Ancient Rome casts a long shadow over the world. It is the empire against which other powers are compared, its story one of vast expansion and ultimate decline and fall, and a mix of apparently “modern” sophistication and utterly alien cruelty. These days only a minority of people have ever studied classics or ancient history, so the Roman Republic is today largely forgotten. For most, Rome means emperors—men draped in sheets and wearing laurel wreaths. A cartoonist can draw a modern politician—albeit probably only a male one—like this, and invoke decadence in general: Nero playing the fiddle or lyre while Rome burns.

In truth, Rome carved out an empire while it was still a republic, destroying Carthage in the process. Yet that is barely remembered. Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus, the future emperor Titus and his legions destroyed the Temple in...

 

A Message from the Editors

Since 1982, The New Criterion has nurtured and safeguarded our delicate cultural inheritance. Join our family of supporters and secure the future of civilization.

Popular Right Now