If you look back to your adolescent years of schooling, particularly in history, it is likely that you’ll remember learning about the Roman Empire. Of its prosperity and wealth, its military prowess, and its influential leaders. Perhaps you even learned about its downfall, wondering how a society so rich in success could become so desolate and despairing. But indeed, they can. Rome did not fall instantly into disrepair, it happened gradually and initially without notice. Because of that, it’s not unreasonable to assume that history can repeat itself, and it may be doing just that. The United States, a leading world power, could be in the beginning stages of a Romanesque undoing.
Before we compare the deterioration of these two societies, we must first look at their founding and underlying structures. The Roman Republic (predecessor to the Roman Empire) began in 507 BC. Over time, it developed into the following governmental system: two consuls, a senate, and an assembly. Sound familiar? That’s because the founding fathers of the United States based our government off of the Roman Republic. The US has a president (comparable to the two consuls of Rome), a senate (Comparable to the senate of Rome), and a house of representatives (comparable to the assembly of Rome). Even the way that the branches operate are similar between Rome and the US. Citizens chose representatives to go into the senate or assembly, and those chosen made decisions that affected everyone. In the US, the process is almost exactly the same. So, the founding of the two were very similar. Where they slightly differ, however, is in the Roman Empire. After the death of Julius Caesar, Rome was ruled by an emperor. While that may seem very different from the US, Rome was still in a very similar political situation. These situations closely relate the Roman downfall and the possible devolution of the United States.
Rome was known for its high morals and its citizens pride in their culture and history. Ironically, that changed for the worse during the Pax Romana, a time of peace and stability in Rome. There was nothing to fight for or against for the Romans, and that meant nothing to be proud of. Citizens also felt distanced from their emperors, such as Nero, who wasted money and encouraged prostitution (Sound familiar?). They weren’t as proud of their rulers as those who had lived in the times of great Roman leaders like Caesar or Trajan. This ultimately caused emperors to lose support when it was needed, and contributed to the downfall. Unfortunately, a similar situation is happening in the United States. Patriotism is a vital part of America as we know it- keeping citizens together to stand for their country. But as the divide between democrats and republicans worsens, that value fades away. As President Donald Trump is currently in office, that feud shows no signs of a resolution without a revolution. Much like Roman citizens distanced themselves from some emperors, US citizens are divided in their feelings toward the president. If the country were to go into crisis, would we be able to put our differences aside to come together? Or would we fail, as Rome did in the past?
A lack of patriotism wasn’t the only cause of Rome’s fall, however. Germanic tribes that surrounded Rome, such as the Visigoths and the Vandals, sacked Rome and furthered its decline. Rome was already weakened by its lack of good leadership and patriotism, and the Germanic tribes’ attack was somewhat of a final blow. Theses tribes were comparable to today’s terrorists, and presented a similar problem to Rome that the US is dealing with through the current War on Terror. After the Roman Empire was severely weakened by the attacks, other Germanic tribes began to take their claim of the empire until eventually, a German barbarian leader was the emperor of the western half of Rome. This meant the official end of the Western half of Rome, and the Easter half only continued as the Byzantine empire.
While the War on Terror that currently engulfs the US military doesn’t necessarily mean it’s end, it does mean that terrorism is as viable a threat to the US as Germanic tribes were to Rome. With that threat stacked on top of a growing political divide that wrecks traditional American patriotism, the US is on a track to repeat the historic fate that the Roman Empire suffered.