Classical quotes:
We’ve been here before.  Societies have faced a fertility loss before.  With the possible exception of scripture, nobody seems to have fingered the cause, but they have seen it going on.  Here are two quotes I got from the documentary movie “Demographic Winter.”

“We liberate slaves chiefly for the purpose of making out of them as many citizens as possible.  We give our allies a share in the government that out numbers may increase; yet you, Romans of the original stock, including Quintii, Valerii, Iulii, are eager that your families and names at once shall perish with you.”  Augustus Caesar addressing Roman knights.

All right, it’s not the most politically correct statement.  In fact it would be political suicide nowadays to say the equivalent, not to mention the chance of a lawsuit.  But you see what he’s driving at.  Roman society was under threat because of a low birth rate among the ruling elite.  I had known that some such statement existed, but I never had a reference before. 

Julius Caesar effectively destroyed the Roman republic.  He was a sort of a transitional figure.  His heir Augustus Caesar established the empire.  This was the same Augustus who features in the Christmas story.  It begins with an order that, “All the world should be taxed.”  I’m pretty sure that in fact it should read, “All the world should be counted.”  It would have been a census.  Like Putin of Russia, Augustus recognized that there was a demographic problem and he was trying to get a handle on it.  It’s a pity I can’t talk to him.  In fact I would be happy to get word to Putin that it’s just a matter of who marries whom, but Putin is no doubt protected from the likes of me by people who check out his mail and decide what he sees, as well protected by them as Caesar is by two intervening millennia. 

The second quote is:
“In our time Greece was visited by a dearth of children and general decay of population …. This evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our men becoming, perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasures of an idle life.”  Polybius circa 140 BC.

Polibius was a historian who came from a powerful family in Arcadia.  He saw the destruction of the ancient Greek civilization and its being taken over by the Romans.  You don’t suppose that the lack of children had anything to do with that, do you? 

I was watching the military channel a few months ago while they described the last key battle.  The conclusion was that the Greek phalanx was deployed in unsuitable terrain.  The phalanx was a remarkable formation.  Heavily armored men with pikes were arranged in tight formation.  As they moved forward, no army could stand up to them.  Their shields and armor defied any available missiles.  The spears could pierce anything brought to the field.  It was this technique that had enabled Greece to defy Persia and ultimately conquer the known civilized world. 

But they were defeated by Romans because the phalanx was broken up by uneven ground giving the more mobile and less encumbered Roman soldiers the advantage, at least so we are told.  But somehow it seems to me that in all the centuries of their prime and across a stretch of territory from Macedon to India they probably had run into uneven ground before. 

Polybius gives us the answer first hand.  No babies.  Those classical phalanges were filled with old men.  I don’t mean old men can’t fight.  I am no spring chicken, but look at this:

I have been amusing myself pruning a bush.  It used to occupy the bare area and then some.  The leaves had to be cut.  Roots were pulled up and cut. Trash was carried away.  And now the thing has been reduced to the trunks.  Those on the left have been split.  Those on the right await their turn.  The remaining trunk I hope to train to go straight up for few years and then curve back to the ground, making a nice arch. 

Most days about the middle of the day you can find me out there in the Florida July sun splitting logs with wedges and a ten pound sledge.  Few want to be out in that heat at all.

So I don’t mind exerting myself. 

But the thing is that when I was a teenager I would have used a twelve pound sledge.  That’s something like a twenty percent loss in attack force.  I would be no match at my age for myself as a teenager, much less for myself in my mid twenties.  (Unless I managed to sit on the skinny little wretch and crush him.)  Multiply that advantage by an entire army, and even well trained, well armed and well led old men just can’t stand up to the kids.  But you do not hear, except now from “Demographic Winter,” that the fall of Greece was demographic.

There is a third quote.  A friend told me that the depopulation of Athens was so severe that it was called, “A city of statues.”  They were rich enough to have beautiful statues, but you can’t buy babies. 

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