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bkelly

Big money and fall

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From “The Great Courses”, and the set “The World Was Never the Same”, lecture 8, “Caesar Crosses the Rubicon”, Professor Fears talks about the fall of the Roman empire.  He presents the case that big money and business in politics played a major role in the fall.  Politicians could not be elected without the backing from these sources, and once elected, had to do their bidding.  I recall a mention about the city/state Venice that was a thriving business community on the world stage.  Big money become involved in politics and it did not work out well.

On to today:  I see the SCOTUS running Citizens United as a huge step down that path. 

The question:  Do you agree with Professor Fear’s position?  As I write about this, where are the best places to research this?  Which books might be better than others.

Moderator: I am new here and unsure of selecting the appropriate forum.  Please advise if I have selected badly and maybe even move this post.

Thank you for your time and patience

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On 1/19/2020 at 9:42 AM, bkelly said:

From “The Great Courses”, and the set “The World Was Never the Same”, lecture 8, “Caesar Crosses the Rubicon”, Professor Fears talks about the fall of the Roman empire.  He presents the case that big money and business in politics played a major role in the fall.  Politicians could not be elected without the backing from these sources, and once elected, had to do their bidding.  I recall a mention about the city/state Venice that was a thriving business community on the world stage.  Big money become involved in politics and it did not work out well.

The question:  Do you agree with Professor Fear’s position?  As I write about this, where are the best places to research this?  Which books might be better than others.

 

.Professor fears was a fine historian who could present history in an entertaining way. (He passed away in 2012.) That said, he could be more entertaining and superficial than accurate at times. I think his general views about the fall were correct, however.

A nice introduction to the fall of the Roman Republic is Tom Holland's Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic. I read this book about 15 years ago, but I think it still holds up.

Holland.jpg.bee3c7045a67612a4fab6df6acb8b725.jpg

 

By the way, the fall of the Venetian Republic (which lasted more than a thousand years) had less to do with internal politics than did the fall of the Roman Republic. The Venetian Republic, a maritime power, was better suited for trade and control of the Mediterranean. The Venetians could not compete with the emerging strength and naval technologies of the Atlantic powers. The Atlantic powers also benefited from changing trade routes. Also, Venice was guilty of imperial overreach, wasting limited resources by venturing onto the Italian mainland. Napoleon only administered the coup de grâce to an already fatally weakened state.

 

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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it doesn't seem likely to me. Money was a major factor in Roman society from the beginning of the Republican period - it was how status was graded. Although patricians weren't supposed to muddy their hands in tawdry business deals they naturally used proxies, allies, freedmen, or slaves, to do that for them. The economy of Rome was faltering toward the end and corruption was, as ever, the bugbear of this money-mad system. However, the 'fall' of Rome was more complex. It had elements of weakening military power, diluted public patriotism/identity, and a considerable lack of determination. Sermons from the late empire describe Romans (in exaggeration of course) as lazy, hedonistic, corrupt, even cowardly. I prefer the argument made below....

 

In the end, though, all the countless pages of speculation about why the border collapsed, paticularly in the west, amount to one simple fact: the empire grew old. Adapt though it might, its mechanisms for dealing with with change gradually became set and atrophied, its military 'immune system' needed more and more help from outside, and finally - faced with new generations of vigorous neighbours, who had borrowed from the empire what they needed to give their political system and their cultures strength and coherence - it died of old age.

The Empire Stops Here (Philipp Parker)

 

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Rather than just concentration of wealth, isn't it really a question of how "deep" into the population of a society does the desire (willingness?) to preserve and defend it go?  If the elites and the masses are not BOTH willing to defend a society from external (or internal) challenges and divisions, can it survive?

A little too much Toynbee ?

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