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How the World Elites are Going to Betray us: Lessons from Roman History

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The more I study the story of the Roman Empire, the more I see the similarities with our world. Of course, history doesn’t always repeat itself, but it is impressive to note how with the start of the collapse of the Western Empire, the Roman elites abandoned the people to build themselves strongholds in safe places. Something similar may be starting to occur in our times and our elites may decide to seek for safe havens while leaving us to drown, starve, or burn.

Rutilius Namatianus is known today for his “De Reditu Suo” (of his return). It is a long poem where he tells us of his travel along the Italian coast around 416 AD, during the last decades of the Western Roman Empire. We read in it a chilling report of the ongoing collapse: abandoned cities, wastelands, ruined roads, and more.

But who was Rutilius Namatianus, and what was he doing? A patrician, a powerful man, a rich man, and also a liar and a traitor. He was running away from Rome, probably taking with him gold, slaves, and troops with the idea of building himself a feud in Southern France, where he had some possessions. In doing so, he was abandoning the people of Rome to fend off for themselves. The people whom it was his duty to defend as praefectus urbi, the prefect of Rome, the delegate of the Emperor himself.

Namatianus was doing nothing worse than other rich and powerful Romans were. Emperor Honorius himself had run away from Rome, settling in Ravenna, protected by the marshes surrounding the city and with ships ready to take him to safety in Byzantium if things were to get really bad. When Rome was besieged and taken by the Visigoths, in 410 AD, Honorius did nothing, preferring to get busy with his chicken (a legend, but with elements of truth).

If you read the chronicles of the early 5th century AD, you get the impression of total mayhem, with barbarian armies crisscrossing Europe and few, if any, Roman nobles and commanders trying to defend the Empire. Most of them seemed to be maneuvering to find a safe place where they could find safety for themselves. We don’t know what was the final destiny of Rutilius Namatianus but, since he had the time to finish his poem, we may imagine that he could build himself a castle in Southern France and his descendants may have become feudal lords. But not everyone made it. For instance, Paulinus of Pella, another rich Roman, contemporary of Namatianus, desperately tried to hold on his possessions in Europe, eventually considering himself happy just for having been able of surviving to old age.

We see a pattern here: when the rich Romans saw that things were going really out of control, they scrambled to save themselves while, at the same time, denying that things were so bad as they looked. We can see that clearly in Namatianus’ poem: he never ever hints that Rome was doomed. At most, he says, it was a temporary setback and soon Rome will be great again.

Of course, history doesn’t have to repeat itself, even though we know that it often rhymes. But the similarities of the last decades of the Western Roman Empire with our times are starting to be worrisome. Most of our elites aren’t yet running away, but some of them seem to be thinking about that (see this article by Kurt Cobb). And some are starting to build sophisticated luxury bunkers where to take refuge.

What’s most impressive is the change in attitude: as long as problems such as climate change were seen as needing just cosmetic changes, they were discussed and governments pledged to do something to solve them. Now that the problems start to be seen as impossible to deal with, they are ignored. The change is especially impressive for those regions where the climate threat is closer in time. The elites of the Maldives and the Kiribati islands (*) have reacted by denying the danger, while at the same time selling off what they have and getting ready to leave for higher grounds.

We have to be careful here: there is no conspiracy today (just as there wasn’t in Roman times) of people getting together in a secret room to decide the fate of humankind. There is, rather, a convergence of interests. People who are sufficiently wealthy to buy themselves a survival bunker may decide to do so and, at that point, it is in their best interest to downplay the threats.

It is a very different attitude from that of middle-class people. We (I assume that most readers of this blog are middle-class people) don’t have the kind of financial clout needed to plan for a future as feudal lords among the ruins of a collapsed civilization. That’s why some of us keep catastrophistic blogs, “Cassandra’s Legacy“, for instance. Blogs can hardly save us from collapse but, at least, they are efficient means of communication and maybe that’s what we need to plan for the future.

So, returning to Roman history, what happened to the Romans who couldn’t run away and reach their castles? We know that not all of them survived, but some did. While the institutions and the state crumbled down, resilient communities started to appear, often in the form of monasteries or secular communities created around “overseers” (bishops).

Can we think of something like that for our future? Yes, it is an idea that’s developing in several forms, transition towns, for instance. So far, it is just an embryonic idea, but it may grow into something important together with new ideas on how humans can relate to the ecosystem. The Romans, after all, developed a new religion to help them deal with the collapse of their society. And, as I said, history never exactly repeats itself, but it rhymes.

Cassandra’s legacy by Ugo Bardi

88 Comments on "How the World Elites are Going to Betray us: Lessons from Roman History"

  1. Antius on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 10:30 am 

    “@Antius, Bankruptcy is the norm ?
    Do you have any figures to back this up?
    Also can you name any EU countries that are in recession (three months continuous negative growth)”

    Knew somebody would ask. Let us look at the four main south European EU members, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. Every single one of them shows declining GDP since 2005. There bumps on the curve, but the trend is clear:

    Spanish GDP:

    Italy GDP, much the same:

    Greece, GDP decline over 40%!:

    Portugal, much the same:

  2. Antius on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 10:36 am 

    Even German GDP has been flat since 2008:

    There is no immediate sign of an upturn.

  3. MASTERMIND on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 10:42 am 


    Clogg posts daily mail because it tells him what he wants to hear..Because he is a whack job..And nobody here gives a shit about the stuff he talks about..He is the laughing stock of this board..Who spreads unfounded conspricy about WW2, and when I challenge him to get them verified by an independent expert, he refuses..he is as dumb and brainwashed as they come..

  4. Antius on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 10:46 am 

    Generally, the entire OECD appears to be living beyond it’s means. There has been a general and apparently permanent decline in prosperity.

  5. GregT on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 10:54 am 

    “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

    – Albert Bartlett

    “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

    – George Carlin

  6. Simon on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 10:54 am 

    I suspect you are correct, the UK seems locked on a suicide course, with everyone else to blame .. hey ho.

    Not sure about pivoting so completely to Russia however, but I think the arming will happen.

    As for Gib. for me let the brits have it, who cares, I am happy in my corner of the EU.

    interestingly the news in the UK is wildly different to on the continent, they actually believe that Brexit is anything other than a joke, and that hordes of ‘repressed’ Europeans are going to follow them and their blue passports.

  7. Antius on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 11:11 am 

    “I suspect you are correct, the UK seems locked on a suicide course, with everyone else to blame .. hey ho.”

    That seems a bit over dramatic. We are leaving a political union and trading bloc. A bloc that has for all intents and purposes asset stripped the UK and with which we have a substantial trade deficit. We will continue to trade and contribute to common projects; the political and legal arrangements will be a little different.

    If you care to look at GDP figures, you will note that practically every OECD country is on a ‘suicide course’. Britain has one of the worst debt-GDP ratios in the developed world. This is something that occurred whilst we were part of the EU. Being part of a trading bloc does not protect a country from the hard realities of the global economy.

  8. MASTERMIND on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 11:39 am 

    This country is falling apart so fast I can’t believe what I am seeing..

    “Retail collapsing, Restaurants collapsing, Auto sales collapsing, Movie sales collapsing, wages flat, record income inequality, record drug deaths, record suicides, record alcohol deaths, record mass shootings, record school shootings, record low babies born, record heat and climate change, record hate groups/crimes, record young people at home, record debts government, student, corporate, consumer, life expectancy declining, etc.. ”

  9. GregT on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 11:43 am 

    The global economy will not protect anybody from the limits to growth on a finite planet.

    “It’s the economy stupid”, was all wrong. In reality, it’s all about the natural environment, which at some point in time will become impossible to ignore, but that won’t stop people from continuing to do so.

  10. fmr-paultard on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 12:08 pm 

    gret you laid it on heavy bro. did u watch vid fuhrer had no use for diplomacy?
    he also said nobody is worth it after 3rd reich is gone so he destroyed all infrastucture. gret u planning to be ted kazcinsky?

  11. GregT on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 12:18 pm 


    I have watched the entire movie before. It is a movie, a dramatization, in other words, not real. Hitler was a politician, and WW2 was the direct result of a breakdown in diplomacy, long before the war even began.

    I’m not quite sure what your problems are tard, but I have no doubt in my mind at all, that they are complicated, numerous, and severe.

    You need psychological help, bro.

  12. fmr-paultard on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 12:31 pm 

    aswang when u say 2nd civil war u hoping to start a meme to make it a reality. that’s desperation. supertards built up america for me to enjoy least i can do is to start a religion for worshipping supertards. i showed u videos of 100th battles in phils. this is because there’s a vacuum of power due to failed state.
    a failed state governmetn is weak does not enjoy monopoly of force and share with muslims.

    in america we have luke 22:36 but supertards have monopoly of use of force.

  13. MASTERMIND on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 12:45 pm 

    This process of globalization in the late 19th century was arrested by two major world wars, the product of imperialist rivalry that resulted from the drive to sustain the rate of profit in the major capitalist economies in the early 20th century. However, from about the 1980s onwards, with the rate of profit in the major economies at new lows, the leading capitalist states again looked to counteract Marx’s law through renewed capital flows into countries that had massive potential reserves of labour that would be submissive and accept ‘super-exploiting’ wages. World trade barriers were lowered, restrictions on cross-border capital flows were reduced and multi-national corporations moved capital at will within their corporate accounts.

    The downward trend of the rate of profit, its empirical confirmation, highlights the historically limited nature of capitalist production. If the rate of profit marks the vitality of the system, the logical conclusion is that it approaches further to an endpoint..

    “as these counter tendencies are gradually emasculated, the antagonisms of world capitalism become progressively sharper and the tendency towards breakdown increasingly approaches its final form of an absolute collapse.”\

  14. onlooker on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 12:51 pm 

    So, true Greg. “It’s the Earth stupid”,

  15. MASTERMIND on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 1:01 pm 


    The earth will be fine..we should not be worried about the earth but about the human species..Greg is just a tree huger who wants the world to join hands and sing koombaya..

  16. GregT on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 1:14 pm 

    “The earth will be fine..we should not be worried about the earth but about the human species.”

    That would be just about the most stupid comment that you’ve made yet MM, but I have no doubt that you’ll come up with something even more stupid.

  17. MASTERMIND on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 1:20 pm 


    When you have physical growth on a finite planet, pressures are going to mount to stop the growth..The earth will recover as it has in the past..It may take a while but it will be fine..

  18. onlooker on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 2:47 pm 

    I think MM, Greg is referring to the conditions of the environment which support our form of life. And I would rather be a tree hugger than a car hugger

  19. onlooker on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 3:04 pm
    It’s not just in Florida! Ecosystems collapse around the world as seagulls drop from the sky, millions of fish are dying, and whales are stranding unusually

  20. Boat on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 3:48 pm 

    I just hope my next car/truck has auto drive. It will go from store to store being loaded at each stop. Then it will go to multiple locations dropping products off. The hrs wasted purchasing and delivering should pay for the vehicle.

  21. MASTERMIND on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 4:18 pm 


    Greg is a moron and his generation was paid insane wages to turn screws without any education..And now they have a great sense of entitlement..

  22. Harquebus on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 5:09 pm 

    My educational years overlapped the 60’s and 70’s. I can remember the 60’s because, I was too young to take drugs. Learning to write involved an inkwell and pen. The coming of the biro amazed me and 20 years later, my fingers touched a keyboard for the first time.

    We were promised many things; including more leisure time and the technological changes have been much more than expected. The downsides were never mentioned and the consequences for this progress combined with perpetual growth were never mentioned.

    I personally feel dudded and to those much younger than I, don’t believe the promises of new technological utopia. The price to pay for attempting it will be the ultimate price.

    I am not sure where I got this link from. It might have been from someone here.

    “That’s what’s at stake, and the climate change activists and mainstream media cannot bring themselves to say the truth; cutting carbon means cutting jobs, reducing the easy abundance of our modern lives. It means making huge changes that practically nobody is ready or willing to make. It means applying self-imposed limits and admitting that our entire economic model is not just unsustainable, but self-destructive.”

  23. Anonymouse1 on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 5:40 pm 

    davyturd is a sock puppeting moron who gets paid nothing to rant and rave here 24/7/365 on his discount cell-phone plan. And you certainly have one of the, if not the greatest sense of entitlement-period. At least around here at any rate.

  24. makati1 on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 6:00 pm 

    Harquebus, I can relate. I too grew up in that era and time with ink wells. I remember learning to write cursive*. “Round, round, ready, touch.” Do they still teach it?

    Since then, every “improvement/discovery” has taken us one step closer to extinction. No country has done more to make it so than America and it’s extravagant waste.

    * For the uneducated here: Cursive is a style of penmanship in which the symbols of the language are written in a conjoined and/or flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writing faster.

  25. Davy on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 6:07 pm 

    Geeze, Asperger, I am not even on this thread and you are gushing and whining about me. Something is seriously wrong with you kid. BTW, no real comment out of you since 7/28, only troll grunts. You do realize how poorly your behavior reflects on Canada. Well, you probably don’t care because you hate yourself almost as much as you hate Americans.

  26. onlooker on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 6:20 pm 

    Our restlessness, ambitions, desires, competitiveness have now all proven to be counterproductive. Even if they were once traits needed in our infancy as a species. Perhaps Buddha was right in imploring us to forsake worthy things and pleasures and value and achieve thus Peace

  27. GregT on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 6:32 pm 

    Thanks for the link Harquebus.

    A couple of more important takeaways that can’t be stressed enough:

    1: “f the oceans warm even further and then fail to turn over because circulation has collapsed, as seems increasingly likely, then the deep oceans will be deprived of oxygen, which means anaerobic bacteria will begin to produce hydrogen sulfide. That, in turn, will wipe out all the life in the ocean and most or all of it on the surface of the planet as has happened 3 or 4 other times throughout geologic history.”

    2: “we have to give up on this crazy idea of infinite growth on a finite planet. That’s a relic of our system of money, and the sooner we do away with debt-backed fiat money the better. It was a passable idea in 1913, it’s a disastrous idea here in 2018.”

    Could not agree more. Humanity needs to wake up.

  28. onlooker on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 6:44 pm 

    Sorry worldly not worthy

  29. onlooker on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 7:00 pm 

    It may not need to be so drastic as hydrogen sulfide or methane outgassing to reign havoc on humanity just 2 degrees above pre-industrial temp may wipe out much of our agriculture

  30. makati1 on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 7:08 pm 

    ?Hypocrisy, not democracy, defines how America is governed – an increasingly totalitarian plutocracy, oligarchy and kleptocracy.”

    “American exceptionalism and moral superiority don’t exist. The state of the nation is deplorable – more an obscenity than a responsible sovereign state.”

    This article is a reality Americans don’t want to hear or face. So be it. Slip slidin’…

  31. Sissyfuss on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 7:33 pm 

    Harquebus, do you remember the 70s. I might have been there, not sure.

  32. Davy on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 7:37 pm 

    “This article is a reality Americans don’t want to hear or face. So be it. Slip slidin’…”

    global research dot com is a tabloid site, billy. Everyone knows that but you insist on referencing their noise.

  33. GregT on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 9:01 pm 

    Do not feed the troll.

  34. Anonymouse1 on Thu, 9th Aug 2018 10:22 pm 

    or the sock-puppets!

  35. Dredd on Fri, 10th Aug 2018 5:01 am 

    How To Identify The Despotic Minority

  36. Dredd on Fri, 10th Aug 2018 5:51 am 

    “I received a letter just before I left office from a man. I don’t know why he chose to write it, but I’m glad he did. He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can’t become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.” – Ronald Reagan

  37. Harquebus on Fri, 10th Aug 2018 5:00 pm 

    Looking back, I have to admit, the 70’s were a pretty good time. Not once during them did I have any idea about the damage that we were doing nor how much it would accelerate.
    Only after graduating as a mature student from Uni did I have the mathematical and analytical skills to understand the process and the consequences.
    It is true, high unemployment and a shrinking population are required. The Earth destroying economy be damned.

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