Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Gun Control" Was Going On Long Before Gunpowder

Following is an excerpt from the Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire.  Of interest, and in bold, is a reference to the Roman government's outlawing of armes for its citizens.

To set it up, in this passage Gibbons is in the midst of explaining the relationship between the Hun and their slaves; some, evidently, of which are Romans.  In explaining this relationship he is citing the historian Priscus, who had by chance encountered an expatriate in the camp of the Hun.  A discussion ensues in which the once Roman, then slave, then freedman gives an overview of his experience as a Roman during the fall.
The historian Priscus, whose embassy is a source of curious instruction, was accosted in the camp of Attila by a stranger, who saluted him in the Greek language, but whose dress and figure displayed the appearance of a wealthy Scythian. In the siege of Viminiacum, he had lost, according to his own account, his fortune and liberty; he became the slave of Onegesius; but his faithful services, against the Romans and the Acatzires, had gradually raised him to the rank of the native Huns; to whom he was attached by the domestic pledges of a new wife and several children. The spoils of war had restored and improved his private property; he was admitted to the table of his former lord; and the apostate Greek blessed the hour of his captivity, since it had been the introduction to a happy and independent state; which he held by the honorable tenure of military service. This reflection naturally produced a dispute on the advantages and defects of the Roman government, which was severely arraigned by the apostate, and defended by Priscus in a prolix and feeble declamation. The freedman of Onegesius exposed, in true and lively colors, the vices of a declining empire, of which he had so long been the victim; the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to trust them with arms for their own defence; the intolerable weight of taxes, rendered still more oppressive by the intricate or arbitrary modes of collection; the obscurity of numerous and contradictory laws; the tedious and expensive forms of judicial proceedings; the partial administration of justice; and the universal corruption, which increased the influence of the rich, and aggravated the misfortunes of the poor.1
One of the first things that presses itself upon the modern mind as it encounters this work of history is the civility to which the modern western mindset has grown accustomed.  There seem to have been almost constant raids conducted by the "barbarians" into the provinces of Rome, as well as from the provinces into the barbarian villages.  These raids involved sieges of walled cities, rape, murder, pillage rapine and captivity.  Modern Western civilization is simply not faced with the same problems in terms of the mere violence.  But there are many parallels still, once the savagery is set aside. As the expat describes his experience, the parallels hit much too close to home... in fact.

1. Gibbon, Edward (2008-07-24). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Kindle Locations 19451-19463).  . Kindle Edition.

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