The United States of Rome

I’ve been on a huge Roman history kick for the last several months. Currently I’m reading Rubicon by Tom Holland. I’m a bit over 200 pages in and it has been an excellent read. The history itself is fascinating but the various parallels between the twilight of the Roman Republic and the United States are also worth noting. For example, the Romans had a similar strategy when it came to justifying war. From page 152:

The Republic was never so dangerous as when it believed that its security was at stake. The Romans rarely went to war, not even against the most negligible foe, without somehow first convincing themselves that their preemptive strikes were defensive in nature.

Like the Roman Republic, the United States never performs a preemptive strike without first convincing itself that its target is an eminent threat even if there is no plausible threat. Furthermore, the Romans had a similar attitude towards the “rights” of its citizens. From pages 202 and 203:

At stake was the issue of what to do with Catiline’s henchmen. Many were of good family, and it was forbidden by the severest laws of the Republic to execute any citizen without a proper trial. But did the state of emergency entitle Cicero to waive this sacred injunction? Caesar, still nervous that the hysteria might sweep him away, proposed the novel idea that the conspirators should be imprisoned for life; Cato, opposing him, demanded their execution. Here, in the clash between these two men so matched in talent, so opposite in character, was the opening salvo of a struggle that would eventually convulse the Republic. For now, it was Cato who emerged triumphant. A majority in the Senate agreed with him that the safety of Rome was more important than the rights of individual citizens. And besides, who ever heard of imprisonment as a punishment? The conspirators were sentenced to death.

Like in the Roman Republic, the rights of Americans end where the politicians’ perception of safety begins.

The Founding Fathers put a lot of effort into emulating the Roman Republic and that effort wasn’t wasted. As the United States marches into its twilight it continues to emulate the Roman Republic as it marched into its twilight. Perhaps the next stage of the United States will be a monarchy as well.

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