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Zorral
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3 hours ago, SeanF said:

In rough terms, I’d say that the status of the average citizen declined in Imperial times, whereas the status of slaves and provincials improved.

Wasn't there a significant expansion in the number of people classed as citizens around the time of transition from Republic to Empire? That's probably a factor in that I'd say.

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6 hours ago, SeanF said:

the Founding Fathers modelled their new Republic on Republican (but not Imperial) Rome.

Mary Beard does say, however, there is little in terms of portraiture and imagery that documents the Republic, and nothing at all from the transition from kings to the Republic, while there is more that depicts the era of violence of the civil wars, the dictatorship and transition beginning with Julius Caesar.  She knows!  :cheers:  She tells us.  In detail.

Additionally, what we have of imperial Rome and the Twelve Caesars of Suetonius -- the arguments of which piece are authentically from the times of each of the Twelve Caesars, and which are much later copies, or even imagined out of whole cloth, continue to rage.

Thus the 'moderns', since the 15th - 16th century tended to create their own ideas of who was whom, upon which they modeled their own imagery, including posing their commissioners etc. upon these Caesars in metal, sculpture and paintings, worked within their own traditions.  They even had manuals in painters studios, beginning in the 16th century, on how to paint, say Julius Caesar himself, or other figures modeled on Roman ones.

They made it up, as with Washington, painted with object of the Masonry, agriculture and wearing a toga.

 

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Ya, it's so good!  

I particularly appreciated this because I didn't know this information before -- and it does so well with the art history material through which I'm slogging in Mary Beard's The Twelve Caesars.

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. . . . It is thus relevant that over the past half-century or so, it has so happened that effectively all ancient historians have had to develop a strong grasp of archaeological data; we don’t all necessarily learn to do the excavation work, of course (that’s what archaeologists do), but pretty much all ancient historians at this point are going to have to be able to read a site or artifact report as well as have a good theoretical grasp of what kinds of questions archaeology can be used to answer and how it can be used to answer those questions. This happened in ancient history in particular for two reasons: first, archaeology was a field effectively invented to better understand the classical past (which is now of course also used to understand the past in other periods and places) so it has been at work the longest there, but also because the sources for ancient history are so few. . . .

Once I read that, though I didn't know this before, my jaw dropped -- "Duh!  Why didn't I think of this myself??????"

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12 hours ago, dog-days said:

Bret Devereaux is on top form today. Rome: Decline and Fall - Part III. Wish I could print it out and stuff it down the throat of Johnson, Rees Mogg, et al. Though that would be unfair on the paper. 

I can’t disagree with it.  Romans, not barbarians, destroyed the Western Empire.  Here, we can see that the decisions of individuals, like Honorius, Ricimer,  and Valentinian, were actually decisive in bringing the Western Empire to an end.

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With the added precision that the kind of awful decisions they made weren't anything new. Some Roman Emperors had been like this since the 1st century - heck, the Empire actually survived decades of that shit during the 3rd century crisis, and Rome recovered to an extent, which might have made later idiots even more complacent. But the Empire in 50 AD was still growing, in top shape, economy was good, demographically growing. When the society was already massively under pressure inside and the empire under massive pressure from outside, they couldn't afford to make as disastrous decisions as the likes of Caligula or Domitian could.

Edited by Clueless Northman
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On 2/9/2022 at 11:40 AM, ljkeane said:

Wasn't there a significant expansion in the number of people classed as citizens around the time of transition from Republic to Empire? That's probably a factor in that I'd say.

I’d agree.  The essential distinction in later imperial times was between honestiores and humiliores, rather than citizen and non-citizen.

For all of its fascinating people and history, the last century and a half of the Republic must have been a horror show for the provincials, subject as they were to slave hunts, tax farmers, and rapacious governors and moneylenders.

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12 minutes ago, Clueless Northman said:

With the added precision that the kind of awful decisions they made weren't anything new. Some Roman Emperors had been like this since the 1st century - heck, the Empire actually survived decades of that shit during the 3rd century crisis, and Rome recovered to an extent, which might have made later idiots even more complacent. But the Empire in 50 AD was still growing, in top shape, economy was good, demographically growing. When the society was already massively under pressure inside and the empire under massive pressure from outside, they couldn't afford to make as disastrous decisions as the likes of Caligula or Domitian could.

It didn’t have to be like that.  The empire might have weathered the storm in the 5th century.  Stilicho, Aetius, Majorian, Anthemius were all very capable men, cut down by fools and knaves.

Even if many of his judgements have been superseded, Gibbon must be correct that Aetius’ army was one of the best that the Romans ever fielded.

In general terms, I'd  say that so-called Barbarians actually rendered a great deal of loyal and valiant service to both halves of the Empire.  Unlike the Romans, they tended to take their oaths of allegiance seriously.  Emperors were frequently murdered by the Praetorians, rarely by German bodyguards.

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On 2/9/2022 at 12:40 PM, ljkeane said:

Wasn't there a significant expansion in the number of people classed as citizens around the time of transition from Republic to Empire? That's probably a factor in that I'd say.

There's a big expansion of citizenship in the late republic with the Social War, and then in the mid-empire everyone gets made a citizen. (though in the meanwhile there's been a steady increase in the number of citizens from manumission, legionary service, etc.) 

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2 hours ago, SeanF said:

Gibbon must be correct that Aetius’ army was one of the best that the Romans ever fielded.

And when he died, I suppose most of the soldiers went away and sided with their own tribes and peoples. A damn shame; had that army stayed together a bit longer, some of the later damages could've been postponed and mitigated. Emperors murdering their best and usually reasonably loyal generals, ensuring military catastrophes - for once, there were generals who weren't thinking of killing the stupid emperors and taking over, unlike so many before them, and it cost them their life and Rome the empire.

3 hours ago, SeanF said:

For all of its fascinating people and history, the last century and a half of the Republic must have been a horror show for the provincials, subject as they were to slave hunts, tax farmers, and rapacious governors and moneylenders.

It's always been quite obvious to me that, at least in the short-middle run, the Empire was a net benefit and progress for 90% of the people living in the Roman imperium, compared to the late Republic. Well-off Romans and possibly some local elites were the only ones who could've lost. Of course, the Empire had its own drawbacks that became more obvious with time, though considering how the Republic went during the last century of its history, odds are that it wouldn't have lasted as long as 400 AD and civil wars might have been just as bad and frequent

I wouldn't be much surprised if the Augustus - Antoninus Pius era of the Roman Empire was one of the best (or rather "less awful", considering life's been nasty and brutish all along) times for the average human, between the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions. But since it's been mentioned a few weeks ago, I don't think I would willingly risk being born randomly in a previous era (as in before the mid-20th century), since I would most probably end up in a dirty poor peasant family in the middle of nowhere :D

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1 hour ago, Clueless Northman said:

And when he died, I suppose most of the soldiers went away and sided with their own tribes and peoples. A damn shame; had that army stayed together a bit longer, some of the later damages could've been postponed and mitigated. Emperors murdering their best and usually reasonably loyal generals, ensuring military catastrophes - for once, there were generals who weren't thinking of killing the stupid emperors and taking over, unlike so many before them, and it cost them their life and Rome the empire.

It's always been quite obvious to me that, at least in the short-middle run, the Empire was a net benefit and progress for 90% of the people living in the Roman imperium, compared to the late Republic. Well-off Romans and possibly some local elites were the only ones who could've lost. Of course, the Empire had its own drawbacks that became more obvious with time, though considering how the Republic went during the last century of its history, odds are that it wouldn't have lasted as long as 400 AD and civil wars might have been just as bad and frequent

I wouldn't be much surprised if the Augustus - Antoninus Pius era of the Roman Empire was one of the best (or rather "less awful", considering life's been nasty and brutish all along) times for the average human, between the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions. But since it's been mentioned a few weeks ago, I don't think I would willingly risk being born randomly in a previous era (as in before the mid-20th century), since I would most probably end up in a dirty poor peasant family in the middle of nowhere :D

It's one of the biggest "what if's " of history.

What if Stilicho, Aetius, Majorian, Anthemius had survived to old age?  What if the expedition to Carthage in 468 had been a success?  What if Alaric's peace terms had been accepted between 408 -410?  What if the Romans had behaved decently towards the Ostrogoths in 376?  Here was an elite that behaved in ways that were completely self-destructive. Between them all, they wrecked the place.

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7 hours ago, SeanF said:

 Stilicho, Aetius, Majorian, Anthemius were all very capable men, cut down by fools and knaves.

You really want :)  to read Alaric the Goth: An Outsider's History of the Fall of Rome (2020) by Douglas Boin.  Probably, also, The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome (2009) by Christopher Kelly.   Additionally, Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe (2020) by Judith Herrin.  Furthermore, all three of these books are well-written, researched, and are interesting reads in themselves.

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51 minutes ago, Zorral said:

You really want :)  to read Alaric the Goth: An Outsider's History of the Fall of Rome (2020) by Douglas Boin.  Probably, also, The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome (2009) by Christopher Kelly.   Additionally, Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe (2020) by Judith Herrin.  Furthermore, all three of these books are well-written, researched, and are interesting reads in themselves.

I greatly enjoyed Judith Herrin’s book on the Eastern Empire.

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16 minutes ago, SeanF said:

I greatly enjoyed Judith Herrin’s book on the Eastern Empire.

I haven't read that one, though I know about it.  It was interesting to see how she couldn't quite keep viewing the events of the Western side of things through the lens of Constantinople!  I will read this one too, at some point.  I've been blessed in this dreadful pandemic era to have so many really good histories being published, written by scholars who are so up-to-date with the latest scholarship, but who can also really write!

Oddly, the scholar-historian out those I've been reading for the last few years, the one who doesn't read well at all to me is Mary Beard, feels oddly organized, repetitive and not infrequently losing the point in an over-abundance of detail.  Her short pieces on the Guardian are fine, but when she works in longer formats she becomes hard going, whether in the London Review of Books or in her own books.  It took me forever to get through her SPQR.  It's even worse in audio format.  But maybe it's just me.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire (2022) by Caroline Elkins.

" ... the brutal truth about Britain’s past. In shocking, meticulous detail, an acclaimed American historian uses ‘lost’ records from 37 former colonies to reveal the barbarity of the British empire and the hubris that fueled it. "

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  • 2 weeks later...

I didn't know this -- Churchill wrote a fantasy essayl / alternate history extolling Robert E. Lee leading the victory of the slaveowning confederacy of the US civil war, the War of the Rebellion, as it is officially known in the government archives.

https://winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu/gettysburg-lee/#:~:text=It is a classic of,won the American Civil War.

Churchill just would, wouldn't he.  And Shelby Foote thought this just dandy.  Foote just would, wouldn't he.  Feh on Foote.  And Churchill.

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Churchill, perhaps the most extravagant in a long line of Tory admirers, wrote a piece of historical fan fiction in which Lee, one of ‘the noblest men ever born on the American continent’, secured Confederate independence, abolished slavery, conquered Mexico for its own good and paved the way for a global alliance of English-speaking peoples that prevented world war in 1914.

Learned this from a review in the LRB

https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v44/n07/matthew-karp/his-whiskers-trimmed

of (2021) Robert E. Lee: A Life by Allen Guelzo.  The biographer, btw, is a US  'conservative.'

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  • 2 weeks later...

On the occasion of its 100th anniversary I am reading this history of the BBC (founded 1922, in the Jazz Age, era of improvisation) with the greatest of interest and pleasure. Evidently so did the reviewer linked to here.

The BBC: A Century On Air by David Hendy

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/04/18/can-the-bbc-survive-the-british-government

Quote

 

.... The classic private-sector argument against the corporation is that it is an inefficient behemoth that somehow squeezes the life out of other British creative, or journalistic, enterprises. The opposite is nearer to the truth. The BBC has revenues of five billion pounds and employs more than twenty thousand people. Its license-fee income (£3.75 billion in 2021) amounts to 0.34 per cent of British public spending: peanuts, really, for the world’s largest broadcast-news operation and commissioner of new plays. Last year, the accounting firm KPMG calculated that every pound of the BBC’s spending generated £2.63 in the wider economy. It is a virtuous blob, a media spore. (My wife worked on a contract for BBC Film between 2017 and 2018.)

The British right has always been doubtful about the BBC’s true purpose. It intuits, correctly, “something disturbingly collectivist” about the entire corporation, Hendy writes. (The left has its grievances, too, but they are more about the broadcaster’s content than about its form.) British political culture tends to swing between two poles: are we building a new Jerusalem or unleashing sacred freedoms? Churchill never got over his distrust of Auntie, as the broadcaster was known. “It is run by reds,” he used to say. It was Churchill’s government, in the fifties, that finally ended the BBC’s monopoly of the airwaves. Margaret Thatcher, who never met a public utility that she didn’t want to privatize, didn’t like the smell of the BBC, either. Norman Tebbit, her minister and loyal Rottweiler, once described it as that “insufferable, smug, sanctimonious, naïve, guilt-ridden, wet, pink orthodoxy of that sunset home of third-rate minds of that third-rate decade, the Sixties.” ....

 

Alas, as so much else that is a long proven positive public good, under relentles attack by the Tories who brought BREXIT -- meaning privatize or get rid of every proven positive good -- and Russian oligarachy to the UK, the BBC's second century seems much in doubt.  So what the hell then are the USA ilks who love Britain and the BBC's caliber have to watch? 

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Close to the closing of this BBC history Hendy brings us

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'A tsunami of filth': 'Sachsgate' and Savile  -- p. 534 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Recently watched Netflix's Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story, and horror story it is.  It's more than difficult to watch, so for Hendy, writing this account -- and for those reading it -- the account can't help but be nauseous too.

BBC totally screwed the public on this as much as Savile did -- and all the other institutions that participated and / or tolerated pedophilia and the pedophiles as though this was just another kids' sport - game.  British society seems riddled with that from at least the 60's, as in the pop music and culture scene, as many have commented over the decades, particularly the musicians -- and the lyrics even of so many hits.

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