Plain Truth Magazine
August 1969
Volume: Vol XXXIV, No.8
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Garner Ted Armstrong & Gene H Hogberg  

The FIVE MAJOR CAUSES for the collapse of the Roman Empire are rife in modern America and Britain. Tragically, modern man has not learned from historical mistakes. Millions today believe America is too big, too powerful, and too wealthy to suffer a similar fate. But the cold facts present a bleak warning a warning we simply must not ignore!

   "Ho, ho!" they laughed at the warnings of Seneca. "Rome fall? Never!"
   To Roman citizens living in the glitter of empire enjoying an explosive frenzy of building, with huge cities, bejeweled with rising marble columns, with paved, pleasant tree-lined avenues and rushing fountains; seeing the victory parades through triumphal arches of yet additional conquests; hearing of the exploits of this or that great general Rome was impregnable. She was the world and the world was Rome.
   To speculate for one brief moment that all this could soon collapse that the ravages of wars, taxation, mounting crime, race riots, subversion from within, political assassinations, natural disasters and public apathy would one day bring Rome to utter collapse and ruin, was not only unimaginable to them it was folly to the heights of idiocy.
   And to millions of American and British people today the thought that America and Britain could suffer a similar fate though with more modern consequences seems equally ludicrous.
   But Rome fell.
   Now the voices of the ancient scoffers are as still as the silent war and the rubble of ancient Rome mute testimony to a once-proud empire.
   Unable to stem a tidal wave of violence, wild spending, wars, degenerating morals, and unbelievable public willingness to accept the society of their day they were led to the final fate they all denied was possible. Millions of ancients lived to see the "impossible" happen.
   Rome fell.
   And there were causes for that huge empire's drift into chaos and final collapse specific, definable reasons.

and Today...?

   Today, millions the world over stand in open-mouthed awe of the achievements of space-age man. Moon walks, laser rays, heart transplants, computers the dazzling advances of technology serve to convince millions that we have become scientifically secure; impervious, eternal.
   Only dollars are needed, goes the vague thinking, and time. With money and time, science can deliver us from every trouble. Should our hearts fail, medical science can surely give us someone else's; or perhaps one made of plastic. A cancer? Laser surgery must surely come.
   Worldwide food shortages? We'll "farm" the seas.
   This supreme confidence in man's own abilities is evidenced all around us. But unfortunately these are only a modern form of idolatry, and salvation from growing world troubles by the vehicle of science will prove as empty a dream as Roman prayers to Jupiter, Venus, or the Emperor.
   We, too, can fall.

The Affluence of Rome

   The Romans were the Americans and Britons (with Canadians, Australians, South Africans and others included) of their day. They were the wealthy ones; those with the highest culture, fantastic buildings, institutions, and sprawling cities. They were affluent.
   And they thought it could never end.
   "If, at any time in history, a people could have looked confidently to the future, it was the Roman people of the second century of our era," wrote Dr. Robert Strauss-Hupe, noted historian and international relations expert.
   "Within the empire, law and order prevailed, and never [before] did almost everybody 'have it so good'... no foreign power could challenge her."
   Up until the last few years this could have sounded much like a description of our peoples. But Strauss-Hupe asks, "Why did this... civilization decline at all? And why did it decline so rapidly that, within another 100 years, the Roman Empire was plunged irreversibly into anarchy and penury, ravaged by foreign aggressors and doomed to extinction?"
   Remember, when Rome was synonymous with splendor, power, wealth and dignity, no one thought such a thing remotely possible. But it happened.
   How many millions believe "it can't happen here" of OUR nation? The same author says, "What can Roman experience teach us? Of course, it can teach us nothing if... we are satisfied with the... [notion] that the Romans of the second century were not Americans of the twentieth century, and that, hence, what happened to them could never happen to us."
   But the striking parallels between our peoples today and the Romans of yesteryear make such complacency very dangerous.

Are You Sure This Is ROME?

   "Prodigious engineers... high-rise apartment houses... the cosmetic arts... spectator sports... sightseers and tourists." These are only a few of the words used to describe Romans of the second century.
   Fortunately, Roman history is well documented. We know more about the Romans than any other great civilization of the past and the more we investigate their lives, the more we are forced to face the true causes for their final collapse!
   They built roads all over the known world at that time and, believe it or not, some of those same roads are still in use today!
   Romans cherished body hygiene, physical culture and health. "Roman baths" of a country club atmosphere are thoroughly documented, and their ruins are with us to this day. The Romans were travelers inveterate sightseers and tourists. Nothing was quite so dear to the Roman heart as languid vacationing, health resorts, mountain spas, or seashore villas. One of the most obvious marks of affluence was the possession of one's personal vacation retreat.
   The cities began to become increasingly crowded, requiring the development of high-rise apartment complexes. Records prove many of these became so much like modern slums today (some were so poorly constructed that, despite stringent Roman building codes, they menaced the health and safety of infuriated tenants) that the parallel is inescapable.
   And Romans had long since mastered the art of plumbing and built water supply and sewer systems perhaps only slightly inferior to ours, and some of them still function!
   As the cities grew, Romans began discovering mounting urban problems. Traffic congestion became unbearable, slums, ghettos, unemployment and crime were crushing in on the big city dweller until Rome's cities and countryside as well became unsafe places.
   Annals absolutely prove that various civic disturbances over some of these worsening conditions resulted in riots and conflagrations which literally destroyed whole towns!
   Rome had her "long hot summers," too!
   And her economy? Rome collapsed under the crushing twin burdens of confiscatory taxation and creeping inflation. The steady deterioration of Rome's currency was symptomatic of the increasingly serious financial situation of the empire.
   But note this: What "average" pleasure-oriented Roman, living for the day, ever dreamed his proud nation would someday collapse into ignominy and be remembered only in the past tense in the pages of history?
   There were those who warned the Romans of the inevitable end of their ways. Rome had its prophets, its seers, its political satirists. But their combined "jeremiad" fell on deaf ears. Romans, as a whole, would not listen.
   And Rome fell.
   Americans, Britons, Canadians, Australians, South Africans as a whole are not listening to the veritable torrent of shouts and warnings trumpeted by leaders in all aspects of national life.
   Will our nations also fall?

The Five Major Causes

   The five major causes for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire deduced from the writings of Edward Gibbon and noted historians of the Roman world are these: (1) The BREAKDOWN OF THE FAMILY and the rapid increase of DIVORCE. (2) The spiraling rise of TAXES and EXTRAVAGANT SPENDING. (3) The MOUNTING CRAZE FOR PLEASURE and the brutalization of sports. (4) The mounting production of ARMAMENTS to fight ever-increasing threats of enemy attacks. (5) The DECAY OF RELIGION into myriad and confusing forms, leaving the people without a uniform guide.
   Every one of these factors is brimful and running over today. You read it in your daily newspapers growing incidence of divorce, broken homes and juvenile delinquency, inflation and taxation, the pleasure binge, the revelation of the gigantic "military-industrial complex," the startling growth of occultism and weird religion.
   They are all part of our world our society.
   They were a part of Rome's, too.

Divorce, Roman Style

   According to Roman authors such as Aulus Gellius, Valerius Maximus and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, divorces in early Rome were extremely rare in fact, all but unknown.
   But in the first century B.C. about the time of Cicero marital breakdowns, especially in the upper classes, had become so prevalent that divorce became "normal."
   "From this time on, we witness an epidemic of divorces, at least among the aristocracy whose matrimonial adventures are documented," writes Jerome Carcopino in his book Daily Life in Ancient Rome.
   Regarding the Rome of the Antonine period (around A.D. 150), Carcopino quotes from Seneca: "They divorce in order to remarry. They marry in order to divorce."
   Martial declared that marriage had become merely a form of legalized adultery!

"Modern Roman" Divorce

   Practically the same wording may be used to describe the American marriage-go-round today.
   The divorce rate in the United States rose in 1968 to the second highest level ever recorded. Early indications are that the figures for 1969 will be even higher.
   On a statistical average there is more than one divorce or annulment in the U.S. every minute there being approximately 526,000 minutes in a year. For every three to four marriages performed in the United States, there is one divorce or annulment.
   Dr. Clifford Rose Adams, professor emeritus of Penn State University, reported on June 8 that government statistics showing that about 28 percent of all marriages end in divorce are misleading. He said:
   "If you take in annulments and desertions (about 100,000 yearly) which are not included, the figure would be nearer 40 percent. Add to this what we call the morbidity marriage, where a man and woman may continue living with each other just for appearances or convenience while actually hating each other, and you find that only about 25 percent of marriages are really happy. The other 75 percent are a bust."

Around the World

   The collapse of the home is by no means limited to the United States.
   Britons are marrying earlier, having fewer children and getting divorced more frequently than ever before, according to official statistics. A Registrar-General 1968 population report for England and Wales reveals that the divorce rate is rapidly rising. There were 51,000 new divorce petitions 4,000 more than in 1966.
   In South Africa, authorities are greatly disturbed about the country's divorce rate one of the highest in the world. It has been found that between 35 and 40 percent of all new marriages between whites collapse within a year.
   The number of marriages between couples under 21 has soared in the past two years. Last year the increase was 100 percent above the 1966 figure. Such marriages are causing great concern as it has been found that at least one in four break down in a short time.
   And Canada:
   Since Canada's new "easy" divorce legislation came into effect just a year ago, applications for divorce have more than doubled. At a conservative estimate some 25,000 petitions will be filed this year and all but 50 or so eventually will go through compared with 11,156 divorces granted in 1967. In Toronto, divorce applications are running at 50 percent of the marriage rate.

Older Marriages Breaking Up

   A phenomenon now bothering the social scientists is the increasing number of marriages which are breaking up in divorce courts after enduring for 15 or 20 years and even longer.
   It has previously been assumed that the longer a marriage lasted, the stronger the marital bonds. But a sampling of divorce statistics across the United States in a recent year shows 24 percent of marriages that ended in divorce in the U.S. had lasted 15 years or more. A few decades ago they made up less than 10 percent.
   Affluence, more liberal attitudes toward sex, divorce, inadequate courtship 20 years earlier, homes that are too child-centered these are some of the reasons suggested for the rising breakup of older marriages.

What Happened to Father?

   Divorce is but the tragic and publicized end result of a marriage that did not work a family unit that was a failure, probably from the beginning.
   Few families today have a firm foundation to build on a correct understanding of government and a chain of authority in the family unit. Early Romans possessed this knowledge, at least in principle. Notice this from the book Rome: Its Rise and Fall by Philip Van Ness Myers:
   "First, at the bottom as it were of Roman society and forming its ultimate unit, was the family... The typical Roman family consisted of the father... and mother, the sons, together with their wives and sons, and the unmarried daughters... The most important feature or element of this family group was the authority of the father.
   "Such in briefest outline was the early Roman family. It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of this group upon the history and destiny of Rome. It was the cradle of at least some of those splendid virtues of the early Romans that contributed so much to the strength and greatness of Rome, and that helped to give her the dominion of the world."
   This same strong family structure with father in uncontested command was a foundation stone supporting the national power of the British Empire and the United States in their zeniths of greatness.
   We use the word "was" because, like Rome, this building block of national power, the strong family, has all but vanished!
   Continued this astute historian:
   "It was in the atmosphere of the family that were nourished in the Roman youth the virtues of obedience and of deference to authority. When the youth became a citizen, obedience to magistrates and respect for law was in him an instinct and indeed almost a religion. And, on the other hand, the exercise of the parental authority in the family taught the Roman how to command as well as how to obey how to exercise authority with wisdom, moderation, and justice."
   But stable Roman family life didn't last. By the beginning of the second century A.D., Roman fathers, in general, had "yielded to the impulse to become far too complaisant. Having given up the habit of controlling their children, they let the children govern them, and took pleasure in bleeding themselves white to gratify the expensive whims of their offspring. The result was that they were succeeded by a generation of idlers and wastrels...
   "The fine edge of character had been blunted in the Rome of the second century [A.D.]. The stern face of the traditional 'pater familias' [father of the family] had faded out; instead we see on every hand the flabby face of the son of the house, the eternal spoiled child of society, who has grown accustomed to luxury and lost all sense of discipline." (Carcopino, Daily Life in Ancient Rome, pp. 78-79)
   A modern historian couldn't better describe contemporary family life in the "developed" countries today.
   Juvenile delinquency reaches shocking new highs every year in the United States. Half of all arrests for serious crimes involve juveniles under the age of 18. Joseph M. Kennick, past president of the National Conference of Juvenile Authorities, admits:
   "Somewhere along the way, as parents and as a nation, we went wrong in the rearing of our children. We are now paying for having produced a generation heavily populated with hostile, rebellious, and lawless youths who have no respect for themselves or for us...
   "Where did we go wrong? We went wrong in many ways in the laxity of our discipline... in indulging and pampering our children, by lifting from their shoulders the burdens they should rightly carry."
   Another lesson not learned from the collapse of Rome.

History in Advance

   Many, including historians, scoff at the accuracy of the Bible, deny that it is an infallible source of historical truth. That, we won't argue here. Our booklet, The Proof of the Bible, is offered free to those who are willing to take up the challenge.
   The Bible foretold, in advance, the exact overall conditions that would confront the nations of the English-speaking world today the end-time descendants of the ancient House of Israel. (Also write for our free book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. It will be a good companion source to read along with this series)
   In this advance warning to our nations we read:
   "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.
   O my people, they which lead thee" including sociologists and others who condone sexual freedom, espouse a "never punish" philosophy for child rearing "cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths" (Isaiah 3:12).
   Whether you believe this prophecy was directed toward our people or not you have to admit it describes our day and age!
   Regarding "women rule over them," we come to the next point in the downfall of the Roman family.

"Battle of the Sexes"

   Along with the erosion of the father's authority in the home, historians note the emergence of a "battle of the sexes" in Rome.
   Upper-class Roman society and the average American would be "upper-class" by Roman standards witnessed a growing force of wives who wanted to be "emancipated" from home life. Some wives wanted "careers" of their own. Others didn't want to have children for fear of "losing their figure." Wrote historian Carcopino:
   "Some evaded the duties of maternity for fear of losing their good looks, some took a pride in being behind their husbands in no sphere of activity, and vied with them in tests of strength which their sex would have seemed to forbid; some were not content to live their lives by their husband's side, but carried on another life without him...
   "'To live your own life' was a formula which women had already brought into fashion in the second century... It is obvious that unhappy marriages must have been innumerable."
   Yes, women in Imperial Rome "did their own thing" and the results were wretched marriages, divorce, growing juvenile delinquency.
   And the same has happened since the close of World War II in America "the land of working wives."
   The working wife has been singled out by many juvenile authorities as a major contributor to the mushrooming incidence of childhood crime. Right now, according to the U.S. Labor Department, there are 27,609,000 women with children under 18, and 9,527,000 of them 34.5 percent are working.
   Working for what?
   Undoubtedly, in the case of poorer families, to beat inflation, to make ends meet. But increasingly, report government analysts, the wife's wages are being used to pay for children's higher education, a color television, a second car (which probably wouldn't be needed if the wife didn't have to commute to her job), a retirement fund and holidays.
   The disintegration of the family as the basic unit of our social structure has not come about overnight. It has been a gradual and insidious deterioration a veritable "fifth column" movement attacking the stability of the home from within. The roles and relationships of father, mother and child have, in the process, become confused. Each has lost his identity and place.

Utter Confusion

   In the Western, "progressive" world; the sexes already are beginning to dress alike and wear their hair alike or, in some cases, switch styles.
   "Unisex" fashions are becoming the "in thing" in some circles. Even leading department stores are featuring "unisex" lines in special boutique booths.
   Leading magazines point up the growth of "hippy communes."
   "Unisex," "free sex," "swinging singles," "wife swapping," "the Pill," "sexual revolution" these are the phrases newspaper headlines are made of today. Utter confusion about sex, marriage and the family is rampant.
   But where are all these changes leading us?
   Many leading specialists who study family life admit that the family is changing profoundly. But they do not agree on what it is becoming or where it ought to go from here.
   Some marital "experts" even predict that the very institution of marriage is "obsolete" and on its way out perhaps to be replaced by the expression "pair-bound," or some equally indefinable arrangement.

"Aversion to Marriage" in Rome

   Decadent Rome lapsed into a similar irresponsible outlook toward sex and marriage, especially among the ruling classes who set the tone of life in the Empire.
   "One cause of the decline in population [in the Empire] was the singular aversion that the better class of the Romans evinced to marriage... Penalties and bounties, deprivations and privileges, entreaties and expostulations are in turn resorted to by the perplexed emperors, in order to discourage celibacy and to foster a pure and healthy family life.
   "But all was in vain. The marriage state continued to be held in great disesteem" (Rome: Its Rise and Fall, Myers, p. 447).
   Respect for marriage and the home is at the lowest ebb it has ever been in the United States and Britain. Marriage, to many, means little or nothing. And in any society where marriage means nothing, where a solid family relationship is no longer desired THAT SOCIETY IS THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION.
   Rome travelled this road. It perished. America and Britain are speeding along the same roadway to oblivion Rome travelled.
   These are not just "interesting comparisons" or quaint analogies for casual amusement but very real historical CAUSES and shocking, frightening effects.
   It is the TRUTH that crime and the disintegration of the home are directly linked; the TRUTH that divorce and decaying moral standards threaten the very existence of any society!
   Our peoples are living, daily, the exact pattern of the first major cause for the collapse of the greatest empire of the ancient world.
   It's about time we listened to the voice of history!
   No, the voices of the scoffers can't be heard. They, too, are dead and buried long ago their voices as still as the quiet sands drifting over the shattered shards, and stones of once-proud buildings and monuments scattered over much of Europe, North Africa and Asia. But we can hear the voice of history. We can study how the Romans lived, and see why they failed. And we can apply those lessons to us, here, now.
   So far, we have not listened to the warnings. Neither did the Romans.

Vital Information for You

   Next month, we will cover part two in this series.
   In the meantime you need to read three vital booklets we have published, in the public interest, on the subject of marriage.
   The first booklet, of prime import to young people, is Modern Dating - Key to Success or Failure in Marriage. This shows that the major thing wrong with modern marriage is modern practices of courtship! This booklet explains the purpose and importance of dating prior to marriage.
   Then, another key booklet is Your MARRIAGE Can be Happy. Multiple thousands of our readers and listeners have been helped by the positive keys to a happy marriage presented in this clear, easy-to-read booklet.
   Lastly, a very helpful booklet entitled, True Womanhood Is It a Lost Cause?
   Read all three of these handbooks to happiness in marriage. They're free, of course, in the public interest.


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Plain Truth MagazineAugust 1969Vol XXXIV, No.8