Graduation Year

2017

Date of Submission

4-2017

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Second Department

Government

Reader 1

Shane Bjornlie

Reader 2

James Nichols Jr.

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2017 John D. Seylar

Abstract

The influence of the Roman Republic and Empire is visible everywhere in the contemporary United States government. Some even propose a “democratic legacy” that the United States has inherited from the Roman Republic, a legacy that dooms modern America to a similar “decline and fall.” These arguments reached their apex in journalism surrounding the 2016 presidential election. A comparison between American Presidents and Roman Emperors proves that these assertions are false, employing case studies in each society’s democracy, interactions with deliberative bodies, public image management, and demagoguery. The distinctness of Roman and American social and political culture in each of these areas suggests a fundamental incongruity between the political figures of the two cultures. Even apparent commonalities can be misleading, as there are significant structural or cultural discrepancies that prevent scholars from drawing conclusions about Presidents using the Roman Imperial example. The argument of this thesis is therefore historiographical in nature: The findings this thesis contains suggest that modern scholars should not read history, specifically Roman history, to predict or justify present political circumstances. The comparisons made between Emperors and Presidents instead serve to prove the distinctness of contemporary American political culture as well as ancient Roman political culture. Acknowledgement of the uniqueness of both of these societies allows scholars to better understand both Presidents and Emperors within their own context. This separation will also lead to more directed, better informed study in the field of Roman history and in the field of modern American governmental policy.

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