I’m reading a book about Rome (Life in Ancient Rome by Don Nardo) and have come across a number of interesting pieces of information, one of which is that during the Roman Republic, which began around 500 BC, they had a Senate comprised exculsively of men belonging to the Roman aristocracy. These men, who held their positions for life, controlled the finances, foreign policy and dictated how the provinces would be run. Here’s the part that struck me:
The traditional power of the oligarchic Senate was what kept Rome from evolving into a true democracy. This is not surprising, considering that the senators were part of the ancient and venerable patrician elite. They doubted the intelligence, abilities and moral capacity of the common people, whom they often referred to as “the mob.”
On this subject he quotes Cicero, who held that while a little democracy might be good, “too much was dangerous.” Cicero believed that it would be unfair to grant authority to both society’s highest and lowest members because “the highest were by nature superior…and therefore deserved to rule, while the lowest would be incapable of ruling well even if given the chance.”
And it just reminded me of the political ruling class in this country. The idea that governing has allegedly become so complex and sophisticated that only a small minority has the intellect and capability of figuring it all out. If you haven’t gone to Harvard or Yale you are clearly hopeless. (Unless you have, but you are a Republican with the last name of Bush…)
In any case, I can see why they think that with some of their strange ideas about the economy — for example, going into more debt is a great way of getting rid of one’s debts. That is definitely a complex and sophisticated idea — so much so that to me, a common person, without an ivy league education, it makes no sense whatsoever.
Just like inflicting increasing gun control laws on our law-abiding citizenry, while freely allowing some 2000 guns to “fall into” the hands of Mexican criminals. I’m afraid I am too stupid to figure out how that was a good idea, either.
Nor how we can have “affordable” healthcare for all without it costing any of us any more in taxes. And why are we lectured on the need for all of us sharing the sacrifice when our leader and his wife can’t even share the same plane?
But then, I’m not a member of the ruling class intelligensia, so that must be why. It’s all just over my head.
It’s so over this “peon’s” head, too, Karen! LOL!
Sigh. Too deep for me, that’s for sure. Sigh! 🙂
Speaking of Cicero and Ancient Rome, are you familiar with A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell? Fabulous, in-depth novel about Cicero and his Rome. I read it back in high school when we studied some Cicero in my Latin class and have never forgotten it.
I also just picked up The Silver Pigs after reading your post. A mystery in Ancient Rome? I couldn’t resist.
Hope you like Silver Pigs! And thanks for the recommendation. I’ve read other Taylor Caldwell novels, but not that one. I’ll have to look it up.
I’ll be handing The Silver Pigs off to my mom as soon as I’m done. She was the one who first got me hooked on Rome and Latin…and mysteries, too, come to think of it 🙂 .
I would also recommend reading Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy (early history of Rome). Despite his poor reputation, Machiavelli is a great promoter of the Republican form of government. I don’t think it would help you with a study of the culture and style of the Romans, but it certainly would give you an insight into human nature (well, we know it already: it’s fallen. But it’s always good to read in detail just how fallen we are, and in what patterns our behaviors tend to follow!), and where the ideals behind our own country came from. The Romans achieved something, quite by accident, that would later become a model for our own government. That is, a mixture of the Monarchy, the Aristocracy, and the People (Consul, Senate, Tribunes of the Plebs).
Cicero is right in that too much Democracy is certainly a bad thing. Our Republic is designed to protect not just from a dictator, but from the people who have a habit of picking dictators for their rulers.
I really appreciate your comments on “The idea that governing has allegedly become so complex and sophisticated that only a small minority has the intellect and capability of figuring it all out.”
I believe that it is not that governing itself has become complex and sophisticated, but that the people in the government have made it more complex and sophisticated in order to ensure that they remain in power as much as possible. Yes, it is a power game, as it was in Ancient Rome. By maintaining exclusivity, those who already have a lot of power and wealth are able to obtain more of both in a way that seems justifiable and which is hardly ever contested by the “mob.”
It is very sad to see this happening. However, it does not mean that it cannot be changed. If we help to educate the masses on these issues as well as on the need to spread love, understanding, compassion, and to turn our backs to indulgence in consumerism, it is possible for us (the small ones) to bring about change. “Change yourself and you change the world!”
Love your humor, Karen. Gave me a good chuckle!
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