Monday, October 25, 2010

Rome in 389-386 B.C. - seeking peace

Seeking peace in the Fourth Century B.C.

Romans much preferred peace, but they had put a variety of theories to the test and the only method that assured them peace, was the defeating of their enemies. During one such test, when they thought they were in no danger of war and therefore needn't prepare for one, they were overrun by the Gauls. Most of Rome was overrun. Rome's best General, Camillus, happened to be elsewhere because his political enemies had gotten rid of him, but his patriotism hadn't abated and he rallied some of the Romans who had fled from the Gauls, turned them around, and drove the Gauls from Rome.

As one might readily imagine, Camillus' enemies were never again successful against him. The invasion by Gaul occurred in 389 B.C. when Camillus was about 65.

The ease with which Gaul invaded Rome caused some of Rome's traditional enemies to get ideas -- and Rome's traditional allies to think they should look elsewhere for their protection:

[from Livy, Book VI] "But the Romans were not left in peace for long to discuss amongst themselves their plans for restoring their State after its disastrous downfall. On the one hand their old enemies the Volscians had taken up arms with the intention of wiping out the name of Rome; on the other, according to traders' reports, the leading men from all the peoples of Etruria had met at the temple of Voltumna and sworn to combine forces in war. There was also fresh alarm at the revolt of the Latini and Hernici, who ever since the battle of Lake Regillus had remained on friendly terms with the Roman people with no suspicion of disloyalty for nearly a hundred years. And so with such serious causes for alarm on all sides, as it was obvious to all that the name of Rome was not only suffering from the hatred of her enemies but was even held in contempt amongst her allies, it was determined that the republic should be defended under the auspicious of the man who had brought about her recovery, and that Marcus Furius Camillus should be named dictator. . . ."

Rome had learned that it couldn't conduct a war by committee. It takes an executive to manage a war effectively. When the U.S. goes to war, it is our executive who manages it. In Roman times, they didn't have a permanent executive, so in times of danger they appointed a "dictator," who resigned as soon as his job was over. Surely, in those times after the invasion of Gaul, there was no better man for the job than Camillus. And sure enough, he organized some armies and defeated the immediate threats.

When Roman soldiers would have escaped to Canada if they could have:

In 386, the men of Rome faced a threat the people didn't think they could win: " . . .Satricum, where the Antiates had concentrated not only the fighting forces of the Volscians recruited from the younger generation, but also vast numbers from the Latins and Hernici, drawn from peoples who were in excellent shape after long periods of peace. This combination of a new enemy with their old one had a disturbing effect on the army's morale. The centurions reported to Camillus, as he was already drawing up his line of battle, that the soldiers were dispirited and reluctant to arm, were loitering and hanging back as they left the camp, and had even been heard to say that they would be fighting against odds of a hundred to one and an army of such a size as could hardly be withstood even if it were unarmed, still less when armed.

Camillus inspires his soldiers:

"'Soldiers,' he cried, 'what is this gloom, this reluctance, which is so unlike you? Is it the enemy whom you don't know -- or me -- or yourselves, under my leadership (to say nothing of your capture of Falerii and Veii and massacre of the Gallic legions when they had occupied your own city) you have recently celebrated a triple triumph for a threefold victory over those very Volscians and Aequi and over Etruria. Or can it be that because I gave you the signal as tribune, not as dictator, you do not recognize me as your commander? I have no wish for absolute authority over you, and you should see in me nothing but myself; my resolution has never gained anything from dictatorship, any more than it lost anything through exile. Nothing in any of us has changed, and we bring the same qualities to this war as we brought to earlier ones. Let us then expect the same outcome. At the first clash everyone will act in accordance with his training and habit: you will win, they will run away."

COMMENT: Camillus needed a bit more than this speech to get his army moving. He had to get out in front with a standard bearer and shout "Attack soldiers." He got a standard bearer to throw his standard into the enemy ranks and urged his men to retrieve it. At last they got going and then it was as Camillus said it would be. Then, despite their superior numbers, the enemy ran.

A few things occurred to me while reading this section in Livy:

Allies: The Latins and Hernici reminded me of certain European nations after the Cold War. They had been left at peace because their more powerful neighbor, Rome, had been available to fight off the enemies that threatened them. But they had no deep-seated love for Rome. When Rome was in trouble after the Gallic invasion, they were quite willing to side with Rome's enemies when they believed Rome could no longer withstand them.

It is interesting, however, that the Latins and Hernici hedged their bet. They held back and waited to see how the others were going to do against Rome. When they ran away as Camillus predicted, the Latins and the Hernici backed away. Had Rome lost, they would have piled on their erstwhile protector like a pack of dogs, but when Rome was victorious, the Latins and Hernici were able to congratulate them and make excuses for their presence amongst Rome's enemies.

Several European nations decided to back Saddam Hussein, one of America's enemies, after the Cold War. They didn't actually join Saddam in his battle against the U.S., but then neither did the Latins and Hernici join the actual battle against Rome. But there was support, and this support inspired Rome's and America's enemies to fight. They thought that with the support they had been pledged, they could win.

Modern-day Liberal Democracies have an advantage over the city-states of the Latins and Hernici. France might side with the Germans in World War II, but afterwards, De Gaulle can come in and say that the Vichy French were illegitimate and never represented France. He, De Gaulle, was therefore free to disallow and take no responsibility for anything the Vichy government did. And if Chirac supported Saddam Hussein against America, this action can be readily forgotten when Nicolas Sarkozy takes office. We can be friends with France once again.

Progress: While I have heard no coherent argument from the Left about "progress" I believe they would assume that we have "progressed" quite a lot from the period I am addressing. Some of us, who aren't, Leftists, might say that one of the ways in which we have progressed is that we have become Liberal Democracies, and Liberal Democracies have vested interests in remaining at peace with one another. But Leftists, much as Islamists, do not like Liberal Democracies; so I don't think they can claim Liberal Democracy to be a sign of "progress."

I sometimes get the impression that Leftists think Human Nature has "progressed" in some way, but where is the evidence of that? Do they have whole ranks of Gandhi's and Mother Theresa's? If so, I haven't seen them? There has been no improvement in Human Nature. One could more easily argue that there has been a deterioration in it.

There has been technological progress, but in terms of "peace," it has created as many problems as it has solved. I doubt that the Left can be referring to technology as their progress.

We have the same human nature that the Romans did, and as a consequence can learn from their history.

Animosity: The Romans seem very modern in their animosity. The Plebeians felt animosity toward the Patricians, and the Patricians felt as much if not more against the Plebeians. And if any individual, such as Camillus were to gain a great reputation, there was sure to be someone seeking to undermine it. Our modern journalism that seeks to undermine almost every individual that achieves a degree of fame or success isn't engaged in anything new.

City States and Multiculturalism:

We can learn something about Multiculturalism from the city-states of the Italian peninsula in the fourth century B.C. We can learn that as long as they are distinct entities, not sharing a common language and not having common interests, they can never be sure of remaining at peace with one another. Perhaps philosophy can't teach us this lesson, but history can. Rome tried to live at peace with the different cultures in nearby cities, but it never worked. The other cultures kept going to war against them as soon as they looked distracted (usually because of political bickering) or weak (as after the Gallic invasion). We know that later on, the Romans did find a solution to this problem: They invited these other cultures to become Roman.


While no one in Rome proposed a pure pacifism as far as I know, there were times when the common soldier was unwilling to fight. The Senate was not above creating an enemy in order to get the Plebeians out of Rome and occupied in a war. We have heard the charge that the Soviet Union and later on, Islamists, were "created" as enemies to keep the Military Industrial complex churning. Since I was a cog for a while in the "Military Industrial Complex," my own experience is that this charge against America is false. I never saw any evidence of it. We did propose new technology, but we never proposed a new war. The Senate of Rome did propose wars, and sometimes the Plebeians and the Tribunes who represented them saw through these wars and sought to avoid fighting them, but these wars were not entirely a creation of the Senate. There really were enemies out there, and when they saw the Roman plebeians refusing to fight, they occasionally invaded Rome.

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