Inscription at Timgad
CA Farmer 235:6 (Oct. 16, 1971), p. 43.
In North Africa, in the deserted city of Timgad (or Thamugadi), there is an inscription on a stone in the ruined forum which reads, “Venari, lavari, luderi, rideri, occ (hoc) est vivere,” meaning, “to hunt, to bathe, to play, to laugh, that is life!” When Rome was in power, and the empire ruled in North Africa over fertile fields and rich cities, this came to be the Roman philosophy. It was also a reason for Rome’s downfall.
Rome ceased to think of the future. It became present oriented, and only the pleasures of the day mattered. Romans found it impossible to believe that their great civilization could decline and collapse. The Romans boasted of what they had done. The nations which survive are those who look ahead to what they can do.
Not too far from Rome is the island of Crete, where, long before Rome, Minoan civilization reached amazing advances. They were surprisingly “modern.” They had running water, flush toilets, and a sewage system at Knossos. A Scotch professor, looking at the ruins of the palace, said, “The moral of Knossos is that good plumbing will not save a civilization.”
Whenever a civilization loses its faith, it begins to live, not in terms of responsibilities and the future, but in terms of the present pleasure. Goethe, who was not a Christian, still saw the basic issue when he observed that the meaning of history lies in the conflict between belief and unbelief.
Without faith, men’s vision narrows, and they are more concerned with the present than with the future. St. Paul said of unbelievers that they are “strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). When a civilization is without God, it is also without hope or a future. Like the Romans of Timgad, it will insist on pleasure and declare, “This is life!”
The Romans were powerful in their day, but it was the persecuted Christians, men with a lively hope in Jesus Christ, who survived and conquered. We are again surrounded by a generation of young and old “Romans,” powerful enough and again in the majority, but without God and without hope. We shall survive them again and conquer. Are you with us, or with the losers? “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5).
Topics: World History