Duane Dichiara

The Romans in Defeat

Of all the civilizations of antiquity, I’ve always held a special place for the Romans, both the Republic and the Empire. The sheer time scale of this civilization is almost hard to comprehend. The Republic was founded around 510 BC, started faltering around 130 BC, was replaced in fact if not in name by an Empire in 29 BC. The Empire in one form or another lasted formally until 1453 with the fall of

Constantinople . Coming from the perspective of a 200 some-odd year old Republic this was quite a run.

 

What I respect most about the Romans was that they understood that the world was a constantly changing place, and that to fail to adapt to changing times was to surrender power, and thus to surrender their ability to determine their own future. This came to mind today because I was reading an old history book about the Roman wars with Carthage – in particular the Battle of Cannae (216 BC) at which some 50,000 Romans of an army of 86,000 were casualties.

 

Cannae was one of the worst military defeats in Roman history, and historians speculate the severity of the loss would have led to the collapse of any number of ancient and modern governments or people. Think of the large part of the American military being defeated or killed in a couple of days. However, losing just wasn’t the Roman way of doing business. The Romans buried their dead, raised new armies, looked at the reasons for their defeat, and went on to win the war. That’s right – they actually looked at the reasons they lost.

 

That was the thing about taking on the Romans, as later opponents were to find out to their chagrin – they were incredibly adaptive and just kept coming. A defeat on the field of battle to the Romans was a defeat, but they learned and the war went on. Just as important as being able to field army after army of the willing after each defeat was their ability as a people to look at the world as it was in practice not theory, in peace and in war, and change their own military, their own government, or their own policies to maintain what they wanted the most: the ability to control their own destiny. They got the joke: being right about everything is great, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t call the shots.

5 Responses to “The Romans in Defeat”

  1. jf18jones@gmail.com Says:

    Tread lightly when using the adaptability of the Roman Empire as an allegory for the strength of the Republican party. Internal strife, especially infighting among the numerous claimants to the throne, led to the fracturing of the Empire and (relatively) immediate downfall of the Western Empire. Just saying.

  2. duane@coronadocommunications.com Says:

    You are right, of course, that the Republican Party is not the Roman Republic or Empire. At convention I don’t see too many people I’d like to see in a toga, or trust in a fight with a sword.

    But to your main point: frankly I think our party could use a little more infighting, or at least open discussion about what we stand for. By that I don’t mean the normal ‘rally round the flag boys’ heard here – I mean coming to the conclusion that we need to assemble enough voters who support enough but not necessarily all of the party’s positions to allow that party to run the government for a time or decide to become a debating society that does not chose our own future.

  3. jf18jones@gmail.com Says:

    I think he’s suggesting that negotiation and compromise are beneficial to a certain point. After that, though, you’ve got to buckle down and play politics to win an election. Endless debate to divine the greater good leads to an end similar to Socrates’. Sure he, was right about the folly of the Athenians war with the Spartans, but he was also drinking hemlock.

  4. jf18jones@gmail.com Says:

    Sorry for a Greek reference in a Roman thread.

  5. marksheppard@verizon.net Says:

    Duane,

    Do you think that America is more analogous to Rome circa 100 AD, or Rome circa 475 AD?