What the Fall of the Roman Republic Can Teach Us About America

“Mortal Republic,” by Edward J. Watts, examines parallels between ancient Rome and today’s United States.


Comments: 160

  1. "The bad news is that the coming decades are unlikely to afford us many moments of calm and tranquillity. For though four generations stand between Tiberius Gracchus’ violent death and Augustus’ rapid ascent to plenipotentiary power, the intervening century was one of virtually incessant fear and chaos." So, let's see.... four generations... that's about 80 to 100 years...that brings us to about 2100...when we will be too busy surviving to worry about the fine print of politics.

  2. @Joel Solonche Thanks for 'plenipotentiary'. Hopefully our equally weighted branches of government can help us to avoid that. However towards that end, the ascension to supreme court jurist needs to be by one of unbiased and apolitical vision.

  3. This is yet another in the very long series of exhibits where events in the distant past are seen to eerily foreshadow our own. But the patterns must characteristically be dragged so heavily into conformity with each other that both become hard to recognize. It is comforting, however, that this lesson from the distant past assures us that Trump is "farcical" and will "turn out to be a relatively minor character". History may repeat itself in a fashion, but never in its specific elements. We would be better off dealing with it on its own terms and resist the obsession to see everything around us through the lenses of our current political anxieties.

  4. The comparative history of the U.S. and Roman republics is a valuable endeavor. I look forward to reading this book.

  5. @Wilson There was a reason why Western Civilization was mandatory on every college campus until the 1980s. It allowed an educated set to know about the past and their errors as well as model the polity of our nation without relitigating past settled issues. Every college educated American used to know about the fall of the republic, The Social War, Punic Wars et Al. But this was done away with due to identity politics. No one respects the humanities anymore because they don't teach anything useful anymore.

  6. @Dude Love I don't think "Identity Politics" led to the casting aside of the humanities as an important discipline. It was the tech boom that did it, and this idea that STEM is the only thing that matters for kids to learn, because learning anything else doesn't help them make money in life. Somehow, during the Reagan and Bush Presidencies, we got this idea that actually knowing things about the world around you and its history aren't at all useful in life.

  7. Identity politics is a result of alternative narratives based on post structuralist hacking up of traditional history. The outcome are heightened ethnic and sexual tensions that destroy the American social fabric. Putin and Trump have taken advantage of these gaping social holes Propaganda wars now take place on FB and twitter. Zuckerberg, a conniver, or perhaps sorcerer's apprentice, lent a helping hand.

  8. Egypt fell, Athens fell, Rome fell, Mayans fell, Aztecs fell, Incans fell, the various Chinese dynasties fell. To imagine that we are somehow inoculated from failure as a nation is the height of arrogance. We need to learn the lessons of these historical failures if we are to avoid the same fate.

  9. And what are those lessons?

  10. @Paul Ruszczyk You left out the Spanish, Dutch, Portugese and especially the British colonial empires. All of those are very small countries today and their colonies are in many cases still struggling from the theft of their resources. Our turn to go down?

  11. @Philip Getson perhaps if you read below the headline

  12. I do not know if there is any parallel to Roman History, but the political moment, which it must be said is not unique to the US (see Brexit, the Yellow vests in France) ,is the result of the perceived failure of the political establishment and its resulting loss of legitimacy. A financial crisis on Wall Street resulted in enormous consequences for average people but the perpetrators were not punished in any real way. A disastrous war was waged (itself a sign of imperial oversight). There is a context for the rise of Trump. One senses that the establishment (seen in the Opinion Page of this News Paper) longs for a restoration. It will likely get it given the current Democratic field. Whether that restoration will last is doubtful.

  13. @Bill Dan Yes. It is the loss of commitment to a common national identity that connects us to late-Republic Rome. Specific parallels are less important. Self-interested factions used elected office, our used money to control elected office holders, to advance narrow self interests. In their hands the democratic state became an instrument of exploitation rather than a unifying force. That opened the door for anti-democratic, ambitious men who pretended that they would restore Rome to her former glory. They did nothing of the sort of course, but the door to oligarchy and tyranny swings only one way. The Republic was finished. And so may we be. Modern day Rome and Italy may offer us a preview of our future. After years of post WWII governmental paralysis and corruption, and politicians unable to form governments for months on end, exasperated Italians elected Berlusconi, a libertine autocrat. He flamed out in due course, but they have elected another strongman wannabe. "At least under Mussolini ", Italians are fond of wistfully saying, "the trains ran on time." We in the US are about there, too.

  14. In that critical period (aren't they all?), Roman society transformed away from the traditional "triple layer" of citizenship - first were the "Romans", the old established upper class living within Rome; the Italians, obviously those outside Rome but still within the boundaries of Italy, and the lowest class, servants and the poor. As the traditional lines to power that allowed even poor men (only) to ascend, usually through military service, disappeared (10 years in outlying posts, such as Africa or Spain, then return to Rome for political ascendancy); and the usual land grabs were used up (again, Spain and Africa + finally the "Arab" states to the east), Rome was forced to turn north. There they met a new type of foe, at the same time as collapse of traditional lines to power. And the citizenry itself changed, demanding more land ownership once they got a taste of it especially, and the 3rd class began its own ascendancy. Power grabs and loss of ethical behavior among the elite condemned them to failure. Perhaps the moral is: Chaos is inevitable, and not always bad; but only if there is an eventually rational outcome.

  15. I would suggest reading “The Storm Before The Storm” by Mike Duncan. Published last year, tells the story of the same period in a clear, concise fashion. Duncan is the author of the very popular “History of Rome” podcast.

  16. @Dan Byrne Thanks for the suggestion, I'l check it out.

  17. Trump is like Gaius Gracchus. Trump is very unlike Tiberius Gracchus. Tiberius was almost stoic in his speaking style, not moving, using just his words to move the crowd. Trump is much more like Tiberius brother, Gaius Gracchus. Flamboyant, his toga would fall off his shoulder while he strutted around, speaking outrageously, working his crowd to a frenzy. Both Gracchi brothers espoused the same stuff, both suffered the same ending, but their styles were very different. Trump is like Gaius Gracchus

  18. The inequality of wealth, and over-population of the planet will doom our species. We should outlaw all but the most necessary plastics, before it is too late.

  19. The people that created the Republic die and the energy of their ideas dies with them. With each successive generation the ideas and energy become further diluted and the original Republic has morphed into a completely different group of people and ideas. In essence the US no longer has the values and ideas of the Founding Fathers. It is natural societal evolution, completely unavoidable. Certain elements of the society game the system for their own self interest and the glue that holds the society together disintegrates. A Constitution does not guarantee that a civilization and form of government will endure if the leaders forget that they are statesman for all the citizens. People will lose their allegiance when they feel that the leaders are using their positions for personal enrichment.

  20. The facile comparison of Trump with Tiberius Gracchus is unhelpful. The Gracchi were thinking politicians who understood the system; they were less about overthrowing it than gaining access to offices and forms of political power to address real social problems. Some men who stand as icons of wealth, such as Lucullus and Crassus, were heirs to plebeian families. And some politicians most accused of rabble-rousing, such as Clodius Pulcher and Julius Caesar, were impeccably patrician in their lineage. Rome's political history is consumed from the beginning with how to balance the prerogatives of patricians with the rights of plebeians; the result was the republic. More thought-provoking would be to cast the Kennedys as the Gracchi. Or FDR as Augustus. Or just not resort to that kind of costume drama at all, since Trump could have risen to power only as one of the mad emperors who inherited his position. There are startling lessons to be drawn from the Roman Republic's transition to autocracy, but one of the most important is the amassing of disproportionate wealth by a few individuals and the competition among this oligarchy to be dominant. This oligarchy eventually shrank to the size of one man, the emperor, and the intricate checks and balances of patrician and plebeian power that enabled republicanism failed, even as a bureaucracy maintained its illusory mechanisms. Citizens of the empire had recourse to an admirable legal system but paradoxically possessed few rights.

  21. FDR as Augustus?! I think not. :/

  22. bravo.. from a man called Romano

  23. @C Wolfe By the time of the Gracchi, the plebeian/patrician distinction had lost all significance. The Roman Republic was an oligarchy in which power was shared among a small number of old families, some with patrician and some with plebeian origins. The Gracchi, who were very much a part of the oligarchy, sought to work within the system to bring reforms but were murdered by conservative senators seeking to maintain their own wealth and power. That unleashed the period of civil wars beginning with Marius and ending with Octavian (Augustus). Marius, who was not a member of the oligarchy, came to power as a military commander because members of the oligarchy were incompetent in that role when the Gauls invaded. A large part of the problem, as Roman dominion over the Mediterranean grew more and more extensive, was the incompetence of the old oligarchy to manage an empire (not yet the "Roman Empire" but a large area of dominion over many provinces). There were simply not enough of the oligarchs and they were enormously corrupt as well as incompetent. The aim of rising through the magistracies was, after reaching the consulship, to be assigned as proconsul to a province and then to have free rein to loot.

  24. A more apt comparison: Trump and Edward II. Surrounded by greedy yes men (and women) Gavestons and Despensers. Things ended badly for Gaveston, Despenser and Edward, as it will for Trump and his family. Damage to everything meanwhile continues.

  25. Is Trump a self-made Sociopath, sellling his own delusions, or a Fred-made Fraud, schooled from toddlerhood to scam and pillage in the name of “business experience”? We may never know. But a two-years long “experiment” - foisted upon the American public via Russian propaganda and Trump megalomania and paranoia - is now delivering a single conclusion: The US is on the road to demogoguery, complete with blinkered, adoring crowds who follow Trump’s every strut and preen and tweet. History can provide analogies. But even Common Semse now tells us we are on the verge of the proverbial cliff - with a crazed, sociopathic Pied Piper now telling his followers to “buy on the dip” created by his own failures in every aspect of governing. I am OLD. I wish I could summon up some wisdom here. But I suggest we try the last vestiges of our Constitutional protections - the 25th Amendment or Impeachment. Followed by a careful look at the cracks which have now been exposed in our Constitution. We need to affirm the importance of voting and counting every vote. We need to rethink the Senate - for it has become a regressive force, allowing an out of control minority to rule over the majority. We need to get money out of politics. We need to ensure that government means public service and allegiance to ethics, norms and laws. We can bear no more of a deluded crook in the White House.

  26. @TheraP Unless Mueller comes up with smoking gun, the republicans will never vote to convict Trump. Our only hope is for the majority to vote ALL republicans out of office in 2020.

  27. A change of of leader cannot come fast enough.

  28. As someone who has studied and taught Roman history on a college level I find the constant comparisons of Rome and America farcical. First of all, the Roman Republic enjoyed a system of public voting for leaders which was not copied by the Americans. The Roman system of democracy was, in essence a system wherein a person's vote counted in direct relationship to what he provided society. If you were one of a million urban poor who had no skills and were on the corn dole, your vote was not equal to an equestrian or businessman. Our framers left that part out of our constitution unless one were a slave or a woman. Secondly America , after almost 300 years is diminishing in power while Rome after 300 years was just getting started. Thirdly Gracchus and his brother were champions of the people trying to break up the stranglehold of the gigantic slave powered corporations that held most of the land. The Republic of Rome ended when Caesar refused the Dictatorship out of sheer boredom. And Augustus continued the "idea" of a Republic and turned Rome into a city of Marble. America ain't no Rome. America is a stumbling , capitalistic bully on it's way out.

  29. @Richard "America is a stumbling , capitalistic bully on it's way out." And this dude teaches history??? Sounds like pretty standard neo-Marxist academic ranting--with a slight spelling hiccup.

  30. The comparison of Trump to the Athenian demagogue Alcibiades is uncanny. Much closer than Watts labored comparisons to ancient Rome.

  31. "And like Gracchus, Trump believes that, because he is acting in the name of the dispossessed, he is perfectly justified in shredding the Republic’s traditions." This is giving Trump credit for a strategy. He's been shredding traditions for decades because he is a mess.

  32. He is also not on the side of the dispossessed, however he baldly he misrepresents himself.

  33. The circus and bread bought the roman citizens.

  34. "And like Gracchus, Trump believes that because he is acting in the name of the dispossessed, he is perfectly justified in shredding the Republic' traditions." Really. Donald J. Trump is an unprincipled, selfish bully who cares nothing about the dispossessed and, in fact, has worked his entire career at being one of the dispossessers. It's always dangerous to say a particular person in history would have done this or that in modern times, but I don't believe Tiberius Gracchus would have tried to take health insurance away from millions of people the way this "populous" president has attempted to do.

  35. Rural preachers alway say America's moral decline is leading it to fall just like Rome's moral decadence caused its downfall. If you're looking for easy explanations to anything, remember first that generals always fight the last war. And second, remember Napoleon, who once said, "God is on the side of the big battalions."

  36. Napoleon was not the first to say this. However, Voltaire allegedly replied to this with: “God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.”

  37. Trump does not justify himself by thinking that he is shredding our traditions in order to help the dispossessed. The dispossessed are losers. The only people he has helped are the rich with tax cuts. He is too ignorant of our traditions to even be aware of the fact that he is shredding them. Trump has narcissistic personality disorder. This fact is all you need to know to explain his motivations. All he cares about is himself. He would not lift a finger to save a million people if he would not get credit for it. The bigger problem, which will exist long after Trump is a bad memory, and which is the same problem as Rome's, is the struggle between the rich and the rest of us. It is quite clear that most "conservatives" value power and their very narrowly defined self-interest over truth and democracy, and that a large portion of our population happily listens to their lies and votes contrary to their own self interest. The results of this struggle will not only determine the fate of our country but the fate of our planet.

  38. While comparisons of this type are seductive, trying to link the situation in the Rome in second century BCE with contemporary America is seriously misleading. The late Roman republic evolved complicated political structures which bears little resemblance to contemporary American political institutions notwithstanding the ambitions of the founding fathers. The roles of the various offices, including the Tribunes, the Consuls, the Aediles and so on have no contemporary equivalents. Rome was threatened on all sides by powerful enemies, from Pyrrhus to Hannibal, not by a mere caravan of central American refugees. Rome was a rising power, but it did not have the overwhelming military dominance of the USA today. And there was no Twitter There are lessons to be draws from the Roman republic as there are from all of history. Lessons about power, about greed, about leadership, about human stupidity and so on. But trying to draw analogies between two such very different worlds risks misunderstanding the perils that we do face and how to deal with them.

  39. Maybe it all started w/everyone having to have their own phone, sets everyone apart from one another, community lost as we become self-absorbed w/me...

  40. The almost continuous narrative of a thousand years of Roman history provides countless lessons, and reveals how little human nature has changed. But just as populist demagogues rely on the people accepting simple answers to complicated questions, this review seems to rely on simple explanations for complex historical issues. The Roman Republic was seldom unified except in times of war, and sometimes not even then. The struggle between patricians and plebeians (the common folk) dominated the first two centuries of the Republic, but was largely over by 300 BC. Tiberius Gracchus, and his brother, Gaius, who met a similar fate for similar reasons, came from a distinguished family, but they were plebeians. And they didn't simply make outsized promises: the reforms they pushed for, and in some cases enacted, and for which they died, were necessary to curb the growing inequity of a system in which wealth, rather than patrician birth, had become the dominant factor in politics. It's easy to cast the Gracchi as "populists" when that term is weighted with the baggage of the 20th century, and now Donald Trump. But the struggle between the populares and the aristocrats wasn't about false promises made in a bid for power. It concerned the Republic's failure to address mortal weaknesses in Roman society. The Republic's gradual transformation into Empire followed a series of civil wars that ended the gridlock—by placing the machinery of government in the hands of an emperor.

  41. Because he serves the people who elected him so poorly, it is hard to see that Trump is but the “canary in the coal mine” of the Republican Party and it’s maintenance of out maldistribution of wealth.

  42. Understanding what happened in Rome, we must stop blaming President Trump for his disastrous presidency and realize that "the serious problem is when we the citizens choose not to punish politicians for breaching the republic's political norms ".

  43. The Patrician class has long been a signature of American politics for a long time and working to abuse the populace with its monetary interests, think of the rich bankers, merchants, industrialists, and railroad owners of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that defined US politics well into the 1950's, while today it is Facebook and Google. The Pyrrhic victories have also been manyfold, such as Vietnam, the Korean conflict, the intervention in Iran and installation of the Shah, while more recently Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind. None of these were needed, gained the US any significant strategic advantage, and did nothing else but destroy any remaining confidence in the nation building aspect of US foreign politics post WWII. It seems to me that we are much farther down the road and have crossed the Rubicon already.

  44. At least 30% of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire were enslaved, and there was always vast wealth inequality even among the inhabitants who were fortunate enough to be called citizens. The Roman Empire was also an empire where much of the wealth was derived from the conquest and brutal exploitation of other countries. In addition the Roman Empire was always a civilization ruled by elites exclusively for the benefit of the elites. At times the makeup of theses elites changed, but the principle essentially remained the same. I think that attempting to learn modern “lessons” on how to govern or not govern from such a culture is ultimately pointless because the differences between Rome and our modern world are simply far too vast.

  45. @Hubert Nash I would argue that the parallels are far greater than you perceive. The Founding Fathers were the Elites of their day. With but a few exceptions, Presidents have been drawn from the Patrician class. And while legalized slavery has been outlawed, de facto economic, political and educational servitude has been an enduring part of our culture. So, while the terms may have changes since the days of the Roman Republic, the conditions of the American Republic are very much similar.

  46. @Todd Warnke Hubert is much closer to the truth then the silly logic trying, trying, trying, to make Trump the villain. Our demise can be more closely understood by observing attacks on free speech, identity politics (tribalism), and the Left wing elitist insistence that they can grow government endlessly to better manage individuals.

  47. Another description of the cycles of human history that are about 4 generations long. Go back 4 generations. We are consistently in an existential situation - all the way back to the War of the Roses in the early Anglo world.

  48. "At times, this endless onslaught of calamities ... starts to numb the mind." Perhaps true! But history is not designed to appeal or make sense to us out of the blue. It is the work of historians to try to make sense of all the patterns. And this is, of course, kind of where we are at these days. The jack hammer of our times, the constant daily repition of the same absurdities, over and over and over... It is not history to blame if that is how it works. The fault lies in how well we craft an ability to reckon with such unpleasant and unpleasant and numbing rhythms, that is calling for more arms. So once more, into the breach. And once more. And once more. And once more. Let's figure out how to best narrate such dismal rains. Nut just not they are, yes, dismal.

  49. The electorate rebuke of the Republicans in the last election is a step in the right direction. But it is just a step. The most impressive development so far has been that of Mattis resigning and trusting that the electorate or the Judiciary will take care of both Trump and the GOP madness. In most other countries, as did happen in Rome, a military men with that much clout would have pushed the president out. There is hope. It is a difficult road, but there is hope.

  50. I think that Trump is an accident of life, but what you address in your book started a long time ago. Since we lost our values, marked the begining of the changes in the nation. Is like an organization that created a culture, and suddenly do something else. Cases like Emron and Wells Fargo where they express a culture and then act in a very different way. Public lost trust and, chaos start.

  51. The book sounds more like a political screed. Populism did not damage the Republic. Remember the population was 30% slaves, an untenable situation combined with an elite draining funds from the public coffers. Perhaps more populism would have created a more equitable Society and the Republic would have survived. Moreover the world eventually benefited from the fall of Rome as smaller societies depended on individuals to develop new ways of subsistence with the pool of slaves now dispersed. I suggest reading Rodney Stark who can enlighten us on why the Dark Ages were not dark.

  52. If this review accurately represents the claims of the book, it is marred by multiple misapprehensions about the institutional structure and history of the Roman Republic. "Patricians" were not "the rich;" they were members of a small group of families that inherited the denomination. By the mid-Republic their privileges were few. The speeches quoted at the start were invented by Livy, writing under Augustus; they cannot be taken seriously as the actual words of historical actors. The "proletarianization" of the army has been challenged in a brilliant book by Francois Cadiou. A basic driver of the Republic was constant imperial expansion linked to competition among aristocrats for power and prestige that could only be achieved by military victory and the delivery of the spoils of war into the hands of the soldiery. In other words, the differences between the Republic as a political and social structure and the present-day United States are vast. Efforts to read our future based on the events of the Late Republic are not likely to be of much help in actually facing the causes if our own troubles -- Trump is no Tiberius Gracchus, that's for sure -- which follow from historical and institutional factors far different from those that drove the collapse of the Roman Republic.

  53. It seems to me that the really bad news is that, like the Romans, privileged people throughout the ages manage to forget that a primary objective should always be to eliminate poverty. Populists rise up to speak for the exploited and, instead of addressing the exploitation, the privileged keep fiddling around with how to secure their own wealth and position. Identity politics is one such distraction from the actual conditions of poverty that affect all races and instead put our attention to how nicely we speak of each other, a lovely genteel notion but at the heart of the matter are the deeply disenfranchised and those who see themselves next in line for disenfranchisment, whether you look to the US or to, say, the Yellow Vests in France.

  54. I grinned to find this review, as I'm currently reading the Histories of Tacitus and savoring the parallels between Trump and the emperor Vitellius -- "Powerless to order or to forbid, he was no longer emperor but only a cause of war." And there's the mordant resemblance between the Twitter mobs of today and the imperial Roman populace "finding pleasure in public misfortune" as described in Book III:83. But Rome had no Twitter or internet; modern armies are in no way as mutinous and rapacious as Roman legions; it takes more than a toga and poignard to assassinate a world leader; even Putin cannot make a traitor the richest man in the world. Watts preaches the same political regrets as Sallust and Tacitus -- but it's only chiaroscuro over the actual issues of our time. A truism from social psychology is that behavior corresponds to social situation: even talkative people are taciturn in the pews. There is no parallel for our era because there is no parallel for our infrastructure, our horizontally fragmented social groups, our reliance on mass media rather than mass witness, our capitalist incorporation of economic functions. Behavior today corresponds to nothing seen in history. It's the values of our technological democracy, not those of the slave based oligarchy of Rome, that cannot be defended until the populace, "finding pleasure in Twitter carping," learns what is truly at stake.

  55. even smart people are unhinged and absurd when it comes to trump. mind boggling. guess what. as opposed to rome we have a CONSTITUTION 250 years old that survived jim crow, japanese interment camps, and a civil war. THATS WHY our system wont crumble, like that of rome. think about it-how could our system crumble into fascism or a failed state? how? if the POTUS violates the law, the congress and SCOTUS smacks him down. our army would not follow the POTUS to impose martial law. the only possible scenario for our system to fail is if all three branches of govt collude. as we speak, the SCOTUS has pushed back against trump plenty of times. trump cant pass a single bill w/o congress, no mater how much he barks. no need to buy this book, if youre worried we will fall like rome. i just explained it all.

  56. So if Trump is Graccius, who will be the Democratic Sulla?

  57. Hmmm. Nothing about "imperial overstretch" - fighting far-off treasury hemorrhaging wars and maintaining Roman influence abroad -as a cause for Rome's decline? If you're looking for reasons why Rome fell that was a big one and over the past say 45 years - the US has been even more aggressive, careless and just plain sloppy in the use of its military power. Like some aging addled King Lear stumbling across the globe. The US foreign policy establishment since WWII has never seen a foreign military adventure it did not embrace and the US military has been the cat's paw enforcing US corporatism around the world. "Open your economies to our benevolent investment under our rules or face an invasion or a US-engineered coupe." That has been the playbook for over 70 years. Those 800 military bases stretched across the planet don't pay for themselves.

  58. When the transition from Republic to Empire consolidated, there was a concomitant shift in the narratives and iconography of Rome as well. Paul Zanker wrote extensively about this, and he observed that demonizing the Dionysian was the key. This led to the ascent of Apollonian classicism and Imperialism. For "culture workers" (the insipid new term for artists of all stripes) the proliferation of form, content and authorship in the American arts points in the opposite direction. I do not see this trend diminishing, but rather a gathering storm of free expression seems ready to man the barricades. Let's remember that in order to consolidate power, imperialism, fascism, or a Khmer Rouge-esque reaction must tamp down the carnivalesque, free wheelin' and proliferate Bob Dylans and Kate Bushs out there strumming up the masses. The specter of Joe Hill appears in a song after all. I don't think any coming Augustus can stuff Spotify, Instagram, Twitter and iPhone culture back in the bag. That's why China is throttling the internet now. It's too late for that in the western world. Sure we will see monitoring, surveillance, etc. But the songs will be sung, the graffiti will be sprayed, the streets will come alive. Seriously a verse needs to be added: "I dreamed I saw Steve Jobs last night, alive as you and me..." Say what you will the iPhone republic has every potential storm trouper in fear of their own body cam. That is a huge!

  59. This book makes an appealing sanitized argument mapping our republic to the Ancient Rome. The glaring fact is without Obama there would never be a Trump, ever. Our current age Is very much like a new post Civil War/Reformation period than Ancient Rome. The racist bile that has been churned up yet again, every facile argument to gloss over it will be our undoing. You don’t need to look to Ancient Rome, just look at American history.

  60. For years now the GOP Congress has been anything but a Congress; just a supine vassal of a few rich Oligarchs: the Mercers, the Kochs, the Uihleins, the Wilks, the Adelsons, the Spencers. These billionaires dictate reality to some 85% of Republicans who are glued to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, various rabid web sites, extreme evangelists, Trump tweets, and manipulated by Facebook, Instagram, YouTube videos etc. Any other source of information is “fake news”. Wherever we are in a parallel with Roman history, it is far closer to the end game than the demise of a republic. More akin to Goebble’s propaganda machine and the rise of Fascism facilitated by a few blind billionaires.

  61. @John Brews ..✅✅ The end of the Roman Republic was dominated by the richest oligarchs, who could pay armies to capture even more loot, including political power.

  62. Fascinating discussion. I'd be immodest enough to recognize some of my own seemingly obvious observations, as I and others notice certain people and circumstances in our day and age. I've thought that other than being crazy, the hijacking and deployment of our troops seems not to protect "freedom" but to protect the wealthy, including the weapons manufacturers in particular. It renders the military an unfortunate role of glorified bodyguard for those people, hence the impact of accompanying dissonance shown in suicides and other psychological wounding. (For example, if the primary reason for the Iraq invasion was to find WMDs, then why was it called "Iraqi Freedom"?) As discussed in this book review, this situation is another terrible byproduct of wealth disparity from intentional distribution (up!) and disregard for any sense of reasonable sharing for the "common good." I'd only take issue with the opinion that Trump would ever think to justify his behavior because he believes "he is acting in the name of the dispossessed." He has no such insight capacity; moreover, he has lied about acting in such a way (as he typically, habitually lies), as he has always and only acted in the name of Donald Trump. But I agree with the takeaway in the review, as it practically begs for duly elected leaders with integrity to give us back our democratic-republican-based country during and after Trump. Doing so will supremely ironically, but truly make America great again.

  63. The immediate dangers of TV and radio talk show goons and know-nothings is a bigger threat to the civic life of our nation and its security than anything revealed by this over-drawn attempt at historical analogy. The too-much-admired, so-called Roman Republic was a slave-ocracy based on conquest and cooptation. Too much attention is paid here to specific political events that took place in the City of Rome and not enough to the role of plague, famine, natural disasters, mass migration, and climate change throughout the Mediterranean Basin and on the Central Steppes of Eurasia. Does this sound familiar?

  64. The founding fathers did *not* explicitly model the United States on the Roman Republic. The United States is an exact, if fuzzy, carbon copy of England / United Kingdom. Prime Minister/King = President; House of Lords and Commons = Senate and House of representatives; courts = courts although distinct separation of powers and checks and balances were specified but are currently "INOPERATIVE" to use the Nixon / Ziegler term. Moreover, individual rights were specified although they didn't apply to the states until the 14th Amendment was approved following the Civil War. It also has touches of the democracy of the Iroquois Federation visited by Benjamin Franklin Note should be taken that *all* government in Europe were, indeed, modeled after the Roman Empire -- including the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne and all the Kings and Queens -- because that was the only model available despite the fact that it collapsed. RE: "Since the founding fathers explicitly modeled the United States on the Roman Republic"

  65. What hubris...comparing the US to Rome. The latter was around for so much longer before it fell, mainly upon its own sword. The main valid comparison seems to be the utter madness of some of its very ignorant populist leaders. A study in how really vain and stupid people gain traction, then followers and finally run countries and institutions into the ground would be more germane. They do this while those same followers cheer their idiotic leader as they take everyone else down with them. The followership is also worth scrutiny, for, without them, their mad leaders would never get anywhere with their insane activities.

  66. One key contributor to the fall of Rome was the lack of laws clearly designating civilian control of the military ... and barring the military and generals from holding political power. A key contributor to America's fall will be the lack of laws barring "money" from buying political power.

  67. As Nero fiddled so will Trump tweet.

  68. the usa constantly bleats about its 'exceptionalism'; for example, a senator saying during trump's reign of error that only in America are you innocent until proven guilty. or only in America is it possible to rise from humble beginnings to become leader of an entire nation (despite an OECD study saying it was near the bottom)… the united states feels it has nothing to learn from other countries--especially those awful 'socialist' losers like sweden, canada, australia, france with their longer life expectancies, lower infant mortality rates, more holidays and national health care systems. and, finally, the romans' problems were more than 20 years ago. nothing can be learned from their example.

  69. @brupic ... yeah, the people of France have quite recently demonstrated their happiness with their politico/socio/economic system.

  70. @BD obviously true. however, france has a long history of hitting the streets in protest. I stick to the points I made in my comment.

  71. This reminds me of Mike Duncan’s 2016 book, “The Storm Before The Storm.”

  72. The author should have gone back, not to the authoritarian that was Rome, but to the West's first democracy in ancient Athens, to find the same kinds of pernicious patters that are repeating themselves today -- e.g. a military stretched thin, a once-participatory civic public relegated to spectator status by the 'experts,' the death penalty conviction of Socrates for daring to challenge the corrupt political leaders, a deeply polarized citizenry.

  73. @Christopher P ... yes, the Peloponnesian War, one of the original " forever wars ". Trump wants to get out, not in.

  74. In one respect, modern America reminds me of Nazi Germany in that the people stuck with their obviously unhinged leader to the bitter end, & then some. Trump has a good chance of being reelected simply because patriotism must never be questioned.

  75. Not quite clear on this Gracchus "violated" norms by pushing through a land reform despite opposition by the aristocrats in the Senate. Then they killed him and his followers but this wasn't a norm violation?

  76. As the Trump family, part of the privileged class, has to answer for criminal behavior, we will see if survival is only for the few or the many. The Times has already documented decades of Trump family lawbreaking. So far....only minor consequences.

  77. I agree that after Trump we'll still have chaos -- you can't break that many norms without imitators trying the same power grabs. Mitch McConnell, a conservative Supreme Court that allowed Citizens United (adding to income disparities), a spineless Republican congress, the moral failing of America's leaders, the relentless pursuit by businesses of every last cent of profit at the expense of both consumer and workers all play a part in our breakdown.

  78. @Andy You have a good start on the reasons for our breakdown. But I would also add: We have a lot of voters who are fans of the Mitch McConnells etc. Partly, that is due to the short-term brilliance of people like Robert Mercer and Vladimir Putin. But that, together with the reasons you listed, is still not enough of an explanation. During the 1930's in the US and Europe, too much public opinion went for fascist lies or Stalinist lies. In the 1950's, there were people who rightly saw those as disasters. They realized that to make a public that is less vulnerable to simple lies, the public has to develop patterns of critical thought and generosity. Why did these ideas -- serious critical thought and generosity, widely practiced -- get so weakened? And how can we develop a public that does more of them?

  79. @Carl Anderson The fans of Mitch et al have had their masks ripped away. Fiscal restraint? No longer. National security? Not with Putin’s claws in the WH. Law and Order? Not after denigrating the FBI, CIA and every other intelligence branch. Friends of the military? Not after allowing them to be used as an Election Day prop. What’s left? I’m sad to say I’ve decided it’s simple racism. It runs deeper than I ever imagined it did.

  80. Interesting view of Roman internal politics. But isn't it genrally thought that Rome's internal problems were a result of it's international over expansion? it's tempting to blame Trump, but like Rome, it may be that our overspending on the military and commitment to global control are also at the heart of our current impasse...

  81. Gibbon of "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire " fame blamed Christianity as the ingredient that prevented Rome from self correcting it's decline. A recent book by Catherine Nixey, " The Darkening Age" gives chapter and verse to the magical thinking of the Bible AND its imposition on the polity that shifted problem solving from realty to heavenly intervention. A long tradition of secular wisdom was debased and vigilantine strategy used to enforce the shrunken wisdom of original sin, an afterlife that justified killing "pagans" so as to save them etc. Chaos, intolerance, and injustice, Biblically fueled, demonstrated the weakness of the state and it's paucity of the "Roman Ideal" to correct secular problems. God was needed but he waits till your dead !

  82. Evangelicals seem to be more susceptible to climate denialism.

  83. Despite all the differences between the US and the Roman Republic, there are some parallels that are very cautionary. One is that the Republic endured for so long because it had been energetic and vital enough to solve the various challenges that it faced, until it reached a point that it couldn’t. To reduce the likelihood of one individual gaining too much power, their institutions had built in many checks and balances. These ultimately stood in the way of any genuine reform as wealth grew dramatically unequal. The second strong lesson is that the institutions of the Republic that it’s ardent adherents we’re so proud of after 500 to 600 centuries of endurance proved subvertable under the blows of a string of essentially coups and civil wars. Their Senate ended up quickly cowed into a rubber stamp body, for example, although it did take them a couple generations for it to become totally servile.

  84. @Bill Simmons 5-6 centuries, not 500-600

  85. @Bill Simmons This doesn't absolve tthe generation but lost the republic of responsibility. Sure as time goes by people forget how it is was that prior generations build the country that they have. But you don't have to let norms falter or fail.

  86. A slander on Tiberius Gracchus this is--as well as a mis-reading of how close the danger may be. If we're going to cast Trump in the saga of the Roman Republic, I'd prefer Publius Clodius Pulcher.

  87. @Michael Yes, that's closer. One can be tempted to think that Mounck writes from a patrician perspective ... Trump is a very false Tribune of the Plebs, rather like Publius Clodius Pulcher.

  88. @Michael Because Publius Clodius Pulcher was assassinated?

  89. @John No.

  90. "The transformation of Rome’s army compounded the challenge of growing inequality. In the early days of the republic, soldiers thought of their participation in military service as a civic duty. Commanders hoped to win great honors and perhaps to attain higher office. But by the late second century B.C., the army had essentially been privatized. Commanders knew that the plunder of new lands could garner them vast riches. With soldiers increasingly loyal to their commanders, and commanders doing whatever it took to maximize the prospect of private profit, the Senate was no longer in charge." Then the catholic church took advantage of the chaos and it became The Roman Catholic empire. Sound familiar? The Con Don and his Robber Baron brethren have been allowed to privatize much of OUR military complex and Betsy DeVos' brother is trying to sell "private armies". Republicans in charge of OUR government are only asking how much they can get to let it happen. And the catholic church stands ready to take over if the chaos continues. ONE thing has changed that will prevent OUR United States of America from further deteriorating. WE THE PEOPLE have found our collective power and Socially Conscious Women are stepping up to take one-half the power to change the destructive male power-over, dominator, hate-anger-fear-LiesLiesLies-death destruction-WAR-rape-pillage-plunder model to one of relative peace and prosperity for ALL Americans. There will be no "fall" of OUR America.

  91. As a retired Air Force colonel with a daughter who is a retired colonel married to retired colonel, and a son who served 27 months in Iraq as a junior Army Officer, I can offer a solid truth. American Service men and women utterly despise mercenaries such as those in the employment of Blackwater. The mercenaries feel they are a law unto themselves and commit atrocities for which the real service people suffer from the enraged citizenry.

  92. Well then why has the USA military allowed the subversive growth of the mercenary elements of our department of war? I like your thesis statement, but what is the roadmap away from Eric and friends capture of what should be public?

  93. As others have noted, this article is based on other writings that tell a biased story that is one of many possible truths of the way the Republic of Rome operated and it's sparsely known history. It is a fiction based on a point of view that is based on very little actual history. What it boils down to is that "Although in theory the people were sovereign and the Senate only offered advice, in actual practice the Senate wielded enormous power because of the collective prestige of its members." This is what is going wrong today in the U.S. as well. Before making any decisions based on this sort of extremely biased writing, we should at least obtain as much actual fact that is known, which in this case is very little. https://www.britannica.com/place/Roman-Republic

  94. @Robin Boyd With respect, I really don’t understand your comment at all. Mounk is writing a book review, not an “article.” It is a review of a book that is making an argument drawing a parallel between contemporary America and the ancient Roman Republic. Mounk explains the book’s POV and main theme and notes that he thinks it partially well-arguedand partially not as well. And you response is to imply that there is something wrong about an author making an argument or a review expressing an opinion about the authors argument? That this constitutes “bias?” That this “bias” is something “others have noted” (as if it was somehow concealed). If you find people explicitly expressing opinions about books explicitly making arguments, why do you read book reviews at all?

  95. The Roman Cathlolic Church's first extremely violent men from Rome stole Jesus's message of peace and were able to force upon the peoples of what is now Europe, the false idea that the pope was the ''anointed, or Christos'' or God's prophet on hearth; the very ''false prophet'' John denounces in Revelations. Through deception, superstitions, or/and violence, the Roman Catholic sect was able from its beginings to spread its lies all over the world as they claimed to be ''eternal'' and that if you didn't follow them, your soul would be lost for eternity. As we can witness today with the millions of cases of sexual abuse of children around the world by Roman catholic priests, from Rome came the most corrupted and perverse institution that millions in today's world believe, revere, finance and follow in their steps. Through lies superstitions and deception, Roman Catholic Priests were able to endure until today.

  96. Gosh! How revelatory. One of the reasons, though, teaching of history, ours, Rome’s, or Mayan, has faded from our schools and our minds is that we now have a bit of understanding that humans really never learn or improve. So, we don’t expect to benefit from hindsight. Tyrants, wars, greed and yes, attempts at government are perpetual. The American experiment isn’t either a breakthrough in human affairs or a fuzzy copy of some other empire. It’s just another sudden ascent based on exploitation of a virgin continent with vast resources. We really don’t expect it to have permanence, which is why tens of millions of citizens root for its overthrow by some imagined anarchy. Our thinking and unthinking public see overpopulation and climate change as inevitable; preservation of the republic isn’t even a nice fantasy. So get out there, kids, and buy a new, fat, SUV: the good days are numbered.

  97. Julius Caesar's appointment as dictator for life had to be the ultimate abuse of power for a Republic. When did abuse of power become a standard operating procedure for Republicans? From Mr. McConnell's refusal to give President Obama's SCOTUS nominee even a hearing, with nearly a year left in the presidential term, on down through the various state connivances. E.g., the recent move by Wisconsin lame duck Republicans to limit the power of the incoming Democratic administration. And of course Mr. Trumps' "I'm the only one who matters" attitude. Party above country, party above voters' choices, party above all. (And Mr. McConnell's fast track treatment of Mr. Kavanaugh's SCOTUS nomination by Mr. Trump confirms the hypocrisy/abuse). I'm an Independent voter who now is anti-Republican.

  98. Trump as Tiberius Gracchus? Utterly inappropriate parallel. Let me tell a story: it's November 23, 1963. New Zealand. After a day of riding, I put my horse in the paddock and go inside. My brother hands me the evening newspaper. I, not quite sixteen, read the huge headline, "Kennedy Assassinated". I turn to my brother and exclaim, "It's like the Gracchi!" Of course, history does not repeat itself, but here, as a fifteen year old, I knew that by unleashing the cause of civil rights (or so it seemed from far away), the Kennedys had stirred a hornets' nest. Of course, it all seems irrelevant now and a bit spooky, and the politics of Rome were much more class-based and vastly bloodier than today's, but I suggest that my teenage analogy of JFK as Tiberius Gracchus is far more apt than Yascha Mounk's of Trump. They were even war heroes.

  99. Donald Trump is not the problem - but a symptom. We have embraced greed - "Greed is Good". We have certainly embraced might - "Might makes Right". Now we are embracing lying - "Lying is Legal. Indeed, "Lying is Legal" is probably the hallmark of our times. We receive incessant lies, 24/7, from the ubiquitous boob tubes. It's all okay. We have accepted it. But, remember, once upon a time in America, acting was considered to be immoral.

  100. Forget juvenile efforts like this one. They misunderstand and misinform. Read Syme instead, beginning with The Roman Revolution. The Roman Republic lasted for 500 years before being superseded by a long series of emperors, lasting for another 1,500 years. Our country, at age 240, is a baby by comparison. Are our institutions under attack and being undermined? Yes, by some. Is general obedience by our people to our founding principles in doubt? Only in the minds of our new Marxists. And none of this is for the same reasons that enabled and animated the death of the Roman Republic. To suggest otherwise is ignorant.

  101. Mommsen’s Römisches Staatsrecht would be even more productive than Syme, though more difficult to read. It strikes me that the comments entered here by persons who obviously have a classical education seldom receive many recommendations. Hmmm.... Governments fail when the societies in which they arose change beyond their ability to manage. Or governments change. Rome went from a city run by old families to a regional state to an international power. The Republic failed. The US changed from Mr. Jefferson’s (ideal of a) rural country populated by yeoman farmers and slaveholders to an industrial state, leading to a civil war and constitutional amendments. We have now changed into a post-Industrial society in which it is no longer possible to conceal inequities. Both Roman and American history suggest to me the inevitability of changes that force adaptation or collapse. Not a really new idea. Beyond that, comparisons seem a bit of a stretch.

  102. We know exceptionally little about ancient Rome. A few histories, written many years after the events described, survive and those have no citations. Doubtless, there were now lost "Q" documents on which these histories were based, though what we know about Rome is based on historical fiction rather than true "history" as we know it today. (Oh, if we could only go back to the Library of Alexandria before Christian mobs of know-nothings burned it!) We know more about the daily life of Rome from the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum than we do from the written record. To make any comparisons between ancient Rome and any modern nation is idle speculation.

  103. The United States is not only disintegrating because of its corrupt capitalism and its political dysfunction but also because it abandoned its ideal in foreign policy decades ago and thus will waste its resources, as did the Roman empire, fighting endless enemies of its own makings; and not only because it is, fundamentally, an extension of European imperialist impulses and was founded on the labor of slaves and indentured servants, no matter all those noble sentiments that obscure the ugly truth of the matter.

  104. As others have pointed out, the comparison between Trump and the Gracchi brothers is a slander on the latter. The fact that we cannot tell the difference between a narcissistic demagogue whose every deed makes the wealthy and powerful wealthier and more powerful, and genuine reformers who attempted to break the power of the fabulously wealthy slave-owning magnates and redistribute land and some power to the dispossessed—our confusion is in itself a symptom of our political disease. We should be so lucky as to have the Gracchi brothers!

  105. Likening Tiberius to a Trump is a mistake and not accurate. While they might both be populists who rose to power because of the populations disgust of the ruling class, what each of them did once they got into power are completely different. Tiberius broke an important taboo and begun the gradual give away of corn and land to the populations of poor in order to buy their happiness and support. As the population expanded, the quasi welfare state became unsustainable. Whereas the patricians were once the support system for the city and the poor, the all powerful state replaced them. There is no analogy to a Trump in this regard. Actually Bernie Sanders would be a better comparison.

  106. Greek philosophers explained Rome's success because it had the ideal "mixed constitution" - which wasn't true. Rome was an Italian political construct, a city dominated by a few families, who bumped each other off or compromised with balanced tickets of bosses and underbosses and consiglieri from rival factions (two consuls, two censors, a dictator plus master of the horse). Rome succeeded not because of its constitution but because the Romans, unlike the Etruscans, were brilliant administrators. Rome's legal system (the Twelve Tables) was fair and predictable, and its ruling class thoroughly trained to administer through the Cursus Honorum. To these advantages Rome added the powerful Etruscan iron industry. With better laws, better administrators, and better weapons, Rome conquered the Mediterranean. But once it conquered the Hellenistic monarchies, Rome could only administer them by transforming into a Hellenistic monarchy itself. This is what Augustus did - importing at the same time the Hellenistic palace intrigues. The backstabbing and betrayals that played out on a small scale in the house of Herod were seen by all, as all eyes turned towards Rome. That doesn't make Augustus's empire a tyranny. True, the old Senate families weren't happy - and they wrote the histories we read today. But the experience of Roman rule in, say, Antioch in Syria was quite different. There were good reasons why "civis Romanus sum" was such a desirable status in the ancient world.

  107. The end of the draft has allowed various US governments to wage 'war' in many places as all the military are private armies; even though no one wants to admit it, going on about patriotism and sacrifice to the nation, etc; while the top need little wars to get stars and government or private high paying jobs and the bottom need the relatively good money and benefits to stay out of Walmart or Amazon employment. There are more comparisons to make as your article did, but whether like the Roman Empire or not; we are in the decline of the American Empire.

  108. Here in the U.S. we are already living the tyranny of the few, making the current odious inequality even worse, and allowing segregation in education, health care, housing and jobs untenable. If we lack the will to re=establish a true democracy, the fall of Rome may be child's play, compared to this giant shooting at it's own foot. limping along...as long as we allow crooked despots 'a la Trump' to prosper....at our expense. Our republic's death may not be as violent as Gracchus', in slow motion instead, as a frog's in scalding water. The cost of complacency?

  109. America's fall is inevitable, but it will occur much sooner than 100 years from now. Within a couple of decades, while our population continues to rise exponentially, robots will take over the best paying jobs currently available to the working class. Climate change will also make large areas of the country uninhabitable, causing mass migrations of the poor. The rich, of course, will continue to circle their wagons and refuse to share the profits of robot and human worker productivity. What could go wrong?

  110. I believe you are correct. It is amazing to me that other people aren't reading the same handwriting...or maybe they are and they want to divide the much smaller future with fewer people and so are focusing on whiteness....?

  111. While there are definitely lessons to be learned from history, even ancient history, I don’t think we need to look back that far to see what is happening to the U.S. I think better and more easily relatable lessons can be learned by looking at some of the global corporations that have gone bankrupt, or would have gone bankrupt, had it not been for taxpayer bailouts. Companies that grow into international giants are often saddled with the task of keeping the business growing and profitable while their internal processes, their technical infrastructure and their products gradually become obsolete. All too often the problem becomes one of allocating resources to stay competitive. They simply don’t have the money to do both maintain their current profitability and invest in updating their infrastructure and product line. New companies, and emerging countries, don’t have the issues of maintaining aging products and outdated, but entrenched people and processes. That is where the U.S. is stuck and why China, India and much of the third world is poised to assume global power status while we, and much of the West, bankrupt ourselves just trying to keep up. Our reactionary leadership is exactly the wrong kind of leadership, (our current leader should obviously be behind bars), but unless we are ready to make the sacrifices needed to reinvent ourselves (maybe IBM is an example) then we are doomed to go the way of ancient Rome.

  112. I think a common theme, viewed throughout history, is "breaking the seal". Maybe you recognize this from Ancient Rome, from WWII, from the 1970s social experiments, the fall of the Berlin Wall, or from last Saturday night. The idea behind it is that artificial barriers are just that: artificial. All it takes is one person or event to make others (or our muscles) realize that the barrier isn't truly there for it to completely collapse. How long ago was it a cultural norm that women didn't wear pants? A three generations and a half? Maybe four generations? How long ago was it that women didn't wear denim to school at all - a generation? Maybe a generation and a half, maybe two? That's not long at all. Now we have children that wouldn't think twice about wearing denim to almost any event, children that don't think twice about what their clothes are made of, only who makes their clothes. The seal is so far gone it may have never existed. Look at the idea of the bystander effect, that an entire crowd of people will stand by and watch an event take place without intervening because no one else is intervening. Yet, when one person intervenes, everyone suddenly feels "free" to act. So look at the use of power. It's only an artificial barrier that keeps it in check. Now that the barrier is broken, others will break it further. Others will break it more. Unless that barrier is rebuilt, it will soon cease to exist, as if it never was. This has been proven by science and history.

  113. That " breaking the seal" marks is an interesting concept. We broke the seal when we installed a minority President George W. Bush. 16 years later we installed another minority President Donald Trump.

  114. @C This is an excellent summery of the situation. What is frustrating and terrifying is that so much of the intellectual brainpower in Western society seems to be deployed in decrying, demonstrating, and explaining this and so little wisdom is offered on precisely how a barrier is rebuilt after being broken. That is what we need to know.

  115. I couldn’t agree more. Our our way of running things in the United States is sustained by spoken and unspoken adherence to norms, customs and conventions. Once an unhinged individual fueled by belligerent supporters pulls back the veil on the fragility of our system it doesn’t take long for things to fall apart. Recall republicans’ refusal to allow Obama to appoint a Supreme Court justice to replace Scalia. It’s in the president’s authority to do so until we decide to just stop following the rules because someone realized they really don’t matter in the absence of a shared sense of commitment to laws and practices. I am not talking about the right to dissent and protest, I’m talking about broad rejection of democratic ideals and values within the ruling class.

  116. The author probably also mentions the role of money, lots of it. Money to bribe plebs and equites for votes, to pay armies, and bribe juries to look the other way while provinces were being laid waste by Roman Governors, tax farmers and speculators. Cicero, in a letter written while he was governor of Cilicia mentions allowing speculators to charge provincials 48% on loans. Forty-eight percent! The money sloshing around in Late Republic politics had the same distorting and corrosive impact on Roman politics as it does on Late American politics.

  117. Every successful enterprise eventually sows the seeds of its own destruction, and with Trump at the helm the United States is doing exactly that. Just as Rome's empire eventually broke apart, the United States as currently constituted will not exist by the year 2100. Instead it will consist of three, maybe four, maybe even five separate nations with each defined by its own political and cultural proclivities. For example, why should the people of the blue northeastern and Pacific coast states have to come to heel under the strictures of evangelicals in the southern and midwestern states who have managed to gain political control by gerrymandering, voter suppression and denial of civil rights and equal opportunity? Trump has picked the scab off of deep-seated divisions in the US, and the country will not be the better for it.

  118. The differences between most people in this country do not exist other than between the extremist both left and right. The media is generally just a propaganda machine that magnifies these conflicts for their own gain. There is no objective journalistic standard, no voice that can be trusted to be factual rather than just mouthing nonsense, repeating the same idiot phrases reducing complex negotiations to "making a deal" or referring to obstinate intransigence as "doubling down". Media is tainted by those who are self serving and more concerned with gaining prominence to land fat contracts and the notoriety that comes with it. And so it goes, the highlighting of extreme points of view and the nurturing of perceived conflicts. However, most of us just want to go about our own business. We want a fair wage for our work. We want a decent roof over our heads, food on our tables, education for our children and opportunity for a better life. We want to be safe not afraid we're going to be gunned down in the street. We want to see our tax dollars used for us,not roads and bridges that are falling apart. We don't want science and common sense to take a backseat to idiocy and greed. We are tired of corruption at the expense of working people. We want to be able to get good medical care without going bankrupt. We are fed up with losing our homes, our farms, our businesses to banks we've bailed out. We need a government that serves its people who have much more in common than not.

  119. It's possible that we can gain some insights from studying Rome's growth and decline, but positing the Gracchi and Donald Trump as functional equivalents isn't one of them. Moreover, it's a sign - I'd say a Red Flag - that both the book's author and its reviewer have an ahistorical approach to historical analysis. Both ancient Rome and the modern United States are nominally republics, but beyond that nominal similarity they have little in common. Both the author of the book as well as the reviewer make the mistake of vastly overstating the similarities between ancient Rome and the contemporary US and vastly understating the differences. They attempt to project the social, political, and economic dynamics and contradictions of an ancient aristocratic slave-based society onto the framework of an advanced capitalist society in order to create an implausible analogy to buttress what is essentially a political polemic. Just as Gibbons had Christianity as the hobgoblin that undermined Roman virtue, and implied by analogy that it also undermines the British Empire, so Mortal Republic and Mr. Mounk have populism and the violation of political "norms" as the gravediggers of Roman virtue, and by their very unlikely analogy as the gravediggers of American republican virtue. Unfortunately, this kind of superficial monism is more likely to undermine any attempt to do serious historical and political analysis.

  120. Human beings have been around for thousands of years. Ancient Rome was not that long ago really. We share more in common with them - I would bet - than not. Nothing will occur exactly as it has in the past, to be sure, but I don’t think humans have changed so much since Ancient Rome and your response to casually dismiss any comparison is hardly convincing.

  121. The U.S. Military has become exponentially more and more privatized since the end of the Cold War, a eerie echo of the Roman Army's fate. Mercenaries (although we dare not name them as such) and other non-security private contractors have been instrumental components in the majority of our recent US military operations. This is not a course I see being corrected anytime soon. There are hundreds of billions of dollars in profits ready to be made by bloodsucking private security firms who operate with little oversight and accountability from our capitulating government. This trend of increasing military privatization should terrify all of us, but it every year the problem grows more and more. Eisenhower warned about us about the power and influence of an encroaching military industrial complex. Clearly, we did not listen.

  122. Oh for goodness sake, just read The Cícero Trilogy by British historical writer Robert Harris and save yourself this tome. Brilliant novels about the ultimate corruption of the Roman republic and its politics, devastatingly parallel to our era, All international bestsellers. They will scare you silly. And rightfully so.

  123. It is not just what was happening at the center of Rome..it was ripping up of all those roman roads and destroying the connections to the outside-in the same way that Trump is trying to isolate the US. The renaissance was about the spread of information after several hundred years of isolation. The white nationalist movement fails to appreciate that it was exactly the meeting and mixing of diverse cultures that made western civilization what it became. Focusing on isolation and whitification is the short path to steep decline.

  124. The essential problem is not Trump per se, it has been the enactment of semi secret laws and non-disclosure agreements, before Trump, to immobilize government employees from blowing the whistle on devious and immoral acts. So-called men and women of honor preside over such workers with an iron, career-destroying, fist, if anyone of those employees should get out of line and desire to uncover evil actions caused in the name of national security. That which was inalienable, our rights, has now become a closed circuit of non rights within the government. Just how should a government like that hold up a torch of freedom if it severely controls the very freedom of it’s people? The answer: It’s not possible. Everyone could understand keeping a true blunder secret, because mistakes do happen, but blatant indiscriminate murder pushed aside as if it was nothing can not be tolerated if we are to get even close to a thousand years under one flag. Not only have we ignored the lessons of history, we’re accelerating the eventual highly negative outcome. We need to put the free back in freedom! Before it’s too late.

  125. In periods when the uneducated herd rule, when concepts like "honor" are deemed elitist or outdated, when greed and selfishness are seen as virtues - at times like these, our species is shown at its absolute worst.

  126. It's a shame we don't teach much history in our public education system. Most certainly, the current occupant of the White House hasn't a clue. As a 4th-generation conservative Republican, I was taught that democracies fall when the electorate discovers it can vote itself money. That's not true. A serious study of history shows us that democracies fall when the upper economic classes use their power to gather too great a portion of a nation's wealth into their own hands --- destroying the middle class upon which democracies depend for stability. We are replaying the fall of Athens and the Roman Republic and we're too ignorant of history to see it. Trump is just the first symptom of the consequences of crumbling middle class. In "The Wealth of Nations", Adam Smith warned us of the dangers of unregulated capitalism and we are hell-bent on proving him right.

  127. @Dick Dowdell Failure to teach history empowers the powers that be (the corporations, government and media) to keep the populace docile and stuipid.

  128. @Dick Dowdell: If we taught Greek and Roman history as recorded by those who lived prior to the fall of Rome, the author would be dismissed as a crackpot. The fall of the Republic came as a result of two things...first the loss of external enemies with the final destruction of Corinth and Carthage in 146 BC. Second, the introduction of enormous wealth when Rome became the center of world commerce. Previously the Roman's were a civic-minded, industrious and frugal people who had made regular strides to share the power of the Patricians with the Plebs. The Patricians put their fortunes, lives, and reputations at risk every time Rome went to war and they led from the front. Wealth and idleness, as well as the introduction of hordes of wealthy immigrants from the new Roman lands who brought their oriental culture of privilege and power and it enticed the Romans to lose their growing egalitarianism. The agricultural economy of many small farms owned and personally worked by the Patricians fell to urbanisation and the slave economy. Marius put all the out of work farm workers into his new Roman army that fought for wealth, not honor.

  129. As we, the remaining Team Balanitis members read (we have time to read and learn because we cannot control the drift) more into the political shenegans of U.S.A. politicians over the decades, we can identify, with much distress, the repeat of behaviors, mostly by those of the "republican" ilk, of notables of the past. We are really curious about how you-all can allow one person (with the help of his fellow travelors) to run amok and make "unilateral" decisions that are completely contrary to the best interests and survival ofyour country. Yes, we know that impeachment of your "president" and, hopefully, Vice-President is messy and frought with revolutionary dangers, BUT ... allowing those two "men" (and their ilk) to contribute mightly to the downfall of you country and its democratic republic is, really, an act of treason against yourselves. A mighty mistake was made in enabling D.J.Drump and his friends to ascend to the highest of public offices ... but mistakes can and must be corrected - sooner is better.

  130. Professor Watts makes valid points about the slow disintegration of the Roman Republic. How directly applicable to our current times may be questionable but is worthy of discussion. Rome had an admirable legal system but never had a constitution. It had long-standing traditions and an accommodation between the wealthy and rest of the free population. They relied on tradition more than anything. Votes were taken but voting power was always concentrated with the elites. With Rome's rise as a world power and the accumulation of wealth and tribute, the rich became fabulously richer. Inevitably, the inheritors of wealth are less capable and more self centered than the original earners (witness Donald Trump and most family companies after a few generations). Popular discontent by landless masses was real, but so was the power of the generals with their private armies. They clashed and sought popular approval but mostly by providing stability. Rome collectively remained dominant on the world stage, and eventually Octavian prevailed and became the emperor Augustus. That brought two centuries of the Pax Romana despite both good and bad emperors. We have a constitution and three distinct branches of government. We also have the increasing concentration of wealth in a tiny minority. Instead of civil wars and generals with paid armies, we have oligarchs trying to capture the entire judiciary and restrict voting to a governing minority. Our greatest test still remains.

  131. @Michael Tyndall Throw into that a segment of the population that feels sorry for itself and has come to believe that being told simply what you want to believe instead of a critical examination of the facts and evidence for those beliefs is what controls your moral and political decisions.

  132. Weaddourtwocents: When in the U S.A., do as the Romans did.

  133. I haven't read the book, so can't speak about it. The review, however, manages to miss quite a few points. First, Rome's governmental system was a "republic" in name only. For all intents and purposes it was an oligarchy. Further, it was always intended to be an oligarchy. Appius Claudius and Fabricius could afford to be dedicated to the idea of Rome because they were both part of the Roman oligarchy. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus weren't both murdered by the Senate because they "broke some of the republic's most longstanding norms" (The Senators did that all the time.), but because they wanted the Senate to return land it had stolen from the Roman yeoman-farmer class. And the part of the review explaining the transformation of the Roman army is a hopeless muddle. When Rome was confined to Italy, its army was a part-time citizen army made up mostly of farmers. Only land-owners could be in it. Its wars were usually fought in the summer, at which point the farmers went back to harvest their crops. When Rome fought Carthage, however, its army had to stay in the field for more than a decade. To work the farms, the rich Roman patrician class took them over with slaves. When the war was won and the farmers returned, the rich would not give the farms back, thus creating an instant and huge homeless population. A Roman named Gaius Marius reformed the army by allowing anyone to enlist. That's when soldiers became loyal to their commander instead of to Rome.

  134. The overweening ideological tendentiousness of the author of this book is surpassed not only by the ideological tendentiousness of the reviewer but also by a majority of the posters on this board. Is there a historical pathology, no matter how remote, that those afflicted by Trump Derangement Syndrome will not strive to impute to the current President?

  135. I don’t know which is more depressing. The high school comparison between Ancient Rome’s 1000yr history and ours or the defeatest bleatings of this papers readership over the present occupant of the White House. If they really believe this uncultured boor will destroy our republic they don’t deserve to live in it. We will survive this present inconvenience and many more besides.

  136. Well, what to say? How about a word of caution? The title (and the article) suggest that, once the Republic disintegrated--once Augustus took power--that was it. Rome was now governed by a long succession of tyrants. No. That's not quite true. Read Augustus' own "Res Gestae Divi Augusti"--"Accomplishments of the Divine Augustus." Composed by--guess who?--though he was only deified after his death. Boring? Oh my, yes! But again and again the now-deified Emperor insists--I was offered these powers by the state. The state asked me to do such and such. Culminating, of course, in that egregious whopper: I restored the Republic. Did he? Of course not. You have what they used to call a "condominium." All the old republican apparatus--PLUS something new. A "princeps." A "leading man." A "chief." Aka. an "emperor." And some--like Augustus himself--were good. They went to elaborate lengths to CLOAK their unbounded power. They made a show of consulting the Senate. All the old magistracies were duly filled. And some were awful. Nero--Caligula--that bunch. And the inequality between rich and power! The centuries rolled on. It grew and grew. And the taxes! Ever more onerous. People couldn't pay them. They fled (for protection) to people who COULD. And you have-- --voila! The beginnings of feudalism. As the Roman Empire crumbled. Is that us? Well gosh, New York Times. I don't know. Does anybody?

  137. Rome's republic was never a republic - it was really an oligarchy, and was designed by Rome's upper class, the patricians, to be an oligarchy. It started off with Rome's much larger lower class, the plebeians, having virtually no political rights or representation. This changed over time, but only after drastic actions including a general strike and refusal by the plebeians to join the army when the City of Rome was under armed threat. The determination of the patricians to keep their hold on political power, wealth, and land and deny it to the plebeians arguably had more to do with the death of Rome's "republic" than any other single thing. Julius Caesar at the time of his assassination was opening up the Roman Senate to plebeians and also to some of the chieftains of people conquered by the Romans. He was also going to restore public lands to the people that had been stolen by the patricians. Is any of this applicable to the United States today? Absolutely. Our democratic republic is now a de facto oligarchy. The only question is whether the Democrats will once again try to become what in Rome was called the "populares", or party of the people.

  138. @Vesuviano Republics can certainly be oligarchies; they aren't mutually exclusive. Throughout history, more republics have been oligarchic than democratic.

  139. When we allow vast amounts of dark money, light money and oligarchs’ money into our politics, and the influence of Russia, Saud Arabia, Israel, Mexico, Central America and religious fanatics to control the people who run our government, then all is lost. United States of America in name only.

  140. Someone should do a statue in the Roman style of the current fake emperor.

  141. In reading the comments, i must have missed those that realize the connection between our adult patterns and the way we raise our children; in any age. Empires raise children to be self-involved. Republics raise children to be civically minded and involved. All parents and school systems try to instill what the future adult will need to prosper. In an empire the adults need to be blind to what we do to “the others”; to “them”. Our empire-victims in other lands need to be ignored if we are to prosper “here”. In a locally based republican context, we need to sacrifice, more or less, for the benefit of all we define as “us”; civitas is the origin of the civics we no longer teach or believe in. In a republic, “Us” is really us; worth sacrificing for. In the empire we currently rule, “us” is not “them”. That’s why we leave “civics” out of the modernity school curriculum and why we are blind to the consequences of that kind of societal policy. All empires contain the seeds of their own destruction. All true republics face the challenge of human greed (narcissism on a societal scale) conquering “self” sacrifice.

  142. In reading the comments, i must have missed the those that realize the connection between our adult patterns and the way we raise our children; in any age. Empires raise children to be self-involved. Republics raise children to be Citig as involved. All parents and school systems reflect what the future adult will need to prosper. In an empire the adults need to be blind to what we do to “the others”; to “them”. Our victims in other lands need to be ignored if we are to prosper “here”. In a locally based republican context, we need to sacrifice, more or less, for the benefit of all we define as “us”;civitas is the origin of the civics we no longer teach or believe in. In a republic, “Us” is really us. Worth sacrificing for. In the empire we currently rule “us” is not “them”. That’s why we leave “civics” out of the modernity school curriculum and why we are blind to the consequences of that kind of societal policy. All empires contain the seeds of their own destruction. All true republics face the challenge of human greed (narcissism on a societal scale) conquering “self” sacrifice.

  143. Not quite a classics scholar, but I do know that any comparison between Ancient Rome and today's US has to be tempered given the profound difference between the two legal systems, governmental structures and general strength of institutions. Due to an unfortunate series of events, we ended up with an ignorant and vulgar incompetent as President. Our institutions will allow for a correction, sooner rather than later. Theirs did not.

  144. Please remember that trump was not elected by a majority of voters and that he had "help" from outside interests. He is making the plight of his diehard followers worse, despite their seemingly blissful ignorance. He is making the world less secure. Other than those points, I realize Professor Watts' correlation is frighteningly accurate. If ever there was a polarizing destructive force to our nation, he qualifies...one of the few areas he excels in.

  145. We are still as crazy politically as the ancient Romans. Like them we feel the urgent need to learn to fight modern wars so we fight them whenever we can, to expand our rule or values, no matter how much we compromise our values in order to enlist allies with much different values like Saudi Arabia and Israel. So we keep winning the small wars abroad with knowledge learned from each conflict, while we ridicule the old eyeball-to-eyeball wars of Ancient Rome and WWI trench fighting and suicidal Mexican shootouts. Meanwhile our leaders, liberal and conservative patriots, never see themselves in a continent to continent circular firing squad, in an exchange of nuclear missiles between our enemies on the other side of the globe. It’s not clear that some of our leaders even realize that the earth is shaped in a circle. Both Trump and Obama however defend nukes as rational defenses, not suicidal ones and so do our enemies. But a nuclear war, which will draw all political sides into it, means we will not survive as long as the five-centuries of Ancient Rome.

  146. Comparing Trump to Tiberius Gracchus in any but the slightest detail is giving him way, way too much credit! He isn't violating norms because he feels he's justified in protecting the dispossessed... It's in his nature to violate norms, and the fact that he pretends to protect the dispossessed, and some of them believe him (relatively in many cases) and therefore support him, provides him the power to do so. If he were allowed to enact his changes the poor would be in no better shape whatsoever, unlike Gracchus.

  147. If Yascha Mounk has it right, Edward Watts has profound misunderstandings about the Roman Republic. Here are two: Watts confuses Patricians with Nobiles. By the time of the Republic, Patricians were no longer the ruling class — if they ever had been, there's ambiguity on this — but during the Republic it was the Nobiles who were the ruling class. Who were the Nobiles? Simply put, the ruling class of Republican Rome, composed of members of both Patrician and Plebeian gens (families, loosely), the gens themselves a hodgepodge of Patrician and Plebeian branches. Second, the Gracchus brothers (villains only to those who know little of Roman history) neither acted from a "thirst for power" nor subverted the norms of the old Republic. They sought instead to enact reasonable land reforms which — had reactionary forces not murdered both of them — might well have enabled the ancient Roman Republic to stand much longer than it did.

  148. "accede" seems inappropriate here "Because even a poor man could accede to the most distinguished offices, his reputation was far more important to Fabricius than Pyrrhus’ money"

  149. One similarity between the ancient Roman Empire and the sphere of alliances that the United States attempts to defend, a kind of Empire composed of de facto client states, is something that ought to trouble us. For there is such a thing as depletion of national capacity of survival in endless wars that we have been fighting, at great sacrifice of each generations' bravest and ablest of our gene pools, and the losses in time mean the same thing as the tendency to extinction of species like overhunted animals, and like the overfished, the overcaptured. Since our Civil War each subsequent conflict has wiped out whole family lines. How long can that kind of loss continue without a reduction in the ability of some blood types to find mates to generate progeny resistant to common infections? The sharp spike in the frequency of autistic born following a nation's major loss of marriageable males is a red flag. As the Roman Empire expanded, the quality both of its soldiers and its leaders declined over time to inbreeding, until the Empire's borders became too bloody and too distant to defend. Few have noticed then or now that both the Romans and ourselves have sought to offer full citizenship first from our lowest domestc classes, and then to foreigners in exchange for their military service, and offer legal equality not just for altruistic motives to end their status. Rome did it for survival, much too late.

  150. You have an Imperial Presidency. The trouble with the late Roman Republic is that it did not , and the Empire was born. I would have thought that the conflict of priorities posed by US interests in Europe, and the US interests in the Pacific Rim, are more akin to the problems which faced the Roman Empire in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, which resulted in the Empire splitting in two.

  151. A key thought in Mounk's review of Watts' Mortal Republic, is that it is largely opportunistic politicians and ambitious military leaders who eventually ruin Rome. The growth of inequality and all that are simply openings for bad leaders to gain control. As long as we favor career politicians and let generals lead us into inane wars around the globe, we are doomed, I suspect. Maybe sooner than we think. Voting for an incumbent hastens the process.

  152. I have a different take on our present political troubles. It is that the core of our difficulties are based on a very unhealthy public. That most if not all of our peoples are malnourished and wanting for foods that they cannot get or eating foods with no nutritional content. It also may be that Rome to suffered, not from malnourishment, but from lead poisoning from the eating utensils they used. Just a thought.

  153. I thought about these things years ago going through another disintegrating period of time known as "the 60's". At that time historians were predicting the end of America in no uncertain terms. It didn't happen because democracy began to take itself seriously. Democracy gives the people a stake in its fortunes so democratic people respond to imbalances in the system just as they are doing now. "Alienation" from the idea of democracy is a persistent threat if and when the people feel intimidated by power or exhausted by its corruption. However, as de Toqueville pointed out, "each new generation is its own nation." The culture is always rolling out new, fresh blood to renovate it in some way, shape or form to maintain its vitality. A key to that is "upward mobility" which depends on a strong middle class with the foresight and confidence to connect with the poor and pull them up to that class. Once people start moving up in this society much more vitality is generated and the democratic society is saved. And what is the central concern today? What are people very conscious of today? Stagnant wages, class divisions, the inability to move from where you started. This will be a persistent theme in the politics of today until a re-balancing takes place. The Roman people were not constantly called on to take on its own problems and lost the heart to support it after a time. They also didn't have "science" and the ability to objectify their problems.

  154. The multinational corporations that our law foolishly constructs as single persons and their deep-pocketed lobbyists, these are the cause of the USA's decline. We now groan under a tyranny of demands that anyone can read in the "Federal Register" as the lobbyists succeed in getting every line item they demand passed by a complaisant legislation. How soon before Americans react to the cooptation of our government by special interests and take the Second Amendment's purpose of abolishing tyranny to heart and brandish the several hundred millions of lethal weapons that are owned in this country?

  155. Americans in 1776 and 1781 were astute historians and knew when virtue becomes vice, valor becomes corrupt, and reason becomes passion that sloth and anarchy prevailed throughout history, including Rome and Greece. Germans proved democracy does not guarantee justice or reason when they elected Hitler, and modern America is not immune. We must realize temperance leads to independence and that the common good above private greed binds society and culture far more than indolence and luxury. Americans proved the common good prevails when we retired many corrupt sycophants in the House in spite of gerrymandering bought by their oligarchs. I hope Americans rally behind House proposals to make voting easier and end gerrymandering by any political party that corrupts our great nation. We must understand the common good has been our polar star since the Revolution.

  156. Blaming Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus for the series of events that led to the fall of the Roman Republic is a bit like blaming FDR and LBJ for our current state of affairs; to put it bluntly, it is ruling class history. And to give this argument its due, there is some truth to it. Those who disrupt the status quo by introducing more democracy and demanding more equality upset the rulers to such a extent that they often cause a backlash. Those who broke the norms of the "public thing" (the Res Publica) that was the Senate and People of Rome (SPQR) were those, such as Sulla, and even Cicero, who did not want to yield to rising demands of the people against the rulers in the Senate, and thus ended each struggle for more democratic control with violence. All political factions were fighting for the spoils of empire and that destroyed the stability of the Republic. In the long run a city-state was unable to rule an empire without a single strong ruler. It was the success of Roman Imperialism that destroyed Republican Rome. An empire requires an emperor. If there is a parallel between the Roman political system and the political system of the U.S. it is that our empire has always required an imperial presidency. It is inevitable that the imperial presidency will find its Caligula. The owners of the economy fear democracy because they fear the redistribution of wealth; that is what the New Deal and the Civil Rights movement represented to them.

  157. The United States has it's own understanding of the moral fiber necessary to the health and freedom of the nation. The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, and, later, the debate over slavery provide considerable material on this subject. People on both the political left and on the right have been trashing some of our most essential values - freedom of speech and the press - and, yes, of religion -, due process of law, equality before the law - for everyone, including the prostitute, the wino, the 'crazy' vet, the poor white, the black man who 'looks like' he might be dangerous, as much as the financier - no exceptions. The moral survival of the nation does not rest entirely with people in Congress or the White House or the courts. We all - from feminists and 'social justice' career bureaucrats to people in the criminal justice system to people who simply are occasionally a little too quick to reiterate the 'lock 'em up' mantra to people who out of frustration look to easy solutions in shallow talking points and ignore the realities that public policy problems tend to be genuinely complicated, and that hot issues of history, sex, etc. tend to get falsified by reductionist simplification - we all could start to stop viewing the world in ways defined by cheap self-serving ideology and start to grow out of our toxic attitudes. And at the same time, Congress should confront the reality that the US intelligence community is incompatible with a legitimate democratic republic.

  158. If and when the American Republic collapses the main questions that will be asked by future Historians is why were non-citizens give the same rights as citizens, why was the Draft or some sort of Public Service ended and why were the rich/corporations allowed to move their monies and factories all over the world at the expense of the common worker. Trump is the "Canary in the Mine", he tweets so loudly because he, being one of the elite, knows that they have no loyalty save to their own wealth and kind. I hope we do have a second American Revolution where the rich are thrown out but their wealth confiscated and we rebuild our country where it actually means something to be a citizen and where Made In America becomes a common theme of pride.

  159. If the 20th century is any guide, the last century, sometimes dubbed the "American century" (statistically the most violent in human history in number of humans killed and maimed by incessant political strife) then the supposed civilizing political "norms" that were established in the 20th century (and are now supposedly being irrevocably broken) may not be a very good analogy (or actually very civilized at all) when compared to the said civilized political peace of the Roman Republic before the assassination of Tiberius Gracchus ushered in the age of Roman power politics, gratuitous political thuggery and would-be golden (or orange) haired emperors,,,

  160. Bread and circuses, in the form of reality television is contributing to the fall as well. Also the obsession with pretty material objects and the worship of false deities that pander to the basest instincts of man. My nation lives next door and the rumblings of a civilization’s decay always spread outward and encompass all it touches. I fear for the future and worry about my fellow humans at this critical juncture of history.