Not-So-Holy Roman Empire!

Holy Roman EmpireAs an American at Oxford—an institution of 1,000 year duration—I was struck by an immanent awareness which placed me not among hallowed pavements and structures but beside the spirit of the place. Similarly, I have to accept the HoLy Roman Empire with a leap of faith as a mythic collaboration of primitive Europeans much as I view Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey as a foundation of Western literature. But it seems that The Empire’s lack of cohesive purpose instead of passive stewardship led inevitably to the predations of Napoleon and the Prussians to the fragmented lunacy of World War One to the doorsteps of Hitler and Mussolini. In our brief Empire—now, since 1609 Jamestown, roughly the same as the Roman Empire—we have felt safely insulated from History. It’s telling the Gibbon’s title, “Decline and Fall…” has begun to creep into today’s ironic political lexicon as the leading presidential candidate rants: “Make America Great Again” and we howl approval.

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