Compare and contrast “Pax Romana” and “Pax Americana.”
US History – G
April 16, 2009
“All roads lead to Rome.” The famous adage clearly reflects the strong and powerful empire of Rome’s pride in every aspect of their culture, including economics, politics and social structure. Today, the United States of America prides itself with the similar characteristics of those of ancient Rome. Because of the stability created in each aspect of society, the Romans, as well as the Americans, were able to achieve “Pax Romana,” otherwise known as Roman Peace and “Pax Americana,” American Peace. But the question is, “will America be able to maintain their peace? Or will they collapse like the Romans?” The answer to the question can be found by evaluating the similarities and the differences between Roman Empire’s and America’s social, economic, military and political stability.
Because the government systems of both the Roman Empire as well as United States are based upon citizens, it is integral that social stability is established. Both empires pushed forth government programs, promotion of citizenship, tolerant governance and freedom of religion to achieve stability. During Pax Romana, the Roman Republic sought to do so by providing government funded programs such as the Flavian Ampitheater and Panem et Circenses1. What the two government programs provided was entertainment for the citizens. As the Roman Empire became stronger and stronger, the differences between the patricians, the rich, and the proletariat, the poor, became greater. Juvenal states in his Third Satire that, “‘it is no easy matter, anywhere, for a man to rise when poverty stands in the way of his merits: but nowhere is the effort harder than in Rome.’”2 It was inevitable that these class differences would cause conflicts in the near future, however, the Roman Republic eliminated the problem by hosting brutal games. Some of the brutal games were gladiator, mock naval battles and chariot races.3 Juvenal ridiculed the games as “panem et circenses,”4 bread and circuses, depicting the simple minds of the Roman public who forgot about class differences and other societal hardships when they were experiencing the entertainment provided by the government. Providing brutal government programs was not the only way in which the Roman Empire achieved social stability, another way that the empire achieved stability was through promotion of citizenship.5 By the end of Trajan, Roman Empire was at its peak, covering from modern-day Romania to the Tigris-Euphrates River. Despite the huge size, the society was stable because the citizens of the newly acquired territories were granted citizenship by the emperor.6 Because citizenship was permitted, all the people in the Roman Empire were fairly treated before law, therefore the citizens did not see a reason to rebel. Not only were the local citizens given citizenships but also the local districts were allowed to self-govern. Although the Roman Senate selected the top official, local government was still retained even after their submission. Since the manners of local governments were usually tolerated by Rome, there were little or almost no complaints. But government manner is not the only aspect of local districts that Rome tolerated, Rome also allowed practice of any religion. But in the case of the local government or religious practices becoming a threat, interferences were made by Rome. As United States started to rise to power, it followed a very similar pattern. Even though the United States government programs did not have as much violence as the programs of Roman Empire did, they were still effective in establishing stability. For example, the Medicaid “is a United States government program that works in cooperation with state governments to partly finance medical assistance to needy people.”7 Created by an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935, the government program helped tremendously in establishing stability by providing medical care to the public. Not only that but the United States government also provides citizenships to even those that were born outside of the country.8 In addition, under the Constitution of United States, the responsibilities of national authority and the state governments were divided. 9 National government was in charge of affairs such as trade, treaties and war, whereas the federal governments were in charge affairs such as levying taxes.10 Distribution of power to the states is a huge factor contributing to the stability, even today, but also religious tolerance of United States is one of the main reasons for stability. Despite the fact that more than eighty-percent of the populations are followers of Christianity, the government allows practice of all religions. The similarities between the government programs, citizenships and even tolerance between the two empires suggest that these three factors are one of the most vital forces behind achieving social stability.
But to achieve peace, social stability is not all, economic stability must also be reached. As it was in the past and as it is today, economic stability is achieved depending on the foreign policy as well s infrastructure. In the Roman Empire, it practiced free capitalism, which states “laissez-faire,” no interference from the government.11 By having no interference, the Roman economy was able to run directly under the influence of law of supply and demand, which states that, “if there is a high demand, there will be a high supply and vice versa.”12 Free capitalism helped the economy, however, without the infrastructure of the Roman Empire, economic stability would never have been reached. The Roman roads, built originally for military purposes, were later transformed to trade routes that the merchants used.13 The firm establishment of the roads allowed easy transfer of goods from China through India to Rome, the route is famously known as the Silk Road. Because so many goods flowed into Rome through the extensive network of the roads, many cities on the route vibrated with economic excitement and contributed to the growth of economy. Also a similar pattern was observed in United States as it obtained it’s economic stability. As technology improved, there have been a dramatic increase in the interaction between nations for trade, as a result, it became vital for a country to trade with another nation to achieve economic stability.14 To do so, America engages in Free Trade Agreements, which means that tariffs on goods traded between the nations are eliminated in order to facilitate trade. The biggest Free Trade Agreement zone is located in North America and is called NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement.15 Over ten years of the establishment of FTA, tariffs on most goods produced and sold in North America were removed, leading to economic stability. Although the Romans practiced free capitalism, the United States has chosen capitalism. In a modern world where economy fluctuates everyday, it is nearly impossible for an economy to survive without the help of the government therefore from time to time, if the economy is failing, there is government interference in order to prevent depression. One of the most important infrastructures that the United States government established is the transcontinental railroad. 16 On May 10, 1869, when the railroad was completed, the transport of goods between the East and the West coast gained considerable speed and became the “Roman roads” of America. The fundamental idea of capitalism embodied both empires as well as the importance of infrastructures, which allowed Roman Empire and the United States to earn economic stability.
But could a nation achieve peace when they have no military stability? No. Military might is utmost importance to achieving peace. The Romans were able to achieve such a might through superior organization and weaponry, usage of Auxilia and alliance with the Goths. Many armies during the time of Roman Empire consisted of militias, men only became soldiers when the danger is apparent. However, the Roman Army was a standing army, which meant that it was specifically formed to fight and do nothing else. In consequence, the army was better organized and had superior weapons since there were people working as a blacksmith as part of the army. 17 Not only that but also the Roman Army incorporated Auxilia, the native units. Although it was in the norm to dissolute existing army after a nation has been conquered, the Romans did not follow the norm and instead incorporated the native force into their army. The move increased the strength and the size of the army, which allowed the Roman Empire to stabilize the borders more effectively. The military might of the Roman Army frightened even the most capable fighters such as the Goths as Jordanes explains the Roman army, “subdue[d] almost the whole world, who conquered all kingdoms and even seized islands lying beyond our world, reposing in the bosom of Ocean.”18 Because of such fear, the Romans and the Gothics formed a pact, which allowed for stable environment in the region. The Americans also achieved peace through the development of technology as well as effective strategy. In both World Wars, America, because of its policy of isolationism, got involved in the war a lot later than other Allied nations.19 As a result, the United States profited greatly out of the war. The money acquired from the war was directly spent into development of weapons during the Cold War Age. Such investments lead to monopoly over A-Bomb and the H-Bomb, which allowed for stable environment within United States. Social, Economic and Military are all necessary factors to achieve peace as shown by the Roman Empire and the United States.
Today, as the American empire is declining in its power, it is following many of the steps that the Roman empire displayed 2000 years ago: breakdown of parts that were once considered their strengths. To achieve social stability, one of the main parts was the tolerance of religion. In Rome, Christianity challenged the fundamentals of the Roman Republic in order to bring about a change in the society.20 Unfortunately, the protests were met with suppression from the government, which fueled even more protests. Not only religion but also the Roman Army, even with superior strategy and weaponry, were not able to protect its borders from once-their-ally Gothics.21 Then finally, because of the disturbances at the borders, the Roman roads were no longer safe, causing economic disruption, which in turn caused economic seizure. Soon after the economic seizure occurred, there was inflation within Rome, leading to their fall. To the international society’s disinterest, the United States is following nearly the same steps. After the atrocity in 9/11, there has been on-going discrimination against the Muslims. Despite the fact that it is only the minority of adherents of Islam that practice the same beliefs of Al-Qaeda, there have been cases in America where one has been discriminated just because of their appearance, especially at the airport.22 In addition, although the problem of discrimination has been “eliminated,” racism still poses as a big issue in United States. Following the Bush Administration after the 9/11, they were quick to respond by engaging in conflict with Afghanistan and Iraq without any results. The military spending of United States, which has been adding up to their debt, can no longer be neglected. The numerous naval and air bases that United States has around the world as well as the on-going war is deteriorating the strength that United States army once used to have.23 Plus, the once “trusted” capitalism has failed America. The stock market crash. The failing mortgage companies.24 The bankrupt motor companies. Everything in the economy that could go wrong has gone wrong. Could United States of America survive the downfall that Rome could not?
If United States keeps on walking the same alley with Rome, it will definitely lead to the downfall of “Pax Americana.” Fortunately, the two empires share a common history of having a period of peace, which United States can refer back to establish it one more time. The three aspects of society must be stabilized: social, economic and military. Looking at the decline of the factors above, the United States is following the same steps as the Roman Empire had around two thousand years ago. In order to save themselves, America needs to take certain steps. Firstly, they need to corporate with other nations to fix their economy as well as the world’s.25 The international society must work together in unity to share information, provide necessary material and cooperate in every possible way to fix the economy. As for within the nation, President Obama has promised mass government projects, which will definitely benefit the economy. Secondly, United States needs to pull out of unnecessary wars such as the Iraq War. It has been costly and is still costly but considering the current situation, United States can no longer afford such a luxury of staying in Iraq. Before the economy collapses completely, the military spending needs to be reduced. And finally, there must be education system in place in order to eliminate stereotyping. Muslims. Asians. Blacks. Whites. Native Indians. Each of these words instantly pops an image into our heads, By reforming education, schools need to teach the children that all men are born equal to seize discrimination. As long as the simple three steps can be taken, the collapse of “Pax Americana” will be delayed or “Pax Americana” might even be restored.
ABC-CLIO, “Age of Railroads,” American History: Age of Railroads, http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1187717&pagetypeid=0.
ABC-CLIO, “Amending the Constitution.” American History: Amending the Constitution, http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1183565.
ABC-CLIO, “America Enters the War,” American History: America Enters the War, http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1187288.
ABC-CLIO, “America on the Move,” American History: America on the Move, http://www.americanhistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1187859.
ABC-CLIO, “Jordanes: The history and accomplishment of the Gothic people (c.a. A.D 550),” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, http://www.ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1185232&pagetypeid=6&entryid=661493.
ABC-CLIO, “Juvenal,” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, http://www.ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?entryid=574396&storyid=1216452&issublink=true&pagetypeid=0.
ABC-CLIO, “Juvenal: Third Satire (ca. A.D. 100),” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, http://www.ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1216452&pagetypeid=6&entryid=655426.
ABC-CLIO, “Life in Rome, the Seat of Empire,” World History Ancient and Medieval Eras, ABC-CLIO, http://www.ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1216452&pagetypeid=0.
ABC-CLIO, “The Pax Romana,” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras, http://www.ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1185226.
ABC-CLIO, “Why did Rome Fall?,” World History: Ancient: Why did Rome Fall?, http://www.ancienthistory.abc-clio.com/Eras/Display.aspx?storyid=1185244.
Griffin, David Ray, “The American Empire and 9/11,” Tikkun, March 1, 2007, http://elibrary.bigchalkboard.com
Saporito, Bill, “How AIG Became Too Big to Fail,” The Time, March 30, 2009, 16-22.
Selbourne, Dvaid, “Why there will be no future Pax Americana,” The Spectator, 2007, http://elibrary.bigchalkboard.com.
Sheldon, Rose Mary, “The Roman Army at War: 100BC – AD200,” The Journal of Military History, 1997, 61, http://elibrary.bigchalkboard.com.
Smith, Adam, Tumulty,Karen and Andersen Kurt, “Nowhere To Hide,” The Time, April 6, 2009, 24-34.
U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Fact Sheet: Fiscal Year 2009 Citizenship Grant Program,” USCIS – Fact Sheet: Fiscal Year 2009 Citizenship Grant Program, http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=04b3cccdcebff110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD.
World Book, “Capitalism,” Capitalism|Article|World Book Advanced, http://www.worldbookonline.com/advanced/article?id=ar093460&st=free+capitalism.
World Book, “Medicaid,” Medicaid|Article|World Book Advanced, http://www.worldbookonline.com/advanced/printarticle?id=ar353037&st=united+states+government+programs.
World Book, “North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),” North American Free Trade Agreement|Article|World Book Advanced, http://www.worldbookonline.com/advanced/article?id=ar394010&st=free+trade+agreement.