We have a kind of historical series going on this blog. It begins in what academic history calls “the dawn of history,” that is, the Egypto-Chaldean bronze age around 3000 BCE. However, the gist of this series you won’t be taught at any academy. The essence of it is that history is partitioned into 2,160 year long eras, harmonizing with astrological ages. The introduction was given here. And the Egypto-Chaldean age, 2907-747 BCE was presented here. And now it is time to look at the Greco-Roman age, 747 BCE-1413 CE.
In our historical series we now come to the Greco-Roman age. A formal summation of it would sound like:
Greco-Roman age. 747 BCE-1413 CE. Star sign Aries. Biotope the Mediterranean. Iron age. Symbolic vehicle, horseback rider; symbolic art form, the statue.
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Let us begin with the star sign for this era: Aries. For instance, at the Pythian temple at Delfi those seeking advice from Apollo would (among other things) offer a black ram. – Further, a baby ram, what is that? A lamb. And in Christian myth Christ is a lamb – and worshiping of the lamb became a whole obsession for the Greco-Roman world after the victory of Christianity from the 4thcentury onward.
The biotope and playground of this era is the Mediterranean. Specifically, we have the northern shore with Greece and Rome radiating power and vigor for this age; this is the heartland. The political fulfillment of this era, the Roman Empire, encompasses the whole Mediterranean sea; circumfluvium Mediterraneum is the name of the geopolitical game. But the eastern shores are comparatively less important, they have already had their heyday in the previous era – the Egypto-Chaldean era.
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That something new appears in the world around 747 BCE is obvious. Rendered in famous historical years we can for instance begin with 753 BCE, the traditional date for the founding of Rome – and even modern archaeology confirms that this time, the 700s BCE, sees the origin of Rome. – Rome was the capital of the world (caput mundi) during much of the Era Arietis.After the founding we saw nation-building with sword and law; we saw cultural influences from the Etruscans and the Greek colonies in the southern part of the Italian peninsula. Rome’s heyday proper began in the 3rdcentury BCE when the Roman republic defeated Carthage; it ended in 1527 CE with the resounding finale of Sacco di Roma.
The era is called "Greco-Roman" and to be sure, the Greeks were a little ahead of Rome in its development – only later, in Hellenistic times, to fuse with the Romans politically and create the Greco-Roman culture proper. However, even so, from the start the Romans knew about the Greeks and shared their culture, like sending petitioners to the Pythian oracle at Delphi, an institution established at the latest in the 700s BCE, the starting point of the whole era. – Focusing on other dates symbolizing the rise of Greece proper in the current epoch we may begin with 776 BCE, being the advent year for the Olympic games, to be held every fourth year until about 393 CE. Being religious and athletic festivals they very much defined the ancient spirit of “the perfect body as an archetype,” of “man is the measure of all things”. It is true that athletics means activitybut ancient athletics primarily meant beautiful, harmonious activity, not sweating, exhausted activity as in many current sports. Sport is work; sport is Faustian; athletics is art, athletics is Greco-Roman.
Another important Greek date marking the start of the era is the beginning of the Athenian list of Archons, in 683/682 BCE. Athens was to be a focus of the region for several hundred years and it started its existence close to the astrological beginning of the era, 747 BCE. – Greece (and Rome) wakes up by this time; gone are the dark ages ending the Mycenaean, gone is the Mycenaean era itself, a pure bronze age-culture existing only at the fringe of the then heartland, the Middle East. Now Greece-and-Rome comes into its own with city states, sword-armed infantry, Homerian epics, philosophy (Ionian school etc.), and graceful temples with columns and pediments.
We said above that the Greco-Roman age is shaped by being the iron ageand having horseback ridingand the art of the statue as defining features.
The Greco-Roman age means the beginning of the iron age; iron shapes this era as much as bronze shaped the previous era. This is obvious.
Horseback riding: in the Middle East this seems to have been established only with the late Assyrian empire, and by then we are already in the Greco-Roman age. In our pattern the Greco-Roman age is also the era when the man on horseback eventually, around 1000 CE, in the form of the medieval knight, would become the master of the world.
Statues versus painted portraits: as Spengler has shown us the Greco-Roman age was focused on the statue as the primary way of depicting man; in the following Faustian age it becomes the painted portrait. In geometry ancient man à la Euclid saw isolated bodies, and this influenced his way of seeing the human body; the ideal was the body at rest, in ataraxia,while Faustian man is shaped by dynamism and striving. His image is centered in the face while his body need not be depicted, it may suffice with a fen pen strokes intimating chest and arms. This is obvious in Faustian portrait drawings.
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The Greco-Roman age begins in the 700s BCE. And it shines forth in quiet splendor from the very beginning. Even school science admits it; in academic history the 700s through the 500s BCE is called the Archaic Age, the above intimated phase which saw the emergence of city states, metaphysical speculation, heavy infantry, and Homeric epics. To add some characteristics to this age, the archaic age, the early part of the Greco-Roman age, we can talk of the tragedies of Aischylos, Pindar’s lyric, and the pre-democratic symbols of Athens such as the Draconic laws, Solon’s laws, and the tyranny of Peisistratos.
In the realm of Faustian art appreciation, the later classic and Hellenist antiquity was admired for its harmony and perfection, symbolized in the words of German scholar Winckelmann: edle Einfalt und stille Grösse = noble simplicity and quiet grandeur. Conversely, the preceding era, the Archaic era, was a little more raw, a little more rural, a little more vital, a little more naïve. As such it captured the imaginations of other German greats such as Nietzsche, Stefan George, and Friedrich Georg Jünger.
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With some inspiration from Spengler you could say that the Faustian age is will-driven and directed; antiquity is comparatively less so, it is focused on rest in an ever-present now, on Euclidean bodies in ataraxia. Greco-Roman man was happy with sailing around in the Mediterranean, living on the shores of the Mediterranean; to go beyond the Pillars of Hercules was beyond him, “Non plus ultra” was the warning inscribed on them. He had no will to power playing in the unlimited spaces, like Faustian man.
You can find the world “voluntas,” will, in antiquity, but it doesn’t mean the same thing for antique man as it does for Faustian man.
The antique ideal is about isolated bodies – human bodies, geometric shapes, atomic particles – at rest. The era lacks concepts like direction, potential, intensity, power. Sofrosyne= moderation is the ideal.
You could say: “Rest in Rest” is the antique mentality while “Rest in Action” is the Faustian ideal, if we may borrow concepts from our own philosophy, Actionism.
As we said in the Introduction, having the Greco-Roman Age last from antiquity through the 1400s does away with “medieval times” as a separate era.
Hereby some notes on this.
Today’s academic history has 476 CE as the end of antiquity, and as the beginning of the so-called “medieval times”. Because by this date the Roman empire of the West ceased to be, its last emperor being disposed of. However, the signs of continuity are equally easy to find. The empire never ended...! The eastern part, with capital in Constantinople, lived on. And in the west we have the activity of Charlemagne, in 800 crowned as emperor as a seal of having recreated a western European realm; he was crowned and blessed by the pope, himself a kind of continuation of imperial power. For instance, both the ancient Roman emperors and the popes have the title Pontifex Maximus,“great bridge-builder”.
Even before Charlemagne a western European ruler was blessed and acknowledged by the imperial power, like Clovis of France in 507 by the Byzantine emperor being named Consul of Rome and given a purple cloak, boots and a diadem. And in the 900s Alfred of Wessex received something similar while visiting Rome.
Both the eastern and western part of the empire lives on – Rome until 1527, Constantinople until 1453. Because the empire never ended (at least not in 476) and medieval times as a separate era is a needless, redundant category.
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The medieval era, 400s to 1400s, belongs to the Greco-Roman age. It is the long and drawn out eventide of it, a time of degeneration and decay.
In its biotope (= Europe south of the imperial limes) it remains a culture seeing Rome as the center of the world (caput mundi); it is a culture of sofrosyne and ataraxia, of the body in rest as the main focus of art, only now with Christian characteristics – and with a generally degenerate style. The vigor and vitality of the dawn of the culture in question, in the 700s BCE, is long gone – gone is the “landscape-bound intuition, mighty creations of a dream-heavy mentality, transpersonal unity and fullness” (Spengler) of Greece and Italy of the archaic age. Already around year zero degeneration sets in, like Augustus having to enact laws to stop the moral decay. And at the end of the era we have a parody of a culture, a city-bound culture trying to prove the existence of God with reverse-engineered logic (= scholastics), with an art monotonously recycling Christian motifs, and generally with a mentality awaiting the end of the world, a stagnated culture thinking nothing of man’s inherent abilities to shape his environment.
The late period sees degeneracy over the whole gamut. For its part, the politics of the late Greco-Roman age (400-1400) is often a mess; it is fragmentary and small-scale. In other words, degenerate. Central power is weak, allowing for barbarians, thugs, and rovers to terrorize the lands – in the Age of Migration, in the Viking age, and later. The vital phase of the age saw imperial power reaching out from Rome and affecting every part of the empire; the late period empire (in the same region, south of the limes) each kingdom relies on delegation of power, outsourcing of power, abdication from power in the form of feudalism. Slavery may gradually be abolished during this time but serfdom for the peasantry is hardly any better.
“The Holy Roman Empire of German Nation was neither holy, nor Roman, nor German,” Voltaire said. And ever since this has been the way of looking at the state in question, with ridicule.
However, given that it came to life in degenerate times it did reasonably well.
Thus, we hold that Charlemagne, as far as he could, really did resurrect the Roman empire. In this state the city of Rome would be a spiritual capital, without being the actual seat of government. With this ground-laying work we after some hundred years saw “The Holy Roman Empire of German Nation” appear. Again, after Voltaire no historian has ever said a kind word about this state. And as intimated, it was a kind of epigone state, weak and inefficient – but that was the case of all the contemporary European states.
With the means given the Holy Roman Empire was a decent inheritor of the western Roman empire. The west by this time is somewhat stagnated but it is preparing for the Faustian greatness in the next era. “The west is the best” – for, back in the Roman imperial heyday the real nation-building work had been done here, in the west, while the eastern provinces (= Asia, the Levant, Egypt) where only conquered and taken over as they were, being already old and established states. – The west as the imperial heartland; we see this in the Civil War era, when the ones controlling the west (Caesar; Augustus) were triumphant while the ones controlling the east (Pompey; Mark Anthony) lost. Further, the ancient emperors of note were all from the west: the Caesars, the Flavians, the Antonines. With all due respect, easterners like Philippus Arabs and Heliogabalus are marginal figures. In this context, a resurrected western empire is no mere “rump-empire”. It is a European empire, pointing ahead to coming days when Europe will rule the world – that is, the Faustian era.
Even before Charlemagne the Franks pushed the imperial limes from the Rhine to Elbe, a thing the ancient empire hadn’t been able to. Augustus had planned this and now, in the 700s and on, these barbarian lands were civilized. Charlemagne eventually ruled over northern Spain, France and western Germany plus northern Italy; soon, minus France but with the Netherlands and some eastern outfields added, the medieval German emperors ruled over a reasonably resurrected Roman empire, western variety.
For the period at hand, the late Greco-Roman period, the Holy Roman Empire was a credible state, not worthy of all the slander historians heap on it. It came to life in a decadent age (the 800s) and it continued to live in decadent ages (1000-1400). And after the 1400s, when nation states became the thing, the Empire duly declined and led a shadowy existence until being abolished in 1806 – but from, say, the 1200s through 1527 it was an acceptable inheritor of the ancient empire.
You can’t compare the Empire of the 100s CE with the Empire 900 years later. But it did resurrect, it did live on. The Holy Roman Empire was a late-period empire, as such, as good as it could be.
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On the whole the Greco-Roman age was a splendid era, particularly in its archaic age-beginning and up and until the time around year zero, fulfilled in Pax Romana. Then you could speak about “the glory that was Greece and the splendor that was Rome”. After this we had a long phase of stagnation and decay. We have to wait until the 1400s to see a new star and a new region taking over the torch as the vanguard of mankind: the Faustian age with its heartland in Europe north of the ancient imperial limes.
The Series Thus Far