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Are We Rome?

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Author: Elizabeth Mazurek
Discussion Question

Are We Rome?  The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America
by Cullen Murphy

The following discussions are based off the assigned reading for the day, Cullen Murphy's Are We Rome?  The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America (preview).  The best answers will use specific examples from the course as evidence, and examine critically Murphy's theses and points.  Once again, the student should aim for about a half page written response which takes into account various objections that Murphy or others might raise.

  1. The Capitals.  Are you persuaded by Murphy’s description of what he calls the omphalos syndrome (p. 43) in ancient Rome and modern day Washington D.C.?  As the Roman Empire grows, are there other cities or regions that begin to eclipse Rome in importance?  Are there other American cities that could eclipse (or could already be eclipsing) Washington D.C.?  Be sure to explain your opinions and support them with evidence.
  2. The Legions.  Is Murphy’s “Too Big, and Too Small” discussion an implicit criticism of empire?  What was Rome’s solution to the problem of recruitment?  What is ours currently?  If you think our current solution is inadequate, what alternative solution would you propose? Explain your opinions and support them with evidence.
  3. The Fixers.  According to Murphy, what feature of Roman society encouraged privatization in Roman government?  What feature of American society, according to Murphy, is encouraging the current pace of privatization in our government?  Do you think that the trend toward privatization in American government is something that ought to be reversed?  Do you think the trend toward privatization is something that can be reversed?  Be sure to explain your opinions and support them with evidence.
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