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The American Empire

Hank Greely says: "I dislike the comparison between the US today and the Roman Empire, either as a description or as an aspiration, which I think is held by some of those who make it. If the comparison is going to be made, though, I wish we would note - and encourage others to note - that the Roman Empire, vast as it was, was not substantially larger or more significant than its contemporary, the Chinese empire. And further that the Romans never had complete security on their eastern frontier as they regularly were challenged by various Persian dynasties. The Chinese had no similar "civilized" threat from their neighbors, though, like the Romans, they were beset from time to time by incursions of 'barbarians'".

RH: Certainly the Founding Fathers though in terms of the Roman Empire, as is evident even in the Roman place names given some cities. I know of no mention of China in their deliberations, even though there was an admiration among many for Chinese civilization. One should think also of Napoleon's empire, which reflected a nostalgia for the Roman empire and which had an important impact on the US military. We frequently talk of the influence of Napoleon in Latin America, but we need a study of his influence in the US. The best comparison is with Russia, whose eastward expansion is the mirror image of the US expansion westward. As the word Czar (Caesar) indicates, the Roman model was important there too. The British and French empires were also inspired by the Roman model, the Spanish and Portuguese empires much less so.

Ronald Hilton - 1/19/03