The elite Roman moralists, Virgil and Cicero, cited the agrarian lifestyle as the source of civic virtue. Thomas Jefferson went further. He believed that no nation could provide evidence of the corruption of virtues among those who worked the land. For Jefferson the independent farmer became the allegoric prototype of our unalienable rights. Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin framed the archetype of the American spirit by printing its distinctive wisdom in a farmer’s almanac and displayed his self-reliant American wit before the courts of Europe from beneath a coonskin cap.
Virtue is embedded in nature, instructed by nature, and rewarded by nature. As Thomas Cole’s sequence of portraits “The Course of Civilization” illustrates, mankind’s journey from a savage state to an agrarian state nurtures courage, determination, diligence, frugality, and, above all, a respect for reality.
While the savage state is Locke’s ideal of man in nature, Cole’s pastoral state is the model of Jeffersonian virtues.
Below, Cole’s image of civilization’s consummation shows mankind’s social apex as his complete insulation from the rigors of the natural environment. People retain the virtues they have learned on the path to success and strength. Their virtues have allowed them to overcome the harsh savagery of the natural environment. This easily acceptable view of society’s zenith shows man severed from his teacher.
Once within the luxurious bubble of civilization, no lie is too great to be considered plausible. While we make genuine scientific progress, the false, self-styled sciences that “experiment” with the lifestyle of mankind are as old as the hills. In insulating himself from the harsh realities of nature, mankind abandons virtue and lives by the permutations of a relativism nobody in an agrarian state can afford. This natural failing of mankind only increases with his loss of virtue. The more debased and vicious people become, the more they must insist that everything is relative, that choices make no difference. Anyone who even dares to suggest otherwise becomes an outcast, a fool, a fanatic.
Sallust, witnessing the fall of the Roman Republic, recognized the end of Roman liberty as a consequence of Roman vice:
“…By practicing these two qualities, boldness in warfare and justice when peace came, they watched over themselves and their country. …But when our country had grown great through toil and the practice of justice, (then)…those who had found it easy to bear hardship and dangers, anxiety and adversity, found leisure and wealth … a burden and a curse. Hence the lust for money first, then for power, grew upon them …For avarice destroyed honor, integrity, and all other noble qualities; taught in their place insolence, cruelty, to neglect the gods, to set a price on everything. Ambition drove many men to become false; to have one thought locked in the breast, another ready on the tongue; to value friendships and enmities not on their merits but by the standard of self-interest, and to show a good front rather than a good heart. At first these vices grew slowly, from time to time they were punished; finally, when the disease had spread like a deadly plague, the state was changed and a government second to none in equity and excellence became cruel and intolerable.”(War With Catiline, 9-10)
Only relativism validates such practices in civic life. Self-interest is a satisfactory motivation in everything but government. This was the fanatical relativism that destroyed the Roman Republic. In Rome relativism led to a failure of patriotism, to schism over duty, and ambition over honor. The rise of Roman Imperialism was sealed. The systematic exultation of homosexuality was only a symptom of the decline of the Roman Republic as it is but a harbinger of the abyss now awaiting the West.
No society is fit that has lost all contact with the truth.
Certainly, there has been homosexuality in every age. However, the fall of Athens and of the Roman Republic can be linked to evidence of rampant, institutionalized homosexuality. This is the last outrage of man against nature and those values that are natural to the human heart. People become too civilized, too elite, to be bothered with the truth. Ambition dismisses the hard work of responsibility to the truth as a venal preoccupation with the trivial. Reality becomes hard words, the pauper’s long face, an outcast in polite society. Institutionalized homosexuality is not the effective cause of the end of civilization; it is simply the last death rattle of a society no longer fit for law or decency.
In Athens the rise of Socrates as a “corrupter” of the young, reveals the intense reaction against what had become very public homosexuality (“Plato”). As in the modern West, the question of homosexuality in Athens was no longer one of a government that peered into bed chambers; it was an issue of protecting young men against the onslaught of an institutionalized homosexuality in the public square. Socrates came to historic prominence in the late fifth century BCE (400 BC). Exactly what the details of the case against him were is unknown; however, Plato and Socrates were the rock stars of their age. What occurred must have been a monstrosity that could not be ignored. Yes, Socrates aggravated the traditionalists, but not by his philosophy alone. It was his behavior that outraged what was left of the old guard of the old ways. He was executed in 399 BC. Within sixty years King Phillip II of Macedonia defeated Athens, and the queen of the Athenian league became a member of the Corinthian league. Athens became a mere memory of glory.
The evidence that rampant, institutionalized, homosexuality held sway in Rome as the Republic burned is very telling. It is found in Augustus Caesar’s desperation about the birthrates in Rome. Not only did he pass some of the strictest ordinances favoring marriage and forbidding promiscuity in Roman history (Paragraph 13 and footnote 5), but he did so with a very peculiar tirade against the vast majority of the unmarried Roman noblemen. These noblemen were knights, members of the equestrian order. They were the elite of the Roman world. In his speech defending his new ordinances, great Augustus commiserated at length with the bachelors who protested that there were some unpleasant things “incident to…the begetting of children” (p. 23).
The account of this speech by Augustus is telling for three reasons. First, it is an often told tale that homosexuality has a genetic component that affects only a small percentage of any given population. However, plainly, plainly the majority of the equestrians had become homosexual. Secondly, this is so like government. Long after the Republic has fallen, and long after there was any chance of saving the Roman birthrate, then, then, the government gets into the act.
Lastly, a more often told tale is that the only with the rise of Christianity did homosexuality become unacceptable. This is not, historically, the case. Augustus reasoned that if there were fewer children, there would be fewer legions, and it would be the end of Roman domination of the empire. He reasoned correctly. Despite the wisdom of the most powerful emperor in the history of the Mediterranean, by the end of the first century Italian recruits comprised as little as twenty-two percent (Hassall, The High Empire, AD 70–192, p. 331) of Rome’s armies. From the first century on, barbarian auxiliaries, among whom homosexuality was not tolerated, earning citizenship by service in the Roman military became the rule. The idea of Rome lived on, but for the Romans themselves, it was mostly over. They too became but a memory of glory, an inspiration to barbarians like us.
In the case of Rome and Athens, the virtues of the old ways were neglected, so also in the United States. In Athens and Rome luxury, born by innovation and ingenuity or on slavery’s back, insulated the citizenry against the virtues an agricultural life demands. In rural societies laziness, stealing, lying and promiscuity are evils none can afford. The harvest rewards the diligent, the faithful, the honest, and the kind. Homosexuality did not bring down the ancients; it was simply their final outrage against nature and nature’s maxims. Instead of virtue the ancients increasingly insisted that depravity, dishonesty, and cruelty of every type were justified by an undeniable, invincibly proud relativism. It was a lie then. It is a lie now.
Prosperity allows one to buy out one’s conscience. Don’t make the sale. ‘Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ is a chorus only a rich Epicurean can sing. Riches can be deceitful and those that are most deceitful are those that are inherited. America has inherited greater riches than our founders could have ever dreamt, and we, like spoiled little rich children, insist on our delusions. We insist today that no choices have consequences, that there is no virtue and no vice, and daily we become more vicious. The more depraved our lives become, the more fanatically we insist on relativism; we are too ugly to face the mirror.
Where Roman viciousness had a soft landing with the rise of tyranny only, America and the West may have a much harder future. Our viciousness seems ready to spawn, not tyranny, but totalitarianism. Withstand our religion of relativism and be taken to the inquisitors. It’s begun: see Judge: Parents bigots for opposing ‘gay’ lessons.