Chapter 1 - The Bestial View of Man: from Rome to Venice 



In 1433, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, writing in Book II of his Concordantia Catholica, states

Since Natural Law is based on reason, all law by nature is rooted in the reason of man.”

and later in Book III of the same work, he says:

There is in the people a divine seed by virtue of their common equal birth and the equal natural rights of all
men, so that all authority - which comes from God as does man himself - is recognized as divine when it arises
from the common consent of all the subjects... This is that divinely ordained marital state of spiritual union
based on a lasting harmony by which a commonwealth is guided in the fullness of peace toward eternal bliss.”

    This Platonic concept of the divine spark of reason inherent in all human beings – that which distinguishes us from the beasts – is the basis for all modern nation-state republics, including, most emphatically, our own United States. Empire has always striven to extinguish this concept of Man from the planet, and to relegate the human species to the servile conditions which existed under the Roman Empire, or the later Roman-created, feudal system.

* * * * *

    The idea of Empire begins in pre-historic times, but it is the legacy of Babylon, and the paradigmatic role of the Babylonian priesthood as the controllers of religion, banking and culture, which set the model for the ancient world, including the Persian Empire, the role of the Greek Temple at Delphi, the Roman Empire, and Rome's continuation at Byzantium.


    In 533 A.D., the Byzantine Emperor Justinian issued the Corpus Juris Civilis, a compilation of all of the Roman law codes which had been promulgated over the previous several centuries. To this day, Roman Law, and the bestial view of Man it embodies, defines the Empire view. Roman Law codifies rule by an oligarchy, and it defines “property rights,” including the property of human slaves, as the basis for all law. Roman Law remained the imperial legal system of the Byzantine Empire, lasting until 1453.

    After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west, the anti-human outlook of that empire continued, and was concretized in the so-called “feudal system,” a system that came into existence as a product of the taxation and related codes of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruled from 284 to 305 A.D. It was Diocletian’s “reforms” which established the legal and economic basis for the emergence of feudalism, a system where the vast majority of the European population were bound to the land as little more than two-legged farm animals.1 This was a system of de facto perpetual slavery.


    With the emergence of Venetian power in the 11th century, we see the return of an explicit Roman Imperial outlook to Western Europe. During this period, the respective geopolitical roles of Venice and the Byzantine Empire were reversed. Venice, previously a satellite/client state of Constantinople, emerged by 1200 as the dominant military and economic force in the Mediterranean. In 1096 Venice organized the first Crusade, to be followed by four more over the next 126 years. Out of these crusades the Venetian empire was born. The infamous fourth Crusade, wherein Venice organized the sack and military occupation of Constantinople in 1204, gave Venice the island of Crete and almost all of the Byzantine colonies along the Adriatic Sea. By the middle of the 13th century, Venetian galleys dominated the Mediterranean and were actively trading in Flanders and London. The Venetian Empire was the leading imperial maritime power in all of Europe.



The medieval Fondi's two projects

    During this “first Venetian era,” two inter-related “cultural” projects were set into motion, both aimed at solidifying and extending oligarchical rule. The first project was the translation of all of Aristotle's extant works into Latin. The second was the revival and republishing of the works that made up Roman Civil Law.


    The medieval system that emerged from the partnership of the Venetians and the Norman feudal nobility, and that dominated Europe for centuries, was in a sense, a “world without progress.” Wars might be fought, kings might live and die, but the fixed nature of the zero-growth feudal system seemed permanent. Aristoteleanism and Roman Law were the two epistemological social control mechanisms perfectly suited for this primitive oligarchical schema. Roman Law established the legal basis for treating the vast majority of the population as non-thinking beasts. Aristoteleanism, with it's emphasis on “sense certainty,” not only denied the Platonic notions of hypothesis and creativity, but also postulated a cosmology of a fixed perfected universe, within which no change or progress is possible.


    The medieval revival of Roman Law was the joint product of an alliance between Venice and what became known as the Guelph faction of the feudal nobility. This revival began with the founding of the School of Jurisprudence (later University) at Bologna in 1084, by Matilda of Tuscany (1046-1114). The heiress to immense feudal land-ownings in northern Italy, Matilda was married to Duke Welf V of Bavaria, and it was the wars that Matilda and Welf V fought against the German King Henry IV in northern Italy which gave birth to the Venetian-allied Guelph Party. Her role in the personal humiliation of Henry IV earned her the sobriquet of Matilda of Canossa.2

    Pinpointing the exact date of the Roman Law revival is impossible. Supposedly an intact copy of Justinian's Digest was discovered in the late 11th century, but no one knows exactly when, or who discovered it. What is known for certain is the 1084 deployment, by Matilda, of the Italian jurist Irnerius to found the School of Jurisprudence at Bologna, and that, by the early 12th century, this school had become the European center for all legal studies. The curriculum was based entirely on the study of Roman Law, particularly the Digest. Irnerius, himself, lectured on the entire Corpus Juris Civilis. His chief work is the Summa Codicis, the first systematic application of Roman Law to medieval jurisprudence. Pepo, another early Bologna professor, wrote commentaries on Justinian and other Roman texts. Beginning in the 11th & 12th centuries, various new commentaries, known as “glosses, were also written on the Corpus Juris Civilis, and these became extremely influential in their own right. By the early 13th century there were 10,000 students at Bologna, and the University was known as the Mater Studiorum. It was the intellectual center of medieval Europe. Graduates of the University founded many other schools, including Vincenza (1204), Arezzo (1215), and Padua (1222), and at all of these schools, the curriculum mimicked that of Bologna.


Roman Law

    Roman Law begins with the concept that all men are beasts: "The law of nature is that law which nature teaches to all animals. For this law does not belong exclusively to the human race, but belongs to all animals, whether of the earth, the air, or the water." (The Institutes; Of Persons). Under Roman Law, there is no distinction made between humans and beasts. Man is "born into nature" like any other animal, and subject to the same rules. The Institutes say that, "By the law of nature all men are originally born free," but this freedom is not the freedom of creatures made in God's image; rather, it is the "freedom" into which wild dogs or savage beasts are born (born free in a state of nature).

    Roman Law uses the terms "Natural Law" and "Law of Nature" interchangeably. In Roman usage, Natural Law is not derived from man's capacity to discover the laws of the universe, and to act upon that universe - to continue God's creation - based on the human spark of reason. Rather, "the laws of nature remain ever fixed and immutable." (The Institutes; Of Persons).

    In Roman Law there is a complete absence of physical-economy and man's Promethean role in science. Everything is discussed from the standpoint of man's fixed relation with (and within) nature. In Roman Law, "Natural Law" as Nicholas of Cusa would have expressed it, does not exist.


    Since there is no real universal "Natural Law," societies are free to enact laws which infringe upon the "Laws of Nature." For example, "Freedom is the natural power of doing what we each please, unless prevented by force of law... Slavery is an institution of the law of nations, by which one man is made the property of another, contrary to natural right. Slaves are in the power of their masters, a power derived from the law of nations; for among all nations it may be remarked that masters have the power of life and death over their slaves."


    This Roman distinction between the Law of Nature and the Law of Nations (man-made law), is the origin of the centuries long debate over Natural Law vs. Positive Law. It should be noted that from Grotius, through Locke, down into the modern era, this debate is axiomatically flawed, because most of those involved are not talking about (Cusa's or Plato's) Natural Law, but the Roman Law of Nature.


    The heart and soul of Roman Law is the Corpus Juris Civilis, written at the direction of the Emperor Justinian and issued in 533 AD. There were originally three parts to the Corpus, with a fourth added later. The first three parts were not written at the time of Justinian, but compiled from much older sources. The four parts are:
  1. The Codex Justinianus [Codex] - (all of the extant constitutions, going back to the time of Hadrian) 
  2. The Pandects [Digest] - (writings of great Roman jurists, along with current edicts. It constituted the current Roman law of the time.) 
  3. The Institutiones [Institutes] - (intended as a study guide for law schools, and included extracts from the Codex and Digest.) 
  4. The Novellae Constitutiones - (new laws and statutes adopted during Justinian's time.) 
    The Corpus Juris Civilis is the source of all modern "contract law," as well as various theories of property rights. Again, the approach taken is completely bestial: "The things we take from our enemies become immediately ours by the law of nations, so that even freemen thus become our slaves... Precious stones, gems and other things found upon the seashore become immediately, by natural law, the property of the finder." (The Institutes; Of Things)

    The argument employed by Hugo Grotius in his work On the Freedom of the Seas is entirely based on Roman Law. If you have read Grotius, compare him with the following quotes: "By the law of nature these things are common to mankind -- the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea." And also: "Wild beasts, birds, fish, and all animals... so soon as they are taken by anyone, immediately become by the law of nations the property of the captor; for natural reason gives to the first occupant that which had no previous owner." (both from, The Institutes; Of Things)

    This issue of Roman Law is not esoterica. Roman Law has defined the oligarchical notion of natural law and jurisprudence down to the modern era. The Napoleonic Code was perhaps the worst modern fascist version of Roman Law, but sadly, the axioms of Roman Law can be found to this day in the constitutions of many nations, including in present-day Europe.


Aristotle

    Despite the earlier Platonic (Augustinian) influence over Western Christianity, the Venetian ascendancy of the 12th and 13th centuries brought with it an onslaught of Aristoteleanism. This Aristotelean pestilence entered Europe via two routes. First was the revival of Roman Law itself, which is Aristotelean, both in its very nature and due to the fact that many ancient Roman jurists were leading Aristotelean scholars. (The most famous of these was Paulus, circa 200 AD). The second entry point was the translation, and republishing of Aristotle's writings.

    This Aristotelean revival began in the 11th century, and progressed in tandem with the aforementioned developments at Bologna. At first the new translations (into Latin) came from Islamic Spain and northern Africa, and standard histories usually emphasize this. However, after the 1209 Venetian conquest of Constantinople and seizure of Cyprus, it was Venice that became the center of Aristotelean scholarship. The first European translation of Aristotle - his Politics - was published there in 1270. This work quickly became the most-studied non-religious text in Europe. The emerging European universities, including the Italian ones, as well as Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris, all became centers of the revived study of Roman Law and Aristotle, such that by the late 13th century, at many of the universities, the three main areas of study were Canon Law, Roman Law, and Aristotle.


    After the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453, thousands of Greek emigres fled to Crete, a Venetian possession, creating a second wave of Venetian Aristotelean scholarship.



Why start this way?

    Although the post-1582 developments in Venice, Amsterdam, and London ushered in a new modern form of Empire, in a certain sense the peculiarly European characteristics of Empire that have come down to us today, can all be found in the first Venetian empire of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, from the usury of the Lombard League to the anti-human notions of Aristoteleanism and Roman Law. Throughout the ensuing centuries, wherever you find Aristotle and Roman Law, you are certain to find the Venetian pestilence, and vice-versa. No matter what other changes might have occurred, they are always present. Always. No virus, no plague of any kind, has tortured the human species throughout its history, as have these dead ideas from the past.


    Nominalists misunderstand everything about history. Thus, historians-without-a-clue will conclude that the Lombard League of cities was deployed against the expansion of the German EMPIRE. Some will even talk about the EMPIRE of Charlemagne. Such analysis is really just drivel. Empires are not empires because of their geographical boundaries, nor because they have hereditary monarchies, nor because they have colonies. Empires are empires because of their nature, one where humans are treated like cattle, to be used and culled by an oligarchy. As I said, most historians are badly confused; how else could they possibly refer to Venice as a republic?

   
In historical research, as in tracking a dangerous animal, one looks for the spoor. Roman Law and Aristoteleanism are the Empire's spoor.


1 Lessons of the 14th Century Dark Age, by Will Wertz, Fidelio, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1998

2 This Matilda should not to be confused with her near contemporary, the Empress Matilda (1101-1169). This second Matilda was the daughter of the English King Henry I, and the first in line to the English throne. She was married, at the age of 12, to the German Emperor Henry V, but after his death, she re-married, this time to Geoffrey, the Duke of Anjou. Their progeny became the founders of the Angevin (or Plantagenet) dynasty in England. Matilda's son, King Henry II, ruled over vast feudal holdings in England, Normandy, Aquitaine, Gascony, and Touraine, and Henry's heir, Richard the Lionheart, became the leader of Venice's Third Crusade in 1191. Throughout most of their history the Plantagenets were puppets of Venice's Lombard League.