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11 December 2007 was the farewell lecture of Fik Meijer as professor in the history of the ancient world at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

In that lecture, Professor Meijer, the best known author about Roman history in the Netherlands, compared Roman emperors like Augustus and Caligula to twentieth and twenty first century politicians like Benito Mussolini, Silvio Berlusconi, and George W. Bush; including wars in what then called Mesopotamia, now Iraq.

11 December 2007 was the farewell lecture of Fik Meijer as professor in the history of the ancient world at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

In that lecture, Professor Meijer, the best known author about Roman history in the Netherlands, compared Roman emperors like Augustus and Caligula to twentieth and twenty first century politicians like Benito Mussolini, Silvio Berlusconi, and George W. Bush; including failed Roman wars in what is now Iraq, which cost would be dictator Crassus his life, and Emperor Valentinian his freedom.

Meijer quoted Cullen Murphy’s Are we Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America. In that book, Murphy described the arrival of George W. Bush at Shannon airport in Ireland. It reminded Murphy of ‘a Roman emperor traveling around his empire. Special officials had prepared his journey. While traveling, he was permanently guarded by his special bodyguards and legion soldiers’.

Meijer contrasted this with the Founding Fathers of the USA in the eighteenth century. The leaders of the American revolution then abhorred the Roman empire; and much prefered the Roman republic preceding it. One of their Roman Republican heroes was Cincinnatus. According to tradition, Cincinnatus was a farmer. When things went bad in a war with Italian enemies, Cincinnatus was made dictator of Rome. Soon, he managed to beat the enemies. Then, he immediately went back to his farm, much prefering it to being a soldier, a commander, let alone a dictator. United States Founding Father George Washington was compared to Cincinnatus; and also depicted as him, giving back the sword of war.

As Meijer said, the US Founding Fathers knew that the Roman republic, which they glorified, had also its weak sides. They had not missed the point that in the third and second centuries BCE, the countries around the Meditteranean had mostly fallen in Roman hands; and that the vanquished nations had been massacred by Roman armies, or had been oppressed by governors, and had been exploited by high taxes. Whatever the cost, the founders of the USA wanted to prevent their country from becoming imperialist. However, they did not think that the chances of that happening were big, as the USA as a former British Empire colony had felt itself what oppression was, and they would not soon make others suffer from that oppression.

"However, times have changed in America", Meijer added. "Presidents of this powerful country do not seem to care anymore for the ideals, once admired so strongly, which made the Roman republic great. They prefer to model themselves on the way in which the Roman emperors related to the people and the armed forces".

The full report on Professor Meijer's lecture, with hyperlinks, pictures, and a video comparing Caligula to George W.Bush added, is here.

Originally posted to dearkitty on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 09:06 AM PST.

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