|Sack of Rome 410 A.D.|
Striking parallels can be seen between the later Roman Empire and the unwieldy behemoth of the EU. Both were Empires that sought to force hegemony over Europe, and extend their reach further afield. Both attempted to, in the words of Mussolini, “make the Mediterranean an Italian lake,” or an E.U. lake, in different ways and with varying degrees of success. Both have suffered from a succession of poor leaders, and an elite that cares only for itself and seems blind to the problems of ordinary people. The E.U. is doomed to go the same way as Rome, due to internal and external problems, and a great deal of hubris.
Empire and Emperors
In the later Roman Empire, much rested on the Emperor. This had always been the case to some extent, but even more so in the run up to the fall. The one crucial factor was military prowess and success. As we will see the Empire was under assault from without.
In the E.U. role we have Juncker. As Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Juncker fiddles while Brussels burns. Literally in some cases.
|The aftermath of the Brussels terror attack, 2016|
One of the ways an Emperor can be seen as successful is by expanding the Empire. Hence, we have the ham-fisted attempts to expand the EU. Botched efforts with Turkey (thank goodness), dodgy goings on in the Balkans, and the crowning achievement of helping to foment civil war in Ukraine. Splendid! We all laughed when someone said the E.U. would expand to North Africa. We’re not laughing now. There are plans to extend E.U. borders to the likes of Libya to deal with the migrant crisis. The E.U. army that will never happen is going to oversee it. Juncker’s speech on 13th September 2017 stated that the EU wants to expand in to the Balkans. He will also combine the roles of President of the EU commission with President of the EU council. This will then make him less accountable to the council of ministers i.e. the leaders of each state. One more step to becoming Emperor in truth.
On the subject of the military, the historian Vegetius said that the fall of Rome was primarily a military issue. Well, E.U. countries have spent little on their defence, relying on NATO and the U.S.A. to protect them. Most spend less than 2% GDP on defence. Ironically the UK, which does spend 2%, is leaving. There are also questions on how security and intelligence operation will work after Brexit.
Writing in the later 1700s, Edward Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) suggested that Rome fell due to a lack of civic virtue, and a rise in decadence. Vegetius also wrote about a rise in decadence. People were unwilling to serve, and those that did became corrupt. This hampered the running of the empire. If we look at the E.U. then decadence is certainly on the rise. Juncker recently spent over £200,000 upgrading his office. He has splurged on numerous other expenses. Goodness knows how much the Kinnocks have had out of the E.U., but it is a lot. Does anyone really care that much who their MEP is? Voter turnout is low, and few people know the name of their MEP.
All the while EU funding is spent on useless vanity projects that make no material difference to the lives of ordinary people. The people of Blaenau Gwent were criticised when the voted overwhelmingly to leave. “But they get so much EU money!?” was the cry. Have you seen what it is spent on? Take a look at this monstrosity in Ebbw Vale:
Other prize entries include a £25 million car park in Merthyr, and an outdoor swimming pool. In Wales. That Blaenau Gwent voted out after apparently getting the most money shows that the EU is not creating good, permanent jobs, and is not making a difference in people’s lives. They feel no attachment to it. All the while its political class drift in to further decadence, becoming increasingly out of touch with the ordinary people. Much like their Roman counterparts they indulge in profligate spending, while real issues go unaddressed.
Factors out of their Immediate Control
On the other hand, some historians have argued that the collapse of Rome was outside the Romans’ control. These would be things like technological advances by others, or economic factors. The E.U. certainly took a pounding from the 2008 financial crisis. All countries tied in to the single currency disaster suffered greatly, except Germany. Funny, that. This led to the unfortunate demise of the Greek nation, problems with which are still rumbling on to this day. Hubris had set in. In reality, the Eurozone project had failed. Politically and ideologically, they couldn’t lose face. Hence Greece was loaded up with debt it could never repay, and squeezed until the pips squeaked.
Unlike the E.U. the Romans were supremely adaptable. They built up a navy to face the Carthaginians. The E.U. seem incapable of fast reactions and change. The reaction to the migrant crisis is to bury heads in the sand, pretend it isn’t happening, and leave individual nations to cope on their own.
This then leads to situations like Brexit, as we shall see in part 2. We shall also look at the economy, problems between east and west, and whether the E.U. was doomed to fail from the start.
Using information from:
Fall of Rome. (2017, March 25). New World Encyclopedia, Retrieved 13:10, August 29, 2017 from here
© Jonathon Davies 2017
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