Emperor Maximus Gluteus has been called by many other names. But those of us of the slow persuasion hold him in high regard.
For Romans, the Art of Not Doing Much reached its zenith during the time of Maximus. Rome would never again experience such a widespread sense of relaxation. Hanging-about-in-the-tub was the crowning achievement of the Roman Empire. The bathtub was an expression of civic pride and sophistication. Municipalities competed with each other to build the most lavish public baths.
The Law of the Twelve Sofas describes the responsibilities of Romans to relax. The Senate passed the mos maiorum (the custom of ancestors), which asserted that a civilized Roman needed time to sit in the tub and think about this and that.
Ancient Rome was never peaceful for long. There had been class warfare and murderous political intrigue.
General Grammaticus of the Illiterati tribe had been banished from Rome on the pretext of his barbarous punctuation. But that was a cover story.
The real reason for his exile was that General Grammaticus and his FF (Frenzied Followers) couldn’t stop rushing about. After a few misspelled letters back to Rome promising to slow down and work on his punctuation, Maximus relented and allowed Grammaticus to return.
The FF agitated for change. Grammaticus was a masterful orator. His silver tongue swayed otherwise sensible people into believing that rushing about was the duty of every Roman citizen.
The FF gained some sympathy in the Senate. The FF couldn’t see how all this soaking in the tub stuff would improve their lifestyle. Of course, the FF’s hands were tied. They couldn’t openly denigrate Roman Baths, the symbol of civilization, and the best place to practice the Art of Not Doing Much.
The SP (Slow Party) said the FF should get in the tub and find out what relaxing was all about. The FF said it had no time for such things as it was experiencing a high call volume and had many things to do.
The FF argued if the SP got up off their collective maximus gluteus, they could be more active and make money to buy more splendid bathtubs. These words sowed dissent among the slow. Some liked the idea of a bit more opulence. They decided to soak and think about it.
The ancient Romans referred to those uncivilized tribes beyond the Empire’s border as barbarians. Barbarians were appallingly dressed and lacked personal hygiene. But worse was their inability to slow down. Barbarian busyness was part of their culture. Conquest was a top priority for Maximus Gluteus. He would civilize his impatient and filthy neighbors.
The fashion lobby in Rome saw an opportunity in conquest. Flush with cash from kitting out Roman Legions, they contributed support for the military. Conquest boosted the Italian fashion business. As Barbarians became, civilized demand increased. Rome became rich.
The bath builder lobby also funded the military. The newly conquered territory would need public and private baths. With so much military spending, the Romans had the most effective and cleanest army in the ancient world.
Many in ancient Rome couldn’t believe the stories of these filthy peoples beyond the fringes of civilization. The idea that Julius Cesar came to the shores of Britannica in 55 BCE and muttered Veni, Vidi, Vici, is nonsense. The ancient Britons were particularly dirty and liked to paint themselves blue and impatiently hop about. Or at least they did the day Julius Caesar took a look at the cold grey island and wondered if conquest would be worth it. What he actually said on seeing the inexcusable state of the ancient Britons was, Eo domum hic or roughly translated as I’m out of here!
Maximus’s plan to conquer and civilize his filthy neighbors was not easy. It meant soap and water. Many did not take to it well. Some revolted. They were unable to understand why anyone should want to kick back and enjoy themselves. To keep the busy out and the slow in, the Romans built walls at the edges of civilization.
Upkeep was expensive. Taxes went up. Dissent grew, and the splendor of Maximus Gluteus’ Rome faded. Outposts of the Empire were first to suffer. The busy tribes with their unsophisticated ways overran the slow and relaxed. Ignorance, hyperactivity, and rudeness ushered in the Dark Ages.
The Institute went underground.