DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2007 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.
BREAD AND CIRCUSES: WHEN IN ROME
Stardate: 4041.3, Personal Log. First Officer Spock recording.
"You are absolutely wrong, Dr. McCoy," I stated calmly as we sat across a table in the senior officer's mess. "Rome did indeed have sun worshipers."
"Damn it, Spock, I wasn't talking about the sun, I was talking about the Son," the doctor sputtered.
"That was not your initial statement," I corrected him. "You stated unequivocally that Rome had no sun worshipers. You are mistaken."
"Every fool who ever studied the Roman gods and goddesses knows that they were based on the Greek gods -- Jupiter was Zeus, Juno was Hera, even Vulcan, for pete's sake, was based on Hephaestus!"
"That is all true, but there were many cults that gained prominence and one of them was Mithraism, a Persian sun worship from which your Christianity took many of its rituals and beliefs."
McCoy's features reddened even more. "Now, I know for a fact that is just wrong, Spock! You know good and well that Christianity was based on the teachings of Jesus and the Bible! There wasn't anything Persian about it!"
I could feel one eyebrow creeping up in amusement. I did not even attempt to keep the satisfied expression from my face. "Indeed? Then there are incredible coincidences in the belief patterns of both religions. For instance, the practitioners of Mithraism, like the Christians, purified themselves by baptism. This conferred the power necessary to combat the spirits of evil. Like Christianity, Mithraists also held Sunday sacred -- Sun Day -- and celebrated the birth of the Sun on the 25th of December, the same day on which Christmas has been celebrated since the fourth century at least. They both preached a categorical system of ethics, regarded asceticism as meritorious, and counted among their principal virtues abstinence and continence, renunciation and self-control. Their conceptions of the world and of the destiny of man were similar. They both professed the existence of a Heaven inhabited by beatified beings, situated in the upper regions, and of a Hell peopled by demons, situated in the bowels of the earth. They both a placed a Flood at the beginning of history. They both, finally, believed in the immortality of the soul, in a last judgment, and in a resurrection of the dead, consequent upon a final conflagration of the universe."
"My Great-Granddaddy is probably spinning in his grave," McCoy replied acerbically.
My eyebrow quirked up higher in interrogation.
"He was a Baptist preacher," the doctor replied, looking disgruntled. "Anyway, that gobbledy-gook you just spouted has nothing to do with these Romans we're talking about. The folks who found us aren't worshiping any Persian sun god. You heard Nyota. They're worshiping the Son of God."
"Yes, with that I do agree. However, I have done further investigation into the son of which god they are venerating."
I sighed. "Dr. McCoy, your own ethnocentrism blinds you. The runaway slaves we discovered on 892 IV are not followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Before we left orbit, I managed to tap into a primitive computer database in the capital city and upload the information. I have been studying it. If Jesus Christ ever existed on this planet, he is relegated to a very minor footnote in history. Tell me, did it occur to you to question why the Romans we found were speaking colloquial 20th century English instead of Latin or Italian?"
"Uh ... actually, no, it didn't."
"I thought not. Fortunately, my level of curiosity is a good deal higher than yours," I answered cooly. "On this world, the Roman Empire never fell, obviously. That means that it maintained control over the western part of Europe and the Mediterranean area throughout the centuries. In Palestine, the first century Jewish Wars resulted in the annihilation of the fledgling Christian movement. It never obtained a foothold in Rome and therefore never rose to power or became the religious and political behemoth it was on Earth. There was no Catholic Church. No Martin Luther. No Reformation or Protestant denominations. Imperial Rome continued to rule and spread its influence throughout Scandinavia, Russia, east to India, and westward to full control of the British Isles."
"So, where does speaking English come in?" McCoy asked me, arms folded and challenging. "English is a Germanic language but it is influenced by French, Latin, and a bunch of other languages as well. I'm not an idiot, Spock. I have been to college, you know. Contrary to popular belief, I didn't spend all that time just drinking beer and partying."
"Intriguing. I had surmised that you had," I responded. "But, if you will allow me to continue. The reason Rome was so successful in its ability to conquer and hold vast amounts of territory is that it assimilated local populations and set up local rulers in puppet governments. Rome ruled firmly but gently on this world, although uprisings were ruthlessly dealt with, such as the Jewish rebellions. The Pax Romana was a fact of life in Britain as well as elsewhere.
"There were barbarian invasions, as on Earth, but they were successfully defeated and then the barbarians assimilated into the culture or used as slaves or gladiators. As Captain Merrik said, those who could adapt survived and those who couldn't died. In many cases, mercenary tribes were hired to fend off rival tribes. This is what apparently happened in the British Isles. Invaders from the Nordic nations -- Vikings -- were fought by Angles and Saxons who were brought to Britain to supplement the Roman legions. Eventually all parties settled in Britain and the coast of France, the latter becoming known as Norsemen. The Norse leaders did not invade Britain, as in Earth history, but were used as local rulers under the Roman rule. Over the course of centuries, English began to develop and the various languages blended into the language we know today.
"In the fifteenth century, Roman ships discovered the New World and settlement began there, with colonists from the British Isles leading the way in North America and colonists from the Iberian peninsula settling in South America. Industrial development followed through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
"When we beamed down to the world its inhabitants know as Magna Roma, we reached an area on the western coast of North America near one of their larger cities. Thus, the inhabitants in that part of the planet spoke what we heard as colloquial English. Had we beamed down to another area of the planet, we might have been greeted with Spanish or Portuguese or French."
"Or Afrikaans or Chinese or Swahili, for that matter," McCoy replied grumpily. "I see what you mean, though. Interesting to see how 892 IV will stack up on the Hodgkin's Parallel Planet scale."
"Indeed." My chai had gone cold as I talked and I prepared to discard it and return to duty, but as I rose from my chair, McCoy stopped me once again.
"But what did you mean by the thing about them not worshiping Jesus?" he asked, also getting up to toss his coffee cup into the recycler.
"Ah, yes, it puzzled me that an obscure cult could survive underground for 2,000 years and only now find followers," I answered. "It was illogical and I was vindicated during my search of the data. The Son of God the runaway slaves are worshiping is actually the youngest son of the reigning Divine Emperor. There is currently a long-running war raging in the southeast Asian peninsula on this planet, one that has taken countless lives of Roman soldiers. This imperial son has been preaching peace and love for the past decade, advocating the removal of troops and a cessation to the fighting. The government and military are violently opposed, as you can imagine, but the populace is tired of war and a burgeoning peace movement is flourishing, again paralleling many such political movements on Earth."
As we exited the officer's mess to return to our respective duties, McCoy looked thoughtful then a twinkle entered his blue eyes. "Same thing on Earth when Starfleet was involved in the Second Xindi Wars about forty years ago. Lots of demonstrations against it. I marched with the rest of my college crowd." He held up his right hand with his index and middle fingers in a "v" symbol and grinned. "Peace out, dude," he said and walked away whistling.