Sunday, April 29, 2012

Did Nietzsche Get What He Wanted And Not Know It?

Friedrich Nietzsche wanted ruthless supermen to rule the world. Tyrants who did not believe in God and did whatever they wanted. Listening to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I'm inclined to think he'd already gotten what he wanted.

First off, the Roman emperors were practical atheists. Religion was a matter of superstition; they didn't actually consult the temples of Jupiter or Venus to inform their decisions. They thought it was all hokum to placate the masses.

Second, they were utterly ruthless. Most of them ended up murdered and every murder was an occasion for a mass bloodletting where potential rivals, their families and supporters were all killed. As long as they reigned, they watched for signs of plots against them and mowed down suspected conspirators in heaps.

Third, they waged brutal wars against every nation on their borders. Sometimes these were wars against invading armies, sometimes they were was of conquest. Defeated armies were massacred or sold into slavery and captured cities sacked and looted.

That sounds like the actions of the Nietzschean √úbermensch to me.

They were great singers, too!

Update: Clicking around the Interweb Tubes a bit, one finds that Nietzsche did indeed consider the Roman Emporers, but I can't quickly find whether or not he felt they were the incarnation of his √úbermensch.


tim eisele said...

Probably the most accurate description I've ever seen of the Roman empire is, "What Europe would be like if the Nazis had won WWII".

When people say that the US is collapsing "like the Roman Empire did", I'm more disturbed by the idea that they think our society is like that of the Roman Empire than I am by the idea of our impending collapse.

And I'm even *more* disturbed by the people who seem to think that comparing our society to that of the Romans is a flattering comparison.

K T Cat said...

Yeah, we're not out there slaughtering each other like the Romans. The analogy fails on many levels. I wouldn't go for the Nazi analogy, though. Hitler's racial obsessions don't have a parallel with the Romans. Unlike the Romans, the Nazis did not co-opt the locals after they conquered an area. The Ukranians would have loved to join the Wehrmacht, but the Nazis wouldn't let them in because they felt they were racially inferior.

K T Cat said...

On the other hand, there are some parallels. The Roman collapse was preceded by both moral collapse and the loss of cultural identity.