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 Biden Acting Like a Tyrant?

The Roman emperor who marked the complete fall of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century, 260 AD, was Valerian (253-260 AD). In 259 AD, Valerian moved on to Edessa to challenge the Persians, but an outbreak of plague killed a significant portion of his legionaries, which weakened the Roman position overall in Asia. This led to the Persians smelling an opportunity.

While fighting the Persians, Valerian sent two letters to the Senate ordering steps be taken against Christians, for their rejection of the gods was undermining the empire. The first letter was sent during 257 AD, which ordered the Christian clergy to perform sacrifices to the Roman gods or face banishment. The second letter was the following year and ordered the execution of Christian leaders. It also required Christian senators and equities to perform acts of worship to the Roman gods or lose their titles and property. If any official refused to worship the gods, they were to be executed.

Additionally, any Roman matron who would not comply should lose their property and also be banished. Civil servants and members of the Imperial household refusing to worship the Roman gods were to be turned into slaves and sent to work on the Imperial estates. The extent of all of these directives indicates that Christianity was becoming widespread through all the classes within society. The parallels are prompting emails for when Valerian was captured by the Persians. While he was trying to force everyone to pray for his victory, Rome collapsed in total disarray. He divided the empire between Pagan and Christain, blamed the Christians for the decline of the empire just as Biden is now blaming the unvaccinated. We seem to be standing on the very edge of a cliff with the same abyss with respect to the fall of our world monetary system. Ah, how history repeats.

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Why did the Taliban Win? Lessons From Ancient History

Why did the Taliban Win? Lessons From Ancient History

How did the Taliban manage to defeat the most powerful army in the world? One word: corruption. It is not new, it has already happened in many other cases in history. Here, I propose a comparison of the recent Taliban campaign with the case of the Numidian wars at the time of the Roman Republic.  (above: these fighters are probably Tajiki, not Taliban, but that does not affect the substance of my interpretation) 

During the 2nd century BC, the Roman Republic attempted to defeat the Numidians, a tribal population inhabiting a desertic area of North-Western Africa. Surely, the Numidian fighters were no match for the mighty Roman armies, yet the Numidian kings held on their own for decades. It was only in 105 BC that their last king, Jugurtha, was definitively defeated by the Romans.

The ups and downs of the Numidian wars left the Romans perplexed. How could it be that those unrefined Barbarians could keep at bay the Romans for so long? The opinion of the historian Sallustius was that the Numidians had used corruption to buy the Roman commanders. Sallustius reports that Jugurtha himself said about Rome, “Venal city! You would sell yourself if a buyer were to appear!”.

Sallustius’ interpretation is believable, even though it is not substantiated by historical data. Corruption is an unavoidable side effect of money and Rome was the most monetarized society of antiquity. The Romans had built their prosperity on the precious metal mines of Northern Spain and used their wealth to pay the large armies that they used to dominate the Mediterranean Region. But money is a double-edged weapon: it can be used to pay soldiers to fight, but also not to fight, or to fight someone they were not supposed to fight.

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9/11, the Coup that Failed. The Role of the Memesphere

9/11, the Coup that Failed. The Role of the Memesphere

Octavianus Augustus Caesar (63 BC – 14 AD). Perhaps the most successful leader in history, he didn’t just become the absolute ruler of the Roman State, but took over the role of the highest religious authority (the “Pontifex Maximum”) and transformed himself into a living deity. Turning a democracy into a dictatorship is a pattern that was repeated many times in history, but that was not always successful. It was the case of the 9/11 attacks that did not lead to an absolute dictatorship in the United States. Here, I argue that it was because of the different structure of the memesphere in the 21st century.

In 30 BC, Octavianus, later to be known as “Augustus Caesar,” defeated his remaining competitors for the control of the Roman state, Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra, and took the title of “Augustus,” the absolute ruler of the Empire. The most fascinating element of this story is how Octavianus established the pattern of how a successful leader takes over the government and concentrates all power on himself. The recipe goes as follows:
  1. Obtain sufficient funds for the task
  2. Build up support among the poor and the disgruntled.
  3. Enlist your supporters in a para-military or military organization.
  4. Obtain a high-level government position using a mixture of intimidation and legal means.
  5. Exploit a dramatic event to scare everyone and obtain special emergency powers.
  6. Never relinquish your emergency powers, but always increase them.
This is what Augustus did: his money came initially from the inheritance he obtained from his grand-uncle, Julius Caesar, but surely also from the support of high-level people who wanted tight control of the Roman State. He used the money to acquire a military force that he used to intimidate the Senate and defeat his competitors…

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Was the fall of the Roman Empire due to plagues & climate change?

Was the fall of the Roman Empire due to plagues & climate change?

Preface. Harper (2017) shows the brutal effects of plagues and climate change on the Roman Empire. McConnell (2020) proposes that a huge volcanic eruption in Alaska was a factor in bringing the Roman Empire  and Cleopatra’s Egypt down.

In addition, there are other ecological reasons for collapse not mentioned in this book, such as deforestation (A Forest Journey: The Story of Wood and Civilization by John Perlin, topsoil erosion (Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David Montgomery), and barbarian invasions (“The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization” and “Empires and Barbarians: the fall of Rome and the birth of Europe”.

***

McConnell JR et al (2020) Extreme climate after massive eruption of Alaska’s Okmok volcano in 43 BCE and effects on the late Roman Republic and Ptolemaic Kingdom.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Caesar’s assassination happened at a time of unusually cold wet weather, as much as 13.3 F cooler than today, and up to 400% more rain, drenching farmland and causing crop failures leading to food shortages and disease.  In Egypt the annual Nile flood that agriculture depended on failed. Although an eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily in 44 BC has been blamed, this paper found evidence that it may have been the eruption of the Okmok volcano in Alaska that altered the climate enough to weaken the Roman and Egyptian states. It was one of the largest in the past few thousand years (Kornei K (2020) Ancient Rome Was Teetering. Then a Volcano Erupted 6,000 Miles Away. Scientists have linked historical political instability to a number of volcanic events. New York Times).

A more nuanced and critical look at this scientific paper can be found here: Middleton G (2020) Did a volcanic eruption in Alaska help end the Roman republic? The Conversation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Keeping the Balance

COMMENT: Civil unrest is defivately rising, your models are so good at looking far into the future!
With incidents like this, I really find it interesting reading public comments on social media are empathetic and typically left leaning.
I also find it interesting how ignorant the left are in not realizing that they are violating the “rights” of the right by oppressing their views.
I don’t know where this is going, or when it will end, but people in Canada are definitely polarizing and it’s instigated by our states media
Very happy to see that you are presenting information …… From both sides of the fence as neutral as it can be in these interesting times. Maybe the protesters on both sides will wake up and realize it’s the gov pulling our strings; as did Orwell in 1984.
N, BC, Canada

REPLY: It really is very important to stay neutral. It is absolutely critical to document what you have and to present it without the extreme ranting that so often emerges today. I know a number of people thought I was just a Trump supporter. Now some who criticized me have written to apologize and have now realized this is not a Trump v Biden crisis – this is a global agenda and Trump was just in the way.

We are entering the separatist phase. The civil unrest which is creating polarization is the very thing that leads to the separatist movement. I have been asked to write a book on how the parallels of the decline of Rome are alive and well today. I have been rushing to get this finished. They want this is stores rather than a report so more people will get to see it.

The American infrastructure, ancient Rome and ‘Limits to Growth’

The American infrastructure, ancient Rome and ‘Limits to Growth’

Infrastructure is the talk of the town in Washington, D.C. where I now live and with good reason. The infrastructure upon which the livelihoods and lives of all Americans depends is in sorry shape. The American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 infrastructure report card gives the United States an overall grade of C minus.

Everyone in Washington, yes, everyone, believes some sort of major investment needs to be made in our transportation, water, and sewer systems which have been sorely neglected. There are other concerns as well about our energy infrastructure and our communications infrastructure—both of which are largely in private hands. The wrangling over how much will be spent and on what is likely to go on for months.

What won’t be talked about is that the cost of maintaining our infrastructure is rising for one key reason: There’s more it every day. We keep expanding all these systems so that when they degrade and require maintenance and replacement, the cost keeps growing.

There is a lesson on this from ancient Rome. Few modern people understand that the Romans financed their expansion and government operations using the booty taken from vanquished territories. That worked until it didn’t. When Rome reached its maximum expanse, when it no longer conquered new territories, the booty stopped coming. With the borders of Rome the longest the empire had ever had to defend, it now relied primarily on taxes to finance a large army and administrative presence across the empire in order to maintain control.

Our modern-day version of booty has been cheap energy, much of it supplied by the oil, natural gas and coal fields of America and later its uranium mines…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Western Civilization has become a never-ending Jerry Springer episode

Early in the 2nd century AD, around the year 101, the Roman humorist Decimus Junius Juvenalis began publishing a collection of satirical poems poking fun at the Empire.

Rome was already in serious decline by the time Juvenalis wrote his first poem. In the first century AD alone, Romans suffered the tyrannical insanity of Caligula, the destructive extravagance of Nero, multiple civil wars, and the ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ in 96 AD.

Needless to say, Juvenalis had plenty of inspiration for his satires.

He was like the George Carlin of his day– making fun of everyone, even the most sacrosanct institutions. And he didn’t pull any punches.

Juvenalis made fun of the Senate for their endless hypocrisy. He made fun of wealthy noblemen for acquiring their wealth by sucking up to the Emperor.

He made fun of the merchant class and its constant obsession with status. He made fun of the military for acting as if they were above the law.

He made fun of how the Imperial government pretends to give a damn about the common folk. And he made fun the common folk, saying “the mob cares for nothing but bread and circuses. . .”

Most of all, Juvenalis made fun of the extreme decay in Roman morality.

By the 2nd century AD, the Roman virtues of ‘strength and honor’ had been replaced by deceit, idleness, apathy, and corruption.

Edward Gibbon echoed this sentiment in his work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in 1776.

Gibbon’s primary thesis is that Rome became a victim of its own success– its extraordinary wealth and prosperity made people lazy, complacent, and entitled.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

It’s time to start thinking about inflation

In the year 215 AD, the young Roman Emperor Caracalla, then just 27 years of age, decided to ‘fix’ Rome’s perennial inflation problem by minting a brand new coin.

Caracalla’s predecessors over the previous several decades had ordered an astonishing debasement of Roman currency; the silver content in Rome’s ‘denarius’ coin, for example, was reduced from roughly 85% in the early 150s AD, to less than 50% by the early 200s.

And with the silver content in their currency greatly reduced, government mints cranked out unprecedented quantities of coins.

They spent the money as quickly as they minted it, using the flood of debased coins, for example, to finance endless wars and buy up food supplies for their soldiers.

Needless to say this caused rampant inflation across the empire.

Egypt was a province of Rome at the time, and the one of the Empire’s major agricultural producers. Its local provincial coin, the drachma, had also been heavily debased.

A measure of Egyptian wheat in the early 1st century AD, for example, cost only 8 drachmas. In the third century that same amount of Egyptian wheat cost more than 100,000 drachmas.

Caracalla tried to fix this by simply creating a new coin– the antoniniamis.

It was originally minted with 50% silver content. But the antoniniamis was debased down to just 5% silver within a few decades.

Caracalla’s undisciplined attempt at controlling inflation was about as effective as Venezuela trying to ‘fix’ its hyperinflation by chopping five zeros off its currency.

In fact this same story has been told over and over again throughout history:

Governments who spend too much money almost invariably resort to debasing the currency.

In ancient times, ‘debasement’ meant reducing the gold and silver content in their coins.

In early modern times, it meant printing vast quantities of paper money.

Today, it means creating ‘electronic’ money in the banking system.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Revealing History

COMMENT: I find it interesting how two people the general consensus has said were scoundrels, John Law and Julius Caesar, you have shown were actually people against the establishment. I read your Anatomy of a Debt Crisis and you have put together the contemporary historians where everyone else just seems to rely on the fake news of the day.

Thank you for digging up the facts.

HY

REPLY: When I was in high school, I had to read Galbraith’s “Great Crash.” Nowhere in his book did he ever mention defaults on national debts by any country. When I came across Herbert Hoover’s memoirs in an old book store in London, this was probably the second thing that changed my life, with the first being the movie  “The Toast of New York” about the Panic of 1869 when gold hit $162.50, which I had to watch in history class. I learned not to trust the history books, and the best way to find out the truth was always to return to the contemporary reports of history and/or the newspapers of the time.

The coinage has been a major factor in identifying the history and accurately dating events. Here is an extremely rare coin of Julius Caesar. Note that there is no portrait of him. He is announcing his victory in Gaul. His Gallic campaign was initially a piecemeal affair, but within six years, he had expanded Roman rule over the whole of Gaul. Following years of relative success, mainly thanks to the disconnected nature of the tribes allowing him to take them on separately (divide and conquer), Caesar was faced with the chief of the Arverni tribe, Vercingetorix, who too late had built a confederation to stand against Caesar. In 52 BC, despite formidable resistance, Caesar finally defeated Vercingetorix at the Battle (or Siege) of Alesia…

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martin armstrong, armstrong economics, history, julius ceasar, rome, roman empire, war, conquest, coinage, fake news,

The Deification of Emperor Trump: Following Caligula’s Path

The Deification of Emperor Trump: Following Caligula’s Path

Jake Angeli, high priest of the growing cult of Emperor Donald Trump, dressed as the horned God Cernunnos. The deification of Emperor Trump in Washington, yesterday, didn’t go so well, but we are moving along a path that the Romans already followed during the decline of their empire, including the deification of emperors, starting with Caligula. So, comparing Roman history to our current conditions may tell us something about the future.

I already speculated on what kind of Roman Emperor Donald Trump could have been and I concluded that he might have been the equivalent of Hadrian. The comparison turned out to be not very appropriate. Clearly, Trump was no Hadrian (a successful emperor, by all means). But, after four years, and after the recent events in Washington, I think Trump may be seen as a reasonably good equivalent of Caligula, or Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who also reigned for 4 years, from 37 to 41 AD.

Caligula was the prototypical mad emperor — you probably heard that he nominated his horse consul. And he was not just mad, he was said to be a cruel, homicidal psychopath, and a sexual pervert to boot. In addition, he tried to present himself as a living god and pretended to be worshipped. He even claimed to have waged a war against the Sea God Poseidon, and having won it!

But, really, we know little about Caligula’s reign, and most of it from people who had plenty of reasons to slander his memory, including our old friend Lucius Annaeus Seneca (he of the “Seneca Effect“) who was a contemporary of Caligula and who seriously risked being killed by him. The Romans knew and practiced the same rules of propaganda we use today. And one typical way to slander an emperor was to accuse him to be a sexual pervert.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The militarization of the Western Empire: How the COVID pandemic accelerated the process

The militarization of the Western Empire: How the COVID pandemic accelerated the process

Donald Trump may not have been not such a warlike emperor as previous Western Emperors have been (and probably will be). But, even assuming that Trump is trying to avoid wars, he cannot oppose the militarization trends of the Western economy that was boosted by the COVID-19 epidemics. 

History repeats itself – oh, yes! And sometimes it repeats itself so fast and so ruthlessly that it leaves you out of breath. Think of what’s happening right now: the COVID; the lockdowns, the face masks, the limitations to movements: all that happened in a few months, and the world of last year looks so remote that it could be seen as part of the still ongoing Middle Ages.

And, yet, there is some logic in what has happened. History may surprise you and it usually does (the only sure thing we learn from history is that people never learn from history). But whatever happens in history has a reason to happen. And what we are seeing is not unexpected. We have seen it already, stark clear and unavoidable: it is the militarization trend of a decaying society.

Let’s go back to the Roman Empire, as always the paradigmatic story of a state that went through a full cycle of growth and collapse. The Roman world was not so technologically sophisticated as ours, but the basic needs of the citizens were the same and the Roman government provided many of them. You may have heard the expression “Panem et Circenses” (bread and circus games). That described two of the services that the Roman state ensured: the shipment of  wheat from Africa to the Roman cities and the various kind of games performed in the amphitheaters.

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This Is How It Ends: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

This Is How It Ends: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

While the Federal Reserve and the Billionaire Class push the stock market to new highs to promote a false facade of prosperity, everyday life will fall apart.
How will the status quo collapse? An open conflict–a civil war, an insurrection, a coup–appeals to our affection for drama, but the more likely reality is a decidedly undramatic dissolution in which all the elements of our way of life we reckoned were solid and permanent simply melt into air, to borrow Marx’s trenchant phrase.
In other words, Rome won’t be sacked by Barbarians, or ignite in an insurrectionary conflagration–everything will simply stop working as those burdened with the impossible task of keeping a failed system glued together simply walk away.
If we examine the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Western Roman Empire, we can trace the eventual collapse to the sudden psychological shift from an assumption of permanence that found expression in denial (Rome can’t fall, it’s eternal…) or in the universal belief that life was unchanging and so everything was forever.
This psychological state was replaced by a shocked awareness that what was unimaginable, “impossible”–systemic collapse–was not only entirely possible, it was happening in real time. This change in consciousness arose in individuals in differing ways and velocities, but eventually everyone accepted that some adaptation was now necessary.
Correspondent R.J. and I have been discussing the consequences of the sharp decline in the value of labor which is painfully obvious in the chart below and the many other charts depicting the declining purchasing power of wages and the skimming of the majority of the economic gains by the top 0.1%.
In effect, it no longer pays to work beyond the bare minimum needed to survive as all the value generated by labor above this minimum is either skimmed by the Bezos, Buffetts, Gates, Zuckerbergs et al. or it’s paid in higher taxes to the government.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bimillenary of the death of Germanicus: The Defeat of the Roman Deep State

Bimillenary of the death of Germanicus: The Defeat of the Roman Deep State

2,000 years ago, on Oct 10, 19 CE, Germanicus Julius Caesar died in Antioch, Asia Minor, perhaps poisoned by his uncle, Tiberius, then the ruling emperor. If we see Hillary Clinton in the role of Germanicus and Donald Trump in the role of Tiberius, you have an equivalent ongoing conflict. 
Most likely, the concept of “Deep State” existed in Roman times, just as in ours.

Germanicus had not gained his “agnomen” (victory name) because he was a friend of the Germans, but because he had managed to kill many of them in a series of military campaigns from 14 to 16 CE. Tacitus tells us many details of how the Romans engaged in what we would call today a Strafexpedition (“Punitive expedition”) to avenge the defeat they had suffered against the Germans in Teutoburg ten years before. 

The Romans attacked Germany with eight legions and plenty of auxiliary troops in what was probably the largest military expedition in history, up to that time. In military terms, it was a success: the Germans were defeated and forced to retreat, but the cost of the campaign was simply staggering. Reading Tacitus we can get a feeling of the enormous effort in which the Romans had to engage in order to keep their legions supplied of food, equipment (and money for the troops). Eight legions were about a third of the whole military strength of the Empire: imagine fielding them in a region having no roads and no supporting infrastructure! 

By 16 CE, it must have been clear that the effort was bankrupting the Roman state. That led to an undeclared conflict between the ruling emperor of the time, Tiberius, and his nephew, Germanicus. It was good that Germanicus could defeat the Germans (or, at least, claim victory over them).

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The Surrender of Liberty in the Name of Security

The Surrender of Liberty in the Name of Security 

QUESTION: It seems that as we get closer to a change-over of economic systems that as a society we are more willing to give up our rights to the State. Is that part of a pattern during these types of events? Was it seen as Britain, Rome, and other countries lost power after their peaks?
DS

ANSWER: Unfortunately, the trend first materializes when people need the government to protect them usually from an external force. The British used this tactic against both the French and the American colonists. That prompted Ben Franklin to comment on this trend.

After the 3rd Century Monetary Crisis bottomed in the Roman Empire in 268 AD, there was a surge to build a wall around Rome by Emperor Aurelian following the same pattern. Aurelian saw the corruption that led to the debasement of the currency because those minting the coins were robbing the treasury. Aurelian moved to DRAIN THE SWAMP in Rome. When Aurelian returned to Rome in 271 AD after fighting off barbarians, he had to pacify a terrified city. He immediately halted the rioting and restored order to the capital. The controller of the mint in Rome began a rebellion over the monetary reforms laid out by Aurelian. He ordered that all the debased currency be purchased back and replaced with a new currency of higher content in silver. The rebellion was led by Felicissimus.

It appears that those who had been running the mint were embezzling the intended silver and issuing the debased coinage at least in part on their own authority. Obviously, any reform to the monetary system that called for an increase in silver content would have been unprofitable for those running the mint for personal gain.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Did climate change cause the fall of the Roman Empire? No, but what may have actually happened is amazing.

Did climate change cause the fall of the Roman Empire? No, but what may have actually happened is amazing. 

“Vanity Fair” may not be the best source for reliable scientific information, but this cover is typical of an idea that’s becoming popular in the memesphere: that the Roman Empire fell because of climate change. Alas, this means stretching the data more than a bit and surprisingly, the opposite may be true: the climate changed because the Empire fell. Read on! (image source)

We have a problem with history: we often try to frame the past as if it were the same as the present. And that means projecting on the ancient our own troubles and fears. Add to this the difficulties we have in dealing with complex systems, the kind of systems that normally behave the way they damn please, and the results are often a complete mess.

The fall of the Roman Empire is a case in point. Maybe you know that in 1984 the German historian Demandt listed 210 (!!) causes proposed for the fall. It is fun to read how people just transferred to the Roman society whatever they were afraid of, from Communism to Culinary Excess.

In more recent times, we started being worried about things that weren’t well known in the 1980s. One is the decline of the energy return on energy invested (EROI), which is a true problem for our fossil-based society. It is much less obvious that it was a problem the ancient Romans and I wasn’t impressed by the attempts of Thomas Homer-Dixon to paint the Roman collapse as the result of an EROI decline. No data, no proof, just vague analogies.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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