Tuesday, 4 November 2014

it happened on the way to the forum: the end or i have come to bury caesar, not to praise him

Though Ancient Rome during its last days was a poor shadow of its former glory and the academics of the disintegration were less captivating, merely a guilty glance at misfortune, I experienced separation-anxieties at seeing the epic come to an end and was sad to hear of the final succession of emperors slip away. Ruminating on the causes of the fall were well established—and sufficiently legion and with transparent allusions to contemporary times: the lack of checks-and-balances, usurpations, the taxation-scheme that destroyed the middle-class (placing a bounty and incentive for the tax-man that usually only haunted the vital demographic), racism (Rome was relatively enlightened, ruling over a multi-ethnic empire, but although the services and the fealty of the Barbarians were serviceable enough, they were forever excluded from holding high office), a standing-army with undue political influence, religious schisms, invitations that turned migrations and then invasions, not to mention the sanitising of symbols of State expressly linked to Rome's survival.
 For the haughty hegemony and revisionist history, often I found myself routing for the underdogs, but I did want Rome to linger a little longer before descending into melodrama and a soap-opera. Of course, the legacy did live on in the East for nearly a thousand years and the story could have gone on after the coup de grace at the hands of the Goths, the Huns, the Vandals and the Alans. The saga came to an end, with a flair that should not go unnoticed, with the elevation of the fourteen year old son of Orestes, a minister of Attila, named ironically Romulus Augustus. The boy ruler's namesakes were of course the founder of the Republic and the founder of the Empire and he reigned for ten months or so and made, probably, for an auspicious time to put this episode to bed. Romulus Augustus was sent into exile and claimant, the Germanic chieftain Odoacer, who announced himself merely King of the Italians and packed up and shipped whatever symbols of State that had survived successive raids to Constantinople, pronouncing that the Empire and the known-world now only required one leader. The exile of this teenager, however, is not a historic cul-de-sac as he finds himself connected to King Arthur and the Matter of Britain, as mythic heirs to the Roman continuum.