Aquinas's Commentary On The Metaphysics

#162- Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Part 1

This week, Scott and Karl tackle a massive narrative of one of the world’s greatest civilizations. Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire follows the Roman Empire over thirteen centuries – its rulers, wars and society, and, of course, the events that led to its collapse.

Published between 1776 and 1788 in six volumes, Gibbon gained himself the reputation of being the first modern historian of ancient Rome. But does he belong on the Great Books list? Scott says, “If you are putting together this list, there are things that have happened that you must have books about. The fall of Rome, there needs to be something that covers it. What would it be? I guess this.”

Gibbon, who devoted most of his life to this project, scored immediate success that was resounding. Speaking about Gibbon’s influence, Karl says, “This is a sellout book informing educated Europeans about ideas of empire.”

Scott adds, “I think modern people carry ideas about the Romans that came from Gibbon even if they haven’t read this book. He’s very influential.”

Tune in for Part One of the duo’s conversation. Brought to you by


Scott Hambrick 0:09
Welcome to the online great books podcast brought to you by, where we talk about the good life, the great books, a great conversation, and great ideas

Brett Veinotte 0:30
Hello, dear listener, this is Brett, welcome back to the online great books podcast. And this week and next Scott and Karl will discuss Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. They will not get through it all. I still remember my first impression of this book, I was in college, and I pulled it off the shelf and I looked at the cover and I said, I cannot even believe this. There’s no way a human man had a head that long. That was my first impression. And then I even remember theorizing about is it possible the artist who was commissioned to do the portrait or the cover of the book had some kind of grudge against given? Either way, if the picture is accurate, it turns out every qubit of gibbons head length was necessary to create this exhaustive history of the latter phase of the Roman Empire. This show has a bit of a long lead in Scott and Carl, spend about a third of what you’re going to hear today, marveling at many aspects of Roman history, Roman infrastructure, Roman culture, and like I said, They’ll continue in a slightly longer segment next week. In the meantime, please remember to visit online. Great Make sure you’re on the mailing list for updates about the show and online great books itself. And without further ado, here is Scott Hambrick and Karl Schudt.

Scott Hambrick 2:10
I’m Scott Hambrick. I’m Karl Schudt and but everyone already knows that no, no, there there are 1000s of new listeners appearing every single show. Yeah, but Brett tells them who we are. Yeah, but now they know which voice belongs to which. See, that’s the thing. And there are 1000s of new listeners showing up every time because Google Play and Spotify and stuff promote us ahead of all the content they paid for. Because, you know, we live in a meritocracy. So the best rises to the top, you know, not the Obama podcast, you know, not do a leap as podcasts but the best ones rise to the top. So she has a podcast. Yes, she does.

Karl Schudt 2:53
No she doesn’t.

Scott Hambrick 2:54
Yes she does. I am at your service to Lipa. It’s actually kind of interesting. Sometimes. She had Russell Brand on a couple of weeks ago and I listened to it. And he’s he’s an interesting dude. I think I would punch him out break his jaw if I was in the same room with him but he’s an interesting dude. Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. She’s you know about me and do miss Lipa. If you’re nasty.

Karl Schudt 3:25
Well, I was just pulling up my my Amazon Music portal. And so I just go to go there to listen to music. And it’s okay for that. It’s terrible for classical music. I’m very sad about prime phonic going away. At dear listener, there was a wonderful classical music, classical music app called prime phonic where you could search by Opus number. If you wanted to listen to Beethoven from start to finish, you could do it. I did it. Apple bought them right. Supposedly to bring out a classical music app, which they have not done. Now. They gave me a free six month subscription to Apple Music. It’s gonna run out and they don’t have anything to replace it. So I canceled that because it’s terrible. So anyway, there I am on Amazon music and they’re pushing the podcast. Yeah, it’s not just that they’re pushed

Scott Hambrick 4:16
hard pushing. No, it’s not it’s not Yeah. So it’s up to us to push our show so and you guys who listened so send this on to someone else and online great books podcast as someone else in the music and ideas podcast to someone else pass the word on. You know. There are other shows then. I just forgot the name of the Sam Harris one.

Karl Schudt 4:37
Never listened to Sam Harris. I’ve never listened to Joe Rogan.

Scott Hambrick 4:41
He wrote an effect with Sam Harris, I can’t remember what it’s called or, or Rogan or whatever. You know. So pass this on. If you care. You can listen to Todd Dwyer and I talk on the growing resilience podcast. We need to have you on there Karl, because when you do that with Todd Get will add an urgency to your weeding and cultivating.

Karl Schudt 5:05
I already have urgency to my weeding. I’m just not there. Yeah, I think when I drive the car there, I’m gonna drop the kids off and I’m saying I gotta go home.

Scott Hambrick 5:14
Right. That’s my whole daddy’s holding again. Yet again.

Karl Schudt 5:23
Yeah, but yeah, I have to get that done. I did it. Those last thing I did before I left. Yeah. The last time. We are reading Edward Gibbon, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Come on, man, which is fun. But Boomer ish.

Scott Hambrick 5:43
Yeah. It’s the history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Oh, I’m sorry. I got the Kindle. Delphi. Classics. Complete Gibbon thing. You know, when I’ve read it on the Kindle, and at the bottom, you know, it tells you how much you have left. I have like 165 hours left. Yeah, it’s it’s it’s enormous. I may have gotten through 1/25 of it. Yeah.

Karl Schudt 6:09
Yeah, it’s an enormous project. The guy only lived to be 56. That’s why, yeah, don’t read about his death. It’ll make you sad. And

Scott Hambrick 6:19
I don’t know about it. Tell me.

Karl Schudt 6:22
It was scrotal swelling that gets the best of us, you know. And then peritonitis, and then he’s gone. Had I don’t know is it typically just like, straight out of a novel typical 18th century life. He’s the only child that survived. had like six, six or seven siblings. He’s the only one that made it past infancy. He had no children, inherited his father’s wealth and used it to write an enormous history that everyone loved. And then dies of peritonitis.

Scott Hambrick 6:55
His tank killed him,

Karl Schudt 6:57
served in it served in parliament for a while to get a wig. I don’t it’s in the great books list. It’s in Adler’s great books listed takes up two volumes of that set. Why?

Scott Hambrick 7:13
Listen, I don’t know. Livy doesn’t make Adler’s list. And Livy writes more about the ascendancy of the Roman Empire than Gibbon does given doesn’t write hardly anything about it. Yeah. Why? Maybe social progressives, Hutchins and Adler want that in there as a cautionary tale as they came out of World War Two and the American empire was on the ascendancy, maybe? I don’t know, it’s not Herodotus and Thucydides great, as far as I can tell, so far. I haven’t, you know, I’m like you, I read what you say 127? I’ve read 1/24 of it. Which is 300 pages, by the way, or something like that?

Karl Schudt 8:01
Yeah, I think it was probably because of its influence, I think it appeared to have been a very, very popular book. Yeah. You know, a sellout, informing educated Europeans, about ideas of empire. I think it’s probably important for that by 18th century, a whole lot of that stuff is people who’ve read given and tried not to do what the Romans did or tried to do it better. It’s fun. I’m not kidding that it’s fun.

Scott Hambrick 8:28
Oh, man. It’s so modern. Karl. He wrote this thing. 1776 is when it was first published. It’s just so modern, it reads as slick as you please. Like I would, if I didn’t know, I would say it was written in the 20s or 30s 1920s, or 1930s. Yeah, it’s just a delight. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s a delight to read. I think you’re right about the influence thing I see. I see things about it, particularly his ideas about I haven’t read the whole thing yet. And I want to it’s on my list. You know, we talked about the Infinity pile, this is like way up at the top of the Infinity pile, actually. But I see some things in here that I think are probably not true. But influence people who haven’t even read Gibbon, particularly his views on Romans and the assimilation of religions and other other societies. We’ll get to that here in a little bit. And, you know, people I think, I think modern people carry these ideas that that that came from Gibbon, even if they haven’t read it, so he’s, yeah, he’s very, very influential. You have to have something about, like, if you’re going to put together a great books list. There are things that have happened that you have to have books about the Peloponnesian War, there had to be a book about it when in the list, I mean, that’s a very, very important the fall of Rome, there needs to be something that covers it. And so what would it be? I guess this I mean, there’s no I don’t know what would be better. I think there has to be something about the American Civil War to it. So, we’ve talked about that.

Karl Schudt 10:01
Let’s talk about room for a bit. I remember I had a back when I used to teach real classes at the university. And you know, I talked to these young people. I think I’ve said this before, I didn’t ever want to get mad at them for not knowing things that I thought they should know. Right. But they didn’t know anything about the Roman Empire. They had heard that there was such a thing. I said, Give me within 500 years, I think it was 500. The fall of Rome in the west of the the end of the Roman Empire in the West. They couldn’t answer it. But no, I did. Yeah. Just no idea that there was in Europe at an empire that stretched what, 2000 3000 miles across, and 2000, north and south. Yeah, enormous that lasted for a really long time. Well, who cares? There have been empires before we went up to Persia. Why do we study Persian? Well, was Persian wasn’t in Europe, and this is Western. Everything in Europe comes from Rome. The nations come from Rome, the division of languages. You can see the division that Diocletian did. We didn’t get that far, that the Diocletian made a ministry of decision in Europe in the three hundreds, late 203, hundreds, between the Roman part and the constant in Napoli, in part, it wasn’t Constantinople yet, because he hadn’t been Emperor yet. And right where that division is, that’s where you go from Romance languages. To Greek, right? Right along that political division, the structure of the languages that people speak, are because of the Romans. The cities are because of the Romans. Is not there. They’re either Greek or Roman. Yeah. London’s a Roman city.

Scott Hambrick 12:08
I was in the City of London. So there’s London. But then there’s the City of London. That’s where the Financial District is. And it’s a little part of London, you know, and was walking along the sidewalk and there was a plaque, there was a section of Roman wall, retaining wall along the sidewalk, you know, in the City of London. Astounding. Went to York, York’s one of the last walled cities of Europe. It’s a Roman camp still. Unbelievable.

Karl Schudt 12:36
I want to, I want a walled city.

Scott Hambrick 12:37
I’m working on it. You saw it, I sent you a picture last night, seven strands of hotwire 10,000 volts. That’s good. It’s gonna be real good.

Karl Schudt 12:50
Yeah, you learn how to do all of that stuff. I have a book buried away somewhere in a box, Roman inscriptions. This is an odd book that I picked up because I would go to libraries and backward and dear little children in the old days, libraries used to contain these things called books, which I believe is also a Roman invention. I think the Codex is the late Roman thing, but don’t quote me on that. The Codex is like the pages laid flat and then bound on one side, that’s a codex. So just a book. It is a list of Inscriptions found in Britain, Roman inscriptions found in Britain, they’re found in the foundations of the houses. Because when they went to look for a stone, well, there’s a whole bunch of this is this is a long way from Rome. This is in Britain, just the stones laying around, you know, after the after the Empire retreats, there’s just all of these public buildings and people would go and grab. And in the Romans would leave graffiti like everyone else. And so you can get Roman graffiti stuff written by soldiers, or just, you know, citizens on these old bricks in your basement. In England. Yep. Modern society, especially in Europe is built on the skeleton of the Roman Empire. To show people the magnitude of this, of how great a thing this was, is I’ll show them pictures of aqueducts. Yeah. And so if you go to Google Maps, if you’ve had me in Seminar talking about Roman stuff, I probably showed this to look up Segovia, Spain. I’ve never been there. But I’ve only I take my vacations via Google Maps. And look for the aqueduct in Segovia. I think the thing still works. And aqueduct is a way to bring water from one place to another. And so what the Romans would do, there’d be a water source at a higher elevation. So up in the mountains there’s River there’s runoff from the snow in the mountains, and they start building. And the famous parts of the aqueduct are the ones where it’s above the ground. Well, it’s not always above the ground. It’s the water pipe. And when the that needs to go at a steady elevation all the way down to the city, so you need to know the elevations is to do some serious surveying here without modern equipment without even a decimal system. Using Roman numerals, you have to figure elevations and figure out what grade do I need to go from up here in the Pyrenees, down to that city 5060 miles away. And they did it and the stuff still works. They had running water. Nobody else had running water. Athens didn’t have running water. They had fountains in the middle of their cities with water coming out. It’s astounding. They had toilets. Now they were communal, you’d have to sit there next to your buddies, or you know, just sit in the public toilet. But well remember what they took from I never would have been able to use it.

Scott Hambrick 16:07
Right. Karl Rove

Karl Schudt 16:09
what are the Romans ever done for

Scott Hambrick 16:10
us, Karl, and I could be sitting on toilets next to each other holding hands and talking right now. But they took that from us,

Karl Schudt 16:17
our gosh, I would never I would not be able to evacuate.

Scott Hambrick 16:20
I get this I just looked at a little bashful in those I just looked it up. And I don’t know what this is right? I just found this in one. On one website. The slope of a Roman aqueduct is 10 millimeters in a kilometer.

Karl Schudt 16:38
So how do you even do that?

Scott Hambrick 16:40
That’s crazy. So that it’s a syntax error in the trash centimeter per kilometer, you know, if the so the water sources up in the mountains or wherever it is, and you’re trying to get it to Segovia, the water just to go via if the Aqua deck is too steep, the water just will just roar down there. And there’ll be too much water pressure at the bottom or it’ll destroy the aqueduct, too much erosion too much force, right? Well, if there’s too little, you don’t have enough water pressure and not enough volume either it becomes a pond, a long rectangular pond? Well, according to this website, I don’t know if this dread is lifted up in just one website here. It’s it’s a, it’s essentially a centimeter drop per kilometer of run. That’s ridiculous. I think a modern sewer as like an inch in 10 feet or an inch and 12 feet. Now that’s got to run a little bit faster than know how to wash those turrets down, you know, but

Karl Schudt 17:40
if if you found a contractor and said I want to build an aqueduct, you know that’s going to run it. It would be hard with modern equipment to do that and get a consistent run.

Scott Hambrick 17:53
Yeah. Okay. Here’s another website. Here’s another website that says, Well, this is actually Wikipedia. It says a slopes of a 10th of a percent or so of kilometers that Yeah. Yeah. So that’s, that’s a meter in a kilometer. That’s still that’s still pretty, pretty serious. I have some people building a house for me right now. So he poured the footing and they’re building a block stem wall on top of this footing, and I was out there helping them lay it out with the batter boards and all that stuff this morning. So we had a laser level, commercial grade, not that stupid Bosch when you get at Home Depot, but the one the surveyor uses and we can only get it within about a 32nd of plumb of an inch. That’s about as close as we can get in the damn house is only 65 feet long. Yeah,

Karl Schudt 18:53
yeah, it’s amazing if my dad is a civil engineer, land surveyor. And so we would go out sometimes after it rains, because he’d want to see where all the water was. It was his job. You know, let’s let’s go look at the water.

Scott Hambrick 19:07
He has an eye for catchments.

Karl Schudt 19:11
Right and, and you go in the parking lots and you see just puddles. They’re not supposed to be there. They’re supposed to be a consistent drainage. We can’t even do parking lots very well. And so the what I’m saying is all of this stuff which is for quality of life of people in the provinces. Segovia is not near Rome. And there are awkward acts all over the place public works all over the place. If you have to take a time machine and go somewhere and live. If you have to go somewhere, where are you going to go? I would like to go to a place with running water.

Scott Hambrick 19:55
Either that or nothing. Like I either want running water I want to be in Segovia, where I want to be where there’s nothing. No tweeners among goal on the plane. Yeah. I’m not interested in in Detroit 2020. No, tweeners

Karl Schudt 20:16
Yeah, so this is an amazing thing. And in the history is you generally, Gibbons, I don’t know pretty good about that, about recognizing the Roman thing is actually a pretty majestic thing. That brings peace to large areas of the world, you had 200 years of peace in Europe. How often have you had that once? Then, yeah, only then after Augustus. And just how many millions of people in that area had the space and the time to raise their children? To have them not be, you know, seized by the the latest horde of barbarians to come through? They did pretty well. They built pretty well. It would be worth your while to look at great empires of the past to see what they did, right? And maybe what they did wrong. So that perhaps you could learn and do better, and then not have your empire make the same mistakes. Yeah, but it will. Well, it will, of course, but you’ll you know, you read history. It’s not like you can change anything, you’ll just see it.

Scott Hambrick 21:37
Right. You’ll just be more upset like me and Karl called Karl yesterday, upset? He’s like, I don’t know. I’m busy, call Melissa. Thanks.

Karl Schudt 21:51
Yeah, that is a problem. You read a lot of history. And you’re like, Yeah, I saw this in facilities. This is not gonna go well. And, and you, you could tell somebody, you know, you could Sperg out on as a Twitter and on and, and do a long thread about how this exactly what happened in 373. And it doesn’t matter. It won’t change anything. No, but it should. All right. Yeah, you read history for the future of the city says that somewhere. Maybe it’s Tacitus. He says that one of these old historian says that the point of history is for the future so that you can have a better view on how to act. And you’ve, you have the whole history of Rome. You can see it from its origins and see what did they do? Well, how did they manage to extend their influence from that little city in the swamp, on the Tiber, to all of Italy to the whole Mediterranean basin to Britain and Syria? You know, how did they do that? And then how did they administer the thing? That’s where I wish there was more stuff available on the public works they had. Ladies and gentlemen, I know we have one female listener, ma’am. At least, is that your wife, Lady, that’s my wife, lady and gentleman. They had concrete, let this blow your mind they had concrete. Concrete is where you mix cement, and aggregate. And then it’s a a substance that you can shape and then a chemical reaction happens and it turns to rock. We didn’t rediscover concrete until like 1790 or something.

Scott Hambrick 23:27
Yeah. Not only that they didn’t have steel rebar. Which is great. Because we put rebar in a highly basic high pH concrete. It corrodes and oxidizes, and then it expands and essentially breaks itself up. So they could build an aqueduct and have no steel in it. And the thing is just rock stable. And then we build stuff and put steel in it. And then it lasts 52 years. It’s great. It’s great.

Karl Schudt 24:03
Okay, so Hagia Sophia is a Roman thing.

Scott Hambrick 24:07
Let’s go boys.

Karl Schudt 24:11
Hagia Sophia is the it was the biggest church in the world. For a long, long time, we should get it back was built in the sixth century, I think, or seven by the Emperor Justinian. Not personally, but it’s this huge freestanding dome. Huge. It has an 11 Second reverb in there, I think, maybe 13 seconds. It’s built in an earthquake zone.

Scott Hambrick 24:45
And it’s still standing. It’s crazy.

Karl Schudt 24:49
We’re standing on the shoulders of giants, and they didn’t have calculus.

Scott Hambrick 24:54
Well, calculus is the problem. They didn’t have a zero. We’ve talked about this, try to do math without a zero.

Karl Schudt 25:01
I’m sorry, I’m getting heated up here.

Scott Hambrick 25:03
This is not about Gibbon, come on.

Karl Schudt 25:08
No, but I’m setting the stage why you would care about this Roman thing? Yeah,

Scott Hambrick 25:11
I think he should, you know, what really made me irritated was about this is about the decline and fall. And I know something about the ascendancy and maintenance of and Rome at its best cared about the citizens. You know, it tried to improve the life in great ease for its citizens for its people, like you said, aquadex, sanitary sewers, roads, infrastructure, good coinage piece. And it didn’t do this the entire time that, that we have a Rome, it had three or four different kinds of governments, I think, and I’m Roman historian, but it was a lot of different things. So when you say Rome, there’s a lot of Rome going on. And there’s, you can say almost anything good about certain times, and almost anything bad about certain other times. But it seemed to care about the citizens, and it got sanitation, right. And it got the peace thing, right. And it got a lot of the administrative stuff, right. And I drove into the nearest Metropolis the other day in the roads are almost impassable wife and I drove into town, in her small Buick thing. And we decided that next time we came in, we were going to drive the truck in three quarter 10, four wheel drive truck with bigger tires, and more more travel in the suspension and stuff, I was thinking of the food quality that they must have had, their food quality must have been enormously better. You know, this idea now that we have like fortified vitamin D milk, you know why it’s fortified, because there’s no nutrients in the soil anymore. And therefore, the cow eats stuff that has no nutrients in it. And when you, you know, find cow juice, it has nothing in it has to be added that those are the kinds of things that bother me. You know, I’ve almost entirely rejected the germ theory of disease. And in doing that, you know, what will what causes disease? You know, I’ve kind of accepted this sort of terrain theory. We do not live in a healthful society. And they did. It’s absolutely horrible. Anyway, so we’re gonna talk about the,

Karl Schudt 27:23
yeah, sorry, pull out a quote, just to give you a sample of the writing, which is delightful. The first things this is in the preface by the author about the last part of his book, which is about cast Constantinople. But the last and longest of these periods includes about six centuries and a half from the revival of the western empire to the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, and the extinction of a degenerate race of princes who continue to assume the titles of Caesar and Augustus after their Dominions were contracted to the limits of a single city, in which the language as well as the matters of ancient Romans had long since been forgotten. I just I like that the gender don’t pull any punches the degenerate race the princess,

Scott Hambrick 28:07
and I wrote next to that Washington DC. Like giants giant aristocratic people strode through that town. Washington. Jefferson, Jackson, sorry, fags, Jackson. And now we’re just having these crazy pretenders. He just degenerate pretenders. It’s ridiculous. It’s a cartoon. I know 75 tradesmen with more skill, insight and charisma in intellect than the last 15 presidents and that includes your beloved Reagan, have many thoughts. Lay him on me, let’s hear it.

Karl Schudt 28:49
That’s kind of the problem of civilization. You have people who build it. And the people who ruin it, right? And let’s say, Okay, so you’ve got your time machine and you go back to the steps or wherever it is, you would go the place with nothing. Okay. And you go and you become a warlord somewhere through your you’re just superior skill. And you found a civilization Hambrick. Iya abberton. What would it be called?

Scott Hambrick 29:26
And break a Stan

Karl Schudt 29:29
Hambrick is Stan, okay. You build it up, and you establish laws, maybe even write them down for the people, which the Romans were among? Not the first, I guess, but they did have public, you know, that was a big innovation, putting laws in public the code of Hambrick the code of Hambrick. I thought you were gonna give me some of the presets.

Scott Hambrick 29:48
Well I wrote it out at Scott I did. You can see it under the article, the blog, a utopia for the people. You can see some of the things in there.

Karl Schudt 30:03
But then at some point, at some point, the glorious God Emperor will have to depart this earth. Well, what happens to Hambrick? iStan?

Scott Hambrick 30:16
You get FDR.

Karl Schudt 30:17
Eventually, eventually you get the people in a stable and a stable, healthy society you do not need merit in your leaders. It insulates the leaders from the consequences of their wrongdoing. If the the original God Emperor Scott screws up hamburger stand never happens. Yeah,

Scott Hambrick 30:42
I looked it up by the way. The last 15 presidents takes us back to Hoover. So maybe I need to add to that

Karl Schudt 30:50
go further back. Yeah. I’m kind of fond of Calvin Coolidge.

Scott Hambrick 30:54
No, he’s the one just before just before Hoover and then it’s Wilson before him right and Wilson was an abomination. Holy smoke

Karl Schudt 31:05
Yeah. Yeah, we have this we have this rule this we don’t we don’t like talking about living politicians during seminars. And occasionally I’ve made it the 100 year rule. And so I’ll just I will defecate on Wilson. He’s far enough back. Yeah.

Scott Hambrick 31:22
Not a lot of hot feelings about Wilson. Although I have them. Oh, by the way, for all of you dumb people listening. Online great books. Isn’t this podcast? In this podcast isn’t online great books. Just like it was lucky strikes brings you the Jack Benny Program. When Jack Binney and Rochester were cutting up. It didn’t have anything to do with Lucky strikes. Right? And Jack Benny had nothing to do with Lucky strikes, either. They just pass some money back and forth. So if you got cancer from Lucky strikes, Jack Binney didn’t give you cancer. Right. So if Jack Benny made a joke at Mary Livingston’s expense that you didn’t like, Lucky Strike didn’t do that. It was Jack Binney. So, you know, if you didn’t like something I said, Here, realize I don’t lead seminars, like my job is to do infotainment here and give you some, some edgy stuff and hold your interest. And if you can’t take it, like we just don’t want you to decline anyway. So, so just beat it. If you can’t understand all that, just beat it. But if you do understand it, and you find this interesting, come on down. We’ll read some stuff together. Actually, we won’t because I don’t do that I do the orientation for people and tell them how it works and where to find things and how to click on stuff. And then that’s it. There you go. Yeah, I

Karl Schudt 32:49
do a bunch of seminars, but it’s not about me. It’s I actually prefer the best seminars are when I show up, and they’re already going.

Scott Hambrick 32:58
Karl lies all the time and seminars anyway. Like you’ll never know what he thinks because like, if you say x he’s gonna say y even if x is his dearest closest held idea, you know, it’s a liar

Karl Schudt 33:11
Yes, up what? Yeah.

Scott Hambrick 33:14
Oh my god. It’s my job. Back to Gibbon, I got the first line of the real book the extent and military force of the empire in the age of the Anta nines. Say, you say that? Antony’s? Sure. The first sentence in the second century of the Christian era, the empire of Rome, comprehended the fairest part of the earth and the most civilized portion of mankind. kind of stumbled on that, but that’s a lovely, might even be true, I think it was the frontiers of that extensive monarchy regarded by ancient renowned and disciplined valor. The gentle but powerful influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. kind of sticks the knife in their little bit designee the image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence. The Roman Senate appeared to possess the sovereign authority, and devolved on the Emperor has all the executive powers of government. This is so clever, like you could read that 50 times. The peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused. Okay. And he says the image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence. Mm hmm. What exactly is he getting? What? The Senate appeared to possess the sovereign. Very interesting. I mean, he got me hooked right away.

Karl Schudt 34:46
Yeah. So the well, it goes back to the way Augustus set the thing up. So Rome for Rome was founded. What 753 BC. According to Livy. Well, he didn’t Have those dates but that’s the suppose and founding of the city of Rome. They had kings for a while you could read about that in our levy seminars. They had kings, the stories are great, might even be true. And then they got rid of the kings under a guy named Brutus. The first Brutus got rid of the last of the kings. And then they started their republic, which had a very complicated and wonderful constitution. I like it because lots and lots of people had veto power, a constitution grind designed to grind to a stop. Nevertheless, maybe because of they did very well. And then we have Julius Caesar. After after he hit it had quit working so well. You had Julius Caesar takes supreme power and then his adopted son, grandnephew, Octavian makes it stick. But what they did is they preserved the image of a free constitution. The Emperor’s aren’t in the Constitution. They don’t have an official spot. And so if you’re just an average Roman you think, Well, gosh, we still have consoles, we still have Tribune’s, we still have all of these things that my ancestors had. Nothing’s changed. While meanwhile, everything has changed. Yep. Hmm. If you are intending revolution, you might wish to read this and ponder on it. Maybe I don’t come in and kill the Tsar. Right, and have my little 70 year Soviet experiment, maybe it would have lasted longer if you let the Tsar live. And you keep the image of him, you know what I

Scott Hambrick 36:48
mean? Yep. I mean, that’s what we’ve been doing since 6519, or 18, ubec. Both. Now, we’ve been through United States has been through some 30, Aristotelian revolutions, as far as I can tell, something like that. In both of those 60 fives where some were those. But we still have, you know, we still, you know, my I don’t know, I was gonna say we still have kids learn the preamble of the Constitution. We the people in our citizenry, or maybe they don’t,

Karl Schudt 37:23
yeah, I mean, there’s so much. There’s so much. The Romans had at work for a lot longer than the United States has existed so far. Yeah, the decent reverence for the ways of the past might be a good way to go.

Scott Hambrick 37:37
Can you have that for centuries? If you have a telegram? And I don’t mean the app, with the steam engine, and modern communications? Can you do that? With the Gutenberg Press? Can you have that? I don’t think you can, you know, you need a certain amount of difficulty in travel in communication, to conserve? I think,

Karl Schudt 38:07
yeah, well, it’s very easy to, it’s very easy to poop on Jefferson, you know, it’s very easy to tear these people down. It doesn’t cost anything, right. To tear down the monuments of the past. Eventually, it costs a whole lot but which is not to say that those people were that the founders are gods or anything. It’s just if you don’t reference your founding, you don’t reference the actuality that you have right now. And then what because what you are, what your comes from the founding, so

Scott Hambrick 38:40
there’s a lot of it’s a revolutionary. There are a lot of people, a lot of people telling me who we are right now, though. A lot of people that’s not who we are. Actually, they don’t tell me who we are. They just say what we’re not. That’s not who we are, Karl. Right. That’s not who we are. I’m really prickly. Today I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes together.

Karl Schudt 39:00
So we talked about concrete some more. Romans had concrete. All right. We don’t know who invented it. They just had it who was the genius? Who were the geniuses of rush of Roman inch Mo said Russian of Roman engineers

Scott Hambrick 39:15
conquer natus.

Karl Schudt 39:20
Gaius quinti is conquered natus.

Scott Hambrick 39:25
And the writings wonderful. Gosh, where does he say the European provinces of Rome were protected by the corpse of the Rhine and the Danube. The latter of those mighty streams, which rises at the distance of only 30 miles from the former flows above 1300 miles for the most part, to the southeast, collects the tribute tribute of 60 navigable rivers and is at length through six mouths received into the yuck sign. I don’t know what that is, which appears scarcely equal to such an obsession of

Karl Schudt 39:56
waters. Yeah, yeah, that’s just wonderful description. I didn’t know. I did not know how close the Danube in the Rhine got. Yeah, now it all makes sense to me. I mean, they’re the frontiers. When you read about Rome and stuff they they got to the Rhine and the Danube and pretty much stopped.

Scott Hambrick 40:17
Yeah, every now and then they’ll build a bridge across the Rhine go kick somebody’s butt and then come back across the bridge and take it down.

Karl Schudt 40:24
Just yet, so Augustus. So they have been engaged in wars of conquest for a while, as part of what ended the Republic is these senators would be able to go raise an army. They make themselves very, very rich. And then they wanted the whole thing. What is there’s a famous quote by Crassus, you’re not rich unless you can equip an army. That’s what it really means to be rich is you can equip an army, Augustus, he lost his legions in the forest in Germany. And he said, This is far enough. And Gibbon has this line. The problem is with these we can’t refer to page numbers, Rome in her present exalted situation had much less to hope, than to fear from the chance of arms. That’s a perfectly constructed little sentence. Yeah. So a lot of insight. Military adventure is going to cause you more trouble than it’s worth, set your boundaries and stay in them. Happily for the repose of mankind, the moderate system, recommended by the wisdom of Augustus, was adopted by the fears and vices of his immediate successors. engaged in the pursuit of pleasure or in the exercise of tyranny. The first Caesar seldom showed themselves to the armies or to the provinces. Nor were they disposed to suffer that those tribes which their indolence neglected, should be usurped by the conduct and value of their lieutenants, the military fame of a subject was considered an insolent invasion of the Imperial prerogative. And it became the duty as well as interest of every room in general to guard the frontiers entrusted to his care without aspiring to conquests, which might have proved no less fatal to himself than to the vanquished barbarians. Gosh, there’s so much in that paragraph. That’s, it’s just perfect. The writing is perfect. So what you’re saying given is the Emperor’s This is like the Julio Claudian these are the the bad Emperor’s early Emperor’s that you hear about or that make, you know, HBO miniseries is appear to have been pretty degenerate. And if you were a good general, you were a threat. So Germanicus was probably poisoned by Tiberius, because he was too good at his job. Because he could have conquered, you know, big chunks of Germany, and then become emperor himself. It then became the duty as well as the interest of every Roman general to guard the frontiers without aspiring to conquests, which have proved no less fatal to himself than to the Vanquish barbarians. So it was kind of I don’t probably accidental set up that you didn’t go on military adventures. You didn’t have neocon Romans.

Scott Hambrick 43:13
Yeah, he says, Whosoever the Roman conquered he inhabited. So, you know, this is this is the traditional aim of war would be to obtain territory and hold it and not not to hold it, like we went to, you know, hold the line during the Battle of the Bulge, but to take territory and have it to add it to your your five dim or whatever, to cultivate it, and to use it to have that resource. And, you know, to obtain that land for your citizens. And, you know, being the governing power for yourself, ultimately, this whole thing where we have these ideological Wars is about let me do a little math, about 108 years old, it is crazy,

Karl Schudt 44:07
to fight somewhere for no purpose.

Scott Hambrick 44:12
That’s not what Twitter says. They say it’s to make the Ukraine safe for rim jobs.

Karl Schudt 44:19
Goodness, it’s hard not to just go when you read Roman stuff to go and be and just rebounded back on 20th 21st century stuff. The Romans would not have invaded Iraq now. And if they had invaded Iraq, it would become a Roman province.

Scott Hambrick 44:37
Right. Right. You can’t just categorically say they wouldn’t, but if they had, they would have surveyed it. They would have rebuilt it. They would have governed it. They would have protected it from barbarian hordes and left it taller than they found it. You know, that’s what they did everywhere. They will

Karl Schudt 44:59
break all the stuff And then leave,

Scott Hambrick 45:00
and that no shock and awe. And then pallets of money? No, they would have, they would have put their money where their mouth was they would have actually, well, their military man after a life of military service were often granted either a cash consideration or land. So they would have, they would have eventually populated that or colonized it with with the former Roman soldiers typically.

Karl Schudt 45:27
Yeah, by every honorable expedient, they invited the friendship of the barbarians and endeavored to convince mankind that the Roman power raised above the temptation of conquest was actuated. Only by the love of order, and justice. Yeah, I don’t know about that. What it may not be actuated by the love of order and justice, but that’s the I mean, that’s the ideal. That’s the thing that you say, fair enough. The thing about ideals that dangerous, they might actually get you to live by them. Yeah, I think reading this just to get a basic understanding of Roman history would be useful to you, dear listener, and then all the little Gibbon isms are fun. He’s quickly on religion. He’s not a fan of it, at least not fan of Christianity. Or anybody who seems to believe too, too much. Talking about the barbarians to the strength and fierceness of barbarians. They added a contempt for life, which was derived from the warm persuasion of the immortality and transmigration of the soul. is just, the barbarians are trouble because they think, you know, they have religion. It’s like, it’s like Star Trek, you know, the only ones that have religion are the Klingons. Right? Star Trek and Star Trek is given in space.

Scott Hambrick 46:48
Well, you said that he’s the first Boomer. That that might be,

Karl Schudt 46:53
which is not an insult. It’s just what I mean is he’s he’s, he seems to be very, I mean, he’s British, he seems to be very pleased with the British Empire. And civilization as he sees it, he thinks it’s all just fine and great.

Scott Hambrick 47:07
He’s full blown enlightenment man. Which the Burma is the extension of?

Karl Schudt 47:17
Yeah, he had to just clear out all of that superstition and administer it well, and it’ll be good.

Scott Hambrick 47:22
You know, science had too many. And too much real discovery too early. You know, we went from sitting in the dark, to the steam engine, in minutes, almost, you know, you get gas laws, and Faraday comes up with stuff. And we start to understand electricity. And we have the watt, and we have steam, and we have physics and calculus and all these things almost, I don’t know, in 150 years, maybe we get all of these things that are objectively good, I think, I think, but less bad for sure. Then some of what we are now getting, it was just miraculous. And it actually took on the nature in the mind of the normal person. It took on magical properties, science. And that those attitudes persist. And I think that we’ve had I’ve written about this, I don’t think we’ve had any material improvement in the human condition since antibiotics. And that’s been, we’re getting close. We’re getting real close to 100 years. And my cell phone, but my cell phone, who cares? Like I think it’s a misery hated people. I really do. I’ve got one. Because of the way people socialize now and the way society is organized, and the way community is organized. If you don’t have one, you actually end up shutting yourself off from your loved ones, because we don’t have all of the old structures that we would have to visit you know, Sunday dinner at grandma’s or, or whatever, those things don’t exist. So if you want to see your uncle’s or talk to your uncle’s or to talk to grandma or whatever, you need a phone, nobody has a home phone anymore. You know, even though I don’t think they’re good for us. At this point, you really can’t not having one is really not good for you. So anyway, we’re trapped there. But because of those early successes of science, which, you know, here in 1776, when he’s writing this, which is such an interesting year, right, like the Wealth of Nations comes out in 1776. The Declaration of Independence comes out in 1776. This comes out in 1776. I think Bentham was writing some weird stuff. I think, like there’s some crazy stuff going on. I don’t know what happened that year. I think a wormhole opened and I don’t know. There was some declaration that somebody wrote Yeah, crazier. Crazier, but Right. Like he’s seeing what appears To be controllable magic happening, and it’s shaped his brain and it continues shaped people’s brains up until July was a July 20 of 69. These all these boomers were sitting in front of their stupid television, watching the Kubrick, you know, Moon landing or whatever. And, and they still like and people still, you know, they’re like trust the science is on their T shirt. They watch Star Trek. And it’s, it’s not happening. You know, Uber Eats isn’t science, like tech companies aren’t tech companies aren’t. We used to have dispatchers that you could call and they would call a truck driver that we get a load of gravel to show up at your job site. You know, Uber Eats is just a fucking dispatcher. They come on, it’s not to tech, what is he talking about? So it’s all over. But we’re still coasting on this that that Gibbon was in the middle of he can’t see outside of it. So I read it now. And I’m like, Oh, he’s a quaint Boomer. But he’s deep in it. There you go. So quickly today.

Karl Schudt 51:04
Yeah, well, I get that. I am too, but I’m restraining it’s a habit, a bad habit of mine. So okay, so if you are in ancient times, in your world building, you can’t you have a different focus if you are Trajan or Hadrian, trying to pick out Hadrian, I guess he was pretty good. Got mark as a really doesn’t come off good.

Scott Hambrick 51:35
After now, we’ll get to that

Karl Schudt 51:37
with his son. But if your empire building, it’s like, my kids play these games, like Civilization games. And it’s artificial, because John doesn’t listen to the show I can, I can crap on suit Sims, or whatever sim civilization wherever it is that he plays, because you game it for the scientific breakthrough. Interesting, you set up, I’m going to allocate this much money to research and development so that I can get the nuclear power earlier. And so I’ll have nuclear power in the seventh century, and establish my eternal. And it’s kind of infected that you think that what makes civilization go is the next scientific innovation. Right. And so you game for it, you wait for it, if you’re an ancient Rome, and you can’t do that, the best things you’ve got are concrete. And however they whatever magic they did for those Aqua ducks. And so you’re going to build for 1000 years, because nothing’s going to change in 1000 years. And so it raises your horizon of how you can plan.

Scott Hambrick 52:49
Yeah, and you’re building anyway, so why not do it to last for crying out loud, okay, it’s it’s so disgusting. Now, Gibbon doesn’t write about technology, at least so far, like, I haven’t read it all, you know, but he’s not really his his his view of history isn’t shaped by technology. I’m just saying that his his whole disposition is flavored or colored by technological advances. And like you said earlier, his ideas about about empire. You know, here he is Georgia, the second era. And so he’s got ideas about Empire, and Americans who are not Americans, the English of North America had not disabused Georgia the second in his subjects of their notions of empire at all yet. So by 1783, he might have something different to say about that. But in I think the last book came out after that, actually. But that’s why this is still a modern book, that he shares the mind of the modern person. Which I can, I guess I have to but

Karl Schudt 53:58
yeah, I want to pull some some quotes here from I guess I’m still in the introduction. It’s like 150 pages, right? He has these comments which you could put on placards as how to run an empire. reigns of Hadrian and Antonius Pius offered the fair prospect of universal peace. They preserved peace via constant preparation for war. And then he talks about the the glories of the Roman army. But that idea that you you prepare for peace? I mean, gosh, that is, I mean, that could have been written by Condoleezza

Scott Hambrick 54:33
dough it couldn’t like Americans have talked about nothing but like the peace dividend as like, well, this is something that we’re going to exploit. Right. Like, where’s the preparation for peace and the seeking of it? There’s not the I don’t know that it’s happened since 1789. You know, it’s something they’ve looked forward to, so that maybe they could balance the budget for a minute but But the American people haven’t wanted peace. Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I’m sorry. I made that mistake. The American government hasn’t wanted it.

Karl Schudt 55:07
Yeah, I guess you’re right. But But it wouldn’t be the slogan. It

Scott Hambrick 55:11
might be the slogan. Although our slogans have man about the peace dividend and making the world safe for democracy, which is really about conquest, I guess it was Wilson talks about peace in our time. Was it Wilson?

Karl Schudt 55:26
No, that was the guy before Churchill.

Scott Hambrick 55:30
Oh, Chamberlain in England. Yeah. Yeah. And he’s been vilified. Come on. We’re gonna have to go read Buchanan’s book about Churchill’s war. Oh my God.

Karl Schudt 55:41
Dear listener, this is rough. You read Rome and it reads back on you in the modern times.

Scott Hambrick 55:46
Yeah. He tells us a lot about Rome, about the geography of the thing about the people here at location 1645 whatever good that does you Carl. The number of subjects who have acknowledged the laws of Rome of citizens of provincials and of slaves cannot now be fixed with such a degree of accuracy as the importance of the object object would deserve patootie we are informed that when the Emperor Claudius exercise the office of sensor, he took an account of 6,945,000 Roman citizens who with the proportion of women and children must have amounted to about 20 million souls, the multitude of subjects of an inferior writing was uncertain and fluctuating. But after weighing, with attention, every circumstance, which could influence the balance, it seems probable, that there existed in the time of Claudius, about twice as many provincials as there were citizens of either sex and of every age, and that slaves were at least equal in number to the free inhabitants of Rome. So here we go, the total amount of this imperfect calculation would rise to about 120 millions of persons and degree a population, which possibly exceeds that of modern Europe, in 1776, of course, and forms the most numerous society that has ever been united under the same government. Big, lots of people.

Karl Schudt 57:04
Rome itself was probably 2 million.

Scott Hambrick 57:07
That’s big cities. Big City.

Karl Schudt 57:09
Smaller than Chicago, bigger than Milwaukee. Pretty big for no electricity. Yeah, I was entertained by the description of the Roman army. Just telling you what a legion was. But okay, so for me, this is 101 108 7315 into the book of a different app. This I paused after this and thought, in the pure ages of the Commonwealth, the use of arms was reserved for those whose ranks of citizens for those ranks of citizens who had a country to love a property to defend in some share in enacting those laws, which it was their interest as well as duty to maintain. So in the, in the Republic, so this is what a knight is a knight is a person who could afford a horse, the equities, and the patricians were the ones they were the old families, who had property and things to defend, and so they’d be your generals and, but in proportion as the public freedom was lost in the extent of conquest, war was gradually improved into an art and degraded into a trade. The legions themselves even at the time, when they were recruited in the most distant provinces were supposed to consist of Roman citizens. Well, that doesn’t last. So you have, the bigger they got. And this is just Roman history. This is not this is God’s given telling us even to talk a bit of it as Roman, it’s hardly Roman anymore. When you get two or 300 years out, the armies are entirely other people. Let’s see. So that distinction of being a Roman citizen was generally considered either as a legal qualification as a proper recompense for the soldier but a more serious regard was paid to the essential merit of age strengthen military stature. And then here’s some interesting fun stuff. In all levies, adjust, adjust preference was given to the climates of the North. Over those of the South, the race of men born to the exercise of arms was found sought for in the country rather than in cities. And it was very reasonably presumed that the hearty occupations of Smith’s carpenters and Huntsman would supply more vigor and resolution than the sedentary trades which are employed in the service of luxury. So the Romans recruit their armies from

Scott Hambrick 59:29

Karl Schudt 59:32
Yeah, I was just gonna say that. I’m not from Manhattan, but the bigger they got, you know, the less the, I can imagine, like hipster Romans in 250, or 300. And like one of them says, Well, I’m gonna go join the Legion. What? Why would you do that? That’s for barbarians. Stay here and have fish sauce with us. If I want to go a little further so in this section, where is this section so you can find it? I mean there with you. I have the Gutenberg edition with copious footnotes, which I’ve mostly skipped that public virtue, which among the ancients was denominated patriotism is derived from a strong sense of our own interest in the preservation and prosperity of the free government of which we are members. Okay, so your patriotism is according to Gibbon, just because you have a stake in it. You want your governmental system to persist because it’s good for you.

Scott Hambrick 1:00:39
Not only is it good for you, but it’s actually yours

Karl Schudt 1:00:44
Well, that’s what Republic means. It means our thing the public thing,

Scott Hambrick 1:00:48
or Cosa Nostra our thing of ours No Yeah. It’s your inheritance your patrimony until it’s not?

Karl Schudt 1:00:58
Yeah, let me go on further such a sentiment which had rendered the legions of the Republic almost invincible could make but a very feeble impression on the mercenary servants of a despotic Prince. Okay, so now you’ve got that used to be that the the armies of the console, you know, they’re all fighting Hannibal, these are these are Romans, these are people who have a stake in, in Rome. Well, but that’s all gone. Because we’ve hired out the army to other people Blackwater who are not Romans. Oh. Yeah. So how do you make them Romans? It became necessary to supply that defect by other motives of a different but not less forcible nature, honor and religion. So here we get given coming through, how do you make your non Roman Romans Roman?

Scott Hambrick 1:01:52
Well, they just take an exam and then they and then they raise their hand and they say some stuff and then their Romans, right?

Karl Schudt 1:01:59
Well, it might need to be a little more involved in that.

Scott Hambrick 1:02:01
Well, that’s all we do.

Karl Schudt 1:02:06
Our what is the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? Not of the great American empire? Oh, okay. You see what I mean? You read this and it just constantly rebalanced back to present day, just part of the heartbreak of history.

Scott Hambrick 1:02:21
Yeah, you can’t do it without, without that, you know. And so what

Karl Schudt 1:02:25
they’d Institute for the Legions in order, mean, you could just call it you could go through the city of Rome and say to the plebeians, look, the calls are invading, we need you and they’ll hem and haw, but eventually, you know, what is it Camillus or somebody makes a speech. In the first book of Livy, this is your home too. If they destroy the place that they’re despoiling you, too, and so that people say, Okay, we’ll go fight. But now your legions are from near the Danube. They don’t have any attachment to Rome. So you have to give them an attachment to Rome. And the way they did it, on his first entrance into the service and oath was administered to him with every circumstances solemnity he promised never to distort his standard to submit his own will to the commands of his leaders to sacrifice his life for the safety. The Emperor is in the Empire. They have an attachment to their, their standards. You know, if you lost the standard that was a big deal. The standard is like an eagle on a pole, like a golden eagle. And the Golden Eagle which glittered in the front of the Legion was the object of their fondest devotion, nor was it esteemed less impious than it was ignominious, to abandon that sacred Ensign in the hour of danger. These motors which derive their strength from the imagination, reinforced by fears and hopes of more substantial kinds, so they paid them. So this is a standing army that they paid. This is actually the problem that’s going to come to bite them, which is when the soldiers are not loyal to the thing anymore. We got to Commodus and Putin acts when you end up having the Praetorian Guard, installing emperors. If you are successful in Hamburg, Stan, and you establish the metropolis at the center of Hamburg, Stan, what would that be called?

Scott Hambrick 1:04:15

Karl Schudt 1:04:18
Okay, so Scott Sylvania starts to grow and get prosperous, and it has nightclubs now and coffee shops and

Scott Hambrick 1:04:28
won’t happen under my rule.

Karl Schudt 1:04:32
secondhand clothing stores we can get fashionable denim with rips in it.

Scott Hambrick 1:04:37
You can’t have coffee shops because that’s where the subversives hang out. We might have state run ones that are really traps. You know, so people show up at the coffee shop to talk their weird politics. And then I push a button and a trapdoor opens and alligators eat them.


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