Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/95

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91
WAR AND MANHOOD

serve the same purpose. More than once it has served it. The decline of a people can have but one cause, the decline in the type from which it draws its sires. A herd of cattle can degenerate in no other way than this, and a race of men is under the same laws. By the rise in absolute power, as a sort of historical barometer, we may mark the decline in the breed of the people. We see this in the history of Rome. The conditional power of Julius Caesar, resting on his own tremendous personality, showed that the days were past of Cincinnatus and of Junius Brutus. The power of Augustus showed the same. But the decline went on. It is written that "the little finger of Constantine was thicker than the loins of Augustus." The emperor in the time of Claudius and Caligula was not the strong man who held in check all lesser men and organizations. He was the creature of the mob, and the mob, intoxicated with its own work, worshipped him as divine. Doubtless the last emperor, Augustulus Romulus, before he was thrown into the scrap-heap of history, was regarded in the mob's eyes and his own as the most godlike of them all.

What have the historians to say of these matters? Very few have grasped the full significance of their own words, for very few have looked on men as organisms, and on nations as dependent on the specific character of the organisms destined for their reproduction.

So far as I know, Benjamin Franklin was the first to think of man thus as an inhabitant, a species in nature among other species and dependent on nature's forces as other animals and other inhabitants must be.

In Otto Seeck's great history of "The Downfall of the Ancient World" ("Der Untergang der Antiken Welt"), he finds this downfall due solely to the rooting out of the best (" Die Ausrottung der Besten"). The historian of the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," or any other empire, is engaged solely with the details of the process by which the best men are exterminated. Speaking of Greece, Dr. Seeck says, "A wealth of force of spirit went down in the suicidal wars." "In Rome, Marius and Cinna slew the aristocrats by hundreds and thousands. Sulla destroyed the democrats, and not less thoroughly. Whatever of strong blood survived fell as an offering to the proscription of the Triumvirate." "The Romans had less of spontaneous force to lose than the Greeks. Thus desolation came to them sooner. Whoever was bold enough to rise politically in Rome was almost without exception thrown to the ground. Only cowards remained and from their brood came forward the new generations. Cowardice showed itself in lack of originality and in slavish following of masters and traditions."

The Romans of the Republic could not have made the history of the Roman Empire. In their hands it would have been still a republic. Could they have held aloof from world-conquering schemes, Rome