By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Frustration on an Epic Scale

Julius Caesar, accepting the surrender of Verc...Image via WikipediaIn reading about the massive complexity of Roman society, one gets the impression of a freneticism that afflicted the Republic as it slowly decomposed to become the Empire. Egotism as the meaning of life was fully exploited to the ultimate degree--marry and divorce to form political alliances, Cleopatra, like many others, using her sexual allure to grasp power in an ever-changing environment, the constant rivalry for political success via the spending of vast sums of money, the embrace of obscene luxury as a way to fill one's existential meaninglessness, the slaughter of thousands, if not millions, to make a name for oneself. In the vast panoply of the affluent, complicated world of the Romans, every trick was tried, every avenue exploited, every vice embraced, every form of power pursued in the vain effort to find happiness. Julius Caesar himself is a tragic figure--so much talent, charm, and ability, ending in failure and rejection. Julius Caesar was in many ways surely a great figure, but I do not think of him as happy.

This arena of frustration is why Stoicism emerged as a powerful Roman philosophy in which restraint, modesty, self-control, and a certain fatalism became the means of achieving peace and stability of mind. You can see why Christianity ultimately held such an appeal for the Romans. Yet, today we are again the late Roman Republic, we are again the Roman Empire. Or, as the New Testament, echoing the Old Testament would say, we are Babylon.
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