Why revolutions matter. Empire and Revolt.


Romans are who people consider to be imperial, impartial but imperial. Very few empires have had the distinction of outliving others over a period of …. yet most if not all claim that they are one version of Rome or the other. Hence the phrase, “Rome was not built in a day.” Imperial might allows for complete jurisdiction of territory with little oversight by authorities. Thus the phrase, when the cat is away the mice will play. The picture of mice playing conveys mice like behavior in humans, timid, cautious yet abundant in life. When jurisdiction is parlayed further into favor, despotic tyrannies find root. It is hard to distinguish tyrant from emperor when one hand feeds the other. Eventually, the cycle of conquest gives way to revolution which when properly nurtured can bring hope and salvation to those rotting under the heels of despotism and disgrace. Vigilance is a valued necessity for freedom because it distinguishes wrong from right actions. Neither the Emperor nor far flung lackeys are able to bring to fruition what vigilance teaches all of us, to do what is right by others. Without this fundamental acceptance, there can be no way in which to make people believe in the rightness or wrongness of things including people. Law can be established only after vigilance has made its favor known. What can be wrought by people can be equally undone by them. It then becomes a question of incentive, in what ways do people yearn for the chance to be vigilant? A mother perhaps is willing to put her life at risk for the well-being of her children, a politician for the well-being of their party, a doctor for the improvement in their patient, but most of all humans in need of being vigilant to themselves. This is where most of us fall down. It is scary to be vigilant to oneself. At the risk of appearing trite, Eliot’s understanding of the love of J. Alfred Prufrock is appropriate; “We grow old and wear our flannel trousers rolled.” Civilization risks of the right to be vigilant when it is imperially managed. The right of some to judge the actions of all. The act is impossible in the best of circumstances and lends itself to butchery in the worst of them. How people disguise their intention is what captures the imagination, yet here imagination is too feeble to uncover intentions. Thus, the plodding challenge, grab hold of each moment and risk being both its champion and challenger. Dialectic rules when society cares only for the wealthy and arrogant.

When deception masters the world vigilance becomes servitude. In obedience to justice, the innocent and the experienced must change places frequently. The innocent in search of truth pay homage to the experienced even as the experienced learn nuances of right and wrong. The balance of imperial power is shifted toward fate when those in charge cannot accede to the inevitable, change. It is up to individuals free or otherwise to determine whether revolt is the just course of action. Power is never kind to anyone especially those pursuing a narrow and perhaps dangerous path. Denying power its might is one way to hold oneself and another accountable for gift of all, freedom. Empires have done poorly with it because they are unable to rise to the challenge of revolt without which there can be no such entity as “freedom.” If vigilance partners justice then the just must take into account the price of vigilance. Only in such circumstances can freedom be effectively instituted. Unfortunately, the emperor and the revolutionary fall short of paying the price; the emperors because of their inability to understand jurisdiction and revolutionaries because of their inability to discern futures. Mere exchanging of places will not work in this situation. As will it help for the Revolutionary to understand jurisdiction and for the Emperor to discern the future. Napoleon’s victories are legend as are Robespierre’s analytics yet it is not certain that freedom played an integral part in their calculation. For one territory was supreme while for the other moral conviction. Robespierre and Napoleon ended up in prison neither being fully able to fulfill their mandate. Dialectically, separating territory from conviction and conviction from territory can be a way forward to fathom freedom that meets the needs of both vigilance and authority. However, progressives have never accepted the cause of the vigilant and conservatives, the authoritarian. Yet it is this task that individuals are called to perform whenever and wherever freedom is a value that is overused and undervalued. Deciding the outcome separates what an empire is able to achieve, its crumbling or unfolding. Revolution is acceptable when it is tasked with defining the objective of freedom, one that empires can use to draw their own conclusion about fate. Rome is not built in a day and if properly constructed does not have to come apart in a day as well. Emperors and revolutionaries have risked all to change the way in which people approach their lives some with clout and others with autonomy.

In the scenario of a Just War commend Cicero and his morality.


Cicero’s writings include all the main elements of what today we call Just War Theory. 

This topic is broadly treated by John Mark Mattox in St. Augustine and the Theory of Just War, who supplies examples from Cicero’s writings of the specific principles of just cause, last resort, comparative justice, right intention, public declaration, proportionality, discrimination, and good faith. One may also easily identify these principles for oneself with reference to a single, short section, On Moral Duties 1.11.33 – 1.13.41. A fuller treatment of Cicero’s just war principles and theory, however, rightly deserves a dedicated article or book.

The similarities between Cicero’s Rome and today’s United States are numerous, striking, and important. Like today, Cicero’s times were ones of immense cultural and political upheaval. Rome was emerging as something like an unrivaled global super-power. The Roman military machine was unparalleled in technological sophistication. Like today, imperial expansion was judged as an economic necessity. But also like contemporary America, Cicero’s Rome was marked by a distinct sense of exceptionalism, and a conviction that imperial ambitions were not entirely selfish. That is, they were partly justified (or perhaps rationalized) as a humanitarian and mutually beneficial attempt to unite all nations in a single, civilized community, where Rome was only a ‘first among equals’.

Not only was Cicero an experienced politician himself, but the work that contains the essence of his just war theory, On Moral Duties, was written specifically as a long letter of advice to his son. Cicero had every reason to expect his son would, like him, one day reach a position of leadership (the younger Cicero did, in fact, later become consul) These complex factors, when blended with Cicero’s characteristic warmth, kindness, humanitarianism and love of country. Semi-realist in orientation, in contrast with the hard-line Realpolitik Cicero can regret as inhumane and unnecessary the Roman destruction of Corinth, yet accept as necessary (and, hence, just) the similar razing of Carthage. The difference was that Carthage was a genuine threat and (in the Romans’ eyes) a brutal enemy, while Corinth was merely a potential threat to Roman hegemony.

Last, we must give special attention to the distinctly religious orientation of Cicero’s works. Modern cultural commentators have pointed to the desirability of developing a non-sectarian spiritual framework for understanding and coping with the problems of the modern world. Ideally such a framework should be compatible with basic religious beliefs common to all religions, and also congenial to secular institutions like governments, public universities, etc. Cicero’s just war theory, along with the rest of his ethical writings, is firmly rooted in Platonic-Stoic religious ideas and virtue ethics. In particular, it is wedded to Stoic Natural Law theory; this holds, basically, that all that happens in the world is orchestrated by a Divine Intelligence, and that both justice and personal happiness are achieved by acting in concord with this plan. Failure to do so – for example, to wage war unjustly – must necessarily meet with divine disapproval and corrective punishment. nations to act justly. Importantly, this framework establishes a basis for judging an action moral or immoral that is absolute, not relative or merely based on expedience or utility. Indeed, one of Cicero’s main philosophical achievements is to drive home the point that (in war, as generally), what is immoral can never truly be expedient or advantageous.

A second, related legacy of Cicero’s Stoic leanings is his emphasis on cosmopolitanism. That is, for Cicero, all human beings, enemies included, are part of the human family, to all of whom we have strong moral responsibilities. As part of a non-sectarian religious philosophy, Cicero’s just war theory is something that can be discussed and developed by members of all religions on an equal footing – something equally acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, New Age hippies, and agnostic theists alike. At present, any serious discussion of religious or spiritual moral principles by government officials, intellectuals, or public news media is a taboo. In consequence we have totally dissociated Just War Theory from spiritual and transcendental principles, which is both ineffective and absurd.  Let us, then, give Cicero’s just war theory a unprejudiced and thorough look. We may discover that Providence has, in his works, supplied many treasures.

May 24, 2012 at 11:48 pm. John Uebersax is a psychologist, writer and former RAND Corporation military analyst.

http://www.shakespeareswords.com/Titus-Andronicus. Rome et al.


titusromeA better head her glorious body fits. Than his that shakes for age and feebleness. What should I don this robe and trouble you? Be chosen with proclamations today. Tomorrow yield up rule, resign my life. And set abroad new business for you all?  Rome, I have been thy soldier forty years. And led my country’s strength successfully. And buried one-and-twenty valiant sons, Knighted in field, slain manfully in arms,  field of battle, battleground, field of combat in right and service of their noble country.  Just claim, rights, title. Give me a staff of honour for mine age. But not a sceptre to control the world.  Upright he held it, lords, that held it last.


Authority: By Frank Furedi, Cambridge University Press. 2013.

Socrates and his endeavor for authority. 


Concern with authority is as old as human history itself. Eve’s sin was to challenge the authority of God by disobeying his rule. Frank Furedi explores how authority was contested in ancient Greece and given a powerful meaning in Imperial Rome. Debates about religious and secular authority dominated Europe through the Middle Ages and the Reformation. The modern world attempted to develop new foundations for authority – democratic consent, public opinion, science – yet Furedi shows that this problem has remained unresolved, arguing that today the authority of authority is questioned.

Socrates personified the attitude that culture subsequently be conceptualized as authority. His response to the competing projects to construct authority was to promote and ideal of moral authority through the celebration of moral expertise. Does that mean that he prevailed in his time? His exalted view of the moral superiority of the expert makes him potentially indifferent to the opinion of others. Indeed he seems to assume that such opinions are erroneous precisely because they are held by many people. Yet he was not uninterested in public opinion.  It was precisely because he believed that through dialogue people’s opinion could be clarified that he spent conversing. For  Socrates, dialogue was akin to midwifery and his aim was to assist others others to give birth to what “they themselves thought any how; to find the truth of their opinion.”  Socrates invested his hope in persuasion to forge a genuine consensus and he therefore did not see the need for a distinct group of rulers.  The importance that Socrates attached to dialogue and the pursuit of truth suggests that his statements on authority are that wisdom and truth authorise public behavior. He was hesitant about pushing the idea of a moral expert too far, and in numerous dialogues the “claim of statesmen and citizens alike to moral expertise” is repeatedly revealed as fiction. His belief in dialogue did not contradict his worth more than others.


imperialrome socrates-quotes-2

Rome. Sting, Love is the 7th wave.