27 July 2017

In saecula saeculorum

Something I learned recently – the longest unit of time in Ancient Rome was called the Saeculum. It was the period of time from the moment that something happened (for example the founding of a city), until the point in time when all people living at the first moment had died. In other words, it’s the amount of time it takes to completely renew the population.

Legend has it that every civilization is given a certain number of saecula by the gods. The Romans lasted for 24 saecula, the Ancient Egyptians held on for 30.

I got curious about the US. Let’s pick the ceremonial year of 1776. Of all Americans alive in 1776 that I could find, the longest-lived was a man named Henry Boehm, a preacher in Pennsylvania. He died in 1875 at the age of 100, having seen America go from agrarian backwater to industrial powerhouse. In July 1875, Lucy Terrell was born in Alabama to freed slaves. She finally passed away in 1993, shortly after the first modern internet browser came out. This marked the end of America’s second saeculum.

So we can span most of US history with two people. The American Empire is in its third saeculum, but only the gods know how many we’ve been allotted…

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3 Comments on "In saecula saeculorum"

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Scott Perry

Yes, America may survive for 30 full seculum, or maybe just 2! Who knows? Today the Sun seems to be rising, Trump seems to be falling, and my apartment seems to be in need of tidying up a bit. Meanwhile, I sit and ponder all three, doing nothing about anything. Still, in my mind’s eye, somehow, I feel inseperably connected, yet not, to all three. Oh, a knock on the door, my neighbor asking for a hand. The spell is broken.

When ever will I get my apartment tidied up?

Nic Rowland

You are living in a country song.