“The Lesson of the Fall of the Roman Republic We Ignore at Our Peril” History News Network

Comparisons between Rome and the West (or the United States) are ubiquitous. Most are based on simplistic, superficial analogies used to warn of the demise of the West. These comparisons are almost always undertaken to serve ideological ends. A quick review of the youtube videos on this topic confirm this assertion. This type of speculation isn’t very surprising coming from non-experts bent on confirming their ideological predilections, but such superficial comparisons are not expected from experts. Historians cringe at the simplistic comparisons frequently found in popular culture. Unfortunately, the historian Richard Alston is not one of those historians (at least not in this article). Based on a simplistic reading of imperial Rome, Alston concludes, “In our modern attempts at state building, we must remember that for most people, the issue is not so much whether you like the rulers, but whether the regime will feed you and protect you. In the modern West, we assume loyalty to the state and thus fail to consider how states can secure the loyalty of their people. Rome’s revolutionaries reduced politics to its simplest form. They killed their enemies and rewarded their supporters; they fed the people and paid the soldiers. It is a recipe for success that we would do well to relearn.” What a sad, cynical, and ultimately incorrect assessment of the human condition. If things are really bad this kind of regime may be, and usually is, a welcome change, but I don’t think this kind of regime is one that human beings will ultimately settle for. I know I won’t!

History News Network | The Lesson of the Fall of the Roman Republic We Ignore at Our Peril.


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