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This is how ancient Rome’s republic died – a classicist sees troubling parallels at Trump’s impeachment trial


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The U.S. Senate has made its judgment in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, acquitting the president. Fifty two of 53 senators in the Republican majority voted to acquit the president on the abuse of power charge and all 53 Republican senators voted to acquit on the obstruction of Congress charge.

All 47 Democratic senators voted to convict the president on both charges. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican voting to convict for abuse of power.

The Republican senators’ speedy exoneration of Trump marks perhaps the most dramatic step in their capitulation to the president over the past three years.

That process, as I wrote in The Conversation last fall, recalls the ancient Roman senate’s compliance with the autocratic rule of the emperors and its transformation into a body largely reliant on the emperors’ whims.

Along with the senatorial fealty that was again on display, there was another development that links the era of the Roman Republic’s transformation into an autocratic state with the ongoing political developments in the United States. It’s a development that may point to where the country is headed.

Leader is the state

Trump’s lawyers argued that the president’s personal position is inseparable from that of the nation itself. This is similar to the notion that took hold during the ascendancy of the man known as Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, who was in power from 31 B.C. to A.D. 14.

file-20200204-41507-1l95von.jpg?ixlib=rb
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who led the GOP response in the impeachment trial, leaves the Senate floor on Feb. 4, 2020. Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Trump defense attorney Alan Dershowitz asserted that “abuse of power” by the president is not an impeachable offense. A central part of Dershowitz’s argument was that “every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest” and that “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

This inability to separate the personal interests of a leader from the interests of the country he or she leads has powerful echoes in ancient Rome.

There, no formal change from a republican system to an autocratic system ever occurred. Rather, there was an erosion of the republican institutions, a steady creep over decades of authoritarian decision-making, and the consolidation of power within one individual – all with the name “Republic” preserved.

Oversight becomes harassment

Much of Rome’s decline into one-man rule can be observed in a series of developments during the time of Augustus, who held no formal monarchical title but only the vague designation “princeps,” or “first among equals.”

But in fact the senate had ceded him both power (“imperium” in Latin) over Rome’s military and the traditional tribune’s power to veto legislation. Each of these powers also granted him immunity from prosecution. He was above the law.

Augustus’ position thus gave him exactly the freedom from oversight – or what Trump calls “presidential harassment” – that the president demands. Such immunity is also the sort that Richard Nixon seemed to long for, most famously in his post-presidency declaration that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

In Augustus’ time the idea also emerged that the “princeps” and the Roman state were to a great extent one and the same. The identity of the one was growing to become inseparable from the identity of the other.

So, for example, under Augustus and then his successor Tiberius, insults against the emperor could be considered acts of treason against the state, or, more officially, against “the majesty of the Roman people.”

A critic of the “princeps” – be it in unflattering words or in the improper treatment of his image – was subject to prosecution as an “enemy of the people.”

A physical demonstration of the emerging union of the “princeps” and the state came in the construction of a Temple of Roma and Augustus in cities across the Mediterranean region.

Here the personification of the state as a goddess, Roma, and the “princeps” Augustus were closely aligned and, what is more, deified together. The message communicated by such a pairing was clear: If not quite one and the same, the “princeps” and the state were intimately identified, possessing a special, abiding authority through their union.

Many higher-ups in the Trump administration, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, have spoken publicly of Trump as a divinely chosen figure. And Trump himself declared earlier this year, “I do really believe we have God on our side.”

To this point, however, a Temple of Lady Liberty and Trump along the lines of the Temple of Roma and Augustus has not yet been constructed.

But the Senate impeachment trial has shown us how far along the identification of leader and state has moved in the Trump era. A central part of the president’s impeachment defense is, as we have seen, that the personal will of the president is indistinguishable from the will of the state and the good of the people.

Will the GOP-led Senate’s endorsement of this defense clear a path for more of the manifestations – and consequences – of authoritarianism? The case of the Roman Republic’s rapid slippage into an autocratic regime masquerading as a republic shows how easily that transformation can occur.

 

https://theconversation.com/this-is-how-ancient-romes-republic-died-a-classicist-sees-troubling-parallels-at-trumps-impeachment-trial-131121

 

 

 

Does history repeat itself? Is he above the law? Chosen by God? His best interest is the nations best interest? Hard to believe, but I see people here calling for an end to our founding father's vision of Rule of Law. I see people agreeing with Trump he should be president for life. I see people here who support the end of our democratic process and a return to a one ruler system.

 

B/A

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BA, I had to do a dissertation on the rise and fall of the Roman empire and there is a whole lot more to its cause than what's in the article. A British historian has written six volumes on the decline and fall - 

Conflict between the Emperor and the Senate

Weakening of the emperor’s authority (after Christianity the Emperor was no longer seen as a god)

Political Corruption – there was never a clear-cut system for choosing a new emperor, leading the ones in power to “sell” the position to the highest bidder.

Money wasting – the Romans were very fond of their prostitutes and orgies and wasted a lot of money on lavish parties, as well as their yearly “games”

Slave labor and price competition – Large, wealthy farm owners used slaves to work their farms, allowing them to farm cheaply, in contrast to smaller farmers who had to pay their workmen and could not compete price wise. Farmers had to sell their farms, leading to high unemployment figures.

Economical Decline – After Marcus Aurelius, the Romans stopped expanding their empire, causing in a decrease of gold coming into the empire. The Romans however kept spending, causing coinmakers to use less gold, decreasing the value of money.

Military spending – Because they wasted so much money and had to defend their borders all the time, the Government focused more on military spending than building houses or other public works, which enraged the people. Many stopped volunteering for the army, forcing the government to employ hired mercenaries, who were expensive, highly unreliable and ended up turning against the Roman Empire.

A stop in technological advancement – The Romans were great engineers, but did not focus on how to produce goods more effectively to provide to their growing population.

The Eastern Empire – The Roman Empire was divided in a Eastern and Western empire that drifted apart, making the empire easier to manage, but also weaker. Maybe the empire’s rapid expansion was its own downfall in the end.

Civil War and Barbarian Invasion – Civil war broke out in Italy and the smaller Roman army had to focus all of its attention there, leaving the borders wide open for the barbarians to attack and invade. Barbarian bandits made travel in the empire unsafe and merchants could not get goods to the cities anymore, leading to the total collapse of the empire.

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Sorry.....no real connection here.......comparing The Roman Empire to the US today is comparing Prunes to Strawberries.....

 

I do get a kick out of the MSM talking up the slight margin for the acquittal....they somehow never mention it would have taken 67 votes to remove Trump......not even close.....and this one.....as well as Clinton's impeachment, illustrate just how messed up the impeachment process is....as well as, how dysfunctional our government has become....    CL 

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10 minutes ago, coorslite21 said:

Sorry.....no real connection here

 

Seriously? You don't see any common ground in the Roman Empire and America? I think there are many things in common.

 

A complacent public. Cronyism. War between elites and common folks. Lack of morality. A shrinking dominance on global stage. Government in debt with military spending...

 

Those just a few things our empire shares with the Roman empire... I'm sure there are many more.

 

B/A

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1 hour ago, Sage449 said:

BA, I had to do a dissertation on the rise and fall of the Roman empire and there is a whole lot more to its cause than what's in the article. A British historian has written six volumes on the decline and fall - 

Conflict between the Emperor and the Senate

Weakening of the emperor’s authority (after Christianity the Emperor was no longer seen as a god)

Political Corruption – there was never a clear-cut system for choosing a new emperor, leading the ones in power to “sell” the position to the highest bidder.

Money wasting – the Romans were very fond of their prostitutes and orgies and wasted a lot of money on lavish parties, as well as their yearly “games”

Slave labor and price competition – Large, wealthy farm owners used slaves to work their farms, allowing them to farm cheaply, in contrast to smaller farmers who had to pay their workmen and could not compete price wise. Farmers had to sell their farms, leading to high unemployment figures.

Economical Decline – After Marcus Aurelius, the Romans stopped expanding their empire, causing in a decrease of gold coming into the empire. The Romans however kept spending, causing coinmakers to use less gold, decreasing the value of money.

Military spending – Because they wasted so much money and had to defend their borders all the time, the Government focused more on military spending than building houses or other public works, which enraged the people. Many stopped volunteering for the army, forcing the government to employ hired mercenaries, who were expensive, highly unreliable and ended up turning against the Roman Empire.

A stop in technological advancement – The Romans were great engineers, but did not focus on how to produce goods more effectively to provide to their growing population.

The Eastern Empire – The Roman Empire was divided in a Eastern and Western empire that drifted apart, making the empire easier to manage, but also weaker. Maybe the empire’s rapid expansion was its own downfall in the end.

Civil War and Barbarian Invasion – Civil war broke out in Italy and the smaller Roman army had to focus all of its attention there, leaving the borders wide open for the barbarians to attack and invade. Barbarian bandits made travel in the empire unsafe and merchants could not get goods to the cities anymore, leading to the total collapse of the empire.

 

 

Thanks Sage... Everything on your list is in step with our current way of life. Are we not living the same way? How can anyone not see the parallels?

 

B/A

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4 hours ago, Sage449 said:

After Marcus Aurelius, the Romans stopped expanding their empire, causing in a decrease of gold coming into the empire.

 

:lmao:   :lmao:   :lmao:

 

You knew Marcus Aurelius???!!!

 

 

 

:lmao:   :lmao:   :lmao:

 

Go Moola Nova (YYYEEEAAAHHH BBBAAABBBYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:pirateship:

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A while back I was looking at the commonalities with the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations and came across a book by the renowned American psychic Jeane Dixon who predicted the assassination of JFK. She died in 1997. While I don't remember the exact name of the book to this day, I will always remember how she compares the fall of the Roman Empire to the fall of the United States. While it is true that all things die, it is also true that all nation states have a beginning and an end. Jeane Dixon wrote in her book the fall of the Roman Empire was based on apathy. Apathy boils down to lack of concern or interest for what is going on and having no enthusiasm for changing what needs to be changed. Political corruption most of the time is result of people's apathy. When the news outlets talk about voter turnout they are measuring apathy. For example, the last general election had approximately 101 million people vote out of a total of 306 million people in the United States. In the 2018 midterm elections only 50.3% of eligible voters cast a ballot. While the 2018 midterm was the highest turnout since 1914, it still falls short of a majority of eligible voters voting.  Voting is an excellent way to take a snapshot of voter apathy but there are other forms of apathy that can potentially lead to the downfall of a nation state.

 

The analogy Jeane Dixon gave in her book was that the US was on the highest pedestal and  apathy was the cause for it to crumble. If you look at the list Sage provided us as to the fall of Rome, you can see that all but two (separation and civil war) are happening currently in the USA. Although some say we are involved in a civil war of types. And there is talk of separation of states ceding from the Union. Depending on your viewpoint, you may decide Jeane Dixon was write when she penned her book in the 1960's to predict the downfall of the US or not. One thing is clear the current state of affairs in the US is caused by apathy or as some would call it - fake news. 

Edited by Theseus
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Quote

A while back I was looking at the commonalities with the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations

End Quote

 

 

Multiple Shots from Many Directions Killed JFK

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4 hours ago, Theseus said:

While it is true that all things die, it is also true that all nation states have a beginning and an end. Jeane Dixon wrote in her book the fall of the Roman Empire was based on apathy. Apathy boils down to lack of concern or interest for what is going on and having no enthusiasm for changing what needs to be changed.

 

Great response and especially this line.... We are now in our second generation of people who spend more time taking "selfies" then doing anything else. This whole me thing is really very sad. When I speak to young they don't seem to care about very much except how they look on social media and how much their inheritance is worth.

 

B/A 

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7 hours ago, umbertino said:

Quote

A while back I was looking at the commonalities with the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations

End Quote

 

 

Multiple Shots from Many Directions Killed JFK

You might want to take a look at this as it is a very interesting recent investigation and the coverup that ensued

 

 

Edited by Theseus
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