King George vs. Rome

There are several different eras of the United States of America which bear eerily similar correlation to models of governing in Ancient Rome. 

Ancient Rome went through many different political phases, clearly categorized and distinct from each other in a multitude of ways. Our American society, in contrast, seems to have existed forever under the Constitution with the same model of government, containing three separate branches that balance each other out equally. This would indicate that America has never resembled Ancient Rome in any way. However, ever since President Kennedy’s individual, unapproved actions during the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States of America has revolved around its president, the office of whom has consolidated more power than was originally intended. Delving deeper into the characteristics of American administrations, we can find several parallels between America and Ancient Rome, as recent as President Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ mirroring Augustus’ facade of bringing back the Senate. However, the most direct and clear comparison is between the Severan military autocracy and the earliest administration in charge of American territories, the British Empire. 

The first similarity between the Severan military autocracy and King George III’s British rule over the American colonies was the political turmoil that took place throughout each era. King George’s rule over the colonies was met with protests which grew increasingly violent until they eventually sparked the American Revolutionary War. Similarly, “the years from the assassination of Severus Alexander in 235 to the acclamation of Diocletian in 284 witnessed rapid, often violent political change” (Boatwright 2.432). American colonies were being ruled by a Congress that was too far away to make effective, efficient, relevant decisions; oftentimes by the time American colonies heard the new laws and choices, the problems they were addressing had already been resolved, and the laws were irrelevant or made the American situation even worse. During this period in Ancient Rome, the citizens and territories divided and lent their support to different warlike leaders in factions, and the entire Roman Empire descended into a period of civil war. In America, the political turmoil led to a conflict in which between an entire half to a third of the population supported the British, while the others supported the revolutionaries.

The biggest difference between these two eras was their place in history; while the Severan military autocracy was a later stage in the models of Ancient Roman government, and it led to a progression towards the Empire, the American Revolutionary War was the first step away from imperialism and towards the republic that it is today. Obviously, this is a good sign for America; we do not wish to end up like the corrupt Empire that defined Rome for the latter half of its career. However, when we look at the similarities between Rome and America in the present, we can see that we may now be on track to follow in Rome’s footsteps all the way down its road. If we continue to look at our past and decide that our best days are behind us, it may very well become true. If we choose to learn from the mistakes made by the Romans and throughout history, there is always hope for the future.

Seth Viani 542

Boatwright – Tetrarchy

2 thoughts on “King George vs. Rome

  1. Seth brings up points comparing American presidents to Roman Emperors. I knew from the discussion in class that Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan was similar to the platform of Agustus in Roman times. Another point of presidents acting like emperors is JFK’s actions of making unapproved decisions to that of a dictator. I had already made the connections between Imperial expansion and military actions of the United States to be similar to the Roman empire, but the rest of the blog was of events I never would have connected between America and Rome. Comparing Revolutionary America to Rome seemed like a stretch when I first started reading the blog. The Civil wars that led to the fall of the Romans are similar to the American Revolution, but I could argue that the Americans were not the Romans, but more like the provinces of Rome that rebelled. King George and the British in the revolutionary era could be compared to the Romans. This could lead to the question of why the Roman Empire fell apart after losing territory to civil Wars. but the British continued to rule over much of the world.

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  2. I think you make an excellent argument here with the backing of historical context! You made excellent references to American presidents that were applicable in ways I had not thought of. The unapproved actions of Kennedy serve as a great example of the beginning of the revolution of American government around the president. The comparison of the revolutionary era to the Roman Empire, however, is one that I find incredibly unique and applicable. The distant leadership and division of colonies in both Europe and the Roman Empire ended in the same result: a civil war.

    One concept I am interested in exploring further are the motives for the civil war. As Americans, we are well studied in the injustices, inefficiencies, and unfairness of the colonial system and need for independence. Do these motives hold true for the Roman Empire as well? Was it merely a disagreement, or was there a need for more?

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