Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Roman Empire and the U.S.A.

I ran across this while reading Tertullian’s Apology. I am impressed by the similarities between Rome and the United States. Do we really hold the same values our founding fathers did? Are we still a nation living by their principles? Tertullian’s thoughts on Rome speak to us today.

“Where is that happiness of married life, ever so desirable, which distinguished our earlier manners, and as the result of which for about 600 years there was not among us a single divorce? Now, women have every member of the body heavy laden with gold; wine-bibbing is so common among them, that the kiss is never offered with their will; and as for divorce, they long for it as though it were the natural consequence of marriage. The laws, too, your fathers in their wisdom had enacted concerning the very gods themselves, you their most loyal children have rescinded, The consuls, by the authority of the senate, banished Father Bacchus and his mysteries not merely from the city, but from the whole of Italy. The consuls Piso and Gabinius, no Christians surely, forbade Serapis, and Isis, and Arpocrates, with their dogheaded friend,9 admission into the Capitol-in the act casting them out from the assembly of the gods-overthrow their altars, and expelled them from the country, being anxious to prevent the vices of their base and lascivious religion from spreading. These, you have restored, and conferred highest honours on them. What has come to your religion-of the veneration due by you to your ancestors? In your dress, in your food, in your style of life, in your opinions, and last of all in your very speech, you have renounced your progenitors. You are always praising antiquity, and yet every day you have novelties in your way of living. From your having failed to maintain what you should, you make it clear, that, while you abandon the good ways of your fathers, you retain and guard the things you ought not.” (Ch. VI)

To me, the most interesting and disturbing similarity is the increase of divorce and the destruction of marital happiness. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a sign of our declining civilization.

Here’s another quote that will end this post:

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.”