Vespasian and the Architect

In the scope of human understanding, mythology will never be replaced. So it goes in the vast annals of human achievement that we remember our figureheads first and foremost not merely by their dry statistics, their dates and accomplishments… rather we remember anecdotes, tall tales, legends – myths. This connects us to our subject on a meta-narrative that a mathematical equation never can.

I should like to tell you a story that struck me. For many reasons. Can I say for sure the tale is true? How can I? How can I prove anything outside of my tangible sphere of influence? It is all a matter of faith, and trust that you have not been lied to. The subject of my story is the Emperor Vespasian. Vespasian was one of the Good Emperors that followed in the controversial wake of the Emperor Augustus, the man against whom all future Caesars and later Augustii would be measured.

I should like to think our story begins in the long hours of the afternoon. The Civilians had returned to their homes to prepare for dinner, leaving the cobblestone roads in relative silence. Perhaps a gentle breeze murmured through the alleyways. The sky might as well have been blue, crystalline, with powdered clouds spattered across the firmament like so many fading thoughts. Muddled echoes would find their way out from the windows and the doors of tenaments and villas, but be met with silence in the Forum.

Overlooking the scene we can imagine we should find Vespasian, standing on the Imperial balcony of his palace, overlooking the great paths of the Via Romanum. He would have stood quietly, contemplatively, as he listened to the appellations of his honoured guest. Being noted as a shrewd Emperor, Vespasian composed himself quietly, taking in the counsel and the firm pitch of his guest.

The minutes were long, that Vespasian entertained the explanations and enticements of his guest. But in the end, the speech rolled itself up into a blur. And who was Vespasian’s honoured guest? An Architect of note. Was he provincial or urban? Vespasian couldn’t quite recall, as he furrowed his brow, trying to keep all the details straight. The Architect had sought his audience to sell him on patents. He had devised blueprints for marvellous technology, he assured His Highness, that would forever revolutionise the Roman labour pool. In fact, these devices would eliminate the need for manual labours in some fields altogether. Oh, the device would expedite the tedious building process, and, rest assured, save countless probable lives – after the glitches were worked out, of course.

Vespasian listened, speaking not a word until the Architect’s great enthusiasm drained into an estuary of concern, and finally suspicion. He went from confident boasting, to detailed pitching, to excited conniving. Eventually the spaces between his sentences punctuated the growing silence. Finally the Architect stammered, “do you understand what I’m offering?”

Vespasian smirked. He then straightened his wry smile into a deadpan and whirled around, “you ask me if I understand?” Vespasian forced, firmly, but without aggression. The Architect shrunk into his triclinium. “I…” Vespasian turned back toward the ledge of his balcony. “Come, stand with me, Architect,” he implored. The Architect, now clearly shaken, knew also that only a fool would delay an Emperor. He stood with Vespasian.

“Roman hands built this city,” Vespasian said, “Roman minds.” He lowered his voice, “I thank you for your genius, your patriotism and your service. You will be paid well for your time, I assure you, but your device will never see implementation so long as I, or any of my associates, shall live.”

“But… why??” the Architect burst, flinching immediately at his outburst.

Unphased, Vespasian took a deep breath, he motioned with an unclenched wave of his hand, sweeping across the horizon. “This Empire is the work of human hands. A human endeavour. The hands of man shaped it, and this Empire puts food in the hands that built her. If I were to rob my Citizens of work, what then should they do? Were then would they go? What then could they do? There is a balance in every human endeavour. Progress for the sake of progress is no progress at all, for it ignores the human element.”

Vespasian continued to speak, raising his voice firmly and gently at every hint of opposition from the Architect. “There is a Peace in Rome, which comes about from maintaining certain traditions. The Patricians have their work, the Plebeians have theirs. If I ignore the work of the Plebeians to feed the Patricians, they will turn to violence. And who could blame them? I would have robbed them of their livelihood, their traditions.” Vespasian shook his head, “I will not replace the Roman worker with your machines. You will speak of this no more.”

One wonders what the Architect did next, after he stood in stunned silence until Vespasian called for his dismissal. One wonders also how farsighted Vespasian was in this decision, for we live now in a time where the citizens of another ageing Empire wonder why it was their overlords decided to replace them first with indentured servants from exotic lands, and then with cold and unfeeling machines. Perhaps Rome, like this latterday Empire, would have celebrated progress for the sake of progress, blindly championing their own eventual displacement and extermination at the hands of their own excess. How many years did Vespasian add to the Thousand Year Empire? How much borrowed time could we steal if only we today learned from the examples of far-seeing men, as opposed to following the lemming to the gleeful shrieks of the Tarpeian Rock as we throw ourselves to the doom of the delighted consumer?

I know that I should like to know, perhaps we can begin asking these questions of our peers, for history provides a safe medium to discuss. So far, we foolish moderners think, removed from the daily affairs we are forced to engage in. Perhaps if again enough people began to ask and think and do and be, than again we can presume to imagine a world in which the Bronze Man becomes Silver or Gold, and the Philosopher King can rise again from the ashes to claim his Republic.

6 thoughts on “Vespasian and the Architect

  1. This is an astute & all too commonly ignored point in advancing civilization, it was relevant then and still remains relevant today in the wake of autonomous machinery possibly replacing many positions in the near future.

    Take for example “Planned Obsolescence” which isn’t always a nefarious or sinister concept contrary how some simpletons perceive it to be, like any mandate this can be abused to favor greedy corporate interests & industrial monopolies against competing technologies however which could amend both the stranglehold upon the market or possibly destructive practices.

    On the other hand Planned Obsolesce when utilized responsibly such can safe-guard the working man’s vocation & salary from emergent technologies which would otherwise drastically alter the workforce environment, educational/training infrastructure & economy without adequate transition.

    Another very real example is the Coal energy sector, whilst being environmentally conscious we would ideally prefer phasing out such industries dependent upon crude fossil fuels entirely, we cannot do it all at once however, as said field provides wages for many working class men who have families to feed & support, essential to both the well being of a community dependent on said vocations & the present economical infrastructure which derives it’s primary source of revenue from said industry.

    Oftentimes very entitled naive or socially disconnected individuals do not grasp the repercussions of dismantling certain industries.

    Thereby we can see the fundamental rift between pragmatists & ideologues throughout history, although your post very nicely fuses the two into an even comparison, both want the best for their respective world however, differ in perspectives not unlike differing personality types contrasted between commander & strategist.

    In this case the Ruler & Architect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These are all excellent points. Thanks for taking the time to make this well thought-ought comment.

      It’s worth noting, I’m a carpenter. In my trade, the presence of power tools has effectively allowed a reduction of the average building team in size. I work with my father, when I inherit the family business, it’ll be my choice if I have underlings at all.

      It used to be that there were saw guys, hammer guys, ground guys. And sure, that’s definitely true in unions still. However, the private sector has allowed for a mass reduction in size to the point where family outfits can build impressively large houses.

      This isn’t necessarily an evil. (We can talk about licensure and qualifications another time). But in trades like logging, admittedly dangerous, and factories, entire generations have been displaced and hooked on the dole.

      It gets hard, after a point, to blame them for being angry. After all. Not everybody wants to code. And even if you retire into checking grocery bags at Hannaford, they’re coming to turn you into a robot too. And what then?

      You’ve got infinity immigrants filling these entry level positions choking out Real Americans. When these import peasants are replaced by machines, does any single man doubt they will then compete with Native Sons for the dole scraps? They’re starting to figure out the nature of their displacement. And here you and I are, discussing it. By the Grace of God(s), someone might read these exchanges and think about things.

      A tough question, but one sadly ignored by the infrastructure that knows well this is unsustainable outside lies and calumny.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thankfully at the moment autonomous machinery in the workplace is not widely implemented not here at least, right now there are trial runs of automated services namely within overpopulated coastal municipalities i.e. Orlando, NYC, SF etc. The Midwest & North Country won’t be seeing such anytime soon.

        As for Management (In any industry), be it shallow pragmatism or negligence forged out of greed I don’t truly know anymore, in the steel industry there is pressure to compete with other mills who are signed into what is known colloquially as “Dragon Contracts” (Chinese interests you’ve might of guessed) which are ultimately very lucrative yet stressful if quotas are not fulfilled. However, I fear where this might lead if said foreign interest decided to co-opt North American Steel production industries, we already have a full plate here to contend with (many heads on the hydra), we don’t need more entanglements making life any more complicated then it already is. Needless to say I don’t work in that industry anymore & have since changed vocations however it doesn’t mean I am ignoring it either.

        The Industrial landscape of N.A. is changing rapidly, if isn’t automata, it is mass 3rd world immigration over-saturating the workplace or clogging the arteries of unemployment to those who truly need it, if not that then it is backdoor infiltration of foreign powers into major industries (Whilst more prolific in NZ & AU).

        The future remains shrouded in uncertainty. If not that then well our “eternal enemy” continuing their old chess game with the West.

        What is certain is that, we can still live in a way which makes us more autonomous & flexible in whichever way makes the most practical sense within one’s means, some talk about a tactical retreat into the wilds, others talk about central fortification or re-conquest. I am not going to impose here which one is the ideal modus operandi, what is clear It is that we’re living in the twilight of Rome again hence complacency & ignorance is not the answer.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Would that I had answers. I tend to think, as in all things, there are benefits to each. But each in wholesale might perpetuate the cycle.

        We’ve seen what happens with massive exodus. Whites fleeing diversity introduce unsavoury elements into ‘lower’ economic stratae. Diversity follows. The wealthy retreat. Und so weiter. Central fortification? Mass resistance? A fine thought if it weren’t that cowards and degenerates always betray dissident resistance.

        However… If we learned to appropriate our culture back and move organically, from Ruralite power to Urbanite power, we might be able to change the environment.

        I can think of regimes that have come close. But the weight of the citizen populace needs to be behind the momentum. Most times regimes have pushed the citizens around like furniture to be arranged.

        How one could awaken a populace is, however, so great a question I daresay most individual men would have trouble supplying an answer, if they were honest.

        Liked by 1 person

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