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GracieT's avatar

Is the US like Rome was around the time of Christ?

Asked by GracieT (7005 points ) January 29th, 2012

I am a US citizen. This question is entirely to satisfy my curiosity. When Rome was at the height of its power the democracy was flourishing and Rome was looked to set the tone for the rest of the known world. After that time, the emperors started to be extremely corrupt and the citizens lost all sense of order. Has the US developed the hubris to believe that our country is the be all end all of human society and all other countries should look to us as the protector and savior of humanity? The Roman era as a great world power was approximately 200 years. We’ve been around for longer, but we are losing our pre-eminent spot in the world. Or do I have no idea what I’m talking about?

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10 Answers

digitalimpression's avatar

I think the US is a bit narcissistic in believing that it is similar to Rome as far as the degree of its power over other countries.

The variables that dictate levels of power nowadays are far different. There are quite a few countries who have the best sort of power.. the power that isn’t advertised and boasted about.

I certainly think there is a hubris, but to what degree it is warranted, I’m not sure.

JaneraSolomon's avatar

There is a strong argument to be made that Rome was in fact way more successful than you imply. Roman culture and influence basically became Christian society under the orders of Roman Emperor Constantine I. Thus the Christianity that took over Europe and much of the world was in fact under Roman control, and the name of the “Roman Catholic Church,” based in Rome is no accident.

Qingu's avatar

Was it Mark Twain who said “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes”?

Rome and the US are two examples of hegemons, and they do have a lot of similarities that stem from this basic power structure. Something I’ve always been interested in: Rome’s interactions with Jews are similar to the US’s interactions with Muslims.

In both cases, the hegemon had to deal with religious terrorists who wanted to form their own religious state. The hegemon also “absorbed” many people from these religions, who wanted to live peacefully. In the end, Rome deployed the “nuclear option” to deal with Jewish insurgents and destroyed the Jewish temple, which forever changed the Jewish religion. After 9/11, we heard echoes of this mentality with angry Americans urging the US to “nuke Mecca.”

As for the question of whether America will be a hegemon forever—why would anyone want it to be? America has a tiny fraction of the world’s population and yet controls a majority of its military and economic power. If you believe in the ideals of democracy, wouldn’t you want power to rest with the majority of the world’s people? As long as technology and morality keep on improving and keep on spreading, why does it matter which particular country is in charge?

LostInParadise's avatar

The U.S. has been a major power only since the start of the 20th century and has been dominant only since after WW II. Rome’s power lasted more than 200 years, starting from the time it was still a republic. There are similarities. Rome became dependent for food from outside the empire. The U.S. has become dependent on manufacturing outside the U.S.

One major difference is that Roman technology for warfare was not much better than its less civilized enemies. I expect that the U.S. is going to move ahead in using computerized warfare as with the use of drones. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Qingu's avatar

@LostInParadise, I would dispute that Roman war tech was on par with the “barbarians.” They actually had similar asymmetries that America now faces with our “barbarians.” No army could stand against a Roman legion; they had impeccable supply lines, siege machines, and fighting techniques and discipline. The problem was that they were spread too thin and were weakened by not limiting their wars to positions of strength.

You could argue the same thing is at play with America’s war machine, which can take out any conventional army but is not so good at fighting urban warfare against civilian insurgents who use IEDs.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Qingu, The basic technology was swords, stones and arrows, which both sides possessed. The Romans were more disciplined and better trained, which is why they held on for so long. As the so called barbarians became better organized, they were better able to counter the Roman advantages.

JaneraSolomon's avatar

Actually a number of armies were quite successful against ancient Rome, including that of Hannibal of Carthage.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannibal
Much of the success of Rome was not in superior tactics, technology or discipline, but rather in their willingness to assimilate their enemies and make them full Roman citizens. Even in Hannibal’s case where the Romans lost repeatedly, in Trebia, Trasimene, and Cannae, for instance, Rome advance not by continuously opposing Hannibal but rather by studying and adopting his methods.

YARNLADY's avatar

No, the U. S. is no where near the level of corruption that has been reported in Rome. It is highly unlikely we ever will be, because we have much better means of communication than they had.

The downfall of the U. S. will be from citizens skipping the lawful means of solving their issues and rioting in the streets.

mattbrowne's avatar

No. Because the majority of Americans support the values of the

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights

Scumbags like Newt Gingrich are the exceptions, while at the time of Roman decline scumbags like him being in power were the norm.

GracieT's avatar

Thank you, everyone! I realize that it may be presumptuous of me to compare us in the US to Rome as far as our pre-eminence, but I am surrounded
by people whom feel that way
and I wondered what you
thought. I believe that we (the
US) are NOT any more
important than any other country but surrounded by people that think that the US “is all that
and sliced bread.” I’m running
out of ways to show that I disagree.

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