Monday, January 23, 2023

Rome Journal: Empire

Edward Gibbon by Joshua Reynolds

Vladimir Putin has a nostalgia for Imperial Russia—the Russia of Peter the Great. But where did the idea of empire, as an aspiration, emanate from. In ancient Greece, there were the Peloponnisian Wars which derived from the isthmus of that name, but the landgrab was intramural and primarily between Athens and Sparta. Justinian led the Byzantine Empire which eventually became the province of Kamel Atataturk. Russia is the largest country in terms of land mass and the U.S.S.R is a powerful magnet, some might say a black hole, that quickly acquired many satellites including Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine and Chechnya. The Third Reich or “realm” derived from the claim that Germany’s rights went back to Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire in 800. But it's the Roman Empire, the thousand years of Rome that's left the most indelible imprint on the historical imagination. Hard to beat the l000 years of Rome. Why empire to begin with? To fill the coffers of the few? To gratify the need for a greater cause? To feel benighted by God in a crusade? Is empire itself merely an expression of the hubris, the stuff from which the dramatic form of tragedy would derive? Shelly’s “Ozymandias” addressed the vanity of human wishes. However, are the ruins of Rome a concession to anything but time itself? The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is the six volume work by Edward Gibbon devoted to this very question. And BTW, what are ruins? In Rome, the ruins of the past evince a sublimity and beauty that's a power in itself.

read "Iraqistan" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Young Americans" by David Bowie


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