"Wrapped in the Star-Spangled Toga" - Are We Rome?

Discussion in 'IntroSpectrum' started by identity-X, Jul 1, 2007.

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  1. identity-X

    identity-X No Talent Assclown

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/01/weekinreview/01goodheart.html

    THIS Fourth of July, millions of ordinary citizens across the land are planning to celebrate our nation’s birthday with that most distinctively American tradition: the backyard toga party.

    Well, O.K., not really. But the idea might not be so farfetched. Recently, it has seemed that ancient Rome is everywhere — and especially comparisons of modern America to the ancient empire. Moreover, it is one of the few things on which all segments of the political spectrum — left and right, Christian fundamentalists and Islamic radicals, Ivy League professors and renegade bloggers — seem to agree.

    Most recently, a book by Cullen Murphy, titled, plainly enough, “Are We Rome?” begins with an extended comparison of President Bush to the emperor Diocletian from the third century A.D. Everything from their respective foreign policies to their retinues of courtiers comes under scrutiny. (It’s a bit of puckish humor that the author, whose sympathies are decidedly of the liberal sort, chooses that particular Roman ruler, who was famous for feeding Christians to the lions.)

    Mr. Murphy, especially, draws parallels between Rome’s imperial predicament and what he sees as ours: the problems of a vast, multiethnic nation with a messianic view of itself and an often simplistic view of the rest of the world, stretched too thin beyond its borders and facing mounting challenges within them.

    He finds echoes of the emperors’ reliance on legions of Visigothic mercenaries in the country’s outsourcing of security contracts to Halliburton and Wackenhut.

    He describes corrupt imperial bureaucrats as the moral forebears of K Street lobbyists:

    “I don’t know how it would be phrased in Latin, but one of Jack Abramoff’s e-mails (‘Da man! You iz da man! Do you hear me?! You da man!! How much $$ coming tomorrow? Did we get some more $$ in?’) captures the spirit of public service in the late empire.”

    Meanwhile, other commentators have their own comparisons. Conservative bloggers thunder about illegal Mexican immigrants as latter-day versions of the Vandals and Ostrogoths. Fundamentalist pastors like Pat Robertson warn of Neronian moral decay — pornography, abortion, gay marriage — that, they say, is hollowing out our society from within. And it seems as if everyone who watched the HBO series “Rome” has a pet theory on which ancient warlord resembles which modern pol (Pompey as Al Gore, anyone?).

    Even Middle Eastern jihadists have joined in. Last November, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, released an audiotape in which he vowed: “We will not rest from our jihad until we are under the olive trees of Rumieh and we have destroyed the dirty black house — which is called the White House.” The reference to “Rumieh” puzzled translators at first. It is Arabic for the Roman Empire.

    What few remember is that America has always been compared to Rome. It’s only the nature of the comparisons that are constantly changing. Nearly a half-century ago, in the aftermath of the McCarthy era, Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus” was a thinly veiled attack on the Hollywood blacklist. In 1979, Tinto Brass’s notorious “Caligula” gave us ancient Rome as a Saturday night at Studio 54, with togas.

    But it all started long before that, and the comparisons began as positive ones. America’s early leaders thought about Rome quite a lot, comparing themselves to statesmen whose names, unlike those of Nero and Caligula, are all but forgotten today: the noble freedom fighters like the Gracchus brothers, or the virtuous legislators like Cato the Younger. Their emphasis was usually not on the Roman Empire, but rather on the republic that preceded it.

    In fact, George Washington’s favorite literary work was a play about Cato by the 18th-century English author Joseph Addison. So fond was he of Addison’s “Cato” that one of the first things he did at the end of the winter of 1778, when his men had scarcely recovered from the frozen misery of Valley Forge, was to arrange a performance by his troops. In the 19th century, an immense marble statue of Washington in the guise of a Roman god — naked except for some strategically placed drapery — actually stood in the rotunda of the United States Capitol. Thomas Jefferson, meanwhile, was painted in a Roman laurel crown by his friend and fellow Revolutionary hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko.

    With few modern examples of successful republics to inspire America’s founders, ancient Rome provided an indispensable role model. Overlooked, however, is that the generation that fought the Revolution was not simply interested in creating a republic. From the beginning, many American patriots were out to build an empire.

    In the summer of 1776, an edition of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” referred to “the rising empire of America” on its title page. In the same year, William Henry Drayton of South Carolina gave a speech in which he recalled that the once-mighty Roman Empire, which had lasted a millennium, had been supplanted by the British Empire — which, in his estimation, had lasted a mere decade or so. Now, he continued, “the Almighty ... has made choice of the present generation to erect the American Empire.”

    The question was: could America’s republican aspirations flourish in harmony with its imperial ambitions? The two were not necessarily wholly incompatible. After all, Rome’s dominions had spanned the Mediterranean even while it was still ruled by a senate. And the United States did not need to look overseas for territories to conquer: an entire continent stretched westward.

    So the founders decided they could have it both ways. Benjamin Franklin himself, during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, would refer to the nation he was helping create as both a “republic” and an “empire.” Franklin’s strongest endorsement of America’s God-given imperial destiny appears today on many conservative Web sites: “And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” As Mr. Murphy notes, that quotation also appeared on Dick and Lynne Cheney’s 2003 Christmas card.
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  2. identity-X

    identity-X No Talent Assclown

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    Franklin and his contemporaries were all too aware, however, that in setting up their nation as a latter-day Rome, they were also all but ensuring centuries of paranoia to come about whether America was destined to go the way of its imperial predecessor. The eventful year 1776, after all, had seen the appearance not just of the new United States but of the first volume of Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”

    Indeed, the fretting began almost immediately. In the early 19th century, one Maryland politician, lamenting his countrymen’s increasing love of “public shows and spectacles,” warned: “History records that the declining days of the Roman republic, upon which the throne of the Caesars was erected, was attended by banquets and revels, and marked by the exhibition of rhetoricians and gladiators.” The occasion of debauchery and depravity that inspired this outburst was, naturally, the 1817 inauguration of President James Monroe.

    There’s one warning sign from ancient Rome’s history, though, that everybody, past and present, seems to have ignored. The juggernaut of Roman conquest stalled in only two places. One, of course, was along the Rhine, where warlike German tribes held the course of empire in check. The other place was the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, or ancient Mesopotamia — roughly, modern Iraq.

    For centuries, one would-be conqueror after another marched his legions into the east, only to return in disgrace, or not at all. A few decades before Diocletian, there lived a Roman emperor named Valerian, a man from a fine old senatorial family. His army was annihilated not far east of the Euphrates.

    Valerian was taken as a captive back to the enemy capital, where the Persian king, according to one ancient historian, amused himself by using the Roman emperor as a footstool for mounting his horse. When the erstwhile master of the known world finally died, his skin was stuffed with straw as a trophy.
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  3. Offbeat

    Offbeat New Member

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    are we rome?

    yes and no

    yes - we dominate the world economically, militarily, intellectually, technologically, and culturally

    no - we have cars
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  4. Straw_Man

    Straw_Man If I only had some brains

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    Is a son his father?
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  5. UG MC

    UG MC Captain Zapp Brannagin

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    ^^more oversimplifications

    I'm curious to see when America the Republic transforms totally( Its already inching in that direction) into Imperial America.. Like Britian, France, and Rome before it... it might just be a matter of time
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  6. Leila Night

    Leila Night efrain,you're my one&only

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    So funny.



    I don't understand why America would want to compare itself to a fallen empire.
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  7. Offbeat

    Offbeat New Member

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    i doubt that shit

    we dont really have anything to gain from capturing the poorest lands, except more debt and more poor people

    if anything america is going to venture into space and let everyone else fend for whatever resources are left
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  8. menaz

    menaz Avant Garde

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    In some ways we are and in some ways we are not. Then Again I've compared God's nature to the events in the rome colosseum. So this isn't really saying much. However, it is fun to compare america to rome. I love comparing myself to romans all the time. I know who I am and I don't shy away from it. I embrace it. Just like Democrats know they belong to the slave-master party, Only that is a historic fact not a allegorical factoid.


    Besides the fall of roman, which was largely due to the fact her great empire was spread out to far geographically, became lazy, had famines, and Goths ran sacking and besieging her many times over. I would say we're looking for a allegorical factoid produced by our minds which enjoys connecting the skeptic dots.

    The english intent was to free theirselves from the kings higher-taxes, Wig wearing aristocrats? yes they were. However their intent was Sovereignty not to build an empire in the greek alexander the great sort of fashion.

    I've always seen the english-revolt sort of like Spartacus's revolt.
    Our minute-men like Spartacus's Guerrillas, tactic wise of course.
    Both slaves to empires one to england the other to rome.
    (though the roman empire stretched to England.)
    But Of course the english-revolters were not oppressed gladiators nor were Spartacus's Gladiators and himself wig wearing aristocrats pissed off at the king's higher-taxes, but there is a parallel between the two when it comes to Revolution against Empires and specific usage of tactics.

    I know alexander is a greek but bare with me.

    Our generals, not sure if they still do, studied alexender's Battle of Issus. One key concept they learned was how to stop persian chariots by boxing them in like a horse-shoe, only this horse-shoe was man shaped and pointing spears. Where then the greeks would stab the horses avoiding the axle blades on the two Wheels killing the rider.Anyway, they say many of Alexanders war-strategies are used today by us. Such as when Alexander Flanked right on horse back -- then darius men flanked-right from the center -- creating a hole up the middle leading directly to Darius -- which then Alexander turned to in the last-second and road straight to his conquest, champaigning to victory! (Sounds like something NFL coaches might study.)

    Do I want to fall like rome, Of course not, I enjoy being an American.
    Would I like some leaders in america to meet their death like caligula; aka *cough Mark Foley cough* of course. I also enjoyed that show rome. To bad HBO canceled it. Cheap bastards!
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  9. x - calli

    x - calli Guest

    interesting..

    there are alot of similarities

    in america, sports are popular, including aggressive full contact sports like football or boxing. rome had its coliseum/gladiators and more.

    america occupies alot of land and is divided into different states. rome was huge and was divided into principalities
    (at its height, rome surrounded the entire mediterranean sea, it stretched from england to egypt.. also included where israel and syria are now, as we know jesus lived under the roman empire. they ruled italy, greece, romania, france, spain, north africa, england, all that... they couldnt get past the rhine river in germany though, germans were too gangsta)

    back on topic

    rome, from evidence at pompeii etc. had a very sex saturated culture. so does america.

    before the empire, rome was a republic, roman citizens could actually cast votes, even though it wasnt as democratic as america, still...

    we get our intellectual traditions from greece, but as far as laws/customs/and even language, rome is the father of western civilization. the letters were typing on here are roman letters.. lol. and the english language gets about half of its vocabulary from latin, directly and indirectly.(alot of indirect latin came through french, which was a big influence because of the anglo-norman language of the english ruling classes after william the conquerer took over england) the romance languages like french, spanish, italian, portuguese and romanian are even more influenced by latin.

    and as i mentioned before, rome did rule over england.. and america came from england.

    lol @ this damn history lesson. its just cause ancient rome has been a recent interest of mine, i had to share some of the gems i found

    i personally think, toga and latin aside, that an ancient roman could fit in pretty well in america.
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  10. McGirth

    McGirth New Member

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    Alot of the current principles of international law are revivals of Roman law. Perhaps not so suprisingly - these same principles and the values they engender in states (cosmopolitanism, multiculturalism) have the same inherent weaknesses as did the roman versions.

    The principle weakness being to religious orders that confound state with religion.


    i don't know if we live in an Empire in the sense that US=Rome. But, in terms of legal changes that have been made and the sociological changes that have followed, we have become and are becoming more like rome. (i mean the world, not just the US)
    As already mentioned, pro sports, etc. But there is also the rise in the popularity of biographies, the simplification of laws into legal codes, also...
    Just look at the vile shit that you can see on the internet, is it not as bad as some of the shit you could see in the colloseum?
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  11. Sodium

    Sodium I Get Computers Putin'

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    America can never fall because americans love money. So with that there will always be blood pumping through the veins of the system. But this is not to say that the system could not deteriorate and become an unhealthy shell of its former self. This is the real danger - not our death but our decay.

    whaat also needs to be considered is the role technology will play on society in the future. This is the secret player because we have no real idea what the effects will be. Technology is such an important player to consider because it directly affects the way humans interact with reality. Dramatic changes in technology thus dramatic changes in humanity. America is on the cusp of these changes. Rome was not.
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  12. Steve Schade

    Steve Schade Bears>you

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    America's going to eventually face an economic disaster within the next 100 years that will be our downfall. It's inevitable so long as big changes aren't made.

    Hell, China just threatened to liquidate US bonds.
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