In Empires of Trust, Professor Thomas F. Madden explores surprising parallels between the Roman and American republics. By making friends of enemies and demonstrating a commitment to fairness, the two republics - both "reluctant" yet unquestioned super-powers - built empires based on trust. Madden also includes vital lessons from the Roman Republic's 100-year struggle with "terrorism."
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The premise of this work I found very appealing. A conservative scholar "comes out of his dusty attic" to demonstrate the true parallels between Rome and America, while debunking the popular comparisons. I am no scholar, but I cannot imagine what university allows this man to teach its students. His professorship must be fully endowed by the Cato Institute or some Coors fund. Instead of a scholarly corrective, this book does a cut-and-paste historical comparison that omits small episodes and intermediations like the Roman plebeian class wars, the Grachus brothers, the contemporary indictments of the Roman Senate, war slavery, the Mexican American war, the Indian wars, the Philippines, the industrial revolution, and on and on. The selectivity and hazy lens of his scholarship is on a par with the violent, decadent HBO version of Rome he calumniates, substituting instead a Rome and America through the misty eyes of Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, and Robert Bork. All honest farmers who only long to be left alone to raise their families and worship their gods, yet are tragically forced to kill, enslave, and extend empires, just to be safe. The most hilarious anachronism is his parallel between Roman and American religion. The Romans were tolerant "except of atheism." He does not mention that the Romans considered monotheism, including Christianity, to be "atheism." Instead, he segues into a description of the horrors of Dionysian rituals that is obviously meant to invoke rock concerts and gay discos. I am not a scholar. I am not a liberal. I admire classicists and many conservative intellectuals. But anyone who buys this work should be advised that they are getting a highly political, anachronistic, and simplified interpretation from the far right think tanks, a work perfect for home-schooling evangelicals who must explain "Rome" and "Empire" to their American children.
Madden's portrayal of early Rome sometimes takes on a Normal Rockwell quality. Rome was, aw shucks, just some well meaning guys who were dragged into building an empire when they really just wanted to stay at home and remodel the living room.
If you can get past the whitewash, the book provides and interesting walk through Rome's early history. The political science treatment of Rome's development is a refreshing break from dull recitation of chronological events that comprises most history books.
Madden steps on plenty of toes. He s an equal opportunity offender, providing analysis and opinions that give nearly everyone an opportunity for righteous indignation. But thats what makes it genuinely interesting and thought provoking.
If you like history, political science, current events, AND if you can enjoy reading a work that is going to challenge your political orthodoxy, then you'll probably like this book.
If you find yourself shouting at Fox news commentators on TV, then you might give this a pass, take a xanax and read Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. (actually if you read Decline and Fall, you won't need the Xanax..zzzz..)
Gripe: Annoying and repeating grammar mistakes in pluralization. Maybe its GW Bush's influence on the evolution of grammar..... "is the children learnin' "