Here is another account, this time from Florida:. I had exactly the same experience at a local protest. We spent over two hours discussing the formation of work groups, and the majority of that discussion was a meta-discussion about how we should discuss the formation of work groups.
I ultimately ran out of time and had to leave, and I was kind of happy about it because that organisation process was like pulling teeth. Has anybody else had a similar experience? The whole point of democracy is majority rule. There must be a full and free debate, with every viewpoint freely expressed. But if it is not to degenerate into a mere talking shop, debate must end in a vote in which the majority must decide, and the minority must accept the decision of the majority.
The imposition of consensus leads inevitably to inaction, frustration, time-wasting and, eventually, to a falling-off of participation. Many people who took part in the initial Occupy meetings drift away and leave the organising committees because they are frustrated with the endless debates and discussions that are going nowhere. The methods that seemed so democratic, that were supposed to encourage the maximum of participation, in the end only succeed in alienating people and undermining the movement. A different method is needed, a genuinely democratic method which allows everyone to speak their mind freely, but which at the end of the day leads to clear-cut decisions and positive action.
The Russian Bolshevik Bukharin once joked that anarchism has two rules: the first rule is that you must not form a party; the second rule is that nobody must obey the first rule! Although in theory these anarchist methods are ultra-democratic, in practice they produce the worst kind of bureaucracy: the rule of self-appointed cliques. The contradictory nature of this position is clear to the more thinking elements among the anarchists:.
Allowing everyone in a large group to have a veto is paralysing. Mass assemblies, especially without a well-set agenda, tend to veer far off-topic. There were problems, but the group tried very hard to be aware of these issues and they did manage to get things done. I learned a number of different things from this experience. There was even one person a white guy, surprise surprise who was particularly leading the group.
There was a lot of drama over this, and I was actually happy that people were pointing out discussing the effects of race, class, and gender on decision-making and leadership, but nevertheless the group collapsed due to all of the discontent. It seemed like a lot of things passed simply because the younger, less confident members were too nervous to object or to stall a decision.
Again, I applaud them for trying to be aware of these problems but the problems still persisted, often unspoken of except for in small groups of members. The anarchist methods of organisation invariably turns into their opposite. We have seen this many times.
Behind the apparently democratic anarchy of a formless assembly with no rules, no structure, and theoretically no leaders, someone always makes decisions. By majority vote? God forbid! This, in practice, is the worst form of bureaucracy— an irresponsible bureaucracy that can do just what it likes because there is no formal democratic method of control. The question of the state is one of the points that have traditionally divided Marxism and anarchism. So just what is the state? Marxism explains that the state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms in society.
It arises where, when, and insofar as class antagonisms cannot be reconciled. Conversely, the very existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable. Summing up his historical analysis of the state, Frederick Engels says:. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel.
The modern state is a bureaucratic behemoth that devours a colossal amount of the wealth produced by the working class. Marxists and anarchists agree that the state is a monstrous instrument of oppression that must be eliminated. The question is: How? By whom? And what will replace it? This is a fundamental question for any revolution. In a speech on anarchism during the Russian Civil War, Trotsky summarized very well the Marxist position on the state:. Marxism explains that that the state consists ultimately of armed bodies of men: of the army, police, courts, and jails. It is an instrument of the ruling class for the oppression of other classes.
Against the confused ideas of the anarchists, Marx argued that the workers need a state to overcome the resistance of the exploiting classes. But that argument of Marx has been distorted by both the bourgeois and the anarchists. The Paris Commune of was one of the greatest and most inspiring episodes in the history of the working class.
In a tremendous revolutionary movement, the working people of Paris replaced the capitalist state with their own organs of government and held political power until their downfall a few months later. The Parisian workers strove, in extremely difficult circumstances, to put an end to exploitation and oppression, and to reorganise society on an entirely new foundation. The Commune was a glorious episode in the history of the world working class. For the first time, the popular masses, with the workers at their head, overthrew the old state and at least began the task of transforming society.
With no clearly-defined plan of action, leadership or organisation, the masses displayed an astonishing degree of courage, initiative and creativity. Yet in the last analysis, the lack of a bold and far-wsighted leadership and a clear programme led to a terrible defeat. Marx and Engels drew a thorough balance sheet of the Commune, pointing out its advances as well as its errors and deficiencies.
These can almost all be traced to the failings of the leadership. The leaders of the Commune were a mixed bunch, ranging from a minority of Marxists to elements who stood closer to reformism or anarchism. One of the reasons the Commune failed was that it did not launch a revolutionary offensive against the reactionary government that had installed itself at Versailles. This gave time to the counterrevolutionary forces to rally and attack Paris.
Over 30, people were butchered by the counterrevolution. The Commune was literally buried under a mound of corpses. The bourgeois and its apologists wish to confuse the workers and youth by attempting to identify the idea of communism with the monstrous bureaucratic and totalitarian regime of Stalinist Russia. Here it is! That is Communism! The Berlin Wall is Communism! Hungary is Communism! The Soviet gulags are Communism! This is a stupid calumny. The basic principles of the Soviet power were not invented by Marx or Lenin.
They were based on the concrete experience of the Paris Commune, and later elaborated upon by Lenin. It is not something that is kindly handed down to the workers by kindhearted capitalists or bureaucratic mandarins. The whole conception of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky was based upon this fact. Strict limitations were placed upon the salaries, power, and privileges of officials in order to prevent the formation of a privileged caste. It was not an alien power standing over society, but a power based on the direct initiative of the people from below.
Its laws were not like the laws enacted by a capitalist state power. This power is of the same type as the Paris Commune of This, and this alone , constitutes the essence of the Paris Commune as a special type of state. The early Soviet Union was in fact not a state at all in the sense we normally understand it, but only the organised expression of the revolutionary power of the working people.
The question of the state is naturally linked with the question of violence. The ruling class has at its disposal a vast apparatus of coercion: the army, the police, the intelligence services, the courts, the prisons, the lawyers, judges, and prison wardens. This should not really surprise us. All history shows that no ruling class ever gives up its wealth, power and privileges without a fight—and that usually means a fight with no holds barred. Every revolutionary movement will come up against this apparatus of state repression.
The bourgeoisie and its defenders always accuse Marxists of advocating violence. This is highly ironic, considering the vast arsenals of weaponry that the ruling class has piled up, the armies of heavily armed troops, cops, prisons, and so on and so forth. In fact, its rule is based on violence in many different forms. The only violence that the ruling class abhors is when the poor, downtrodden, and exploited masses attempt to defend themselves against the organised violence of the bourgeois state.
That is, it is against any violence directed at its class rule, power, and property. It goes without saying that we do not advocate violence. We are prepared to make use of each and every opening allowed to us by bourgeois democracy. But we should be under no illusions. Beneath the thin veneer of democracy there is the reality of the dictatorship of the banks and big corporations.
While the people are told that they can democratically decide the direction of the country through elections, in reality, all the real decisions are taken by the boards of directors. The interests of a tiny handful of bankers and capitalists carry much more weight than the votes of millions of ordinary citizens.
The real meaning of formal bourgeois democracy is this: anyone can say more or less what they like, as long as big business decides what really happens. This dictatorship of big business is normally concealed behind a smiling mask. The answer was given long ago when the American people rose up, arms in hand, to defend their rights against the tyranny of the English Crown.
The Communists know only too well that all conspiracies are not only futile but even harmful. They know only too well that revolutions are not made deliberately and arbitrarily, but that everywhere and at all times they were the essential outcome of circumstances quite independent of the will and the leadership of particular parties and entire classes. But they likewise perceive that the development of the proletariat is in nearly every civilised country forcibly suppressed, and that thereby the opponents of the Communists are tending in every way to promote revolution.
Should the oppressed proletariat in the end be goaded into a revolution, we Communists will then defend the cause of the proletarians by deed as well as we do now by word. The fact is that once the working class is organised and mobilised to change society, no state, army, or police can stop it. Nine times out of ten, any violence arising during a revolutionary situation is initiated by the ruling class, which is desperate to hold on to power.
Therefore, the danger of violence is in inverse proportion to the willingness of the working class to fight to change society. However, that does not mean that we advocate sporadic acts of violence by groups or individuals: senseless rioting, breaking windows, arson, etc. Such things sometimes reflect the genuine anger and frustration felt by people, especially the unemployed and dispossessed youth, at the sheer injustice of class society. But these kinds of actions achieve nothing positive.
They merely alienate the broader layers of the working class and give the ruling class an excuse to unleash the full force of the state, in order to crack down on the protest movement in general. There is a force in society that is far stronger than even the most powerful state or army: that is the power of the working class, once it is organised and mobilised to change society.
Not a wheel turns, not a phone rings, not a light bulb shines without the permission of the working class! Once this enormous power is mobilised, no force on earth can stop it. Powerful union organisations exist that would be more than capable of overthrowing capitalism if the millions of workers they represent were mobilised to this end.
The problem once again reduces itself to a problem of leadership of the working class and its organisations. The leadership of the mass organisations, beginning with the trade unions, is in a lamentable state everywhere. A panorama opens up not only of great battles, but also of defeats of the working class as a result of bad leadership. It is understandable that some young people, disgusted with the role of the current leaderships, look to anarchist ideas as a solution. In most cases, however, those who describe themselves as anarchists have no knowledge either of the theories or history of anarchism.
Their anarchism is not really anarchism at all, but it is a healthy reaction against bureaucracy and reformism. These are sincere young people who desire to transform society with all their heart. Many of them will come to understand the limitations of anarchist ideas and methods and will seek a more effective revolutionary alternative. The lack of an adequate leadership and a clear programme for action is already being felt by an increasing number of activists in the Occupy movement.
Through painful experience, the new generation of workers and youth are beginning to understand the nature of the problems that lie before them and are gradually beginning to grasp the need for radical solutions. The best elements are beginning to realise that the only way out of the impasse is through the revolutionary reconstruction of society from top to bottom. It will not be easy to achieve this; but then, nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy.
In many ways this is the easiest step. It is not difficult to protest and reject. But what is also necessary is to say positively what is to be done. This underlines the need for clarity in ideas, programmes and tactics. Mistakes in theory inevitably lead to mistakes in practice. This is not an academic exercise. The class struggle is not a game, and history is full of examples where the lack of political clarity led to the most tragic consequences. Spain in the s is a case in point. But such illusions will be destroyed by events. The movement is proceeding by trial and error.
- [Book] Marxism and Anarchism;
- Table of Contents.
- Il segreto dei lupi (Italian Edition);
It needs time to learn. If a Marxist party already existed, with roots in the masses and political authority, the learning process would undoubtedly be much shorter, and there would be fewer defeats and setbacks. But such a party does not yet exist. It has to be built in the heat of events. Confusion, the lack of a programme, and never-ending debate is no substitute for positive action. If the Occupy movement is to succeed, it must be armed with clear ideas and a consistent revolutionary programme. That can only be provided by Marxism.
The workers and students have shown the most tremendous resourcefulness and initiative. All now depends on the ability of the most revolutionary elements of the workers and youth to draw all the necessary conclusions. Armed with a genuine socialist revolutionary programme, they would be invincible. Is it really true that there is no alternative to capitalism? No, it is not true! The alternative is a system based on production for the needs of the many and not the profits of the few; a system that replaces economic chaos and anarchy with harmonious planning; that replaces the rule of a minority of wealthy parasites with the rule of the majority who produce all the wealth of society.
The name of this alternative is socialism. Genuine socialism has nothing in common with the bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature that existed in Stalinist Russia. It is a genuine democracy based on the ownership, control and management of the key levers of the productive forces by the working class. Some think it is utopian to suggest that the human race can take hold of its own fate and run society on the basis of a democratic plan of production.
However, the need for a socialist planned economy is not an invention of Marx or any other thinker. It flows from objective necessity. The potential for world socialism flows from the present conditions of capitalism itself. All that is necessary is for the working class, which constitutes the majority, to take over the running of society, expropriate the banks and giant monopolies, and mobilise the vast unused and untapped productive potential to begin solving the problems we face.
In order that humanity can be free to realise its full potential, it is necessary to free industry, agriculture, science, and technology from the suffocating restraints of capitalism. Once the productive forces are free from these suffocating limitations, society would be capable of immediately satisfying all human wants and preparing the way for a gigantic advance for humanity. We invite all those who are interested in fighting to change society to join with us, to discuss, debate our differences, and to test the viability of ideas and programmes in the practice of the class struggle.
Only in this way can we put an end to the prevailing confusion and attain the ideological clarity and organisational cohesion that are necessary to achieve our final victory. Paul: Wellred, , — Paul: Wellred, , W hat distinguishes Marxism from anarchism? Why two theories? By what are they distinguished from each other? What are their relative merits, and which of the two theories—or which combination of their ideas—is the best tool for fighting capitalism and the bourgeois state? Such a process of questioning is necessary for any revolutionary, as an attempt to grasp and conquer revolutionary theory.
Most anarchist theory expresses the same goal as Marxism—the establishment of a classless and stateless society. Marxism and anarchism are united insofar as they participate in the movement against oppression and inequality in all forms. And it is very often the case that those becoming radicalised are sympathetic to both theories for this reason.
We believe that, although Marxist and anarchist theory are united in their struggle to liberate humanity, whereas anarchism paradoxically rejects theory as an accomplice of intellectual elitism or armchair inaction, Marxism is distinguished by utilizing all the developments of scientific method and historical analysis so that the working class may understand society in order to change it. Marxist theory is chiefly concerned with understanding inequality and oppression, why they exist, where they come from, what role they play, and under what conditions they may be overcome.
And to understand them means not only to describe them, or to assert that the division of society into classes is unjust, and that the state apparatus is fundamentally repressive, but to explain them materially and historically. Everywhere we look we see examples of extreme inequality, suffering and state oppression, so much so that we take them for granted, seeming like a natural state of affairs.
As Rousseau said, everywhere man is in chains, and yet we are all born free, that is to say, the bonds we suffer are man-made, and what is more, they are the constructions of people fundamentally equal to ourselves—the capitalist class has no magic powers or superhuman strengths. So why do we suffer at all? Why do and when did the vast majority of people allow themselves to become powerless in the face of the apparently artificial power of a minority of people?
There must be some condition we have to thank for being exploited by only a few. What is it? As Marxists and materialists, we understand that the class struggle does not arise of itself, but is conditioned by the more general struggle for existence; it is an expression of the unavoidable struggle with nature, to use a rather crude expression.
For before we are enslaved by our fellow man, we are at the whim of the all powerful laws of nature. Yes, each person is born into the world free, i. As Marx said, mankind is a suffering, limited being; we feel our dependence on nature every second that we breathe, every time the involuntary muscles in our stomach compel us to look for a meal, every time our puny composition makes our bodies shudder with cold. If we did not have such pressing material needs, we would not need to go to the capitalist begging for work.
So before we can understand the lack of freedom in our society, we must recognise this most fundamental of social laws—material conditions determine consciousness. History knows all kind of strange transformations. For much of our history there was no oppressive state authority or class exploitation to speak of, and yet somehow out of such a situation exploitation and coercion have arisen. Furthermore, the forms of exploitation and state authority have transformed themselves many times, and with them the relative level of culture has changed also. For Marxists, it is the struggle for the economisation of labour, the development of the forces of production or useful technology to be wielded by one or another class as part of the struggle with nature.
For when we develop useful technology, the immediate aim is always that someone may live better, may secure themselves in the struggle with nature. But such technology, developed and used socially, has unplanned social consequences, changing the structure of society, giving some power over others. Those who control the productive forces control society. Productivity would have been so low that society could not have afforded any privileged stratum. But this harmony finished at the geographical threshold of the tribe, outside of which we find other tribes. And, as the geographically dispersed communities developed their productive forces, so would they have expanded, and, ultimately, come into contact with other similar communities.
Trade between them would have developed based on the different goods they were able to produce, such trade being used by each community to enrich themselves. Although within each community there may have been enormous unity and cooperation in production, between the communities there must have been little or none.
The respective communities would not be interested in producing for the sake of the other, but to get something in return. And so not only would competition and antagonism develop between the communities, but more and more the internal life of each community would be determined by the need to produce more for exchange outside the community. We may surmise that those with more involvement in the process, e. In addition, the struggle for resources and control of land must emerge from such a situation of geographical dispersion and antagonisms.
In this way, the communal struggle to develop the productive forces led to the dissolution of the community in favour of class divisions. This is the material, economic basis for class and the state. There is a debate between Marxists and anarchists as to whether class division arises first, followed by a coercive state apparatus tasked with protecting the ruling class the Marxist position , or whether state power with its instruments of oppression developed first and gave rise to class division, which some anarchists argue.
But the question is not so much a chronological one, i. For the question then arises: how did Crusoe come to enslave Friday? Just for the fun of it? By no means. But in order to manage this, Crusoe needs something else besides his sword. Not everyone can make use of a slave. Therefore, before slavery becomes possible, a certain level of production must already have been reached and a certain inequality of distribution must already have appeared. State authority, then, is not some arbitrary evil, existing for its own sake, and it does not gain its negative properties of oppression and inequality purely from itself; rather, it arises out of developing economic inequality and plays a role dependent upon the latter.
And the state does not oppress all in society equally; indeed, in our society there are many capitalists who have no direct involvement with the state, and yet feel themselves very well represented by it. This is because, in the final analysis, the state gets its power from the ruling economic class, whom it serves by protecting its property and generally maintaining the social order. Two things of interest to us follow from this. If a class can wield economic power, then it can in principle control its own state apparatus, rather than being the victim of it, since the state power is, in the final analysis, dependent on economic relations.
If the state apparatus is a tool with which to repress other classes, and if Marxists and anarchists can agree that a working-class—led revolution will face active, organised opposition from the bourgeoisie a fact many anarchists recognise , then the working class can and must wield this state power, i.
For many anarchists, representation itself as a political form contains the seeds of, or is, the problem. They say one cannot be genuinely represented, and that the representative will always abuse their position. But it is not the form that is the problem. As we said, if that were the case, the bourgeoisie would always be oppressed by its own state representatives.
But there is no remedy for this other than the mass movement of the working class and the struggle for revolutionary ideas within these organisations. That is how we remove a betraying leadership and replace it with a revolutionary one. That can exist only when the objective conditions that require a state apparatus class struggle have disappeared. In other words, when the working class has dissolved itself as a class by dissolving all classes, by uniting humanity in a global plan of production that leaves no lasting material antagonisms between classes or nations, and when production has attained such a level that the working week is sufficiently shortened so that all may participate in education and running society, then coercion and subjugation will have no objective role, and become worthless.
Kropotkin, a famous Russian anarchist, feared that should a socialist society be established through political leadership, and be organised centrally, on a large national or international scale, then the intellectual elite who led the revolution would install themselves as a new ruling group above the rest of society. Consequently… a collectivist order contained the seeds of inequality and domination.
It is class exploitation and long hours of work that mean that in our society, workers cannot plan and direct production themselves, firstly because the capitalist class produces for their own private profit, and so cannot permit workers a say in controlling that profit, and secondly because workers do not have the time to democratically plan society. Only a globalised economy, a global division of labour, which capitalism has made a fact, harmoniously planned on a global scale whereas the globalised capitalist economy is not planned at all but full of regional imbalances and antagonisms , can liberate the working class and put ordinary people in control.
Only the high productivity this economy creates, and the technological sophistication involved, can shorten the working week to allow for mass participation, and do away with the miserable struggle between people and nations for jobs, control of resources, etc. Kropotkin actually ends up patronising workers by implying that the mass of people are incapable of planning the economy, when in reality it is only as exploited workers that they are prevented from doing so. Often they refused to share available supplies with other factories in direst need.
What is the explanation for this? No, that is not the explanation. Instead it is the extreme economic chaos and poverty following the revolution in , where German imperialism took the majority of Russian industry, already decimated by the war. The crushing weight of Stalinism is explained not by centralism and the complexity of the economy, but by the disintegration of the economy into regional antagonisms, between town and country, out of which the old tsarist bureaucracy reasserted its control and privileges, precisely because the same conditions of poverty persisted.
The working class revolutionaries were too busy struggling for immediate survival, or fighting and dying in the Civil War, to collectively and harmoniously plan the economy. The following examples illustrate the attitude that Makhno had towards the working class. Everyone must work together to survive. Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed. Contrary to anarchist hopes, political leadership in our society is necessary for the working class. It could only be discarded, made superfluous, if the working class had the time and inclination to collectively develop revolutionary theory, collectively grasp the need for a revolution, and therefore organise it at once.
The very existence of famous theorists such as Marx and Bakunin, who do play a leading role whether they like it or not by developing theory with which to educate the movement, is proof that in capitalist society this is not the case. Some anarchists propose that, instead of a leadership of people, we have a leadership of ideas. Actually, this shows how the objective necessity for political leadership forces its way into anarchist theory all the time. Only they give it another name instead. They use these terms but do not explain why they are necessary and how they really differ from political leadership.
Why does the working class need helpers, pathfinders, a directorate, spokesmen, or a conscious minority? And what role would such people play? To change the name of something is not to change its essence. Whenever anarchists have found themselves with some influence in a real revolutionary movement, they have always had to reintroduce leadership or the state in some form.
Yes, they were autonomous from the Bolshevik government, but within their territory no one was autonomous. In addition, the movement had an extremely political character:. We do not say this in an attempt to besmirch his regime, rather to point out the way in which the crushing necessity of objective circumstances in a violent class struggle and civil war forced the role of political and personal leadership onto Makhno.
Syndicalist anarchists propose that a general strike, involving the vast majority of the working class, can be sufficient to overthrow capitalism, and moreover has the advantage of doing so without a party leadership. But the history of general strikes teaches otherwise—both in that on their own they are insufficient to overthrow capitalism for we have had many general strikes, but still have capitalism and in that trade unions do have political leadership in them.
Unfortunately, this leadership rarely has a determined revolutionary mission, and tends to sell out general strikes. So, the demand for a general strike must also be accompanied by a political struggle against the ideas of the reformist trade union leadership. But history has shown that such a struggle does not emerge, and certainly does not succeed, in a purely automatic fashion. In a general strike some organised political grouping must raise the idea of the need to use the strike as a launch pad to overthrow capitalism so that the working class can build socialism.
And such an organisation would therefore be playing a leading role. Its task must be to win the struggle, to defeat the reformists by convincing the mass of the working class that its ideas are correct and necessary; in other words, its task is to lead the working class to take power and overthrow capitalism.
As has been suggested above, there is a strong tendency in anarchism to reject theory as a scientific study of society, as they associate this with the intellectual elite and inaction. Only feeling, passion, and desire have moved and will move men to acts of heroism and self-sacrifice; only in the realm of passionate life, the life of feeling, do heroes and martyrs draw their strength… we do not recognise the inevitability of social phenomena; we regard with scepticism the scientific value of many so-called laws of sociology.
As materialists we must ask—which passions, whose passions, under what circumstances, in aid of what? Do they speak of the passion of a Russian aristocrat with his mistress, the frustrated Russian intellectual who passionately threw a bomb into a crowded cafe, or a striking worker? And how is the passion to be used to aid the revolution rather than be wasted?
Marxist theory is idealist only if its social laws are arbitrarily invented, and that is something the anarchists must themselves prove, and the only way to prove it is in society, by comparing Marxist theory with actual history. Because of their rejection of theory, many anarchists have resorted to simply describing the problems of capitalist society, and proposing antidotes as superficial as the act of simply inverting the names they give to capitalist oppression:.
Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, Visionary utopians, the anarchists paid scant attention to the practical needs of a rapidly changing world; they generally avoided careful analysis of social and economic conditions… in place of complex ideologies, they offered simple action-slogans. Avrich, The Russian Anarchists , Rather than study the causes for all these social problems, the anarchists would treat them as arbitrary, and all that is needed to overcome them is for society to somehow collectively realise that it is suffering under some arbitrary injustice, and then collectively liberate itself.
Political ideas, if they are complex we actually hold that Marxism is not so complex or difficult to grasp , are complex because society itself is extremely complex, has a long history, and demands that serious attention be paid to it if it is to be changed in accordance with our wishes. Anarchists mistakenly claim that Bakunin predicted Stalinism when he argued that, should the revolution be led by Marxists, it would inevitably degenerate into a dictatorship over the working class.
But because of his lack of theory and of materialist, historical analysis, Bakunin actually failed to understand the material basis for the state which he hated so much. He simply registered the fact that for much of human history, state oppression existed, and drew the simple conclusion that it may also exist again in the future, without understanding why.
His theory does not explain Stalinism. In the same way, I may witness stormy weather and expect it to come around again in the future, without having the slightest idea of what causes stormy weather. As these lines are written, insurgents in Libya are waging a war with a counterrevolutionary state. But despite the obvious international implications and origins of this movement, they are struggling in isolation. Imperialism has now intervened, exploiting the lack of an international revolutionary organisation capable of intervening and offering revolutionary assistance. Thus, the international, revolutionary proletariat has a duty to offer their own assistance, which would be in the interests of the Libyan people.
That, ultimately, means overthrowing imperialism in its heartland, so that the Libyans may never again feel its oppression. But to do that, a coordinated, worldwide struggle must be launched and fought to the finish. Only an international revolutionary leadership, drawing together the workers of the world, can live up to this task. It was then translated into German by Mrs.
It was next translated by myself into English, and so much of the translation as exigencies of space would permit, published in the Weekly Times and Echo. As to the book itself. There are those who think that the precious time of so remarkable a writer, and profound a thinker as Georgi Plekhanov is simply wasted in pricking anarchist windbags.
But, unfortunately, there are many of the younger, or of the more ignorant sort, who are inclined to take words for deeds, high-sounding phrases for acts, mere sound and fury for revolutionary activity, and who are too young or too ignorant to know that such sound and fury signify nothing. We cannot afford to overlook the fact that the Socialist League became in time—when some of us had left it—an anarchist organisation, and that since then its leaders have been, or still are, more or less avowed anarchists.
While quite recently the leader of a new party—and that a would-be political one! The men and women who are waging their heroic war in Russia and in Poland against tsarism have no more in common with anarchism than had the founders of the modern socialist movement—Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. This little book of Plekhanov will assuredly convince the youngest even that under any circumstances anarchism is but another word for reaction; and the more honest the men and women who play this reactionist game, the more tragic and dangerous it becomes for the whole working class movement.
August On the other hand, the Socialists of the first half of our century threw themselves with immense zeal, with unequalled perseverance, into the search after the best of possible social organisations, after a perfect social organisation. This is a striking and notable characteristic which they have in common with the French Materialists of the last century, and it is this characteristic which especially demands our attention in the present work. And the criterion must have a special attribute. No, indeed! We have to find a perfect legislation, a legislation whose perfection should have nothing relative about it, should be entirely independent of time and place, should be, in a word, absolute.
We are therefore driven to make abstraction from history, since everything in history is relative, everything depends upon circumstance, time, and place. Humanity is left us, man in general, human nature—of which history is but the manifestation. Here then we have our criterion definitely settled, a perfect legislation. The best of all possible legislation is that which best harmonises with human nature. Errare humanum est , but it seems incontrovertible that this problem can be solved, that we can, by taking our stand upon an exact knowledge of human nature, find a perfect legislation, a perfect organisation.
Such was, in the domain of social science, the point of view of the French Materialists. Man is a sentient and reasonable being, they said; he avoids painful sensations and seeks pleasurable ones. He has sufficient intelligence to recognise what is useful to him as well as what is harmful to him. Once you admit these axioms, and you can in your investigations into the best legislation, arrive, with the help of reflection and good intentions, at conclusions as well founded, as exact, as incontrovertible as those derived from a mathematical demonstration.
Thus Condorcet undertook to construct deductively all precepts of healthy morality by starting from the truth that man is a sentient and reasonable being. It is hardly necessary to say that in this Condorcet was mistaken. In reality, the French philosophers always kept in view the economic and political requirements of the Third Estate; this was their real criterion.
But they applied it unconsciously, and only after much wandering in the field of abstraction, did they arrive at it. Their method was also that of the socialists. In this they in no wise differ from the materialists of the eighteenth century. Morelly, Fourier, Saint-Simon, Owen—we look upon all of them today as utopian socialists. Since we know the general point of view that is common to them all, we can determine exactly what the utopian point of view is.
The utopian is one who, starting from an abstract principle, seeks for a perfect social organisation. The abstract principle which served as starting point of the utopians was that of human nature. Of course there have been utopians who applied the principle indirectly through the intermediary of concepts derived from it. Thus, e. But it is evident that in its ultimate analysis this concept derives from that of human nature. It is equally evident that one may be a utopian without being a socialist.
The bourgeois tendencies of the French Materialists of the last century are most noticeable in their investigations of a perfect legislation. But this in no wise destroys the utopian character of these enquiries. Nay, more. For in theory one takes imaginary men who lend themselves obediently to every arrangement, and who second with equal zeal the views of the legislator; but as soon as one attempts to put these things into practice one has to deal with men as they are, that is to say, unsubmissive, lazy, or else in the thralldom of some violent passion.
The scheme of equality especially is one that seems most repugnant to the nature of man; they are born to command or to serve, a middle term is a burden to them. Men are born to command or to serve. We cannot wonder, therefore, if in society we see masters and servants, since human nature wills it so. It was all very well for La Bibliotheque Impartiale to repudiate these communist speculations. The point of view from which it itself looked upon social phenomena, the point of view of human nature, it had in common with the utopian Morelly. They all of them appeal to human nature conceived of in one form or another, with the sole exception of the retrograde, who, living shadows of passed times, continued to appeal to the will of God.
As we know, this concept of human nature has been inherited by the nineteenth century from its predecessor. The utopian socialists had no other. But here again it is easy to prove that it is not peculiar to the utopians. Guizot is unable to answer this question, and after long, vain efforts to find a solution of the enigma in historical circumstances, he returns, falls back nolens volens , upon the theory of human nature. In his concept of social life, Thierry was never able to go beyond his master Saint-Simon, who, as we have seen above, held firmly to the point of view of human nature.
The example of the brilliant Saint-Simon, a man of encyclopedic learning, demonstrates more clearly perhaps than any other, how narrow and insufficient was this point of view, in what confusion worse confounded of contradictions it landed those who applied it. When one has thoroughly mastered the first terms of any series it is easy to put down their successors; thus from the past carefully observed one can easily deduce the future.
And yet, look more closely at the historical ideas of Saint-Simon, and you will find that we are not wrong in calling him a utopian. The future is deducible from the past, the historical evolution of humanity is a process governed by law. But what is the impetus, the motive power that sets in motion the human species, that makes it pass from one phase of evolution to another? Of what does this impetus consist? Where are we to seek it? It is here that Saint-Simon comes back to the point of view of all the utopians, to the point of view of human nature.
This was not done, and the Revolution which had begun so well was almost immediately directed into a false path. The lawyers and metaphysicians became the masters of the situation. How to explain this historical fact? This law applies most stringently to the various political systems, through which the natural advance of civilisation compels the human species to pass.
Thus the same necessity which in industry has created the element of a new temporal power, destined to replace military power, and which in the positive sciences, has created the element of a new spiritual power called upon to take the place of theological power, must have developed and set in activity before the change in the conditions of society had begun to be very perceptible a temporal or spiritual power of an intermediary, bastard, and transitory nature, whose only mission was to bring about the transition from one social system to another.
The French Revolution was directed along a certain line, because human nature was so and so. One of two things. Either human nature is, as Morelly thought, invariable, and then it explains nothing in history, which shows us constant variations in the relations of man to society; or it does vary according to the circumstances in which men live, and then, far from being the cause , it is itself the effect of historical evolution. The French Materialists knew well enough that man is the product of his social surroundings. But since human nature in its turn varied, it became indispensable to make abstraction from its variations, and to seek in nature only stable properties, fundamental properties preserved in spite of all changes of its secondary properties.
And in the end all that these speculations resulted in was a meagre abstraction, like that of the philosophers, e. Guizot had no need to seek for the best of social organisations for a perfect legislation. He was perfectly satisfied with the existing ones. And assuredly the most powerful argument he could have advanced to defend them from the attacks of the malcontents would still have been human nature, which he would have said renders every serious change in the social and political constitution of France impossible.
The malcontents condemned this same constitution, making use of the same abstraction. Before we leave them let us remind the reader that in human nature, an extremely thin and therefore not very satisfying abstraction, the utopians really appealed, not to human nature in general, but to the idealised nature of the men of their own day, belonging to the class whose social tendencies they represented. The social reality, therefore, inevitably appears in the words of the utopians, but the utopians were unconscious of this.
They saw this reality only across an abstraction which, thin as it was, was by no means translucent. The great idealist philosophers of Germany, Schelling and Hegel, understood the insufficiency of the human nature point of view. Hegel, in his Philosophy of History , makes fun of the utopian bourgeoisie in search of the best of constitutions.
German Idealism conceived history as a process subject to law, and sought the motive-power of the historical movement outside the nature of man. This was a great step towards the truth. Drive nature out of the door, she flies in at the window! Despite the great services rendered to social science by the German Idealists, the great problem of that science, its essential problem, was no more solved in the time of the German Idealists than in the time of the French Materialists.
What is this hidden force that causes the historic movement of humanity? No one knew anything about it. In this field there was nothing to go upon save a few isolated observations, more or less accurate, more or less ingenious—sometimes indeed, very accurate and ingenious—but always disjointed and always incomplete. That social science at last emerged from this dead end, it owes to Karl Marx.
The totality of these relations of production constitute the economic structure of society, the true basis from which arises a juridical and political superstructure to which definite social forms of consciousness correspond. The mode of production of material life determines the social, political, and intellectual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of mankind that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. In a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production of society come into contradiction with the existing relations of production, or, which is only a juridical expression for the same thing, with the relations of property within which they had hitherto moved.
From forms for the development of these forces of production, they are transformed into their fetters. We then enter upon an epoch of social revolution. This completely materialist conception of history is one of the greatest discoveries of our century, so rich in scientific discoveries. Thanks to it alone sociology has at last, and forever, escaped from the vicious circle in which it had, until then, turned; thanks to it alone this science now possesses a foundation as solid as natural science.
The revolution made by Marx in social science may be compared with that made by Copernicus in astronomy. In fact, before Copernicus, it was believed that the earth remained stationary, while the sun turned round it. The Polish genius demonstrated that what occurred was the exact contrary. To this the point of view of the German genius is diametrically opposed. While man, in order to maintain his existence, acts upon nature outside himself, he alters his own nature. The action of man upon the nature outside himself, presupposes certain instruments, certain means of production; according to the character of their means of production men enter into certain relations within the process of production since this process is a social one , and according to their relations in this social process of production, their habits, their sentiments, their desires, their methods of thought and of action, in a word, their nature, vary.
Thus it is not human nature which explains the historical movement; it is the historical movement which fashions diversely human nature. None; literally none! They can but bear witness to the lack of scientific education in those who pursue them. Their day is gone forever. With this old point of view of human nature must disappear the utopias of every shade and colour. And herein lies the real strength of this party, making it as invincible as the economic necessity itself.
At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property become no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces, they become so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder. Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted to it, and by the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class.
A similar movement is going on before our own eyes.
CONTENTS OF VOL. I.
Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange, and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeoisie and its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put on its trial, each time more threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society….
The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself. The bourgeoisie destroyed the feudal conditions of property; the proletariat will put an end to the bourgeois conditions of property. Between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie a struggle, an implacable war, a war to the knife, is as inevitable as was, in its way, the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the privileged estates. But every class war is a political war.
In order to do away with feudal society the bourgeoisie had to seize upon political power. In order to do away with capitalist society the proletariat must do the same.
Full text of "Procopius History of the Wars, Books V. and VI."
Its political task is therefore traced out for it beforehand by the force of events themselves, and not by any abstract consideration. It is a remarkable fact that it is only since Karl Marx that socialism has taken its stand upon the class war. The utopian socialists had no notion—even an inexact one—of it. And in this they lagged behind their contemporary theorists of the bourgeoisie, who understood very well the historical significance at any rate of the struggle of the third estate against the nobles. The structure of society depends upon the conditions of its productive forces.
What these conditions will be when the proletariat is in power we do not know. We now know but one thing — that the productive forces already at the disposal of civilised humanity imperatively demand the socialisation and systematised organisation of the means of production. Once again, then, the point of view of the utopian socialists, as indeed of all social science of their time, was human nature, or some abstract principle deriving from this idea. The point of view of the social science, of the socialism of our time is that of economic reality, and of the immanent laws of its evolution.
It is easy, therefore, to form an idea of the impression made upon modern socialists by the arguments of the bourgeois theorists who sing ceaselessly the same old song of the incompatibility of human nature and communism. And now let us see what relation there may be between modern socialism and what is called anarchism. This is doing me too great an honour. The father of anarchism is the immortal Proudhon, who expounded it for the first time in As is frequently the case with my amiable compatriot, Kropotkin has here made a statement that is incorrect.
Max Stirner has therefore a well-defined claim to be the father of anarchism. It is thus, e. Some have even supposed that the only object Stirner had in writing his book was to poke fun at this philosophy. This supposition is absolutely gratuitous. Stirner in expounding his theory was not joking. He is in deadly earnest about it, though he now and again betrays a tendency, natural enough in the restless times when he wrote, to outdo Feuerbach and the radical character of his conclusions. For Feuerbach, what men call divinity, is only the product of their fantasy, of a psychological aberration.
It is not divinity that has created man, but man who creates divinity in his own image. In God man only adores his own being. God is only a fiction, but a very harmful fiction. The Christian God is supposed to be all love, all pity for poor suffering humanity. But in spite of this, or rather because of it, every Christian really worthy the name, hates, and must hate, the atheists, who appear to him the living negation of all love and all pity.
Thus the god of love becomes the god of hate, the god of persecution; the product of the fantasy of man becomes a real cause of his suffering. So we must make an end of this phantasmagoria. Since in divinity man adores only his own being, we must once for all rend and scatter to the winds the mystic veil beneath which this being has been enveloped. The love of humanity must not extend beyond humanity. Thus Feuerbach. Max Stirner is quite at one with him, but wishes to deduce what he believes to be the final, the most radical consequences of his theory.
He reasons in this fashion. God is only the product of fantasy, is only a spook. But what is this humanity the love of which you prescribe to me? Is not this also a spook, an abstract thing, a creature of the imagination? Where is this humanity of yours? Where does it exist but in the minds of men, in the minds of individuals? The only reality, therefore, is the individual , with his wants, his tendencies, his will.
But since this is so, how can the individual , the reality, sacrifice himself for the happiness of man, an abstract being? It is all very well for you to revolt against the old God; you still retain the religious point of view, and the emancipation you are trying to help us to is absolutely theological, i.
To escape the inconveniences of such over-crowding, to avoid being dominated by any spook, to at last place our foot upon actual ground, there is but one way: to take as our starting point the only real being, our own ego. A fig for good and evil! I am I, and I am neither good nor evil. Neither has any meaning for me. The godly is the affair of God, the human that of humanity. For me there is nothing above myself.
Right is might. Is this wisdom so difficult of attainment? I, on the contrary, declare war to the knife to all states, even the most democratic. For this is the case whenever a given law, the expressed will perhaps of some assemblage of the people, is immediately to become a law to the individual, which he must obey, and which it is his duty to obey. I have also stated that after each city had stood for the same number of years Babylon was sacked by the Medes and Rome stormed by the Goths.
To these arguments, I now add the following proofs to make it clearer that God is the sole ruler of all the ages, kingdoms, and regions. The Carthaginian Empire, from its founding to her overthrow, lasted a little more than seven hundred years; the Macedonian, from Caranus to Perses, a little less than seven hundred. Both, however, came to an end in the number seven, by which all things are decided.
Rome herself endured to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with her empire unbroken. Nevertheless she too suffered somewhat when she arrived at that same number. For in the seven hundredth year after the founding of the City a fire of unknown origin consumed fourteen districts. According to Livy, a worse conflagration never visited Rome. So great were its ravages that some years later Caesar Augustus granted a large sum of money from the public treasury for the reconstruction of the burnt areas.
If I were not restrained by a consideration of the present state of affairs, I could also show that Babylon had existed for twice that length of time when, more than fourteen hundred years after her founding, she was finally captured by King Cyrus. I should like, however, to add this. Holy Abraham, to whom the promises were renewed and from whose seed Christ would come, was born in the forty-third year of the reign of Ninus.
He was the first of all the Babylonian kings, though there is a doubtful report that his father, Belus, was king before him. Later, Christ was born in the time of Augustus Caesar, who was the first of all the [Roman] emperors though his father Caesar had preceded him, but more as a surveyor of the Empire than as emperor.
Toward the close of the forty-second year of his imperial rule, I say, Christ was born, Who had been promised to Abraham in the time of Ninus, the first king. Since, however, He was born on the twenty-fifth of December, when all the increase of the coming year begins, the result is that, whereas Abraham was born in the forty-third year, the nativity of Christ fell at the end of the forty-second, and so, instead of His being born in some part of the third year, the third year was born in Him. The greatness, novelty, and extraordinary character of the blessings in which that year abounded must, I think, surely be well enough known without my repeating them.
One peace reigned over the whole earth as a result of the fact that wars had not merely ceased but had been totally abolished. After the causes of war had been wholly removed rather than merely checked, the twin gates of Janus were closed. The first and greatest census was then made. The great nations of the whole world took an oath in the one name of Caesar and were joined into one fellowship through their participation in the census. In the seven hundred and fifty-second year of the City, Christ was born and brought the religion that gives salvation to the world.
He is in truth the rock, placed in the center of things. Whosoever strikes against Him shall be dashed to pieces, and whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved. He is in truth the glowing fire which illumines those who follow Him and consumes those who assail Him. He set a pattern in word and in deed for those who were to follow Him and, in order to teach them patience in the persecutions that they would undergo for the sake of eternal life, He began His own sufferings as soon as He was brought into the world by the Virgin's travail.
For no sooner had Herod, king of Judea , learned of His birth than he resolved to slay Him and, while he was seeking out this one infant, had a great many infants put to death. Hence we see the wicked suffer a just punishment for their malicious attacks; and hence, when the course of the world is peaceful, it is so because of those who believe, and when the world is vexed and disturbed, it is due to the punishments of blasphemers.
Faithful Christians, however, are safe in any event, since at least they have either the assurance of rest in the life to come or the advantage of peace in this life. I shall show this more clearly by the facts themselves, as I relate them in order. After the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, had come to earth and had been enrolled in Caesar's census as a Roman citizen, the gates of war were kept closed twelve years, as I have said, in the happy serenity of peace.
As Gaius was passing by the borders of Palestine , on his way from Egypt , he disdained, as Suetonius Tranquillus tells us, to worship at Jerusalem in the Temple of God , which was at that time venerated and much frequented. When he told Augustus about his conduct, the latter had the poor judgment to praise it as wise. Then so dreadful a famine visited the Romans in the forty-eighth year of Caesar's rule that Caesar ordered the gladiatorial bands, all foreigners, and also great numbers of slaves to be expelled from the City. Physicians and teachers were excepted. Thus, when the princeps sinned against the Holy One of God and the people were seized by famine, the greatness of the offense was shown by the nature of the punishment.
Let me next quote the words of Cornelius Tacitus: "Janus was opened in the old age of Augustus and remained so until the rule of Vespasian, while new tribes were sought at the ends of the earth, often with gain and sometimes with loss. Now, although the Temple of Janus was opened in the last days of Caesar, nevertheless there were no alarms of war for long periods thereafter, even though the army was ready for battle. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself also had these facts in mind in the Gospels; for, when the whole world in those days was enjoying great quiet and all nations were united under the shelter of peace, He was asked by His disciples about the end of the coming times and replied in part as follows:.
And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be pestilences, famines, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
Thus He taught in His divine foresight and not only strengthened the faithful by His warning but also confounded the unbelieving by His prediction. In the seven hundred and sixty-seventh year of the City, after the death of Augustus Caesar, Tiberius Caesar assumed the sovereignty and held it for twenty-three years. He waged no wars in person nor did his commanders wage any important wars, except that uprisings of peoples in some localities were anticipated and quickly crushed. To be sure, in the fourth year of his reign, Germanicus, the son of Drusus and father of Caligula, celebrated a triumph over the Germans, against whom he had been sent by Augustus in the latter's old age.
Tiberius himself, however, during the greater part of his reign administered the affairs of the state with so deep a sense of responsibility and so great moderation that he wrote to some governors who had advised an increase in the tribute levied upon the provinces to the effect that "it is the duty of a good shepherd to shear his flock and not to flay them.
When the Lord Christ had suffered and risen from the dead and had sent forth His disciples to preach, Pilate, the governor of the province of Palestine, made a report to the emperor Tiberius and to the Senate concerning the passion and resurrection of Christ, and also the subsequent miracles that had been publicly performed by Him or were being done by His disciples in His name. Pilate also stated that a rapidly increasing multitude believed Him to be a god. When Tiberius, amid great approval, proposed to the Senate that Christ should be considered a god, the Senate became indignant because the matter had not been referred to it earlier in accordance with the usual custom, so that it might be the first to pass upon the recognition of a new cult.
The Senate therefore refused to deify Christ and issued an edict that the Christians should be banished from the City. There was also the special reason that Sejanus, the prefect of Tiberius, was inflexibly opposed to the recognition of this religion. Nevertheless in an edict Tiberius threatened denouncers of Christians with death. Now it came about that the emperor little by little abandoned his most praiseworthy policy of moderation in order to take revenge upon the Senate for its opposition; for he took pleasure in doing whatever he wished and from the mildest of princes he became the most savage of wild beasts.
He proscribed a great army of senators and drove them to death. Of the twenty noblemen whom he had selected as his counselors, he left scarcely two unharmed and destroyed the others on various pretexts.
History of the Wars/Book V
He put to death his prefect Sejanus who was trying to stir up a revolution. There were clear indications that he poisoned both Drusus, his son by birth, and Ger-manicus, his son by adoption. He also killed his grandchildren, the sons of Germanicus. To recite his deeds one by one would be too horrible and scandalous. Suffice it to say that his lust and cruel rage grew so violent that those who had scorned to be saved under the rule of Christ were punished under the rule of Caesar.
In the twelfth year of Tiberius, a strange and unbelievable disaster occurred at the city of Fidenae. While the people were watching a gladiatorial performance, the seats of the amphitheater collapsed and killed more than twenty thousand persons. In truth, the ages to come may well heed the lesson of this great catastrophe that befell those who had so eagerly assembled to witness the death of their fellow men. And this at the very time when God had been pleased to become man for the sake of securing man's salvation! In the seventeenth year of this emperor, the Lord Jesus Christ of His own free will submitted to His passion.
Nevertheless, it was through their own impiety that the Jews arrested Him and nailed Him to the cross. At that time a very severe earthquake shook the whole world. The rocks upon the mountains were rent, and many sections of the largest cities were overthrown by its unusual violence. On that day, too, at the sixth hour, the sun was also entirely obscured and a hideous darkness suddenly overshadowed the earth; in the words of the poet,. It is, however, perfectly plain that the sun's light was not cut off either by the moon or by clouds.
For we are told that the moon, being fourteen days old at the time, was in the opposite quarter of the heavens, farthest from the sun, and that the stars were shining throughout the entire sky at that hour of the daytime or rather in that awful night. These facts are attested not only by the authority of the Holy Gospels but also by several books of the Greeks. From the time of the passion of our Lord to this day, the Jews, who had persecuted Him to the extent of their power, have complained incessantly of an unbroken succession of disasters, until finally their nation, drained of its lifeblood and scattered abroad, disappeared from history.
For Tiberius dispatched the youth of the Jewish nation to provinces having an unhealthful climate, using their military obligation as a pretext. He also forced the remainder of the Jews, as well as those who practiced similar rites, to leave Rome , threatening to make them slaves for life if they failed to obey. When the earthquake mentioned above demolished many cities of Asia , he remitted their tribute and made a donation to them from his own purse as well. The circumstances of the death of Tiberius led to suspicions that he had been poisoned.
In the seven hundred and ninetieth year of the City, Gaius Caligula, the third emperor counting from Augustus, began his reign. He ruled barely four years. He was more wicked than all his predecessors and seemed well worthy to be an instrument of vengeance upon the blaspheming Romans and the persecuting Jews.
Let me show in a word the extent of his savagery by quoting the exclamation that is attributed to him: "Would that the Roman people had but a single neck! O, blessed beginnings of Christianity! So great was your power over the affairs of men that even the cruelty of man could only wish for disaster without finding them. See how hungry savagery loudly complains of the general peace:. Within, impious rage, Sitting on savage arms, his hands Bound behind his back with a hundred brazen knots, Will send forth horrible roars from bloody lips. Up to this time mutinous slaves and runaway gladiators terrified Rome, overturned Italy, ruined Sicily, and were dreaded by mankind throughout almost the whole world.
But in the days of salvation, that is, in Christian times, not even a hostile Caesar could break the peace. Caligula, after making almost incredible preparations, set out to find an enemy in order to give his idle troops an opportunity to fight. Traversing Germany and Gaul he stopped on the seacoast opposite Britain.
There he received the submission of Minocynobelinus who had been banished by his father, the king of the Britons, and who was now wandering about accompanied by a few followers. Lacking a ground for war, Caligula returned to Rome. At this time the Jews, already harassed by misfortunes everywhere as a retribution for Christ's passion, were crushed in a riot that had broken out in Alexandria. They were driven from the city. Thereupon they commissioned a certain Philo, unquestionably a scholar of the first rank, to go as their representative to the emperor and set forth their grievances.
But Caligula, who hated mankind in general, particularly detested the Jews.
He therefore treated Philo's mission with contempt and commanded that all the holy places of the Jews, and especially that famous ancient sanctuary in Jerusalem , should be profaned with heathen sacrifices and filled with statues and images. He also gave orders that he himself should be worshipped there as a god. When Pilate, the governor who had pronounced the death sentence upon Christ and who had been the instigator as well as the object of many riots in Jerusalem , received this order, he was so tormented that he stabbed himself with his own hand and so quickly put an end to his miseries.
In addition to his other acts of lust, Gaius Caligula committed the crime of violating his own sisters. He then condemned them to exile and later ordered their execution and that of all other exiles. He himself, however, was murdered by his bodyguard. Among his private papers there were found two notebooks.
One of these he had entitled The Dagger, the other, The Sword. Each contained the names of the most distinguished men of the two orders, senatorial and equestrian, together with marks indicating those who were to be killed. A huge chest of various poisons was also found. Claudius Caesar soon afterward ordered these poisons to be thrown into the sea, whereupon the waters became polluted and killed great numbers of fish, whose dead bodies were cast up by the waves along all the neighboring shores.
A really strong evidence of God's mercy may be seen in his manifestation of grace toward a people of whom only part were destined to become believers, and from the tempering of His wrath against them at that time when they persisted in their unbelief. How great a multitude of human beings escaped the death that had been prepared for them may be surmised and was indeed clear to all from the numbers of fish that had been poisoned.
What havoc so great an amount of poison might have caused in the unfortunate city, if it had been skillfully used, is evident, since even its careless disposal polluted the sea. During the seven hundred and ninety-fifth year of the City, Tiberius Claudius, the fourth in succession from Augustus, came to the throne.
He occupied it for fourteen years. There he taught by the true word the religion that brings salvation to all believers and attested it by mighty miracles. From that time on there began to be Christians in Rome. The City felt that this favor had been bestowed on her because of her faith. After the murder of Caligula, the Senate and the consuls passed many resolutions with a view to abolishing the empire, restoring the commonwealth to its former status, and wiping out completely the entire family of the Caesars.
Soon after establishing his rule, Claudius exercised a clemency previously unknown in Rome. To prevent vengeance from venting its rage, if it should get a start, upon so many of the nobility, he consigned to oblivion the memory of those two days during which those unhappy measures and acts had been passed regarding the form of government, and decreed that all that had been done or said during that period should be pardoned and forever forgotten. This was that renowned and glorious Athenian amnesty, which the Senate, on the advice of Cicero , had tried to introduce at Rome after the death of Julius Caesar, but which at that time had come to naught because of the onslaughts made by Antony and Octavian in their efforts to avenge Caesar's murder.
Yet Claudius, without being asked by anyone, assented because of his humanity, though he had serious provocation to execute those who had conspired against him. Now at this time by the grace of God a great miracle occurred. Furius Camillus Scribonianus, the governor of Dalmatia , had been plotting a civil war and had persuaded many of the strongest legions to break their allegiance. But on the day appointed for their assembling at the side of the new emperor, they found it impossible either to adorn the eagles or to pull up and move the standards. This unique miracle so impressed the soldiers that they gave up their plan, abandoned Scribonianus, killed him four days later, and returned to their former allegiance.
Now it is well known that nothing has ever brought more sorrow and destruction upon Rome than civil wars. Of a certainty God repressed this rising tyranny and threatening civil war on account of the coming of the apostle Peter and for the sake of the few Christians, who, like tender shoots springing up here and there, were just beginning to profess the holy faith. If anyone would deny this fact, let him produce a similar instance of the suppression of civil war in past ages. In the fourth year of his reign Claudius looked about everywhere for an opportunity to engage in a successful war, for he wanted to appear as a prince who was of some service to the state.
Accordingly he undertook a campaign in Britain , which was in the throes of an insurrection. This insurrection had apparently arisen because certain deserters had been barred from returning home. He crossed over to the island, which no one before had ventured to approach except Julius Caesar. There, to quote the words of Suetonius Tranquillus, "within a very few days he reduced the greater part of the island to submission without fighting or bloodshed.
Any person of the present day who pleases may make comparisons in regard to this one island, period with period, war with war, Caesar with Caesar. I say nothing of the outcome, since in this case it was the most fortunate of victories, previously the bitterest of disasters. Thus Rome may finally come to see that the God through Whose Providence she formerly enjoyed partial success in her undertakings is the God through Whose recognition she now enjoys success in all its fullness to the extent that she does not become corrupted through the stumbling block of her blasphemies.
In the same year of this emperor's reign, as the prophets had foretold, there was a terrible famine throughout Syria. The needs of the Christians at Jerusalem , however, were bountifully supplied with grain that Helena, the queen of Adiabeni and a convert to the faith of Christ, had imported from Egypt. In the fifth year of the reign of Claudius, an island, extending over a space of thirty stadia, suddenly appeared out of the deep sea between Thera and Therasia. Two years later, when Cumanus was procurator of Judaea , an insurrection broke out in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover.
So great was this riot that the people were crushed while stampeding through the gates. Thirty thousand Jews are said to have been trampled to death or suffocated in the congestion. In the ninth year of his reign, Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. Both Josephus and Suetonius record this event, but I prefer, however, the account of the latter, who speaks as follows: "Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because in their resentment against Christ they were continually creating disturbances. Nevertheless, during the following year there was so great a famine in Rome that the emperor was taunted and insulted by the people in the middle of the Forum and shamefully pelted with pieces of bread.
He barely managed to escape the fury of the excited mob by fleeing through a private entrance into the Palace. Not long afterward, Claudius, acting upon the flimsiest pretext, put to death thirty-five senators and three hundred Roman knights at one time. In the matter of his own death, however, there were clear indications that he had been poisoned. In the eight hundred and eighth year of the City, Nero Caesar, the fifth in succession from Augustus, became princeps.
He held the office for almost fourteen years. There was no form of wickedness that he did not practice—wantonness, lust, extravagance, avarice, and cruelty. In the first place, his wantonness led him to visit nearly all the theatres of Italy and Greece , where he disgraced himself by wearing motley attire. Indeed he often imagined that he carried away the palm symbolizing victory from heralds, musicians, actors, and charioteers. Then the violence of his lusts became so great that he is said to have respected neither his mother's nor his sister's honour nor any blood relationship.
Also he took a man to wife and was himself received as a wife by a man. His extravagance was so unbridled that he fished with nets of gold, which were drawn up by cords of purple, and he bathed in hot and cold perfumed waters. It is even said that he never travelled with less than a thousand carriages. He caused Rome to be burned in order to enjoy the spectacle and for six days and seven nights feasted his eyes on the blazing city. The warehouses, built of square stone, and the huge tenements of a bygone day, which the spreading flames could not reach, were demolished by great machines originally designed for use in foreign wars, and these buildings were then set on fire.
The unfortunate plebeians were driven for shelter to monuments and tombs. The emperor himself viewed the conflagration from the lofty Tower of Maecenas. And while enjoying the beauty of the flames, it is said that he declaimed the Iliad in a tragedian's costume. The avarice of Nero was likewise so uncontrolled that, after the burning of the City, which Augustus, according to his boast, had changed from brick into marble, he would not allow anyone to approach the remains of his own property, but himself seized everything that had by any chance escaped the flames.
He also ordered the Senate to appropriate ten million sesterces a year for his expenses. He deprived a great many senators of their property without cause, and in one day wiped out the entire wealth of all the merchants and inflicted torture upon them as well. His insane cruelty made him so savage that he killed the greater part of the Senate and almost annihilated the equestrian order. He did not even refrain from murdering members of his own family and without scruple destroyed his mother, brother, sister, wife, and all the rest of his blood relations and kinsmen. All this mass of crime was crowned by Nero's daring impiety toward God.
He was the first emperor to torture and put to death Christians at Rome and he ordered them to be harassed by a like persecution throughout all the provinces. In his attempt to root out their very name, he put to death Peter and Paul, the most blessed apostles of Christ, one by the cross and the other by the sword. Soon wretched Rome was engulfed by disasters pressing in upon her from every side. The following autumn so great a plague visited the City that thirty thousand funerals were entered in the register of the goddess Libitina.
Britain at once suffered a disaster. Two of the principal towns were sacked and a great number of Roman citizens and their allies were slaughtered and destroyed. In the East, moreover, the important Armenian provinces were lost. Roman legions were forced to pass beneath the Parthian yoke, and Syria was retained only with great difficulty.
In Asia an earthquake destroyed three cities, Laodicia, Hierapolis , and Colossae. In the meantime, Nero learned that the army in Spain had proclaimed Galba emperor. His courage and his hope utterly collapsed. In the midst of his wicked and unbelievable attempts to ruin and even to destroy the state, the Senate declared him a public enemy. He ignominiously fled and killed himself four miles from the City. With Nero the entire family of the Caesars became extinct. In the eight hundred and twenty-fourth year of the City, Galba assumed the imperial title in Spain.
As soon as he learned of Nero's death, he came to Rome. Here he offended everyone by his avarice, cruelty, and indolence. He adopted as his son and successor Piso, a highborn and industrious young man, but both were slain by Otho after a reign of seven months.
Thus Rome atoned for the wrongs done to the Christian religion through the slaughter of her rulers and the breaking out of civil war. When the apostle Peter came to the City, the legionary standards, you will recall, were held fast by the will of Heaven and could not be pulled up by any means whatsoever to set in motion the civil war which Scribonianus had planned. But after Peter had been killed in the City and the Christians had been mangled by every sort of punishment the standards were loosened from the ground throughout the world.
Galba now raised the standard of revolt in Spain. Upon his downfall, Otho in Rome , Vitellius in Germany , and Vespasian in Syria , all assumed the imperial title and took up arms at the same time. Here truth compels those who decry the Christian era to acknowledge, even against their own will, both the power and the mercy of God. Let them but consider how suddenly the fires of war flared up and how swiftly they were quenched. Formerly slight causes stirred up great and long lasting disasters. Now the mighty peals of thunder resounding on all sides from great evils are stilled with but slight difficulty.
For in spite of persecution, the Church already existed at Rome ; and from there she made supplications to Christ, the Judge of all, even in behalf of her enemies and persecutors. Otho made his way to the throne amid rioting and bloodshed after the murder of Galba and Piso at Rome. He began a civil war as soon as he learned that the legions of Germany had proclaimed as emperor Vitellius, who was in Gaul.
At first Otho won three unimportant victories over the generals of Vitellius, one in the Alps , another near Placentia , and the third near a place called Castores. This occurred three months after he had begun his reign. Vitellius, the victor, came to Rome. There, after much cruelty and vileness, he brought disgrace upon humanity by his unbelievable gluttony.
As soon as he learned what Vespasian was doing, he tried to abdicate. Later, encouraged by certain persons, he forced the partisans of Vespasian, including the latter's brother Sabrinus, who had not suspected any trouble, to take refuge in the Capitol. He set the temple on fire and let the flames and falling walls together envelop all in a common death and a common tomb. Later he was abandoned by his army, which went over to the cause of Vespasian. In his fright at the enemy's approach, he hid himself in a small storeroom near the Palace.
From this hiding place he was ignominiously dragged forth and, naked as he was, led along the Sacred Way to the Forum, while the bystanders pelted his face with dung. Eight months after he had usurped the throne, he was tortured to death at the Germonian Steps by countless tiny pricks and stabs. He was then dragged away with a hook and flung into the Tiber without even receiving the usual privilege of burial. For a number of days thereafter, amid scenes of general lawlessness, the soldiers of Vespasian vented their fury upon the Senate and people of Rome by an indiscriminate massacre.
During the eight hundred and twenty-fifth year of the City, after the passing of violent but brief storms in the form of illegal attempts to seize the throne, peace and calm returned under the rule of Vespasian. To go back a little in my story, the Jews, who after Christ's passion first were utterly forsaken by the grace of God and then beset on all sides by every kind of misfortune, were led astray by certain oracular responses given on Mount Carmel. These foretold that leaders would come out of Judaea and seize control of the government.
Applying this prediction to themselves, the Jews broke out in rebellion. They massacred the Roman garrisons, put to flight the governor of Syria when he came with reinforcements, captured his standard, and cut his forces to pieces. Vespasian, whom Nero sent against them, took his elder son Titus with him as one of his lieutenants. He also brought with him to Syria a number of strong legions. After taking many of the towns, he blockaded the Jews in Jerusalem , where they had gathered in large numbers because it was a feast day.
On learning of Nero's death, he declared himself emperor. He was strongly urged to take this step by numerous kings and generals but most of all by the words of Joseph, a leader of the Jews. This man, when made prisoner and put in chains, had most confidently declared, as Suetonius tells us,that he would be released directly by the same person who had imprisoned him, but that that person would be the emperor.
Vespasian, leaving his son Titus in camp to manage the siege of Jerusalem, set out for Rome by way of Alexandria. But when he heard that Vitellius had been killed, he stopped at Alexandria for a short time. Titus, on his part, wore down the Jews by a long close siege. He finally made a breach in the city walls by using engines and all kinds of military apparatus, though not without the loss of many of his men.
But it took more strength and a much longer time to capture the inner fortification of the Temple. A number of the priests and chief men had shut themselves up there and were maintaining its defense. When Titus had finally gained control of it, the construction and antiquity of the Temple aroused his admiration. He was for some time undecided whether he should burn it since its survival would encourage the enemy or whether he should preserve it as a memorial of his victory. But now that the Church of God had already blossomed forth richly throughout the world, it was His will that this building should be removed as an empty shell that had outlasted its usefulness.
Therefore, Titus, after being acclaimed imperator by the army, set on fire and destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem, which, from the day of its founding to its final overthrow, had endured for years. All the walls of the city were leveled to the ground. According to Cornelius and Suetonius, six hundred thousand Jews were killed in this war. But Joseph the Jew, who was in command of the war at that time and who later found pardon and favor with Vespasian by predicting his accession, writes that eleven hundred thousand perished by the sword and by famine and that the remainder of the Jews were driven off in various conditions of misfortune and scattered throughout the world.
These are said to have numbered about ninety thousand. The emperors Vespasian and Titus celebrated their victory over the Jews by a magnificent triumphal entry into Rome. Of all the three hundred and twenty triumphs that had been held from the founding of the City until that time, so fair and strange a sight had not been seen by man—father and son riding in the same triumphal chariot after their glorious victory over those who had offended the Father and the Son. Now that all wars and uprisings had been put down at home and abroad, these emperors without delay proclaimed universal peace and decreed that double-faced Janus should be confined by the barring of his gates.
This was the sixth time that this had occurred since the founding of the City. It was indeed right that the same honour should be paid to the avenging of the Lord's Passion as had been bestowed upon His Nativity. The Roman state then made great progress without suffering any of the tumults of war.
Achaia, Lycia , Rhodes , Byzantium , Samos , Thrace , Cilicia , and Commagene were for the first time reduced to provinces and obeyed the judges and the laws of Rome. In the ninth year of this emperor's reign, an earthquake destroyed three cities of Cyprus and at Rome there was a great plague. Vespasian died of dysentery at his country place among the Sabines in the ninth year of his principate. In the eight hundred and twenty-eighth year of the City, Titus, eighth in the succession from Augustus if we exclude Otho and Vitellius from the list of emperors, succeeded Vespasian.
He reigned for two years. His reign was so quiet that it is said that he did not shed the blood of a single person during his administration of the government. At this time, however, a conflagration suddenly broke out at Rome and consumed a great number of public buildings.
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It is also related that the top of Mount Bebius blew off and poured forth masses of molten lava and that these torrents of fire destroyed the surrounding country with its cities and their inhabitants. Titus succumbed to disease in the same country estate where his father had died. He was deeply mourned by all. In the eight hundred and thirtieth year of the City, Domitian, the ninth in succession from Augustus, succeeded his brother Titus on the throne. For fifteen years this ruler progressed through every degree of wickedness.
Finally he dared to issue edicts for a general and most cruel persecution to uproot the Christian Church, which was now very firmly established throughout the world. He even fell into such a state of pride that he ordered the people to speak, to write of, and to worship him as Lord and God.
Moved by envy and greed, he put to death the noblest men of the Senate; some he killed publicly, others he forced into exile and there butchered them. Whatever uncontrolled lust suggested to him he did.
In Rome he erected many buildings upon the ruins of the people's property. Equally harmful to the state was the war which his legates waged against the Germans and the Dacians. While the Domitian himself at the Capitol was a scourge to the Senate and to the people, his enemies abroad were continually cutting to pieces his badly led armies.
I should like to tell in detail of the great battles fought by the Dacian king Diurpaneus against the general Fuscus, as well as of the extent of the Roman losses. Domitian, however, who was puffed up by the lowest form of vanity, held a triumph. Nominally this triumph celebrated his victory over the enemy, but in reality it celebrated the loss of his legions.
Crazed by his pride, which made him want to be worshipped as a god, he was the first emperor after Nero to order a persecution of the Christians. Also in these days the most blessed apostle John was banished to the island of Patmos. The Jews, too, were subjected to cruel tortures and to the bloodiest of inquisitions for the purpose of searching out and destroying the race of David.
The emperor did this because he both hated and yet believed the holy prophets, and thought that One was still to come from the seed of David who would ascend the throne. Domitian soon was cruelly assassinated in his palace by members of his own household. The public corpse bearers carried out his body on a common bier and buried it most dishonorably. In the eight hundred and forty-sixth year of the City— although Eutropius says that it was the eight hundred and fiftieth —Nerva was proclaimed emperor.
He was a man advanced in years and was named emperor by the praetorian prefect Petronius and the eunuch Parthenius, the latter the murderer of Domitian. Nerva was the tenth emperor in succession from Augustus. He adopted Trajan as his own successor, revealing by this choice that a divinely inspired foresight had guided him in taking care of the sorely afflicted state.
In his first edict, Nerva recalled all the exiles. This general pardon freed the apostle John who then returned to Ephesus. After a reign of one year Nerva succumbed to a disease and died. In the eight hundred and forty-seventh year of the City, Trajan, a Spaniard by birth, and the eleventh emperor in succession from Augustus, took the helm of state from Nerva.
He held it for nineteen years. Trajan assumed the emblems of the imperial office at Agrippina, a city in Gaul. He at once restored Germany beyond the Rhine ; he subdued many tribes beyond the Danube ; he formed provinces of the districts beyond the Euphrates and the Tigris ; and he took possession of Seleucia , Ctesiphon , and Babylon. Trajan erred in judgment, however, in his persecution of the Christians, the third persecution from that of Nero.
He ordered that Christians should be compelled, wherever found, to sacrifice to idols or be put to death if they refused. Great numbers of them were executed. Pliny the Younger, who had been appointed persecutor with other judges, reported that the Christians were doing nothing contrary to the Roman laws apart from their profession of belief in Christ and their inoffensive meetings. Moreover, he said that none of them, sustained by their harmless belief, thought death a matter of grief or of dread. Upon receiving this information, the emperor at once modified his edict by rescripts couched in milder terms.
Nevertheless the Golden House at Rome , which Nero had built with a great outlay of both private and public wealth, was suddenly burned to the ground. Thus it was made plain that, though the persecution was set in motion by another, the punishment fell most heavily upon the buildings of that man who first began the persecution and who was the real author of it. At the same time an earthquake laid low four cities in Asia , Elaea, Myrina, Pitane, and Cyme, and in Greece , the two cities of the Opuntii and the Oriti. This same earthquake demolished three cities of Galatia. Lightning struck and burned the Pantheon at Rome , while at Antioch an earthquake laid almost the entire city in ruins.
Then violent rebellions among the Jews broke out simultaneously in various parts of the world. The Jews acted as if turned into mad savages. Throughout Libya they waged pitiless war against the inhabitants and caused great desolation by killing the tillers of the soil. So merciless were they that if the emperor Hadrian had not afterward colonized the country with people from without, the land would have remained absolutely destitute and entirely without inhabitants.
They disturbed all Egypt , Cyrene , and the Thebaid by sedition and bloodshed. In Alexandria , however, the Jews were defeated and crushed in a pitched battle. When they also rebelled in Mesopotamia , the emperor ordered war to be declared against them; many thousands of them were exterminated in a vast carnage. It is true that they did destroy Salamis , a city of Cyprus , after they had killed all the inhabitants. Trajan, according to some authors, died of dysentery at Seleucia , a city of Isauria. In the eight hundred and sixty-seventh year of the City, Hadrian, the nephew of Trajan on his mother's side, became the twelfth emperor in succession from Augustus.
He ruled for twenty-one years. He therefore gave orders in a letter to Minicius Fundanus, the proconsul of Asia , that no one should have authority to condemn the Christians without allegation and proof of a crime. In violation of a precedent, Hadrian soon received in the Senate the title Father of His Country and his wife the title Augusta. He governed the state very justly and conducted a successful war against the Sauromatae.
In one final massacre he subdued the Jews who, excited by the disorders caused by their own crimes, were ravaging the province of Palestine , which had once been their own. In this way he avenged the Christians, whom the Jews, under the leadership of Cochebas, were torturing because they would not join them against the Romans. The emperor gave orders that no Jew should be permitted to enter Jerusalem and that only Christians should be permitted to occupy the city. He restored it to great prosperity by rebuilding the walls and named it Aelia, from his own first name.
In the eight hundred and eighty-eighth year of the City, Antoninus, surnamed Pius, was proclaimed the thirteenth emperor in succession from Augustus. Jointly with his sons Aurelius and Lucius, he governed the state for almost twenty-three years. So peaceful and so upright was his rule that he was well named the "Pius" and the "Father of His Country. The philosopher Justin, however, submitted to Antoninus his book in defense of the Christian religion and so disposed the emperor kindly toward the Christians. Antoninus was attacked by disease and died at a place twelve miles from the capital.
During the nine hundred and eleventh year of the City, Marcus Antoninus Verus, the fourteenth emperor in succession from Augustus, came to the throne with his brother Aurelius Commodus. They occupied it jointly for nineteen years and were the first to govern the state on terms of equal authority. They waged war against the Parthians with admirable bravery and success. Annius Antoninus Verus proceeded to the battle front and there, after performing great exploits with the aid of his energetic generals, captured Seleucia , an Assyrian city of four hundred thousand inhabitants situated on the Hydaspes River.
He and his brother celebrated the victory over the Parthians by a joint triumph. Shortly afterward, while sitting with his brother in a carriage, Verus choked to death during an attack of a disease that the Greeks call apoplexy. Upon the demise of Verus, Marcus Antoninus became sole ruler of the state. During the Parthian War, however, persecutions of the Christians arose for the fourth time since Nero's reign. These persecutions were carried on by the emperor's order with great severity in Asia and in Gaul , and many of the saints received the crown of martyrdom.
A plague now spread over many provinces, and a great pestilence devastated all Italy. Everywhere country houses, fields, and towns were left without a tiller of the land or an inhabitant, and nothing remained but ruins and forests. It is said that the Roman troops and all the legions stationed far and near in winter quarters were so depleted that the war against the Marcomanni, which broke out immediately, could not be carried on without a new levy of soldiers.
At Carnuntium,Marcus Antoninus held the levy continuously for three years. This war was undoubtedly directed by the Providence of God, as is clearly shown by many proofs and especially by a letter of that very grave and judicious emperor, Antoninus. Numerous barbarous and savage tribes, that is to say, the Marcomanni, the Quadi, the Vandals, the Sarmatians, the Suebi, in fact the tribes from nearly all of Germany, rose in rebellion.
The Roman army advanced as far as the territories of the Quadi. There the enemy surrounded it; but on account of the scarcity of water the army was in more immediate danger from thirst than from the enemy. Publicly calling upon the name of Christ, certain of the soldiers with great constancy of faith poured forth their souls in prayer.
Immediately there came so heavy a shower that the Romans were abundantly refreshed without suffering harm. The barbarians, however, became terrified by the incessant bolts of lightning, particularly after the lightning had killed many of them, and they took to their heels. Attacking from the rear, the Romans slaughtered them to the last man and thus won a most glorious victory. With a small band of raw recruits but with the all-powerful aid of Christ, they had outdone nearly all the achievements of the past.
Several authors also state that a letter of the emperor Antoninus still exists in which he acknowledges that the thirst of the army was relieved and the victory won because the Christian soldiers had invoked the name of Christ. This emperor associated his son Commodus with him in the government. He remitted the arrears of tribute in all the provinces and ordered all the accusing evidence of indebtedness to the treasury to be piled up and burned in the Forum. He also modified the severer laws by new enactments. Finally, while staying in Pannonia , he died of a sudden illness.
In the nine hundred and thirtieth year of the City, Lucius Antoninus Commodus, the fifteenth in succession from Augustus, succeeded his father on the throne. During his reign of thirteen years, he conducted a successful war against the Germans. However, he became thoroughly depraved as a result of scandalous excesses and obscenities; frequently he fenced in public exhibitions with the weapons of gladiators, and often he encountered wild beasts in the arena.
He also put to death a great many of the senators, especially those who, he noticed, were most prominent by reason of birth and ability. The punishment for his crimes was visited upon the City; lightning struck the Capitol and started a fire which, in its devouring course, burned the library that the fathers had founded in their enthusiasm for learning, and also other buildings adjoining it.
Another fire, breaking out later in Rome , leveled to the ground the Temple of Vesta , the Palace, and a large part of the city. Adjudged when alive an enemy of the human race, Commodus, who incommodedeveryone, was strangled to death, so it is said, in the house of Vestilianus. After Commodus, the Senate proclaimed the elderly Helvius Pertinax emperor.
He was the sixteenth ruler in succession from Augustus. The latter thereupon seized the imperium; but in the course of a civil war he was soon defeated by Severus at the Mulvian Bridge and killed seven months after he had begun to rule. Thus Pertinax and Julianus between them occupied the throne for only one year.
In the nine hundred and forty-fourth year of the City, Severus, an African from the town of Leptis in Tripolis, gained the vacant throne. He wished to be called Pertinax after the emperor whose murder he had avenged. He was the seventeenth emperor in succession from Augustus and held the throne for eighteen years.
A cruel man by nature, he was continually harassed by wars, and he had to struggle hard to maintain his strong rule. When the Jews and the Samaritans tried to rebel, he put them down with the sword. He conquered the Parthians, the Arabians, and the Adiabeni. He harassed the Christians by a severe persecution, the fifth since Nero's reign, and in various provinces many of the saints received the crown of martyrdom. Immediate vengeance from Heaven followed this wicked and presumptuous action of Severus against the Christians and the Church of God.
Straightway the emperor was compelled to hasten, or rather was brought back, from Syria to Gaul for a third civil war. He had already fought one war at Rome against Julianus, and another in Syria against Pescennius, and now a third was stirred up by Clodius Albinus, who had made himself Caesar in Gaul. Albinus had been an accomplice of Julianus in the murder of Pertinax. In this war much Roman blood was shed on both sides. Albinus was overthrown at Lugdunum and lost his life. The victorious Severus was drawn to the British provinces by the revolt of almost all of his allies.
Having recovered part of the island after a number of stubbornly contested battles, he determined to shut if off by a wall from the other tribes that remained unsubdued. He therefore constructed a large ditch and a very strong rampart extending from sea to sea, a distance of one hundred and thirty-two miles. These works he fortified at frequent intervals by towers. Severus died of a disease at the town of York in Britain. Two sons survived him, Bassianus and Geta.
Bassianus, who assumed the name of Antoninus, took possession of the throne. In the nine hundred and sixty-second year of the City, Aurelius Antoninus Bassianus, also known as Caracalla, the eighteenth emperor in succession from Augustus, obtained the principate.