L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 49, June 30, 1999
History, Latin, and America
by Jonathan Taylor
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
Other than boosting my SAT scores, I always wondered if my classes in
Latin would ever help me out. Well, that and I can sound real demonic
at Halloween by "speaking in tongues." I never imagined, however,
that my state run education in a language that's been officially
kicked to the proverbial corner, would lend me an insight on matters
politic, here at the turn of the century, in these United States.
Gracious, public schools may have done something right for a change,
if for no other reason than that was where I first heard the saying
"Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it" and
where this story first stuck in my head. I remember it even after
most of my Latin, excepting a few colorful phrases, is long gone.
Julius Caesar fought the Gallic wars from BC 58-50, a war for nothing
less than the complete and total subjugation of the tribes of France
and small parts of Spain and Germany to the overall machinations of
the mighty Roman state. The Celtic (or Gallic, if you prefer) leader,
Vercingetorix, was defeated not through superiority of arms or
numbers, but rather through superior tactics for which he could not
and was not prepared, and the unity of the Roman command as opposed
to the fragmented and easily divided and conquered Celts. Having
beaten the Celts into submission (and disarmed them, by the by),
Caesar faced a new problem. No one really wanted his army, flush with
victory, marching home with the most ambitious man the world had ever
seen at its helm. They got this crazy idea he might decide to do the
same thing to Julia - ummm ... Rome. Least thrilled of all the
patricians of Rome was Caesar's partner in power, who decided he
liked ruling alone just fine, thank you, no need to come home.
One day in the year 49 BC, Caesar stood before the River Rubicon,
which then marked the border between heretofore Celtic lands and the
Motherland. Caesar gave the order to cross into Rome, not as a
Conquering Hero, but as a hero, conquering. Caesar was to take the
title of "Dictator for Life" by brute force. What, exactly, was that
"Allea Iacta Est," or, "The dice are cast." Well, the man never was
one for long speeches, after all. But, those words stuck in my head
for a long time, as did the story of the Gallic wars.
Caesar conquered the Celts, not because he was smarter, not because
Romans were braver or better people or better armed or organized.
Caesar invaded a country of warriors, with a vastly numerically
inferior force, and came out victorious and a hero to future statists
everywhere. How? Because he factionalized them, he introduced Roman
culture slowly, and he then mopped up the piecemeal he had made from
a once proud collection of people.
Caesar then decided to take Rome by force. Was he satisfied with
returning to Rome, a hero, beloved by his people? No, because he
could wield more power if he were to march in and take over. He
wasn't satisfied, even though the Gallic campaign insured him
immortality, at least in the hearts of Latin students everywhere.
And there was a point of no return, a point where the decision had to
be made between what was tantamount to all out civil war and a
peaceful return to the status quo, most likely sans Caesar.
Modern day America, beware this piece of history I greatly fear we
are heading towards. Divide and conquer, boil the frog slowly, these
strategies were practiced by many throughout history before and after
Caesar. But if you look, there is always a Krystalnacht, a Battle of
Wounded Knee, or a Rubicon to be crossed. There is always a last
chance for events to return to normal.
Sadly, history teaches us not to let things get that far, because
none of these examples end well for proponents of freedom. Thatís
because the nationís fate is already sealed at that point. Such
days, like the crossing of the Rubicon, are merely the death throes
of freedom in a nation, the blow having come at some previous time.
Without such a blow to freedom having already been administered, the
actions of the tyrants throughout history would not have been
conceivable. Until freedom is already dying, it is not possible for
Caesar to cross the Rubicon, or even to consider it. What I greatly
fear is how close America could be to a River Rubicon, just on the
basis of one simple, historically proven fact: there are always
those who would be tyrants, and are just looking for a nation that
will submit to them. Every step towards absolutism we take, no matter
how small or how well supported, leads us closer and closer to one we
will not be able to step back from.
Those who donít learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Allea Iacta Est.
to advance to the next article, or
to return to the previous article, or
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 49, June 30, 1999.