Old & fat, but strong; American, Chinese, & Indian (sort of); Ph.D. in C.S.; strategy, economics & stability theory; trees & machining.
This book presents a theory of American exceptionalism. The exceptional thing about the book is that it’s the only theory of American Exceptionalism I've ever heard that is actually deep and thoughtful and has something important to say.
My summary of his theory is:
American exceptionalism is derivative from Roman exceptionalism. Over the last 2,000 years most chances at new governance have attempted to model the Roman republic. The difference is that the American founding fathers, unlike most revolutionaries, were quite educated. They spoke Latin and actually knew enough to have an approximately accurate understanding of Roman exceptionalism.
An interesting issue is that modern readers probably know far less about the Romans than John Adams. In fact, according to the author the modern pop culture story about the Romans is almost exactly the opposite of reality. He’s somewhat vague on why this is; ratings are part of the answer. He suggests that the long life of Greek propaganda about the Romans may also be a factor, or not.
In the end it doesn't matter if Joe Plumber understands that the things that make America great are linked to Rome. But it does matter that we not lose the values that made us great.
So which specific values does the author think lead to American exceptionalism. Read the book. But my observation on his list is that it’s everything and anything that is orthogonal to the left-right debate that dominates current American Politics.
NO, don't reread books. Too many good ones out there.
Maybe Empires of the Sea, in terms of scope.
Description of the political culture of Rome and the United States.
I thought it was a really good read. Learned alot about Rome and how the empire was founded and developed.
Certain segments of the political left view America as an evil empire. In this view, we are likened to the Roman empire of the latter centuries of classical Roman history. This book does not refute that America is becoming an empire, but it doesn’t go so far as to accuse America as a whole of being an imperial nation bent on conquest.
This will annoy people on both the left and right. The left because he doesn’t agree with them that George Bush was an imperialist dictator in democratic disguise, and the right because he acknowledges that America is indeed an empire of influence at least.
The points the author makes however are well reasoned and based on fact that can be easily researched. The only critiques I’ve seen in writing so far were taken out of context, and thus not valid.
The only real flaw I would call the author on is portraying Rome as being completely unwitting heirs to their empire. This is necessary for him to make the point that America has also stumbled on to empire, which isn’t entirely true either. There is some pro-empire sentiment to be found in ancient Rome and modern America - among Democrats and Republicans both. Democrat Presidents got America in to both world wars, Korea and Vietnam. Attacking state support of Islamic terrorism after 9/11 is hardly an imperialistic venture, but of course our government has long consisted of two main parties, neither of which has had such overwhelming control that either can step back and point a validly accusative finger at the other.
Three years ago I listened to the author's Modern Scholar lecture on early Christianity. On that basis I bought this book. Maybe I would hear that lecture with different ears now, but at the time I thought he was focused on facts.
I agree with the reviewer who said some correction in perspective on America is needed. But do it through facts, not through oversimplification and slip-sliding over inconvenient truths. I just have room here for a couple of examples.
First, re Judah Maccabee, Madden seemed to want to paint him as a friend of the Empire, so since he's painting Hellenized Jews as the good Jews, friends of the Empire, he didn't mention that Judah Maccabee's revolt was in large part a civil war against the radical Hellenizers among the Jews and he didn't go so easy on the moderate Hellenizers, either.
Second, re Jesus, Madden avoided the fact that to the Romans he was just another one of those Jewish Messiah figures--not in this case a military leader--but if, as Madden says, the main threat to the Empire was religious insurrection, then it would be him & others like him the Romans and their Hellenized friends among the Jews especially wanted to execute during those tumultuous years. Not so consistent with who were the good guys according to Madden!
I read a quote from Madden in a Modern Scholar catalog to the effect that knowing the past will help you not to repeat it, but the reverse is not true--current events do not help in explaining the past. If you retroject them back into the past you will get distortions. I think Madden breaks his own rule, and anyway I think it's too easy to make unpleasant generalities about people his audience loves to hate while cutting them--his audience--slack. He just bends over backward to be an apologist for Rome--and America.
When the author gets to the end and talks about the fall of the Roman Empire, he finally says, It's complicated! Well, it's all complicated. More history, less polemic, please!
I am a huge fan of Roman history and I liked Madden's lectures in Odyssey of the West and Upon this Rock; however, this book was a difficult to complete. The portions that describe Rome are interesting, but Madden constantly beats you with his Empire of Trust thesis. In Madden's words, Empire of Trust is 'hyperbole masquerading as argument.'
If you are interested in Roman history check out The Modern Scholar: A History of Ancient Rome by Titchener. She presents a similar argument minus the thesis beating.
I was expecting a thoughtful analysis, and after a few hours of this empty drivel I bailed.
This really felt like a reverse-engineered apology for the Bush hubris in international policy. I know nothing of the author's intentions or methodology, but the product smacks of strong prejudice and weak research.
Some of it is laughable; most of it is annoying.
All of it is a waste of precious Audible listening time. Keep looking.
The premise of this work I found very appealing. A conservative scholar "comes out of his dusty attic" to demonstrate the true parallels between Rome and America, while debunking the popular comparisons. I am no scholar, but I cannot imagine what university allows this man to teach its students. His professorship must be fully endowed by the Cato Institute or some Coors fund. Instead of a scholarly corrective, this book does a cut-and-paste historical comparison that omits small episodes and intermediations like the Roman plebeian class wars, the Grachus brothers, the contemporary indictments of the Roman Senate, war slavery, the Mexican American war, the Indian wars, the Philippines, the industrial revolution, and on and on. The selectivity and hazy lens of his scholarship is on a par with the violent, decadent HBO version of Rome he calumniates, substituting instead a Rome and America through the misty eyes of Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, and Robert Bork. All honest farmers who only long to be left alone to raise their families and worship their gods, yet are tragically forced to kill, enslave, and extend empires, just to be safe. The most hilarious anachronism is his parallel between Roman and American religion. The Romans were tolerant "except of atheism." He does not mention that the Romans considered monotheism, including Christianity, to be "atheism." Instead, he segues into a description of the horrors of Dionysian rituals that is obviously meant to invoke rock concerts and gay discos. I am not a scholar. I am not a liberal. I admire classicists and many conservative intellectuals. But anyone who buys this work should be advised that they are getting a highly political, anachronistic, and simplified interpretation from the far right think tanks, a work perfect for home-schooling evangelicals who must explain "Rome" and "Empire" to their American children.
The author is highly egocentric in his portray of history; taking mostly the fact that may support his theories and easily rejecting others different opinions. The book is just one opinion that needed to be compares with others different expert opinion in order to get a better understanding. The book is about:
I am (the author) the source of correct history information and other sources are biases or not accurate. In resume the book is a very egocentric point of view of history.
I thought this was going to be a great book. The first chapter shows such great promise. Unfortunately, the book is a as dull as a one note song. Each chapter makes the same point. Each chapter begins with some Roman history, which is superficially connected to American history or current events, and concludes with the same point. Over and over again.