America and Rome: The Death of Two Great Republics
Ancient Rome was once the world’s shining example of Republican virtue. But, as with many other human endeavors, corruption and greed got the best of the great Republic reducing it to nothing more than just another powerful autocracy. Once the great Punic Wars were finally over in the mid second century B.C, the Romans found themselves the defacto masters of the Mediterranean, which fundamentally changed something within the Roman cultural fabric that ultimately caused the collapse of the five hundred year old Republic.
After the domination of the Mediterranean, the Romans no longer had anymore serious external threats; therefore the passions of ambitious men began to turn inward, and threatened to unravel the very fabric of a long standing moral heritage. Up until this point in Roman history the Romans found themselves engaged in a constant struggle for survival and domination. This constant mutual threat more or less kept the different political factions aligned in a single purpose. Powerful families did not posses the time nor the inclination to destroy one another, as they were to busy defending their Republic.
However, now that the Republic had pretty much asserted itself over the entire Mediterranean, this binding threat was no longer applicable, and conflict quickly arose. Coupled with this internal strife, was the growing wealth disparity that was plaguing the Republic. As powerful aristocrats began to amass grotesque amounts of wealth, large tracts of land and small farms were increasingly concentrated in a small pool of elite families. This monopoly on land began to unhinge the fragile social fabric Rome had balanced for so long, and the people began to clamor. Scholars agree that the fundamental change in Roman society began with the coming of Scipio Africanus, the charismatic Roman general made infamous by his defeat of Hannibal and the great maritime empire of Carthage, and who defied the senate at the people’s will for his own personal gain.
This mob supported power set the precedent for future men of ambition to take power, such as Gaius Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, and of course Gaius Julius Caesar. These men of abundant personality and sway appealed to the Roman masses, promising better living conditions and more equality in a deeply divided society. The people bought this plea hook line and sinker and, well, as we all know the five hundred year old Republic was effectively destroyed, and a single man eventually assumed ultimate power.
The climate that surrounded the fall of the RomanRepublic is exactly the same in which we find America today. America has asserted itself as the world’s leading power effectively since the end of WWII, and even more so after the Cold War and the fall of Russian communism. Prior to this ascension to the world stage, America was a place of a binding moral fabric (barring the Civil War of course, which ultimately served to bind us stronger together), the same kind of fabric which bound Rome together for five hundred years and saw its rise to glory. As America has assumed influence over the entire globe, its moral fabric has become deep in decline, and the country is in very real danger of repeating the same fate as the RomanRepublic. Americans are no longer concerned with upholding their once heavily coveted American values, and would instead rather reap the benefits of what America has achieved. This is what I believe to be the true cause of the lack of moral fiber in America today. We are far too preoccupied with our own selfish pursuits like deciding on which model Iphone to buy, watching the Kardashians shop, and balancing our credit card accounts, that we have forgotten the hard work and integrity which led us to this greatness in the first place.
In the Roman Republic, the summit of greatness led to the collapse of virtue and individual freedom. America reached the summit of greatness five decades ago, and I don’t think anyone will argue the obvious decline in integrity and morality this country has seen in recent years.
So, now that we have been led astray morally the second step, as we have seen in the Roman model, would be the inevitable internal power struggle. Again, it is hard to deny this correlation as seen by the blatant power struggles going on in Washington between our leading political figures. Each camp is trying to grab as much wealth and power while America is still cashing out. The scandal devastating our country is so obvious and blatant that it’s not really even being hidden anymore, and people have just turned an apathetic eye to the entire ordeal, hoping it will sort itself out. Land and property is increasingly being held in fewer and fewer hands, leading to a monopolization of power much like that seen in Rome after the Punic Wars. Now comes the third and most threatening step, the rise to power men who claim a desire to restore integrity and strength to our once strong Republic.
Enter Marius, Sulla, and Julius Caesar. For the sake of objectivity and sensibility, I will not point fingers at who I believe are the current equivalents of the Roman Republic’s greatest enemies. In fact, the epidemic is so widespread and intertwined that there is no single group or party which is to blame. But, rest assured your Constitutional freedoms are being stripped away bit by bit, all in broad daylight, and with a majority approval of the people. Again, the similarity of the events surrounding America’s current situation and the fall of the Roman Republic is scary.
One does not need to be a history major to understand the implications and importance of the past. Although we like to assume ourselves wiser and more evolved then our ancient cousins, the truth is we are all human, and prone to the same temptations and failings. This is why to understand the past is crucial, so that we may truly grow as a conscious human race, and prevent the same tragedies that already befell a great civilization. If you care about your family, your posterity, what this country stands for, and your Constitutional rights, then don’t sit on the sidelines anymore and do what is ever in your power to prevent the collapse of a nation which used to be respected and admired around the world. Let us bring some integrity back to our country and win back some of the respect that has been lost over the years due to misled and selfish administration. Getting involved as an individual is easy; demand more of your representatives (email, phone, or write them expressing your opinion), get involved with local community groups to promote political awareness, volunteer or send money to efforts to curb the growing sycophants in Washington, and just being a good honest member of your community who is conscious of what is really happening in the world makes a big difference to how people think and act. If we do not recognize our folly soon, and let the powers that be continue to openly ravage our great nation, then it will be too late to save our Republic.