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