Thursday, October 20, 2022

Pax Romana vs Pax Americana

From our History Rhymes dept.

Rome utterly destroyed Carthage in 146 BC, razing the city to the ground. Some historians believe that the annihilation of Rome's single most powerful adversary was the cause for Rome's own decline and ultimate fall, centuries later. 

The reason, they say, was the absence of the necessary drive to overcome a worthy opponent. After destroying Carthage, Romans were in the race all by themselves so they didn't have to train and run as hard as before.  After centuries of  slowly growing fat and lazy from the inside, they finally succumbed to fitter and faster opponents. By 410 AD when Alaric reluctantly sacked Rome, the city was but a shadow of its old self. 

I don't know if this analysis is correct, but being a competitive athlete myself, it sounds plausible.

The Sack Of Rome By Alaric - 410 AD

Which brings us to the present and the one empire very much modeled after Rome: the United States of America.  After the Soviet Union's collapse I have increasingly looked at US history as paralleling that of Rome.  Obviously not exactly, or even nearly, but I think it "smells" the same.  

As in Rome after Augustus and Tiberius, following Bill Clinton came a series of weak/inept/buffoonish Presidents, social and economic polarization, the gutting of domestic industry in favor of "cheap" imports and a rising tide of foreign powers willing to challenge America's supremacy.  The 9/11 attack galvanized Americans, but it also made them more xenophobic and  isolationist than ever, and forced the government to look for enemies even amongst friends (you're either with us or against us).

What is more important than the rhyme of History is the speed at which events are unfolding now.  Rome hardly evolved (eg in military technology) in the six centuries between the bookend sacks of Carthage and Rome, but in just 30 years since the Soviet collapse we have seen IT, telecom and social media technologies permeating even the remotest corners of the world, China leapfrogging in astonishing fashion and, most worrying of all, climate change accelerating more than even the most vocal scientists predicted just ten years ago. 

Bottom line: The Rise and Fall of Rome took many centuries.  Pax Americana may be undone in mere decades.


  1. The failure to recognize Russia's asymmetric warfare approach of 'divide and conquer' in order to sow social unrest in the US via social media manipulation will be seen as one if the great contributors to the US's decline. The KGB coup at the end of the Soviet Union really did succeed, and they've been doing what they know best ever since social media acted as a propellant. Then China also contributing to weakening the US through fentanyl, it's a double whammy from abroad...

  2. camabron has an interesting point... I guess in decline, all empires follow a similar pattern... but in this case, the U.S. feels more like Qing China than Rome...

    During the opium war, China was still the richest state on earth (35% of world gdp)... However, the political system was so degraded the country become a victim of all kinds of theoretically weaker foreign powers... Could not even do basic things like enforce laws, stop drug trafficking, invest in technology, stop foreign influence, etc, etc...

    Basically became a corpse, with the jackals quarreling over the spoils...