We are not exactly Rome, but as any over-extended empire such as the U.S., you can start to see the startling similarities between the two when you look back to Rome’s self-destruction. America and Rome both have morphed from a republic to an empire of confusion.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Our founding fathers realized what happened to the Roman republic. The debates at the Philadelphia Convention, concerning ratification of the Constitution, make frequent reference to the problem of how and why republics die. Rome was certainly one of the more common examples. One of the arguments against replacing the Articles of Confederation with an all-powerful national government was that republics on such a vast scale were impractical. Rome was used as an example of this. Thus, our Constitution created a national government of limited power.
The following are examples of how the two empires are identical in their self-destruction.
1. Over-Extended Military - Rome was a republic that turned into an empire. Both empires have extended their military across the known world far beyond their economic sensibilities. It’s power spread from the middle east to Africa and Europe. The United States was once a Republic, but today, our military bases operate as an empire in dozens of countries around the world. Our president and Congress provoke wars on sovereign nations at will: Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq and potentially Iran. The United States morphs into world conquests without end. America displays the same calamities that destroyed Rome.
2. Government Corruption – The Roman Empire fell because it was bankrupted by its leaders. Roman Senators were selfish and self-absorbed, determined to hoard the huge wealth of the empire and enhance their wealth even further. The common people lost all power.
3. Immigration - Rome found itself increasingly using “illegal immigrants” from outside their nation to do the agricultural work that Romans would not do. ”Roman government allowed uncontrolled hostile immigration to dissolve the fabric of their civilization. Illegal and legal Immigrants grew more powerful while exercising their own character of their cultures. They did not adopt Roman ways. Second, vast blocks of once Roman lands became foreign held and even the Roman population, once outnumbered, was no match for hostile immigrants.” Reference: “The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and Barbarians,” by Peter Heather. “Factors that destroyed Rome now manifest in accelerating numbers in America. Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco, Raleigh and all large cities suffer millions of illegal immigrants. Uncounted millions of them cannot and do not speak English. Millions work under the table without paying taxes. Millions use our hospitals without paying. They immigrate but do not assimilate. They colonize in ethnic enclaves separated from Americans. They fracture our country.” Reference (LINK)
4. Birth Control - Decrease of Roman birth rates. Abortion, contraception, infanticide, prostitution, and perversion dramatically lowered birthrates.
5. Elimination of the Middle Class - The middle class of ancient Rome were Equestrians. they were the merchants and traders and were allowed certain political positions. In the earliest days of the Republic Rome’s taxes were quite modest, consisting mainly of a wealth tax on all forms of property, including land, houses, slaves, animals, money and personal effects. Beginning with the third century B.C. Roman economic policy started to contrast more and more sharply with that in the Hellenistic world, especially Egypt. In Greece and Egypt economic policy had gradually become highly regimented, depriving individuals of the freedom to pursue personal profit in production or trade, crushing them under a heavy burden of oppressive taxation, and forcing workers into vast collectives where they were little better than bees in a great hive. (LINK)
6. Obsession with Sports and Entertainment -The Roman poet Juvenal (circa 100 A.D.) wrote regarding the way latter-day Roman emperors retained power and control over the masses that were seemingly more than happy to obsess themselves with trivialities and self-indulgences while their once-great-and-powerful empire collapsed before their very eyes. He wrote:
“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions–everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.” (Wikipedia) (LINK)
Many American men have allowed sports to control and dominate their lives. With many, sports are not just a hobby; they are a religion. When men stripped their shirts off and painted their faces, they were heading to the battlefield to kill their enemies. Now they are headed off to the sports coliseum to watch a football game. A man’s ego and machismo was once used to protect his family and freedom; now it’s used to follow batting averages and box scores.
Scholars are generally consistent in noting that one of the factors in the “Fall” of Rome was the Roman obsession with entertainment and consequent loss of civic duty. (“bread and circuses”) In many modern books written about Ancient Rome and her people, the ancient Romans are often portrayed as people who enjoyed violence and thought it amusing to see people being injured and killed to the point of obsession. It is now common knowledge that, in Ancient Rome, people often attended (and enjoyed) gladiatorial fights to the death, wild beast hunts, naval battles and chariot racing. Some public thinkers today have suggested that “entertainment” today, as it was in ancient times of Rome, reflects the decline of culture, into a plethora of lust, greed, violence, selfish individualism and bad behavior. Some Scholars suggest that history is repeating itself and we are now in a reoccurring cycle of moral decay and social breakdown. From the excessive amount of glorified violence in Hollywood movies, video games, music and on the internet, one can easily see the downward spiral of decency.
7. Redistribution of Wealth -Roman politicians devised a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of the poor: giving out cheap food and entertainment, “bread and circuses”, would be the most effective way to rise to power. The Roman practice of providing free wheat to Roman citizens as well as costly circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power through populism, is a perfect parallel to how America in this post modern age is succumbing to the same distractions while ignoring the crumbling infrastructure of abandoned principles.
Like the Romans, the spending of public money for free “bread and circuses” for the populace, the concept of “redistribution of wealth,” taxing those who have and giving to those who have not, has become part of the American way of life with the New Deal and the Great Society. The result has been an excessive burden of taxation on the middle, working class of Americans
8. Exporting “Culture” - Rome’s greatest conquest was the seduction of its’ peoples. They would provide them with baths, and central heating as the people never realized that they were enslaved by such wonderful things. In the United States we have McDonald’s, Starbucks, and many other known American companies popping up in every major city on earth. Romans also put down “roots” all over their occupied territories and left their cultural and architectural footprint on the world. We also have as the Romans did, an obsession with comfort and pleasure that distracted the population from important issues and made the citizens apathetic, only concerned about disruptions in their own personal pleasures to the peril of their communities.
9. Morality – Dr. Carle Zimmerman in 1947 wrote a book called Family and Civilization. He studies the decline of several civilizations and empires. He discovered eight patterns of domestic behavior that signaled the decline of a civilization: (LINK)
A. The breakdown of marriage and rise of divorce.
B. The loss of the traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony.
C.. The rise of Feminism.
D. Increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general.
E. Acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity and rebellion.
F. Refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept their family responsibilities.
G. A growing desire for and acceptance of adultery.
H. Increasing interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.
See any parallels in modern America?
10. Inflation – As early as the rule of Nero (54-68 A.D.) there is evidence that the demand for revenue led to debasement of the Roman coinage. Revenue was needed to pay the increasing costs of defense and a growing bureaucracy. However, rather than raise taxes, Nero and subsequent emperors preferred to debase the currency by reducing the precious metal content of coins. This was, of course, a form of taxation; in this case, a tax on cash balances (Bailey 1956). Throughout most of the Empire, the basic units of Roman coinage were the gold aureus, the silver denarius, and the copper or bronze sesterces. Most emperors continued the policies of debasement and increasingly heavy taxes, levied mainly on the wealthy. The war against wealth was not simply due to purely fiscal requirements, but was also part of a conscious policy of exterminating the Senatorial class, which had ruled Rome since ancient times.
As the private wealth of the Empire was gradually confiscated or taxed away, driven away or hidden, economic growth slowed to a virtual standstill. Moreover, once the wealthy were no longer able to pay the state’s bills, the burden inexorably fell onto the lower classes, so that average people suffered as well from the deteriorating economic conditions. (LINK)
At this point, in the third century A.D., the money economy completely broke down. Yet the military demands of the state remained high. Rome’s borders were under continual pressure from Germanic tribes in the North and from the Persians in the East. In the United States currently, our money has been weakened through inflation by excessive government spending catering to entitlement social programs, military conquests and “National Security” We are at a dangerous brink of an inevitable economic collapse.
Does all of this sound familiar?
If you can’t see this coming, and most Americans don’t, you will eventually. If you don’t speak out your children will pay the price for your lack of courage. Our accelerated collapse will place our civilization in the history books right along side Rome’s
“The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and Barbarians,” Peter Heather examines the exact cause of Rome’s death.
For the book by Edward Gibbon, see The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
The middle class of ancient Rome were the Equestrians. They were the merchants and traders and were allowed certain political positions.