Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Jefferson Library and the Fall of Rome




Inside the Library of Congress is the Jefferson Library--the 4,929 books Thomas Jefferson owned and read during his long life. His library includes books in English, French, Italian, Latin, Ancient Greek and Hebrew that I saw.

As I scanned the titles, I thought of the brave and brilliant men who founded America: Jefferson was a Colonel in the Virginia Militia and served in the Revolutionary Army. George Washington was the Commander in Chief of the colonial armies and our first President.

The greatest leaders of the Rome were also brilliant and brave men, notably Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus and the philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius, maybe the greatest of all.

Many historians place the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. when the last Roman emperor, Romulus, disappears from the historical record.  But parts of the empire held together for another century under the rule of illiterate barbarians. The empire that was once ruled by Marcus Aurelius who wrote philosophy during his campaigns on the frontiers of the Roman Empire, was finally ruled by men who could not read.

The thousand-year Roman empire existed for another century under the barbarian emperors. In just over two centuries America has descended from a man of letters to a man of twitter.

I hope we last another century.