What I found even more interesting than the cruelty of Commodus was how everyone reacted to Pertinax. Pertinax attempted to return Rome to a stricter (and in his mind stronger) footing, yet though he people hated Commodus, they feared Pertinax’s reforms to turn them away from leisure. Political lesson learned: you’ll reign (live) longer being cruel (12 years) than being strict (3 months).
Rome slips faster now.
Tolstoy must have known a real-life Marya Dmitrievna because I don’t think even he could have invented such a character. It’s not that she’s remarkable, or over-the-top, it’s just that she’s so real.
I love this slow build up of dread for Natasha’s and Andrei’s wedding. All of book 7 had this in the background, and now with the old prince in a bad way, with the convenient marriage of Boris, the end’s up
I know we’re not supposed to really have strong feelings one way or the other about Boris, but I have a strange admiration for how well he handles himself and his affairs. True he seems to have no real passions in life, other than being successful, but he’s not a bad person, he’s just a forgettable person. Oddly Berg is more memorable than Boris, maybe because he has a naive quality.
Still, give me passion
Just as Pierre’s childlike nature makes him seem a buffoon and ill-suited to society, Natasha’s natural charm will not suit her for society either, but in a different way. She is about to be used and disliked by Maria, and Pierre can tell she will not like her. The 2 of them, Pierre and Natasha, represent the full vigor and openness of love and kindness, and the cynical world seeks to hurt them.
“Ah, when one looks at our young people, Prince, one would like to take Peter the Great’s old cudgel out of the museum and belabor them in the Russian way till all the nonsense jumps out of them”, the words spoken by a generation lost touch with reality. And this always happens to the old: they think the young are all debauched and lazy. The old Prince characterizes this decline of reason we all face.
I like how he ends chapter 3 with the saying that no matter where you go you are under the power of the same ruler. Much of this chapter shows how the emperors used their unlimited power, in some cases for good. But you know where it will lead.
Funny how not Rome, not the medieval church, not England or America have ever produced thinkers such as thrived in Greece. Interesting about slaves and how merit could lead to freedom. He even says laws had to be passed to temper the generosity of slave owners. All these diverse peoples feel somewhat neutered by Roman rule.
Gibbon gives us the expanse of the Empire’s borders, a look at who lived at the edges of these borders (we see as if we’re the god Terminus), a brief summary of how they defended these borders (never knew about the pilum). Massive logistical nightmare, really. A wonder it ever worked.