Rome declined over several hundred years. What spiritual lessons might we learn about our own life from this historical example?
[Darris McNeely] Let’s talk for a minute about decline. Behind me are two symbols – the Arch of Constantine here in Rome, and the Flavian Coliseum, otherwise known as the Roman Coliseum. Both built – the Coliseum in the first century, the Arch of Constantine was built in the early fourth century. Constantine’s arch was built after Constantine had consolidated his reign as emperor and had defeated his last opponent at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in the year 312. And then he erected this arch to commemorate what he had done.
Now, of all the arches that are in the city of Rome built by emperors, this was the last, and it’s also the most – the one that’s done on the cheap. If you look at it very carefully, history tells us that Constantine had built it quick, but he also built it from materials and statues and frescoes from other locations and slapped it together here to commemorate his victory. The Empire at that point in Rome had been in a very slow decline – Constantine needed the authority and the structure that the church had at that time in order to bolster his reign, his political reign, which was another reason for his adoption of Christianity. For two hundred years or more, here in the Coliseum, activities – gladiators, death, entertainment and amusement – had been going on for the Roman population in order to keep them happy and to keep them satiated with the lot in life that the Empire had given to them. And Constantine comes along and he needs a boost. And the church as it was at that time provided that, because by then, the church had begun to adopt many other structures that were similar to that of the Roman Empire and there was stability there. And so, Constantine’s conversion and adoption of Christianity was as much a political necessity, history tells us, as anything else.
Rome went on for more than another hundred years before it was sacked by the Goths, the Germanic tribes, in the year 476. This civilization was on a long and slow decline by the time this arch was built. Decline takes a long time before actually the cracks finally appear to be insurmountable and unrepairable. It’s a good lesson for us to learn, not just as we look at the modern world, but as you and I might look at our own personal life, and understand that we might be perhaps not quite as strong, not quite as vigilant, as we need to be in our own personal lives. The culture around us is seeping in and perhaps causing us to decline spiritually in a way that we might not always see.
Looking at two structures like this from a historical perspective here in the city of Rome gives us some very interesting material to think about in our own life, in our own personal journey.
That’s BT Daily. Join us next time.