One of the greatest civilizations of the world was the Ancient Romans, they conquered most of the known world and at the end, and they couldn’t save themselves. The extravagant society crumbled upon itself. The government coffers ran dry; there were no more civilizations to conquer to replenish the treasury. How did this happen? How could one of the richest, most advanced civilizations simply crumble upon itself?
Many reasons can be cited as to what caused the fall of the Roman Empire, the cheap slave labor created a system where citizens didn’t work. The luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the citizens, the massive government spending on infrastructure and safety nets, political corruption, inflation and military spending. How could the people not see the collapse coming? That answer is simple; it was the bread and circuses.
Bread and circuses refers to the concept that if you keep the people fed and entertained, they will be ignorant to everything going on around them. The Caesars had to import grain to feed the masses in Rome so people wouldn’t starve and to keep them entertained, they imported exotic animals and gladiators, recreated famous battles and held chariot races. While the people were busy at the coliseum, enjoying death battles and free food no one paid attention to the rampant inflation, political corruption or reckless government spending…until it was too late. The Roman satirist Juvenal is credited with the term, as he accused his fellow citizens of selling out for bribes of ‘bread and circuses.’
Many people are making the comparisons between the Roman Empire and United States. Some are even asking if we are Rome. The comparisons are easy to make. Inflation, the Romans continued to coin money that contained less and less gold until the coins were worthless and the barter system sprang up and workers wanted to be paid in goods, rather than worthless coin. The US has long since abandoned the gold standard and with quantitative easing, you can see the effects almost weekly as prices continue to rise to compensate for the dollar as it loses value. Do I even need to make examples of the political corruption, military spending or government spending? Record deficits, endless wars and crony capitalism should be easy enough to see, for those that aren’t even looking, let alone those that are looking.
The United States and its citizens need to learn from the Ancient Romans and stop selling out for the bread and circuses and pay attention. We, Americans, are more concerned with the feast and the sporting event to pay attention to the massive political corruption and the massive military spending. We are more concerned with the blockbuster movie and large popcorn than record deficit spending and public works projects. We are more concerned with the barbecue and concert than the society’s moral decay and blatant inflation. Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, an apparently we haven’t learned from Ancient Rome.