Which Roman Republic Figure Was Trump...Roundup?
May 25, 2021 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Apropos of nothing, I am cavorting on the omnipilled corners of the internet, and a question that looms is "just which Roman Republic figure that led to the collapse and Imperium is the closest analogue of Trump". I have zero desire to discuss it, especially not with anyone who wants to discuss it, but I am curious what the takes are. Has anyone seen such a "which Roman is Trump" link roundup? It seems like, by now, the Redditors or similar would have some canonical pieces, or a greatest hits list. Do they?

I promise I don't want to discuss this with anyone. Lordy what a tire fire that would be. What I want is to learn the takes. I've dived down the Rome rabbit hole and started reading academic things about it, and, cool! But obviously it's a talked about thing, and bluntly, I'd like to know what the takes are, so that if I get into talks with other Rome nerds, I'll know which ones are horrible crappy racist fascist takes coming from the land of omnipills, because everyone uses Rome to justify everything, and...the Romans were Nazis, they were fash af, omfg so many bad takes from modern fash in every generation going back to 1800's. Where we at on that in 2021?
posted by saysthis to Law & Government (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
August 2017: There Once Was a Great Nation With an Unstable Leader (Caligula comparison)
March 2019: Ask a classicist: is Donald Trump more of a Caligula or a Nero?
March 2020: Nero.
February 2021: The Ancient Romans Had a Strange Way of Dealing With Figures Like Donald Trump ("Emperors like Nero and Caligula, both having received damnatio, rank among some of the best-known figures from antiquity.")
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:48 PM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd say Commodus if you had to pick an emperor, but our historical moment feels closer to the late Republic than the Empire. In that vein, the most Trump-esque figure was arguably Clodius Pulcher: Meet the Trump of Ancient Rome, a Populist Demagogue Who Helped Bring Down the Republic. His disruption of elections using violent mobs is instructive.

You could also make an argument for disgraced nobleman Catiline who mounted a failed coup, or the plutocratic Crassus.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:12 PM on May 25, 2021 [6 favorites]

According to NYC'S Shakespeare in the Park, Julius Caesar, although the linked NYT review objects that Caesar as presented is better than Trump.
posted by trig at 1:40 AM on May 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Rest is History podcast had an episode "Is Trump Caesar or Nixon?" One of the podcasters is a classicist.
posted by Sybil Stockwell Oop at 7:00 AM on May 26, 2021

I am a Rome enthusiast--definitely not an expert--but I would like to advance that one (or both) of the Gracchi Brothers might be an answer. The reason are the same as the populism suggest above, but maybe (hopefully?) also a sort of "flash-in-the-pan" effect.
posted by El_Marto at 7:05 AM on May 26, 2021

A roundabout way of answering this question, but Trump was often compared to (the decidedly not ancient) Berlusconi, who in this article is compared to Tiberius.
posted by HeroZero at 7:40 AM on May 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Y'all, it's Carcalla. He was a huge departure from the philosopher-emperors that proceeded him. He was good at being a populist: he gave citizenship to all free men in the empire, literally putting his name, "Marcus Aurelius", on all of them. He built baths and was very popular with the soldiers.

However, despite having his own brother killed, we was too lazy to rule and mostly had his mother do all the work. The denarius was heavily devalued under his watch, and religious slogans were added. He spent much of his reign waging war outside of the capital.

He was eventually stabbed by one of his own men, and I'm sure that there are many former Trump cabinet members sharpening their knives right now.
posted by Alison at 10:12 AM on May 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

El_Marto: "I would like to advance that one (or both) of the Gracchi Brothers might be an answer."

They were essentially left-populists, though, wanting to redistribute wealth from the aristocracy to benefit the urban poor, expand public welfare, and grant voting rights to people outside of Rome. It's an imperfect metaphor, but I'd liken them to a more radical John and Robert Kennedy -- wealthy political scions with military records who supported anti-poverty programs and civil rights reforms but who were ultimately assassinated.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:39 AM on May 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

« Older SlowHorses-DeadLions-RealTigers-SpookStreet-LondonRules-JoeCountry...   |   Improving Object Constancy Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.