Had every Roman father been teaching his sons righteousness instead of war, and every mother making a home for her children; had all parents assembled their children in their homes instead of the circuses and public baths; had they taught them chastity and honor and integrity and cleanness; would Rome still be a world power? Certainly it was not the barbarians from the north but the insidious moral termites within that destroyed the Roman world empire….
The story of the civilizations of the world is a continued story of the same weaknesses that leave a country helpless and disintegrated.
In our own time on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific and in the north and the south, we seem to be following the same trends. Our successes bring us to extravagances, to our seeking for high amusement. We control childbirth and reduce our families. We divorce and break up our homes. Many of our children become orphans in one way or another. We become irreligious and practice evil ways. We indulge in the bestial satisfactions. We crave social activities at the expense of our family life and … we lose our sense of rightness, of goodness, of devotion.
It is easy to see the resemblance between our modern-day situation and that of ancient Rome. According to Will Durant [an eminent writer and student of civilization], “Prostitution flourished. Homosexualism was stimulated by contact with Greece and Asia; many rich men paid a talent ($3,600) for a male favorite; Cato complained that a pretty boy cost more than a farm. But women did not yield the field to these Greek and Syrian invaders. They took eagerly to all those supports of beauty that wealth now put within their reach. Cosmetics became a necessity, and caustic soap imported from Gaul tinged graying hair into auburn locks.
“Women won the free administration of their dowries, divorced their husbands or occasionally poisoned them, and doubted the wisdom of bearing children in an age of urban congestion and imperialistic wars. Already by 160 Cato and Polybius had noted a decline of population and the inability of the state to raise such armies as had risen to meet Hannibal. The new generation, having inherited world mastery, had not time or inclination to defend it; that readiness for war which had characterized the Roman landowner disappeared now that ownership was being concentrated in a few families and a proletariat without stake in the country filled the slums of Rome. Men became brave by proxy; they crowded the amphitheater to see bloody games and hired gladiators to fight before them at their banquets.” (Will Durrant, The Story of Civilization, Caesar and Christ, pp. 89–90)
My brothers and sisters, I beg of you to study history—the history of the world. Look at Babylon in Assyria. Look at Jerusalem. Read about Sodom and Gomorrah. The story of Rome and its dissoluteness is in every library. Other cities likewise slipped from high plateaus to low marshes and defilement.
Rome gained the world and lost its soul. As Durant says, “Every new conquest made Rome richer, more rotten, more merciless. She had won every war but the class war. … Now through a hundred bitter years of revolution, Rome would pay the penalty of gaining the world.” (Durant, p. 108.)
His epilogue summarizes: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.” (Durant, p. 665.)
We have been concerned with the rapid rise of a public notion that families should be reduced. A congressman whom we know proposed a program of limiting the family to two children. Again, study the history of countries that have done this. It seems that imported laborers, slaves, uneducated criminals often take the place of the children who would have been under supervision and training.
Will Durant queries:
“What had caused this fall in population? Above all, family limitation. Practiced first by the educated classes, it had not seeped down to a proletariat named for its fertility; by a.d. 100 it had reached the agricultural classes. … Though branded as a crime, infanticide flourished as poverty grew. Sexual excesses may have reduced human fertility; the avoidance or deferment of marriage had a like effect, and the making of eunuchs increased as Oriental customs flowed in to the West. …
“The rapidly breeding Germans could not understand the classic culture, did not accept it, did not transmit it; the rapidly breeding Orientals were mostly of a mind to destroy that culture; the Romans, possessing it, sacrificed it to the comforts of sterility. Rome was conquered not by barbarian invasion from without, but by barbarian multiplication within.