Deus ex Machina- God out of the machine
When thinking about this phrase I am struck by the fact that it was uttered during the Iron Age over 2000 years ago. From the Romans it came and what great technology might that person have first seen that inspired them to first utter this pronouncement. Little is realized today of the reality of Roman technology and how far it exceeds our imagination. Even with that said, a cursory examination of high Roman technology with that of today’s industrial capabilities, the Internet, and the theoretical application of chemistry and physics. One can then begin to see the centuries that stand between the Romans and us and it does in fact leave them in the Iron Age.
Even still from the Iron Age the Romans used their understanding of engineering to feed and water cities of a million people or more. They developed paved road systems that stretched from Scotland to Africa and the edges of Asia. They built the Coliseum; steam bathes and marshaled armies and weapons that subdued everyone that stood in their way.
The true genius of Roma was their logistics. They knew how to get things done whether that meant getting it done for the civilian population to provide water for a million people living in ten square miles with out the aid of electricity. To organizing armies made up many cultures and feeding and supporting them far from home. This was all about one thing, doing what was necessary to get things done. Brute force and man’s genius grew and fed this nation for over four century’s.
It was never an easy task and it didn’t happen overnight. Thus another old dusty quote “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. The myth of Rome begins with two brothers who lived in a little village in what is now east central Italy. Through force of will and action this small City State began in the valley of seven hills. By todays standards little more than a wide space in the road, today we would call it an undeveloped third world culture with a high mortality rate in a constant state of war and little hope of bettering the circumstance of the their population.
Determined and unyielding through war and diplomacy, ingenuity, and creativity they pressed on through the centuries spreading their influence from one small city to the next river valley all the way to the shores of Egypt and the island of Briton. They did not let the sea, the mountain, language or tradition stand in their way. This was and is the Machina of Rome.
Here the Romans showed their other great genius they were plagiarist. First they copied the government and culture of the Etruscans. Then they copied the Greeks art and philosophy. In the end they copied monotheism from the Israelites. From all of this we have today what is known as the Western Tradition.
This penchant the Romans had for assimilating from those they conquer was good and frankly that which worked took them from the Bronze Age to the height of the Iron Age. No nation no people ever stopped the Romans. Rome stopped when Rome decided to stop. No wonder a corporal from WW1 Germany copied his nationalism from the Roman Identity.
Deus ex Machina – God out of the Machine. I find it hard to believe that the Roman saw God in a catapult or even the extensive system of aqueducts. No rather I think what was seen was the Roman birth right. Being born a Roman citizen meant much the same as being born American today
Rome in the end suffered many of the same symptoms our country is suffering today. I’m not talking about a diminishing moral standards and sexual promiscuousness either. The list of ills the city of Rome suffered included corrupt public servants, joblessness, and a break down in their infrastructures, inflation. They exported the production of goods and services to the outskirts of the empire and left their own countryman without a means to make a living except to serve each other and entertain each other. If this doesn’t sound familiar think about it a little longer.
Our sense of history today is so shallow that most people on the street couldn’t tell you who came first Truman or Eisenhower and if you are one of those you should feel ashamed. Not knowing who we are as a nation and people is a tragedy of the greatest consequence. I used to look upon this ignorance of Americans with charity and tolerance. Now approaching 50 years old I am no longer in such a charitable mood. Not knowing the basic facts of your countries history, political structure, and culture is laziness and voluntary ignorance. No blame is to be placed upon the schools or universities. The blame lies with the sleeping individual. If your parents didn’t teach you or the schools didn’t teach it, tough go out and learn it on your own.
With out history a person has no framework to anchor their current social and political existence. You cannot make a informed decision regarding what direction your country and society should go. If a young adult doesn’t know how Rome changed the world or that the Greeks were cool albeit rather rough and egalitarian and much of their society was established in pederasty.
If you don’t have a general idea how the Irish monks did in fact preserve western culture through the dark ages. If you cannot explain the difference between market driven economics and structure economies and the gradients in between.
Deux ex machina
You have to know and recognize the machine and how it works or you are nothing more than a “primitive individual” setting around the fire letting the Shaman TELL you what and who you should believe.
Americans are so ignorant about who they are, where they came from, and what it has taken how do we expect to hold on to it. Parting thought
Reading further today on Marcus Aurelius and I was struck by his personal reflections on the meaning and purpose of the cosmos. obviously much of his thought influenced by the Greeks. The divergent view between Plato search for virtue development of the polis. Comparing his stoicism to the materialist who believed we are simple material and atoms. Rome placed a high standard on their moral standards. Social acceptability and responsibility was just as much a part of Rome’s social fabric as it is in our own country for these last two centuries. Both nations share all the same hypocrisies and double standards but the parallels are there none the less.
Marcus Aurelius search for purpose and place in the world was based on this sense of purpose and existence of a soul that existed outside and separate from the materialistic world and atoms as held by Diogenes and others. His belief in a human soul and an attachment to some greater soul I believe motivated him as it did most of his contemporaries. I believe he held that this soul had a purpose to better the world to bring order and stability to it. I have never read this before but consider the story of the the twin brothers who founded Rome being raised by a wolf. Out of nature and all of is brutish self and into a ordered protected world. Without the Stoics the Epicureans had no garden to play in!
So …. Deux ex machina we are a eternal soul determined to be part of a greater soul and those like Marcus Aurelius and John Adams saw man with a purpose to make the world that they found themselves a part of a better place. This is what drove Pax Romana and this is what drove the formative years of America.
I know much of this can be disputed with exceptions and failures in both nations but it is there none the less. This is a brief response to the request for some expansion on my thoughts. I’m a big fan of stories and like most Americans I do tend to gravitate to movies to tell my stories. In the beginning of the Gladiator the line burst forth in the face of imminent death “Remember what we do in life echos in eternality.