from The Daily Beast

How Ancient Rome Killed Democracy

by Bridey Heing

The Death of Julius Caesar Camuccini, Vincenzo (1771 - 1844, Italian) Circa 1825-1829 Oil on canvas Italian Unframed: 727 mm x 1291 mm The Emperor, attacked in the Senate by a group of Conspirators, including Brutus, Cassius and many of the Senators, falls under their daggers at the base of the statue of Pompey. The spectators show symptoms of the livliest horror and amazement. Niches in the wall are occupied with statuary figuresPublic Domain

It didn’t take all that much to tip a great civilization into the shackles of empire.

Rome holds a special place in the popular imagination. Cast as a culture steeped in myth, with values reminiscent of our own, it is often treated as the forebearer of our own political system, an ancestral democracy that provides a republican link between the present and the ancient past. From architecture to literature to political system, Rome is where it all began.

But in his latest book, Richard Alston wants us all to think a little more critically about our beloved Rome.

Alston is a Professor of Roman History at the University of London’s Royal Holloway, and the inspiration for Rome’s Revolution: Death of the Republic and Birth of the Empire came from his own dissatisfaction with the existing body of work on Roman politics. He saw how the idealized vision of Roman culture that these works present influenced the way his students thought about Rome. “Somehow,” Alston writes in the preface, “it was all too nice … but the Roman accounts of their revolution are anything but nice. They were shocked and shocking.”

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