Rome vs. America All world powers assert their influence throughout the world by exerting their cultural, economic, diplomatic, or military strength. Of those fur characteristics, however it’s easiest to see the effects that arise when a nation employs its military. By far the least subtle means of establishing supremacy, military conquest is the most direct force used. Nations great enough to be determined a “superpower” has always asserted its power with at least some military might.
One of the most admired empires in this regard was the Roman Empire, which showed the importance of an fficient professional military in subjugating and controlling other countries. The American “empire” (for lack of a better word) is a current superpower often compared with Rome, with good reason. Both nations overthrew their suppressive monarchs and gained sovereignty through revolution. America and Rome developed as world powers principally through military conquest. Both nations even declined due to their over reliance of military and the mismanagement of the countrys military finances in their budgets.
The Roman Empire and the United States both rose and fell due to their reliance on their military. Rome and America started their route to domination in a similar fashion . Though little is known about the specifics of Rome’s foundation, it is often noted as 753 B. C. Between its founding and 509 B. C. , Rome was used by seven kings, of which at least three where Etruscan The end of the monarchy was sparked by Tarquin the Proud’s tyrannical rule, during which he executed many of his opponents and ruled through his own will as an autocrat.
His tyranny along with his invasion of the Volscians, a tribe inhabiting southeastern Latium, contributed to the revolts occurring in Rome at the time. Isaac Asimov notes that, “Tarquin was exiled in 509 B. C. ; thus Rome had spent two and a half centuries under its seven kings. Now we enter a five-century-long period during which the Roman Republic managed first to survive and then to grow mighty’ (Asimov, 23). This Roman revolution is uncannily similar to the American Revolution.
A few major differences include the reasons (a large part of the reason behind the American Revolution was due to taxation to pay for colonial defense, giving rise to the phrase no taxation without representation used by patriots during the war), and the means behind each revolution (the Romans simply closed the city ates on Tarquin as he returned home, whereas the Americans had to wage a revolutionary war to gain their independence). Apart from these distinctions, both would-be empires debuted similarly.
Like Rome, America was governed by a foreign monarch, King George Ill prior to and during its revolution. Following each state’s respective power struggle, it both created their own republic designed to represent the people. The violent change of government affected both nations deeply, and gave them both a new sense of patriotism. With their new found liberty, both nations developed to form empires through great acts of military might, which will be xplained thoroughly later in the essay. As Rome and the United States developed as nations, so did their lust for power.
Even before they were on their way to becoming paths. After dominating Italy, Rome was faced with a fierce opponent competing for control to her southwest: Carthage. The rivalry between the two states spanned the length of the three Punic wars, between 264 and 146 B. C. The wars ended in Rome’s favor, however, and Carthage was burnt down to the ground during the third and last of the wars. Rome also annexed the Iberian Peninsula and parts of northern Africa. America, though she had no foe as challenging as Carthage was to Rome, faced a similar obstacle on its way to power.
In 1898, the United States declared war with Spain, resulting in the Spanish-American War. The Americans fought mainly naval battles, and ended up annexing the Philippine Islands and Cuba at the end of the war. Both of these conflicts, Rome’s Punic wars as well as the Spanish-American war, relied on the importance of a strong navy. Rome initially lacked a true naw during the Punic wars, which was an immense disadvantage for the Romans against the well-developed naw of the Carthaginians. They had ships, of course, but small ones; none that could possibly dare approach Carthaginian ships of war.
The Romans didn’t even know how to build large ships; How, then, could they hope to battle at sea? ” (Asimov 77). They had nothing to parallel their opponents with at sea, and had to reverse-engineer a wrecked Carthaginian quinquereme, a ship with five banks of oars, instead of the three banks in the much smaller Roman triremes (Asimov 77-78). America, who already had a naw established in 1898, was forced to update her own, for she obtained islands around the globe from 19th entury American imperialism and needed a naw to travel to and rule over these islands.
While the need to create and update the navies may seem like hindrances, they actually provided new tools for each growing states to conquer. The navies could now transport troops to places unavailable by land, and each country gained quite a bit of land allowing them to stage new military and diplomatic operations. Both wars were obstacles in each states route to dominance, for example each war was a financial burden upon both states economy as well as the burden the wars would have on the mortality of both societies .
However each war also strengthened them so that the empires could expand even more, such as the gain of the Iberian Peninsula and parts of Africa for Rome for their the defeat of Carthage, and the gain of the Philippines for America’s defeat of Spain. With each country taking over parts of the known world through military might, it is ironic that the prominent military of each nation was also what made their empires fall. In Rome, barbarian invasions throughout the empire prompted Rome to invest in its military. This had unfortunate side effects of huge taxation on peasants, resulting in the loss f agriculture and cultivated lands.
In his book, The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation, Arthur Ferrill explains that, “… the decay of trade and industry was not a cause of Rome’s fall. There was a decline in agriculture and land was withdrawn from cultivation, in some cases on a very large scale, sometimes as a direct result of barbarian invasions. However, the chief cause of the agricultural decline was high taxation on the marginal land, driving it out of cultivation. Jones is surely right in saying that taxation was spurred by the huge military budget and was urrently in decline, and information about its deterioration is either very biased or nonexistent.
However, according to War Resisters League (WRL), the United States may be spending as much as 54% of her income tax on military, from paying the military personnel to research and development to war allowances (These last few are educated guesses by WRL, as the United States Government does not provide the numbers behind expenditures on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars). With their complete concentration on military, other crucial parts of running any country, let alone a superpower, are forgotten. The current economic crisis that the U. S. is undergoing is widely accepted to be beyond the point of no return.
Both empires reached climaxes still unprecedented, but were dragged down by their over attention to their military. Rome and America owe their conquests as well as losses to their military. They both violently overthrew their oppressors, starting a history of violent actions. They started developing as empires through almost purely militaristic means. They finally fell in a sick twist of irony by the very means that gave them their superpower status. What remains to be seen is if any future would-be empire can earn from the mistakes of its predecessors.
Matousek6 Works Cited Asimov, Isaac. The Roman Republic. Second Printing. New York: HMCo, 1966. “American Revolution. ” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia. 18 Dec 2008 . Trask, David. The War with Spain in 1898. 2nd Edition. New York: The Free Press, 1996. Ferrill, Arthur. The Fall of the Roman Republic: The Military Explanation. New York: Thames and Hudson Ltd. , 1986. “The Federal Pie Chart. ” War Resisters League 2008 18 Dec 2008 . “Decline of the Roman Empire. ” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia. 18 Dec 2008 . “Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. ” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia. 18 Dec 2008 .