History and Historiography

Lessons in the Decline of Democracy From the Ruined Roman Republic

The main problem with this article is that the US  already passed through the republican phase during the colonial period and first two centuries after the revolution, and entered the imperial phase in the 20th century, with US presidents being elective monarchs that act in a managerial capacity on behalf of the broader power elite. A major problem that American historians have is they are too influenced by the myths of “American exceptionalism” to the point that they have problems properly situating the role of the USA in wider world history. The modern USA is just a continuation of the British Empire, the Atlanticist counterpart to the ancient Mediterranean empire that emerged in the medieval period. The US managed to achieve global hegemony simply by inheriting the former European empires after WW2. The republican phase in Anglo-American history was between the 17th and 20th centuries, from the time of the achievement of parliamentary supremacy (with antecedents going back to the late Middle Ages) to the rise of postwar Pax Americana. We’re in the full-fledged imperium now.

By Jason Daley

Smithsonian Magazine

The U.S. Constitution owes a huge debt to ancient Rome. The Founding Fathers were well-versed in Greek and Roman History. Leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison read the historian Polybius, who laid out one of the clearest descriptions of the Roman Republic’s constitution, where representatives of various factions and social classes checked the power of the elites and the power of the mob. It’s not surprising that in the United States’ nascent years, comparisons to ancient Rome were common. And to this day, Rome, whose 482-year-long Republic, bookended by several hundred years of monarchy and 1,500 years of imperial rule, is still the longest the world has seen.


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