Monday, April 14, 2014

Comparing Empires and is the U.S. one?

Wikipedia says Carr was a “quasi-Marxist.”   Marx preached an historical determinism which may be where Carr got his, but a lot of the “the US-is-an-Empire” talk came from that rather than from a showing that the US is like Rome or the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch or British Empires.   It has become for the modern Marxist/Leftist a pejorative term rather than a quest to determine what it is precisely that comprises an Empire and whether the U.S. fits. 

Since Marx we’ve had Francis Fukuyama building on Kojeve arguing that Hegel was right after all (and Marx was wrong).  The end of history is Capitalism, or to use its modern expression, Liberal Democracy, and not Communism.  The Leninistic “Imperialism is the highest form of Capitalism” argument therefore becomes otiose.

Niall Ferguson, no Marxist, thinks the U.S. is an Empire but hasn’t produced a definition or an argument to substantiate that idea as far as I know.  There is a sense in which the U.S. performs like the “World’s policeman” on occasion.  And there was the handing off of the “world’s policeman’s baton” from Churchill to Eisenhower and the U.S. becoming committed in South East Asia somewhat as a result, but unfortunately not to attempt to rescue France’s chestnuts but to attempt to keep a domino from falling (in the then believed theory about the best way to battle Communism). 

Wilson, representing a majority view (IMO) supported the “four freedoms” at the end of WWI and did not approve of the French, British, and Italians desire to split up the after-WWI-pie but was outsmarted by them.  The U.S. as the last-man-standing in regard to military and economic power after WWII enforced its prejudice against empires.  The breakup of the British, Dutch and French empires after WWII was to some extent due to this U.S. prejudice.  So I end up shaking my head at Ferguson’s arguments and setting his books aside (although I did complete a few). 

Someone in regard to India pointed out that Britain made an inconsistent empire in that it promoted the idea of “freedom.”  Sooner or later a colony, as in the case of the 13 & India is going to see that inconsistency and revolt in order to become like Britain, free.  Colonies, at the very least, seem to be one of the things an Empire needs to have in order to be called an Empire – at least so it seems to me.

Does the U.S. have troops in Japan and Germany in order to exercise Imperial demands?    That would be a bit hard to demonstrate because following in Britain’s footsteps it advocates freedom and could not get away with exercising a force that would counter that.  China and others in Asia feared a resurgence of Japanese militarism; so the U.S. is saying, “look, we shall keep troops there.  We shall make sure that doesn’t happen.”   The same situation exists in Europe.  Some still fear a German militaristic resurgence; so the U.S. is there to assure other European nations that it will not permit that to happen.  

If someone wants to argue that the U.S. is currently performing the role of “World’s policeman” I would not argue with that.  Pat Buchanan and others have argued that we can’t afford to keep doing that, and here we may be entering S. P. Huntington’s realm.  It should be the “core nation” from each “civilization” that does that and not just one nation for the whole world.

In short there are some interesting things being written about world power and the future.  Earlier Marxist-based ideas have for the most part been set aside in view of ideas more closely reflecting the modern world. Who today would argue that there is a historical-necessity at work that will force the world’s nations to become Communistic?  And if someone did, who would pay attention to him?

Fruitful comparisons of Roman and British Empires?

Someone from a forum wrote, ""Trouble is (as with all such comparisons) Roman historians probably don't know enough about the British Empire, and modern historians certainly don't know enough about the Roman Empire, to make really fruitful comparisons.

50 (ish) years ago, E. H. Carr wrote that he'd love to see a study of how Roman imperialism served as a model for British. I'm not aware that anybody has taken up his challenge in a major publication (correct me if I'm wrong), but it would be interesting."

Is that really true? If it is, i.e., that no Roman or British Empire historian is in a position to make a "fruitful" comparison, then perhaps the Foreword to Mattingly's Imperialism, Power, and Identity provides a clue as to why that might be. Hitchner wrote, "But with the breakup of the European empires after World War II, assessments of Roman imperialism began to shift." Hitchner applauds Mattingly's call "to replace the outdated imperial-age concept of Romanization in favor of an approach emphasizing the insights provided by postcolonial studies . . ."

Reading E. H. Carr's words, I wonder just what "fruit" a comparison of the two Empires might produce, or more specifically, what Carr thought it might produce. Wikipedia tells us Carr devoted much of his life to a study of the Soviet Union. He wanted Britain to become more Socialistic in order to be a better fit with the Soviet Union. Maybe someone who has actually read Carr could add to that. And just how much of a Marxist was Carr? Had he read Lenin's Imperialism, the highest stage of Capitalism? And if so, what did he think of it? I found this comment in a Wikipedia article on Carr's view of history: "Carr made a division between those who, like Vladimir Lenin and Oliver Cromwell, helped to shape the social forces which carried them to historical greatness and those who, like Otto von Bismarck and Napoleon, rode on the back of social forces over which they had little or no control."

And then this: "In this section of the book Carr talks about causation in history. He believed that everything that happened in this world happened because of cause and effect. Carr holds on to a deterministic outlook in history and firmly believes that events could not have happened differently unless there was a different cause." Does that make sense? How can something be deterministic if the effects can change as causes do? Doesn’t determinism mean (oh ye philosophers) that causes and effects can be no other than what they have been and will be?

On the other hand, he drafted a new preface to his What is History which includes the following: “For his planned second edition, Carr authored a new preface, which was posthumously found among his papers. In this short text, he contrasted what he saw as the optimism of the 1960s, when he originally authored the text, with the pessimism of the 1980s, when he was putting together the second edition. The former, he argued, was marked by the dissolution of the British Empire, the economic recovery of France, Germany and Japan following the destruction of the Second World War, the boom of world stock markets, and the process of de-Stalinization in the USSR and de-McCarthyization in the USA. The latter, he felt, was characterised by the economic crisis, mass unemployment, resumed intensity of the Cold War and the increasing power of Third World nations.

“Carr then rejects this pessimism, seeing it as nothing more than the elite opinion of Western Europeans and North Americans whose position as global superpowers has rapidly declined since the 19th century. The rest of the world, he reasons, has reason to be optimistic as standards of living are being raised. He furthermore argues that the "standard-bearers" of this pessimistic western view are the intellectuals, who are themselves an elite. He does however exempt the role of "dissident intellectuals" – a category into which he classes himself – whom he believes reject such mainstream intellectual theories.”

Carr’s views presented in the penultimate paragraph are dated but in the previous one seem interesting – unless they are dated as well. Who are the pessimistic intellectuals? The ones that come to mind probably wouldn’t have been familiar to Carr by the time he wrote, e.g., Samuel P. Huntington and Victor Davis Hanson have been pessimistic about the diminution of the West’s position in the world. And would Francis Fukuyama be a “dissident intellectual” for being optimistic about the spread of “Liberal Democracy.”

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Experiencing the Roman Empire

Pausing from reading Peter Heather, I opened David Mattingly’s Imperialism, Power, and Identity, Experiencing the Roman Empire.”  Tufts University established in 2005 the Miriam S. Balmuth lecture series, the purpose of which is to “explore the continuing relevance of the study of antiquity to the modern world.”  Mattingly was invited to give the inaugural lectures.

The Tufts University Department of Classics Chair, Bruce Hitchner, wrote the foreword to Mattingly’s book.  Far from being suspicious of drawing conclusions coinciding with the spirit of the age, he applauds them:

“. . . From the late nineteenth century until the end of the Second World War, Roman rule and the role it played in influencing the identity of the peoples of the empire was viewed in positive terms, reflecting the mostly favorable views of imperialism and colonialism held by classical scholars throughout this period.  But with the breakup of the European empires after World War II, assessments of Roman imperialism began to shift, albeit rather cautiously.  Indeed, as Mattingly demonstrates in these lectures, classical historians and archaeologists have remained surprisingly hesitant to abandon entirely visions of the Roman Empire from the age of imperialism.  His call, for example, to replace the outdated imperial-age concept of Romanization in favor of an approach emphasizing the insights provided by postcolonial studies is a bold attempt to transform the terms of the debate on the meaning of the Roman Empire in the contemporary world.

“Mattingly backs up his call for a new vocabulary for interpreting the Roman imperial experience by applying a powerful postcolonial perspective to a diverse array of topics in the history of the empire – the exploitation of landscapes and resources, sexual relations, art, family values, native societies – to create a new and challenging vision Roman power and imperialism. . . .”

Comments:  There is no hint of Collingwood’s “Idea of history” in the above.  Earlier views of the Roman Empire are to be criticized for viewing it in “positive terms.”  Those now “outdated” views are to be superseded by the “insights provided by postcolonial studies.”  Mattingly, apparently, is exemplifying that “up to date” approach. 

Has it been implied that one can’t find truth in a narrow curriculum including just Vergil, Cicero, Sallust and Terrence?  What about a modern curriculum which in the Chairs’ own words disparages “out of date” views of history and by implication favors “up-to-date” views?  Is truth a function of the passage of time?  Should we view the word “progress” as neutral, implying that we merely move on from one thing to the next in history and sometimes the results are good but sometimes bad; or should we invest the word with a positive value: we move on (or perhaps “can” move on) from one thing to the next in history and the direction is perforce a good one?  And if “perforce” what is generating the force?    Here, I don’t see much difference from the Roman view.  They studied Vergil, Cicero, Sallust, Terrence and produced the best of all possible people, the Roman upper class.  At Tufts they are studying the most up-to-date views of post-colonialism and, presumably, graduating the most up-to-date students.

Lest I be misunderstood – although I expect to be misunderstood anyway – I am not applying my own value to the two views expressed in Hitchner’s foreword to Mattingly’s book.  I am objecting to having as one’s goal the rejecting of “out of date” views (as opposed to incorrect, fallacious or invalid because of new evidence) and replacing it with views more up-to-date, politically correct, and in keeping with the spirit of the age. 

Finally, to be fair, I have yet to read Mattingly’s book.  Hopefully he won’t be as crass as the foreword would lead one to expect.

Rome is where the heart is

Beginning on page 32 of The Fall of the Roman Empire, Heather describes the outward movement of the Roman movement.   On page 26 he had written that Rome had become “‘A sacred precinct’ full of temples to the gods who had presided over the ancient victories – ‘far from the highway’’ and that “more or less sums up fourth-century Rome.”  But on Page 32 he begins a section he entitles “Rome is where the heart is,” and discusses “Trier.”

“Roman Trier started out as a small military installation, set on a strategic ford across the River Moselle in the old heartlands of the hostile Treveri.  The city that greeted Symmachus and his fellow ambassadors in the winter 368/9, however was no military camp, but the populous and prosperous bastion of Romanitas – ‘Romanness’ – of the Rhine frontier region. . . .”

“Trier was Roman to the core, and had been for a long time.  The new imperial buildings had been grafted on to what was already a fully Roman city.”   Heather describes the details of the city, showing how similar it was to Rome in its architecture, which I’ll skip.  On page 34 he writes, “This transformation wasn’t just true of Trier.  Throughout northern Gaul, Roman cities dotted the map.  You could also find them in Britain, Spain, North Africa, the Balkans, Asia Minor and the Fertile Crescent.  Based on Greek antecedents, many such cities were already to be found in the Mediterranean area at the time of the Roman conquest. . . Caesar’s ghost, had it made its way as far north as Symmachus’ embassy, would have been astonished.  In his day, northern Europe had been marked only by odd native hill-forts, numerous rustic villages and the odd Roman military encampment.  Now it was an almost entirely Roman landscape, its towns the administrative bedrock of the Empire.”

On page 36 Heather writes, “Symmachus made, and exploited, many contacts during his year at the court in Trier, and the most important among them was a fellow specialist in Latin language and literature, Decimus Magnus Ausonius, perhaps as much as thirty years older than Symmachus.  After a distinguished academic career, he was engaged by the emperor Valentinian to act as tutor for his son, the future emperor Gratian.  Symmachus’ initial letter of approach to Ausonius, couched in highly flattering terms, has recently been identified among the anonymous letters in the collection.  Two points of particular interest emerge.  First, a perceived superiority in Latin could override social inferiority.  Ausonius, though numbered among the educated Roman elite, came from nothing like so distinguished a background as Symmachus.  Second, and for the present purposes much more important, Ausonius had made his name as a self-employed teacher of Latin rhetoric operating under the auspices of the University of Bordeaux, near the Atlantic coast of Gaul.  By the fourth century, Bordeaux had emerged as one of the major centres of Latin excellence in the Empire  Not only does this show us expertise in Latin flourishing well beyond the confines of Italy, but Ausonius himself was not from Rome, nor even from Italy, but of Gallic background.  Yet here we have one of the blue-blooded Romans of Rome approaching him with deference, and seeking his good graces in matters to do with Latin literature. . . .”

“. . . the idea that a Rome-trained Latin expert of senatorial status might approach a Gaul as his superior in the Latin tradition could only have struck Caesar as preposterous.”

“Latin grammarians started to operate in many of the towns of the Empire.  . . And once such schools were in operation, the same kind of intensive training in language and literature was being offered throughout the Empire.  By the fourth century, a good Latin education at the hands of a grammarian could be had anywhere.  The language of the surviving letters of St Patrick, from a fairly minor landowning family in northwest Britain, shows that you could still get such an education at that extreme point of the Empires as late as AD 400, while North Africa, at another, was famous for its educational tradition, producing in St Augustine of Hippo one of the best-educated late Romans of all.  Vergil had triumphed of all his non-Latin, pre-Roman cultural rivals. 

“This brings us face to face with the most fundamental change of all, the dimension of imperial evolution that underlies all the others: the creation of Roman rural and urban landscapes outside of Italy, and the widening of political community that sidelined Rome and her Senate.  Latin language and literature spread across the Roman world because people who had originally been conquered by Caesar’s legions came to buy into the Roman ethos and adopt it as their own.  This was far more than learning a little Latin for pragmatic reasons, like selling the odd cow or pig to a conquering Roman soldier . . . Accepting the grammarian and the kind of education he offered meant accepting the whole value system which, as we have seen, reckoned that only this kind of education could create properly developed – and therefor superior – human beings.”

An observation:  Here in the United States we will be celebrating our “Independence” on July 4th.    Yet in retrospect what has independence amounted to?  We speak the language of the empire – not as well, no doubt, but we can still be understood.    We adapted the British education system, British law and just about everything else British.  And to illustrate our connection, whenever the subject of American assistance to Britain during the World War II would arise, a former member of a forum I am on would berate the U.S. for being so tardy in their aid.  In her view the U.S. either owed Britain or should be considered one with Britain, I can’t recall that part of the argument.  And I never quibbled about owing this assistance and would merely explain that Roosevelt had to deal with a congress full of Isolationists and needed an indisputable “cause” to take the U.S. into World War II, that is, our tardiness couldn’t be helped.  The U.S. in relation to Britain seems comparable to Trier in relation to Rome (or the Roman Empire?) in the period Heather is writing about. 

On Roman purity of manners

We saw what it took to be a Roman soldier.  Here is what it took (one of the things) to be an upper-class Roman [from Heather, pages 16-18]:

“Symmachus [a Roman Senator] and his peers were acutely conscious of the weight of history accumulated in themselves and in their institution, and this too is clearly registered in the letters.  In a couple of them, Symmachus refers to the Senate of Rome as ‘the better part of humankind], pars melior humani generis.  And by this he didn’t mean that he and his peers were richer than anyone else, rather that they were ‘better’ human beings in a moral sense as well: greater in virtue. . . . [Symmachus’] letters give us unique insight into the self-image of personal superiority with which the Romans of Rome justified their wealth.  About one quarter of the nine hundred letters are recommendations, introducing younger peers to Symmachus’ grander acquaintances.  Virtues of one kind or another are bandied about: ‘integrity’, ‘rectitude’, ‘honesty’ and ‘purity of manners’ all recur at regular intervals.  This is no random collection of attributes: for Symmachus and his peers, there possession was explicitly linked to a particular type of education.

“The bedrock of the system was the intense study of a small number of literary texts under the guidance of an expert in language and literary interpretation, the grammarian.  This occupied the individual for seven or more years from about the age of eight, and concentrated on just four authors: Vergil, Cicero, Sallust and Terence.  You the graduated to a rhetor, with whom a wider range of texts were studied, but the methods employed were broadly the same.  Texts were read line by line, and every twist of language dutifully identified and discussed.  A typical school exercise would consist of having to express some everyday happening in the style of one of the chosen authors (‘Chariot race as it might be told by Vergil: Go’).  Essentially these texts were held to contain within them a canon of ‘correct’ language, and children were to learn that language – both the particular vocabulary and a complex grammar within which to employ it.  One thing this did was to hold educated Latin in a kind of cultural vice, preventing or at least significantly slowing down the normal processes of linguistic change.  It also had the effect of allowing instant identification.  As soon as a member of the Roman elite opened his mouth, it was obvious that he had learned ‘correct’ Latin.  It is as though a modern education system concentrated on the works of Shakespeare with the object of distinguishing the educated by their ability to speak Shakespearean English to one another.  To indicate how different, by the fourth century, elite Latin may have been from popular speech, the graffiti found at Pompeii – buried in the eruption of AD 79 – suggest that in everyday usage Latin was already evolving into less grammatically structured Romance.”

On the nastiness of Rome

The reviews of Peter Heather’s book (The Fall of the Roman Empire, a new History of Rome and the Barbarians) that piqued my interest describe him as introducing a “new” idea about the cause of the fall of Rome.  It wasn’t the Christian’s fault (as Gibbon’s argues) or the corruption of its leaders, or over-indulgence.  It was the Barbarians.  They got better at fighting the Romans and since there were so many more of them, Rome could not hold them off indefinitely.  I wonder too whether Rome’s training of so many foreign auxiliaries hastened their demise. 

Here are some examples of Rome’s nastiness:

“After the Third Punic War, which finally humbled the power of Carthage, the Roman Senate decreed that the entire city should be eradicated from the map.  The site was ploughed symbolically with salt to prevent its future occupation.”

“Further east, Rome’s greatest enemy was Mithradates VI Eupator Dionysus, king of Pontus, who at one point ruled most of modern Turkey and the northern Black Sea coast.  He was responsible for the atrocity known as the Asian Vespers, when thousands of resident Romans and Italians were killed in the territories under his rule.  It took a while, but three separate campaigns – the Mithradatic Wars – finally, by 63 BC, saw the once proud king reduced to a last redoubt in the Crimea.  There he decided to take his own life: but since years of preventive practice had inured him to poison, he had to ask one of his guardsmen to run him through.”

“Caesar’s approach to the Gallic problem could be equally implacable.  Opposition leaders held responsible for fomenting trouble were flogged to death . . . Whole opposition groups who failed to surrender as the legions approached might be sold into slavery or even, on occasion, simply slaughtered.  In 52 BC, Caesar was held up for a while by a sustained defence of the hill-fort at Avaricum, an action following on from a massacre of Roman traders and their families.  When the defences were finally breached, the legions were set loose to massacre and pillage: reportedly only 800 people survived from a total population of 40,000 men, women and children. . . .”

“Also, they never forgave or forgot.  The same ruthlessness was duly deployed to avenge the deaths of Cotta and his men.  Later spotted leading some siege operations, Indutiomarus of the Treveri was singled out for a cavalry sortie, which cut him down.  As for the Eburones, they were forced to scatter in the face of a sustained assault on their homelands in the next campaigning season.  Rather than wasting the lives of his own troopers in flushing them out of the woods, Caesar magnanimously issued a general invitation to neighbouring tribes to come and join in the pillaging.  All of the villages were burned . . .”

I was tempted to see an implied criticism of Rome, i.e., they were nasty but we moderns are not.  We have better rules of engagement, but Heather intends no such implication, at least not at this point:  “Such stick-and-carrot policy combinations were hardly the work of genius, but they didn’t need to be.  When combined with the legions at this juncture in western Eurasian history, they were a sufficient tool for building an empire.” 

Therefore, it seems to me, Roman soldiers were merely carrying out the instructions of Rome and did not possess any more nastiness than any other soldiers of their age.  They were better trained and had better tactics, but they seem to have been just as ruthless as their less-well-trained enemies.  “Barbarian,” at least back then, didn’t mean “nastier than the civilized Romans.” 

Under Caesar’s orders 39,000 or so were slaughtered at Avaricum with the approval of Rome.    Now think of Think of the furor over Mai Lai where 26 villagers were killed.

Just like the Marines but much nastier

I ran across a JL sort of passage on page 6 of The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather:

“Recruits trained together, fought together and played together in groups of eight: a contubernium (literally, a group sharing a tent).  And they were taken young: all armies prefer young men with plenty of testosterone.  Legionaries were also denied regular sexual contact: wives and children might make them think twice about the risks of battle.  Basic training was grueling.  You had to learn to march 36 kilometres in five hours, weighed down with 25 kilos or more of armour and equipment.  All the time you were being told how special you were, how special your friends were, what an elite force you belonged to.  Just like the Marines, but much nastier.”

That last sentence puzzles me.  To begin with if the Roman legionaries were “just like the Marines” then they couldn’t be “much nastier.”  Secondly, why is this British historian writing about the American Marines?  Or is he?  Do the British Marines have a reputation like the Americans?  I hadn’t heard that.  Lastly, upon what does he base a conclusion that the Roman legionnaires were nastier than the American Marines?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Resistance against Rome and several other nations

We used to have someone from France on a forum I was on.  He ran a bookstore if memory serves me.  He once took offense at my suggesting that France was a “client” of the U.S. after WWII.   It is perhaps natural that we think “my country, right or wrong,” and try to make excuses for its weakness if we lived through Vichy France, and for its excesses if we were like Heidegger, living in Nazi Germany.   I was happy to be part of the U.S. which defended Western Europe against Nazi Germany, but the aforementioned Frenchman didn’t like my attitude, nor no doubt the attitude of the arrogant Americans who swept into France in 1945 like conquerors.  In the meantime (not quite but nearly) Heidegger bemoaned the fact that the Germans hadn’t relied upon “tradition” in quite the manner he had hoped. 

I’ve been reading David Mattingly’s An Imperial Possession, Britain in the Roman Empire.  I recall reading Tacitus not especially critically eons ago, but Mattingly is noticeably critical:  In regard to the “resistance” of 47 A.D.  he writes, “Tacitus says the Briton’s chosen field of battle was a defended enclave, which illustrates the character of this so-called revolt.  Far from being on the rampage, some part of the Iceni had refused to hand over arms, and retreated into a defended site.  They only ‘chose’ the field of battle in the sense that that was where the Roman army found them.”

But when the Icenian leader, Prasutagus died, “Roman centurions and imperial slaves plundered the kingdom. . .”  Prasutagus’ widow Boudica “was flogged, her daughters raped . . .”  Tacitus implied that responsibility for this rested with minor officials abusing their power.  Only at the end of this section of his account did he reveal the key information that these events had taken place in the context of the annexation of the kingdom and its incorporation into the province.”   The enraged Boudica caused a huge force to be fielded in retaliation against the Romans and Mattingly speculates about the “Total Roman and provincial dead” was around 40,000.

In regard to the war with the Silures, Tacitus notes that the loss of several senior officers and well over 1,000 casualties were major setbacks.  “Tacitus speculated that either Rome had reduced the vigour of its operations believing the war to be over, or the Britons had been moved by some strange passion to avenge Caratacus.  The more likely scenario is that Roman pacification measures in Silurian territory misjudged the preparedness of the Silures to lay down their arms. The construction of forts, the seizure of crops and animals by foraging parties, and the pillaging of Silurian settlements were provocative acts.  After these two major actions, the Silures mainly reverted to hit-and-run tactics, although two Roman auxiliary units, incautiously engaging in pillage, were cut off by a larger-scale attack.  Roman frustration with this obdurate resistance was such that they evidently declared their intent to exterminate the people or transport them – the extreme reaction of an imperial power to unremitting resistance.”

What happened to the Silures?  The governor fighting them died and it wasn’t until 57 that Quintus Veranius resumed Rome’s offensive against the Silures.  Tacitus wasn’t impressed with Veranius, but the “Silures disappeared from the pages of Tacitus at a stroke and the policy seems to have been continued against the Ordovices by his successor.  “Suetonius Paullinus, another military careerist . . . conquered Ordovician territory within two years and at the start of his third season of campaigning stood facing the island of Anglesey (Mona) across the Menai Straits.  The island’s population was swelled by a large number of refugees (or fugitives to use the Roman terminology).  Tacitus gave the Roman view of the enemy lined up on the opposing shore: armed men, fanatical women bearing torches and druids invoking terrible curses.  From a Roman perspective these were the remaining dregs of British resistance, further tainted by their barbaric religious practices such as human sacrifice.  They could expect no quarter now they had nowhere else to run.  In a well-planned amphibious assault, Suetonius Paullinus led his army across the Straits to ‘cut down all the men’.  There is little doubt that this was a massacre, followed up by the destruction of sacred groves.”

Comment:  Bryan Sykes in his The Seven Daughters of Eve argues that all Europeans (meaning if memory serves me “western Europeans” ) are descended from seven mitochondrial “Eves” whose descendants immigrated to Europe between 10,000 and 45,000 years ago.  Perhaps there are more Eves than seven, but my impression is the Sykes arguments are generally accepted.  The point being that the Romans, who in Mattingly’s interpretations seem every bit as ruthless as German Nazis, Imperial Japanese, or Stalinist Communist are all part of the same mitochondrial groupings that we belong to (if we are genetically European).  Perhaps Rome early on sought to preemptively defeat cities or peoples likely to present a threat later on, but they became so good at it that their soldiers committed atrocities almost casually. 

Sykes also wrote Saxons, Vikings and Celts, the Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland.  Unlike Mattingly, Sykes merely wants to know who we are genetically.  The British Isles have only been inhabited this last time (since the most recent ice age) for about 8,000 years.  So whichever Eve or Eves we descended from they were some place in Western Europe before then.  Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial analyses did permit Sykes to distinguish between the Romans and those more “native” to the Islands (bearing in mind that invasions did occur prior to the Roman Invasion).  On page 287 Sykes writes “true Roman genes are very rare in the Isles.”   We might ask, if we could resurrect one of their British governors, “so what was the purpose?”  He would have his answer:  The glory of Rome, the protection of Rome against future incursions, the Roman need for food and supplies, etc.

“How would you like it if someone did that to you,” we might ask?  And he would answer, “that was done and many would have like to do it again.  That was why we became so martial in attitude.  We were forced into it.”

And as we know Hitler said something like that as did the Imperial Japanese and Stalin.  There are always reasons; which isn’t to say that none of them are legitimate, for who can determine that other than the leaders of the city state or nation in question.   It is difficult though not to sympathize with Queen Boudica after she was flogged and her daughters raped by representatives of Rome.  There seems a huge gap between the rationalizations of a British governor and the application of those rationalizations by the Roman soldiers.