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Julius XXXIV Caesar

The Roman Revolution

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The historian and author Ronald Syme (The Roman Revolution) viewed the period from Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon until Augustus Caesar's victory not as two independent civil wars but as a unified Revolution which saw one oligarchy being replaced by another. The French author Henry de Montepelant saw this period as a model for understanding the politics of power.

 

The study is to use the reference of Ronald Syme and built a intellectual model from this period of Ancient Rome and test it against contemporary politics of power. Is anyone interested in joining this study?

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Alas, not for me, Julius. I have never ever subscribed to this theory of applying ancient history to modern 'counterparts'. To me, this is totally spurious. Rome existed in and of itself, in its own context, and I have never been a member of the school of thought that compares ancient/classical models with those of the modern period, hoping to find parallels. Let's face it, you can find parallels in any two periods of history if you twist the facts enough to suit your argument.

 

However don't let me put you off. I'm sure there are lots of members here who would be interested - judging by the posts I've read over the last couple of years!

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The historian and author Ronald Syme (The Roman Revolution) viewed the period from Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon until Augustus Caesar's victory not as two independent civil wars but as a unified Revolution which saw one oligarchy being replaced by another. The French author Henry de Montepelant saw this period as a model for understanding the politics of power.

 

The study is to use the reference of Ronald Syme and built a intellectual model from this period of Ancient Rome and test it against contemporary politics of power. Is anyone interested in joining this study?

No way can I disagree with Augusta here.

My two cents: I would prefer another approach, more in the Popper

Edited by sylla

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My two cents: I would prefer another approach, more in the Popper's way. Any similarities that may be identified among nations and societies from different eras must be forever considered tentative at best; only their differences have any chance of being ever considered definitive, if supported by hard enough evidence.

 

The only differences are cultural. The ambitions and motives of individual Romans are fundamentally no different than at any other place and time to others.

 

First, I think a significant degree of social mobility and replacement, at a slow but constant rate, was present along virtually all Roman history, from Romulus to Constantine XI.

 

But replacement can only occur if there are vacancies. This requires times of change and cultural stress which involve the loss of senior men. The social mobility of Romans varied over the centuries, with the exclusivity of the senatorial class being eroded by the increasing importance of equestrians as administrators.

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The historian and author Ronald Syme (The Roman Revolution) viewed the period from Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon until Augustus Caesar's victory not as two independent civil wars but as a unified Revolution which saw one oligarchy being replaced by another. The French author Henry de Montepelant saw this period as a model for understanding the politics of power.

 

The study is to use the reference of Ronald Syme and built a intellectual model from this period of Ancient Rome and test it against contemporary politics of power. Is anyone interested in joining this study?

 

 

You may find a few takers here. I will not however be one of them as I echo the Augusta's sentiments.

 

Do you plan to have this study on this board or elsewhere? If it is off-site, why don't you leave a link or e-mail address, and those that want can contact you at their leisure.

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The only differences are cultural. The ambitions and motives of individual Romans are fundamentally no different than at any other place and time to others.

 

And this is the huge stumbling block, and the difference between us, Calders. No - they are not! Each individual is a product of his/her society, which society helps shape his/her ambitions and motives. Are you saying that a Roman woman's motives and ambitions are the same as an 18th century Swedish woman's, or a 21st century English woman's for that matter?

 

Same for the men. Roman men were imbued with a sense of history, duty to the state and Rome's destiny. But was this ALL Romans? Or just those in government? Do we even have evidence to make an informed analysis of the urban poor and their motives/ambitions? Sweeping generalisations do not help us here.

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The only differences are cultural. The ambitions and motives of individual Romans are fundamentally no different than at any other place and time to others.

 

And this is the huge stumbling block, and the difference between us, Calders. No - they are not! Each individual is a product of his/her society, which society helps shape his/her ambitions and motives. Are you saying that a Roman woman's motives and ambitions are the same as an 18th century Swedish woman's, or a 21st century English woman's for that matter?

 

Same for the men. Roman men were imbued with a sense of history, duty to the state and Rome's destiny. But was this ALL Romans? Or just those in government? Do we even have evidence to make an informed analysis of the urban poor and their motives/ambitions? Sweeping generalisations do not help us here.

 

 

Well, there are some comments we can make, sweeping generalizations though they are, as cultural anthropologists have gone to some effort to identify what are called 'cultural universals'. That is, all human societies have certain features which they share - making jokes, liking music and dance, a tendency for males and females to form long-term unions, a desire for social status, and to raise children to whom we are genetically related. (And I'll add a tendency for teenage males to make idiots of themselves, as I've just come back from watching a bunch of mall-rats doing so.)

 

Human nature is basically unchanged from the time we left the African savannahs - however, the manner in which it finds expression is indeed radically different from society to society, and history can also show some interesting social pathologies (I'll put Sparta in this group - possibly we should add the aristocracy of the Late Roman Republic as well.)

 

So yup, I'd say our Roman woman, 21st century lass, western or otherwise, or your average (I stress average) female in any society wants a good marriage, to enjoy social status in her peer group, would prefer wealth to poverty, and would probably like to give that little cow down the road a good slap. And should it happen that the average woman does not want to raise a brood of bonny bouncing children, the human race is in trouble.

 

Once we recognize these basic human traits, we can see how they find expression in different societies. So I'd say Caldrail's cause is not totally lost!

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The only differences are cultural. The ambitions and motives of individual Romans are fundamentally no different than at any other place and time to others.

 

And this is the huge stumbling block, and the difference between us, Calders. No - they are not! Each individual is a product of his/her society, which society helps shape his/her ambitions and motives. Are you saying that a Roman woman's motives and ambitions are the same as an 18th century Swedish woman's, or a 21st century English woman's for that matter?

 

Same for the men. Roman men were imbued with a sense of history, duty to the state and Rome's destiny. But was this ALL Romans? Or just those in government? Do we even have evidence to make an informed analysis of the urban poor and their motives/ambitions? Sweeping generalisations do not help us here.

 

 

Well, there are some comments we can make, sweeping generalizations though they are, as cultural anthropologists have gone to some effort to identify what are called 'cultural universals'. That is, all human societies have certain features which they share - making jokes, liking music and dance, a tendency for males and females to form long-term unions, a desire for social status, and to raise children to whom we are genetically related. (And I'll add a tendency for teenage males to make idiots of themselves, as I've just come back from watching a bunch of mall-rats doing so.)

 

Human nature is basically unchanged from the time we left the African savannahs - however, the manner in which it finds expression is indeed radically different from society to society, and history can also show some interesting social pathologies (I'll put Sparta in this group - possibly we should add the aristocracy of the Late Roman Republic as well.)

 

So yup, I'd say our Roman woman, 21st century lass, western or otherwise, or your average (I stress average) female in any society wants a good marriage, to enjoy social status in her peer group, would prefer wealth to poverty, and would probably like to give that little cow down the road a good slap. And should it happen that the average woman does not want to raise a brood of bonny bouncing children, the human race is in trouble.

 

Once we recognize these basic human traits, we can see how they find expression in different societies. So I'd say Caldrail's cause is not totally lost!

Apples and oranges are being mixed here.

The "cultural universals" of Maty are indeed anthropology, closer to biology. They essentially mean humans are humans after all. The same as we all have kidneys, lungs and heart, in general terms we all care about our families, need to live in society and learn to behave as the people we have around us. Such traits are fundamentally inherent to our human condition, even if their expression could be greatly affected by the environment.

Augusta is talking about historic events and processes, the quintessential example of the Chaos theory; an extremely complex and dynamical system where the smallest variation of virtually any condition may produce large and unpredictable variations in the long term outcome. The typical Butterfly effect: one flap of its wings could change the course of weather forever; the endless "what-if" scenarios. Contrary to physical sciences, we can never control the conditions of our observations; there are no historic experiments.

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So yup, I'd say our Roman woman, 21st century lass, western or otherwise, or your average (I stress average) female in any society wants a good marriage, to enjoy social status in her peer group, would prefer wealth to poverty, and would probably like to give that little cow down the road a good slap. And should it happen that the average woman does not want to raise a brood of bonny bouncing children, the human race is in trouble.

 

The major difference is that the 21st century lass has more choices for her life than her ancient Roman counterpart may have had, "basic human traits" notwithstanding.

 

A "good marriage" may not be as appealing to the modern woman as it was to her ancient counterpart. The laws of modern society may favor the independent woman more than did the laws of ancient society, thereby making it easier for a woman to earn her own living without the welcome protection (or obstruction) of a husband or pater familias.

 

I believe that your 21st century lass (of an industrialized nation) is vastly different from her ancient Roman counterpart. Granted, both may want many of the same things for themselves -- but the modern woman will want more. Because she knows that more is possible for her. Her very behavior is guided by such knowledge.

 

Furthermore, the "average woman" (of a modern, industrialized nation) does not want "to raise a brood of bonny bouncing children." She wants to have perhaps one to three children, and most especially she wants a government-provided public school system to help raise her children for her. She wants that so much, that she is willing to demand that she and her neighbors pay higher taxes to insure the provision of "better" public schools for her children, with perks that include pre-kindergarten classes, school lunch programs, after-school activities, and more.

 

Matrons of ancient Rome would regard the modern woman with much suspicion, I believe.

 

-- Nephele

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So yup, I'd say our Roman woman, 21st century lass, western or otherwise, or your average (I stress average) female in any society wants a good marriage, to enjoy social status in her peer group, would prefer wealth to poverty, and would probably like to give that little cow down the road a good slap. And should it happen that the average woman does not want to raise a brood of bonny bouncing children, the human race is in trouble.

 

The major difference is that the 21st century lass has more choices for her life than her ancient Roman counterpart may have had, "basic human traits" notwithstanding.

 

A "good marriage" may not be as appealing to the modern woman as it was to her ancient counterpart. The laws of modern society may favor the independent woman more than did the laws of ancient society, thereby making it easier for a woman to earn her own living without the welcome protection (or obstruction) of a husband or pater familias.

 

I believe that your 21st century lass (of an industrialized nation) is vastly different from her ancient Roman counterpart. Granted, both may want many of the same things for themselves -- but the modern woman will want more. Because she knows that more is possible for her. Her very behavior is guided by such knowledge.

 

Furthermore, the "average woman" (of a modern, industrialized nation) does not want "to raise a brood of bonny bouncing children." She wants to have perhaps one to three children, and most especially she wants a government-provided public school system to help raise her children for her. She wants that so much, that she is willing to demand that she and her neighbors pay higher taxes to insure the provision of "better" public schools for her children, with perks that include pre-kindergarten classes, school lunch programs, after-school activities, and more.

 

Matrons of ancient Rome would regard the modern woman with much suspicion, I believe.

 

-- Nephele

 

 

Amen to that. I agree 100%. It's all about having options, something that women in the past unfortunately did not have.

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>>"Furthermore, the "average woman" (of a modern, industrialized nation) does not want "to raise a brood of bonny bouncing children."<<

 

 

Ouch! Correction noted

 

I do have to agree that the modern woman has hugely wider choices than any Roman - even the most aristocratic. What is interesting is that - as you say - marriage and having children is no longer compulsory, or even necessary for most modern females. However, a substantial majority choose to take that step. A Roman woman would choose to be involved in her children's upbringing, and want the best for those children - and as your point about the public schools shows, so does the modern woman. (The main difference being that she wants me to help pay for it!)

 

So, with all this choice the significant thing is that most people, and not just women, choose to do the same things as their Roman counterparts. We like a good social life, music, to enjoy public entertainment when we can, to spend time with our families and to live in a good home. We try to keep up with the Joneses, the Romans tried to keep up with the Julii, and we all whinge about our taxes. I still hold to my previous argument - human nature doesn't change, but it adapts itself to the society it finds itself in.

Edited by Maty

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I still hold to my previous argument - human nature doesn't change, but it adapts itself to the society it finds itself in.

 

I think we're in a win-win situation here, Maty. Your argument (and Caldrail's) lies in the first phrase of this sentence; mine, Sylla's and Neph's lies in the second :P

 

However, to get back to the original post, i.e. using the Roman Revolution (to use the age-old Symism) as a model for modern societies/political systems whatever, do these deeply-rooted inherent human traits play a part in that? After all, the system which evolved from the administration of Caesar and Augustus was largely a political system - certainly that is the tenor of Syme's work, so I still think that there are too many differences between society in Classical times and 21st century society to draw any kind of useful parallel.

 

But we could go round in circles on this one, and after another horrendous day at work, I think I just want to visit the Baths. ;)

Edited by The Augusta

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Though it tells against my point I can't resist recounting a nasty academic put-down from a few years back. A speaker had given a lecture comparing Victorian and Roman marriage, paying plenty of attention to the parallels, and suggesting what this could tell us about Roman marriage.

 

One of the early 'questions' was from someone who recounted the story of a drunk who was found by a policeman on his hands and knees under a streetlight. The drunk explained that he had lost his wallet back in the alleyway, and was looking for it. 'Well, why are you not looking for it in the alleyway?' asked the policeman. The drunk replied 'the light is better here'.

 

I always recall this anecdote whenever I go hunting for evidence for ancient Rome in other eras.

Edited by Maty

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Though it tells against my point I can't resist recounting a nasty academic put-down from a few years back. A speaker had given a lecture comparing Victorian and Roman marriage, paying plenty of attention to the parallels, and suggesting what this could tell us about Roman marriage.

 

One of the early 'questions' was from someone who recounted the story of a drunk who was found by a policeman on his hands and knees under a streetlight. The drunk explained that he had lost his wallet back in the alleyway, and was looking for it. 'Well, why are you not looking for it in the alleyway?' asked the policeman. The drunk replied 'the light is better here'.

 

I always recall this anecdote whenever I go hunting for evidence for ancient Rome in other eras.

 

That is fantastic! Do you mind if I steal--er, use it?

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The French author Henry de Montepelant saw this period as a model for understanding the politics of power.

Can you give us any more information on monsieur Montepelant?

Google search of this name matchs no documents.

(I mean, if this is not a joke).

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