Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America
The rise and fall of ancient Rome has been on American minds from the beginning of our republic.Today we focus less on the Roman Republic than on the empire that took its place. Depending on who’s doing the talking, the history of Rome serves as either a triumphal call to action or a dire warning of imminent collapse. In Are We Rome? the esteemed editor and author Cullen Murphy reveals a wide array of similarities between the two empires: the blinkered, insular culture of our capitals; the debilitating effect of bribery in public life; the paradoxical issue of borders; and the weakening of the body politic through various forms of privatization. Murphy persuasively argues that we most resemble Rome in the burgeoning corruption of our government and in our arrogant ignorance of the world outside -- two things that must be changed if we are to avoid Rome’s fate.
An Impressive and Elegant Warning
By John D. Cofield - June 6, 2007
Are We Rome? is a short but highly important examination of the fall of the Roman Empire and its implications for the twenty-first century United States. Cullen Murphy begins by acknowledging that many parallels between Rome and America have been drawn over the years. The similarities and differences he draws, however, differ from those made by other writers and historians in that he focuses on the moods and attitudes of the two empires at their apogees.
Here Murphy finds much which will alarm concerned Americans today. He notes that both Rome and the US have had similar beliefs in their own exceptionalism, that somehow both Romans and Americans are superior to the rest of the world and thus need take little notice of the opinions of others. He observes that both empires saw foreigners as being inferior and somewhat contemptible, fearing their influence while at the same time coming to rely on them more and more. Most interestingly, Murphy sees in both societies a... read more
too close for comfort
By Daniel B. Clendenin - June 13, 2007
Comparisons between Rome and America are as old as our founding fathers, and thus the picture of Horatio Greenough's marble statue of George Washington on the cover of this book; he looks like a Roman caesar in his toga. Today "triumphalists" celebrate the comparison and want to export America as a model to the world, while "declinists" lament the similarities and warn about over-extension, arrogance and fall. But are we Rome? Murphy, former managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly for twenty years and currently editor at large for Vanity Fair, stakes a middle ground: "In a thousand specific ways, the answer is obviously no. In a handful of important ways, the answer is certainly yes" (p. 197).
After a short prologue, Murphy devotes one chapter each to six parallels of "direct relevance" between ancient Rome and modern America. Both empires exhibit the symptoms of solipsism-- an exaggerated self-identity, the isolating effects of exceptionalism, ignorance of others, the... read more
From Republic to Empire?
By Retired Reader - June 19, 2007
This is a highly provocative book that provides the reader with a good deal to ponder. Its basic premises is that parallels exist between selected phenomena found in the U.S. today and analogous phenomena in what is called ancient Rome. Yet Cullen Murphy is too careful a writer not to set some implicit or explicit ground rules for comparing the U.S. and Ancient Rome. First, Rome as a geo-political entity was not a nation state in the 21st Century meaning of the term. Second, Rome like most geo-political entities was constantly evolving from its foundation until its eventual evolution into a religious center. Third, any comparisons between ancient Rome and the modern U.S. must begin by establishing want phase of evolutionary Rome is being used to compare with the current U.S. situation. And finally, it should be obvious that any comparison between ancient Rome and the U.S. must be based on broad issues and trends and not on specific details. Using these ground rules as a framework, it... read more