monster with a single musket shot. So he went for the girl. From out of nowhere he swooped over the brambles, the horse leaping over bushes and coming down right between the monster bear and the girl. There couldn’t have been more than two horse leaps between the bear, Dawlson and the the native girl.

    Dawlson, was sweating, his heart rate beating so fast he could feel it pushing against his shirt. Dawlson knew, one mistake and it would be all over for both of them. His horse knew it too! From out of nowhere this not so mighty steed became mighty! Not just an extra one but two, three no four extra steps in the gallop, so much so, Dawlson thought it was his heart rate that was in some way being felt by his horse and it responded to it!

    Dawlson knew he had to make his move soon, for this beast behind him had the advantage, it knew its land, he didn’t. So with a might bellow he command, his horse, “Way ho! Way HO!”, and his horse knew what that meant, go along side the girl. And so the horse with speed it never ever had before, pushed an extra gallop up towards the girl, and Dawlson, with his strong arms that he developed from his failed gold digging years, reached down and by the native girl’s arm picked her up, and the girl like any native girl leapt like a gazelle onto Dawlson’s horse, and holding onto him like it was her last day on Earth.

    Dawlson gave the command, “Way ye! Way ye!” and the horse knew what to do. It gladly done it! To the left it went and out of the course of that angry monster, and quickly rode off into the brambles. Dawlson didn’t need to steer his horse, it knew exactly all on its own what to do! Dawlson holding onto the reins as tightly as the girl was holding onto Dawlson, left the monster behind.

    Once away from that monster of monsters, Dawlson set the girl down. Still shaking from the experience, the girl smiled at Dawlson, and speaking in a tongue he did not know until later, she bowed her head in gratitude. This was Dawlson’s first contact with the Muwekma. He was lost and knew he needed help, and with is poor hand skills, that were still trembling from that grizzly experience, he asked the girl for some food. She smiled, a smile that immediately captivated Dawlson’s heart and she leapt once again like a gazelle onto his horse and immediately started pointing him where to go.

    Soon, they were out of the woods and into a clearing and he saw a majestic sight. It was like a fairy tale! There must have been hundreds of what he knew as tee-pees, or wigwams, as he had learned to call them from his past experiences. They were going for as far as they eye could see.

    As they came out of the thicket the Muwekam began to notice them. This was for many the first time to see a White Man, Dawlson felt a little nervous. But soon the girl that he rescued started regaling to everyone that he learned later, what just had transpired, and their was a great warmth that was soon felt by Dawlson from these warm people. Smiles from the women, and respectful looks from the men, were abound. Dawlson was welcomed into the village and soon he was given all the water and even nourishment that he so much longed for.

    And that was how Dawlson met the Muwekam. The story goes on but I will only now give the highlights or should I say the low lights. I was told this story by a Muwekam back in the 1980’s when I was in California. As I said, I was young then, and didn’t put to much into it, but now it does vibrate with me. Anyway, what I have now to say is not very happy, in fact, it is quite sad, if you don’t wish to read on …don’t.

    Well Dawlson, was accepted within the Muwekam Nation, as a friend. And it was a Nation! It had a governing structure and services, like old and sick care! Well there is no guessing what happened next. Dawlson and the girl he saved, which I can only give the English version of her name, for too many years have pasted and I don’t remember the proper Muwekam name for her, she was called, “Mountain Flowers”, or “Mountain Flower” or something like, “Flowers of the mountains”. Something like that. Anyway Dawlson, found a home, at least a home for some years.

    Dawlson was accepted into the Muwekam Nation, and he became their central conduit for trading and relations between the Muwekam and the much arriving White Settlers. As the years past by there where more and more white settlers and soon the Muwekam were getting concerned.

    By this time Dawlson had two children with Mountain Flowers and they were almost grown up (early teenagers I was told). Further this settler expansion at this time was getting out of hand. These settlers were taking more and more land, and land that the Muwekam needed! It became apparent to Dawlson, that this was an invasion by the Easterners. Of course it was! Dawlson was part of that invasion, but all he wanted was a home he could live and enjoy life with. But isn’t that what all the settlers wanted? Anyway one day Dawlson took his family to a town, which town it was, wasn’t never explained to me, and there he started to learn more about what was going on with all these settlers.

    On day, while he was making more inquiries by talking with people in a town, while his wife was with their two young children, Dawlson got into a bad argument. Someone recalled him over the other side of the Rockies and things got out of hand. There was a fight and Dawlson, shot, knifed, strangled, it was never made clear, some man, a man that remembered him. Or at least that is what the towns folk said. The Muwekam never believed it though. Dawlson made a run for it, found his wife and kids and took off for the Muwekam Nation. Not before long, a posy (more like a lynching) group chased him down, and they killed everyone. Children too.

    Soon after, and as how they lie in the American history books, the United States Of America started butchering the Natives of America, on a grand scale. What happened to the Muwekam Nation? Go to Standford University, they are sitting right on it! Right where Professor Hanson writes his ridiculous stories about nonsensical satire, is where Mountain Flowers used to live!

    The Muwekam Nation didn’t hurt anyone, and even helped some if not many people. And what did they get for it? THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND WAR AND WAR AND WAR AND MORE WAR!

    So if you go to Standford University, how does it feel that you have to pay 10s of thousands of dollars for an education, all for a bunch thieving, murdering monsters, who stole the land that Standford University is now on, after slaughtered 10s of thousands of people so that they can have that land, so you can have an education based upon lies and dishonesty. While those same people that lived on that land, the Muwekam, opened their hearts and gave a home to a white man and fathered two children with a Muwekam girl, and tried to live peacefully together! How does it feel Standford? HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF HANSON!

    Americans are dame bloody heartless bastards!

  4. To All Concerned That Read The Above Story that I Told About Mountain Flowers And Dawlson

    I have been debating with myself for the last few hours whether I should have told you about how Mountain Flowers and Dawlston died. Its not nice to write about this, but I did say it was a terrible story. I admit I chickened out writing it, but after these few hours of contemplation I feel I better. Too much evil is already in the world, and as I have said many times before, IT MUST BE EXPOSED!

    Mountain Flowers was defiled and Dawlson and his two children were forced to watch. Then she was scalped along with the two children, and Dawlson was hung.

    I am very sorry I don’t remember the elderly Muwekam man’s name I met all those years ago. But this story has stayed with me ever since.

    Yes I know you will not find this story on the Internet, but it is a story that was told by an old Muwekam man in his last years of life. And when would you ever hear a story like this, it marks you, as it did me.

    And for the record the Muwekam people are NOT Americans. They are Muwekam People that are being occupied by mass murdering butchers! And have been now for nearly 200 years.

    This Muwekam elder told me he was first told this story to him as a young boy by his grandfather, who’s own grandfather knew Dawlson and Mountain Flowers, which are now long forgotten.

    Such horrors were just starting to become the norm, in those days, scalping that is.

    To that old Muwekam man, I pray you are resting in peace. Like my grandfather who too suffered from the Nazis in Dachau and not only lived it, but was one of the very few to escape the Nazi concentration camp, and walked 600 kilometers back home, you left we with an indelible memory and that changed me in ways few ever have.

    Rest In Peace, my dear old friend. I met you only once, but you will forever be a good friend.

    As for Standford University and people like Hanson; your ignorance may be blissful, but your works are all literally founded upon evil!

    Ladies and Gentlemen, especially I say this to the American people, if you want to end such sad stories from repeating start taking your vote seriously, and kick out the monsters you have in Washington that all they do is steal and murder their way throughout the world, and support monsters like the Saudi Family, that can allow the beheading of children!

    Remember this next time if any of you visit Standford University. You are walking on land where mass crimes against humanity were committed, worse than anything that the Germans did during World War 2! That is what Standford University really stands for….mass murder! Literally!

  5. Been absolutely loving the comments on here lately real top drawer limited hangout agent provocateur stuff from the doughnut boys…

  6. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” !