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‘A Sea of Barbarism’
A Glance at the Age of the Diadochi

The alter portion of the Age of Greek hegemony is little understood today but was understood by their conquerors, the Romans as a perpetual state of civilization, “…on the edge of a sea of barbarism that repeatedly threatened to inundate it.”

-Will Durant, The Life of Greece, page 559

Rome would find herself I this position and in its turn Christendom, and in New England Increase Mather would write of a candelabra of Christian candles represented by each Congregationalist plantation, each flickering in heathen wilderness of “satanic” darkness, where dark figures held “powwows in deep forests.

Into such realms push civilizations, then the civilizations compete with one another, eventually achieving a concentration of wealth measured by the proportion of property owners to folk who were property, or slaves. Make no mistake, by any historical standard, a man with a mortgage note or car loan, buying household needs with a credit card, owing a preexisting monthly debt just for the privilege of communicating with loved ones and associates would be regarded as nothing other than a slave.

What was the scale of slavery in Athens, chief city of the ever-warring Greek remnants of Alexander’s empire?

According the official sentence taken by Demetrius of Phalerum about 310 B.C. there were:

21,000 citizens [down from about 25,000 120 years before

10,000 aliens [non Athenian residents like Demetrius

400,000 slaves

This must not be regarded as typical of the period, since, as Will Durant noted concerning the Damocles of Athens noble suicide, “We must not misjudge the Athenians from one such instance of virtue.”

Antimenes of Rhodes set up a system of slave insurance that, for an 8% up charge, granted compensation to slave owners in the case of runaways. The relative value of these slaves were about the same of those in Plantation America, equal to about $500 a day in 2018, which is roughly a week’s pay for a reasonably competent wage slave. The age saw the same diminished standard of living difference between slaves and the working poor as seen in plantation America and today, when slaves [welfare recipients] are as well off as bottom tier employees. The Hellenistic age had industrial slavery, with people crowded into craft houses juts like in Plantation America and early industrial England.

A great weakness of all civilizations is the high proportions of slaves, who lack both agency and loyalty. Echoing Thucydides, Durant sketches the basic civic pendulum that wreaked such havoc in ancient Greece throughout its storied history:

“The basic principle of democracy us freedom inviting chaos, the basic principle of monarchy is power inviting tyranny, evolution and war.”

Enter the Gauls under Brennas in 279, who had taken advantage of the chaotic and ongoing wars of succession, which would see Sparta come back to life as a military power with their defeat of the larger Macedonian army of Phyrrhus in 272 B.C., and, according to Pausanius, “pointed out the weak state of Hellas, the immense wealth of her cities, the votive offerings in the temples, the great quantities of silver and gold,” and invaded.

At the same time, and for the next 60 years, communistic, revolts of the poor from Macedonia to Sparta, attacked the top-heavy cities from within. However, such times have tended to bring about philosopher kings and one reigned in Macedonia from 277-39 Antigonus “Gonatus,” and also the rise of confederations in mountainous and less degenerate regions, such as Aetolia and hero tyrants—regional saviors—such as Aratus and Philopoemen of the Achaean League and a few able Spartan hero kings who were not finally extinguished until 197B.C., on the eve of Roman conquest.

As far as correlations to later times, last gasp Hellas, at the verge of Roman conquest, resembled more the late pagan Roman Empire in the 200s A.D. and our own national nadir in the United States. Polybius, the man who assigned himself the task of writing the history of his age and earned the name Many-Books described a culture at its sunset, describing Hellas in the 150s B.C. as it was being partitioned by Rome:

“The whole of Hellas has been subject to low birth rate and a general decrease of the population, owing to which the cities have become deserted [1] and the land has ceased to yield fruit [2]…For as men had fallen into such a state of luxury, avarice and indolence that they did not wish to marry [3], or, if they married, to rear the children born to them, or at most one but one or two of them, so as to leave these in affluence [4] and bring them up to waste their substance—the evil insensibly grew. For in cases where, of one or two children the one was carried off by war and the other by sickness, it was evident that the houses must have been left empty…and by small degrees cities became resourceless and feeble.”

Polybius here describes the demographics of degeneracy. Dysgenics and decay brought about by the success of the very civilization that would fall to its own generation of artificial ease. The dedicated Spartan system of severe internal repression, specifically crafted to forestall such effects, did not save her, as by 244 B.C. all 700,000 acres of Laconia was owned by 100 leading families and only 700 men qualified as Similars [psychopathic citizen-warriors]. This led to attempted reforms by Agis [murdered] Cleambrotus [exiled], their reforms communistic reforms finally instituted by Cleomenes who brought oligarchic Hellas to its knees by conquering seven key cities with the help of the poor, but was squashed by the Macedonians at Sellasia in 221. Generation alter a Sparta’s final act in the life of Hellas ended with the slave revolt of Nabis from 207-192 B.C., when he was finally assassinated and Sparta finally became nothing but a place, the idea of a monastic warrior society, with all of its spectacular and ugly ups and downs, utterly extinguished.

For the modern person there is plenty of hope and caution in the story of the fall of Hellas. To this reader’s mind the key is to see the place of the three hero kings that tried to preserve their tiny version of a national independence as men caught between two fires, Agis and Nabis assassinated, Cleombrotus exiled and only Cleomenes slain in enemy action.

Correlation Notes

1. Urban blight

2. Industrial outsourcing


4. Suburban ennui

By the Wine Dark Sea

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