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Caroline Winterer on Classicism in America

Caroline Winterer is an intellectual and cultural historian of early America in its transatlantic contexts. Her focus is the history of scholarship, books, reading, libraries, and education, as well as the history of art and material culture. She is also interested in the many ways in which early Americans have made sense of the past, […]

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This is KZSU Stanford.
Welcome to entitled opinions.
My name is Robert Harrison.
And we're coming to you from the Stanford campus.
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What does America which is said to be at the cutting edge of the brave new post-human future have to do with the remote antiquity of Greece and Rome?
That's a question we should put to the almighty dollar the great alpha and omega of this sprawling empire.
We still call a republic.
Those of you who traffic in this green currency, please look at a dollar bill and tell me why the great seal of the United States on its backside is full of Latin words and Roman symbols.
Do you see the eagle?
No, that's not the bald eagle of the American wilderness.
It's the Roman eagle, bird of the auspices, symbol of Jupiter.
Its talons are holding the fashes, another Roman symbol, and a laurel branch, yet another classical symbol.
On the ribbons above the eagle's head, Eplo
Wous Unum, friends, Romans and countrymen I ask you again.
Why does the great seal of the United States speak in Latin?
We look so great, it looks so great.
Why is the great seal of the United States speak in Latin?
Because this nation, for all its modernity and forward-looking ways, looked to Rome and Greece when it came to founding its republic and teaching its students how to be worthy citizens of such a republic.
Even the god of this nation under God is more Roman than Christian.
If you don't believe me, just look at your dollar bill again.
You see that circle to the left with that weird pyramid and an eye on top of it.
Above the pyramid, more Latin.
Anuit keptis.
Anuit keptis.
Those of you who listened to the Virgil show we did some six years ago are very first season in title opinions.
You might remember that that phrase comes from Virgil's a neared book six.
It means literally God nods on our initiatives.
He favors our undertakings, in other words.
That's Virgil's god mind you, Jupiter, also known as Jove.
Now look at the bottom.
More Latin.
Novus or de cyclrorum, a new order of the ages.
That's also from Virgil, from his fourth egg clog to be precise.
Why is the great seal of the United States spouting Virgil, a golden age poet, writing during the reign of Augustus about the founding of Rome?
What does America have to do with that ancient city?
Can we really understand the founding of this nation without understanding how its founders
retrieved for their own purposes, the legacies of Rome, the legacies of Greece, and even the legacies of Carthage?
An empire, hardly anyone talks about anymore, except here on entitled opinions where there's very little we won't talk about.
And we will, I promise you, talk about Carthage in the next hour.
I have a special guest with me in the studio today, Carolyn Winter.
She's a professor of history here at Stanford.
Her main field of research is the role of the classics in 18th and 19th century America.
We'll be talking with her today about how and why our American forebears, or at least some of them,
looked back at the civilizations of Rome, Greece, and even Carthage.
But before I welcome her, let me remind you of something I've mentioned before on this show.
Namely, that until relatively recently American education was based on the study of Greek and Latin,
as a student, Thomas Jefferson used to translate the Greek Bible into Latin and vice versa.
Presidents James A. Garfield, in moments of boredom, or to amuse his friends, would take a pencil in each hand and compose sentences in Greek and Latin,
that was the same time.
That was as recently as the 1880s.
Nowadays, not even our fancy laptops can do that.
Although, if you punch in the right search words, they will inform you that there was once a place called Athin-nay,
that there was once a Roman Empire.
Antiquity has lost a lot of ground with us of late.
It may be succumbing to another dramatic cycle of decline and fall, such that we may soon forget about its existence altogether.
Yet, that doesn't change the fact that America would not be what and where it is today had it not built its republic,
and its educational system on Greek and Roman foundations.
Carolyn, welcome to the program as a pleasure to have you on entitled opinions.
Thank you, Robert. It's a pleasure to be here.
Do you think I'm overstating the case when I say that the legacies of Rome and Greece were crucial to the founding of the republic and, as well as the American educational system during the 18th and 19th centuries?
I would say that you're not only overstating, not overstating the case.
You could even embellish the statement even further.
Rome and Greece were everywhere in America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
I often say they were the wallpaper of the world. Education, politics, art, even religion had a very strong foundation in Latin and Greek culture in the United States.
I was reading in your book about the classicism in America. I think that's a title.
It's called the Culture of Classes.
In the 18th and 19th century. That roughly half of the professors in universities were Greek and Latin teachers, is that correct?
They were. Most of them were Latin teachers rather than Greek teachers, but yeah, half the faculty give or take a few would have been teaching students how to read Latin texts from ancient Rome and Greek texts, although it's important to emphasize that the Greek texts that they were reading until the early 19th century tended to be.
Well, essentially one Greek text, which is the New Testament, so they were learning a particular kind of Greek.
Well, this is interesting because we tend now in our chronology to think of Greece as, you know, preceding Rome and Rome founding a lot of its culture on the culture of Greece.
But for America in the 18th century, there was a real primacy in the role of Rome or Latin over Greek.
Why was that?
Well, this is a wonderful question. They were aware, of course, that Greece had come first, but they believed that in fact, Rome had improved on a lot of things that had been tried out in ancient Greece.
And so governmental systems, especially in literature, had reached a state of perfection in ancient Rome, and it also helped that there were a lot more texts surviving from the ancient Roman period that they could look at, although they tended, of course, to find the same way.
They tended, of course, to focus rather relentlessly and obsessively on a very few of those texts.
And we can talk about which ones those were and why. But it was absolutely the case that for especially politics and education, Rome was the first stopping ground for them.
And would that be because in Roman culture and politics, as well as its literature, the Americans saw a much stronger moral imperative, or how to be the right kind of citizen of a republic, and that when they looked at Greek literature, it seemed to them much lighter, and perhaps even, you know, and certainly more...
Yeah, yes. Well, probably if they'd read a lot of Greek literature, they would have come to that conclusion, but they didn't actually necessarily read a lot of Greek literature. If they read Greek literature, it tended to be Homer, especially the Iliad to a lesser extent, the Odyssey, but both of them were loved at that time, although they did not necessarily appreciate Homer as an early Greek in the way that we do today.
But what did they like about Roman authors? You alluded to this in what you just said, which is that the authors that they read, for example, Cicero and Virgil, gave Americans a sense of what it meant to be a good citizen.
So Cicero talks about what it means to have civic virtue, and Americans latched onto this with great enthusiasm.
What does it mean to be a good citizen? Well, that means, first of all, that you think of the Republic first and yourself second.
And for Americans during the 18th century, especially during the revolution, the idea that you would subsume your own personal desires for money and luxury and fame and fortune, and think of the Republic first.
This was something to be cherished as a kind of virtue that would help to keep the Republic floating at a time when this was one of the only republics around.
Everybody else was living in a monarchy, and here Americans were trying this very new experiment. So they were casting about for political models that would help to shore up this very new political experiment.
And also got examples of how to build empires from Virgil, and also at a time when much of culture is performed orally rather than in written forms, so ministers and lawyers and public speakers.
All of this required enormous verbal agility. The Roman texts were excellent for these kinds of things because they placed a very high value on the arts of oratory.
Sure. And, Rudder, can I take us back a little bit in history to draw not a parallel, but to ask you to maybe to compare the American reappropriation of these legacies of Rome with what happened in Florence during the so-called Renaissance?
That's because Florence was a republic for a long while before the Medioches kind of de facto made it a principality, although it was a republican name.
And during the high point of what is known as the civic humanism of the Renaissance, and we're talking about people like Salutati who was a chancellor, Leonardo Brooney and these others, they took a great civic pride in the
The Republic and the freedom, the libetas of the liberty of their own republic as opposed to the tyranny of other courts in Italy.
And for these civic humanists, there was a very antagonistic difference between the Republic of Rome of which Cicero was a great hero and the empire where Caesar is the bad guy.
And they have endless debates about whether Dante really got it wrong by putting the assassins of Caesar in Satan's mouth and is in fair known.
And that Dante was, he was a great guy, but he was politically united because he didn't understand that it was all about preserving the republic against the empire.
And when we speak about 18th century American readers of Roman history, is there this tension and divide between the Republic of Rome and the empire of Rome?
There is, they could have been reborn Florentine humanists and in fact they're reading the humanists to get some of their perceptions of Rome.
But yes, absolutely, they make a great disjunction in the 18th century, especially during the American revolution between the virtuous era of the Republic, which of course is a very long era.
So there's a lot to mind.
And the rather depressing moment when the Republic inevitably slides into empire, which is effeminate and debauched and land hungry and all of these things that they didn't want to be.
And so much of the rhetoric of the American revolution is wrapped in Republic and Roman verbiage.
So people like to style themselves as virtuous Romans, for example, George Washington is called Fabius during the American revolution for his strategy of not directly attacking the British army, but rather hanging back like Fabius did against the Carthaginians.
And the King George III himself is often accused of being either a Caesar or a Nero, you take your pick of the debauched Roman emperors.
And so the whole thing is cast as American colonists as virtuous Republican Romans against these debauched imperializing British.
The irony, though, of course, is that at the very moment when the American colonies establish their independent nation, they begin the process of empire building to the West.
And so they have this moment in which the colony becomes immediately and simultaneously both a Republic and an empire.
While they are happy to acknowledge their republicanism, they are much, much more wary about their legacy as an empire.
And they can't fully process that until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when they welcome it with open arms, but early on they're very worried about it.
Well, can I ask you then about the certain of the founding fathers or the people who were contributed to the drafting of the Constitution?
And you say that there were some so-called thin classes among them that they had a smattering of knowledge of these, and they could drop the right Latin quotes.
But then there were the thick classes who had really delved deeply into the text and thought a lot about ancient forms of government.
These would include, I guess, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson above all, and others.
Yeah, a few others, yeah.
A few others.
And they would, at the same time, some of these thinkers were also quite wary about excessive constitutional freedom.
Or let's say excessive power when given to what the Romans were called the plebeians.
So this Dominozio plebeius, this domination of the plebs, is something that someone like Madison was very concerned about and tried to create a system of government where the passions of the people would be offset by a Senate and so forth.
Is he getting that from his reading of how the Roman Republic worked?
He is. We often think of the American Revolution as a democratic revolution, but it's really a Republican revolution, which means that it is a kingless form of government, but it does not mean that the founders, the major founders, were comfortable with giving too much power to the people who they thought of as being potentially able to be swayed by despotic, uneducated leaders who would lead them astray.
As had happened in the ancient world, and we have to remember that they read history at this time as a series of lessons about what to do and what not to do.
We don't read history this way anymore, but they saw it as a kind of political science textbook.
At a time when political science was just coming into its own, it was being invented, and there were very, very few cases that they could look at for successful republic, certainly things hadn't gone very well in Italy during the Renaissance, and so they all had all kinds of anti-model, so Rome kept standing out as the model for them.
But the model for what, and they were very worried when they locked off monarchy from their form of government, that there wouldn't be any guiding elites within the government to steer the ship of state in the right direction.
And so that's why Madison was very worried to create a system in which you would literally filter the rabble out through such devices as the electoral college so that you wouldn't have mobocrats coming into power as increasingly began to be the case during the 19th century.
And of course Andrew Jackson is always held up as the kind of the root from the countryside doesn't know anything.
Yeah. Well, I don't know, and I'm not the one to have the authority to make that pronounce, but I have a feeling that some of these kind of cautionary measures have served our republic well over the last few centuries.
When people talk about doing away with the electoral college system and just have popular vote and say, wait a minute, you know, there were reasons why these things were put into place.
But you know, that's a matter of speculation that doesn't concern us here directly.
So they were reading a lot more Latin than they were reading Greek.
They were looking to Rome far more than they were looking, you know, to Athens or Sparta or so.
This emphasis shifts in the 19th century in the other direction if I understand your kind of genealogy in your book.
It does by the early 19th century, say around 1820, there is a massive shift not so much away from Rome because Rome always remains important, but a shift toward Greece.
There's a couple of reasons for that. First of all, Greece itself as a destination opens up. It had been under the control of the Ottoman Turks for many hundreds of years.
And now there was the Greek Revolution in the 1820s. Suddenly you could actually go.
And a few artists had been there in the late 18th century and had drawn sort of incredible, incredibly beautiful drawings like a Stuart and Brevet, the Antiquities of Athens.
Drawings of these ruined Greek temples that were really quite magnificent. So the visual vocabulary of ancient Greece begins to penetrate the European and the American mind.
Americans are especially receptive to Greece though by the 1820s and 30s for two reasons.
One is that the franchise, that is the ability to vote, has expanded to include all adult white men regardless of property holding.
Whereas in the 18th century, of course you had to own property or a certain amount of money in order to be able to participate in politics. This was the very Roman view of what it meant to be a political animal.
In the 19th century, it increasingly is the common man. This is the age of the common man.
And so they begin to look to Greece as an example. Well, what is it that the ancient Greeks did? They seem like they were okay.
Maybe we can do the same thing. Greece also addresses their fear that democracies don't produce beautiful art, which is of course what Tukville in the 1830s begins to accuse the Americans of being is this nation of nice enough bourgeois people, but they don't have any culture in the way that a European aristocrat would recognize.
They begin to say, "Aha, we're going to be the next Athens and we're going to have beautiful art and we're going to have all of these great sculptors just like the ancient Greeks did."
But there's also a revolution in American higher education and that is that a number of scholars at major universities like Harvard begin to travel to Germany in the 1820s and 1830s during a moment when the Germans are revolutionizing classical scholarship and they are beginning to grow up toward what we today,
understand as the quote, "right way of understanding the ancient world." Of course that's debatable, but what they say is, first of all, that Greece came before Rome and therefore we need to study Greece rather than slaveishly imitating Rome and also that Greece is the origin of what we understand as European or Western civilization, which is a construction that's coming into being at this time.
So Greece is uncorrupted, it's the childhood of the race, it is the location of everything that is beautiful and that when we learn the Greek language we shouldn't be learning the corrupted common Greek of the New Testament, we should be learning the beautiful Greek that was studied in 5th century BC Athens.
So they become absolutely focused on Athens so that when they say ancient Greece they actually usually just mean Athens during a particular century.
Right and largely seduced by the as you're saying the aesthetic flourishes of that civilization.
Greece is a way to talk about what is beautiful, especially for Americans this is important because their Puritan heritage of course disallows conversations about beauty, in so many realms of life, I mean you can't even go to the theater in Massachusetts in the 17th century and suddenly you're supposed to admire half naked, you know young girls and boys, prancing around as ancient Greeks in the middle of the 19th century it requires a little bit of an attitude adjustment.
Did Romanticism have something to do with this kind of rise in the Greek quota?
Romanticism had everything to do with it. It was an utterly romantic move and the main thing that makes it romantic is that for the first time ever Europeans and Americans began to see that there had been a fundamental break between modernity which was right now and antiquity which was ancient Greece and Rome,
they were not us. Whereas in the 18th century they read Greek and Roman texts, almost as though these people had just sort of walked down the street, they were very much feeling like they were part of the Greek and Roman story and so they could read these texts and learn from them.
In the 14th century they began to be sad that this beautiful ancient civilization was done, it was over and so this accounts for the other feature of 19th century classes and especially the admiration for Greece which is the obsession with ruins.
In fact much prefer to have their antiquity ruined and covered with moss than pristinely unruined so that sometimes buildings are built in a pre-ruined state of course the most famous American art about this is Thomas Cole's wonderful course of empire series, a series of five paintings done in the 1830s which show the progression of America which looks exactly like ancient Rome from kind of primitive state.
All the way to destruction in the fifth panel and the fifth panel which is a ruined column in a swamp is by far the most beautiful of the paintings.
There's also this aspect of Rome being a kind of mechanical imitation of Greece on the cultural level so much of its literature.
If you read Virgil, I love Virgil to death but it could appear that he is just a kind of pale imitator of Homer so much of the Anilla is just reenacting scenes from the fact that Roman art was largely derivative of Greek art and even the rhetorical tradition because it's so that Greece is the spontaneous youthful originator
unmediated inspiration which would appeal to the Romantic imagination versus Rome which was a more adult but for that very reason also a less inspired kind of a rich innater of culture.
Yes they love in the 19th century the fact that Rome helps them to talk about genius and originality and this very much features in a lot of 19th century conversations about Greece it especially accounts for the rise of this very exciting cutting edge scholarship on what was called the Homeric question and the Homeric question was really you know who wrote these great poems the Iliad and the Odyssey and it had been thought that there was a guy named Homer and he wrote the
down and aren't they great but in the 19th century because of the influence of advances in philological scholarship the ability to see changes in ancient texts.
They began to put forth the rather unsettling idea that maybe there had never been a guy named Homer maybe he had actually never written down these poems they were just sung and a bunch of people later.
had written down fragments and the texts quote text that we know as the Iliad and the Odyssey are in fact just kind of patched together shreds of songs and if that is the case then what can you say about the Bible does it have a divinely inspired unity so you can see where this is going it's all very explosive.
But I want to plug my own kind of favorite philosopher theorists John Batista Vico who in the mid 18th century in his new science was the first to suggest that the Homeric epics were not authored by a single individual but were the collective wisdom of the Greek peoples as a whole and that you had rap so we're singing over the course of many centuries you know different versions of it and that.
somehow they got stabilized and written for much later in their oral transmission history so.
But it yeah I know how important that debate becomes in the 19th century so is there anything that changes politically I know you mentioned that so now all white men have the vote and therefore there is a more democratization taking place in American politics there any other sorts of.
aspects of Greece that we should draw attention to well the other appealing feature of Greece is that it is a slave society by 1860 in the American South there were four million slaves out of a population of 30 million.
But if you just take the population of the South total and slaves in the South you get a proportion of about 20 to 30% slaves in the Greek classical scholar Moses Finley called this a slave society where the major labor force is enslaved rather than free and
and all social relationships arise out of that fact. If you are a slaveholder in the antebellum South how do you justify your existence as abolitionism as a political movement heats up well you look to the great slaveholders of the ancient world which were the Romans and especially the Greeks who were.
And so there is a free by the presence of their slaves doing the drudgery to go and think great thoughts in the agorá and so there is a systematic recuperation of this aspect of ancient Greece during the 30 years before the Civil War.
And of course the North counters with the rhetoric that no Athens is free and not enslaved etc etc but that begins to shape the terms of the debate.
And so one of the main appeals of Greece in the 19th century is really coming to terms with America as a slave society.
That's great and Karen you've written a very interesting article at least it's very interesting for me on Carthage or the way the role that Carthage played in the American imaginary 18th century especially more than the 19th I'm guessing.
And so the whole model empire lost city ancient Carthage and the science of politics and revolutionary America now.
I promised our listeners that we would talk a little bit about Carthage because this is a you know it was a hugely important widespread civilization very successful for you know for centuries and most people when you mention Carthage just remember.
Cato's famous utterance that Kathagot de Lendais that Carthage is to be destroyed and that in effect Rome finally ended up destroying this.
The city and civilization can before we speak about how the the American thinkers about empire and republics conceived of Carthage.
Can you tell our listeners a little bit what was this phenomenon that we know as a Carthaginian empire.
The Carthaginian empire was a product of the first thousand years before you know BC and Carthage was an ancient city that was established roughly 800 BC right in the middle of the North Shore of Africa.
In modern day Tunisia essentially on the coast Carthage was a colony originally of the Phoenicians who were based in what is today modern Lebanon and between 800 and 146 BC the city of Carthage which was you know your basic ancient walled city.
Rose to become the dominant trading power of the ancient Mediterranean they were extremely skilled shipbuilders and orzeman and fighters and they essentially established a network of trading colonies around the Mediterranean especially in Spain and Sardinia and in a couple of other places of course they wanted to establish one in Italy but they were you know not allowed to do so.
Yes, and in Sicily as well you can see that you know a lot of wars ensued from these imperial desires on the part of Carthage, but they traded a lot of luxury goods throughout the Mediterranean and they did so very very well silver and tin.
And beautiful cloth that was desirable they were the great shippers and traders of the ancient Mediterranean world and they were extremely successful at doing so so that their Republic lasted approximately 700 years in the ancient world that's longer than the Roman Republic not the whole Roman state but the Roman Republic so they were quite extraordinary and they were acknowledged for being so by some of the major writers of the ancient world like Aristotle and Polybius.
The Phoenicians also being the inventors of very hugely important alphabet.
Yes, so it's not like they were they were no slouches in that regard either although they haven't left a great deal of great literary works behind but they you know the alphabet is hugely important.
Yes, well this is one of the very difficult things about Carthage is that they were not a very literary people unlike the Greeks and so there's actually very little evidence remaining from Carthage if you if you take away the spectacular Roman annihilation of Carthage in 146 BC in the last of the three Punic wars even before that there just wasn't a lot of.
Punic were Carthaginian material and circulation their so their coins of course and simple crawl inscriptions and things but nothing near the volume that we have for other places so they're quite mysterious.
There's a line by the verse of the German poet who says and what remains is established by the poets and is this high romanticism that it's the poets that have the most lasting sort of memory into the future.
And a certain sense is true if if they you don't have writers writing the stories great stories down sometimes it's hard to retrieve a memory of a civilization Carthage is a case in point because it's also the archaeological record has largely vanished due to the just utter destruction of the city by Rome in 146 BC.
The Roman destruction was was really quite extraordinary not just of the city itself but of the people and what did Rome have against Carthage that it had to go there and basically commit a genocide.
They did.
Yet, you know we populations from the ancient world are always uncertain but a number of ancient historians speculate that it was about 700,000 people so that's the population of 18th century London this is an enormous city that lived at Carthage they in in classic ancient style they would have killed many of the men who would of course been soldiers.
And the women and children would have been sold into the slave trade which was common this is a raid and capture kind of slavery that is practiced in the ancient world, but they.
The city said about systematically destroying the city and then they establish a Roman settlement at Carthage afterwards and so it's sometimes difficult to also read the archaeological record because they're so much later Roman overbuilding and then after the Romans of course other settlements and so it's a very confused record for Carthage.
The Romans sources are kind of and obviously there was this animosity early on but at the same time.
Virgil's in need is at least in the first half the great love story between a nieus who is going to be the future founder of Rome, the founder of the future city of Rome, he put it that way.
And on his way to the Italian peninsula you know stops in Carthage and.
Forms a relationship with the Queen of Carthage died out and then of course he would be very happy there the Trojan people would like to settle there said here we are you know just married the two and the Trojans and the Carthaginians become one.
But of course the gods have decreed otherwise and they have to send you know.
Mercury over to get nieus back on the move and.
Diodo commit suicide as a result of that but this is just of course a Roman.
Retrospective narrative of a kind of a feminine first thing you know it's associated also with the East later Cleopatra will feed into this stereotype it kind of and there's a kind of a feminacy.
Emaculation of the Roman a v2 for in the for for Olivia and that it could this marriage could not.
Could not have happened otherwise Rome would not have become Rome at the same time if you lead read the history of the Punic Wars there were times when Rome and Carthage actually very productively collaborated with one another.
And formed treaties and peace agreements and and even Rome coming to the defense of Carthage I was.
So it could have been a different story it could have I mean you can't hate what you don't love and need you just can't bring yourself to that emotional pitch without an underlying relationship and and Rome needs Carthage in the early period of its expansion over the Italian peninsula Carthage is supplying all of these.
useful goods like ten which you need to make bronze so this is.
This is a useful empire but it's always the big rival to Rome and this is where the example of Rome as an empire becomes so extraordinary that their.
Desire to control the Mediterranean becomes overwhelming and Carthage repeatedly stands in their way especially because they're able to feel these wonderful generals like Hannibal and they have these war elephants.
Which are incredible they're they're just massive and and armed and dangerous and they it's a splendid war machine that the Carthage Indians have and they're very good at using it and the only solution.
Is annihilation at a certain point for the Romans and I think it's because they realize that.
That in the Roman ideal of civic virtue luxury is a threat to the Roman elite classes it's seduces them away from their civic duty and here's Carthage the luxury trader.
You know the product of the ancient world they need to get rid of it and and so eventually they do.
And it's I have to say though that the annihilation of Carthage really echoes through the ancient sources as an example.
Of over weaning excessive force and you're right earlier saying that that this is an example of genocide and it's used in the early modern period to begin to understand similar new kinds of population and violations on a scale.
That are on a scale that that is difficult to understand without recourse to a kind of political science it's morally overwhelming.
Of course it wasn't the only time the Romans did that when Caesar left gall I think he left you were telling me what a million people I think it's about a million yeah the.
It's a lot for the time it is a lot it's a lot for now.
Yeah it's a lot anytime how to cope with mass death that is not caused by disease is a very difficult thing to wrap your brain around and of course in the 18th century the great example is the new world where the populations are plummeting in front of people's eyes and.
Not necessarily in Europe opposed to this of course in the natural god determined order of things god will clear out these these heathens from the new world to make way for for the Europeans but.
But not everybody feels that way and and Carthage the destruction of Carthage by the Romans gives them a morally complicated way for understanding the genocide of the Indians currently.
In progress because you know the only sources that they have our Roman sources a few Greek ones but mostly Roman sources and they actually recognize that even though they love and venerate the Romans.
The Roman sources are not accurate when it comes to Carthage so they have to do a kind of complicated reading of the Carthaginian.
The Roman sources they have to get into the Carthaginian subject position you know as we would say in in academia and to to understand.
The negative fallout of empire building.
Yeah and of course the appeal of Carthage to some of the theorists like Madison and Jefferson is that it was a different model of a republic than Rome was in so far as it was.
If I read you correctly it was it was a model of a successful commercial commercialized rather than militarized republic and that there was a great appeal to that because America had had a.
Intense interest in thinking about how it could create a republic that would conjugate well with commerce.
Yes between 1500 and 1800 all the major European powers established empires in the Atlantic and around the globe and one of the great revolutions in Western thought occurs at that time which is how do we get out of our ancient Roman slash Christian.
Dennigration of commerce and luxury as things that corrupt the soul how do we move beyond that because we're wallowaking luxury now and we can all see that luxury is a good thing everybody likes having hot chocolate with sugar in it which are both fruits of the new world.
And so the major reorganization of thought is to try to align human goodness and happiness with luxury.
So people like Adam Smith of course come into play it's it's no accident that that he is writing you know the wealth of nations in the 18th century valorizing commerce.
He thinks about Carthage as well but Carthage is the great useful example for empire builders Britain especially loves to think of itself as as a Carthage because they established a republic whose internal.
Anatomy look very very similar to the Romans there were two magistrates to executives Senate and a people's assembly.
And yet unlike the Romans they didn't fear commerce they did really well so what a great example.
Well to other issues but Carthage had largely a mercenary army although it had it's had a huge naval it was a huge naval power and there was a lot of debate about the virtues or lack thereof of having mercenary armies now.
There was a debate because there's always a fear that the merchant army is a sign that you can't feel your own army because your cause isn't worthy your your citizens don't have enough civic virtue to take up arms in the way that since it had is the in ancient Rome.
And so that is one of the several reasons that they are very suspicious of Carthage in the 18th century and nobody wants to be the person who hires the merchant armies the way that.
Britain of course does with the Hessian soldiers in the American revolution but Americans are hiring people as well.
It's a complicated issue but the fact is that Rome is always associated with the citizen army and Carthage with the the hired army and all of the moral blackness that comes with that.
Earlier on you you said that one of the great appeals of Rome for the Americans was the.
Cisaroni and notion that it's you put the Republic first and you put yourself self second so this idea that there was a higher cause to put your devoted this was something that.
Would probably be part of the Roman wearing a spice of the luxury and a kind of over indulgence in a kind of civilization of commerce and goods and especially luxury goods, because it does risk corroding.
The sort of self sacrificing ethos of putting the Republic first and we know that when Rome ceases to be a republic it's and becomes an empire, this seems to.
The fact that it has so enriched itself through conquest more than through commerce, but nevertheless these luxury goods are flowing into Rome and this exactly what you know there the ancestors had feared was becoming the case which is.
Decadence and corrosion of the civic spirit and promiscuity and lewdness and all the all these sorts of things so empire then comes to kind of regulate this huge imporium that has become the Roman empire.
And to assure that there's going to be on the one hand you know that continued flow of luxury items but Augustus his first priority is to kind of restore a certain kind of morality but he has to do this.
Through coercion and through imposition by for example forbidding bachelor's after a certain age to go see the games at the call to see him you get married you can go see the go see the gladiators you don't get married no.
There was a kind of artificial attempt to prop up what was a natural republican natural I mean that's a kind of republican tendency to have that civic minded spirit of putting your city first is.
Not the case that America follows in the same sort of pattern no that the when we're still at a point in our development cultural political development where we can politicians can still appeal to this sense of the greater good.
of the nation or the country and so she'll but it's getting more and more difficult because precisely the you know consumerism consumption luxury goods these kinds of things don't help the case for republican virtue.
Well it's the case that we certainly still even unconsciously adopt the Roman equation for understanding our civic life this is one of the extraordinary legacies of 18th century classicism is that.
Some of our modern civic discourse channels the binaries that the ancient Romans gave us you know ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country this this is a so essentially.
But we don't see it there anymore Las Vegas can look like a debauched Roman you know you don't call a sea of something.
I think that a very early moment happens in the 19th century when Americans realize that they are in fact creating an empire a land empire in the way that ancient Rome did and the way that they come to terms with that is.
The first of all the stories of the series of long processes of difficult national self examinations that I think haven't stopped today I mean in the aftermath of 911.
The rhetoric was trotted out anew you know what were we doing conquering the world this is the payback you know one of the great Roman questions that we have at the heart of our national discourse that we don't really see for being Roman but it's Roman anyway is this what made the Roman empire fall in the end.
Is it external attack by barbarians or is it internal moral rot and of course you can have both you can have internal moral moral rot that leads to attack by external barbarians.
Seeing in that light 911 takes on a holy new cast of course because it limits the stories that we can tell ourselves about what is going on so in the aftermath of 911.
There were all kinds of new security measures put into place this national self examination about our moral state. These are these are very Roman ways of looking at the world.
Well there's also the whole question of what in.
Well this question of decadence raises two issues for me one is.
The history of America's you know uncanny way patterned on Roman history so that we're almost condemned to play out the larger itinerary of the Roman rise from a virtuous kind of small republic into a kind of unmanageable republic and then finally you know an empire and.
And then it's decadence and when I invoke you know the great seal of America these were not republicans that are being quoted this is Virgil an empire and it's the god of you know that kind of super state.
So on the one hand in some of my more speculative moments I think that there's kind of predest Roman predestination to the to the American story on the other hand.
And it's the part in me about reading your thing about the Carthage is this other kind of empire that America has sponsored which is not political and it's not military but it's commercial and it's the absolute global domination of the multinationals.
Now the multinationals are not all American but multinationalism as a kind of conquest of economic conquest of the earth is primarily American and then it kind of gets.
And it's a very complicated commercial networks across the Mediterranean.
It seems very reminiscent of a certain kind of multinational.
That imperial economic model I don't know if you see things that way or not.
Well, you know if you think that America is following a Roman model then you join many many other people from the 18th century forward you know the trud's Lattio and period I you know we are we are going to follow the fate of Rome etc.
In the modern world I'm you know as a historian I'm very wary of those kinds of things and my response is always.
Oh it's much more complicated than that but it is true that there have been a number of major empires in the world that can give us tools for understanding modern empires you we often.
And associate empires with with land but your example of the multinational is a wonderful way of showing that in fact it's not really always about land.
It can be like Carthage about trade and and very ephemeral but nonetheless powerful networks and that the two in fact can co exist that America now has a land empire.
That spans the globe that is ever expanding but it is also a commercial empire and the conversations that we have about how those two fit together.
You know do do our commercial aspirations drive our land aspirations and and or and should they or should the land drive the commercial we're always very worried when commerce drives our.
I say this you know as people are flocking to the shopping malls before Christmas.
But it's interesting that that Carthage has slipped out of our national self recognition when in many ways it is actually the model.
Yes and that's why I think it's the right time to kind of resurrect the whole ghost of Carthage which remains a ghost because in the sense that if there's something.
The haunting about the fate of Carthage because of its destruction and there's something unresolved or some some kind of afterlife in a weird spectral way that Carthage has had and I think it.
Yeah, it would be a good time to at least encourage our listeners to go read your article on the model empire lost city.
On that and and maybe.
I guess in the 19th and 20th centuries here in America for sure now.
Well yeah I would be absolutely in favor of a Carthage in your revival of course it couldn't be the visual arts but you know in in political text.
For sure.
Yeah, but we can make a myth of it you see that would be the best we can there's that even if it doesn't correspond to the truth.
I mean as Hegel said so much the worse for the facts indeed it's the idea that counts.
There's a wonderful painting by the British painter Turner in the early 19th century of the destruction of Carthage and you can see that he doesn't have any material to go on because all of his architecture looks pretty Roman.
So that's of course the fate of Carthage to be forgotten behind Rome.
Well that's great I I'd like to thank you again for coming on Carol and we've been speaking with Carol and winter or professor of history.
Here at Stanford about the legacies of Rome, Greece and Carthage in America and it's been a fascinating topic.
I will have you on again in the future I hope so thanks again for coming on and we will be with you next week.
Thank you Robert bye bye.