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ISU # 4-6 - Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation

Do we really need to study history?
by

John Smith

on 21 May 2010

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Transcript of ISU # 4-6 - Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation

ISU #4-6: Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation
by the most amazing person ever, YALI Yes, you may clap now. Since the dawn of civilization, about 3500 BC, many great civilizations have risen and fallen. ... ...such as the Egyptians ... the Romans ...the Mesopotamians ...the Mayans ...And more! Why did these great civilizations fall? But wait! Weren't they... powerful or great or something? And why do we even care? What relevance does this have to our daily lives? It's an interesting yet difficult question: DO WE REALLY NEED TO STUDY HISTORY? History:
n. 1 - The branch of knowledge
dealing with past events.
2 - A continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account; chronicle Some say yes, but some say no. Which is the correct answer? NO. The side I shall present today is: To answer that... story time! “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, page 284)"
- George Santayana
And to present my opinion, lets talk about one of the most remembered ancient civilizations, the Romans! This is one of the most popular quotes used when people reply to the question of “Why do we study history?”. HOWEVER, in this sense, George Santayana is completely incorrect. Meet 2nd Century Roman Empire. Look, they're happy, prosperous, and have no major problems at the moment..
Now meet the Roman Empire in the 5th century, right before their fall. Depressing, no? Now meet the shrinking 5th Century Roman Empire. They don't seem to be very happy at the moment. Depressing, eh?

Well, here is the scary part.
According to the quote mentioned before, if we don't study history, we are doomed to repeat it. Right? The main reasons of the Ancient Roman decline are completely irrelevant to us.
Up until the Third Century Crisis, the Romans were going great. However, following the Third Century Crisis, the Romans started declining greatly in power, land, stability, and population. The main reasons for their fall were: 1. A system very similar to absolute monarchy.
A system of absolute monarchy is not necessarily bad, but with the Romans, it turned out to be. (Some of the time, mainly preceeding their fall.) An absolute monarchy is a system similar to despotism. The ruler has complete and unchallenged rule and does not have to listen to any advisors or voters, but still gets a ceremony of royalty and in some forms a hereditary rule is present. The Ancient Romans had an emperor who followed the characteristics of an absolute monarchist. A well-known example of an absolute monarchist is Louis XIV of France.
You see, absolute monarchy is an interesting system of government, because depending on the leader, in this case, the Emperor of Ancient Rome, absolute monarchy can either be great or devastating. For example, take the period of the Five Good Emperors, Nerva through Marcus Aruelius, from 96 - 180 AD. It was a time of great prosperity for the Romans, and under one of the emperors of this period, Trajan, the Roman Empire saw its biggest geographical extent in 117 AD! How useful good emperors are! But not all emperors are fantastic, some of them were actually clinically insane. Meet 39 AD Caligula. He became the emperor of Ancient Rome in 37 AD. For the first two years of his rule, he was known as a noble and moderate leader. Meet 40 AD Caligula. Caligula, deciding to spike it up a notch, starting going absolutely insane leading many people into thinking he had neurosyphilis, because thats what the cool emperors did back then. Caligula, liking his horse so much, decided to appoint it to Senate. Caligula, also liking seashells, decided to order all of his soldiers to bring to him all the seashells they can find in what is now Northern France. Caligula, finding he likes to see his close relatives and colleauges dead in a pool of their own blood, decided to kill, force into suicide, and sometimes (sparing them), banish nearly all of his family and a few people close to him in office and stating they just "magically" dissapeared.
But Caligula was relatively normal, he didn't leave as devastating of a legacy for the Roman Empire as the Severan Dynasty, which closely followed the Five Good Emperors, ranging from 193 AD - 235 AD. And thanks to some (really) bad, costly desicions, guess what followed? The Crisis Of The Third Century. Which, as said before, pretty much sent the Romans into utter doom.
And after the final splitting of the Empire, which you saw... here: See the purple part? That is the Western half of the Roman Empire in the final splitting of 395 AD. This splitting was because of political reform following the Crisis Of The Third Century. The Western half, now known as the Western Roman Empire, suffered terrible, corrupted emperors, who were puppets of their advisors. This contributed to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, if not ultimately caused it, in 475 AD. (You'll hear more about the Eastern Roman Empire later.) Do we have that problem? Well, about the insane leaders part, let's just cross our fingers and hope. (: In conclusion, we don't have absolute monarchy. We have democracy, so if something goes wrong, we can vote the leader off. In addition, the leader definitely does not have absolute power. Reason 3: Barbarians. What on Earth happened?
Don't you just love it when one day, while minding your own business, barbarians come along, knock on the door, and then, being impatient, decide to break through the windows, kill people, and run away with all of your money? Well, for our good friends, the Romans, this happened. Quite a lot actually. However, the Romans, being powerful and all, were able to hold the barbarians back with ease until the Crisis Of The Third Century, even win the upper hand and invade the barbarian land and other empires's territories, claiming their land as their own. But during and after the Third Century Crisis, thanks to all their problems, the military wasn't strong enough anymore. Roman Empire 400 AD To put this into context, the Western Romans were covering the border west of the central line with only 400,000 soldiers, which would normally need at least 5 million to be defended adequately. Just 75 years later, all of Western Rome's territory was invaded and taken by the Barbarians, and Odacer, a Germanic king, deposed the final emperor of the western half, Romulus Agustulus. Quite sad, eh? Well, we do have wars, but: 1. We are much more secure than the Romans; we don't have all the problems they had that obstructed their defensive military. 2. Wars are MUCH less frequent. Reason 4: Incredibly Bad Economic Situation Remember the Economic Meltdown Of Late 2008? Well, imagine that... much worse. In the recent economic meltdown, problems were caused because of banks losing money because of people getting mortgages and never paying them back, among other issues. For the Romans, economic problems were caused by:
1. People running away from barbarians, so they didn't work anymore and create income for the empire. (Its quite hard to farm if you're being chased by barbarians with swords)
2. The Roman territory was being invaded, so not enough surplus of gold, food, and other important traded items are coming to the big cities.
3. People running away from a government in a state close to anarchy. (Farming while your own military is chasing you with swords is quite hard as well.) In addition, a major problem many historians place as a major contributor to the Fall Of The Roman Empire is the tendency of the Roman Empire to invade foreign lands to fix problems, especially economic issues, as a short-term fix. Eventually, not much land was open for invasion that was suitable and weak enough, especially with a weakened military, which was very bad for the Roman economy in the Third Century Crisis and on. The 3rd Century Crisis was a period of near anarchy which many historians blame for the Fall Of The Roman Empire, which was caused by and promoted the problems explained next. Reason 2: A state of near anarchy. Thanks to the Severan Dynasty, the Roman military was in chaos after the last of them was murdered. Civil wars were ongoing and rampant throughout the Crisis Of The Third Century, because many generals in the army were trying to become the emperor, and killed eachother to get the throne. Throughout the course of the Crisis Of The Third Century, which lasted only 50 years (235 AD - 285 AD) , an estimated 25 generals tried to become emperor, most killed before they got the chance. Diocletian, the emperor proceeding this anarchy, managed to get things under control in 286 AD, but the damage was already done; parts of the Roman Empire were in ruins, barbarians invaded easily, citizens were running amuck, and the military was EXTREMELY weakened and suffered great decay. In addition, one of the emperors in the Severan Dynasty, Carcalla, enacted the Constitutio Antoniniana, which gave free citizenship to all who wanted without having to first join the army, which was the previous custom. The main reason people joined the army was to gain citizenship, so although a blessing for the common people, it decreased the number of soldiers the Roman Empire controlled dramatically, PERMANENTLY. Our government is much more stable, and we don't have a power-hungry military. Reason 4: Periphery Periphery -
n. The outermost part or region within a precise boundary. This mostly applied to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The final splitting of the empire was not very thought out. The Eastern Roman Empire got lands that were much richer, prosperous, and productive than the Western Roman Empire. In addition, the land of the Eastern Romans was covered in strategic resources and luxuries, much more than the Western's.
This turned the Western Roman Empire into useless, unproductive, and undefended periphery. The Western Roman Empire died out less than a hundered years later, while the Eastern Roman Empire (which later became known as the Byzantine Empire), lasted until 1453 AD (1058 years), gaining back some power. The Byzantine Empire was even able to gain back all of the territory of Western Rome in the split in the middle of the 6th century. Sounds just a little unfair, eh? Reason 5: Other Issues Such as: The Rise Of Religion Less Advanced Technology Sickness
"Germanification" The invention of the horseshoe in Germania in the 200's gave the Barbarians a huge advantage in battle over the Romans. Loyalty of the citizens shifted to the army rather than the government during and after the Third Century Crisis, conflicting with the works of the empire. Lead poisoning from pots and pans was widespread, especially among the elite. Deadly plauges were common in big cities, killing more than 5,000 a day in their peaks. Do we have this problem? Yes, but it's controlled and minimized through medicine. In addition, for us, plauges are MUCH more rare.
Christianity and Islam (the latter only for the Eastern Roman Empire) conflicted with the beliefs and usually monopolistic workings of the Empire, which are based on Paganism.
Some of the Roman emperors, such as Constantine, were proud Christians, and in 313 AD, Constantine made Christianity the main religion of the Roman Empire and started prosecuting Pagans, which put many people into problems, Pagan or not. In our modern society, multiculturalism is a great thing! So in conclusion, do we have the same problems as the Romans did? So does not studying history really put us in jepoardy of following our ancestors' footsteps into danger?
We have our own problems and tough situations that are completely different from what other civilizations and groups experienced in the past. We're living now. So... In this case...
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