Abstract: We breezily review the sociology of the most advanced civilizations in the last 10,000 years to explain why the Greek and Roman republics were so ETHICALLY FLAWED, they caused the Dark Ages. Giant agricultural empires were the most productive organizations for newly invented biotechnology; they dominated civilization for millennia as they put fascism to good use. But democracy is more friendly to mental diversity, hence intelligence and innovation. As technology became increasingly powerful, democracy gained an increasing advantage over imperialism. The natural antagonism between (fascist) empires and democracies led both sides to use the ultimate weapon of mass destruction: FASCISM. Fascism running out of control led Greek national-democratism into self destruction, by killing the very mentality of innovation which had made Greece superior. GREEK FASCISM WAS FACILITATED BY A CONFUSION BETWEEN FREEDOM AND DOMINATION OF OTHERS. This led Athens, an arrogant democracy, to criminality and catastrophe, as she tried to build an empire without concentrating on the ethics of what she was doing. Greek philosophy failed to throw any light on that ethical crisis. Greek ethics celebrated virtue, but all we see is people trying to dominate other people by force. In Rome the same flawed ethical way to look at others as OBJECTS OF DOMINATION TO ESTABLISH ONE'S FREEDOM, was compounded by a drastic CLASS gap. The wealthiest Romans used fascism to enslave the whole Mediterranean area for their personal profit. The wars against Carthage were the convenient device used by the wealthy to call onto enough fascism from the Roman Senate to roll back, and crush democracy in other nations, and then finally in Rome, making the latter into a mindless giant. This Roman contempt of the wealthy for the commons survives in the West to this day. The ETHICS OF CONTEMPT FOR PEOPLE BECAME THE ETHICS OF CONTEMPT FOR THOUGHT, and one cannot run the most advanced civilization that way. Civilization crashed. None of this happened by accident. It happened because history is animated by immensely complex laws which are highly non linear: individuals can play a crucial role. Some (very) noble Romans nearly succeeded to inflect history for the best (Gracchi, Marius, Caesar). It would have been easier for those politicians if some philosophy of EQUALITY had been there first to guide them. There was none. Caesar had to invent the concept of FRATERNITY for himself, by himself. As we will see in another essay, it is a small group of illiterate Germans, the Salii (Salian Franks) who reconstructed the ethics of the West so that it would NOT crash again in self contradiction. The ethics of the Franks, led to the NAISSANCE of the successful world civilization we know today. IT WAS NOT A RENAISSANCE. The flawed Greco-Roman monster was not born again. America would be well advised to learn and meditate all this, as it seems sometimes determined to make history by mimicking democratic Athens' atrocious and self destructive behavior of 25 centuries ago, down to each single word of each vicious sentence ("Either you are with us, or you are against us").


Large scale sociology did not exist for most of the evolution of mankind. It evolved in the last 10,000 years, as the invention of biotechnology allowed humans to evolve nutritious crops, making large scale food production, and therefore, large human populations, possible. This evolution did not entail cities right away: in most of North America, for example, the itinerant growing of corn allowed the apparition of large populations, without cities. But in the most developed areas, cities, hence politics, appeared. This philosophical evolution predated all present day religions. POLITICS IS PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY. But it's also the result of some sort of mathematically directed evolution. The advantage went first to gigantic ensembles, the agricultural empires, which blossomed on most continents as they organized bioengineered agriculture. The empires were carefully constructed to violate and use human psychobiology to maximize food production (hence military capability).


Agricultural societies were characterized by gigantism. Their very gigantism allowed them to flourish. Whereas it now takes a day to go around the whole planet, it could take years to cross some of the vast imperial expanses necessary to keep hungry savages away from the agricultural centers. Fascism allowed agricultural societies to appear, and be held together, with armies of enslaved peasant feeding agricultural surpluses to armies of soldiers protecting them, led by brutal aristocratic elites. It was more efficient that way.


Human beings are not made to be slaves, either literally, or figuratively. One does not enslave the planet's top predator easily. Prehistoric men were killers who evolved in freedom, equality, fraternity, celebrating with the occasional roasted enemy. Human beings domesticated fire two million years ago, and it was not to let themselves be domesticated, as the Greeks' Prometheus pointed out. To hold such unruly creatures as human beings in a state of slavery, one has to use the strongest means, and that is what giant empires learned to do extremely well.

Fortunately for empire builders, carnivorous, savannah dwelling primates have long evolved the psychobiological reflex of fascism, as anyone who has confronted a baboon troop knows. Successful empire builders learned to exploit that psychobiological trait. How the killer ape kills, when in the direst straights, was used to turn him into an enthusiastic ant in an anthill of the willing.

Fascism is the psychobiological mechanism whereby people unite behind the leader(s) in a fight to death against the enemy by concentrating all their mental powers on the fighting. In other words, carnivorous social primates are natural Nazis. They will follow in perfect, monomaniacal mental discipline and with utmost ferocity, if tuned just right. Fascism has been crucial to the ascent of killer apes, second only to imagination and intelligence. Fascism was crucial in the rise of agricultural civilization. Fascism was crucial for the rise of Rome, which advertised the concept, invented the semantics, and used it continually... until its eastern remnant was smashed by the Franks (17 centuries later: 1204 CE).


Trading between empires was economically advantageous to all, and favored higher technology in transportation. It made smaller elites rich and powerful (examples: Crete, Tyr, the Greeks, the Celts, Carthage). Building the ships allowed and required extreme trading, to gather the building materials (such as metals), and extreme imagination, to find the mental breakthroughs new technology required.

The drawback of fascism is that, per definition, it prevents mental diversity, hence maximum imagination. Being at war, under orders, and in terror all the time, is not conducive to the most elaborated thoughts. As higher mental powers became necessary for higher technical occupations, fascism became a hindrance. MAXIMUM POWER BECAME MAXIMAL MENTAL POWER, MEANING MAXIMUM MENTAL DIVERSITY.

Sea based powers armed with imagination, hence mental freedom, such as Crete, or her heirs the Greeks, came to dominate this new way of being human. Those democracies were small, advanced, rich, and surrounded with large empires. Some milder, freer empires understood they needed the small inventive ones (Egypt traded with Crete). Others did not (such as the hyperpower multinational Persia was, after it conquered Egypt). Total war resulted, as Persia tried to submit the Greeks, because submitting others is what a hyperpower does. Both sides turned to fascism: tiny Sparta threw the Persian ambassadors down wells. Persia rose armies which numbered in the millions, and invaded Greece.

Facing dreadful odds, the Greeks did not flinch, and fought to death, in rare moments of total unity. Fascism turned out to be a necessary condition for the defense of democracy against non democratically based ... fascism. There is no fury as a democracy fighting so hard for survival that it has turned fascist. The Persians lost their fleet, and then their army. 150 years later, they would lose their entire empire.

From early republican Rome to modern France and USA, the (Roman) fasces have since reminded all that the demos, in spite of its diversity, can unite with the strength of mass destruction (the ax in the fasces is not a delicate weapon). Unfortunately for the Greeks and Romans, something went very wrong, as the fascism they had to use episodically alloyed itself durably with the outrage of inequality they could have done without:


THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD WAS FLAWED. It harbored an inner, deadly, contradiction. It spent most of its time suffering from this fatal disease. Both the Greek and the Roman societies were SLAVE SOCIETIES. A THIRD of the Roman population was made of slaves. The most vigorous ones (those in mines and agribusiness) died so fast they had to be continuously replaced by fresh supplies.

There were many societies in the past, many were not slave societies. Even a somewhat fascist empire such as Egypt had few slaves. The very advanced democracy of Crete was not a slave society (it was terminated by the planet's most violent volcanic eruption in 20,000 years). One would have expected the most technology advanced societies of the planet to be sociologically advanced. They started thus (Etruscans, Ionian Greeks), but evolved backwards. As time went by, Hellenistic states started to look like the "Asia" they had conquered, and Rome teemed with more and more slaves.

Being slave masters corrupted the minds of the Greeks, and the minds of the Romans. Ironically, it led to the global enslavement of both societies. Rome did not succumb to the military of the Germans as much as to the militarization of her own mind, which became too simple. In the sixth century CE, the Roman empire was strong and wealthy again, having reconquered nearly all, but for France (where the Franks ruled in the name of the empire). Still the people, the Greco-Roman people, was in chains, and only one man, the emperor, decided all. No wonder, disastrous decisions were taken, quickly resulting in the destruction of most of civilization, from the Persian Gulf to Iberia.

The Greco-Romans never cleaned up their own mess; instead, it was the Franks who cleaned it up, as the Greco-Roman world had fallen on its own sword. That penultimate Romano-Christian military campaign, in the sixth century CE, devastated most of the old empire, and especially Rome and Italy; the last huge Roman war, in the seventh century CE, made the bed of Islam by ruining the Sassanids (Iran) and Constantinople, and the Arabo-Roman garrisons guarding Arabia. All along there was great oppression of the many by the few, perpetuated by Roman Christianity and now Islam, both with their emperors and caliphs, both revering slavery (as ordained by God/Allah). The Franks changed all that.


Enslavement of man by man replaces the enslavement of reasoning by man in a slave society. This is a deadly contradiction with democracy. DEMOCRACY WAS EVOLVED TO GIVE AN EDGE IN MENTAL POWER. In a slave society, people are treated worse than animals, because animals do not revolt by principle, whereas people do, so they have to be treated worse than animals to be kept from doing what they do naturally. Feeding and treating a slave kindly, is not enough to keep the slave in working order. One needs to go out, and kill people. EXTREME SPITE FOR MAN IS MANDATORY IN A SLAVE SOCIETY. Cicero, a Roman of exquisite humanity (for a Roman), once wrote that, in a storm, one should throw a few slaves overboard, to lighten the ship, rather than a good horse. It was the LAW, the Roman law, to execute all slaves in a household where a master had died suspiciously. Torture was preferred, to conduct such executions, in the hope of learning interesting things. The very definition of interesting is changed, in a slave society, and does not become conducive to higher knowledge.

In a slave society, the ambition is to master men, not nature. Advanced knowledge of torture is preferred to advanced knowledge of anything else, so the masters themselves end up as brutal idiots. Fascism holds the whole thing together. In a slave society, people can end up as property, say when their debts are too high. Free men find natural to be themselves for sale. All what matters is who owns whom, not the principle of selling whoever, or whatever, which is admitted by all, the essence of any corruption imaginable. FREEDOM, IN A SLAVE SOCIETY, IS A QUESTION OF WHO OWNS WHOM, NOT OF BECOMING BETTER MINDS. So it was that Greece ended up owned by Macedonia, then Rome owned Macedonia, hence Greece. And dumbness reigned.


Not surprisingly, since it was a man-owns-man world, the Greeks EQUATED THEIR FREEDOM TO DOMINATING OTHERS. Not bearing chains meant dominating others, in the slave world. Here is a telling quote, at the foot of one of antiquity's most famous monuments:

"The people of Dorian Rhodes raise high to heaven this colossus ... when they crowned the country with the spoils of their foes. Not only over the sea but also over the land they spread the lovely light of UNFETTERED FREEDOM. For those who spring from the race of Heracles DOMINION IS A HERITAGE on land and sea." UNFETTERED FREEDOM MEANT DOMINION. Some quotes from the democratic assembly of the Athenian people, all the Athenian people, a modern barbarian such as Adolf Hitler would have never dared to utter in public, lest he looked unreasonable.

This confusion between freedom and dominating others led the Greeks to a vicious circle of fascism, and counter fascism. Athens attacked democratic Beotia for no good reason, except that Athens was a superpower, and it was a monopolar world (Athens declared), and Athens was the land of the free, hence the dominating. Beotia and Thebes called fascist Sparta for help, the latter secretly bankrolled by fascist Persia, and, from there on, things only got more vicious, and more complex. Athens' preferred line of horror was : "EITHER YOU ARE WITH US, OR YOU ARE AGAINST US" (repeated by Bush). Those who were not "WITH" were therefore punished, i.e., they were threatened, and then attacked by Athens. Athens annihilated some democracies, killing all men, making slaves of all women and children. Soon nearly all Greek states were fighting Athens. Athens lost. When they are really hungry, African wild dogs will attack an isolated lion. It takes a while, but the dogs often get to eat.


Of course the fact that some officials in Washington repeated exactly the same words as the imbeciles in Athens' assembly of the people, 25 centuries earlier, tells a lot about the scary times we are in. At the very least officials of a modern republic should know the history of the first large democracy the world has known. Athens was immense relative to the 200 states of the Greek world, and still got half annihilated because of her rogue behavior. The USA is only 4% of the world population, and just one democracy out of many...

The Athenians did a fatal mistake. So we should have learned. We are playing with thermonuclear bombs nowadays, not just triremes with rams. It is DEMOCRATIC Athens' uncivilized attitude which made Athens the unbalanced society which destroyed the civilization she could have led for millennia to come. The lack of appropriate philosophical capability of the Athenians was at fault. Something similar happened many times in history, one of the latest example being brand new Germany, which fell into barbarism, mostly because of a pervasive, Prussian instigated, fascist philosophy in which the whole country bathed (and which revolted great minds such as Nietzsche and Einstein, who spent most of their lives decrying Germany).


Athens, the great Athens of Pericles, the Athens which gave so much to mankind, had a such very high opinion of herself that it became intoxicating. Athenian theater used to deplore hubris in individuals, but Athena herself was the greatest perpetrator of hubris there ever was, and this no one dared directly decry (true anyone trying to do so may have been tried and executed for ... "impiety"! Aristophane's comedy "The Birds", where Athenians build a city in the sky, is as close as critique went).

Athens thought of herself as free and just, but Athens was dictatorial and unjust towards others. After Athens surrendered, most other Greek states wanted her exterminated as if it were a vermin, like she used to do to others (Sparta (!) saved what was left of her). Athenian fascism towards other nations started innocuously enough: Athens was the great arsenal of democracy which had won the wars against Persia, so Athens gave herself special rights, in her status of self described superpower and land of freedom. Athens gave herself the right to use NATO (ooppss, sorry: at the time called the Delian League) for personal economic and financial advantage. Because she was the superpower. Of course, Athens, having been burned by the Persians, had to be rebuilt, but she raided the Delian treasury, edified a great navy, and very costly architecture, such as the Parthenon. Those buildings may be cute, but they also symbolize the civilization Athens destroyed, and how.


The great intellectuals of Greece were unable to see there had been a failure of Greek ethics. They were not up to snuff. They just did not have the right contextual dimensions. They were shrunk, low dimensional beings, soon flattened by the bulldozer of history. As Athens got nearly annihilated from the world reaction to her popularly generated fascism, Socrates, a war hero, was talking about other things, obvious little things, somewhat related, but having thoroughly missed the big picture, thus making a fool of himself as a philosopher. NOBODY, not Plato, nor Aristotle, and nor anyone else of record in Greco-Roman antiquity, including the Christian philosophers, had an understanding of the mental forces at work. Plato and Aristotle extolled fascism, then reluctantly admitted there was something wrong with this picture, although they did not know what.

After the unfortunate episode of the Athenian democracy having fallen into fascism, democracy did not occur in a great power until the FRENCH revolution of 1789 (when, unfortunately things did not go too well either, because all the monarchies around attacked, and invaded, and the French republic quickly had to resort to her own fascism to survive that pack of dogs...). Contrarily to legend, the US republic did NOT start as a democracy. Not at all. FRANCE BECAME THE FIRST LARGE REPUBLICAN DEMOCRACY SINCE ATHENS. Rome did not quite make it either (see below). The USA was a joke as a democracy for most of its first 100 years. About only 1% of the US male population was allowed to vote, for a few generations. This would have made the Greeks or the Romans scoff. In the democracies of antiquity ALL free males could vote, although the distinction between nobility and people was kept in Rome. It can be argued that America became a democracy because it had the French democratic example below its nose, all the more since the French republic failed because of a British invasion, something Americans could readily empathize with (having seen two of those in 36 years)!


The infighting between the Greek democracies left them weaker than the primitive fascists up north in Macedonia. Macedonia, not at all a democracy, was not ruled by consensus, but by ignorance, assassination, and the phalanx. That combination worked well for Operation Greek Freedom, conducted by unelected President Philip of Macedonia (just kidding!). The Macedonian conquest of Greece was sublimated into the 12 year conquest of "Asia", all the way to India, by Philip's son Alexander, a student of Aristotle. This space turned into the "Hellenistic" world, where large federations and kingdoms ruled, as they could muster large armies (up to 100,000 men). The Greek city-states faded in importance, and so democracy faded, and so did fade what had caused Greek ascendency to start with, technological INNOVATION. An economic crisis resulted in Greece, accompanied by drastic inequalities in wealth distribution (even in Sparta!). Such were the consequences of the triumph of war and empire as engines of economy and society. Fascism can be successful in the short term, doing what it does best, namely war, invasion, occupation and domination. Ultimately it makes its own perpetrators stupid, per its very nature, though, so it always ends up defeated by greater intelligence.


Some people doubt the relevance of philosophy in daily affairs. They think of Fleming, and penicillin, of Pasteur, and his discoveries on transmissible diseases, they think of many practical schemes, such as wireless, or TV, or mathematical theorems, and they do not see what the greatest philosophical schemes have brought us.

Well, they brought us civilization. The discovery of vaccination by the Turks took only a few decades to reach the West, and a few centuries to instruct Pasteur's imagination. To discover why Athens failed, is also a discovery, just as a protein or a theorem can be a discovery. The failure of Athens was such a complicated process, it is taking MILLENNIA TO INSTRUCT OUR IMAGINATIONS. That is all. The failure of the first large democracy, Athens, is a weightier lesson than discovering that some molds kill bacteria, and harder to understand, because it is not clear all what it killed. The failure of democracy, and why, is a much less obvious logics of facts. A less obvious lesson takes more time to understand and learn. Turkey was a very mentally diverse space, where thinkers from all over Europe and Asia were encouraged to come, and do their thing, a bit as Athens was, 20 centuries earlier, and so vaccination was not discovered there by complete chance.

Most of the discoveries which constitute the backbone of our world civilization were made in only a FEW states, in a FEW special times, in very FEW moods. This is because new knowledge and new wisdom arise only from societies which are philosophically supreme. Athens was philosophically supreme for three centuries. Her incredible success did not extend to the ethics she needed to prevent herself from becoming mad, so she had to be restrained by force, and civilization went in full reverse.


Meanwhile, the Roman pseudo republic had been expanding, as it defended itself against various predators, including the Gauls (who occupied, ransomed, and humiliated Rome, to their future sorrow). Rome met the Greeks in southern Italy, helped as they were, by the good king Pyhrrus and his Indian elephants, and Rome lost a few battles... But Rome was a pseudo republic in a similar sense to the American pseudo republic of 1776: Rome had infinite reserves of farmer-soldiers, disciplined by unfailing fascism, rewarded by land grants. American soldiers of 1776 received 100 acres from the US, no less! ... so they really hated ... Great Britain; The Roman soldiers got much less from the Roman State, and nothing at all when the republic collapsed. That made them dependent upon the spoils their generals could bring. Roman discipline awed the Greeks: when elephants charged, the disciplined legions would calmly open up, and let the beasts pass, wounding and enraging them.


Rome did not start as a slave society, it became one. But Rome did not start free, either. This explains why it ended up in chains: the primal nobility -the Patricians- advised the Etruscan kings, and then led a revolution against them. The assembly of the Patricians was the Senate, and it was no slouch. It lasted more than a millennium. In 524 CE, the president of the Senate, Boetius, was the last philosopher of antiquity, as he waited for execution at the hand of the law of His Gracious Majesty, the Ostrogoth Theodoric, after a dark conspiracy (not a detail, because this sorry episode was to lead to the complete destruction of Italy and Rome at the hand of the monomaniac superpowerful Christian Roman emperor Justinian).

The way Rome got started is analogous to what happened in America 23 centuries later: the rich class took power, and organized "for ourselves" a republic. Except the USA started just with rich landowners, whereas Rome started with a high aristocracy of rich and determined warriors, the Patricians. Other rich people got ennobled and allowed to progressively enter the Senate (a model feodal Europe would duplicate later). The Roman People was not too keen on this "mixed" Constitution, with the rich on the very top. The People fought back for centuries, gaining more and more rights from the Senate, including the right to the highest offices ("Tribunes with Consular powers"). It looked, for a few centuries, as if Rome was on her way to become a genuine democracy, in the Athenian sense of the term (Post Solon Athens was a very equalitarian society ... but for the slaves). That was until the Roman Senate found a convenient enemy to allow Roman fascism and militarism to rally to high heavens: Carthage.


The wars against Carthage allowed the Roman Senate to stage a slow motion coup against the Roman people. It took more than 100 years, but it destroyed the Roman republic beyond repair. Instead of going in the direction of what should have been fixed (inequalities in wealth, power and rights), things went the other way.

Under the guise of national emergency, laws favorable to the people were rescinded. At the same time laws against concentration of wealth were also rescinded. One such ancient law forbade people to own more than three acres, so that there could be plenty of profitable small farms; that law was rescinded, allowing the apparition of giant agribusiness manned by armies of slaves, and, surprise, surprise, owned by senatorial families. It helped that the rural populations had to take refuge in the cities as Hannibal was roaming the countryside, and paid extravagant rent to the Rich therein said cities; after the war, the Rich bought the land, and the farmers ended up in poverty, swelling the cities, living off state sponsored welfare.

Once again, the Senate had been no slouch: at the battle of Cannae, the final loss to Hannibal, 80 senators died fighting. After the disaster, a law was passed, according to which legionaries were supposed to win or die (15,000 had escaped Cannae alive; the rest of the 80,000 elite troops had died that day, victim of Hannibal's genius). From there on it was all victories, all the time. A bold counter attack a few years later, with a Roman landing in Africa, allowed the Romans to win, and submit Carthage.

But removing Carthage as a military threat was not enough for the glorious Senate: democracy still threatened in many places, and democracy threatened concentration of wealth, the Senate's forte. So the Senate instigated the darkest conspiracy to exterminate democratic Carthage, democratic Greece, and democratic Spain. It had to be a conspiracy, because many of the People of Rome were not so dumb as not to see what the Roman Rich were up to: EXTERMINATING DEMOCRACY. Even with the extremely clever conspiracy in full swing, the Roman People nearly refused to go along. Democratic Carthage was annihilated in an atrocious war. At the same time, the Senate ordered the destruction of socialist Corinth, and the DESTRUCTION OF ALL THE DEMOCRACIES. As simple as that. The year was 146 BCE. Numantia survived 13 years, and was annihilated. Marseilles, Rome's sole ally, was submitted nearly a century later.

The Roman Senate finally strangled democracy in Rome, its aim all along. Desperate efforts by some individuals (Gracchi, Caesar, Cicero) to prevent this resulted in assassination campaigns. Thousands died.
The mental and civilizational forces at play were not understood enough to be addressed at the time. It was first a philosophical failure: politicians could not refer to pre-existing philosophical works, to get help and suggestions about what to do. There were none. Socrates' extensive whining about democracy was not helpful. Caesar, the Republic's supreme commander, had to invent FRATERNITY for himself, and by himself. He was misunderstood. Fascism and slavery were the problems Rome had, and doing without them would have required a lot of imagination. Rome did not have the brains. Rome never could bring democracy to the level of Athens, simply because the rich were too entrenched (Athenian philosophy had taxed her own rich into submission during the 6th century BCE). Roman society had at least four distinct classes; one is even tempted to speak of castes (although they were not akin to the racist and nasty set up found in India, the Roman castes were still a delirious violation of the spirit of equality).


The ethics of treating other people as slaves, or treating the common people as dirt, or treating other democracies as disobedient dogs which should be punished, or treating the world as one's plaything to exploit and trash, were pervasive in Greco-Roman antiquity. So we can tell America it was already tried, and it was a many headed disaster.

Treating other people as slaves, or dirt, treating other democracies as dogs, dealing with the world as if it were one's empire, is OUTRAGEOUS in light of what the human condition is. It brings the RAGE OUT. Human beings are not wolves to be bossed around by top wolves. Human beings are intrinsic rebels, and think better that way. The RAGE was brought OUT, first against Athens, then against the Roman mind numbing empire, ending in centuries of coups, civil wars, and fascist counterattacks, until LITERACY itself died out from terminal Roman Catholic dictatorship (the coups, and Christianity, were tools against the rich).


Neither the Christians, nor their Muslim parrots, changed anything to this. Fortunately, the Franks appeared, and made Christianism an instrument for the old German obsessions with fraternity and equality. That the same did not happen to Islam explains a lot of things. BREAKING OUT OF THE ETHICAL LOGJAM OF GRECO-ROMAN ANTIQUITY WAS NECESSARY TO START THE TRUE NAISSANCE OF ADVANCED CIVILIZATION.

Patrice Ayme', 2004.