Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Deification of Emperor Trump: Following Caligula's Path

Jake Angeli, high priest of the growing cult of Emperor Donald Trump, dressed as the horned God Cernunnos. The deification of Emperor Trump in Washington, yesterday, didn't go so well, but we are moving along a path that the Romans already followed during the decline of their empire, including the deification of emperors, starting with Caligula. So, comparing Roman history to our current conditions may tell us something about the future.


I already speculated on what kind of Roman Emperor Donald Trump could have been and I concluded that he might have been the equivalent of Hadrian. The comparison turned out to be not very appropriate. Clearly, Trump was no Hadrian (a successful emperor, by all means). But, after four years, and after the recent events in Washington, I think Trump may be seen as a reasonably good equivalent of Caligula, or Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who also reigned for 4 years, from 37 to 41 AD.

Caligula was the prototypical mad emperor -- you probably heard that he nominated his horse consul. And he was not just mad, he was said to be a cruel, homicidal psychopath, and a sexual pervert to boot. In addition, he tried to present himself as a living god and pretended to be worshipped. He even claimed to have waged a war against the Sea God Poseidon, and having won it!

But, really, we know little about Caligula's reign, and most of it from people who had plenty of reasons to slander his memory, including our old friend Lucius Annaeus Seneca (he of the "Seneca Effect") who was a contemporary of Caligula and who seriously risked being executed by him. The Romans knew and practiced the same rules of propaganda we use today. And one typical way to slander an emperor was to accuse him to be a sexual pervert.

But it really doesn't matter so much if Caligula really was so bad as we are told he was. The point is that there is a certain logic in his actions. In Rome, just as in almost every ancient empire in history, Emperors were far from being warmongers. And that was for perfectly good reasons: imagine you are the emperor: you are the richest person in the world, you can have everything you want, you may order people to do whatever you want to do, and if they refuse you can have them killed. You can even force people to worship you like a God and many will do that without any need of forcing them. Then, why should you risk all that for the mere pleasure of slaughtering a bunch of bad-smelling barbarians?  

That put emperors in a quandary: their power was based on military might, but the soldiers needed to be paid. And in order to pay them, military adventures needed to be undertaken. But military adventures, then as now, are risky and you never know who will win a war unless you fight it. This problem was the reason why many Roman emperors didn't end their careers in their death bed. Either they were reckless and then defeated, or too prudent, and they were killed by their own troops. The latter was the destiny of Caligula, who refused to engage in the invasion of Britannia. No invasion meant no booty and no bonus for the troops. And the troops were not happy. In the end, Caligula was killed by officers of the Praetorian Guard, a military corps that was supposed to protect him.

At this point, I think you can see how Trump's rule can be seen as similar to that of Caligula. Of course, Trump never made senator a horse, but he surely had stormy relations with the US congress -- as you saw in the recent events in Washington. As for considering himself a God, well, Trump may not have gone as far as Caligula, but surely he tended to aggrandize himself more than a little! The apparition of Trump's follower, Jake Angeli, dressed as the horned God Cernunnos,  even gave a certain theological meaning to the occupation of the Capitol building in 2021.

The main point in the similarity, then, is that both Caligula and Trump did their best to avoid major wars and succeeded, at least in part. Trump had to compromise with the military, providing huge financing for the military apparatus. We don't know if Caligula did the same, but his fake campaign against Britannia may have been an attempt to appease the military without risking a real invasion. Whatever the case, Caligula was eliminated and replaced with an older and more pliant Emperor, Claudius. 

Something similar occurred with Donald Trump, replaced by an older and more pliant emperor because he clearly showed that he did not plan any major military campaigns. Unlike Caligula, and luckily for him, Trump was not physically eliminated (so far). But the trend is clear: The Washingtonian Emperors are desperately trying to acquire more and more powers in order to try to control an increasingly divided society. "Deification" - turning the leader into a God - may be a good strategy in this sense and it is likely that we'll see more and more US presidents using it in the future 

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This being how things stand, can we use the Trump-Caligula analogy to conceive future scenarios? The future is always difficult to predict, but it is also a lot of fun to try. So, let's tell first the story of the Roman Empire after the death of Caligula, then we'll see to create a narrative for the modern Global Empire after the removal of Donald Trump. 

Caligula's successor, Claudius, was a relatively weak emperor who couldn't oppose the military adventure in Britannia, and that nearly brought the Roman Empire to its doom. Initially, the invasion was successful but, later on, the Romans seriously risked losing everything when Queen Boudicca led a revolt against them in 60 AD, nearly succeeding in throwing back the invaders into the sea. Eventually, the Romans managed to quell the revolt, but it was a close call.

The problem was not so much Britannia, but the fact that the Empire had seriously overstretched itself. While Boudicca's warriors scoured Britain, torturing and killing Roman citizens, on the opposite side of the Empire, in Palestine, a revolt was brewing. It exploded with tremendous fury in 66 AD and, this time, the Romans failed to quell it immediately. After the fall of Jerusalem to the rebels, it took nearly eight years of hard fighting to reestablish the Roman domain in the region. During this period, the survival of the Empire itself was at serious risk. 

We may imagine that if the Romans hadn't needed to garrison Britain, they could have had more resources to defeat the Jewish insurrection. As it was, instead, the effort of having to control two unruly regions at the same time and at the two opposite extremes of the Roman dominion led to financial problems and to turmoil all over the Empire. in 68 AD, Emperor Nero lost control of his generals and was forced to kill himself. For a year, four different generals fought each other for the imperial throne. Eventually, Vespasian, a general who had fought both in Britain and in Palestine, restored order in 69 AD, but the situation remained difficult. One indication of the financial problems of the time is that in modern Romance languages, urinals are named after Vespasian, probably because for the first time he placed a tax on their use. 

In time, the Roman state managed to recover a certain balance and the deep state scored a major victory when they placed a career soldier at the top, Trajan (53-117). Trajan may have seen himself as the successor of Alexander the Great and he maintained his promise to expand the Empire. In 101 AD, he engaged in a successful military campaign against Dacia (more or less modern Romania). Then, in 113 AD he embarked in an ambitious campaign destined to get rid once for all of the competitor Parthian Empire, in the East. It was nothing less than an attempt of world domination. By taking control of Central Eurasia, the Roman Empire would have been able to dominate the whole continent. That was the dream, at least, but dreams tend to evaporate fast when confronted with reality.

At the beginning, Trajan obtained some major victories, but he was not Alexander the Great. The Romans conquered the region that we call Iraq today, but further advances were simply unthinkable. They had overstretched their domains to an extremely dangerous level. In order to finance his campaigns, Trajan had devaluated the Roman currency and a new civil war could have shattered the Empire. Fortunately for the Romans, Trajan died before he could truly wreck the Empire's finances. His successor, Hadrian, stopped the wars of conquest and reorganized the Empire within militarily sustainable borders. Of course, the Roman empire was doomed anyway, but at least Hadrian avoided that it would collapse already during the 2nd century AD: 


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Now, let's start from these ancient events to create a scenario for our times. Joe Biden is clearly no Trajan, but he has something in common with the weak and old Claudius. As such, Biden may fail to stop the US military from engaging the Empire in one or more risky military adventures, for instance attacking Syria, or maybe even Iran. 

The military strength of the US is so large that it is hard to think a relatively minor campaigns could be unsuccessful, but they would seriously weaken the Empire and generate internal frictions. The attack on the Capitol building already gave us a taste of what the results could look like. 

After Biden will be gone, it may be possible to see the Global Empire in the hands an aggressive military leader. Such a leader might decide to do what Trajan did. She might engage in an all-out effort to destroy the rival empire, the Chinese Empire, just as Trajan tried to destroy the Parthian Empire. (why did I say "she"? You know that!). That would mean global domination for the Western Empire.

Could a warlike Empress succeed? Unlikely. Just like Trajan nearly wrecked the Roman finances in his attempt, our Empress may well wreck the Western economy -- or the whole world's economy --  forever, with the additional result of wrecking the whole ecosystem as well. But history seems to reason in its own terms that was unavoidable from the beginning. For one thing, in our times things seem to happen much faster than in Roman times and the fall of Washington to a Barbarian army doesn't seem to be so unthinkable as it was just a few days ago. 

 


13 comments:

  1. Hi Ugo!
    I shared your article with some of my friends and one comment was that you seem to underestimate Iran's military strength. Iran doesn't seem to be as weak as e.g. Afghanistan. I'm no expert in this matter, so what do you think about it?

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    1. Military matters are always tricky and nobody knows who will win a war without fighting it. This said, Iran has a tremendous political strength and many strategic advantages, including being, literally, at the center of the world. Iran controls some of the most important waterways of the world and is a crucial hub of the reborn silk road. Not small advantages.

      What I meant in my post is that if a war starts and it escalates, then you have a country of 80 million people with a GDP of less than half a trillion dollars trying to match a country of 330 million inhabitants and a GDP of 21 trillion dollars.

      I don't think we'll ever arrive to a 1:1 fight of this kind. But it is not impossible that a US president with domestic troubles could try to play the "strong leader" card by attacking Iran. We were close to that, last year, with the murder of General Soleimani. Luckily, the Iranians reacted in such a way to defuse the crisis.

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  2. ¿Qué es la "izquierda" en la Nueva Normalidad? un apoyo en la agenda totalitaria de la élite. Si os descuidáis el próximo Che será neonazi. Para la Nueva Izquierda el aislamiento social y todo lo que nos hace menos humanos será bueno. Podremos eliminar esas palabras desagradables en la Nueva Lengua y en su lugar solo emplearemos una palabra: Seguridad. También podremos eliminar la palabra Libertad, ya que es sinónimo de Insolidaridad, así que sobra del vocabulario. Es lo que debe tener poner la normalidad patas arriba... que triste... perdón, que alegría...

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    1. If you have a moment, please post an english translation. Thanks!

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  3. The Romans knew and [theatrically] practiced the same rules of propaganda [and social engineering] we use today...

    However, even ancient literature in the Middle East has called mathematicians Infidels when they re-sequence pre-designated, agreed no-fighting lunar months, bringing them forward or backward during the year to coincide with solar seasons.

    That was an acknowledgement of the critical importance of leaving social tools, like War, down turns and prosperity, to their natural causes and cycles, out of reach for Unconscious Mathematics.

    Or, it turns lunar months (aka Physics and Control) into utilities of social engineering and economics - i.e., if fighting is to only happen in March, for mild weather, for example, War [and likely what is called today 'Elections'] becomes a systemically choreographed routine beyond its natural function - with a devastating impact on the population.

    Probabilistically vs Determinstically - is a psychological approach in the 20th-Century Physics, which then made the Centralisation of the affairs worldwide extremely energy-intensive.

    That all has been encouraged by Economics, owing to trading fossil fuels not on the basis they are finite - as if looted.

    As fossil fuels deplete over time, humans must make their 21st Century Physics, Science and the Civilisation to be Deterministic and less Probabilistic - exactly where humans will realise how they are humble, primitive and the laws of Entropy are supreme.

    That will make humans more appreciating Ethics, Morality and Intellectuality - a primary fuel for 21st century Science, Politics and Civilisation - and beyond.

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  4. A large difference between the Roman Army for most of the imperial period as compared to the United States Army is the Roman Army evolved a dependency on non roman/non Italian mercenaries whereas the US Army is still producing almost all its military personal at home(Actually around 60 per cent just in the Southern States).For a Joe Biden Administrations perspective A lack of basic perception of legitimacy as President may make it a lot more difficult for any significant military intervention elsewhere in the World. I also believe that the amount of Currency debasement by the Federal Reserve will by Biden's Administration will make it financially not possible to militarily intervene in the Middle East(US Dollar is on cusp of losing its worlds reserve currency status). That been said i find the Comparisons between US Presidents and Roman Emperors quite interesting.

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    1. As a comment to the comment, what you say about foreigners in the Roman Army is correct in general, but many details depend on location and epoch. The Praetorian Guard was traditionally formed of pedigreed Roman citizens, often from Italy -- but that didn't prevent them from killing emperors (Caligula was the first case of a long series) and making them as they wanted. I am planning a post on this subject, one of these days!

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  5. Oh for God's sake.

    Antifa and BLM throw a four-year-long tantrum of riots, arson, and murder, and we are told they are "peaceful protests." But let some patriots gather in Washington, in response to an obviously fraudulent election, and gather in an orderly, peaceful and lawful manner, as is their right under the Consstitution, to pay Congress a friendly visit to remind them that they work for the American people and not for Wall Street or China, and it's "eek! thqueak! Riot! Insurrection! Terrorism! thomeone thave uth! guys, I'm literally shaking here! Won't someone call out the National Guard to protect us from these terrorists? eek, thqueak!"

    Pathetic.

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  6. The Parthian Empire didn't have nukes. China does. So a frontal war between USA and China is extremely unlikely.

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    1. Never understimate the human capability of choosing the lose-lose strategy!

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  7. The older more pliant emperor is the Trojan horse front for the Oligarchs who now can use the face of Joe to Manufacture Consent for the "escalating plunder" https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii123/articles/robert-brenner-escalating-plunder. It's been 10 years since Diebold stole the election for Bush https://columbusfreepress.com/article/diebold-indicted-its-spectre-still-haunts-ohio-elections. The bloodshed and destruction that followed was horrific and is ongoing. Count on that many years or more before anyone understands what happened with Dominion. This was the coup that happened under the noses of the TDS mobs while they were cheering their triumph, own future demise. The US has a way of creating diversions to keep the public from understanding much of anything while it goes on to more atrocities. Karl Rove said it well, but almost no one understood it: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Thus, while a stupid public was watching WTC7 fall out of the sky of its own accord, in 2001 Dark Winter was being rehearsed by Biden et al. projecting a plague and a nuclear response to the bioweapon. But the entire Patriot's Act was ready to go and no one even had time to understand it or read it before it was passed by a compliant (cowed?) Congress. Ditto today, I saw no comment on how the CARES Act was ready at 5000 pages and only heard AOC object there was no time to read it when they only got it two hours before the vote. Pelosi said, you have to pass it to know what's in it. What kind of farce is this? Who wrote this? There isn't any govt in the US; there's a purchased front for criminality of the Oligarchs. Hitler went into power legally, then business and the military backed him. Watch what happens next.

    https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/11/16/opinion/023a2pol

    > La fórmula Biden-Harris fue acuñada por los intereses del complejo digital-financiero, por lo que el poder real seguirá en manos de BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street; los consorcios digitales ( Big Tech) de los plutócratas del Silicon Valley: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon y Microsoft);las grandes compañías farmacéuticas y fundaciones privadas como Gates y Wellcome Trust. La agenda de Davos requiere al dúo Biden/Harris, no a los ahora disfuncionales Trump/Pence. Y con Larry Finkasesorando a la FED, a partir de enero Washington intentará una nueva revoluciónmundial; la instauración de una distopía planetaria sin precedente.

    > The google translation is: The Biden-Harris formula was coined by the interests of the digital-financial complex, so the real power will remain in the hands of BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street; the digital consortiums (Big Tech) of the plutocrats of Silicon Valley: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft), the big pharmaceutical companies and private foundations like Gates and Wellcome Trust. The Davos agenda calls for the Biden / Harris duo, not the now dysfunctional Trump / Pence. And with Larry Fink advising the Fed, as of January Washington will attempt a new world revolution; the establishment of an unprecedented planetary dystopia.

    God help us all.

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  8. Hello Ugo!
    Your article was posted today in the weekly web-paper "La Ventana Ciudadana" www.laventanaciudadana.cl.
    All the best

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  9. Escobar clearly sees what happened:

    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2021/01/13/9-11-was-prelude-1-6-holy-grail/

    1/6 opens the gate to the War on Domestic Terror and the Patriot Act from Hell, 2.0, on steroids (here is the 2019 draft ), the full 20,000 pages casually springing up from the sea like Venus, the day after, immediately ready to roll.

    And as the inevitable companion to Patriot Act 2.0, there will be war overseas, with the return in full force, unencumbered, of what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern memorably christened the MICIMATT (Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think Tank) complex.

    And when MICIMATT starts the next war, every single protest will be branded as domestic terrorism.

    The faux coup

    Whatever really happened on 1/6 in the militarized Valhalla of a superpower that spent untold trillions of dollars on security since the start of the millennium, the elaborate psy op/photo-op circus – complete with a strategically photogenic MAGA Viking actor – could never had happened if it was not allowed to happen.

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Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)