“After many years in the shadows, Francis Towne’s haunting paintings of Rome are back in the light, beautifully displayed—they may appear a mere sideshow in comparison to the blockbuster exhibitions of great names, but they offer a luminous vision of a civilization lost in time, a tribute to the genius of a quiet man.”
See the other paintings and read the article here: Rome: Behind the Ruins by Jenny Uglow | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
“An underground chamber that was a place of worship for a mysterious cult 2,000 years ago has opened to the public for the first time” If I ever get to Rome this will be on my must see list!
Source: Secret pagan basilica in Rome emerges from the shadows after 2,000 years – Telegraph
Comparisons between Rome and the West (or the United States) are ubiquitous. Most are based on simplistic, superficial analogies used to warn of the demise of the West. These comparisons are almost always undertaken to serve ideological ends. A quick review of the youtube videos on this topic confirm this assertion. This type of speculation isn’t very surprising coming from non-experts bent on confirming their ideological predilections, but such superficial comparisons are not expected from experts. Historians cringe at the simplistic comparisons frequently found in popular culture. Unfortunately, the historian Richard Alston is not one of those historians (at least not in this article
). Based on a simplistic reading of imperial Rome, Alston concludes, “In our modern attempts at state building, we must remember that for most people, the issue is not so much whether you like the rulers, but whether the regime will feed you and protect you. In the modern West, we assume loyalty to the state and thus fail to consider how states can secure the loyalty of their people. Rome’s revolutionaries reduced politics to its simplest form. They killed their enemies and rewarded their supporters; they fed the people and paid the soldiers. It is a recipe for success that we would do well to relearn.” What a sad, cynical, and ultimately incorrect assessment of the human condition. If things are really bad this kind of regime may be, and usually is, a welcome change, but I don’t think this kind of regime is one that human beings will ultimately settle for. I know I won’t!
History News Network | The Lesson of the Fall of the Roman Republic We Ignore at Our Peril.
Why study the fall of Rome and the emerging states that arose in the aftermath?
The historian Paul Fouracre explains the problems with the mythic version of the fall of Rome and the aftermath. In conclusion, he feels the need to justify the study of this period: “Most West Europeans do live in states that had their origins in what grew out of the Roman Empire and do want to know how this came about. The task is to write about this in a clear and accessible way that comprehends the complications and avoids the crusty value judgments of old. David Rollason has shown the way forward in his recent textbook, Early Medieval Europe 300-1050 (2012), which opens with the question: ‘why study this period?’ Well, because in its complications we see how the complex world in which we live first took shape. Oh, and it is fascinating.” Rollason’s answer applies equally to all other areas of history. It’s unfortunate that we as historians feel compelled to justify what we do, but the value of history is not apparent to many people.
To read Fouracre’s article go here:
The Origins of the Early Medieval State | History Today.
The Sacking of Rome (5th century)
The historian Douglas Boin argues that we have misread the fall of Rome and its relevance to today because we have ignored religious beliefs. “Anxious notions about the last days, notions of spiritual warfare, and a righteous belief that a divine hand was endorsing a specific law or policy were ideas in Rome that crossed the theological aisle. But that doesn’t make them any less ‘religious.’”
“That’s why today’s ghost stories are ultimately so revealing. We keep pretending we’re doing Roman history when what we’re really masking is our own severe anxiety about the fast-changing changing world—using the same ideas that our ancestors did, two thousand years ago. It’s time we put these beliefs back into our history books instead of doing as Gibbon did: ignoring them or, worse, pretending they were never there. What people believe—and what people are taught to believe—can’t be left out of history.” I agree. I have long argued that ideas and beliefs are key to understanding the past. Of course they must be understood within the particular circumstances in which they are found, but to ignore them completely has too often led us to misunderstand the past and the present.
History News Network | The Fall of Rome and All that.