Roman Republic and Empire a - RR160B4a
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Thank you God our Heavenly father for the riches of Thy grace and the certainty of Thy government we give Thee thanks. We thank Thee our Father that Thou who hast redeemed us will do yet more in caring for us so that we can rest assured that all the days of our lives Thy hand will be upon us for good. And so our God we come into Thy presence in confidence to prepare ourselves for Thy service. To know more of Thy workings in times past and in times to come. To praise Thee for Thy grace unto us age after age and to rejoice in Thy mercy. Bless us our Father and strengthen us in Thy service, in Jesus’s name, Amen.
Tonight we continue our study of ancient history in our survey of world history by dealing first of all with the Roman Republic, chapter eight. And I have said previously if you have read the text before coming it will enable you to understand better what you have read and what I say because the text and these lectures complement each other. It has been our purpose in these lectures to try and understand the faith behind the events, in particular periods of history. And therefore our concern tonight is first of all with the Roman religion. The word piety and pious come from Latin, from Roman civilization, and it tells us a great deal about Rome when we understand what the word pious means. The word pious means in Latin a man who is subordinate to authority, ultimately the authority of the state as the highest authority. Thus in Roman religion a pious man was ultimately a statist man. Now it did involve authority to parents and to employers and to people in the immediate vicinity but the ultimate authority of the pious man’s obedience was the state. This is a very important fact because it tells us something about the life of Rome and its religion. Tertullian centuries later in the Christian era ridiculed the Romans, because he said, the senate of Rome can make and unmake gods and this was indeed true. [00:03:08]
The ultimate power in their religion was the state...
The ultimate power in their religion was the state; emperors were made gods because of the services they had rendered to the state. So that ultimately it was the Roman state that was divine, the Roman state that was the object of faith. Rome began primarily as a state, there are a great many stories about Romulus and Remus and how the two brothers who had been abandoned as twins when they were small children grew up wild, nursed ostensibly by a she-wolf, built the city when they were young men, hardly more than boys in terms of our thinking. Now historians treat this story as a myth because historians of course are given very much to treating anything that is old as a myth. In Voltaire’s day which was only two or three centuries ago the idea was that anything before their day was automatically suspect and a myth. There is no reason to doubt that there’s some truth to the Romulus and Remus story and it tells us something psychologically about Rome that is very important and here I shall quote a passage from my own book, The One and the Many, in which I deal with this Romulus and Remus story, and I quote:
“It is today a mark of intellectual respectability to treat ancient records as non-historical. But even an elementary respect for the Roman record points to rather startlingly conclusions, two boys, abandoned twins, set out to found a city, Romulus plowed a furrow as the first wall around the planned city with a trench or furrow as the moat and the overturned earth as the wall. By this act he created his sacred city. His brother Remus expressed his contempt for the wall and moat by leaping across them into the city whereupon Romulus killed him at once declaring ‘so perish all who ever cross my walls’. Rome thus began first with two boys abandoned by their family and second, with the murder of a brother as its first sacrifice. The priority of the city to the family is emphatically set forth, but this is not all. Third, the first citizens were not members of a common family, that is, no relatives of Romulus, but neighboring shepherds, outlaws and stateless persons. The city made them Romans, not ties of family or of blood. Fourth, roman family life and Rome’s first alliance began by an assault on the family when the womanless men joined in the rape of the Sabin women with an ensuing war against their fathers ending in peace and a close alliance when the Sabin women who had been carried off by the Romans interceded with their fathers to restore peace.” Unquote. [00:06:48]
Now this is a very interesting thing, the family was...
Now this is a very interesting thing, the family was very important in Rome, extremely important, but always subordinate to the state. So that Rome began its history not as evolutionary people would have us to believe of cultures with first the family and then the clan and then the tribe and then the city and then the broader country. It began as a city before there was a family! And the families that were important were those that were most associated with the life of the city but the ultimate authority was always the city, the state, the government. So that Rome clearly from the beginning gave priority to statism. The state was very important thus in Rome and it was the answer to things. Whenever there was a problem the answer was the state and as a result very early a number of powers were created to enable the state to cope with emergencies. We would say they had their own set of executive orders. Now in the early years Rome was a monarchy with elected kings, then they dispensed with the monarchy and formed a republic. But even in the days of the Republic the law stipulated that if at any time there was an emergency Rome would become a total dictatorship for six months. So that at any time the senate could vote a total dictatorship and a private dictator whose term ran for six months, if the crises ended before he could surrender the dictatorial powers and some did before the time was over. At the end of the six months the senate could renew it. Now this plan was a very effective one for war. [00:09:20]
They were thus not only a statist people, they were...
They were thus not only a statist people, they were a military people, and o their answer for things was to organize in terms of statism and war. Well in war time it is very important to have a central command, extremely important, and if you dilute the command you dilute the strength, this is war. It’s an interesting sidelight here that Nazi Germany had a centralized command with civilian control which actually diluted it, there were too many channels to go through and when the war was over American officers went over there to ask them what they thought of their own semi-pentagon structure with army, navy and air corps unified with civilians at the top and all of the German admirals and generals said it was a mess, it bogged things down, it led to trouble. The only one who did not say so was the tank corps general, Hans Guderian, and Guderian was so contemptuous of the United States that he didn’t want to give them any good advice. So he was the only one who recommended it. And he recommended it with evil intentions and they took his advice as against every other general and admiral. So you see this is the way it is with people when they ask for advice, they go searching until they find the one person who gives them what they want to say. So in Hans Guderian, the man who hated the U.S. most, they got the advice they wanted and it hasn’t done us any good. Of course this idea of centralizing everything was ineffective for peace but the Romans as a military and a statist people saw all problems in military and statist answers. Give strong power to one man to solve the problems. And this of course was ultimately the downfall of Rome. Every answer they gave was some kind of governmental control. Law came from the state, religion came from the state. Ancestor worship was in the background of the Romans and this is an interesting fact because people tell us well ancestor worship of course is family oriented, but is it? [00:12:24]
The curious fact is is that wherever you have ancestor...
The curious fact is is that wherever you have ancestor worship in the world you have strong statism, totalitarianism. The background of China is ancestor worship and China is not been noted as a country for liberty. Japan of course, Shintoism is ancestor worship, and again, Japan has not been noted for having a free kind of government until after World War Two. Why does ancestor worship which supposedly is family oriented actually mean statism? Well the point is when you have ancestor worship it isn’t the family as such that you are honoring. The family is a living thing, when you worship ancestors you are worshipping the dead and their authority. A vague kind of rule which correlates around the emperor who himself may become a god or the ruler, or the state. How much family authority was there in old China? Well, people who first went over there after photography was invented and took pictures of old China found that the Chinese believed that when you took someone’s picture you captured their soul and he would die soon. So naturally a lot of people didn’t want to be photographed! But the interesting thing was that everywhere they went families were dragging out grandpa and grandma and mama and papa and demanding that the photographer take their picture! Now is that a strong family life? [General laughter] Of course sometimes they were asking that their husbands or wife’s picture be taken too. [More laughter] Now of course that’s no sign of family life. And yet that was tragically what photographers found when they first went there and before the superstition died. So the family life was not strong, ancestor worship does not strengthen the present family, it strengthens the dead whose power accrues to the state. [00:15:13]
So ancestor worship in Rome did not mean that the family...
So ancestor worship in Rome did not mean that the family was strong but that there was authority in the clan and the state. It’s commonly said that the old Romans were men of character and men of great virtue and so on. Well, this is questionable. Their character was there, it was character of a sort, but could we really call it character in a Christian sense? Was it good. Actually the thing that characterized the Romans throughout their history was a feeling that the flesh, the body, represented something lower. So that in the days of the Republic to give into the flesh was something disgraceful. For anyone who was a person of any consequence to kiss his wife in public was shameful, in fact, I believe that a senator was once disgraced because he had kissed his wife at the door of their house. Plato the elder once said that the only time he had ever hugged his wife when it thundered and she ran into his arms for protection. Any indulgence therefore of things material was very much frowned upon, especially among the men, the women were not quite as sold on this sort of thing so that in the days of the Republic one of the problems was that the men frowned very much on drinking and the women, their wives, were much more given to taking a little nip now and then and so spiced wines became very popular among the women because they could take a drink when they sat around to visit and chat and have their gossiping parties and with a spiced wine they could kill with very strong spices the smell of the wine. And about the only time of those days of the Republic that the Roman men would kiss their wives was when they wanted to see if there was any liquor on their breath. [General laughter] Now the kind of thing you see that people today talk about when they talk about being puritanical characterized the Romans in those days and in more recent history the Unitarians of the last century, not the Puritans, the real Puritans. [00:18:20]
This characterized the Romans...
This characterized the Romans; the reason as I indicated was a contempt of the flesh. Later on when their pagan character broke down and they became an extremely licentious people, profligate and immoral to the extreme, they still had this contempt of the flesh. And this is why they so readily went into perversions, because their idea of being sexual was not anything moral or godly or healthy, it was perverted to the enth degree. We’ll deal with that a little more when we get into the empire. Because the Roman religion was a statist religion their program of salvation of course was therefore statist and as a result their every answer to things was political. In our text I deal with what was the new deal in ancient Rome, when the Gracchi brothers offered their plan of salvation for Rome. And it’s very interesting to go back and read the history of the times. I recall when I was still a student there was a young woman I knew and a very superior girl, very, very intelligent girl. And I used to see quite a bit of her in a purely platonic way, we knew a lot of people in common, but unfortunately she was very strongly influenced by Marxism. And as I was reading history of the Roman republic I ran across statements of the day that sounded just like the Marxist statements of the day, and the new deal statements, because that was the day of the new deal and FDR. And about driving the money changers from the temple and the exploitation by the rich of the poor and of the middle man and so on and so forth, all the same old garbage, way back then. Of course her answer was ‘that proves the Marxist theory of society, its true’…what it actually proves is that in every age men as sinners want a scape goat. [00:21:11]
Of course the Gracchi’s came along with this, blaming...
Of course the Gracchi’s came along with this, blaming everybody for everything, and the Gracchi brothers one after another took over the government and imposed a new deal on ancient Rome. It didn’t solve anything but made everything worse. They were assassinated and of course they had a martyr for the cause. From there on the Roman Republic progressively moved into civil war as hatred was fanned between the Roman aristocracy and the [unknown]. And of course just as in this country it was an aristocrat, Roosevelt, who took over the leadership of the [unknown], the common people, so in ancient Rome it was aristocrats, degenerate aristocrats, like Julius Caesar, who took over the revolution and carried it to a success in the name of the people and made the people the real victims. But then as now they did it, they robbed the people by saying it’s the system, it’s the aristocrats, it’s the money lenders, it’s the capitalists and so on. Now to pass on to the ninth chapter. On page 65 the second paragraph I sum up this problem that marked Rome and its downfall. Page 65, the second paragraph near the bottom of the page. [00:23:05]
“The Roman answer to the problem of man had been defined...
“The Roman answer to the problem of man had been defined. First, man’s problem was not sin but lack of political order and this political order, the divine and messianic state provided. Second, Rome answered the problem of the one and the many, that is, the individual versus the group, in favor of the oneness, the unity of all things in terms of Rome. Hence, over organization, undue simplification and centralization increasingly characterized Rome. This then was the problem. They said that it is not sin, oh no, that was not the answer. It was lack of political order, lack of strong central unified government.”
In the text I point out how Julius Caesar gained power, it was really a religious, a messianic program. His key word was clementia, mercy, forgiveness, grace, but without regeneration. And forgiveness without regeneration is of course the program of men today. We should forgive people, even though they are not regenerated, even though they have made no restitution. And of course the very men Julius Caesar forgave were among those, well they were the ones who stabbed him. His mercy changed no one, his forgiveness did not remove sin. But Rome was not ready to say the problem was sin only lack of political power. And as a result there was a steady concentration of power into the hands of the consoles and finally in the hands of the emperors. It’s very interesting the first emperor, Octavius, or Octavian, gained power by ostensibly reviving the old Republic and its constitution. He leaned over backwards to look like Mr. John Doe, average man, very simple and unassuming, very modest. Observing all the old ways and talking about the glories of the republic and how they had to observe the old laws, even while in reality he created the empire irrevocably. This very definitely was his strategy, this modest front. It is interesting how Octavian gained power as against Anthony and Cleopatra when the show down came. [00:26:22]
It was a question after Julius Caesar was assassinated...
It was a question after Julius Caesar was assassinated who would come out on top, Anthony, Mark Anthony or Octavian. Octavian was the young fellow in the situation, in his twenties, all the odds were against him, seemingly inexperienced, and Mark Anthony was a popular man, a veteran hero and commander of the forces, very powerful, on top of that he aligned himself with one of the shrewdest women of history, Cleopatra. There’s a great deal of nonsense of Cleopatra although she were a sexpot, this is nonsense. Cleopatra was a hard headed calculating woman whose purpose was World Empire. She ruled Egypt and a great deal of the Middle East. She knew that Roman military power was superior to hers and she would not be able to resist it and so she made an alliance, had an affair with Julius Caesar, they had a child who was later put to death, and figured that in league with Julius Caesar they would rule the world and create a worldwide empire. She had a magnificent dream, an unscrupulous one; she first put her half-brother who was her husband to death so there’d be no one in the way when she had her alliance with Julius Caesar. So she immediately went for Mark Anthony. And one would think that, with that tremendous combination of power they would have won. Because the empire was divided into two zones of influence, one for Octavian and one for Mark Anthony and Mark Anthony got Greece and portions of the Middle East that were far richer. Why did they lose? Well supposedly Mark Anthony lost the battle but actually his troops deserted, many of them before the fighting got under way. Why? Mark Anthony was the veteran military man, he should have run Octavian off the map without any trouble. The key was money. Octavian came from a background of gold merchants and he knew the value of good hard money, gold coins, silver coins, nothing else. [00:29:17]
But Mark Anthony did not have such a view and he and...
But Mark Anthony did not have such a view and he and Cleopatra began to issue counterfeits. Coins that were just thinly washed with gold and the troops were being paid off with these while Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were living it up. And of course very quickly those coins would wear down to the copper and the merchants didn’t want the money that these soldiers wanted to spend and an army that finds its getting paid in counterfeit loses its loyalty to its general. So Mark Anthony was the old hero but they weren’t interested in what he was five or ten or fifteen or twenty years ago. They thought he was fine then but what about our paychecks now? We’re being paid off with worthless counterfeits and so he was doomed before he went to battle. The army and the navy who would pay them off with good money they had been told that, go over to Octavian, he’ll give you real wages. Now that’s what counts. They’re still wondering in Washington when suddenly when they thought they had all the votes lined up in the U.N. they lost out with regards to nationalist China and none of the great powers except Japan really stood with them. Britain and all the other countries deserted us. Why? Well remember we not too long before that spoke about the non-convertibility of the dollar, we weren’t going to pay off, and when you’ve welshed on your debts you don’t’ have many friends. Mark Anthony found that out and committed suicide and so did Cleopatra, they had come to the end of the road. Everything in their favor and they blew it, they blew it. [00:31:36]
And everything was in our favor and we are blowing...
And everything was in our favor and we are blowing it. The economic crisis came again before too long because Octavian’s hard common sense in this respect was forgotten by the Romans. You know, in the last volume of his World War Two memoirs Churchill said and thus ended the greatest war of history, after which the great powers returned to the policies which very nearly destroyed them. And the policies which had destroyed Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, they became the policies to which Rome after a century or two returned. Bad money, the law of the state replacing economic law. And of course increasingly because of the traditions started way back centuries before in the days of the republic a welfarism, the welfare [unknown] growing and growing. Bread and circuses and the circuses more and more catering to the perverted tastes that were developing in the Romans because of their false view of the body, of flesh. There are practically no books that tell the truth about the Roman circus. Day after day the arena opened for welfare people and for the well to do for all classes, every kind of acts of perversion. Not only gladiators, fighting to the death and chariot races, Christians being thrown to the lions and other animals, but these animals being trained first of all to rape the victims and then to kill and eat them and much, much more, one of the most frightful eras in world history. There are many fine scholars like B. B. Warfield, one of the great reformed scholars of a couple generations ago, who have held and I think with reason, that when scripture speaks of the great tribulation it was speaking of that which the people of the early church were going to face in Rome. [00:34:30]
It was a fearful thing...
It was a fearful thing. I had intended to bring the account of the martyrdom of one girl from the early second century, perhaps I can remember to bring it next time to give you an idea of that which happened in those days. But the Christians stood their ground, one great persecution after another, that’s beyond our story now, we’ll come to that next time, a circus was a familiar place for them because so many of them died there most horribly. But the circus was basic to Roman religion, in The One and the Many I point out why it was. It was a part of their perverted faith. Rome was going downhill. In 312 Constantine the Great came to power, accepting Christianity and making it the faith of the empire. His point was purely pragmatic, he may have been in a very weak way a believer, he was clearly a great man. But he saw that there was only one element in the empire that had any health in it and could save the empire, it was near death, it was collapsing. Diocletian, just before Constantine, had passed the most stringent types of controls as I point out in the text, such viscous controls that man who had a shop had no choice but to close his shop, he could not maintain it in terms of the rules and if he broke the rules he would have been executed. So it was better to close up shop and face starvation. And the empire just fell apart and at the same time the most savage persecution of Christians of all, determined to wipe them out to the last man. Constantine felt these people are the most law abiding, hardworking, and most hopeful element in the empire, we’ve got to use them instead of killing them off. So he approached Christianity pragmatically. He accepted it nominally, he may have come to believe it, he was baptized only on his death bed. [00:37:22]
But it was 312 only ninety eight years before Rome...
But it was 312 only ninety eight years before Rome fell. And even then Constantine recognized that the days were numbered, that it would be next to impossible to save the empire, that the best hope was to find a new capitol, a new center and to try to make a better beginning there and he made Constantinople named after him the new capitol and began the construction of a great center for the empire there. He was wise in his choice because the eastern half of the empire known as Byzantium lasted for a thousand years, better than a thousand years, falling only in 1492. But many people found it hard to believe that Rome would fall. The emperors who followed Constantine, one of them was an apostate hating Christianity and again trying to destroy it, Julian the Apostate, the others were nominal Christians but actually they were Arians, heretics, dedicated to its destruction. To them the most desirable thing of all was to use the Christians and to use the church to salvage the empire and therefore they would profess Arianism which did not believe in Christ as the son of God and as savior and which held to a doctrine of god which was really no different from that of Telic and the death of God’s school today. Because they declared that god neither speaks nor thinks nor can reveal himself, he’s just a kind of a vague evolving power in the universe, he’s not a person. And the emperors turned the church over to the Arians and the orthodox bishops were again and again persecuted like Athanasius, we’ll come to that perhaps next chapter. And so it was that Rome really went back to its persecuting policy after Constantine. There were one or two emperors that were tolerably good that might pass for Christians of a king but basically the empire continued its course and collapsed. [00:40:30]
It did not get over thrown, it collapsed...
It did not get over thrown, it collapsed. One general in Rome who alone was able to defeat the enemies was so distrusted by the Roman emperor that the one man who again and again had defeated the barbarians was arrested and executed because they were afraid that if he defeated, well, that when he defeated the barbarians he would claim powers alongside the emperor, but he was so loyal that he submitted to the arrest and execution. Whereas if he had given the word the army would have overthrown the emperor and fought beside him, and as a result the army was wiped out. The barbarians simply marched into Rome. When they entered the senate they thought it was deserted and that the senators sitting there were statues and it was only when they went up to feel these life like seeming statues that they jumped back and then they proceeded with their slaughter. So Rome fell. But people everywhere found it hard to believe that Rome could fall, that the civilization as they had known it could disappear and one gentleman bishop because already some were developing, I refer to him in the last paragraph of this chapter, chapter nine, even after Rome fell many were unable to believe, this is page 72 at the bottom of the page, even after Rome fell many were unable to believe that its fall was more than a temporary setback. In sovereign France the gentleman bishop Suetonius lived the life of a Roman of the old order with a villa in the hills, a library, a dining room with a fire place, baths and hunting parties as well as dinner parties. Although the barbarians were destroying cities and ravaging the country side throughout the western empire Suetonius could not believe that Rome was finished. As he wrote to a friend: ‘providence I doubt not will grant a happy issue to our prayers and under new blessings of peace we shall look back on these terrors as mere memories’. Soon after Suetonius’ death his own villa was burned and the easy cultured life he knew was gone. [00:43:41]
Providence has always moved not in terms of man’s wishes...
Providence has always moved not in terms of man’s wishes but in terms of the unfailing law of God. People kept telling themselves, people who were well to do like Suetonius, well life the way we have it is too good for God to do away with it. After all those barbarians don’t have faith and they are wild peoples and certainly God couldn’t favor them against us. Forgetting that the judgment of God was upon Rome because to whom much is given from him much is expected. And as a result the Suetonius’s of the day either died and everything they had was destroyed or they saw everything destroyed before their eyes. And the tragedy of it was that many who could have done something kept looking backward, they did not think about reconstruction, they thought about restoring what they had.
[end of part one]