Are We Rome?
The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America
By Cullen Murphy
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618742226, 272pp.)
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
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The rise and fall of ancient Rome has been on American minds from the beginning of our republic. Today we focus less on the Roman Republic than on the empire that took its place. Depending on who's doing the talking, the history of Rome serves as either a triumphal call to action or a dire warming of imminent collapse.
The esteemed editor and author Cullen Murphy ventures past the pundits' rhetoric to draw nuanced lessons about how America might avoid Rome's demise. Working on a canvas that extends far beyond the issue of an overstretched military, Murphy reveals a wide array of similarities between the two empires: the blinkered, insular culture of our capitals; the debilitating effect of venality in public life; the paradoxical issue of borders; and the weakening of the body politic though various forms of privatization. He persuasively argues that we most resemble Rome in the burgeoning corruption of our government and in our arrogant ignorance of the world outside -- two things that are in our power to change.
In lively, richly detailed historical stories based on the latest scholarship, the ancient world leaps to life and casts our own contemporary world in a provocative new light.
Cullen Murphy is the editor at large at Vanity Fair and the former managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of Are We Rome?, The Word According to Eve, and the essay collection Just Curious.