where the writers are
The son never sets on the Empire


The fall of Rome may not have been due to homosexuality, but must gay rights groups protest against such an assertion? Italian historian Roberto De Mattei has said:

“The collapse of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Barbarians was due to the spread of homosexuality. The Roman colony of Carthage was a paradise for homosexuals and they infected many others. The invasion of the Barbarians was seen as punishment for this moral transgression. Homosexuality was not rife among the Barbarians and this shows God’s justice throughout history.”
It is interesting that for a devout Roman Catholic he uses the term ‘paradise’. Isn’t paradise for non-sinners when in his schema homosexuality is a sin? Rome was steeped in debauchery of several kinds, although its fall was only partly due to any one aspect. Stories of excess on the one hand and of penury on the other give a fairly rounded picture.

There are instances of homosexuality in almost every ancient civilisation – Egypt, Greece, the Mughals, the Rajputs…the presence of eunuchs also had sexual dimensions. The queens had their own maids-in-waiting who did more than wait upon them.

Having said this, the Italian professor’s is one viewpoint and may be seen through a particular prism and the distance of historical understanding. There have been several occasions when shaky empires have often been attributed to women as well. There are recorded instances of besotted kings or women who used their guile or were used by the enemy to permeate the hallowed precincts of royalty.

Contemporary instances may not talk about the downfall of empires but of governments or at least of reputations of political parties and individual leaders. Thomas Jefferson’s mistress was a young slave girl, and there was no downfall. Was it because he patronised a person who was ‘lesser’ than him in several ways and that imbued him with magnanimity?

The same could not be said about Winnie Mandela, who though she stood by her husband Nelson’s movement while he was in jail for 27 years, was immediately implicated for transgressions when he was out. Imelda Marcos stood for avarice; Eva Peron for power.

In countries where women have been in power, there is rarely any mention of the men around them when they stumble or their governments fall. Benazir Bhutto’s husband was often pulled up for the famed 10 per cent cuts he took on many deals, but after her death he became a martyr by default. Indira Gandhi’s younger son was considered her weak point, but for a canny politician she certainly knew what was happening and his death became the talk of whispers about conspiracy theories. Bill Clinton’s dalliances did not affect him politically and it was in fact to benefit Clinton Inc. Hillary moved from wronged wife to reclaiming wife to being the one who just might rule the White House. Here the fall has become the rise.

There will be questions about going off the straight and narrow in any area simply because public figures are exposed to scrutiny, more particularly about their sexuality.

Will there be a contemporary fall of Rome given that Silvio Berlusconi has his happy harem? Unlikely. Had it been men instead of women he filled in that house of hots would the standards be different? To some extent. But we have news about a Belgian priest confessing to ‘playing a game’ with his two young nephews and how since it was not penetrative sex he cannot be called a paedophile and he himself does not think he is. The Church will not fall because of his behaviour or his confession.

Today’s empires run on trade. If you got the money, you can buy anything, including a planned fall when the chips are down. It can be called a recession of sorts.