Cullen Murphy’s Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America is definitely worth reading, particularly if your knowledge of Roman history is lacking (click here to view all my posts about this book).
I don’t know enough about Roman history to properly evaluate the points Murphy makes but I still found it interesting. Murphy writes for the average person and not the highly educated scholar.
Murphy is clearly well-read and appears to have done substantial research for this book. I was surprised by how often he mentioned other books. Some of the books he mentioned are:
- Colossus by Niall Ferguson – “I believe the world needs an effective liberal empire and that the United States is the best candidate for the job” and America’s best and brightest “aspire not to govern Mesopotamia but to manage MTV; not to rule the Hejaz but to run a hedge fund.”
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs – “The collapse of one sustaining cultural institution enfeebles others . . . . With each collapse, still further ruin becomes more likely.”
- City of God by Augustine
- Satyricon by Petronius
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
- The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
- Cato: A Tragedy in Five Acts by Joseph Addison
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller
- Life of Washington by Parson Weems
- Democracy: An American Novel by Henry Adams
- Caesar & Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw
- Political Arithmetick by William Petty
- Roman History by Ammianus Marcellinus
- The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire by Edward Luttwak
- The Soldier and the State by Samuel Huntington
- This Kind of War by Colonel T. R. Fehrenbach – “You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life — but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.”
- Corruption and the Decline of Rome by Ramsay MacMullen – “the privatization of power” or “the deflection of public purpose by private interests.”
- Daily Life in Ancient Rome by Jerome Carcopino
- The Shadow Government by Daniel Guttman and Barry Willner
- Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling
- Blow the House Down by Robert Baer
- The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus
- The Quiet American by Graham Greene
- The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman
- My Year in Iraq by L. Paul Bremer – I’d really like to read this
- The Old Social Classes & The Revolutionary Movement of Iraq by Hanna Batatu
- Roman History by Cassius Dio
- Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling
- Mexifornia by Victor Davis Hanson
- Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee
- Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron
- Why Most Things Fail by Paul Ormerod
I found that I enjoyed this book immensely at the start but found my interest wavering as I got further into the book. But Murphy concludes this book rather succinctly with what he calls the “Titus Livius 100-year Workout Plan”:
- Instill an appreciation of the wider world, including creation of immigration-friendly policies and an increase in the number of Americans who are fluent in another language.
- Stop treating government as a necessary evil and instead rely on it proudly for the big things it can do well. Examples include nurturing business, reducing poverty, Social Security, and guaranteed student loans.
- Fortify the institutions that promote assimilation (public services for illegal immigrants).
- Take some weight off the military and national service.
I wonder what Murphy thinks of the current financial crisis….hmm….