Children of the Fatherland: Citizen and Barbarian

Once, the world was divided into the Senate and People of Rome, and some outlying barbarian tribes; once, there was Civilisation and there was Wilderness, and wherever you stood you knew which side of the line you were on.

It remains so.

Alas, the torture-wheel of time turns, and Golden Ages come and go. There is still a dividing line between civilisation and barbarism, and there is no doubt in the mind of any Roman about what side of that line they are on; but where once the Senate treated with barbarians as with subject peoples, it is now necessary to act on the legal fiction that areas in rebellion are ruled by sovereigns, equal in status to Rome – as though any but the anointed of the Senate, the true successor to the governing body that has met for more than a thousand years, could have a mandate from Heaven! There is only one state in the world that is not a pretender squatting in the ruins of sacredness; and indeed even this understates the case. If the truth were told, there is only one state, which may nonetheless find it convenient to treat with sufficiently powerful confederations of barbarians as equals.

Of those confederations, the most powerful is that of the Rus, stretching as it does from the Danube and the Vistula (!) and far east into the steppes. The earth shakes with the thunder of their cavalry; where their army passes, rivers are drunk dry and deep forests grow in a single year upon the mounds of fertiliser they leave behind. Or so we are told; for the truth is that the Czars keep themselves to themselves, and have yet to mobilise their earth-shattering hordes for war. Withal they are a courteous folk, holding to the true religion, who have given Rome no cause for enmity, and have indeed shown their friendship by voluntarily returning land to the true sovereign. Only one thing shadows this relationship, namely the Rus’ concern for their Slavic brothers in Croatia – an uncouth and unreliable tribe, prone to breaking truces if they think they can get away with it. Fortunately, Rome has no ambition to rule such a people, and can therefore live in peace with the Rus for the foreseeable future, in a comradely spirit of letting sleeping Behemoths lie.

The Balkan border can remain where it is; Italy is another matter. Once it was a principle of Roman policy not to make peace with an enemy who stood in arms on Italian soil. That was lost when the Goth and Lombard garrisons rebelled. Still, if Greece is now the heartland of the empire – for an ideal of citizenship and service does not depend on geography – Italy remains its birthplace. If its recovery brings Rome into conflict with the current occupiers, so be it. Rome has never shied from any battle in the cause of honour. There is a true, rightful ruler of Italy, and there is a verminous pretender, and that’s all there is to it. And the recent splinterings in the German polity surely demonstrate that God knows it too, and is acting accordingly. (And about time, the Romans might add if they weren’t a pious people, not given to arguing with their God, but accepting His word in all things. After all, if He had gotten His divine finger out a century ago, those who live today would not have seen these glorious accomplishments, nor have had any share in their doing.) However, as soon as the Germans accept the inevitable and stick to their side of the Po, all will be well and Rome will again establish a market on the Danube to buy their sausages, as in former times.

From Christians to infidels: The anciently Roman provinces of Egypt and Syria, not to mention the African provinces – indeed, half the Mediterranean, our sea – is held by the Fatimid Caliphate. Rome, unlike some well-known barbarian ethnicities, takes the long view. It is tolerable for a few decades or a century. But the bottom line remains: It cannot stand. The treaty that made the eastern border peaceful has succeeded beyond all expectations; affairs in the west are now well settled to Rome’s satisfaction. Not in this decade, perhaps, but in the next, or the one after that, the Eagle will turn its red-eyed glare east once again. On its head are the laurels of victory; in its right claw it wields the sword of sovereignty, with the left it proffers to the ancient enemy, Persia, the olive branch of shared interest. The Eagle may rest, for a time; but it does not forget.

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