Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 536, September 13, 2009

"Spirits crushed so badly that the victims
have no way of knowing they've been crushed."

Previous Previous Table of Contents Contents Next Next

The Fallacy of Empire
by Jim Davidson

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

There's a mistaken idea about history that is persisting. The pursuit of this mistaken idea is ruining many things and destroying many millions of lives. This idea has to be put to rest.

The idea is that the Roman empire was a pinnacle of culture. It wasn't. The Romans did not create new technologies, new forms of art, new ideas. They burned libraries, raped Europe, north Africa, and parts of Asia, slaughtered poets and philosophers, stole entire museums of art, enslaved masses, brutalised souls, debased their currency, and paved parts of three continents.

The Roman empire's fall did not herald a new dark age, it heralded the end of a dark age. Yet for many centuries, the idealisation of Rome and the pursuit of a new empire by Russian, French, British, and now American elitists has been part of the pretext for war and slaughter.

One of the ways you can establish for yourself that Rome was a nadir of civilisation, not an acme, is to look at some of the cultures before Rome came in and killed everyone. Aristarchus of Samos had a good measurement for the diameter of the Earth. Eratosthenes had demonstrated that eclipses of the Sun by the Moon and of the Moon by Earth could only happen the way they are seen if all three bodies are spherical. Archimedes had the calculus, we've recently proven by re-discovering a palimpsest of his. The ancient Greeks even had a good number for the distance to the Moon.

Of course, it was a Roman soldier who put a sword in Archimedes. Why? Well, Syracusa was captured and being pillaged, and the soldier was sent to fetch the wise Archimedes—from whom we have a screw for moving water, a test for the density of metal, a number of important machines for measuring distance and time, a great deal of mathematics, many other inventions, a whole trove of ideas. And Archimedes was lost in thought about circles, which he had drawn in a sand box on his table. "Don't disturb my circles," were his last words, which the Roman soldier took for insolence.

And like any dumb jock American soldier of today the Roman soldier ran the great genius through with a sword. Obedience and submissiveness were, even then, part of Roman culture.

You can look after the fall of the Roman empire, from about AD 400 to AD 1453 at Byzantium. Stable currency was the hallmark of their trading empire, and their bezant or solidus coin was used far and wide as a unit of account, store of value, and medium of exchange. The great Islamic caliphate from about AD 600 to AD 1250 also had stable coinage. It was Islam which showed great appreciation for ancient Greek texts—many of the surviving copies we have of certain documents were translated from Greek to Arabic and known only as Arabic documents when the Europeans began clawing their way out of ignorance.

I believe it was this currency stability which promoted the growth of trade and commerce such that the early Italian Renaissance could take place. The fact that gold and silver coins of established weight and value were in use from Ireland to Indonesia for about a thousand years is a major reason for the flowering of art, culture, architecture, entertainment, ideas, invention, and technologies which we call the Renaissance. Out of that burst of new thinking came the scientific revolution and, hard on its heels, both the industrial revolution and the Enlightenment.

So attempts to establish a new global empire are insane. They are not based on seeking the pinnacle of human achievement, but, rather, on seeking the depth of human depravity.

Jim Davidson is an anti-war activist involved in the divestment project detailed at He is also an author and entrepreneur. His latest book comes out this Autumn at 623 pages plus notes. Two of his current projects involve financing films, one a documentary about destination resorts in orbit. See for details.


The Ready Store

Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.
We cheerfully accept donations!

to advance to the next article
to return to the previous article
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 536, September 13, 2009

Big Head Press