That prevalence -- at least, in the United States -- probably has a lot to do with the parallels between Rome and America. History teachers here (the ones who still bother to teach the classics) tend to drive home this point that the Romans were the Americans of antiquity. (Modest, I know.) So Rome is something people feel they can relate to, whereas Greece can seem a little more remote.Here are my reasons why America is closer to Athens than Rome. Feel free to tell me how totally wrong I am! (In fact, I'm sort of looking forward to it.)
- America is a very strong democracy. Athens was a very strong full democracy. Rome wasn't. (Yes, they had elections, which did have some effect. But the Senate was essentially an oligarchy, and come the Roman Empire, any democratic pretense was gone.)
- Any modern democracy has a lot to learn from how the course of the democracy ran in Athens. It's hard to say the same of Rome. Fun though it might be to study the power politics, the correspondence just isn't there.
- Pax Romana was implemented by conquering and subsuming anyone who caused trouble. Pax Americana (such as it is) is implemented through economic dominance and diplomatic alliances. This is much closer to how Athens dominated its world. America+NATO is structurally most similar to Athens+Delian League.
- The geographic influence of Rome was vast. So also for America. Score one for the Romans. In fact, this is the only close similarity between the two. But also the one everyone notices.
- The Athenians were hyper-enthusiastic about their system of government and their culture. So too Americans! The Athenians usually liked to install democracies in any city they conquered (with a few notable exceptions). American behaviour is virtually the same. The Romans were sort of meh on the whole thing and simply imposed their own rule on the countries they captured and never left. (Yes I realize there are some sensitivities with current issues, but if you think back over the last 100 years, particularly around WW2, it's clear US policy is Athens-like, not Roman.)
- Athens was a hugely innovative and artistic culture. So too America. Rome was outstanding at implementing stuff, but innovative is not an adjective most people would apply.
- America has the most powerful navy in the world. Athens had the most powerful navy in the world. Romans loathed getting wet.
Okay, your turn...