Bear with me here. I have many reasons for the title of this post, though even as I type the words I find myself in a bit of a whirl, and I am trying to focus my efforts here.
For Christmas my wife got for me a book about the history of Ancient Rome. So far, I haven’t read a great deal of it (I only started reading it the other day), but this insightful book is giving me inspiration toward my Rome-based stories.
Beyond that, Mary Beard’s book (SPQR, which stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus, translated as The Senate and People of Rome) serves as a thoughtful look into Rome’s complicated ideas about itself, with its contradictory writings about its own history and place in the world. In the eyes of the Romans who Beard bases her work on, they saw Rome has at once both glorious, powerful and a beacon for the people, and also as an empire whose founding was based upon some dark and troubling ideals.
I’m less than a hundred pages in, and already the parallels between Ancient Rome and modern society are very much in evidence. In electoral campaigns those who vied to become Consuls (among the most powerful positions in the Republic), donations verging on bribery were common, and what would be called smear campaigns in today’s terms were hardly unusual. Debates over execution without trial, about fabrication of evidence, and passionate public speeches to whip up support for what would be considered anti-terrorism laws today all took place, as did debates over citizenship. Sound familiar?
In many ways, the ideals and policies of Rome are the same as those we have in the Western world today. The only difference between then and now is the technology we wield. The ideas, the values and the introspective justifications… they can all be found both then and now. I am barely into Beard’s book, and I feel the more I read it, the more I feel I can emphasize with the peoples of Ancient Rome.