Is Today's US Politics Replaying the Era of Tacitus? Holy Cross Professor Explains

Tim Joseph, associate professor of classics. Photo by Tom Rettig

The Conversation

Over the past three years, political commentators have compared President Donald Trump with a range of Roman emperors, from Tiberius to Nero and Commodus.

In an article for The Conversation, Tim Joseph, associate professor of classics at Holy Cross, suggests another comparison might be more meaningful, which is the one between other elected officials in the U.S. and members of the Roman senate described by ancient historian Tacitus.

According to Joseph, who was spent the last 15 years researching and teaching Tacitus’ works on the history of the Roman Empire, Tacitus paints a picture of the Roman senate declining from a long-held position of authority under the Roman Republic to become a body largely dependent on the whims of the emperor.

"Is this same process playing out in the U.S.?" asks Joseph. "Or will political figures in the U.S. – or the U.S. electoral process – respond to a growing autocracy in ways that the ancient Romans did not?"

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