The 'New' Rome?

It's Sunday evening and another weekend has flown by full of errands and duties and distractions. And full of thoughts of Sandy and hopes that her move from apartment to new home is going as planned. So I just realized that I hadn't fulfilled my duty to blog365 today, so here I am. Blogging. Not painting. I wish I had a clone I could send out there into the wide, wide world and run all the errands and fulfill all the duties and suffer all the distractions so I could paint. Just paint. And blog, when the time is right. But .. it. don't. work. that. way.

The thing about painting, for me anyway, is that you don't just say "Ooo, I've got five minutes, I think I'll paint some." It takes time to set up, mentally and physically, time to develop the vision of just exaclty what you're going to accomplish in the session, time to actually do the work and time to clean up after the session. It takes Time. Uninterrupted Time. And unless you can see a clear block of uninterrupted time available, don't even THINK about getting started; because all you're going to do is frustrate yourself.

But all of that isn't really what I wanted to blog about. Part of the distraction this weekend has revolved around the recent death of the brother of a friend of mine and Annie's. And helping to clean out his house. A sad and somber task. But that isn't what I want to blog about either. It's this book. Actually, it's the five volume "The History of Private Life", Philippe Aries and Georges Duby, General Editors. Given to me by our friend. For helping.

In Roman times, children were 'raised' or 'exposed' at the whim of the father. When a child was born, the midwife would place the child on the ground. The father would then either pick up the child, thereby acknowledging the child as his own and that he would raise it, or decline to do so, signalling that the child was to be 'exposed' - and if no one 'adopted' the exposed child, it would die. There could be many reasons to expose a child. Poverty. Too many mouths to feed already. Death of the mother during child birth. The Romans, apparently, assigned no right to life to a fetus. They were puzzled, the Romans were, that the Egyptians and the Jews and the Germans valued and raised each and every child. This, and more, is covered in detail in the first three pages of the first chapter of the first book.

I am stunned. I am so taken aback. Rome. The ideal. Rome. The civilization we are supposed to be the 'new one' of. Rome. Supposedly the basis of western civilization. What kind of morality was this that children, life, motherhood - all the things that we have always valued - didn't mean anything. What did they teach their children that they would grow into people that would allow an infant to perish - for ANY reason? On purpose.

I never knew this stuff. I have always thought myself to be relatively well informed and well read and educated. Obviously, I haven't been as eriudite as I had thought. I am just so shocked by what I have suddenly discovered about a civilization I had once admired. I now know I must temper my admiration with the knowledge that there was an ugly and unexplored side to 'Rome' that will forever affect how I view their society. They weren't so cool after all. They were, in fact, morally bankrupt. And that gives yet another reason for their fall. If we are the 'New Rome', perhaps we need to look more carefully 'over our shoulder', look closer for the lessons we should have learned. And hold our children just a little closer, just a little tighter.


Elizabeth said...

I first heard of this practice in the movie "300" where the Spartans valued the healthy, strong infants that they would later turn into warriors. I was pretty appalled at the practice.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, when you start looking into history, really looking, you realize two things. 1.) Humans were f**cked. 2.) Humans are still f**cked.

Ok, so that's pessimistic, but seriously, we've been doing some pretty awful things to one another since, well, the beginning of humanity it would seem. It's disheartening because it makes you wonder if this is just our lot.

I was never convinced that Rome was an ideal. I think they advanced rapidly, and had "peace" amongst themselves for a relatively long time, but there was much that wasn't ideal, and let's not forget, Rome FELL.

Anonymous said...

I had never read that this was a Roman practice, but was well aware of the Spartan practice. Never saw the movie, though.

Unknown said...

Elizabeth & psychicgeek: The author, in the sentence which described their wonder at the Jews, Germans and Egyptians, in passing mentioned that the Greeks were surprised, as well. I didn't include that because it wasn't the Greeks I was talking about. but it's good to know it was the Spartan Greeks, and not ALL Greeks that did this.

VelvetVerbosity: Yes, it is a bit pessimistic. And yes, Rome fell. Apparently the veneer of civilization was a bit thin,back then. I would like to think it's gotten a bit thicker since then, but it is still a veneer. There's more, but I think I'll save it for a post.

Unknown said...

Brought to you by the same fine folks who practiced crucifixion, fed Christians to the lions, and watched gladiators fight to the death. Yep, I'd say the veneer was a bit thin.

Anonymous said...

The Western civilization after the picture of Rome?
Uh, no, thanks ;)

Yes, they did a lot and brought a lot of things, but hey, I rather stick with Barbarian rites, which were a civilization of their own before these Morons thought about invading the Rest of Europe ;)

It's not only what they did to their own children.
Well, read more about the Romans and you won't cherish them any more ;)

And I'm with Velvet, any human race so far has not learned anything.

Peace amongst the Romans?
That place was a Vipernest. Kids killing their fathers just to get closer to power, etc. That is one place in history I don't envy the people living in.

That book (books?) sounds very interesting, I need to check that if we stay here long enough.

(And sorry for the loss of your friends brother :(! )

Veronica Foale said...

I had heard about it. Deformed babies were also exposed, as were twins.

It was so sad, I can't imagine how the mothers felt after 9 mths of pregnancy and then labour, to not be able to raise their child.

Momisodes said...

Ugh, that is just so sad. It's sad how so many cultures have and still treat mothers and children.

I'm very sorry to hear about your friend's brother.