I shudder when I think of the calamities of our time. For twenty years the blood of Romans have been shed daily between Constantinople and the Alps, Scythia,Thrace, Macedon, Thessaly, Dacia, Achaea, Epirus- all these places has been sacked and pillaged by Goths and Alans, Huns and Vandals. How many noble and virtuous women have been made the sport of these beasts! Churches have been overthrown, horses stalled in the holy places , the bones of the saints dug up and scattered.
Indeed the Roman world is falling: yet we still hold up our heads instead of bowing them. The East, indeed, seemed to be free from these perils; but now, in the year just past, the wolves of the North have been let loose from their remotest fastnesses, and have overrun great provinces, they have laid siege to Antioch, and have invested cities that were once the capitals of no mean cities.
‘Had I a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths, a voice of iron, I could not compass all/Their crimes, nor tell their penalties by name(Virgil: Aeneid VI)’
Well may we be unhappy, for it is our sins that have made the barbarians strong: as in the days of Hezekiah, so today God is using the barbarians to execute His fierce anger, Rome’s army, once the lord of the world, trembles today at the sight of the foe.
Who will hereafter believe that Rome has to fight within her own borders, not for glory but for life? And as the poet Lucan says, ‘If Rome be weak where shall strength be found?’
Now a dreadful rumour has come to hand. Rome has been besieged, and its citizens have been forced to buy off their lives with gold. My voice cleaves to my throat, sobs choke my utterance. The city which had taken whole world captive is itself taken. Famine too has done its awful work.
The world sinks into ruin: all things are perishing save our sins; these alone flourish. The great city is swallowed up in one conflagration; everywhere Romans are in exile.
Who could believe it?who could believe that Rome, built up through the ages by the conquest of the world, had fallen; that the mother of nations had become their tomb? who could imagine that the proud city, with its careless security and its boundless wealth, is brought so low that the children are outcasts and beggars? We cannot indeed help them; all we can do is sympathize with them, and mingle our tears with theirs.
History teaches how events repeat themselves, like a lecher who changes his dresses each day to set out for his conquest. His dress everytime is different but inside holds every conceivable error: it is nevertheless a body, that is set out to take pleasure as if were, his privileges without responsibilities is heir to. History is such impersonal body whose sins are collective lapses and omissions of man. Instead of Goths one may in the modern context name any of the Jihadi elements and USA for Rome. In some aspects it would still make sense. It is valid since man makes history and Rome, Ottomans are dresses he put on– b).
(Ack: Treasury of World’s Great Letters.)