I wrote this 250 word audition piece for a client and thought it topical, worth remembering, given the times.
Our Romanesque Fathers
The American Founders, well-versed in history, embraced ancient Rome, even taking Roman pen names like Washington’s Cincinnatus and Jefferson’s Cato. America’s symbol, the eagle, and the Capitol’s architecture are likewise borrowed from Rome. However, the Founders’ greatest influences are the lessons learned from the Roman Empire’s founding and demise. The U.S. Constitution was written with an eye toward both.
To Protect Against Tyranny
Like America, Rome emerged as a city state from war and tyranny. Its mythological creation from feuding Romulus and Remus, characterizes its founding, one geographically destined to emerge as powerful but warring with its strategic placement near seafaring passageways. The Punic War expansion both forged and destroyed the Empire.
Looking to Rome, the Founders inscribed Roman virtues–liberty and freedom–into America’s constitution, but wisely included safeguards to protect against a government subject to human weaknesses, like intoxicating power and greed. The U.S. Constitution conceived a Roman inspired tri-part government, a combined democracy, monarchy and aristocracy. Divided power among its branches ensured against tyranny, of which Rome served as warning.
For Survival of a Nation
The Founders learned from Rome’s eroding largesse and excess to foster, preserve and protect their budding nation. They knew Imperialist Rome’s downfall lay in its expansion wars, leaving unemployment, migration, venality, religious intolerance–and ultimately, tyranny.
The American constitution, both reactionary and visionary, founded a nation upon ideals–which defines its exceptionalism–not merely on geography, ethnicity and history. Rome served as its map, just as the U.S. Constitution mapped the American nation forward.
3 Replies to “Our Roman Fathers”
Rome had outposts all over the world that they were ultimately unable to sustain. They were finally conquered by mainly Germanic tribes that, although they were actually smaller in number, were able to easily defeat the Roman army because it was spread so thin. Government corruption contributed greatly to Rome’s demise as well.
Does this sound familiar? We all know about how corrupt Washington is. But did you know that the US has more than 500 military bases, outposts, or installations around the world? ( An “installation” is defined as “a military base, camp, post, station, yard, center, homeport facility for any ship, or other activity under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense, including leased space, that is controlled by, or primarily supports DoD’s activities. An installation may consist of one or more sites” (geographically-separated real estate parcels).) Some estimates are as high as 800. There are 38 in Germany alone! Our military is not in shambles. It is too fat and needs to lose a shit ton of weight.
The founding fathers may have used Rome as a guide when establishing this new country but I doubt they intended for their template to be stretched this far.
The Founding Father’s could not imagine much of what the nation has experienced in the space between their lives and ours. And I posted this piece to remind us how Rome fell, which you greatly amplified. Thanks for that. I also wanted to remind readers that the constitution was built on ideals borrowed from Rome but uniquely ours in its formative principles of the nation unlike earlier nations founded on real estate or ethnic identity. We have forgotten those lofty ideals of freedom and liberty also corrupted to minds believing only their own liberties count.