This presidency looks like the manic days that presaged the fall of Rome
In days gone by, I used to compare the Trump presidency with the Arab dictatorships. He took preposterous pleasure in the company of Egypt’s Sisi (60,000 political prisoners) and his inane ramblings had much in common with those of Muammar Gaddafi, who also “authored” a book he never wrote but whom Trump never met (albeit that Tony Blair and Gaddafi kissed each other on the cheek). But over the past week, I’ve begun to realise that the crackpot in the White House has much more in common with ancient Rome.
My former classics professor once told me – when I melodramatically called him on my mobile phone from the original Roman forum during the US occupation of Iraq under George W Bush – that the Romans were a “manic” people, but that they would have been pretty unimpressed with the American handling of the Iraqi campaign.
He was right. But I am now convinced that there is something distinctly “manic” about the Trump presidency. The hatred, the threats, the fury, have much in common with both the Roman republic (Rome’s version of popular “democracy”) and the Roman empire, when quite a number of emperors showed themselves to be just as insane as Trump.
Cato the Censor, a dangerous man, would end each of his speeches in Rome with the words Carthago delenda est. “Carthage must be destroyed”. Is this not exactly the language of Trump? Did he not say that he could have Afghanistan “wiped off the face of the earth”, that he could “totally destroy” North Korea, that Iran “will be destroyed” if it attacks the US?
Cato got what he wanted. Carthage was indeed razed, its people sold into slavery, although its lands were not in fact sown with salt as English historians would later claim. So far, Trump has been more Cicero than Cato, Pompeo more Pliny than Pompey. So far.
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