Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Temple of Janus is open for business

The Romans are often accused of "stealing" their mythology from the Greeks: Zeus became Jupiter, Ares became Mars, etc.  But one god that was uniquely Roman was Janus, the two-faced god of gateways (and by analogy, of beginnings and endings).  The first month of the year is named after him, and we even get a faint echo of the two faces in the typical New Year's depiction of the old year as an old man and the new year as a baby.

It's not clear at all how the Temple of Janus on the Roman Forum became associated with war and peace, but the ancient tradition was that when the Republic was at war the doors of the temple were kept open; only when the war was over were they closed.

The historian Livy tells us that king Tulles Hostillius opened the doors in around 650 B.C. when he attacked a neighboring city.  The doors remained open for the next 400 years.  The doors were shut at the end of the first war with Carthage, but were only shut for eight years.  Re-opened in 227 B.C. during a war with the Gauls, they remained open until shut by Caesar Augustus in 29 B.C.

So out of a period of 650 years or so, the doors were only shut for a couple of decades.  If you need a one sentence description of the Roman temperament, that's about as good as any.

The Geek With Guns muses on our modern republic:
A recent poll discovered that a strong majority of Americans oppose the endless state of war that the United States is engaged in:
The headline findings show, among other things, that 86.4 percent of those surveyed feel the American military should be used only as a last resort, while 57 percent feel that US military aid to foreign countries is counterproductive. The latter sentiment “increases significantly” when involving countries like Saudi Arabia, with 63.9 percent saying military aid—including money and weapons—should not be provided to such countries.
If the plebs had any power to influence politics, the players in the war economy might have cause for concern. Fortunately for them, the plebs have no actual influence over politics. At most they can decide which preselected candidate should occupy an office.
The doors of our temple of Janus remain open.  It's good for business.  We pay the cost in coin of the realm; those on the tip of the spear pay the cost in blood.


Glen Filthie said...

I hear this 'endless war' stuff and for the vets that got chewed up in that, it's completely understandable. But, that's the thing about empire: if you want to have foreign interests, assets, and concerns you had better be able to defend them, particularly in the third world. Over there the only absolutes in life are famine, pestilence - and war.

And it may be true that all war is about is money and power ... but in today's world, I honestly can't think of a more moral nation in the world than America to control it. I can think of any number of alternates that make me shudder.

With Americans, as with Romans - if a fella is smart he can make a buck for himself after he renders unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's.

Comrade Misfit said...

That's the beauty of the all-volunteer military-- the entire thing rides on the back of those who choose to join. With a draft, there'd be a lot more pushback on this series of endless wars.

(According to the VA's system, we've been at war since 1990.)