Saturday, September 15, 2007

Are We Rome? (Book #92)

Fans of The Colbert Report will remember an episode from a couple months back where he dressed up in Americo-Roman armor (apparently a gift from a fan who makes handcrafted gear for reenactors) to interview Cullen Murphy, author of Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America (2007).

Anyway, that's where I heard of this book, and I'm glad I picked it up. It's well-written, thought-provoking, and readily comprehensible without being simplistic. Murphy's answer to his titular question is "yes and no."

In a thousand specific ways, the answer is obviously no. In a handful of important ways, the answer is certainly yes. As societies, America and Rome are built on different premises. As people, Americans and Romans cherish different values. But Rome and America share certain dangerous traits--habits of mind and behavior. America and Rome also face similarly fraught circumstances, arising both from inside and from outside.

For more detail, read the book. At 200 pithy pages, it's well worth your time. Though it did give me a plot bunny for the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest that I have a feeling is going to stick with me and insist on becoming a novel. Which means I may end up investing a few years of my life in an idea that sprang from this book. But that's just me, the military history geek/writer woman.

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