The Roman Empire – Introduction
The German Philosopher Oswald Spengler postulated in his Decline of the West two central points relevant to our concerns: that histories of various cultures – his principal point of comparison is Classical (Greek) – can be shown to follow a similar pattern and that all aspects of a culture–art, politics, mathematics, science – have related underlying principles which differ from culture to culture. Spengler views cultures as “organic” by which he means that the follow a life pattern, one he names by analogy to seasons. The spring of a culture is the time of the origin of its basic principles, the time of the birth of the religion of that culture. He believes that all great cultures have behind them a great religion. A culture acting “in form” (a comparison to athletes who are at the peak of their form) is in its summer, when all aspects can be seen as working under the principles at the basis of the culture, and when great accomplishments are made – the artifacts of lasting value.
Our western culture, as compared to other cultures, is one of directedness and will; Spengler refers to it as Faustian. We see our religion as requiring us to convert others. Our art has a perspective, a point of view and direction. Our music is directed toward a tonal center. Our science is about forces and changes. We apply it to change our world. Our mathematics goes beyond the static geometry of the Classical world to deal with the calculus of tendencies and averages.
All cultures come to a Civilization phase, an autumn when this breaks down. Mega-cities are characteristic of this time. Politics is motivated by money, and move through Imperialism and the Period of Contending States to Caesarism,a period of despots. Science no longer reaches certainties. People no longer accept common principles or goals, they fight all rules from the past. The arts, rather than working in ways that seem obvious to the artists and the people, follow fashions with constant changes of style. Later in this culture after a period of atheism, people turn to a religious renewal based on the religion developed in the spring of the culture.
I will show that Spengler´s view of the different states of development within a culture are fully applicable to the Roman Empire. We will see the rise and the fall of that great civilisation every civilized westerner adors.