Why did the Roman Republic never set up a civilian police department?

Why did the Roman Republic never set up a civilian police department?


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I was recently reading about conflicts between Clodius and Pompey. Clodius first but subsequently Pompey as well, used - what I would characterize as - armed gangs. The power of these gangs was such that Clodius was able to intimidate the Senate.

This and other instances of mobs careening through Rome led me to wonder why the Senate never established a police force? It seems hard for the modern mind to imagine a city half the size of Rome, today, without a police force.


Outside of Rome, the military usually enforced the edicts of magistrates and the rule of law. However, no weapons could be carried within Rome's boundaries, the pomerium. In the absence of this ordinary method of policing, the Senate came up with the senatus consultum ultimum (SCU) in 121 BC, when Gaius Gracchus was causing unrest (Plutarch, Life of C. Gracchus 14.4). This decree ordered all magistrates to take up arms in defence of the State, as Plutarch describes, and seems to have superseded the ordinary limit on weapons being carried within the pomerium, enabling the magistrates to act as a civilian police force.

For example, Sallust tells us that praetors arrested Catiline's allies in 63 BC, when Catiline allegedly conspired to overthrow the Republic (Sallust, The War With Catiline 45) - through the SCU, the magistrates became a de facto police force. Interestingly, the magistrate's guards are also described, which perhaps suggests that the magistrate's authority was passed on to them as a result of the SCU.

To draw this back to your question, the answer is that the Republic had the capacity to form a police force when necessary. With regard to your example of the riots, the nature of the SCU meant that it had to be passed in the Senate. It seems likely, therefore, that a certain proportion of the Senate were not opposed to the riots, and so did not pass a SCU. Of course, were the Senate to create a police force independent of political interest, that would only weaken their position and be of no benefit to them.


Hamas Admits the Truth About Israel and Those ‘Civilian’ Casualties

On the first day, May 10, of Operation Guardian of the Walls, Hamas claimed that Israel had been killing civilians. Here is the report: “Hamas Tacitly Admits That Israel Is Only Hitting Military Targets,” Elder of Ziyon, May 11, 2021:

The official Palestinian Authority (PA) Wafa news agency claimed on Monday night at 7:22 P.M.:

20 civilians, including 9 children, were killed this evening, Monday, in an Israeli raid on Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Local sources told Wafa that the occupation planes held two bombing raids east of Beit Hanoun, and continued targeting our people in the Gaza Strip, which led to the death of 20 civilians, including 9 children, in addition to the injury of about 65 citizens, 3 of whom were seriously wounded, and were transferred to the Beit Hanoun and Indonesian Hospitals. In the northern Gaza Strip, some of them were transferred to Al-Shifa Hospital due to the seriousness of their injuries.

Our correspondent reported that violent raids by the Israeli warplanes targeted homes and civilian properties in different areas of the Gaza Strip, during which dozens of rockets and missiles were fired.

He confirmed that the raids targeted a group of citizens, a vehicle, a motorbike, and two homes in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, in addition to an Israeli missile strike in a yard behind the Al-Omari Mosque in the town of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, and a shell fell on a house [of] the Abdul Nabi family in the Al-Jarn area of the town, and the Al-Kashef land in its east was targeted.

Wow — it sounds like the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is only hitting civilians and civilian targets.

But then read this from Hamas at 9 PM:

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, warned the Zionist enemy of a “strong, painful and above expectations” response if it bombed civilian facilities.

Abu Ubaidah, the Qassam spokesman, said in a tweet: “We warn the Zionist enemy that if they bomb civilian installations or homes for our people in Gaza, our response will be strong, painful and beyond the enemy’s expectations.” [emphasis added]

Sounds like Israel has only hit military targets….

Abu Ubaidah did not say that he was telling the Zionist enemy that they will now suffer because they have already hit civilian structures, but rather, offered the future conditional: that if Israel — in the future — were to hit civilian structures, then Hamas would make sure that Israeli civilians would suffer (of course, Hamas from its very first rocket barrage has aimed only at civilians). That’s a clear admission that, as of Abu Ubaidah’s tweet at 9 p.m., there had been no civilians killed in Gaza.

After the 11-day war ended, Mark Regev, an advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, raised another aspect of Hamas’ claims about civilian casualties. The Israelis have determined that about 60 civilians were struck by Hamas’ own misfiring rockets, that never made it to Israel, but fell on Palestinians in Gaza. Regev’s remarks are given here: “Senior Netanyahu Adviser: ‘Many of the Casualties’ in Gaza Conflict Killed by Errant Hamas Rockets,” Algemeiner, May 24, 2021:

Mark Regev, senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a Sunday interview that “many” of the Gaza casualties in the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas were caused by rockets fired by the Palestinian militant group that fell short in the Gaza Strip, rather than by Israeli military strikes.

“We tried … to hit the terrorists and not to see innocent people caught up in the crossfire,” Regev said on “Fox News Sunday” to host Chris Wallace. “And while our goal was to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas had actually the exact opposite goal … They were brutally abusing Gaza civilians as a human shield for their war machine. We know for a fact that many of the casualties in this operation were caused by Hamas munitions. Almost 20% of their rockets fell short, landing in Gaza, killing Gaza civilians.”

Since the conflict began on May 10, about 4,340 rockets were fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, with at least 640 falling within Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The clashes claimed the lives of 12 Israelis, including one IDF soldier. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, about 240 Palestinians were killed, a count that Israeli officials have called into question.

“We don’t know if these figures are reliable and include only civilians,” said a senior IDF official on Friday. “Past experience has shown that Hamas takes great effort to conceal numbers and the identity of the casualties for example by removing militant insignia from the dead bodies when they are being evacuated.”

After 11 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas entered into an unconditional ceasefire that took effect Friday 2 a.m. local time.

Ultimately, in the operation we gave Hamas a heavy blow,” said Regev in the Sunday interview. “We dismantled a large part of their terrorist-military machine. We took out part of their leadership. We hit their command and control. Hopefully they will think twice even three times before they strike at Israel again.”

Hamas has not yet admitted how many – Israel says 640 — of its rockets fell short and landed in Gaza, killing dozens of civilians. Perhaps it has decided not to admit to such massive malfunctioning. It also is careful to remove insignia from the uniforms of its dead fighters before showing them to the foreign media. Thus do Hamas fighters metamorphose into dead civilians. The foreign press, already so biased against Israel, allows itself to be deceived.

The data so far suggest the following casualties: on one side, 12 Israelis were killed, of whom 11 were civilians, which certainly suggests Hamas was trying to harm Israeli civilians 700 Israeli civilians were also wounded. On the other side, Israel reports having killed 200 Hamas and PIJ fighters. including 25 senior commanders of both Hamas and PIJ. The IDF believes, according to Mark Regev, that about 60 Palestinian civilians were victims of Hamas’ own malfunctioning rockets that fell in Gaza. Hamas says that 243 Palestinians, civilians and fighters, were killed. Even if the figures given are not exact, needing slight corrections up or down, the overall picture is clear. If we accept Israel’s figure about the number of Hamas figures it killed – 200 – and Hamas’ claim that 243 Gazans had died, that means there were only 43 civilian casualties. In 11 days of fighting, with more than 1,600 targets hit by Israeli airstrikes in the thickly-populated Gaza Strip, with Hamas’ weapons, Hamas intelligence offices, command and control centers, hidden among and in civilian buildings, to result in a total of only 43 civilian dead – or of twice, or even three time that number– is an astonishing feat of precision bombing, likely never before equalled in the history of modern warfare.


A brief history of Rome

According to legend, the Romans had banished their last king in 509 B.C., when they founded the republic and vowed never to be ruled by kings again.

Instead, Roman citizens elected magistrates, led by two consuls, in a republic which offered a model to America’s own Founding Fathers. Sometimes, in times of crisis, they elected a “dictator” to wield sweeping powers (a sort of martial law), for a term of six months, or until the emergency had been resolved and the government could go back to normal.

In the first century B.C., military commanders like Marius, Sulla, and Pompey had upset the equilibrium of this system, amassing extra-constitutional powers with the support of the masses. But Julius Caesar took things a step further. In 49 B.C., he led his Roman army out of Gaul and across the Rubicon River into Italy, and was elected dictator. That kicked off three years of civil war. During the war, he was elected dictator again, for a whole year. Then again, for 10 years. Then in perpetuity, with no term limit. He was elected consul too, with his right-hand man Mark Antony as his co-consul.


Lessons from History: The Parthian Defeat of Rome

This is the first article of our “Sacking of Rome” week: red-teaming the global order and learning from history. It is also the first of Merighi’s independent “Lessons from History” regular series for CIMSEC.

They poured gold down his throat, cut off his head, and sent it back as a warning to others.

No, this is not a scene from the latest episode of Game of Thrones this was the passing of Marcus Licinuis Crassus in 53 BC.[1] Rome’s richest man, a member of the First Triumvirate with Julius Caesar, and the man responsible for putting down the pirates that menaced the Mediterranean, met his ignoble end fighting the greatest challenge the Romans ever faced in the east: Parthia.

Map of the Achaemenid Persian Empire at its height with the region of Parthia marked in a red circle (Wikimedia Commons)

Persia was the preeminent military, political, and cultural power in the ancient world from 550 B.C. to 330 B.C. With its heartland in modern day Iran, its empire spanned from Afghanistan to Turkey at its apex. It all came crashing down in spectacular fashion when Alexander of Macedon rose to power and led a ruthlessly efficient military machine on a path of conquest that brought him all the way to the Indus River. He tried his hardest to unify the Persian state with his own but, when he died at the age of 33 in 323 B.C., his empire immediately collapsed into a host of warring factions. Three of his Greek generals went on to found the three largest states in the Eastern Mediterranean by the time Rome rose: the Seleucids in Turkey and Syria, the Antripatrids (later the Antigonids) in Greece, and the Ptolemians in Egypt. In the Persian heartland, however, ethnic Persians waging a proto-nationalist campaign kicked out the remnants of the Greek invaders. Known as Parthians due to the origins from the titular province in north-eastern Iran, they established a small state that expanded outward as the Alexandrian generals quarreled with one another.

For centuries after his death, every Greek warlord in the Western World claimed their legitimacy through Alexander and the desire to rebirth his Empire. Rome, too, took up this mantle as it expanded eastward into the Greek mainland. Beginning first in Greece and Macedonia, they waged a brutal war with the beleaguered Seleucids and conquered all the territory they possessed in the modern Middle East. This brought Rome’s borders right onto those of Parthia. Both were rising states with expansionist ambitions and a border that sat on porous, easily invadable territory. The stage was set for an epic confrontation between the two great powers.

Map of the Roman-Parthian border with the location of Carrhae shown in a red circle (University of Guelph)

Unfortunately for Rome, this manifested in the ill-fated expedition of the afore-mentioned Crassus in 54 BC. The expedition met its unfortunate end on the plains of Carrhae in south-eastern Turkey along the Syrian border.

How did the Parthians manage to resist Rome for so long? Their success rested on three key disparities between them and their Roman opponents:

1) Assymmetric Military Advantage

A Roman Legionnaire (left) facing his greatest threat since Hannibal: Parthian horse archers using the Parthian Shot (Wikimedia Commons)

The Roman legion was the paragon of military efficiency in its day. The strict discipline, advanced military technology, and sheer numbers were widely feared even before they began leaving the Italian peninsula. It was by no means a perfect force, as its travails against Hannibal in preceding centuries demonstrated, but the system itself was markedly better than any other fielded even with bad generalship. How then was it so ineffective against Parthia?

Unlike the other opponents the Romans fought in the preceding six centuries, the great bulk of the Parthian army were horse archers rather infantry or melee cavalry. Noted for the infamous “Parthian Shot,” their horsemen would rush forward to engage Roman infantry, retreat, then abruptly turn in their saddles to fire a shot directly behind them. The slow, methodical legionnaires were then rendered ineffective since they could not physically reach their assailants. The horse archer can be equated with modern fears about Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) they were mobile, highly survivable, and could take out slower assets with near impunity.

These techniques were perfect for the open terrain on the Roman-Parthian border. If the topography had been less open, such as the forests of Gaul or Germania, Parthian tactics would have been less effective. The Parthians, though, did not need an army that could fight on different terrain because that is not where they needed to fight nor chose to fight. This brings us to the second advantage Parthia held over the Romans.

2) Strategic Focus

The Parthians never harbored ambitions to conquer Rome their strategy consisted of resisting Roman incursions and making their own when Rome was politically weak (see discussion below). Since the Parthians did not commit their resources into futile all-or-nothing fights with Rome or engage them on disadvantageous terrain, they always maintained a strong conventional deterrent that altered Rome’s calculus away from intervention.

Map showing the Parthian Empire in relation to the territory of the Scythian nomads. Without a central government, the Scythian tribes could only pose occasional threats in Parthia’s east (Wikimedia Commons)

The Parthians also had the strategic benefit of having fewer serious external competition its western border was solely with Rome and the neutral kingdom of Armenia (the site of many proxy wars between Rome and Parthia). To their east were far weaker and divided opponents, namely the Scythians and Bactrians. Rome, on the other hand, was beset by strong enemies on all sides. These included: restive tribes in Gaul and the Danube region, lingering discontent in Numidians North Africa, a still-unitary Egypt, and a vascillating client state in northern Turkey. These challenges both demanded military resources and political attention to effectively control. Even if Rome had more money and soldiers than the Parthians, only so many of them could be dedicated toward fighting the Parthians.

3) Stronger Political Core

(From the Left) Marcus Licinuis Crassus, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony. All of the men tried to invade Parthia. The first one actually crossed the border and was killed. The other two were killed by Romans before even getting there (Wikimedia Commons and the Musee Des Augustins)

Parthian politics were cold and brutal. Succession crises were common and factions killed one another as they vied for the Parthian crown. There were even instances of Parthian claimants to the throne finding refuge in Rome, like exiled dictators, waiting for the opportune moment to return.

Roman politics during the late Republic and early Empire made Parthia look like Switzerland. The invasion of Parthia planned by Julius Caesar in 44 BC to avenge the death of Crassus (and punish the Parthians for their support of his rival, Pompey) was cancelled when Caesar fell to assassins’ blades on the Ides of March. The resulting civil war claimed thousands of Roman lives both on the battlefield and during the infamous proscriptions during which whatever faction happened to hold power would murder people and then “nationalize” their assets. After years of civil war, Rome finally found its footing under the Second Triumvirate. Marc Antony amassed his own army to take on the Parthians and managed to expel them from Syria in 33 BC only to have to turn around to fight his political partner Octavian in yet another civil war.

Octavian eventually succeeded in unifying the Roman state under his autocratic rule but, by then, he was in no position to challenge any external power. Crippling debts were poised to ruin the state. Opposing factions, though cowed by Augustus’ power, still opposed him behind the scenes. Octavian was forced to reduce to total number of legions to consolidate his hold on the Empire and reduce the risk of another civil war. Rather than risking another Parthian encounter in his weakened state, Octavian instead signed a landmark peace agreement that designated permanent borders in exchange for the legionary standards lost during Crassus’ expedition 33 years earlier. The Roman-Parthian drama would continue in fits and starts over the remainder of their very existences but, after that fateful treaty signed by Augustus, Rome finally admitted that it would fully never replicate Alexander’s conquest of Persia.

The cruel lesson for the United States to take from the Roman experience with Parthia is that an adversary with technology designed specifically to defeats its army, combined with stronger political will, is bound to come out on top of any conflict. Defeat does not just come on the battlefield. Just like Rome, the United States has a great number of serious threats: a bellicose Russia, an increasingly-assertive China, a still-problematic Iran, and trans-national terrorism. Unlike many of these antagonists (and the Parthians before them), the United States does not have the luxury of dedicating its resources to countering just one of these threats. The United States’ political system, after years of war and deep partisanship that conjures images of Caesar’s Rome, is brittle and unable to tackle any of these challenges. The lesson from Parthia is that to defeat the United States is merely to outlast it and negotiate for what you truly want.

Fortunately, for the United States, the peace under Augustus is not the end of the story. Over the following two centuries, the tables would turn and the Parthians’ political structure collapsed. Years of dynastic feuds and rival claimants to the throne made Parthia vulnerable to strong Roman Emperors such as Trajan (115 A.D.) and Septimus Severus (198 A.D.). The Parthian state was overthrown by internal revolution and a new Persian dynasty took its place. The final lesson for the United States is this: it is never too late to recalibrate and nothing is over until it is over.

Matthew Merighi is a civilian employee with the United States Air Force’s Office of International Affairs (SAF/IA) currently transitioning to pursue a Masters’ Degree at the Fletcher School. His views do not reflect those of the United States Government, Department of Defense, or Air Force but hopes his country can stand up to the Parthians.

[1] There is no concrete proof that the gold-pouring incident is true apart from the reports of the Roman historian Cassius Dio but it definitely gets the point across.


Access options

This paper was originally delivered at the conference ‘Politics and Power in the Early Roman Republic 509-264 BC ,’ at the University of Auckland, 26-27 January 2016. I would like to thank the organisers of that event, Jeremy Armstrong and James Richardson, and the other participants in the conference, for their comments and criticisms of my paper. I am also grateful to Elizabeth A. Meyer, to J. E. Lendon, and to the anonymous reader of Antichthon for their very helpful suggestions.


Timeline: the battle between left and right

Late summer 1944 German forces withdraw from most of Greece, which is taken over by local partisans. Most of them are members of ELAS, the armed wing of the National Liberation Front, EAM, which included the Communist KKE party

October 1944 Allied forces, led by General Ronald Scobie, enter Athens, the last German-occupied area, on 13 October. Georgios Papandreou returns from exile with the Greek government

2 December 1944 Rather than integrate ELAS into the new army, Papandreou and Scobie demand the disarmament of all guerrilla forces. Six members of the new cabinet resign in protest

3 December 1944 Violence in Athens after 200,000 march against the demands. More than 28 are killed and hundreds are injured. The 37-day Dekemvrianá begins. Martial law is declared on 5 December

January/February 1945 Gen Scobie agrees to a ceasefire in exchange for ELAS withdrawal. In February the Treaty of Varkiza is signed by all parties. ELAS troops leave Athens with 15,000 prisoners

1945/46 Right-wing gangs kill more than 1,100 civilians, triggering civil war when government forces start battling the new Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), mainly former ELAS soldiers

1948-49 DSE suffers a catastrophic defeat in the summer of 1948, with nearly 20,000 killed. In July 1949 Tito closes the Yugoslav border, denying DSE shelter. Ceasefire signed on 16 October 1949

21 April 1967 Right-wing forces seize power in a coup d’état. The junta lasts until 1974. Only in 1982 are communist veterans who had fled overseas allowed to return to Greece


Armed Ghetto Resistance

1. Tuchin Ghetto: On September 3, 1942, seven hundred Jewish families escaped from this ghetto in the Ukraine. They were hunted down, and only 15 survived.

: By 1943, the ghetto residents had organized an army of about 1,000 fighters, mostly unarmed and without equipment. They were joined by thousands of others, mostly the young and able-bodied, still needed for forced labor. By that time, the half-million original inhabitants had been depleted to about 60,000 as a result of starvation, disease, cold, and deportation.

In January 1943, the S.S. entered the ghetto to round up more Jews for shipment to the death camps. They were met by a volley of bombs, Molotov cocktails, and the bullets from a few firearms which had been smuggled into the ghettos. Twenty S.S. soldiers were killed. The action encouraged a few members of the Polish resistance to support the uprising, and a few machine guns, some hand grenades, and about a hundred rifles and revolvers were smuggled in.

Facing them were almost 3,000 crack German troops with 7,000 reinforcements available. Tanks and heavy artillery surrounded the ghetto. General Himmler promised Hitler that the uprising would be quelled in three days, and the ghetto would be destroyed. It took four weeks. The ghetto was reduced to rubble following bomber attacks, gas attacks, and burning of every structure by the Nazis. Fifteen thousand Jews died in the battle, and most of the survivors were shipped to the death camps. Scores of German soldiers were killed. Some historical accounts report that 300 Germans were killed and 1,000 wounded, although the actual figure is unknown.

: Some inhabitants of the Vilna Ghetto began an uprising against their Nazi captors on September 1, 1943. Most participants were killed, although a few escaped successfully and joined partisan units.


Why did the Roman Republic never set up a civilian police department? - History

Immortal scholar, noteworthy victim of lethal police brutality: The heroic Archimedes (left) and the armed goon who murdered him, as depicted in this 16th century mosaic.

While Archimedes is rightly revered for his many imperishable contributions to science, he could also be considered the first recorded victim of lethal police brutality.

A native of Syracuse, Archimedes did his considerable best in the doomed but worthy effort to repel Roman invaders. Following the conquest, Roman soldiers were dispatched to “pacify” the restive streets of the newly conquered city.

One afternoon, so the story goes, Archimedes was sitting inoffensively at the side of a street drawing geometric equations in the sand when some mouth-breather in Roman military garb trod heedlessly on the improvised tablet, ruining the elderly scientist’s calculations.

By this time, the venerable physicist was in his ninth decade, and he saw no point in enduring this act of thoughtless vandalism by an armored imbecile to pass without protest.

“Please don’t disturb my circles,” Archimedes insisted in what was probably a direct but polite tone of voice.

Like law enforcement officers who would follow in his footsteps &mdash albeit in jackboots rather than sandals &mdash the Roman soldier took offense that a mere civilian, and an elderly one at that, would demand deference from someone wearing the uniform and insignia of authority.

If the technology had been available, the Roman quite likely would have given Archimedes a “ride on the Taser.” Instead, the thug withdrew his sword and summarily killed him.

Some might object that this crime was committed by a soldier in an occupying army, not by a civilian police officer. That objection has merit, if only to underscore what should be an obvious fact: Our militarized government police force is an army of occupation.

It makes little difference whether law enforcement personnel are of the federal or “local” variety, or whether they are dressed in quasi-civilian attire or kitted out in full paramilitary drag. American civilians are generally expected to render to law enforcement personnel the kind of docile submission that Archimedes &mdash at the price of his life &mdash refused to offer the Roman soldier who was patrolling his neighborhood in Syracuse.

Under the martial law mind-set, civilians are to give instant and unqualified obedience to any armed individual in a state-issued costume. I had plenty of experience with this attitude while living in Guatemala under martial law following the 1983 military coup that ousted CIA-installed President Efrain Rios Montt.

Anybody who has spent any time in airports since 9-11 will likewise recognize that mentality. And Portuguese-born Canadian citizen Desiderio Fortunato can testify about the treatment one can expect if he insists on rudimentary courtesy from the anencephalic knuckle-draggers who act as border guards for the Department of Homeland Tyranny.

Mr. Fortunato resides in British Columbia and maintains a part-time home in Washington State. He regularly crosses the border separating quasi-socialist Canada into the quasi-fascist U.S.A.

Like many people, he resents being treated like a criminal or a domesticated animal unlike most, he actually does something about it &mdash specifically, he insists that border guards display a particle of courtesy when issuing instructions to people driving through the border crossing.

This takes a certain admirable temerity of the sort one wouldn’t expect in a 54-year-old professional jazz dancer, but such is Fortunato’s honest profession, and such is his disposition.

According to Fortunato, he has often chided Canadian border guards by asking them to say “please” when telling him to shut off his motor or perform other tasks. This request is generally honored, often with a sheepish grin &mdash on the Canadian side of the border, that is.

Last week, during a crossing into the United States, Fortunato was gruffly instructed to turn off his engine by a tax-fattened time-server.

“Excuse me sir &mdash `please,'” Fortunato replied. It would have taken a tiny fraction of a single second to honor that reasonable request. But had the border guard done so he would have been deferring to a mere mundane, someone not clad in the sacred vestments of the Most High and Holy State. So the ill-tempered drudge escalated his demands, finally threatening to assault Fortunato with pepper spray.

Fortunato &mdash showing that, in the language of Louis L’Amour, he had more “sand” than an entire concert hall full of Republican Chickenhawks &mdash stood his ground. So the thug pepper-sprayed him, and, with the help of several of his fellow trough-swillers, gang-tackled and handcuffed the middle-aged professional dancer. Fortunato was held for three hours before being released &mdash without apology &mdash into Canada.

Let’s be clear about something: This had absolutely nothing to do with protecting the borders of the United States from terrorists or any other threat. An actual terrorist would go out of his way to be inconspicuous. The assault on Fortunato was intended to punish him for failing to display proper submissiveness to the Man In The Uniform.

“Our officers will give direct orders or commands to passengers,” explained Mike Milne, a spokesdrone for the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agency. “It is the obligation of the passenger to be compliant with those.” (Emphasis added.) The same point was made by Tom Schreiber, CPB Staffelführer in Blaine, Washington: “This is not a situation where we’re asking this is a situation where we’re ordering you to do that.” (Emphasis added.)

Once again: Whenever a civilian is told that he is subject to the “orders” of someone in uniform, martial law exists.

A few weeks before Fortunato was treated to a chemical-weapon assault by the heroic guardians of our sacred northern frontier, a photographer named Robert Taylor (no, not that Robert Taylor) was accosted by a police officer while attempting to take a photo of a train.

“The cop wanted my ID, and I showed it to him,” Taylor told the New York Times. “He told me I couldn’t take the pictures. I told him that’s not true, that the rules permitted it. He said I was wrong. I said, `I’m willing to bet your paycheck.'”

Of course, Taylor was right and the tax-gobbler was wrong: The photographer was able to call up the relevant transit authority rule on his BlackBerry. But that didn’t end the matter, of course.

A police sergeant materialized and immediately began lying on behalf of his subordinate: The sergeant insisted that their rules were different from those of the transit authority, a claim intended &mdash once again &mdash to get Taylor to yield to those garbed in the accoutrements of the State’s priestly caste.

Taylor wasn’t having any of it. “I [told the sergeant], `If you feel I’m wrong, give me a summons and I’ll see everyone in court.’ The sergeant told them to arrest me.” The photographer was handcuffed and given a batch of summonses, all of them spurious and most of them quickly dismissed.

The one significant charge the police insist on pressing is “disorderly conduct,” which supposedly took the form of speaking to the officers in an “unreasonable voice.” “Unreasonable” in this instance refers to a tone of voice other than one associated with timid, cringing submission.

This is the same supposed offense that got Archimedes killed, and led to the assault on Desiderio Fortunato: Mr. Taylor refused to behave like a whipped dog when confronted by an armed bureaucrat. In fact, he insisted on treating the officers as equals before the law, rather than the incarnation of The Law.

Martial law exists anywhere an individual can find himself arrested, assaulted, or murdered simply for insisting on being treated as a free man. The 2006 murder of Michael Kreca in San Diego provides the most compelling example I’ve seen that such a condition exists &mdash albeit in a latent form &mdash wherever government police are found.

Kreca, a gentle and unassuming man and accomplished writer specializing in freedom-related issues, was walking in Sorrento Mesa one morning in when he was accosted by two police officers &mdash Officer Samantha Fleming and Sgt. Elmer Edwards &mdash who claimed they had heard gunshots. Kreca replied that he had not been shooting and hadn’t heard gunfire.

He consented to a body search (during which his arms were physically restrained by the officers) that turned up, in the waistband of his baggy casual clothes, a 9mm pistol the Navy veteran carried for personal protection.

According to the official police account, Officer Fleming told Kreca that she was going to handcuff him "for her safety.”

"No, you’re not going to do that," replied Kreca. "Let me go I want to leave."

Bear in mind that Kreca had consented to a pat-down search, something he wouldn’t have done if he harbored violent intentions toward the officers. They had no reason to treat Kreca as a threat, much less to arrest him &mdash apart from the arrogant assumption, typical of their professional tribe, that a civilian in possession of a firearm is a “threat.”

As Kreca tried to leave, a needless and pointless scuffle ensued. It ended when Sergeant Elmer Edwards valiantly placed his gun against Kreca’s chest and fired twice, killing him.

Predictably, an official inquiry found that Sgt. Edwards "acted within the law," since California statutes permit police "to use deadly force to protect themselves and members of the public from serious injury or death…." The same report by the District Attorney acknowledged that “Irrespective of any laws applicable to situations where peace officers use deadly force in accomplishing their duties, the law of self-defense is available to any person” and that homicide is justifiable “when resisting an attempt by a person to commit grave bodily injury or to kill any person.”

This observation was intended as a supplemental defense for the officers who murdered Kreca, since Sgt. Edwards insisted that he was afraid Kreca was reaching for his gun. This made no sense, given that Kreca was confronting two armed individuals and hadn’t resisted at all until the police threatened to shackle him.

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that the kill-shots were executed with the gun in the victim’s chest, not by an officer diving for cover in fear for his or her life.

Furthermore, after the police murdered Kreca they found that his gun wasn’t loaded &mdash which means that he couldn’t have shot them even if he had wanted to. So the “justifiable homicide” defense here is based on the subjective impression on the part of Sgt. Edwards that Kreca was going to shoot him and his partner with an empty gun. That assumes, of course, that Edwards’ account of the shooting itself wasn’t perjury, which is never a safe assumption in incidents of this kind.

Kreca had much more to fear from the police than they had to fear from him. The proof of this proposition resides in the simple fact that he is dead, and his murderers continue to pollute the earth.

“The truth is told by whoever is left standing,” explained Tom Zarek, Battlestar Galactica’s resident arch-Machiavel, after he presided over the massacre of his political opponents. Kreca is dead, his murderers agree on a cover story, and those with the authority to prosecute the crime have accepted that account as the “truth.”

In practically every jurisdiction in this once-free land, it is a “criminal offense” &mdash and often a felony &mdash to disarm a “peace officer.” Why isn’t it a crime to disarm a law-abiding citizen?

Michael Kreca’s only "crime" in this affair was his failure to display the docility of an ancient Spartan helot &mdash that is, a member of class not protected by law, and subject to summary execution at the whim of the Krypteia (ancient Sparta’s militarized secret police).

Every encounter between civilians and the state’s armed enforcers has the potential to escalate into an episode of state-inflicted lethal violence. If we permit them &mdash and only our principled resistance, peaceful where possible, but forceful where necessary, is the only thing that will stop them &mdash those who presume to rule us intend to reduce us to abject helotry. And the question is not whether this will happen, since it’s already taking place.


5 Reasons Why America Will Not Collapse Like the Roman Empire

While often compared to the Roman Empire, the United States is not likely to collapse in the same way.

We look to history to figure out if the past is either a prologue or a lesson to the present. In terms of political history, the comparison between the United States and the Roman Empire is attractive because not only do these two represent the most powerful nations of their time, the U.S. actually modeled some of its institutions and thinking after the Roman example. The recent political strife plaguing the U.S. seems to be getting worse by the day and invites the question whether America, like its ancient predecessor, is headed for a downfall. Certainly, from the historical perspective, no empire has lasted forever (so far) and the U.S. is due for a challenge.

The Roman Empire was one of the most successful political and social entities in human history, lasting for over 500 years, from 31 BC to 476 CE. At the height of its power, the empire extended over 5 million square kilometers, controlling around 70 million people, about 21% of the world’s population at the time. Like the U.S., the Roman Empire spread its influence around the world through its culture, languages, religion, philosophy, laws and technology.

But while the U.S. is the world's only current superpower, pronouncements of its Rome-like fall are greatly exaggerated and not entirely appropriate. Here's why:

1. Political Instability Is Here but the U.S. Is Still a Republic

The period we know as the time of the Roman Empire actually followed another nearly 500-year block when it was the democratic Roman Republic (509 BC - 27 BC). A period of unrest and civil wars precipitated the transition to the empire. This is when the infamous assassination of Julius Caesar took place in 44 BCE. After a power struggle that followed Caesar’s demise, Augustus (Caesar’s nephew) was crowned as Rome’s first emperor. More or less effective emperors followed, with much internal intrigue and corruption that led to coups and assassinations. The infamous Caligula (12-41 AD) was killed by the Praetorian Guard, while the corrupt and mad Nero (37-68 AD) committed suicide.

The U.S. is certainly undergoing a period of political upheaval, with the country often split on major issues and animosity rising between different sides. The election of Donald Trump both increased the divide and is a symptom of it. Still, the U.S. is a democratic society, with checks and balances, and Trump is no emperor.

It is also not the first time in recent history the country dealt with divisive issues, with the civil rights struggle and Vietnam War being quite contemporary events (especially from a historical perspective). The country has survived more turmoil, and barring unprecedented measures from the new administration and ineffectiveness of other branches of the government, the U.S. is poised to continue with its political system relatively healthy and functioning.

The Roman Empire in 117 AD during the reign of emperor Trajan. Credit: Tataryn

2. The Economy Needs Work but Is in No Danger of Collapse

Rome was engaged in regular wars and constantly overspent to keep protecting the borders of its huge empire. But eventually the expansion slowed due to stronger opponents and even pirates like Vandals operating in North Africa. This dwindled the supply of cheap slave labor and additional taxes. Roman rich also worked just as hard back in their time to pay less taxes, creating an increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor. Historians also point to a trade imbalance that eventually grew between Rome and China and India. These factors led to a slowing economy and a decline in Roman power.

The U.S. economy is not dependent on colonies or slave labor, but the rising inequality between the rich and the poor, and the resulting political repercussions and unrest are certainly here to stay. The emergence of Donald Trump, who capitalized politically on the job losses in the manufacturing industry and fear of job-taking immigrants, as well as the need for foreign trade reform, points to just how much Americans are worried about the future of their country’s economy.

Still, despite Trump’s rhetoric, the unemployment is low and the country’s steady, if unimpressive, annual GDP growth rate of about 2% point to the fact that the economy is not in such shambles as to predict an imminent collapse. The military spending in the U.S. has been hovering around 3-4% of the GDP, a sizable but not unusual amount, comparable to other world powers.

3. The Military Situation Is Vastly Different

After fighting off all challengers for centuries, Rome’s military power waned and it was finally overtaken by a series of military losses to Germanic tribes, including the sacking of Rome in 410 by the Visigoth King Alaric, and another sacking by the Visigoths led by Geiseric in 455. In 476, the Germanic warrior Odoacer led a revolt from within that deposed the Emperor Romulus Augustulus, making him the last Roman emperor to rule Italy from Rome. The Eastern part of the Empire actually survived until 1453 CE, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks.

The U.S. has powerful military opponents like Russia and China, but an all-out conflict involving any of the nuclear powers seems highly unlikely due to mutually assured destruction. However, asymmetrical warfare like terror attacks by Islamic fundamentalists or cyberattacks and subterfuge from Russia can cause more gradual decline in American power due to weakening confidence in its leaders and institutions. Still, this is not likely to result in a serious military loss unless a more direct confrontation takes place, which at this point seems impossible. So the world’s most powerful military should keep America intact for the time being.

The Emperor Nero commits suicide with his own sword after the Roman army overruns the city, 9th June 68 AD. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

4. U.S. Is Not in a Cultural and Social Decline

This point is certainly debatable as some would argue the U.S. is undergoing a weakening of its values. The country is transforming from a Christian and white-majority nation into an ever-more multicultural melting pot. Interestingly, some like the historian Edward Gibbon, in his seminal “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” have pointed to the adoption of Christianity and its weakening of traditional Roman values as the reason for the empire’s eventual collapse.

Others have blamed the overspending and dumbing down of Rome via gladiator games and debauchery via crazed emperors like Nero for its decline. This, of course, makes an easy parallel to America's preoccupation with sports and reality tv stars, with the left painting Trump as a latter-day Nero. On the other hand, it can easily be argued that these types of entertainments and politics are nothing new historically and can be found in any century. As if they didn't have Kardashian-type subjects of everyone's gossip in Renaissance-era Florence of the ruthless Medicis and the Borgias.

While the U.S. is undergoing transformation, with social changes like the adoption of gay rights, and rapid technological changes via the internet and automation, there’s little reason to point to some kind of major worsening of society. It’s more likely that it’s changing and adapting appropriately, in step with the rest of the Western civilization.

5. Technology, Not Politics Will Transform the U.S. (And the World)

With so much attention focused on the political strife, the lasting changes to America and its power are not likely to come from invading barbarian hordes. The coming world of complete automation, major life-extending medical advances and space exploration will transform the U.S. in ways the Roman Empire never experienced. The Romans did employ and advance the technology of the day but their life was not upended because all the jobs were suddenly staffed by robots, something likely to happen within this century.

How technology changes America and the political entities around the world will not be clear until the singularity hits. Perhaps the battle by President Trump and his ideologues against “globalism” which has a strong anti-intellectual and anti-technology component, is a last ditch effort to fight back against what is really a war that’s already lost.

Still, the political is not to be discounted. As this passage from Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” shows, we have reason to look at Roman history for warnings:

“The provinces, long oppressed by the ministers of the republic, sighed for the government of a single person, who would be the master, not the accomplice, of those petty tyrants. The people of Rome, viewing, with a secret pleasure, [Augustus’] humiliation of the aristocracy, demanded only bread and public shows and were supplied with both by the liberal hand of Augustus. The rich and polite Italians, who had almost universally embraced the philosophy of Epicurus, enjoyed the present blessings of ease and tranquility, and suffered not the pleasing dream to be interrupted by the memory of their old tumultuous freedom.”

Pax Romana, the period of relative peace at the height of Roman power lasted about 200 years. We are over 70 years into Pax Americana (from the end of WW II). How long we can make it last is still up to us.

Cover: Sacco di Roma. Painting by Karl Briullov. 1833-1836. Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow.


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