The American Redoubt: New Byzantium

The Flag of the Byzantine Empire

For several years, astute Patriots have pondered the likenesses between the late Roman Empire and America’s future  — or should I say, present.  There are striking similarities between the two but to say that our courses are parallel would be far from accurate.  More interesting to me than any parallel is what happened immediately after the collapse of the Roman Empire: continental Europe descended into the Dark/Middle Ages; while the Byzantine Empire experienced relative safety, a succession of Christian emperors, and an economic revival up until the Crusades.  As the American Empire falls, will the American Redoubt become the New Byzantium?

1. Currency Manipulation and Monetary Crisis.

The year is 211 AD and Caracalla, Co-Emperor of the Roman Empire, has just murdered his brother to assume sole command of Rome.  In order to purchase the loyalty of the Roman army, Caracalla doubles their wages.  With the Roman treasury already strained, Caracalla further reduces the silver content of the denarius to finance the increased military wages.

For hundreds of years, the Roman Empire operated on a bi-metallic standard, using both gold and silver coins as currency.  The denarius, the silver coin used as the standard of trade throughout the Empire, was the day-to-day currency.  The Bible even references the denarius as being a day’s wage for laborers.  During the preceding 200 years before Caracalla, the denarius had been continuously debased.  When introduced, the denarius was a 4.5 gram silver coin, in today’s terms roughly $5.00; and it remained more than 90% silver throughout the first century.  By Caracalla’s time, it had been reduced to 56% silver; and by the late third century, the once-pure silver denarius had been replaced altogether with a nearly worthless copper coin in a thin silver coating.  For the entire course of the late Roman Empire, its emperors routinely traded short term benefits at the expense of the interests of the Roman people over the long term.  They insulated themselves against those consequences, much like American leadership does today.

2. Mass Citizenship.

In 212 AD, Caracallus issued an edict making citizens of all freeborn residents of the Roman Empire.  Historians agree that this action was largely to increase the tax base, raising revenues for the state.  Being a Roman citizen had privileges of honor and pride in addition to legal protection.  Even in the Biblical book of Acts, we see Paul claiming citizenship in regards to punishment under Roman law.  The Edict of Caracalla cheapened the pride Romans felt as citizens.  Something looked upon as earned had been given away.

For the rest of the Third Century the Roman Empire suffered crisis after crisis: rise of neighboring empires, barbarian invasions, a succession of short-lived emperors, numerous civil wars, and the division of the Roman Empire – not to mention the mass persecution of Roman Christians.

The Fourth Century was no easier.  In 376, a massive Visigoth invasion destroyed entire Roman armies, and in 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome for three days.  By 476, the Western Roman Empire had collapsed under the burden of barbarian invasion and the formation of their kingdoms.  The fall of the Western Empire ushered in a “dark” period we’ve come to know as the Dark Ages.

Meanwhile: Glory in Byzantium

The Eastern Roman Empire, more commonly known as the Byzantine Empire, was largely spared the turmoil continental Europe faced during the Dark Ages.  The infamous Attila the Hun, who rampaged through the Balkans, reportedly captured over 100 cities in the Byzantine Empire but did not make an attempt to conquer the Byzantine capital of Constantinople as he considered the walls of the city to be virtually impervious.  Those walls took nine years to build, hurried by Attila’s threatening presence in the Balkans.

In addition to the Empire surviving the onslaught of the Huns, Emperor Justinian I was able to re-conquer much of what the Roman Empire had lost.  In all, the Byzantine Empire thrived for another thousand years after the collapse of the Roman Empire and remained the most significant power in Europe.

Of course, we’ve just glossed over five hundred years of history but I find it extremely interesting that, while the Western Roman Empire plunged into chaos, the Byzantine Empire continued to grow and prosper.  My opinion is going to be utterly unscientific and contain absolutely no historical context whatsoever – but could it be that the Byzantine Empire returned to prominence because a) it was heavily defensible, and b) Emperor Constantine and others were devout Christians?

Fiscal collapse, brought on by bad fiscal and monetary policy, is the modern day barbarian threat and it will end up affecting the landscape of America, both culturally and geographically.  I can’t help but conclude that, if given the choice, I would have rather lived in Byzantium than in the European Dark Ages.  In closing, I would submit to you that the American Redoubt can become the contemporary Byzantine Empire if we prepare the conditions first.  I’m staking my future on it and so should you.

29 Comments

  1. James says:

    I would like to point out just one point on contention. Geography. Sea routes and trade are more important than a homogenous belief. To make the Redoubt viable then the Columbia River must be secured and all of the major railways and roads leading into major trading centers must also remain intact. Constantinople was a trading center in its own right not reliant on Rome for commerce and was also inclusive of varying religious beliefs for the time. I’m sure any serious patriot has considered this. I am also sure that any strategist has considered that the denial of coastal access and airspace will isolate the Redoubt. There will necessarily be a contest over the metropolitan areas of the Northwest sitting astride the Columbia and the major trade routes. This geographic area includes the trade most direct routes between Asia and the US. This will be a very hotly contested area, much like the Mississippi in much earlier conflicts. Just a thought.

    • Partisan says:

      Hey James – Thank you for reading. In previous posts, I’ve briefly mentioned that point. Here’s the most recent one, from Why Societies Collapse:

      Relations with Friendly Societies

      We have to define “Friendly Societies” as the states (or societies) immediately surrounding the Redoubt; and also include most states in the Union as well as the regions of Canada to the north (British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan). (States, regions, or societies we don’t include here will fall under Hostile Societies.)

      Because the Redoubt is landlocked, we’ll be heavily dependent upon neighboring friendly societies for products and resources not indigenous to the region. If we want a fresh tomato in January, we’d better figure out how trade is going to work under conditions where resources are scare (if we can even figure it out). I believe the Redoubt can be energy independent and so our ability to export much needed resources will be an incentive for those friendly societies to remain friendly.

      I don’t disagree with your point of contention; it’s a very good one that, frankly, we have to answer. We’ll have the ability to leverage our resources in a way that produces a favorable outcome with trade partners. Maybe we do push our way westward and secure that territory along the Columbia. Maybe we improve trading relations with Canadian provinces — wasn’t there a secession movement in western Canada, anyway?

      James, I’m going to shoot you an email. I think we should probably start a solutions-based think tank for the American Redoubt.

      • James says:

        I look forward to a solution based dialog. There seems to be a lot of lights coming on lately but there are very few ideas on how to solve real problems. Politicians only worry about re-election and all of our political answers are 4-year kick the can solutions. Epic Fail. Free economics and a true representative government will go a long way to restoring our Republic. Thanks for all you do.

    • pdxr13 says:

      Agree. Western Wa and Western Or need to be owned by the inland empire to secure world trade routes. No problem.

    • The Bard says:

      I’ve thought about this weakness also. I think one of the solutions is to the North. We are land locked, but … will Canada not trade with us for some reason? Moving goods to the coast through Canada may be an option.

      • Partisan says:

        Bard, clearly we have very few options. I would be concerned about the pressure that the USG could maintain on Canada to refuse us trade.

      • denis says:

        both alberta and saskatchewan will trade with you and become an allie. British Columbia will resist anything to do with you ( they are socialist to the core) but can be bought off with food and fuel!

  2. James says:

    edit: “This area includes the most direct trade routes”

  3. R Jensen says:

    Coastal access is not entirely necessary James. Look at Switzerland.

    • James says:

      Agreed R Jensen, however, the idea of an arbitrary line drawn through the middle of two established (potentially hostile) states is difficult to arbitrate. Look at the Kurds and the multi-state situation they endure. To the coastal access point the ability to trade across hostile borders is easier if you have a free coast line, even more so if you have a port that a trading partner can enforce until sufficient naval power is amassed to defend it or political acquiescence with neighbors is reached.

  4. Terry says:

    Interestingly enough, I’ve also been reading up on the Byzantine Empire. I did not start out to do it in the context of a comparison of the current US and historical conditions but have been reminded that the comparisons are there.

    Trade is critical – in fact, one of the downfall of both Byzantium and the Crusader states was their constant granting of tax relief to the Italian merchant cities, essentially trading current security for future survival. Maybe an equally useful question would be are there examples of landlocked countries or regions that thrived in uncertain times and how were they successful. One that comes to mind as landlocked (although I’m not familiar with the history) is Montenegro.

    • The Bard says:

      The fall of Byzantium and the Crusader States was primarily an unrelenting war against them by the Muslims. When you have a nearly limitless wave of warlike individuals attacking you from every side, you cannot hope to survive, at least when you are fighting on a flat piece of desert ground.

  5. Mama Bear says:

    Yes, Byzantium lasted longer than the Western Empire, but to say it was thriving for those thousand years is a stretch. Islam steadily gnawed away at it for centuries…and yes, those areas thrived as well, but they were not Christian. All Christians converted or became dhimmis, living as third class citizens, although in many cases they were at least allowed to live…to be dealt with in later centuries, such as the Armenians in Turkey or the Copts in Egypt. The Byzantine Empire was also noted for being thoroughly corrupt, as well as an administrative mess…much like DC today, which is certainly full of Byzantine palace intrigues. A better aspiration might be the German tribes or the Celts in the mountains, whose lives and needs were so modest and self contained that their lot did not change with the collapse of the Empire. In other words, Carolingianism rather than Byzantium as a model, once the Franks got out of that nasty Merovingian period.

    • Partisan says:

      Mama Bear, thank you for reading!

      The Byzantine Empire did indeed experience an economic revival. I didn’t mean to imply that it was free from its own petulant demons or that it was completely capable of exorcising them; but it was better off than what much of Europe was experiencing at the time.

      • Mama Bear says:

        Yes, the streets of Byzantium were flowing with gold, and to this day you can travel to Istanbul to marvel at the golden mosaics in the Haggia Spophia and other churches and palaces, and its gold bound books and gold illuminated vellum. I closely studied the Byzantine Empire in graduate school and love its arts and architecture dearly. It’s a great icon for the Redoubt if your hopes are to swan about in silken robes, be parasitized by Crusaders and Venetians and blood sucking Banksters, and control the gold and the trade routes of the world. You can find that fancy shininess in Hing Kong or Singapore.

        My understanding of JWRs Redoubt precept is that it will be a defensible outpost to protect the remnants of freedom and civilization–a place to batten down the hatches in the event of a collapse. Hence, I would recommend that you turn a portion of your studies to Charles Martel, The Hammer who defended Christendom at Poitiers, and his grandson Charlemagne. Or the Polish Winged Hussars who defended Christendom
        at the Gates of Vienna against the might of the Ottomans who steamrolled Constantinople.

        I am not trying to nitpick your article. The Byzantines were certainly an admirable society. However, they are a society I admired more back when I was buying $200 stilettos, before I became a mama bear with young children to protect. And before I woke up.

    • Terry says:

      I’m not necessarily sure that the two examples are comparable. The Germans and Celts (even by this time) within the bounds of the Empire had already been overrun and incorporated. Martel did in fact create a sustainable state, but it was built on an administrative model, not a small scale tribal one. I suppose it could be said they represent two different strands of existence, one being small, self-sufficient and isolated enough to be ignored, the other being organized enough and supported enough to create a meaningful state and resistance.

      I suppose the question for our time is are either of this models – or both, or neither – the sort of thing that are practical?

  6. Saint Cyril says:

    “[T]he Byzantine Empire returned to prominence because a) it was heavily defensible, and b) Emperor Constantine and others were devout Christians?”

    Christianity played a major role in the destruction of the Roman Empire.

    And to call the rigid hierarchical Byzantine state religion “Christianity” is an insult to Biblical Christians.

    • Partisan says:

      Cyril, thank you for reading and commenting. The context of my quote is actually a question. I never spoke to the quality of the religiosity of the state, merely that numerous emperors were openly devout followers of Christ. I think one can state the case that had not Constantine not converted to Christianity and made legal the practice of worship in the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, our world – and maybe even Christianity – would look much different.

  7. Sierra Dave says:

    Trade is required when you need something you cannot produce.

    In this modern day and age. I think a region with smart planning can have all it wants and needs. Knowledge is power.

    I have my own little knowledge base going on. I can only hope someone has servers set up and is saving any and all information they can. Historical, medical, as well and technological/manufacturing. Heck, the TV show “How it’s made” is a wealth of information. Documenting all the steps in the manufacturing of pretty much everything.

    Add to this Biodiesel from Algae. IMHO, it will become a common AND renewable source of fuel. Imagine a redoubt that produces it’s own fuel from waste products. No need for purchasing Oil. Creating an imbalance as money leaves the region.

    If the decline continues without any Black Swan events. We’ll have islands of polite society surrounded by abandoned lawless zones. It doesn’t mean the end of technologically advanced human society though.

    Stock up on food as well as knowledge!

    • Partisan says:

      Dave, once again you raise a great point. Are you familiar with CD3WD? It’s a repository of third world technology – basically any information a civilization would need to set itself back up.

      YES! Stock up on knowledge – it’s not heavy but carries with it enormous weight!

      • James says:

        Technology and history are important both to be used as a tools. Winter is upon us. Those that have stored for a period of hardship are going to see the spring. The problem with basing future society on historical models is that these historical models are without the requirements of the ‘modern’ age. Resilient societies sprung from those tribes that could endure hardship. Our U.S. is over 300 million, close to the global populations being discussed in historical terms. Our population has gone J-shaped. Biologically any organism that reaches exponential growth beyond carrying capacity experiences a die-off. Period. Technology and efforts aside there are only so many resources. Locusts die off when there is nothing left to eat. When a technologically advanced society dies off….well, we have not seen this yet. There have been countries collapse, but not a global/population event yet.

        • James says:

          Edit, as applied to modern Human culture.

          • James says:

            Ok, this goes completely into the looney bin… If I was smart enough to know there was a collapse coming and I wanted to control public opinion during a time of crisis and also knowing that the power grid is suspect, then wouldn’t I position myself to make obsolete the print media in the mean time and then consolidate the obsolete infrastructure to corner the market on print media if/when electronic media is inaccessible to control public opinion? Don’t blame me…talk to Edward Bernays. If someone as dense as I am can think of it…. In a future filled with uncertainty air reconnaissance sure adds a level of community intel.

  8. Mama Bear says:

    Terry, since your response is fairly short, and since the topic is hugely complex, please forgive me if I misunderstand what you are saying. Regarding your latter point, the Frankish model is just as legitimate as any other model in history, and since the stated goal of the Redoubt is to rebuild after collapse, not to be the surviving half of the Empire and carry on its practices and bureaucracy, I would submit that it is a more legitimate field of study than the Byzantines, who never collapses till 1453. If we collapse, some of the Merovingians will be a good case study for the Zombie Mutant Bikers we will face.

    Regarding your first point, i am not sure what you are saying, but the Franks were both German and Celtic, Romanized and Barbarian, tribal and administrative, all at the same time. I don’t think they were ever pacified by Rome, instead, they just kinda moved in (they did the overrunning, they were NEVER overrun) and then partnered with Rome in different battles, such as against the Huns, and they were the last men standing after Rome fell. I think that Martel is a good representation of the balance of Germanic, Roman and Christian law. But the sustainable state was continued by Clovis, a Merovingian, during/after the fall of Rome. Martel just usurped it, luckily for Christendom.

    • Terry says:

      I agree the topic is hugely complex and my apologies if I’m too simplistic in my analyses.

      The Celts – at least those in Gaul and Britain – and Germans – on the Southern side of the Rhine – were incorporated into the Empire, as I recall (agreed, of course, that north of the Rhine and Scotland/Ireland were not). Those that were not part of the Empire – at least to the point that I’m trying to make – were local or even regional societies.

      My point – perhaps question really – with the Franks was if they truly imposed their society on the existing Gallo-Roman civilization or used the mechanism of the existing bureaucracy and threw Frankish tribalism over it. It certainly made for a very robust and ultimately explosive system – Charles Martel, Charlemagne – but even the Carolingians ultimately had less of a run than Byzantium.

      I would argue that while Byzantium existed to 1453, it underwent at least two major restructurings where the city (and, I suppose, the empire for which it stood) served as a base for expansion: the Comnenian Rebuilding following the battle of Manzikurt in 1071 in which much of the Eastern provinces were lost but some of the Eastern provinces were recovered, and the reconquest of Byzantium following the 4th Crusade.

      I’m not arguing that Byzantium is a perfect model; far from it. Having read through The Alexiad and The Secret Histories there is plenty to be grateful for not living there. I do think that it – and the excellent Frankish analogy you suggest – are examples of civilizations based on a preceding system of regulations and society that either served as a nucleus for another society or as a bulwark against the ravages of the world around it.

      • Terry says:

        Mama Bear – Another thought: could the Kingdom of the Asturias and/or the County of Barcelona also be considered as a model? My memory of the Reconquista is somewhat vague, but these are examples of small areas – holdouts, really – against the then dominant power of the Omayyad Caliphate which went on not only to serve as centers of resistance but also of expansion?

      • Mama Bear says:

        Terry, it is hard to say how Romanized the Franks were…they started making incursions into the Empire I think in the 200s, along with other waves of barbarians, but I don’t think they were ever incorporated or Romanized, although Clovis was a member of the Roman army when he turned on them and kicked them out of Gaul. I think they picked and chose as to what aspects of roman law and culture they wanted. If you look on Wikipedia under early Germanic law, the Salic law section gives a good overview. Under Charlemagne, they adopted more roman law, but wasn’t till the renaissance and the rise of the universities in the 1100s that roman law moved to the forefront in western Europe. So in overall character they were still very Germanic, and had their own administrative systems separate from Romans, although I am more familiar with the Anglo Saxon system. Not to get all technical and everything, but the empire that Charlemagne started, the Holy Roman empire, lasted from Christmas Day 800 to the Napoleanic war in 1806 …just slightly longer than the Byzantine empire if you calculate it from the sacking of Rome in 476. ( I know, I am a nerd).

        Regarding these and your other two references, I would just say it is important, if one is expecting full collapse, to have a full historical library so whoever survives can, say, protect the knowledge of the constitution and English common law, two of the treasures that our society needs to preserve.

        I think some enterprising graduate student could likely find a good dissertation topic in some of these questions. :)

  9. gregory says:

    http://www.lonang.com/

    here’s your library………

  10. Wrench in PA says:

    Point 2, Mass Citizenship, stikes a cord with what the Obama’s Immigration policy is trying to perpetuate upon these American States. History seems to always repeat itself…

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