On the march with some old Romans

Here is the quote I was looking for on restoring a republic, from “Discourses on Livy” by Niccolo Machiavelli, Book III, Chapter 1:

“A republic may, likewise, be brought back to its original form, without recourse to ordinances for enforcing justice, by the mere virtues of a single citizen, by reason that these virtues are of such influence and authority that good men love to imitate them, and bad men are ashamed to depart from them.”

Machiavelli goes on to list some illustrious Romans of great virtue, who changed the course of the republic by virtue of their upstanding characters, so it’s not like he’s spouting idealistic theories.

For more inspiring Romans, I always turn to “The Meditations”  by Marcus Aurelis, which begins:

“From my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper.

From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character.

From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.”

Now if that doesn’t demonstrate the timelessness of family values coming from the second century (161 AD or I guess CE is the preferred method now), I don’t know what does.

Now just when you think you’ve heard as much about the Romans as you might wish to know, here’s the Roman connection of my hero, George Washington to Cincinnatus, the Roman general called from his retirement as a simple farmer to once more lead the Romans to defeat the Aequians.  Right from the Mount Vernon website (here), “For Romans and Americans alike, Cincinnatus represented the ideal republican simplicity, an enlightened poverty that spurned luxury and cultivated a simple nobility of spirit.”  This comparison of George Washington to Cincinnatus led to the formation of the Society of the Cincinnati, composed of former Revolutionary War officers, with naturally, Washington being the first elected president of the society.  The Mount Vernon website states the society adopted the Latin motto, Omnia reliquit servare rem publicam (“He gave up everything to serve the republic”) alluding to the story of Cincinnatus.

If all these Roman names are a mystery to you, spend a few minutes googling, but as most of my readers seem to read more history than me, that probably won’t be necessary.  I have mentioned this book before, but since here’s another opportunity to wax on about a book that makes learning about the Romans fun.  Yes, really  this book is written tongue-in-cheek and it will bring a smile to your face and you’ll be anxiously wanting to sign up to be a legionary too.  The book is called, “Legionary; the Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual”.


Filed under American History, Food for Thought, History, Military

3 responses to “On the march with some old Romans

  1. Able

    You’ve prompted me to think on the issue of ‘shame’ and ’embarrassment’, those potent arbiters of behaviour (and even ‘shunning’, being sent to Coventry).

    There has been much discussion in the past regarding the disappearance of both and the consequential deterioration in ‘moral’ behaviour. The current fascination with self-worth rather than self-respect.

    Much of the behaviour we laud in such as you mention will have been based on the understanding that to do otherwise would be unthinkable. Honesty, integrity, probity were, in part at least, based on the resultant shame and being ostracised should they fail to do so (Oh, there are those for which such behaviour is ‘their nature’ but the majority?).

    Both your quotations illustrate the concepts of an ‘example’, a ‘role model’ yet both rely on the negative reinforcement of shame (personal, familial, societal). With the conscription of the concepts to ‘leftist’ ideologies (Perjure yourself, steal and even kill and you are a ‘poor misunderstood rebel’ but deny global warming and see how fast you’ll be excluded from ‘polite society’) I fear ‘the republic’ is beyond any example now.

    Sign up to be a legionary? Oh, please! I was dragged up in an area abounding with Roman antiquities (Vinovium was less than half a mile away from home) so you can just call me Primus Pilus (I won’t mention how hard it is to catch a bus in the rain to Vindolanda wearing lorica segmentata – or how drafty it is either. It was days before I thawed out my ….. knees too).

    • How exciting to have a Roman fort almost right in your back yard and all I had in my little rural village in PA was a large stone marker where a Delaware Indian settlement had been and some Moravians bent on converting them had set up a missionary.

      I hope your assessment of “the republic” being beyond any example isn’t the final judgment, but everything you said rings true. I’ll try to keep hope alive a little longer, but it gets harder every day. They ready a SWAT team for a kid with a toy gun and yet, Bill Ayers, a violent terrorist is a now a revered educator among leftist academics. Strange world.

      • Able

        Exciting? Hardly, I’m on the other side of the country now (the other end of Hadrians wall) and even here you can’t go for a stroll without tripping over some carelessly dropped Roman bath or aqueduct. I still miss the historical variety out east, you could at least take a break from toga time by heading for some Viking quaffing or monastic mead (even the occasional Norman castle for a joust), but not here in the slightly miffed west (well except for the occasional Riever outing. Whilst cattle rustling across the border has its attractions [it saves on the weekly grocery bill], the ladies can all outrun me [and being expected to buy flowers and dinner ruins the whole ravishing experience from my point of view] and I’m still not sure just how to pillage – do you need special equipment?). History is something common here, I used to live in a house older than the US for example (I attended a garden party a few months ago at the house that John Paul Jones was born in, Arbigland built in 1755 – its up for sale now if you’re interested, a bit too big for just me).

        Oh, I never said there isn’t hope. In fact I keep using the line from Babylon Five – you are our last, best hope. Here, whilst normal, self reliant people abound, we are massively outnumbered by the parasitic brain-washed drones (and more being imported every day). There? Away from the coastal cities (and places like Mordor on Michigan) family, faith, independence and the work ethic are simply the way it is. (I read marriage data for your towns with depressed envy, rates >40% married are the norm, here we’d be lucky to find someone who can still spell it).

        I do feel it will take a sufficiently large and obvious ‘kick in the wallet’ to wake the low information, short term fixated, bribed voters from their complacency, either that or a total collapse. Example relies on both the carrot and the stick. The carrot has, to an extent, been destroyed (legal, financial and social benefits no longer exist. If anything, the reverse is true) and rather than a stick, I suspect a sizeable length of 2×4 between the eyes will be needed to get this mule back on track. (ACA? 410k seizure?)

        Cheerful aren’t I?

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