Join Professor Bailly and Program Assistant Sofia Guerra for an introduction to the France, Italy, & Spain study abroad programs of the FIU Honors College. Whether you are going to Europe in Summer 2020 or considering 2021 or 2022, this session will be helpful.
Check out #fiuhonorsabroad2019 on Instagram for photos from Espana, France, & Italia. Check our FIU Broadcast Media major Lily Fonte’s video and webpage of the 2019 Italy program.
Hello, everyone! My name is Nicole Patrick. In three words, I would describe myself as organized, kind, and determined. I am a senior at Florida International University and its Honors College studying Hospitality & Tourism Management with a combined Bachelor’s and Masters degree in the subject. During my time at FIU, I have been able to take part in many opportunities, such as being a student leader in Panther Camp, Honors College, and Campus Tours, volunteering and coordinating a spring break service trip to Puerto Rico with Alternative Breaks, studying abroad with Hospitality at Sea, and gaining professional experience with the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. My passions in life include volunteering and traveling, specifically eco-tourism, sustainability, and culture-immersive experiences. I aspire to make the world a better place by giving my time, energy, and dedication to the environment and the people that live in it. More information about me and my journey in this class can be found on my Instagram page.
Driving is one of my least favorite activities. It requires 100% concentration. You must calculate how long it will take you to arrive. It has unpreventable side effects like getting nudged between two semi-trucks, receiving the occasional bird finger because someone was not having a good day, slamming on your brakes because someone thinks it’s okay to go five miles below the speed limit in the left lane, and the worst side effect of all: being in a stand-still not once, but twice a day. Once in the morning and again in the evening. No matter where I decide to go in Miami, I will run into at least one of the above things.
Riding public transportation is one of my favorite activities. It does not require 100% concentration. You do need to calculate how long it will take you to arrive. It has unpreventable side effects like getting to take a nap while you wait to arrive, initiating the occasional conversation with the passenger next to you, sitting in an air-conditioned metro car, and the best side effect of all: getting to relax because you are not driving.
Miami-Dade County’s public transit system is called the Miami Metrorail. It has a total of two routes: one that starts in Hialeah and one that starts in the Miami International Airport. Both routes end in Dadeland South. Having ridden metro systems before in places like New York City, Barcelona, and Madrid, I have seen my fair share of systems and have seen both positives and negatives in each one. For the Miami Metrorail, it was definitely one of the cleanest and simple.
Somethings that I did notice; however, were the speed of the system and the lack of passengers throughout the day. The amount of time spent at each stop varied. As in one stop, the car waited for about three minutes another waited one minute. I also had to wait almost 10 minutes at one stop for the car to arrive. In most metro systems, that is unacceptable. In those systems, the trains are constantly running and will stop for about one minute at each station.
Additionally, the U.S. Census Bureau states that Miami-Dade County has over 2.7 million residents. In a city this large, you would expect for the Miami Metrorail to be full, but that was not the case. It turns out that according to Miami Matters, from 2013-2017, only 5.2% of workers commuted by public transportation in Miami-Dade County. I believe this is because of the lack of accessibility to the Miami Metrorail to the entire county. Sadly, the system only runs on the eastern side of the county at the moment, which makes it nearly impossible for all residents of the county to utilize it on a frequent basis. With environmental concerns being of high importance in today’s society, I believe that the county should begin looking towards ways of improving the Miami Metrorail to decrease its carbon footprint and increase sustainability. As commuters, we must look at the side effects of both driving and riding public transportation.
The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, exemplifies Miami. Each time I have visited, I am amazed by the Mediterranean style villa that was built for James Deering. Vizcaya magnifies the lavish Miami life-style we are known for. Sadly, that is not the truth for most Miamians with the median income of the city being $51,362. Given our expensive reputation, many individuals are known to give the façade wealth. Surprisingly, Vizcaya displays this unfortunate side of Miami through its marble pieces. There are a number of marble walls that are not marble, but are hand painted to look like marble. Since marble was too expensive at the time it was built in 1922, it was cheaper to give the perception of marble without the cost of the material.
Aside from the fake marble, Vizcaya and its gardens are filled with recurring objects and figures that link Miami to other cultures. Some of the “hidden Mickeys” are the ships, seahorses, dragons, and faces of bearded men. The ships and seahorses tie to the ocean. The dragons correlate to the story of the dragon-slayer Sant Jordi from Catalonia, which where James Deering had spent his time prior to building Vizcaya. The carved faces of men with beards can be found near the river entrance which reference to the many Roman river deities. You can find numerous styles of differing cultures in the estate, such as Baroque, Renaissance, and Mediterranean. Vizcaya represents the diversity of Miami with incorporating themes from all over the world, such as Christian paintings created by a Jewish artist and a replica of a Roman sculpture: The Thorn. Many would describe Miami as a melting pot: the point in which differentiating cultures blend.
Vizcaya’s irony is how, with incorporating other identities
and being as extravagant as possible, it perfectly represents Miami with all of
positives and negatives.
Stepping into The Deering Estate is like stepping back in time. Once the group, led by the estate’s director Jennifer Tisthammer, passed the gate, we viewed a world foreign to urban Miami: nature. The lush ecosystem is filled with trees, plants, spiders, mosquitos, and butterflies all living in harmony. It is hard to believe there is a mountain in Miami, but The Deering Estate has it.
We hiked through mud, trees, and plants while dodging spiderwebs to make our way 24 feet above sea level in the Cutler Fossil Site. The remains of various animals, such as dire wolves, mammoths, saber tooth tigers, and giant sloths, remind us that we are just a small fragment in the long history of life on Earth. Specifically, you realize that there is more to Miami than the sun, beaches, cafecitos, and ventanitas. It has been a place of life for thousands of years.
Tequesta and paleo natives called Miami their home. They had established the Miami we know today. However, these people are nearly forgotten because of the limited information we know from them. There were families, tribes, groups of humans living here, but we do not know their names. We do not completely know their story. We do not know what they had looked like. These people have almost been forgotten by society.
However, The Deering Estate reminds us that we must not forget our past. Instead, we must step into our past to understand our future.
A big passion of mine is the environment and the maintenance of a safe place in which all living things can prosper. I have been involved in a number of cleanups in South Florida and Puerto Rico. Each one ceases to amaze me. This past week, I had the opportunity to help somewhere that only a small number of individuals have. With my classmates led by our Professor John Bailly, I cleaned up Chicken Key. Chicken Key is a small island off the coast of Miami Dade County in Biscayne Bay. As a class, we teamed up in pairs and paddled our way one mile from The Deering Estate to Chicken Key. As we got closer, the image of ropes, containers, and flipflops started to form. My partner, Juliana Pereira, worked together with Jose Ernesto to fill up an entire canoe. We made the effort to go into parts of the island that others avoided. I looked angered at our canoe overflowing with trash because we did this. Maybe not us specifically, but as a human race, we did this. And we continuously utilize single-use products. We purchase flip flops that we often loose. We have become so obsessed with materials that we often forget to walk outside.
On Wednesday, October 24, 2019, our
class was able to fill nine canoes of trash. Unfortunately, we were not able to
collect everything. Each day, more trash piles on Chicken Key and all
As a society, we have to come
together, stop focusing on ourselves, and begin looking at the world around us.
As my one class did, so can others.
Wynwood as Text
“The Rise, Fall and Rise of a Neighborhood”
By Nicole Patrick of FIU at Wynwood, 10 November 2019
What drives social change? Well, to me it is the people who dare to question topics rarely discussed. It is those that act upon their words rather than speak. I have found that many times these individuals are artists. Many choose to stir away from the status quo, which only makes them more popular. Miami’s Wynwood has become the epicenter of contemporary art. Prior to its fame, Wynwood had gone through a rollercoaster of prosperity.
It was established in 1917 and was an
area filled with manufacturing plants and factories, such as Coca Cola and the
American Bakeries Companies. Also, factories began moving north, migrants
starting moving in. In the mid-1950s, Wynwood was referred to as “Little San
Juan” after the capital of Puerto Rico because the population was mainly Puerto
Rican. As a Puerto Rican, it makes me proud to know that my people made an
impact and had a place to call home in Miami. However, as the neighborhood
began declining, it became considered as a lower middle-class neighborhood and
it was no longer a place that families wanted to stay in. As rent rates in
other areas, such as Coconut Grove, began pushing out artists, they had to find
other areas to work.
This brought the South Florida Art Center out of Coconut Grove and into Wynwood. From there, the neighborhood has done a complete 360°. As I mentioned before, artists start social change. The artists’ movement to Wynwood completely changed the dynamic. Soon collectors began entering the area, such as Martin Margulies and Carlos and Rosa De La Cruz. These collectors look for pieces of cultural consequence. Something that causes you to ask questions and converse with others.
Personally, my biggest takeaway from
Wynwood Day is to do what you feel is right, not necessarily follow the status
quo, do not just talk about it. Do it. As the artists and migrants do. Soon the
rest will follow.
This meeting is primarily for students already registered in FIU Honors 2020 France, Italy, or Spain study abroad. All Honors students, however, are welcome to attend. Parents and significant others are also welcome.
Join Professor Bailly and Program Assistant Sofia Guerra for an introduction to the France, Italy, & Spain study abroad programs of the FIU Honors College. Whether you are going to Europe in Summer 2020 or considering 2021 or 2022, this session will be helpful.
“Ruins, Beauty, and Water” by Marco A. Linares at Tivoli, Italy. 13 May 2019.
Tivoli has proven to be one of Italy’s most amazing places. Unlike in hectic Rome, the people are calm and proud, the air is clean, and serenity fills every void – after experiencing it, there is no doubt why Hadrian chose Tivoli as the perfect escape from Rome.
In his villa, Hadrian showed me that pleasure and knowledge can (and should) go together. His lavish baths, his towering libraries, and his expansive grounds make him akin to a deity, but at the same time, his temple idolizing his deceased lover and the idea of closing himself off to the world – in essence being antisocial – to study and learn humanize him. Hadrian’s villa makes you feel like you can understand one of the greatest emperors that ever lived, making you wonder whether your perception of any great leader is correct or simply biased by their status.
Afterwards, Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este perplexed me with his lavish villa and made me rethink water and its function. I realized that it is not simply a necessary fluid – as I naively believed – but also something that can be harnessed and turned into art that calls you and makes you wonder if it is the most beautiful thing in the word. If I had been one of the cardinals being brought out there and showed those dramatic views, d’Este would have gained my vote and would have become Pope – there is a reason I am not a cardinal.
Lastly, the hike down into the valley of hell tests one physically and mentally. 100 meters down surrounded by nothing but pristine nature and cascading water. The absolute beauty numbs your senses and even a while after returning to civilization everything does not live up to the natural beauty of this valley. If that is what the descent into hell looks like I would not mind going there after all.
Tivoli is a must see place for all those seeking to truly understand Italy. Off the beaten path, it allows one to realize that though all roads lead to Rome, there is a lot of beauty to see on the way.
“Unanswered Questions” by Marco A. Linares of FIU at Pompeii, Italy. 15 May 2019.
Pompeii was a lively Roman town, bustling with trade due to its proximity to the sea. In 79 BCE it was covered and abandoned as a result of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and forgotten for nearly 1500 years. Once the King of Naples decided to begin excavating it, it proved to be the best preserved Roman town ever discovered, shaping our idea of how Roman life was like no other.
Technology and advancements in techniques have made exploring Pompeii easier and more efficient. We are able to reconstruct buildings, create renderings, and scan the ground before breaking into it. Every once in a while, news break out about another section of Pompeii being excavated and new information being unearthed. Every discovery allows experts to zero in on what life was really like, but despite every new discovery some questions shall remain unanswered for eternity.
Who were these people? What were their names? What did they like? What were their dreams? What was their favorite food? They were homo sapiens – that we know – but what made them human? That we will never know.
Pompeii is an incredibly important archeological find, but it is also a town of thousands of humans who were never able to live life fully and were ultimately forgotten by society, so forgotten that now archeologists are forced to rename everything in the town using nothing more than what they find near it.
Pompeii is a draining experience, one that leaves you with more questions than answers. Casts of the dead are everywhere, waiting to be cataloged and displayed. Some are merely shaped like humans, others have gruesome facial expressions and body language that show how much pain they endured in their final moments, making one wonder, who were you? How can I remember you?
“Are they different after all?” by Marco A. Linares of FIU at Rome, Italy. 15 May 2019.
Melting pot of civilization – that is the most apt description of Rome.
Ancient Romans romanticized about the Greeks. Their art and knowledge was something that astonished Romans and led to them to claim being Greek descendants. Furthermore, as they idolized them so, Romans appropriated their culture in an attempt to be more like the ideal society that was Greece. Romans took heir columns, their gods, and their civic structures. All borrowed and adapted to fit their needs.
Romans were also amazing politicians and masters at public relations. No matter what, Romans always managed to bring the conquered under the Roman banner in the most unique ways, eventually leading to the pax Romana, something unheard of since then. Was religion a dividing issue? Bring your own gods and worship them in your temple. Was Roman citizenship an issue? Come become a citizen. Feel like you are too far from Rome? Come to the capital free of the constraints of an immigration policy. No matter the problem, the Romans had a practical solution. But Rome eventually fell, and its position as the hegemon of antiquity was filled by the church.Christianity added to the melting pot of culture that is Rome, creating an incredibly unique mix of devotion, power, and unrivaled leadership. It must be noted how much the church took from Rome in matters of practices as well as structure. Everywhere in Rome one can find the holy see adorning facades of churches and a variety of other buildings. Much like the Romans, the church took over old temples and repurposed them as catholic churches (often destroying the temple and building atop it), the church took Roman basilicas and replaced the judge’s seat with the cross – implying that the judge was now God, it even took some pagan structures and statues and preserved them by bringing them into the catholic fold – though a large number were destroyed. For a while, and for some to this day, the catholic church has been the most powerful institution on the world, commanding armies, waging war, and certainly enjoying the spoils.
In recent times the church has moved away from its aggressive practices and history, but the question remains, is the Papacy that different from the Emperors of ancient Rome?Christianity added to the melting pot of culture that is Rome, creating an incredibly unique mix of devotion, power, and unrivaled leadership. It must be noted how much the church took from Rome in matters of practices as well as structure. Everywhere in Rome one can find the holy see adorning facades of churches and a variety of other buildings. Much like the Romans, the church took over old temples and repurposed them as catholic churches (often destroying the temple and building atop it), the church took Roman basilicas and replaced the judge’s seat with the cross – implying that the judge was now God, it even took some pagan structures and statues and preserved them by bringing them into the catholic fold – though a large number were destroyed. For a while, and for some to this day, the catholic church has been the most powerful institution on the world, commanding armies, waging war, and certainly enjoying the spoils.In recent times the church has moved away from its aggressive practices and history, but the question remains, is the Papacy that different from the Emperors of ancient Rome?
“Realization” by Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Firenze, Italy. 27 May 2019.
Inactively active. Inanimately animate. Inhumanely human. Michelangelo’s David is all this and much more, inviting reflection and eventual realization of social truths.
David’s story is the epitome of humanity. Upon hearing the insults his people are subject to, he first wonders about the rewards to be had for defeating this insulting giant; then he bravely volunteers to fight him, despite having never fought before. David masks his actions under religious zealotry, but this act is driven by nothing more than pride and greed.
Life is an insurmountable and endless obstacle course – a gauntlet no human has ever survived. David, like all of us, confidently faces it unarmed, inexperienced, and alone – all under the promise of a better life with fewer obstacles in the future, regardless of the danger it poses.
Michelangelo embodies us all as we go through life like nobody else in his famous David. Somehow the solid marble captures how we jump at the opportunity for betterment, disregard all threats, and proudly step into the field naked and unarmed. What is even more impressive is that it also manages to capture how, on sight of the challenge ahead of us, at least for a second, we are afraid and hesitant; for a bit we realize that our future may not be as we expected it, and we doubt ourselves and every decision we made up to that point.
This duality is perfectly captured by Michelangelo and his chisel. When looked from his front, David is brave and ready to face the challenge that lies ahead without any regard for the consequences. However, when looked from his left, as he sees what he is about to face, the doubt and hesitation becomes prominent in his perched eyebrows and worried gaze.
Michelangelo’s colossal David may have been made out of a block of marble, but it is a perfect reflection of humanity and maybe even of the author himself when he took on this project. Intentionally or not, Michelangelo’s David comments on society at an incredibly intricate level. Lastly, I think Vasari put it best when he stated when referring to the David that “whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either in our own or in other times.”
“A city made for people, not cars.” By Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Siena, Italy. 27 May 2019.
Long winding roads, open plazas scattered at random, and people – people everywhere, walking on the streets, naturally, in their city.
Siena was the first European city to ban cars from its historic center – a bold step to take – but definitely one in the right direction. Cars pollute with their exhausts, lowering the life expectancy of all those who inhabit the city. Emissions from cars also damage artwork and structures, wearing away at them and gradually reducing our cultural heritage. Cars are also the worst enemies of architecture because the vibrations they produce can permanently damage and sometimes destroy unique and essential buildings in learning about our history. By banning cars from its historic centers, the Sienese became the first to avoid all of these negative effects of cars in an extremely progressive way. Aside from this all, Siena’s regulation allows the people full access to the streets and plazas. This is essential for a society to become interconnected and properly coexist. People walk and stop to greet one another or to walk into a shop, they sit in groups in plazas for lunch, and people seem substantially happier.
Across the ocean, however, there is the land of the free and the home of the brave. So free that they are entirely dependent on cars to go about their daily lives. So free that when they want to enter a store or greet a friend they must first find parking and then walk to their destination. So free that they cannot go to work if their car breaks down. Streets are expanded and constructed constantly in America, but never considering the pedestrian, only the automobiles. Money is poured into infrastructure to accommodate more cars and further drive a wedge between people.
One is a city made for people, the other for cars. One fosters human connections, the other servers them before they can be created. One allows true freedoms, the other one restricts them.
The land of the free and the home of the brave has quite a bit to learn from Siena, lodged far from large cities, this cozy hill town knows what it needs to do to keep society functioning. Hopefully the United States looks to Siena as a model to follow before irreparably changing the way that its society operates.
“Refuge” by Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Cinque Terre, Italy. 29 May 2019.
How can one describe the Cinque Terre? Some will simply say they are a tourist destination. Others will say that they are the most picturesque places in all of Italy. Others will say they are small, quaint, and colorful villages in the Italian hillside that have resisted the forces of capitalism and remained as original as possible. Though these are not entirely wrong, I disagree with these definitions because they fail to include the essence of the Cinque Terre.
Hidden amidst mountains, these villages could easily be missed if not for their colorfully painted buildings. Fishermen once were and can still be seen as the backbone of these societies as every city has a port and a myriad of fishing boats anchored there. Aside from this, one can see how resistant these towns have been to global capitalism, not a single McDonald’s or any other giant chain store is present in any town. Their terraces allow them to be as self-sustainable as possible, allowing for small, family owned businesses to thrive. The people are so proud of their originality that they made it a UNESCO world heritage site so that the towns would remain the same way for generations to come.
Knowing these facts surely makes one more aware of the history and importance of the Cinque Terre, but it is not until one truly experiences and immerses into them that the essence becomes revealed.
Compared to Roma, Firenze, Venezia, Siena, Pisa, or Assisi, the Cinque Terre are distinct. It is difficult to put into words how a sense of serenity is accompanied by the utter beauty of the landscapes and overwhelms its visitors, offering a refuge from the world. Laying on its cliffside beaches, trekking through its trails, or simply sitting in one of its cafes feels surreal – almost like one has left everything one knows behind. There is nothing in the Cinque Terre that reminds one of the troubles of life – quiet and peace fill this refuge. Out of all the places in the world, this one must be one of the most peaceful ones in existence. The Cinque Terre allow and almost prompt reflection; no person can experience them without leaving a changed person.
“Per Venezia, qualsiasi cosa” by Marco A. Linares of the FIU Honors College at Venezia, Italy. 8 June 2019.
Venezia is an astonishing city. It is the embodiment of human willpower and determination. After countless barbarian raids, a group of us were fed up and made the bold move to erect a city in the middle of a lagoon. From the sea this city rose atop istrian pine and stone – growing beyond the wildest imagination of any man. Slowly we grew to be masters of the sea and became the only bridge between East and West – the bridge through which all trade must pass. Venezia became the birthplace of modern day capitalism.
I am a Venetian and as such I will lay my life down for Venezia if I need to. What does it need? A body so it can cash in on the pilgrimage of thousands of Christians? I shall steal the body of St. Mark from under the noses of Muslims and bring it back. Does it need priceless pieces of art so that it can grow in opulence and display its power? I shall attack our allies and pillage their city, and I shall bring back countless pieces of art and treasures unbeknownst to man. Does it need to maintain the monopoly over glass blowing? We shall build a town to contain our master glass blowers and keep them there with their secrets. Does it need sailors to fill its merchant ships? I shall go and enlist hundreds of drunkards at the local pubs and make sure they are manning the boats by dawn. Per Venezia, qualsiasi cosa!
Shalenah Ivey is a recent graduate of Florida International University and its Honors College as of Spring 2019. While a student, she majored in Art History, minored in Spanish Language and Cultures, and completed a certificate in Film Studies. Her passions in life are art in its many forms, the written word, and the understanding and celebration of cultures from around the world. While also having experience in video art and film photography, it is with writing that Shalenah hopes to inspire, awaken, and reach those near and far. More information about her can be found at divineivy.wordpress.com.
PAMM AS TEXT Think Pinkby Shalenah Ivey at PAMM, 14 October 2018 Blue is my favorite color. It is as deep as it is endless and as mystifying as it is sincere. It has stained my soul. It has dyed my daydreams. Yet, I have been told by many that when they think of me, the color pink is never far away. Walking into PAMM’s newest exhibit I felt as if I was wading into an aura. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980–83 | A Documentary Exhibition captured the entire process of the iconic Miami installation by married artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Comprised of preliminary sketches, court documents, and other photographs, it brought to life the sheer complexity of the undertaking of the project. When I stepped into the exhibition, there was a black and white photograph of the artists strolling hand in hand upon the Biscayne shore. It was as expansive as it was intimate and I felt to be a part of that fleeting moment, invited within their world.
Thus, I fell into Surrounded Islands, immersed and captivated by the physicality of it all. So tangibly potent were the artifacts steeped in time. The finiteness of a date attached to a legal record. Hurried signatures and stamps. Pinks maps and pink papers and even pink tarps apart of the original installation. Inescapable was the hue and unforgettable its presence. The world, my world, was permeated with pink. I felt it without touching it. Surrounded by the vision of the artists on an island of my own.
I close my eyes and what radiates is pink.
DEERING AS TEXT Take Heed by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 04 November 2018 Primus Devine was the name of my great great great grandfather. He lived most of his life a slave in South Carolina. He tasted freedom perhaps a decade. We know almost nothing about him. Had I not had an insatiable curiosity at age 17, we may still not know his name. He is the farthest back my family (on my mother’s side) has been able to go in our ancestry. I have always clinged to the stories my grandmother has told me of her childhood growing up in 1950s South Carolina. Although her family was poor, her stories are rich with a boundless love. Exploring the Deering Estate and the untouched landscape that stretched beyond the house reminded me of my perpetual attachment to the past. The ways in which time cruelly escapes me. The ways in which the walls of an old building whisper stories. We adventured into a pure paradise. Then to that of a grave. We don’t even know their names. But their bones stay. The sky is still bleached blue. Papaya hangs from branches and rests on fallen trunks. Green but rotting. I think of the grave again. Have we failed them? Have we failed each other? Daggers and death still live on. The trees speak. The trees sing. The trees weep. Listen, Miami.
VIZCAYA AS TEXT Mary, did you know?byShalenah Ivey at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, 10 November 2018 I think one never grows tired of visiting the Miami marvel known as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The muted clementine walls that wait outside. The way that archaic touches lining the street only hint at the grandness awaiting within. Walking the shadowy path amongst the forest on the way to the mansion. Hearing the sound of traffic die down within the breaths of the trees. Perhaps there is a transcendence or perhaps the allure of grandeur can simply overwhelm the senses. Gold and silk and ancient objects adorn the walls and spaces of Vizcaya. For James Deering, the estate’s owner, there was truly no limit. There is no other option but to be in awe of his creation. Yet, despite the many times I have been to Vizcaya, I have never noticed the statue of Mary that sits almost discreetly in the formal dining room. Her face is pained with sorrow. Her countenance concentrated with the softest of melancholy. What is it Mary? What has you so troubled? The word decadence embellishes my mind. Decay beyond what can decompose, beyond what can tarnish… Oh, but the sky is so blue across the bay. The manatee swims so near. What shines will rust and what stands will fall. Bacchus calls. The grapes will rot with tenderness. The waves will hum to you if you let them. A baby’s coffin is in the room with Mary. I wonder what she could say if she could speak.
UNTITLED AS TEXT Never, ever enough artbyShalenah Ivey at UNTITLED, 09 December 2018 I read this in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice. It made it all the more real, all the more crucial, all the more potent. Dreams are free, motherfucker. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a picture of the didactic. Yet, those words will stay with me. The Untitled Art fair was sincerely worth the last four years I failed to make it to Art Basel. I refuse to lament on the past, however, and I firmly believe everything happens in the time in which it is supposed to happen. Thus, I am only grateful I experienced what I did today. Not only what but when. When and also with who. The first steps into the Untitled fair were nothing short of captivating. My remaining steps proved to be increasingly special. The art curated was as cutting edge as it was promised to be. It is both inspiring and comforting to be surrounded by such talent and to know that people are in this world creating endlessly. Dreams are free, motherfucker! But for how long? What do I dream? I dream of Spain and of love and blue skies and of eternity and true happiness and of empty sun-glinted beaches. The color blue has permeated the day. My favorite color. Today, I asked, “How long does it take for the the sun to set on Jupiter?” I was told that I took the sun when I left.
MARGULIES AS TEXT Magnificent Margulies by Shalenah Ivey at Margulies Collection, 24 February 2019 I paused, perplexed in front of an iridescent sculpture. I stood, unsettled in the presence of concrete. I felt, touched by the bygone world of my grandmother in a single photo. Two young black boys carrying ice blocks, barefoot down a country road. These instances were just a fraction of my experiences at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse. More than just a trip to the collection, our class had the privilege to experience a personal tour by Mr. Martin Margulies, owner of the institution. His smile was a spark. His demeanor was modest. There was a certainty in his hearty voice that drew me in, compelling me to listen attentively to his words throughout the afternoon. He asked us what is the value of beauty and what is it that makes something art. There were hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art surrounding us yet the tour with Mr. Margulies had the warmth of someone showing us their home. Each piece was purposeful and weighted in it space. Each room was a world of its own. A wonderfully weird diner scene, an image of Americana. The solitude of a New York bus rider. A space with infinite reflections, infinite realities. What does it mean when the depths of wonder know no bounds?
ICA AS TEXT Listen to the Beat by Shalenah Ivey ICA Miami, 22 March 2019 We musn’t forget that art is alive. That it is a force that moves and breathes like you and I. Sometimes it mourns and is imbued with grief. Other times, it gives birth to elated dreams. If we are still enough and if we are open enough, we can hear the beating of its heart. Art is the most special when it makes us hear our own. When it unifies us and seals as one, even if the moments are fast and few. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, I felt the works of art viewed by my class erase visages and barriers. Abstracted visions and the frivolity of reality slowly stripped away at us until all that showed was a naked and naive innocence of wonder. Larry Bell’s minimalist world took us to another plane. In blackness, our bodies were erased, but there was still touch and voice. A dimension of soul and sound. He prepared us by taking away our shadows. He made a figment of our reflections. We were baptized in a pool of vulnerability. The third floor of the ICA connected us to a woman’s world and we were pierced by the female gaze. Judy Chicago’s works reminded me of a rebirth. Our blood and bodies returned to us. The tactile and the red physicality of what it means to be alive. Emotions, glorious and ghastly. At the center of this all, the heart. Don’t try to escape its sound.
RUBELL AS TEXT Bite Me by Shalenah Ivey at Rubell Family Collection, 04 April 2019 Someone said to burn it down. Someone else said the piece was totally disturbing. Another simply wrote, “Perfection.” These are comments taken from the Rubell Collection’s Instagram post of Tschabalala Self’s Untitled (2017) mixed media canvas. I’m not sure if I love it or hate it. Perhaps it is both. Perhaps I love only her. But does it even matter? I see a woman in full possession of herself. The divinity of Venus. I see a crude caricature. An image steeped in a ugly history, an ugly present. I think of Sarah Baartman. A slave to her body while also having her humanity raped. I think of women in music videos, treated as nothing more than a prop. I think of the girls who twerk in front of the mirror, falling in love with themselves. What is this vessel of bone and fat and skin? The woman who is unashamed of her body is a dangerous weapon. The woman who revels in her own sublimity and her own imperfections. Whatever you think of her, our lady is a gun and a goddess. She is not for consumption and if you disagree, you can bite me.
DEERING AS TEXT For all that is Human by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 20 April 2019 Shell had the beauty of ivory in my hand. I was hushed then humbled by what it is and what it means to be human. When stepping into the Cutler Fossil site at the Deering Estate, my classmates and I were told to quiet ourselves. I did so and absorbed the spirit of where I stood; a place that was home to people ten thousand years ago. We were on sacred ground. Almost overwhelming was the action of imagining the souls of those who once lived here. I was the first to hold one of their tools. It was smooth and a portal to the breaths of a prehistoric people. I wish we could know their names, know their faces. Did they think of time? Was love their heaven? How did they say goodbye? I wonder if they felt sorrow. I wonder if they singed. I wonder when they looked up to the sky, if the clouds made them feel the same way as they do me? Gentle and transcended and filled with peace; in touch with all that is divine. I mark my memories with the clouds. If only, we could know theirs. These questions go unanswered, kept secret by the enigma of time. Yet, under a canopy of unending green, the knowledge that they lived is enough. Their presence is enough.
De Gaulle (1890-1970) was in every sense a contradictory character — Jean Lacouture, an earlier biographer, called his colossal personality “a battlefield” — with tensions between “restraint and hubris, reason and sentiment, classicism and romanticism, calculation and provocation”. He was “a soldier who spent most of his career fighting the army; a conservative who often talked like a revolutionary”. And Gaullism “succeeded in becoming the synthesis of French political traditions reconciling the left to the state and the right to the nation, the left to authority and the right to democracy”. He was able to achieve this unifying transcendence because of the “legitimacy” — his favourite word — he had acquired during the Second World War as leader of the French government in exile.
Lewis Jones (2018)
Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle was born on November 22, 1890 in the region of Lille in the Nord Department. His family, specially his uncle and his grandfather inspired him to learn about history and inserted him into the lecture word. He learned compositions and was passionate about poetry. At the age of fifteen, he anticipated the future when wrote an essay with the title “General de Gaulle”, in which he imagined he was the leader of the French army on its victory over Germany in 1930. Years later, he joined the French army placing his father and his own intellectual interests about history and his country. During his first years of serving the army, he demonstrated strong abilities besides his physical qualities (height: 6’5”), and five years later he was promoted to sergeant. During his studies at the academy he started being an average student, and then he increased his skills, intelligence, knowledge, and personality being on the top of his class. The time of being proved arrived to his live when the World War I stayed.
World War I
After two months he rejoined the army as commander of the 7thCompanyand two months later he was assigned regimental adjutant. He performed a good job on his position, earning the Croix de Guerreand ascending to Captain. Once again, he received a bullet on his left hand and was out of battle during four months. Once his abilities led him coming back, he rejoined the forces, leading the 10thcompany again. For last time, he received bayonet wound on the left thigh after being stunned by a shell. He survived the effect of this incidents and the consequences of poison gas, but was captured by the Germans.
During the first days of the war he was wounded while performed as platoon commander in the Battle of Dinant.He received a bullet on his knee and was hospitalized enough time to criticize the methods of the French Militia. There were three aspect that De Gaulle found erroneous about the military tactics: the over-rapid offensive, the inadequacy of French generals, and the slowness of English troops.
De Gaulle spent almost three years on prison under the German regimen. He got depressed because he was absent on the War. This situation was for him a fatality. His passion for the battle were so strong than got him frustrated about being incarcerated. He never complained about the food, the situation, the lonely, the exile; his only concern was not being part of the French army. He used this time to read, to learn German, to discuss with other prisoners about military strategies and possibilities of victory. He also wrote his first book “ Discorde chez l’ennemi” which was published on 1924 and explained the division and issues within the German troops. When the war was terminating, he was liberated, and came back to his father’s home with his three brothers who survived the war.
Charles went to Poland to as staff of the French Military Mission to Polandand earn the decoration of Virturi Militari. Once back in France he studied at the Ecole de Guerreduring two years, in which his grades were good, but never excellent. His professor Moyrand referred to him as an intelligent man, with unique attitudes as leader and as soldier, and as extremely arrogant with excessive amount of self-confidence. One year later after finishing his studies, Charles published an essay on tactics depending of the circumstances, which constituted for many a response to his professor Moyrand. The same decade, he published other articles and lectures such as “Historical Role of French Fortresses”, “Leadership in Wartime”, and “Prestige”, ending on the formation of his book The Edge of the Sword. He came back to Ecole de Guerre as a commandant, but this time with the position of commander as he had sworn years earlier. Gaulle continued writing, even proposing his tactics to the senator, arguing for his concepts and ideas and earning prestige amount the militaries.
Tanks and rapid maneuvers rather than trench warfare.
On his book published on 1934, named Toward a Professional Army, he explained his position against the old trench warfare and the benefits of the use of tanks and rapid maneuvers. He believed so much on himself and was strong about his ideals, he defended his war strategies and his book was a success. Gaulle sold more than 700 copies on France and the thousands of copies on Germany (good numbers for that time and topic). After his book, he earned more respect and prestige across the country, and his tactics were criticized in France and followed in Germany. He was a well-known figure when he published his new book France and her Armyin 1938.
Word War II
During War II he was the command of the 4thArmoured Division, he wrote books, criticized strategies and was in front of tanks battles. During the German invasion, he was directing the attack at Montcornet and was defeated several times by the enemies. He rejected order of withdrawal and advance into the field, enjoying one of the few victories of French. During this period, he was so secure about his tactics, rejecting superiors advises and confronting the Germans face to face. Then, he was given a mission to go to London, many of his collagenous had rejected and he accepted. On his biography he specified the depression and frustration he felt forming part of this mission. This meant his recognition of the government and a decided break from the French Army. During this time, he had several ideological problems with Churchill, demanding the rights of the French Committee (Jones, 2018).
He was recognized as the leader of the Free French and confronted as usually problems with his superiors. Gaulle’ wife and daughter had to move constantly while in London, and they were living separated for the general. He was a public figure and counted with admires in France, while the Vichy sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment and the court martial in absentia condemned him to death. After agreements and conversations, he formed the Free French National Council and then the Free French Air Force which cost him almost being killed in a plane sabotage on April 21st, 1943. To the other hand, president Roosevelt refused to accept him and even when their relationships started to improve, De Gaulle was not a trusted person to the American government. He stayed with his ideals and was clear on every meeting, he asked for being recognized as a leader figure of Free French. On June 14 of 1944 Charles went back to France in the wake of invading army. France welcomed him as deserved, and he headed the first allied troops to enter the capital: “Leclerc’s Free French second armored division. Sometime later, he was also the head of the provisional French government. In the elections of 1945, he failed to win enough votes and retired from the public life (Rudolph, 2016). The major cataclysm of France has passes, but Charles De Gaulle was not satisfied with the results, writing the following phrase:
It is not tolerable, it is not possible, that from so much sacrifice and ruin, so much heroism, a greater and better humanity shall not emerge.”
Charles De Gaulle.
The President of the Fifth Republic
The official felt that France did not need him, or at least that his ideals were so pure for a country still on recovery. He wrote his book Memories of the War. When the Fourth Republic stayed, he planted his disposal for the country. Algeria returned the power to him after winning the war, and he was assigned as president of the Fifth Republic. Instead of following Argelia’s interests, the president stayed by the France’s benefits, creating discomfort and resulting in the white revolution in Algiers. He suffered attempts against his life at this time.
His labor most important during this period were:
Trying to convert France in an atomic power rose
Healing the relationships with German
Making the first attempts of inserting Britain to the European community
Tour for 10 Latin American countries.
On the elections, he was reelected on the second ballot for seven years. Between his achievements during this period are:
Tour of 6000 miles around the Soviet Union.
He signed the declaration for the closeness between Eastern and Western Europe.
Called to EEUU to withdraw from Vietnam during a speech on Cambodia.
For his peaceful position he made of Paris a neutral point for meetings between EEUU and Vietnam.
He launched the first nuclear powered submarine in 1967.
One of the most controversial elements during these years was his visit on 1967 to Canada, where he used the slogan “Vive le Quebec libre” encouraging the French-Canadian separatism.
He continued with his foreign policy by visiting the Soviet Union, Poland and Romania in order to increase their relationship.
“The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”
Charles De Gaulle
De Gaulle government was categorized as a “dictatorship”, and years later he admitted on his letters to his son that for ten years he was really a monarch (Jones, 2018). Young students started to fight for their rights and the necessity of taking part on the decisions of the country. This point in the French history is considered the major crisis of Gaulle. He left the country without notification and returned when military security was assured. He stayed with his arrogance and self-confidence, and at this time this characteristic is shown on the phrase he uses to refers to the revolutionary students: “When a child gets angry and oversteps the mark, the best way of calming him is to give him a smack.” (Jones, 2018). He negotiated with the students and workers, but a little later he dissolved the parliament. He won one more time the elections but was unpopular and considered too old for the government. He resigned the presidency on April 28thof 1969. He published his book The Renewal, the first of three book Memoirs of Hope, this was considered the fastest seller in France. When he was almost 80 years old, he died suddenly at his home with the company of his wife on November 9thof 1970. France and the whole world felt his death.
“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was born on March 28, 1738 in Saintes, located in southern France– he was an aries. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin always excelled within his studies in Reims, France; he was interested in the arts and for a brief period of time, he became literature professor at the University of Bordeaux. Despite his success, Guillotin left for Paris and soon became an established physician, one of the best in the city. He was instrumental in the beginnings of the French Revolution as a chosen representative in the Estates General. One of the more outspoken members, Guillotin advocated for an equal representation of all of the classes and more non-nobility citizens in the Estates General, one of its undeniable flaws. He even supported women’s rights to be represented amongst the Estates General, something very uncommon during this time. Dr. Guillotin was a very outspoken and intelligent man. In a culture where almost everything is predetermined based on your social status and there is not much freedom to use other skills in a professional field, a literature major and professor moved forward towards an intricate field: medicine. Even in today’s “progressive” society, this is not common in France nor is it often even imagined by those lucky enough to continue their education, yet Dr. Guillotin accomplished this feat and much more. Not only did he then become an established doctor, but he also never gave up his literature background; by using his foundations as a scholar and writer, he became an active politician fighting for human rights- something that once was the core value of the Revolution, but became twisted along the way.
Despite his infamous killing machine, the guillotine, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a capital punishment abolitionist; he was staunchly against any practices revolving around executions. He believed that all of the current killings were unnecessarily cruel and was simply sorted based on your class in society. Whenever people of the lower, working classes were sentenced to death, they would often be: hung, which could take hours if improperly executed, quartered, painfully ripped apart by horses running in different directions, or even sentenced to the breaking wheel, where one’s bones would be broken and then bludgeoned or stoned to death. Wealthier or upper classes, would be privileged with the opportunity to be beheaded, however, this too had many issues. Each family or individual would have to hire their own executioner, with some being swifter and “better” than others. Otherwise, those families on the lower tier of the upper class would often risk hiring executioners who may have dull blades or simply would not complete the job in one swing; nonetheless, it always depended upon how much money you were willing to spend, even on your death bed.
These injustices, along with his personal experience as a doctor, pushed Guillotin to advocate against the death penalty, often writing many pamphlets criticizing against it. However, as time elapsed and the gruesome executions continued to occur, Guillotin realized that he should switch his focus to solving the most immediate concern: the way in which people are being tortured to death. This concern is what led him to propose to the National Assembly a law that would make the guillotine the official instrument of capital punishment, until its abolition in 1981. He oversaw the development of the first prototype and advocated for its use within the Assembly, that led to its successful use. Many critique Dr. Guillotin for the contradictions between his actions and his morals, and label him as a hypocrite for going against one of his fundamental beliefs against capital punishment. However, I fully disagree with these critiques of his character. Rather than being a hypocrite, Dr. Guillotin was an actor of change. The only reason why he chose to oversee the development of this machine was because he recognized that at this specific point in time, despite all of his efforts, he was not going to be able to prevent death nor would he be able to prevent capital punishment. Injustices were still occurring based on social class, people were still being tortured to death so he needed to make a decision, a change. He was an intelligent person and considering the political and societal environment at the time, this was the only solution to prevent unnecessarily cruel deaths.
After its invention, the guillotine soon became the favorite object of the National Assembly and its successors soon after. During its height in the Reign of Terror under Maximilien Robespierre, between 1793-1794, almost 2,600 people had been sentenced to execution. By 1799, it was an upwards count of over 15,000 who had been beheaded. The guillotine did not discriminate between class, as was Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s main purpose, it claimed the lives of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as well as common thieves and those who were “against the state.” Also, during Nazi Germany, Hitler was reported for using the guillotine and killed around 16,500 people by decapitation.
Despite this widely used machine, Dr. Guillotin did not want to be associated with it nor did he ever wish for his name to be used in connection with the machine because, as previously mentioned, he was a staunch capital punishment abolitionist. Moreover, he only aimed to invent this device to provide equality in death for all French citizens; he did not believe that they should be subjected to cruel and unnecessarily violent deaths. The guillotine was never intended to be such a public nor entertaining event. He wished that it would take place in a private center, however, he was horrified by the increasing fanfare and bloodlust for dire entertainment amongst his fellow citizens. It is easy to see why he and his family petitioned the French government to change the name of the machine; after they were rejected, they decided to change their family name altogether.
Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was an active advocate for human rights in France and was one of the leaders in advocating for structural change. In his Petition of the Citizens Living in Paris, this pamphlet argued for the humane and egalitarian executions as well as an equal representation within the Estates-General for all citizens. Once elected as a representative within the National Assembly, he was able to pass a law that required all sentences of death to be carried out by his machine. During a follow up speech in 1789 defending his machine, he has been quoted as saying, “Now with my machine I take off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it.” Many critics soon shamed his words and ridiculed him and his speech in various periodicals, nonetheless, he stayed dedicated to getting his plan approved and passed into law.
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin struggled with the legality of the death penalty. While morally he knew that he could not stand behind or support capital punishment, within his government, he struggled to defend against it. This same fight is one that is held all over the world in the current international system. As of 2017, there are about 142 countries around the world that have abolished the death penalty and many more that have not used it within the past 10 years or allow the penalty in extraneous circumstances. Nonetheless, in the United States, the death penalty is legal in 30 states, including Florida. As a prospective criminal attorney with hopes of living and working within Florida, this same battle is a reality that I may face. Whether I will be on the prosecution or the defense is still a mystery, however, I will be faced with the same dilemma: how does one justify capital punishment? This is something that I have and will continue to struggle with as I move throughout my law career. Thankfully, in part to Dr. Guillotin, society does not have to face the torturous deaths that were rampant during these times. However, despite the newfound “equality in death,” the death penalty is still an extreme and permanent punishment. Death cases do carry a heavy toll on one’s heart because an actual life is on the line, whether or not you are on opposing sides of the bench, the fate of an entire person’s life rests in your hands. While I am against the death penalty, as I do not feel it is within mankind’s authority to end a person’s life, because the method is egalitarian and not painful, it does make the extreme decision to do so a lighter burden to many. Nevertheless, the law does not entirely reflect nor does it care about “feelings.” It also would be wrong to deny that in extreme cases, the thought of capital punishment would be so heinous; for example, it would seem almost crazy that people would be against Ted Bundy getting the death penalty. But still, should humans be the ones to decide on life and when to end it? This is still something that I struggle with and will continue to do so throughout my entire career. Nonetheless, these discussions should occur within our society and should reflect the beliefs of all of the citizens. Dr. Guillotin’s arguments have helped to propel the fight to abolish capital punishment all over the world.
Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin lived a life dedicated to trying to achieve equal rights for all people, regardless of social or economic class. Though his machine helped to define a Reign of Terror, he did not advocate for any of the senseless killings to occur. As a proponent for equality under the law as well as equal representation, he has helped to shape our society today. Though creating this machine had made it easier to execute people by justifying the lack of pain, he also did create an egalitarian way for all to be executed and put an end to a torturous death that was common to the previous eras. His writings have been used to help abolish capital punishment in France and all over the world, while it has also served to ensure that those states that continue to practice capital punishment do so in a way that does not discriminate against anyone and is as painless as possible. He truly changed the landscape and redefined what it meant to have equality in death.
Britannica, T. E. (2017, October 26). Guillotine. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/guillotine
Death of Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months-past/death-joseph-ignace-guillotin
Death Penalty Facts. (2019, March 22). Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/19/us/death-penalty-fast-facts/index.html
Joseph Ignace Guillotin – Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia. (2018, July 28). Retrieved from https://alchetron.com/Joseph-Ignace-Guillotin#-
Joseph Guillotine – The Doctor of Death | History Channel on Foxtel. (2017, June 09). Retrieved from https://www.historychannel.com.au/articles/joseph-guillotine-the-doctor-of-death/
Russo, N. (2016, March 25). The Death-Penalty Abolitionist Who Invented the Guillotine. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/03/the-man-behind-the-guillotine-opposed-the-death-penalty/475431/
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/2275.html
Team, R. C. (2018, October 14). Death penalty: How many countries still have it? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-45835584
In today’s fast paced world, it is easy to get lost in the
moment, forget about the past, and neglect the future. This post aims to do the
exact opposite by creating a connection between the Roman Republic and the
United States – two of the greatest civilizations to have ever existed. This
post will place special focus on the legislative systems of each great society,
allowing the reader to understand the roots of the concepts and institutions
often taken for granted.
The Roman Republic’s and the United
States’ legislative systems, though hundreds of years apart, bear considerable
similarities while being discernibly different. Both consist of a multi-tier
legislative system with some form of executive overseeing it all. The Roman
system consisted of the Assemblies, the Senate, and the Consuls and other magistrates
with veto power.[i]
The American system consists of the House,[ii] the Senate,[iii] and the President[iv] and his cabinet. Unlike
the Roman system in which any one of the institutions could create and pass
laws,[v] the American system has a
hierarchy in which laws start in the House of Representatives, move to the
Senate, and then are approved by the President.[vi] Needless to say, the
United States took a myriad of the concepts first used by Romans in their
government and applied them in theirs.
To fully understand how any legislative
system works, it is crucial to understand how each position is filled and who
is responsible for filling it. Therefore, it is best to explain it from the
grassroots to the elite, from elected officials to appointed ones, from the
Assemblies to the Senate.
Roman Assemblies & American House of Representatives
The Assemblies in Classic Rome were
made up of the people, they indirectly elected the magistrates, accepted or
rejected laws, administered justice, and declared war.[vii] It is important to
understand that for the Romans, at least initially, this was the most important
branch of the legislative, as they selected a number of officials with
substantial veto power. When discussing the role of these assemblies in the
legislative structure of Rome there are three that must be discussed: the
Centuriate Assembly, the Tribal Assembly, and the Plebian Council. Each of
these had a key role in the creation and adoption of laws and was composed of
different sections of the populace.
One of the most powerful institutions
of Rome was the Centuriate Assembly (Comitia Centuriata). This committee, as
its name suggests, was originally composed of all Roman citizens, which at the
time were soldiers, divided into groups of 100. To reach a decision, each group
of 100 would vote within itself and the decision from each group would be
recorded, each group received 1 vote and whenever a side received a majority of
the vote the matter was settled, and voting was no longer necessary. The
Centuriate Assembly was so powerful because it was the one that selected and
empowered the highest-ranking Roman Magistrates, including: Consuls, Praetors,
and Censors, who were crucial in the legislating process.[viii] After a while, the
groups were no longer divided into 100 Roman citizens but rather they were
divided by social status and wealth, meaning that those in the upper rungs of
society had a disproportionate effect on the outcome of elections.[ix]
Another important Assembly was the Tribal
Assembly (Comitia Populi Tribute). This committee worked very similarly to the
Centuriate Assembly when voting on legislative issues. It was composed of all
Roman citizens divided into Tribes, each one of the 35 tribes would vote within
itself and then report the majority of the vote; each tribe had one vote and
whenever one side of the matter received a majority of the votes it was no
longer necessary to continue. The Tribal Assembly was noticeably weaker than
the Centuriate Assembly because it did not elect any Magistrates and its
decisions could easily be vetoed by a number of other actors. [x]
Lastly, the Plebeian Council (Concilium Plebis) must certainly be discussed when talking about Rome’s legislative structure. Unlike any of the other Assemblies listed above, the Plebeian Council was composed exclusively of the commoners also referred to as plebeians. This Council was originally not very powerful, but slowly grew to be one of the most powerful institutions in Rome. It could adopt laws which applied only to Plebeians at first, but later to all Roman citizens, it elected a number of key magistrates with veto power, and could try specific judicial cases.[xi]
As explained earlier, the American
system employs a number of ideas from Roman times. A very clear example of this
is the multi-tier legislative system. Like the Roman Assemblies which divided
the people into sections, asked them vote within those sections, and report the
majority votes to decide the outcome of several decisions. The American
founding fathers employed this very same system as the basis for the American voting
system and later on the election of House of Representative members.[xii] Like in Roman times,
American voters are divided into equal groups based on censuses done every 10
years; each group gets to vote for a representative in the House of
This way – one could argue – the people are indirectly choosing which
legislation they support and which one they oppose by voting for someone with
similar ideals to theirs. Separately, and very similarly to Roman Assemblies
when electing Magistrates, [xiv]
these sections of voters play an essential role in legislating by electing who
will run the executive and have veto power on a series of matters.[xv] Unlike Romans, who
selected each Magistrate separately, Americans select only the President, who
then has leeway to choose his Cabinet.[xvi]
Roman Magistrates & American Executive
Now let’s move to analyze the
Magistrates of Rome and their role within the policymaking structure. Generally,
Magistrates in Rome were elected by the citizens of Rome to rule in their name
and held a series of powers over certain religious roles, the military, the
judicial system, and could call assemblies to vote and preside over them.[xvii] Some of them played a
very important role in the legislating structure of Rome, namely the Consuls,
the Censors, the Plebeian Tribunes, and in extreme situations the Dictators.
These offices, except that of the Censors, are essential in legislating because
of the veto power they hold. This means that unless they agree with a proposed law
being passed, the law will never come into force. Among these, special
attention must be brought to the Plebeian Tribunes who were elected by the Plebeian
Council and whose role was to protect the interests of the plebeians by vetoing
any legislation that was likely to be negative for them.[xviii] Lastly, the Censors
had a special role in legislating. Aside from conducting the censuses and
censoring public behavior, the Censor’s role included appointing the members of
the Senate in the early Republic – this role was then overtaken by the Consuls.
The power of appointing Senators allowed the people to indirectly select who
would be part of the Senate and implicitly what the future of Rome would look
The American system’s counterpart to
the Magistrates would be the Executive, but like in Rome, the powers that these
elected officials hold is substantially limited. For starters, only one actor –
the President – is elected and has veto power over legislation, and this power
is not absolute as that of Roman Magistrates as it can be undone with a
supermajority of the Senate or by Judicial decisions.[xx] This branch of government
definitely shares most of the roles and powers that Roman Magistrates had, but
with regards to policymaking its power has become more limited.
Roman Senate & American Senate
Lastly, the most important and most
powerful institution in the Roman Republic was the Senate. This institution
evolved, as did all others, from being composed entirely of patricians to being
composed of plebeians as well.[xxi] Senators were appointed
for life, first by the Censors and then by the Consuls, and in theory they
could only advise the Magistrates and indirectly propose legislation. However,
the Senate’s advice was followed, making them the de-facto leaders of Rome. Separately,
the Senators controlled the finances and foreign policies of Rome, allowing
them the most control over the lives of Romans. Furthermore, the Senate had the
exclusive right to appoint a Dictator for a short period of time and could
suspend civil government and rule Rome by itself.[xxii]
The American system has its own Senate,
but it is definitely different than the one seen in Rome. First of all,
American Senators are elected, though they do serve long terms in office in
what seems to be a lifetime position, they can be removed if the people will it
so. Secondly, the American Senate has a larger influence in legislating since
they are one of the two chambers of Congress that need to approve every law by
having a majority vote in favor. Lastly, American Senators alone do not control
the finances or have power to elect a dictator, though they can vote to remove
a sitting president from office and must agree, alongside with the House of
Representatives and the President, on the country’s budget.[xxiii]
Roots of the Systems
Both systems have the same underlying
root of anti-monarchical sentiment but have adapted to remain practical. Romans
had overthrown the last king of the Roman Monarchy and were determined to never
have another totalitarian ruler;[xxiv] this is the reason they
had such a strong and effective checks and balances system.[xxv] Separately, Romans used
a rough idea of what would later be known as federalism when they conquered new
lands and allowed them to maintain fragments of their own culture and often
Nonetheless, they realized that a system of checks and balances would be
impractical when dealing with war and other urgent matters – this is the reason
why the Romans created a way to consolidate power into one individual, a
Dictator, to effectively deal with the situation at hand.[xxvii] Romans also realized
that the prestige, wealth, and power of its elite families could be used for
the benefit of Rome and therefore allowed them to wield influence over
policymaking and foreign policy by being part of the Roman Senate.[xxviii] Lastly, to combat
monarchy, Romans created the Assemblies in which the people indirectly voted on
laws and elected Magistrates as describes above. It is in this way that the
Roman legislative structure took the best from monarchies, oligarchies, and
democracies in order to work efficiently.
Similarly, Americans had declared their
independence from the British Monarchy and won their Revolutionary War. Like
the Romans, the founding fathers sought to never have the United States ruled
by a monarch and they did so by instituting very similar checks and balances to
that of the Romans and used the principle of federalism in which each state
could have its own set of freedoms which included choosing a religion and
enacting its own laws.[xxix] Similarly to the Roman
system, the American one sought to be democratic with a concealed oligarchy by
restricting who could vote and be part of government.[xxx] Nonetheless, as the
system has evolved, it has become markedly more democratic and liberal.
Functional Checks and Balances
Ancient Romans and Americans both
discovered that the best way to prevent tyranny and totalitarianism was to
distribute power to prevent any one person or branch of government from
becoming too powerful. Both systems achieved this through a complex system of
checks and balances. The Roman system had twelve veto players: any of the ten
Plebeian Tribunes could veto legislation unfavorable to the Plebeian class[xxxi] and the two Consuls could veto any legislation
as well.[xxxii] The power was balanced
among the institutions named above in which each was responsible for a section
of any process, ensuring that no institution grew too powerful.[xxxiii] An example of this
can be seen within the legislating process: the Senate can only advice
Magistrates on what legislation they believe should be passed, these in turn
take that advice to the Assemblies and call for a vote, then a number of other
minor Magistrates must enforce it if it is within their scope of power.
The founding fathers faced a similar concern, they feared
that if they did not establish a sound system with effective checks and balances
they would soon be back to monarchical rule.[xxxiv]
Loosely basing the system on Rome’s, the founding fathers balanced the system
by dividing it into three branches (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial) with equal
power and different roles in every government action. They also gave these
branches veto power, allowing them to veto any legislation they thought was in
violation of the Constitution.[xxxv]
Another distinction between the systems is that of the Judicial branch; unlike
in ancient Rome where either the people via Assemblies or Magistrates were in
charge of administering justice, the founding fathers created a separate
Judiciary to ensure that laws were applied to all equally.[xxxvi]
Something that makes both systems stand
out in very similar ways is the practicality of its legislative systems. Early
on both realized that the effective checks and balances would likely yield the
best laws and policies for the people and the state but failed to work
efficiently in times of crises. For this reason, both Romans and Americans were
very pragmatic and had a solution in place for this very problem. The Roman
Senate could appoint a Dictator – the highest office in Ancient Rome – until
his task was complete or for 6 months, whichever came first. This individual
would be given 24 fasces which meant he had supreme authority over all matters
regarding the problem he was assigned to solve (usually it was war) – including
capital punishment without trial – and all other legislative institutions were
only allowed to veto his actions in very extreme cases.[xxxvii] The American system
has something similar in place, whenever the country has found itself in times
of war or economic troubles, the executive has been given almost unchecked
power in order to solve the issue with the legislative bodies cooperating and rarely
vetoing the President’s actions. This is evident when the roles of the American
President are analyzed: the office holds the power over all foreign policy and
can deploy a limited number of troops anywhere in the world without
This individual would be given 24 fasces which meant he had supreme authority over all matters regarding the problem he was assigned to solve (usually it was war) – including capital punishment without trial – and all other legislative institutions were only allowed to veto his actions in very extreme cases.[xxxvii] The American system has something similar in place, whenever the country has found itself in times of war or economic troubles, the executive has been given almost unchecked power in order to solve the issue with the legislative bodies cooperating and rarely vetoing the President’s actions. This is evident when the roles of the American President are analyzed: the office holds the power over all foreign policy and can deploy a limited number of troops anywhere in the world without Congressional approval.[xxxviii]
Another similarity that both systems have
is the social statuses of each position. In the Roman system, like the American
one, each position in the legislative structure brought with it an implied
status. In both systems there was an implied idea that the legislative system,
as well as the political one, was akin to a ladder with each position being a
rung which would allow the individual to climb socially and politically.
In the Roman system, Senators were
definitely the ones with the highest status: they were appointed for life, were
usually rich or became rich via their position, and usually their families were
part of the elite or became a part of the elite after their appointment as
senators. Senators were usually chosen from previous consuls, who in turn had
been Praetors, Aediles, and Tribunes before having the position. It was rare to
see someone being appointed Senator without either a family history of Senators
or a long history of public service as elected Magistrate.[xxxix]
Similarly, in the American system,
there is a generally agreed upon norm where people climb up the metaphorical
ladder. Like in ancient Rome, Senators are the most respected ones and tend to
either be wealthy or become wealthy during their tenure in office. These
usually come from the House of Representatives or from high state offices such
as Governor. The system is quite similar within each state with the slight
difference that it is seen as the beginning of a politician’s career rather
than its climax. However, unlike in Rome, the highest office is arguably that
of President. Past Presidents have historically climbed up the ladder and been elected
public servants or military generals before being elected into office.[xl]
The Evolution of the Systems:
The government and especially the legislative structures of Rome evolved like those of no other civilization before it. They overthrew the monarchy and established what can only be classified as an early Republic, guaranteeing great liberties, protection, and civic participation to its citizens.[xli] By today’s standards it was by no means democratic or liberal but at its time it was incredibly forward thinking. Rome was the hegemon of its time, a civilization all other civilizations have studied and will continue to study for millennia to come. That is not to say that they were a flawless civilization. The Roman Republic was plagued by issues which became evident as it evolved. The most noticeable one was the disproportionate amount of power the aristocracy had. Whether it was because they were the original members of the Senate or because nothing was ever done without them knowing about it, one thing is certain – they were simply too powerful. This issue came to its climax when Julius Caesar declared himself dictator for life and effectively ended the Republic and though most legislative institutions continued to exist they were only a façade to keep the people from overthrowing another king.
If looked at in a timeline, the Roman
Republic existed for 464 years according to most historians, and once it
morphed into the Roman Empire it lasted an additional 430 years ruled by
emperors. The United States has existed for less than 250 years. This begs a
series of questions, where is America headed? Will the United States give in to
authoritarianism? Will its carefully designed system of institutions persevere
and keep democracy alive forever? What is the future of American democracy?
As similar as the
United States is to Rome and as many great empires have fallen in the past
foreshadowing a very ominous future for the United States, I believe that the home
of the free and the land of the brave will never stop functioning in such a
democratic way, if anything, its slow and gridlock-prone legislative system
will build a better future for all in ways we are currently unable to imagine.
[xxiv] Cornell, Tim J. “Ch. 9: The Beginnings of the Roman Republic.” The beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars(c. 1000 – 264 BC). Oxford: Routledge, 1995, pp. 215-236.
[xxv] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. XI: The Balance of the Constitution.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 191-214.
[xxvi] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VII: The Higher Magistrates and Pro-Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 104-121.
[xxvii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VII: The Higher Magistrates and Pro-Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 109-113.
[xxviii] Byrd, Robert C. “Ch. 8: Erosion of Senate Authority,” The Senate of the Roman Republic: Addresses on the History of Roman Constitutionalism. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995, pp. 93-105.
[xxix] Hamilton, Alexander, or Madison, James. Federalist No. 51: The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments. New York Packet, 8, Feb. 1788.
[xxxi] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VIII: Tribunes, Aediles, and Minor Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 121-129.
[xxxii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VII: The Higher Magistrates and Pro-Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 104-121.
[xxxiii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. XI: The Balance of the Constitution.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 191-214.
[xxxiv] Hamilton, Alexander, or Madison, James. Federalist No. 51: The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments. New York Packet, 8, Feb. 1788.
[xl] Makse, Todd. “Foundation of American Democracy.” Florida International University, POS 2041, 21-28 Aug. 2017.
[xli] Cornell, Tim J. “Ch. 9: The Beginnings of the Roman Republic.” The beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars(c. 1000 – 264 BC). Oxford: Routledge, 1995, pp. 215-236.
Join Professor Bailly for an introduction to the France, Italy, & Spain study abroad programs of the FIU Honors College. Meet students that have completed the programs and have all your questions answered. Whether you are going to Europe in Summer 2020 or considering 2021 or 2022, this session will be helpful.