By DiMarkco Chandler
The social, economic and political parallels with Ancient Rome are perhaps too numerous to include them all in a brief study. However, several characteristics identified here seemed to accurately describe present conditions throughout the United States of America, especially the populous movement called Occupy Wall Street. I have written a study that describes Rome’s political environment as having two distinct social groups that were aware of the other. Pointing to Ramsey MacMullen’s work, I identify these two groups as urban and rural, and additionally provide their etymological connections.
The term rural, MacMullen argues, was geographically acquainted with resident peasants and was believed to be akin to the word idiot. Moreover, this group was looked at by social elites, those higher on Rome’s social ladder, as outsiders. My discussion intimates that farmers and shepherds alike were employed by rich landowners to oversee their affairs in lands significantly far from any of Rome’s urban centers. This picture is understandable since many of the roads leading to Rome’s rural areas and back to their neighboring cities abounded in abundant crime. Therefore, the task of tending these rural landholdings could only attract poor peasants destined to remain in poverty. As MacMullen points out, proximity from the city determined one’s lot, and people of the day were content with a perfunctory existence, disinterest in challenging the status quo.
Urbanites, however, embraced a different set of values that were quite admirable even in today’s mores. They were thought of as favorable to society; the term urban implied the idea of goodness and dignity. A reading of my world view essay titled “The Historical Model: The 99 Percent” may engender a more lucid understanding of the terms rural and urban. I liken them to what I call privilege and marginalized. They are akin to former presidential candidate John Edwards’ description of two Americas and today’s idea, which argues that there is a widening gulf between the haves and have nots.
Attention to this very real social condition is often classified by some in the “Haves” group as class warfare. Nevertheless, as MacMullen has pointed out, rural and urban was just another name for “Haves and Have nots”. He seems to tie the class of Haves directly to the Roman Empire’s ultimate demise by pointing to the relationship between patron and client. MacMullen suggests that greed and bribery eventually permeated, like an infection, all of the Roman Empire. We might understand his conclusions as somewhat identical to Crony-Capitalism, along with a number of unscrupulous practices performed first by the ruling elite but which seemed to trickle down, eroding values of their constituents. However, as does many of the conclusions offered by historians since the decline of the Roman Empire, something is missing.
MacMullen knew it; others have struggled with their own inadequate answers: “What was the primary cause for the downfall of the Roman Empire?” I believe the answer is quite simple; however, it could not have been understood until the emergence of the occupied movement, a movement that I will argue in my next article, has its parallels with the period in Ancient Rome that began in 133 B.C. and ended around 31 B.C. I will argue that the Empire served as the solution to the problem of mobs in the street as historians will arguably agree occurred during the Gracchi period. This period of Rome’s history is uniquely characterized by the assassinations of two leading political figures; two brothers, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus and has its parallels in the Kennedy Assassinations.