Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Rome

Being the history nerd that I am, I have actually read some pretty interesting stuff comparing the United States of America and the Ancient Roman Empire. But here are some insights that I have had recently as I work towards a history major. They are grouped along with the other, more common comparisons. Though the chronology is not an exact match between the two, it’s still something interesting to ponder.

The United States of America was founded by the wealthy landowners who led the rebellious colonists in overthrowing British rule and establishing a republic represented by elected officials.

Rome was founded by aristocrats who grew tired of corrupt monarchs and overthrew them, establishing a republic represented by elected officials.

Eventually, the USA’s attempts at building a republic confederation of states that would be ruled under the Articles of Confederation fell apart, and more power was given to the Federal Government.

In Rome, the Senate quickly rose up as the chief power over the representative district magistrates.

The USA fell victim to a devastating Civil War that tore the country apart and changed the way the government ruled.

Civil War broke out in Rome as well between Octavius (later Augustus) Caesar and Marc Antony over who would rule Rome. Ultimately, Caesar emerged victorious and changed the republic into an empire.

The USA participated in the First World War in order to aid France, the end of which resulted in a peace treaty that caused harsh war reparations to Germany that would ultimately enrage the Germans into forming Nazism and launching World War II. (Note: the USA did foresee the coming of German vengeance.)

Rome came to the aid of other cities as well in order to defend them from Carthage in the First Punic War. The defeat of Carthage resulted in a poorly planned peace treaty, and the Carthaginians would rise up many years later to declare war on Rome and attempt an invasion in which would become the Second Punic War.

The USA expanded to the west throughout the 19th Century, establishing what could be considered a form of colonial imperialism, and either drove out or mistreated many of the indigenous peoples.

The Roman Empire conquered vast amounts of land in Europe and the Mediterranean and though they attempted to rule the natives fairly, ultimately the warriors of these native tribes would rise up against Rome and destroy the empire.

Which leads to my final point. It is not so much a comparison as it is…an allegorical theory.

The Roman Empire fell when the “barbarian” tribes of Europe began to rise up against the armies and the constant war was too much for Rome to hold it together.

I’ve often heard that the USA is being invaded by “barbarians” as well, namely illegal immigrants, foreign influence in economy, or even foreign ideals and religions.

But my question is: what really destroyed Rome? The barbarians from outside…or within?

Many historians recognize that years of war and expansion had run the Roman treasury thin. It was simply too big and ruled too much territory to support itself. There were also great economic issues with inflation and recession under Nero. The wealthy few also began demanding the market by way of taking advantage of the market and using their money to control the common man and the government.

Take it how you want. But economic turmoil and the inability to know its own appropriate limits was definitely a key factor in the downfall of the Roman Empire.

But these are not even the barbarians I’m talking about. Take a look at American society. In Ancient Rome, the wealth and luxurious lifestyle that came with the pride of being a Roman consumed the people.

Are we so much different?

I won’t go into it in depth or detail. I leave that up to your own mind and thought.

After all, it’s a free country.

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