Lessons of the Roman Hoard

Recently, in a Facebook thread, another poster asked why anyone would need to own a powerful weapon, such as the AR-15 which was recently used in yet another brutal, senseless shooting of innocent victims.  He claimed (and I have no reason to doubt his word) that he has never fired a gun himself, although I can attest personally that he is incorrect in claiming to be the only libertarian who can make such a claim.

I was raised in a home in which guns were not present.  My father had served two years in the Army, and also went on very rare hunting trips with friends, but there were no guns in the home, and no instruction in the use, care, and safe handling of such weapons.  I have never overcome my upbringing in this area.  I do not feel particularly comfortable with firearms, and have never owned or fired one.

But that does not keep me from understanding the several different reasons why intelligent, thoughtful people might want to keep weapons, even such weapons as are more powerful than one would use for hunting.  Let me address just one of these.

Do you see the picture accompanying this piece?  The picture shows a hoard of Roman coins in situ that were dug up in Great Britain some years ago.  Now you might ask, “What the heck does this have to do with ‘assault weapons?’”  Just this: the original owner of these coins, somewhere in the 4th Century CE, buried them when he was being forced to flee from his home.  He was undoubtedly confident that he would return one day and recover his buried wealth.  But he never did.

Rome controlled Britain from its conquest under the Emperor Claudius in the 1st Century CE until the year 400, more or less.  That’s longer than we’ve been a nation independent of Great Britain.  But over a roughly 30-year period, the Roman Empire, beset with troubles throughout its territory, gradually withdrew from Britain, leaving the land to the tender mercies of barbarian invaders, first Celts, and later Germanics.  The native Romano-Celts, thoroughly Romanized in every way, were left to their own devices.  These are the people who buried these hoards of coins that modern folks with metal detectors still turn up every now and then.

Now history geeks such as I find these stories intrinsically interesting.  But history is most valuable for the lessons it teaches us that impact our lives now and in the future.  One lesson that even the casual student of ancient and medieval history must learn is this: societies and governments, like people, are ultimately mortal.  In time, they will pass away.  The people of those times are then at the mercy of the invader or the homegrown barbarian band.

Some day, this society and this government of ours, which seems so strong and so constant today, will disappear.  How will this happen?  Who can say, today?  The ultimate cause will be some form of internal weakening, financial, institutional, or spiritual, but it may manifest itself as a failure of our abilities to defend ourselves, leading to outside invasion, or it might show up as the destruction of our money due to hyperinflation, leading to collapse of the instruments of government.  The Romans saw both at different times and places.  Or, since we are so very dependent on our high level of technology, it might be an attack on our infrastructure that leaves us without electrical power and cut off from modern communications.

As I can’t tell you how, so I can’t tell you when.  It won’t be this year.  It won’t be next.  It might not be for another decade.  It might be in your children’s times – or their children’s.  But it will happen, and the pessimist can point to many, many things in today’s world which seem to indicate that we are living in a decadent civilization.  That’s quite often the last stage before collapse.

Whenever it happens, to you or to your descendants a century from now, the survivors will be on their own.  There won’t be cops at the station down the road to be called in case of emergency.  If the money has gone bad and their pay is now worthless, it might be the cops that you need protection from.  Under such conditions, you (or those descendants) will need to protect yourself.  You and your neighbors may need to form that “well-regulated militia” the writers of the Second Amendment spoke of.  And you will need the best weapons you can possibly have.

If we surrender our right to bear arms, it will be impossible to ever get it back.  If we don’t preserve it now, our children or grandchildren won’t have it when they need it.  Current expediency is no excuse.  We need to insist on our rights now to ensure that we have them when they are all that stand between ourselves and our loved ones and the dark, dark night.

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