Good Riddance to the Roman Empire
Escape From Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity , by Walter Scheidel, Princeton University Press…
Biology supports the interpretation of Rome’s fall described in the link above.
Humans are wired to wander: to gather seasonal foods along known migration routes, and to hunt the animals that follow those migration routes.
That is a lot of physical work in the great outdoors and you have to carry your stuff with you.
But, our ancestors stopped doing that. They learned to raise plant food and breed and care for servant animals. They started living in long-term settlements that became the villages, towns, cities, and metropolises we are familiar with today.
Then we grouped up into countries in Europe and empires elsewhere in Asia. Africa and the Americas are not discussed, except with respect to the US which combines Empire with Polycentrism (do read the linked essay, it is informative, easy to digest, and a quick read).
But governance of the people for the purposes of Empire, Polycentrism (nation states, states in the USA), and war is difficult because we as individuals are wired to wander (gathering and/or hunting), but now we are staying in one place. Our entire primate ancestry wandered about all over Earth for about 7 million years. I am assuming they had a pretty great time.
Then we settled down and the rules set in.
Let’s just say the great outdoors was rationed out in terms of time spent there,
and we mostly worked from sunrise to sunset according to someone else’s rules for our behavior and how much we could expect to eat and earn,
and who got to fuck who. Fucking was a great diversion from life’s travails (well, it still is) and it was and is pretty great
except for pregnancy and disease. Gays had it good. They didn’t have to worry about pregnancy, but you know how disease is: equal opportunity.
Some things never change…except gays can have kids now.
But, I digress.
War and long distant trade of locally-produced goods replaced wandering. Soldiers, traders, and their respective support staff still got to and do wander about.
They got to pillage, acquire, and have loads of sex (with their sex servants and ladies or guys in the populations being raided and added to the Empire or nation state).
Farmers and those caring for, raising, and processing servant animals were goods and services possibilities for roaming bands of war guys and gals. You know you have to stay in one place to farm and make products, have kids, and raise a family.
But, due to pleasure, profit, and might makes right,
War has plagued humans for as long as we have records.
I say plague
because war requires death and dismemberment. It requires theft on a grand and personal scale.
It brings on famine and disease even as it enriches some but not all warriors and traders.
Ladies and girls, men and boys
and anyone under the aegis of the local warlord (which could include traders),
not to mention up-hierarchy demands for labor, loyalty, and political saavy
on pain of public humiliation, imprisonment, dismemberment, and death (can you say, Jeffrey Epstein?).
That is a lot of suffering and work to stay alive in war world regardless of the era you lived/live in.
'The Only Choice Is to Wait for Death'
Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Syria's war ended up in Idlib city. But with the front line just five miles…
if you are a pregnant woman, mother, father,
or someone not working in the war or trade machines. You know,
farmers, tradespeople, local business folk. Our lives (as always) are enclosed by many rules and regs. We don’t have such a good time. We don’t earn as much profit or pleasure from our governance arrangements with the now ruling (once warrior) class as the rulers and their support classes (which include traders) do. Most of us (~the bottom 65%) are being piano-ed by monetary issues (fees, costs of living of which there are many). This certainly applies to animal slaves who exist only to give us the life products (plants, meat, milk, eggs, skins, furs, etc.) of their bodies, who are kept in close, tortuous confinement. We eat and wear their stress.
If you are a hare-chasing dog in Spain, your torture is required
and your death will be as awful as your owner can make it
because his polycentric culture says the more hideous the dog’s torture
the more successful you will be next year in the hunt.
Dogs aren’t the only animal treated thusly.
So. War. What is it good for?
Establishing and maintaining Empires and Polycentric states.
The counterfactual is, what would Europe have been like if war culture had never formed in Europe and Asia?
Let’s imagine that,
you and me.