Rome: Kingdom, Republic and Empire

Napoleon Bonaparte is famously recorded as saying “L’histoire de Rome est l’histoire du monde.” – the story of Rome is the story of the World.  Indeed, it is a microcosm of history;  a story of greatness, innovation, stagnation and failure that resonates throughout time, and against which all other nations, rightly or wrongly, are compared.

Before I continue any further with the history of the Roman Empire itself, I want to mention briefly some of the things Rome created which we still use to this day:  cement (how else would the Basilicae of Ravenna still stand after 1500 years?), a postal service (presumably postal strikes too?); a fearsome professional military machine with the tactics, leadership and technology to match (never underestimate an angry man in a silly hat); and finally the most fitting (and my favourite): satire.

Why the most fitting?  The Roman Empire is a nation of ironies and contradictions on such a scale that, once you strip the facade and idealism away, it is difficult to tell whether the tale you are left with is an epic or a farce.  A nation so bent on being free from tyranny that they overthrew their king, instated a Senate and a constitution then crowned an absolute Emperor.  An illustrious line of madmen, decedents and murderers that began with Augustus (“Great Man”) and ended with Augustulus (“Little Man”).

In order to keep these posts as short as possible I will end this part of the essay here.  My next entry will cover the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, the establishment of the Senate and the beginning or Roman dominance over the Mediterranean.

Thank you for reading.

The Eagle has Landed: The Dream of a United Europe

So this seemed like as good a place to start as any, given its current relevance and controversy.  Over the next several posts I will be looking at previous attempts to unify Europe, their relevance to the European Union, and perhaps providing some arguments in favour and against the so-called Superstate.  I’ll also attempt to scry the future of the Union, using previous examples to predict where it’s heading and what, if anything, could be done to change or endanger this.

The next few posts then will be split into different topics as follows:

The Eagles of Europe:  Ambition, Grandeur and Failure

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The Roman Empire:  (AKA Your land and people are Roman, you’re just too stubborn to have realised it yet).  Arguably the most famous example of a United Europe, under its motto Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and People of Rome) the Empire stretched from the North of England to the banks of the Nile.  But for all of its ambition and (occasionally) good intentions, the Empire crumbled: its Rulers dead, its once invincible legions crushed and Rome, the Eternal City, in ashes.  Whilst this is far too large a topic to cover in a few hundred-word blog posts, I will attempt to explain the hows and the whys, making some comparisons with today’s society.

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The Holy Roman Empire:  The First Reich (AKA there’s nothing you can’t do with a little ambition and a Pope).  Whilst the Third Reich is, understandably, reviled for its actions in the first half of the 20th Century, the word Reich itself is simply German for “Empire” or “Regime”.  Whilst perhaps not as widely well known or understood as the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire is perhaps the first example of a Federal Europe, with its many Princes and Electors chafing under the Emperor, who strove for centralisation and the transfer of powers from the Electors to himself.  Again, this is a very large topic and I do not have a firm enough grasp of all of the subtleties to do it any justice, but I will attempt an explanation of this most curious of Empires, and what we can learn from it in modern day Europe.

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The First French Empire:  The lands and territories controlled by France during the regime of Napoleon Bonaparte (AKA Not all stereotypes are completely true).  If the French Empire was successful in one thing, it was its ability to bring people together to oppose it.  The British, Prussians, Russians, Austrians (and so on and so forth) formed a Grand Coalition to attempt to curb the territorial ambitions of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and for many years were ineffectual in this.  However, years of British naval blockades, overextension, the Russian winter and unfortunate defeats in the Iberian peninsula led to its ultimate defeat, culminating in the decisive Battle of Waterloo.  Whilst I could wax lyrical about Ships of Oak and Men of Iron, the Age of Naval Adventure and Empire, I will be looking at the ambition behind the Empire:  what it hoped to achieve, its ideals, its supporters and opponents and why this too failed.

Monetary Union and You:  The Electric Boogaloo

Economics and finance are not my forte, and not really my cup of tea.  However, any examination of a Unified Europe must take this into consideration.  I will examine three key currency unions, their pros and their cons:

The Florin:  Originating from the Italian city state of Florence, this was the de facto dominant currency in Europe for much of the Middle Ages.

The Latin Monetary Union:  The first formal attempt to introduce a unified currency to Western Europe.

The Euro:  The most successful formal attempt to introduce a unified currency to the nations of Europe, the currency remains divisive and has introduced as many problems as benefits.

The European Union:  Herald of Peace and Prosperity, A Dying Attempt to Create a Fourth Reich or Something in the Middle?

This final section will take everything from the previous sections and attempt (badly) to create a cohesive whole:  where is Europe today compared to these examples from the past?  What can Europe learn from them?  Is it headed the same way or in a completely different direction?  Can lessons be learnt from the past, or are we trailblazers in an age of enlightenment, free speech, repression and fake news?

I’m not entirely sure myself yet, but I hope that by the end I will have some idea, and that you reading (if indeed you are) will at least glean some entertainment if nothing else.

Thank you for reading.