What We Fight For

While reading History of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. II by J.B. Bury, I found an interesting story.

In 546 AD, the Goths (led by Totila) captured the city of Rome. Not wanting to dedicate the resources required to hold the city (which would require leaving behind a fair part of his forces), Totila planned to destroy the city.

While contemplating the destruction of the city, Totila received a letter from General Flavius Belisarius of the Byzantine Empire, which said in part;

“Of all the cities under the sun, Rome is admitted universally to be the greatest and most important. She attained this preeminence not suddenly nor by the genius of one man, but in the course of a long history throughout which emperors and nobles by their vast resources and employing skillful artists from all parts of the world have gradually made her what you see today.

“Her monuments belong to posterity, and an outrage committed upon them will rightly be regarded as a great injustice to all future generations as well as to the memory of those who created them. Therefore consider well. Should you be victorious in this war, Rome destroyed will be your own loss, preserved it will be your fairest possession.

“Should it be your fortune to be defeated, the conqueror will owe you gratitude if you spare Rome, whereas if you demolish it, there will be no reason for clemency, while the act itself will have brought you no profit. And remember that your reputation in the eyes of the world is at stake.”

This is California today. Of all the states in all the nations under the sun, we are the greatest. Like Rome, it took generations of hard work to build that which we enjoy today.

As we prepare for another year of elections and campaigns, it’s worth the reminder; it’s not worth destroying the prize in order to deny it to your opponents. If you do, even if you win, that will be your legacy.