Is America Becoming Rome Against Byzantium?
In AD 286, Roman Emperor Diocletian divided the immense Roman Empire in two administratively – and peacefully – under the control of two emperors.
A Western Empire included much of modern Western Europe and Northwest Africa. The eastern half controlled eastern Europe and parts of Asia and northeastern Africa.
In 330, Emperor Constantine institutionalized this split by moving the capital of the Empire from Rome to its new imperial city of Constantinople, founded on the site of the ancient Greek polis of Byzantium.
The two administrative halves of the once huge empire continued to separate. Soon there were two increasingly different, though still related, versions of a once unified Romanity.
The Western Empire finally collapsed into chaos at the end of the fifth century CE.
Yet the eastern Roman half survived for almost 1,000 years. It was soon known as the Byzantine Empire, until it was overwhelmed by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 AD
Historians still disagree on why the East endured while the West collapsed. And they cite the various roles of different geography, border challenges, tribal enemies, and internal challenges.
We moderns have certainly developed unfair stereotypes of a supposedly decadent late Imperial Rome from Hollywood sensationalism that deserved an end. And we have also wrongly cataloged a rigid, ultra-Orthodox “Byzantine” bureaucratic alternative that is supposed to become more reactionary in order to survive in a tough neighborhood.
Yet in both cases, a distinct geography has multiplied the growing differences between a Greek-speaking, Orthodox and ancient Christian civilization in the East, and a more or less polyglot and often gloomy Christianity in the Latin West.
Byzantium held out against ancient rivals Persians, the Middle East and neighboring Egyptians. But the West has disintegrated into a tribal amalgamation of its own ancient peoples.
Unlike the West, the glue that held the East against centuries of foreign enemies was the revered idea of an ancient and uncompromising Hellenism – the preservation of a language, religion, culture. and a common and holistic Greek history.
By 600 AD, at a time when the West had long since fragmented into proto-European tribes and kingdoms, the Jewel of Constantinople was the nerve center of the world’s most impressive civilization, spanning Asia Eastern minor in southern Italy.
There is now a lot of talk about a new split between the Red State and the American Blue State – and even the savage threats of another Civil War. True, millions of Americans self-select each year, disengage from their political opponents, and take action based on divergent ideology, culture, politics, religiosity or lack thereof, and differing views on the American past.
More conservative traditionalists are moving inland between the coasts, where there is typically smaller government, fewer taxes, more religiosity, and shameless traditionalists.
These modern Byzantines are more inclined to define their patriotism by honoring ancient customs and rituals – standing for the national anthem, attending church services on Sundays, showing respect for American history and its heroes, and putting the focus on the nuclear family.
Immigration to the countries of flight is still defined as the assimilation of the crucible and the integration of newcomers into the body politic of a sacred and sustainable America.
While the Red States welcome change, they believe America never had to be perfect to be good. It will always survive, but only if it sticks to its 234-year-old Constitution, remains united by the English language, and assimilates newcomers into a lasting and exceptional American culture.
In contrast, the more liberal antithesis of the Blue State is richer in globalist wealth. The west coast from Seattle to San Diego benefits from trade with prosperous Asia. It is closed by the east coast window on the Union from Boston to Miami.
The major research universities of the Ivy League, MIT, Caltech, Stanford, and the University of California system are bi-coastal. Just as Rome was once the iconic center of the entire Roman Project, the blue of Washington, DC, is the nerve center of the great American government.
The salad bowl is the two-coast immigration model. Newcomers can retain and restart their old cultural identities.
Religion is less orthodox; atheism and agnosticism are almost the norm. And most recent social movements in American feminism, transgenderism, and critical race theory arose out of coastal urbanity and academia.
Foreigners see Blue Coast Americans as the most vibrant, sophisticated, cosmopolitan – and reckless – culture, its vast wealth based on technology, information, communications, finance, media, education and entertainment.
In turn, they concede that the vast red interior – with roughly the same population as Blue America but with a much larger land area – is the most pragmatic, predictable, and home to food, fuels, minerals and America’s material production.
Our Byzantine interior and Roman coasts interpret their common American heritage quite differently as they increasingly chart radically divergent paths to survive in frightening times.
But as in the past, it is far more likely that a state model will prove unsustainable and collapse than that either region will trigger a civil war.
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