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If We're Rome, Who Are the Barbarians That Will End Us?

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The founding fathers did not see themselves as constituting a new version of classical Greece. Instead, they saw themselves as biblically inspired Romans, which is to say modern Republicans.

Paul Meany has written insightfully about how the founding fathers were enamored of the Roman Republic and how, in many ways, collectively and personally, they modeled themselves on the ancient Romans.

The Founders lavished praise upon Roman heroes who defended their government from tyranny in the Republic's turbulent final days[.] ... [M]any 18th century Americans felt an affinity for ancient Rome, there are many parallels between the two societies. Akin to the Republican Romans, 18th-century Americans were mainly rural farmers[.] ... The Romans praised the virtues of independence, patriotism, and moderation, which were also cornerstones of American society[.] ... By anchoring arguments for freedom to ancient precedent, Revolutionary American authors aimed to demonstrate that their arguments were timeless and firmly embedded in history. Historians like Plutarch, Livy, and Tacitus successfully encapsulated in writing the eternal and unavoidable struggle between liberty and power[.] ... Many of the educated American Revolutionaries did more than just read about the Romans as a scholarly pursuit — they actively tried to emulate their behavior and virtues.

The Romans had a word for their moral code. They called it "Romanitas." It was most alive during the history of Republican Rome and then became attenuated, as Rome descended into a Western form of oriental despotism, ruled by emperors who were often put in power by military elites.

Polybius, the ancient historian, captures some of the essence of Romanitas in the following, almost humorous paragraph:

The Roman customs and principles regarding the acquisition of wealth are better than those of the Carthaginians. In the view of the latter nothing is disgraceful that makes for gain; with the former nothing is more disgraceful than to receive bribes and to make profit by improper means. For they regard wealth obtained from unlawful transactions to be as much a subject of reproach as a fair profit from reputable sources is of commendation. A proof of the fact is this: the Carthaginians obtain office by open bribery, but among the Romans the penalty is death.


© American Thinker

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