History broadly follows patterns emulating the past rather than repeating it. The founding fathers of the American Experiment were educated in Greek and Roman history with Rome as the greatest empire in their history and 4th century Athens as the intellectual capital of their world. They took the ideas of the classical Athens, the political structure of the Roman Republic and sought to emulate the peak of the Roman Empire. Ironically the birth of the American Republic was concurrent with the release of the six volumes of The Fall of the Roman Empire beginning in 1776. Too late for America. Perhaps they may have thought differently on reading Gibbon.
Empires end in conquest but usually in collapse. As noted in this article the similarities are strong. Failure to eliminate slavery, endless wars increasingly manned by minorities, intellectual laziness, and corrupt increasingly stupid leadership. The latter because it was understandable and corruption kept the people happy who had gained control of the political system. We’ve checked off on all of these.
The big difference is the time scale. Rome has no real competitors at the end so spent several hundred years grinding to a slow, semiconscious end. Tremendously condensed in our time, the speed at which we live and change is completely unimaginable in the age of Rome, we are, I think, living at least a century of Rome in a year of our time. It was considered unfortunate in Rome when the bad emperors began to be replaced very quickly by simply pushing them off the walls of the palace. Not a proper way to change administrations but what could you do? The normal work of corruption and exploitation went on.
I think we are almost there.
History broadly follows patterns emulating the past rather than repeating it. was originally published in TheOtherLeft on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.