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

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The rise and fall of ancient Rome has been on American minds from the beginning of our republic.Today we focus less on the Roman Republic than on the empire that took its place. Depending on who’s doing the talking, the history of Rome serves as either a triumphal call to action or a dire warning of imminent collapse. In Are We Rome? the esteemed editor and author Cullen Murphy reveals a wide array of similarities between the two empires: the blinkered, insular culture of our capitals; the debilitating effect of bribery in public life; the paradoxical issue of borders; and the weakening of the body politic through various forms of privatization. Murphy persuasively argues that we most resemble Rome in the burgeoning corruption of our government and in our arrogant ignorance of the world outside -- two things that must be changed if we are to avoid Rome’s fate.

About Cullen Murphy

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Cullen Murphy is the editor at large at Vanity Fair and the former managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of The Word According to Eve, about women and the Bible, and the essay collection Just Curious. Murphy lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
Published May 5, 2008 by Mariner Books. 276 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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One concerns military power, with considerable points against the use of mercenaries and auxiliaries, for instance, whether Ostrogoths or the “Halliburtoni and the Wackenhuti.” Murphy does acknowledge, however, that “the most capable, well-rounded, and experienced public executives in America to...

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The New York Times

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Cullen Murphy examines parallels between the United States today and the world of ancient Rome.

May 13 2007 | Read Full Review of Are We Rome?: The Fall of an ...

Publishers Weekly

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But he sees a number of parallels: like Rome, America is a vast, multicultural state, burdened with an expensive and overstretched military, uneasy about its porous borders, with a messianic sense of global mission and a solipsistic tendency to misunderstand and belittle foreign cultures.

Mar 19 2007 | Read Full Review of Are We Rome?: The Fall of an ...


The author has a wonderful examination of what the collapse of Rome entailed making clear that there were no fiery barbarian marches, no sudden confusing descent into chaos, but just a gradual shift from the rule of Rome to the reality that Rome no longer ruled.

Dec 30 2012 | Read Full Review of Are We Rome?: The Fall of an ...

Nights and Weekends

By taking such a narrow view of American history, Murphy diminishes the quality of his book.

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Rome sought ever-increasing military might, a goal that emptied the treasuries and led military affairs to define the purpose of the Roman government -- exactly what Eisenhower was talking about when he warned of the military-industrial complex.

May 09 2007 | Read Full Review of Are We Rome?: The Fall of an ...

California Literary Review

Rome expanded to include tens of millions of people who were not Romans, and at the height of the empire it took in millions more from the outside.

Jun 27 2007 | Read Full Review of Are We Rome?: The Fall of an ...

City Journal

He notes that patronage and favor governed Roman society, and aptly quotes Jerome Carcopino: “From the parasite do-nothing up to the great aristocrat there was no man in Rome who did not feel himself bound to someone more powerful above him.” But then Murphy, following classicist Ramsay MacMullen...

Jul 24 2007 | Read Full Review of Are We Rome?: The Fall of an ...

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