Magic Dirt Fail: Byzantine edition

More historical lessons courtesy of the great historian Charles Oman:

The chief modifications which must be marked in the character of the empire between 320 and 620 depend on two processes of gradual change which were going on throughout the three centuries. The first was the gradual de-Romanization (if we may coin the uncouth word) alike of the governing classes and the masses of population.

In the fourth century the Roman impress was still strong in the East; the Latin language was habitually spoken by every educated man, and nearly all the machinery of the administration was worked in Latin phraseology. All law terms are habitually Latin, all titles of officers, all names of taxes and institutions. Writers born and bred in Greece or Asia still wrote in Latin as often as in the Greek which must have been more familiar to them. Ammianus Marcellinus may serve as a fair example: born in Greece, he wrote in the tongue of the ruling race rather than in his own idiom.

Moreover there was still in the lands east of the Adriatic a very large body of Latin-speaking population—comprising all the inhabitants of the inland of the Balkan peninsula, for, except Greece proper, Macedonia, and a scattered line of cities along the Thracian coast, the whole land had learnt to speak the tongue of its conquerors. By the seventh century this Roman element was rapidly vanishing.

Three hundred years for the cultural de-Romanization of the Eastern Roman Empire. We’ve seen significant cultural de-Americanization in 72 fewer years as America 1.0 gave way to America 2.0, and now 3.0, and the linguistic devolution is already well underway.

I also note the similarity between the failure of the Byzantine men to embrace the masculine duties of their citizenship during this period of decline and the failure of Western women to embrace the feminine duties of theirs.

Some of the developments of the new idea were harmful and even dangerous to the State. They took the form of laying such exclusive stress on the relations between the individual soul and heaven, that the duties of man to the State were half forgotten. Chief among these developments was the ascetic monasticism which, starting from Egypt, spread rapidly all over the empire, more especially over its eastern provinces.

When men retire from their duties as citizens, intent on nothing but on saving their own souls, take up a position outside the State, and cease to be of the slightest use to society, the result may be harmless so long as their numbers are small. But at this time the monastic impulse was working on such a large scale that its development was positively dangerous. It was by thousands and ten thousands that the men who ought to have been bearing the burdens of the State, stepped aside into the monastery or the hermit’s cave.

The ascetics of the fifth century had neither of the justifications which made monasticism precious in a later age, they were neither missionaries nor men of learning. The monastery did not devote itself either to sending out preachers and teachers, or to storing up and cherishing the literary treasures of the ancient world.

One could even observe that the office is the modern version of the nunnery, where unmarriageable women who will never have children go to spend their barren lives and busy themselves with make-work until they die.