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.
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!
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.