We remember the demise of ancient Greek culture as one of absorption; of a moderately prosperous collection of city-states gradually coalescing and being anticlimactically appropriated by Rome.
Persia was repulsed.
Rome infected and consumed.
Rome fell. It was not conquered. The Gauls put it out of its misery, but by the time Rome was sacked there was not much of human value to claim. The ideals of the Republic, such as they were, had been supplanted by mindless imperial growth. Why fight so long for Britain? Why cling to Jerusalem? What was important to them? Why this insatiable thirst for land?
(the metaphor is mixed ironically)
There is little doubt that Rome produced great art-in the style of the Greeks-but what remains? Exquisite busts of dead fascists. Arches dedicated to violence and conquest. In the waning years, temples to a god that would inspire wars for at least a millennium.
(plenty of time remains)
What subversive Roman art remains? Where are the questions? Where is the self-examination, both private and public?
If it existed, it was ground into dust and blown into the winds of time and memory.
This is Rome’s true fall: That for its wealth, megalomaniacal square footage, strength and violence, it gave us nothing but sturdy foundations for ignorance, gluttony and belligerence.
Thank you, Rome, for institutionalized violence so popular a word had to be invented to describe the hallways that were so clogged with humanity they seemed to be vomiting people.
Thank you for the word decimate, as well.
Thank you for satire, without which we could not survive your steady reflection in our history books.
We miss this lesson at our peril. We can no longer suffer under the mass of our apathy. We must look honestly at ourselves.
Plato tells us that Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. An unexamined culture is not worth saving.