Roman decadence  

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Elagabalus  was a Roman emperor known for perverse and decadent behavior. Due to these associations with Roman decadence, Elagabalus became something of a hero to the Decadent movement in the late 19th century. Characterizing him and other historical persons in antiquity as "psychopaths" — for example, the five "mad emperors" of ancient Rome: Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus, and Elagabalus — is however a retroactive speculation premised on a decidedly modern view of human nature and individual psychology. This modern view did not start to develop until the Late Middle Ages, reaching full fruition in the Enlightenment and Romantic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
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Elagabalus was a Roman emperor known for perverse and decadent behavior. Due to these associations with Roman decadence, Elagabalus became something of a hero to the Decadent movement in the late 19th century. Characterizing him and other historical persons in antiquity as "psychopaths" — for example, the five "mad emperors" of ancient Rome: Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus, and Elagabalus — is however a retroactive speculation premised on a decidedly modern view of human nature and individual psychology. This modern view did not start to develop until the Late Middle Ages, reaching full fruition in the Enlightenment and Romantic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Roman decadence defines the gradual and moral decline in the ancient Roman republican values of family, farming, virtus, and dignitas. It is personified by the 'mad emperors' and Valeria Messalina and is said to have led to the decline of the Roman Empire.

Some contemporary critics of Roman decadence, such as Cato the Younger, attributed its rise to the influence of the Hellenistic philosophy epicureanism, while modern historians such as Edward Gibbon ( The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788.) and Cyril Robinson also attribute increasing Roman affluence and the pacifying luxury it afforded.

According to Edward Gibbon, the root of the decadence may lie in the political system. Especially mentioned is the lack of clear rules of succession. A significant number of successions involved bribing the army to be elected emperor, and a civil war between different declared emperors. This resulted in higher taxes and frequent destruction that provoked the apathy of the elite.

More controversially, the early history of the Christian church is also mentioned as a cause of decadence. The early Roman Empire was usually tolerant of the religion of the people conquered, and tried to preserve peace amongst its subjects. After the conversion of most of the Empire to Christianity, religious issues took a proiminent place in the political debate, sometimes leading to civil wars and later persecutions.

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Examples

On a broad cultural level

  • The increasing popularity of orgies: in the Roman world, the term orgy did not necessarily contain its modern sexual connotation. It referred to a party of unrestrained indulgence during which guests consumed copious quantities of food and drink to such excesses that they often relieved themselves by vomiting (though not in a room called a vomitorium). This is debatable. Recent lectures by Professor Alistair Blanchard at the University of Sydney suggest that the "Roman orgy" is nothing more than a historical myth.
  • The increasing extravagance of popular entertainment: exemplified by the inauguration of the Colosseum under the emperor Titus. Dio Cassius said that 9,000 wild animals were killed in the one hundred days of celebration which inaugurated the amphitheatre opening.

Decadence of the emperors

"mad emperors"

Some of the emperors of ancient Rome's behavior was so cruel and eccentric that they have come to be known as "mad emperors" and likened to "psychopaths". They include these five : Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus, Claudius, Tiberius, and Elagabalus.

In painting

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Roman decadence" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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