• Empires of Trust

  • How Rome Built - and America Is Building - a New World
  • By: Thomas F. Madden
  • Narrated by: Richard Poe
  • Length: 12 hrs and 25 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (190 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In Empires of Trust, Professor Thomas F. Madden explores surprising parallels between the Roman and American republics.

By making friends of enemies and demonstrating a commitment to fairness, the two republics - both "reluctant" yet unquestioned super-powers - built empires based on trust. Madden also includes vital lessons from the Roman Republic's 100-year struggle with "terrorism."

©2008 Thomas F. Madden (P)2008 Recorded Books,LLC
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Bork, Reagan, and Honest of Rome

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.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A real eye opener

Before this book, I had many uninformed notions on Rome based on the movies and TV shows that only served to expand my ignorance. This book changed all that. I am amazed at the similarities between the first several hundred years of Rome, when it was a republic, and the United States up to this point. I am surprised at the changes (not always good) that come with an overall peace, and I was greatly interested at the relationship between Rome and Greece (much like our relationship -or obsession- with Western Europe).

As one who does not practice western religion, I found his coverage of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to be very even handed... That is to say that this book will make them all either have a hard and logical internal look at themselves (not likely), or to have a purely emotional response and write the book off as tripe because it hurts their sensibilities (yeah, probably this).

It also weighs in against conservatives and liberals fairly equally. I am a relatively conservative person and had to take several moments to step back and digest the point of the discussion without letting my personal biases get in the way. Then the book was incredibly informative.

The writer writes in a very conversational tone that is easy to digest because it really connects with the listener. And the narrator fits the content perfectly.

Whoever you are, parts of this book are going to upset you. But if you can get past that and look at the information presented objectively, this is an excellent choice.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Provocative comparison, Rome vs US circumstances

Madden's portrayal of early Rome sometimes takes on a Normal Rockwell quality. Rome was, aw shucks, just some well meaning guys who were dragged into building an empire when they really just wanted to stay at home and remodel the living room.

If you can get past the whitewash, the book provides and interesting walk through Rome's early history. The political science treatment of Rome's development is a refreshing break from dull recitation of chronological events that comprises most history books.

Madden steps on plenty of toes. He s an equal opportunity offender, providing analysis and opinions that give nearly everyone an opportunity for righteous indignation. But thats what makes it genuinely interesting and thought provoking.

If you like history, political science, current events, AND if you can enjoy reading a work that is going to challenge your political orthodoxy, then you'll probably like this book.

If you find yourself shouting at Fox news commentators on TV, then you might give this a pass, take a xanax and read Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. (actually if you read Decline and Fall, you won't need the Xanax..zzzz..)

Gripe: Annoying and repeating grammar mistakes in pluralization. Maybe its GW Bush's influence on the evolution of grammar..... "is the children learnin' "

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting but too myopic

I found the premise of this book interesting and I agree with many of its concepts to varying degrees. However, I found the analysis of the expansion of the Roman empire to be far too simplistic and uniform - especially coming from such a scholarly writer - and the relentless comparison of the Roman and American spheres of influence as Empires of Trust reaches the point of monotony. In particular, the idea that the Romans were reluctant empire-builders is dubious at best - certainly not the consensus viewpoint of ancient scholars. Of particular interest, nevertheless, are the following: (1) the comparison of American and Roman morality and religious values (2) the comparison of Rome's relationship to to the Old World (Greece) to America's relationship with the Old World (Europe) and (3) the comparison of America's struggle against radical Muslim fundamentalism to Rome's war against radical Zionists. Whether or not one agrees with Prof. Madden's conclusions, this book is worth consideration.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

What a disappointment

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.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Very Relevant to Modern Events in the Middle East

The author is a bit repetitive in the beginning establishing both his definition of an "Empire of Trust" and his thesis that much of ancient Roman and modern American history can be evaluated usefully in that context. Don't let the initial repetition get to you though. This starts off being a fascinating history of the Roman Empire that then begins to draw parallels to just how much our own government has been shaped by the same core principles and similar circumstances.

Even more interesting however are the last few chapters that show how the lessons learned by the Romans in their dealings with terrorism and strife in the Middle East are very much applicable today.

This isn't dry history; Madden writes in a very accessible style that is complemented well by reader Richard Poe. I was listening to this book while driving mostly and I was always disappointed to arrive at my destination and have to turn the book off.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Alternative History

Thomas F. Madden has done us all a favor by reframing the current situation in the middle east as a repeat of the same type of struggle that erupted between Rome and the Jews. The eerily familiar terrorist tactics of the Siccarii and the incomprehensible internecine bloodshed that occurred from 144 BCE and 74 CE could have been lifted from the reader bar on CNN. Like Rome, the United States is appealed to for aid on all quarters and like Rome is universally reviled for providing it and even by the people to whom aid is rendered. You should get this book. Richard Poe does an outstanding job of narration.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Good history lesson

This book has excellent discussions of comparison and contrast between Rome and the USA. Gives some history and insight into the nature of Empires and the uniqueness between Rome and the USA. Absolutely a MUST for anyone's library!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Partial view of history facts

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.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

My Pick, Book of the Year 2012

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.

2 people found this helpful