Commentary: Roman Historian Livy In Modern Society

History comes to us in the modern age as really boring and useless. I have found out why this is so. It is because our educational system makes it about learning definitions, dates, people, and places – memorize, memorize, memorize.

Livy - Wikipedia

It was not always that way. The first two history books in our culture, as far as I know, were the histories written by Herodotus and Thucydides. I, after having the pleasure to read their books, came to realize that history in the old days was more about moral philosophy. It was truly about learning from people’s past mistakes: greed, envy, power, arrogance, and stuff like that.

The Roman historian Livy is no different. He lived around the time of Jesus. He wrote a comprehensive history of Rome up to his period – about 142 books in all, of which only about 35 still exist. Some great stories in there, and they are important because people no not change. Nations make the same mistakes over and over.

Events occurring during my lifetime are reminding me more and more of Livy. What I will say may seem harsh; but I just ask, think about it. Here we go.

Livy says that Rome was built from nothing and that the first citizens were the homeless, the unemployed, and the destitute – in other words, human garbage. In this new city, there were not enough women, so the Romans threw a party with their neighbors, the Sabines. When the Sabines were good and drunk, the Romans stole as many women as possible. The Sabines attacked Rome but after fighting for what appears to be years, the Sabine women asked that the war end. They were already having children from the Romans, so what was the point?

They, from the outrage on whom the war originated, with hair dishevelled and garments rent, the timidity of their sex being overcome by such dreadful scenes, had the courage to throw themselves amid the flying weapons, and making a rush across, to part the incensed armies, and assuage their fury; imploring their fathers on the one side, their husbands on the other, “that as fathers-in-law and sons-in-law they would not contaminate each other with impious blood, nor stain their offspring with parricide, the one their grandchildren, the other their children. If you are dissatisfied with the affinity between you, if with our marriages, turn your resentment against us; we are the cause of war, we of wounds and of bloodshed to our husbands and parents. It were better that we perish than live widowed or fatherless without one or other of you

You see how little human life can be valued? Well, here is another one for you. The Romans found themselves pretty much at war with all their neighbors. The Romans were not liked. As time went on, Rome had military success; but that did not matter, because as their empire spread out, people still did not like them. So, Rome kept spreading out to protect its borders, but it never seemed to end. There was always a new enemy just over the horizon.

Therefore says Livy, Rome got an idea: how to solve the manpower shortage in their ever expanding military. The answer was to create a false financial crisis. This plan was successful because, during a financial crisis, the sure place to find a pay check is the military. Rome had a long history of growing powerful off the backs of its poor.

Fast forward to the present. I get very suspicious when I start seeing things in the news about the Dot Com Bubble, Savings and Loan crisis, Mortgage Crisis, and Pandemic. Seems like every time the American people get hit hard financially, there is a war in the near future. In 2012, I spoke to veterans and they told me that they went into the military just to get a pay check after the mortgage crisis.

I always get chills when a crisis hits us. It is compounded when I see our leaders go on social media and post videos of their new refrigerator and all the nice gourmet ice cream inside, while our citizens are being evicted by landlords. Every time the government says that we have to be patient during this “painful” time. Painful? Is that how they describe it? Things never change, yet, things must change. Let us change it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s