The Bottom Line
To be read by all Americans, as history or a warning.
- Close to jargon-free
- Doesn't presuppose deep familiarity with ancient history
- Not just another United states as New Rome, but clear meaningful comparisons
- Clarifies our current political trajectory
- Too much on movies and Las Vegas attractions that most of us are already very familiar with
- In the early chapters, shows the Romans particularly admired by Americans and why
- Throughout the analysis, Malamud looks at the entertainment industry
- Shows how political parties developed
- Provides details on the topics from ancient Rome that may be unfamiliar
- Malamud does not sit back hyper-objectively, but injects cautionary notes
Guide Review - Ancient Rome and Modern America by Margaret Malamud
The founding fathers saw themselves as Cato, Brutus, or Cicero, facing an oppressive tyrant, George III, another Julius Caesar. By the Civil War, abolitionists saw themselves as Carthaginians fighting against a slave-wielding Rome. The Gracchi were the Roman hero of the day. When America became overwhelmingly Protestant, Americans started looking at the early Roman Empire, a period in which Christians suffered. Unlike Rome, America wouldn't fall if it stuck to Christianity. Then, decadence and wealth, concentrated in the hands of the Neros of the world, paralleled the American experience. The wage-slaves wished to emulate Spartacus and rebel.
Most of the chapters of Ancient Rome and America are developed from earlier publications, which leads to slightly uneven treatment. Malamud seems to drone on about the entertainment industry in the U.S. with, for instance, great detail about Kirk Douglas in the context of illustrating the freedom-reducing acts of the McCarthy era. I wish she'd used the pages for even more on the less familiar eras of early America. At the beginning and end, Malamud invokes the wise Robert Byrd as a senator who really knows his history and should be heeded.