Roman military might was developed in the early days of the citizen-soldier. The discipline that made Rome was not the Oriental slave-mass charging in with fanatical zeal, but a stolid, solid group of men, each with his shield against his neighbor’s shield, each one RESPONSIBLE, not to the God-Ruler, but to the man beside him.
While others howled around them, they just went straight ahead, a solid wall of shields, each one confident that he could do his job because the man beside him was doing his. It made the huge, shrieking wall of attackers into a mob. From that day forward it was said:
“A savage can beat a civilized soldier. Three savages can fight toe-to-toe with three citizen-soldiers. But ten thousand savages cannot defeat a hundred citizen-soldiers.”
But Rome was never able to build a slave-army. So eventually the disciplined army took over Rome.
One of my favorite incidents in Roman history reminds me of early American history.
Citizen-farmer-soldiers who brought their own equipment had developed the techniques of Roman warfare. Their tiny semi-city had defeated the titan of the Italic Peninsula, the Etrurians, and the commanders decided it was time to take the war into enemy territory.
So on command, the Roman citizen-solders marched forth. They reached the borders of Rome. The commanders kept going. The soldiers sat down. They were there to defend their land, their own farms. The commanders were told to come and explain to them why they should get killed fighting on somebody ELSE’S land.
And before you go all gooey about this democratic feeling, be sure not one of the guys sitting in the road would have hesitated to fight to keep Roman slaves in line, whether they owned any or not.
But I like to have to have one critical point in each essay, and this is it:
By about the sixth century BC, when those citizen-soldiers sat down in the road, the Roman method of warfare was already fully developed. There were adjustments, but you could have looked at a Roman Army in action then and a THOUSAND YEARS later and, if you were familiar with the differences in armies, you would recognize the two as the same approach.
That is why Gibbon wrote “The Decline and Fall” of the Roman Empire. It had huge numbers of scribes from its height to its collapses, but we have no information at all on its BEGINNINGS.
In other words, we know nothing about the important part.
Part 2, The History You Know is, by Definition, not the History You Need
The required prerequisite to the course offered here is one below. I will start where that ended.
We know the history of Rome’s decline and fall. What we need to know is how it BEGAN. Anybody can fall without studying history to find out how.
So, today, we know all about Ellis Island and the Pilgrims, but we know NOTHING about the people who actually went out and founded American institutions.
Certainly the Massachusetts settlement was everything America was NOT. And I don’t just mean a society where everyone was watched as closely as in Orwell’s 1984, where the State was absolute in the most piddling matters and there was no freedom at all.
I mean something else as well.
The Puritans never LEFT Europe. By 1640, there was almost zero difference between the Puritan community people left in England and the one they moved to in Massachusetts.
Ooops! Here comes The Greatest Generation to tell us that there was WAR against the Indians in Massachusetts. WAR, they tell us, is EVERYTHING.
The world is divided into Practical Men Who Know What Life’s All About, like them, and everybody else.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, if you had been in an American military uniform from 1941-1945, you had a far better chance of surviving those four years than if you had been a healthy male in mufti in England from 1641-1645.
In fact, given the REAL causes of death in the REAL world at the time, people in Jamestown or Massachusetts in 1640, Indians and all, were safer than people in England.
Death then was from disease and hunger. NOBODY starved in NORTH American colonies then. The population was so healthy compared to the conditions in Europe that they multiplied like rabbits.
Anyone telling you about the Middle West will draw a line through the middle of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Southerners, they tell you, overwhelmingly populated what is south of this line. North of the line was the rest. That is generally true. The Ashbrook family, NOT ASHCROFT, came to Ohio from Virginia in the 1830s.
Lincoln kept saying that northern Illinois and southern Illinois in his day were as different as South Carolina and Massachusetts.
But remember, New England, and especially Massachusetts, were only a small fraction of the population north of the Mason-Dixon Line. New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, none of them tiny, were up there, too, and the rest of New England itself.
And also remember we are not talking about the West BELOW the Mason-Dixon Line.
When you do the arithmetic, you will find that New Englanders who settled the West were few and far between. The Midwesterners who defeated the South in the Civil War were half Southerners themselves.
You can find New England settlers in Salem, Oregon, hence the name.
Puritan descendants tended to settle the West just as they had settled America, in clumps, in communities that would have been more at home in a Puritan English village than in Virginia.
Do the arithmetic. The Puritan Fathers were the fathers of very, very, VERY few Americans. How did they become our “Fathers?” EXACTLY the same way priests become Catholic “Fathers.”
Puritans settled in Massachusetts and wrote up a storm. Every history features them, not only because they won the Civil War, but also because, like Rome in its decline and fall, there were endless sources there.
New Englanders, compared to the rest of the country, stayed right where they landed. So did the Ellis Islanders. If you want endless documentation about how America was founded, all you need is a year-round ticket between New York City and Boston.
Notice how much alike WORLD history and AMERICAN history are?
WORLD history is Ex Oriente Lux. Everything was invented right where the records are.
The history of every LIVING country is buried under cathedrals and new cities and farmlands. By the most incredibly good luck, everything was invented right where everything died, right in the middle of the Middle Eastern desert where all the ancient writings are right at the surface.
American history had the same luck. America is Ex Oriente Lux.
Just as all world history comes from the Middle East; all American history comes from Boston and New York, from the Northeast.
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