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December 2014



Civilization Sustainability: 5 Things The West Can Learn From Rome.

Written by , Posted in Entertainment, Leadership, Sustainability

Roman Colosseum Rom by Kevin Brintnall

Civilization Sustainability: 5 Things The West Can Learn From Rome.


Western civilization is under attack. When you think about that, it could be a terrifying prospect. But then again, if you turn on the television you’ll see dramas concerning the end of the world (The Walking Dead), and documentaries (Life Without People) and whatever you call the shows on discovery (Doomsday Preppers). In them all, civilization as we know it wasn’t enough to keep us safe. Our house of cards fell for one reason or another.

Any historian will tell you however that to save our future, we should look to our past. One major historical correlation that we can compare the Western civilization which includes, The United States, Canada, The United Kingdom among others is the Roman Empire; more specifically, the Western Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire spanning several continents was so large that it was eventually split into two jurisdictions so it could be governed. The Western Empire is conventionally believed to have ended in 476 when it’s emperor was deposed by the attacking Barbarian forces. This end wasn’t a single action, but a list of events that culminated with the military overthrow and the emperor’s death. The decline is something our Western civilization should take note of so we don’t repeat the mistakes of our past.

Five similarities between Western civilization and the Roman empire.

1. Look over there

There was a time when Rome was all about two things. The first was war and the second was entertainment. The coliseum was built to house 50,000 people. Back then that wasn’t just a feat of economic and engineering prowess, but a social coup. There just weren’t that many people to bring together in one building, but they did. The Roman opulence was so lavish that the people forgot to take care of themselves. Life soon became about what grand spectacle could be created next to entertain and placate the people. Just imagine what would have happened if they had the television … or the Superbowl. Focus. Focus.

2. Financial Crisis

The Roman empire stretched from horizon to horizon encompassing millions of souls. As I said earlier, one of the Roman past times was war, but war has expenses, high expenses. As the opulence and army grew, the coffers shrank so the emperor and his lackeys turned to other forms of income. Taxation worked for a time, but eventually even that income ran out and they were forced to print money, or in their case mint it. Interestingly this had a consequence of widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

3. Over reliance on slave labour

The Roman empire was built on the back of cheap labour, or rather free labour. With slave labour building everything from chariots to bedding, the empire had a twofold issue. The first is an inbred sense of laziness and self importance. The people of the empire refused to do labour that slaves could do for them. The second is the eventual self realization of the slaves as they demanded equal rights. With the work stoppage of the slaves and the refusal to work by the locals, the system was compromised with no work completed. In the enlightened world we live in we’d NEVER allow slave labour, would we?

4. Government corruption and political instability

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Without a moral compass leading their way, the Roman bureaucrats took their power and revelled in it, taking money and whatever else they saw fit for themselves and their cronies. The bad apples corrupted the basket until there was no way to govern with truth and honour. The empire devolved into a group of squabbling fiefdoms as the corrupted carved out their own path. Could you imagine? Politicians taking what they wanted for their friends and living in opulence as they “expensed” personal costs to their position. It would almost be enough to make you want to disband the senate.

5. The Sun Rises in the East

As I mentioned earlier, the Western Roman Empire fell long before the East. The East rose in power as the West waned. In fact, the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantium Empire, lasted for a thousand years afterwards, long into the dark-ages when the rhetoric of religion usurped it’s power. The power of the east supplanted the west as they had goods and services they could trade away to their partners as opposed to the west who were only consumers and had nothing of value to give.

This not all for doom and gloom to show the sky falling. My intent in drawing the similarities is to draw a line in the sand, to point out to the people that we are at a turning point. We can give up and let our great civilization devolve as the East rises in power to take over the economic and social centre of the world or we can fight and change our fate. The question is how we do this. We do it, but refusing to be consumers, by holding our leaders to a higher standards and by keeping them accountable to the decisions they make. We do this by accepting that we have to do work to achieve our goals and by educating those less fortunate so the gap between the rich and poor doesn’t grow.

What do you think? Can you see other similarities between our civilization at the Roman’s? Or perhaps you disagree and think we’re nothing like them.

  • Richard

    Several good points made, John highlighting similarities. The USA is our only superpower now, comparible as the modern Rome. There is a glaring difference though. Rome lasted 500 yrs. by consolidating it’s conquests and kept growing in power and influence. When they annexed another power, they let them keep their laws, their traditions, their leaders, their very way of life. The conquered regime had to swear aliengence to Rome and was taxed but they gained the benefits of becoming roman. It was a two way street, a good plan if you want to rule the world.Our modern powers have not learned this lesson. History teaches us but only if we really see. Look at the rapid rise of Nazi Germany. If they had not attacked GBR they would have kept most of Europe. Look at how they treated the subjects of the conquered countries, how they imposed their idiologies . The 1000 yr Reich lasted what, 10?


    • John Kent


      Learning from our mistakes is something the West seems unwilling to do. We live unsustainably with constant pressure on our economy, from our political leadership, and other growing super powers. The United States may be our only “true” super power in the west as the reach of GBR has waned, but China is growing economically, politically, and in terms of their military strength. I think it’s far past the time to think in the us versus them mentality and start thinking globally. What we do locally is having an affect globally. We cannot deny that. Our Western-centric focus precludes us from choosing the sustainable path as we consume our resources and those of the less industrialized nations.

      And as for trying to rule by force these days, arrogance and self-serving attitudes need to be checked at the door. With a more education, the oppressed become more self aware and thus demand more to keep their status quo.