Monday, January 31, 2011

When In Rome...

"If our subconscious were attractive, we wouldn't have to bury it deep down within our selves"

The Ancient Roman civilisation dates back to approximately 1000 BC.  During the reign of power wielded by Rome - over an ever increasing territory including most of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean - they gained a reputation for being a highly organised military and political empire, not well known for acts of kindness and mercy.

The Romans had a strict social hierarchy. The patricians or nobles were born into affluence, status, and influence, it has even been proven that the Romans committed incest in order to maintain pure aristocratic bloodlines.  Marriage was hereby a calculated act, influenced by politics and material wealth.  Roman society was dictated by the machinations of personal gain and power or influence over the masses.  They grew their empire by conquest, by enslaving and absorbing the adjacent or opposing peoples as they expanded.

The Roman military was comprised mostly of citizens who served to recompense a "debt" to society for the use of land.  While they were usually paid a stipend, citizens had little choice over participation, had to supply their own weapons and horses, and desertion would usually result in the death penalty.

Children had little or no value within Roman culture and were shown minimal affection.  Unwanted children were often sold into slavery, or children were treated as household slaves until they were old enough to be married off.  Even then, a son could not legally own property or hold influence while his father still survived.

For Romans violence and cruelty was simply an accepted part of life.  The fact that they were a highly successful empire begs the question of whether this lack of empathy is a required part of human success.  The Roman empire did fall eventually, but up until then they made huge leaps forward in technology, science and philosophy.  Is it the human emotions and resulting empathy that hold us back?

The arena, the mainstay of Roman entertainment and society, was institutionalised and extreme violence for pleasure.  The noxii (criminal class, or disgraced slaves), and those condemned to die had to fight publicly for the right to live or die, often heavily disadvantaged and outnumbered.  In one day of gladiatorial events 8-10 blood matches would be held, the resulting arena being splattered with the blood of those who's crimes ranged from petty theft to heresy.  The crowd drunk on violence, would cheer for the life or death of the condemned, the descision often being made on a whim by the highest ranking official present.  The eventual and protracted execution was celebrated with cheers and laughter.   This practice (public execution) has been carried on throughout history, still bloodthirsty, but thankfully less drawn out than watching men be ripped apart by wild beasts (damnati ad bestias).

Roman orgies were often serviced by women, young men and children who had no choice in participation, violence and rape seen as the obligations of servitude.  Roman politics were often dominated by assassinations and cold hearted maneuvering.  Obligations to familial ties and loyalty were seen as a sign of weakness and sentimentality would often bring about ones downfall.  A sociopathic society in all its glory.

Throughout history violent and yet successful regime's and empires have all shared bloodthirsty origins.  Is this how we have succeeded and become the most prolific species on earth?  We exist in duality, we have propensity for great acts of humanity, but are also capable of indescribable acts of cruelty en masse - as individuals and as a group.

Are we in denial about our true nature?  Can we really abolish war and suffering without denying some important part of our innate being?  Is it our ability to ignore this "dark" side of ourselves that makes these acts possible?  If we cannot express this "darkness" through our prescribed culture and society, do we then express it in private? Is it the desire to repress our true nature that has led to the rise in crimes of extreme violence against each other that benefit no one but the self?

"A tear dries quickly when it is shed for the troubles of others." - Cicero


  1. all those roman busts certainly have the sociopath stare ;)

    i studied latin and roman history a bit, and it is fascinating. have you ever been to italy? i've been to an opera in a roman amphitheater (verona) with a lightening storm on the horizon. spectacular. i love going to italy, and if i could have chosen where to be born it's there.
    the roman engineering feats were incredible too - hypocaust central heating and of course the viaducts/aquaducts, which are a lot more complicated than a non-engineer might think!

  2. havent been to italy, but i have been to rome, saw the acropolis, it was amazing. italy is definitely on my list. the romans made incredible technilogical advances - sewerage and plumbing being a big one

  3. I was about to say... heh.

    Our modern problem is not so simple as you asked, though I think you already know that.

    These dark sides you speak of, they are not some disease or plague. We can all use them. They, however, should be used in moderation, as with any substance abuse. A normal person becomes sick (guilt/remorse) when they over indulge in depravity. Since we don't have such a reaction, we can certainly be more liberal with its application.

    However, there is a time and place of kindness, and guile. It's figuring out which is which that is the hard part.

  4. I only pose questions in the hopes of a decent intelligent response, have you noticed that I end all my notes with quaetions?

    The dark.... No...or maybe yes....

    Sickness, what is sick note?

    One of my roosters is dying, it got hit by a car, and it is dying. I sort of want to end it for him, but another quite revolting part of me wants to see how long he will sit there, allowing me to be his god. It's in his eyes, he lets me come close, closer than his normal instincts would allow. I can see it in his eyes, I feed him, and allow him to exist on my watch. I feed him. All the while knowing he would allow me his death at any moment - he would.

    Then he scuttles off and I feel shame. He will die, it was much easier to kill his brother. He knows my power, the other one didnt have a clue.

  5. I'm a crazy bitch, the other roosters are picking on him, as is the way with chickens, I protect him. I feel nothing for him, but he sits close to me. He knows I am his god, I dont even want to be his god. I killed his brother, but his bird brain tells him I am the bringer of food and water, the god of his world. It's so fucking odd, I've never seen that look in another creatures eyes and yet I am a mother.

    For a small brained creature he shows passion, he wants to live, but hes not going to, I think he knows that. Bacause I am the bringer of life, he is happy for me to be the bringer of death, and so he sits....waiting for death, right by my feet. This I cry for

  6. some animals (i include people in that) need a leader. need someone to make their decisions which they will accept gladly. they are afraid only of being responsible for their own decisions, paralysed by their own fear of failure and criticism. the rooster seems to have a touch of this, exacerbated by a nightingale effect... and when death is accepted during sickness the animal is at its most trusting and vulnerable because it has nothing to lose. that's why confidence tricksters target the old and infirm - not because they are mentally less sharp, but because they are more trusting.

  7. You seem to have misunderstood my post, and its intentions.

    You asked, Is this how we have succeeded and become the most prolific species on earth? I answered.

    I also commented on, Is it our ability to ignore this "dark" side of ourselves that makes these acts possible? with the sickness/remorse analogy.

    What is there not to understand?

  8. sorry, I think I got side-tracked by another conversation going on in another blog. I did misunderstand =)

    "These dark sides you speak of, they are not some disease or plague. We can all use them. They, however, should be used in moderation, as with any substance abuse. A normal person becomes sick (guilt/remorse) when they over indulge in depravity. Since we don't have such a reaction, we can certainly be more liberal with its application."

    I have just recieved the book I have been waiting for about Carl Panzram and will write another blog post soon about that. I will continue to explore this "dark/light" thing. The dark and light of human nature is a moot arguement in my eyes, some of the darkest acts of humanity are carried out with a licence and impunity granted by those in absolute power. The actions of criminal citizens are minor in comparison.

    I keep looking for reasons we are not a sociopathic society, but I cant find the proof yet.