Does History repeat itself? Many thinkers, from ancient times to modern, from Polybius to Hegel and Santayana, have thought so. Karl Marx, alluding to Hegel’s formulation, sarcastically added the well-known bit about “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”. Whether one believes in this theory or not, it is interesting to look at the many parallels that exist between Ancient Rome and the United States of America today.
Both were republics, governed by elected representatives. Their involvement in wars gradually changed this into rule by monarchs. Their early rulers, tempered by their wartime experiences, generally governed wisely – Octavius/Augustus on the one hand, Roosevelt/Truman/Eisenhower on the other. However, they were followed by others of a different type, the successors becoming increasingly warped as time passed, and more and more power seeped into their hands. As power accumulated with the monarchs, conspiracies and coups multiplied. Emperors were assassinated, presidents were forced from office.
As the powers of the monarchs increased, and their quality deteriorated, the weirdness of their antics manifested themselves more and more. There was Tiberius and his ‘minnows’ in the Blue Grotto; and Clinton sporting with Monica in the Oval Office. Caligula made his horse a Consul; Trump makes his son-in-law his policy chief. Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Trump tweets all the time. Clumsy Claudius was a figure of fun for many in Rome; George Bush Junior was (and is) the same for many in the USA (for example, see David Letterman). But the snickering of their people did not stop either of them from launching wars and bringing death and destruction to many lands.