(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
Never believe it.
I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.
Here’s yet some liquor left. – Horatio in Hamlet act V
It takes awhile to find that line though it rings true to me—it always has and yet it is not found in the memorable quotes because it is not “profound” to English lit professors. I admit to having not read the play itself since high school, following the admonition of my Shakespeare scholar father to watch rather than read.
Why I relate to the specific line is that I, too, am more antique (republican) Roman than 21st Century progressive American. The Roman republic was created when Lucius Junius Brutus defeated the tyrant Lucius Tarquinus Superbus (the Proud) and ended the monarchy in 509 BCE. From this republic which was defended by blood—Brutus watched the execution of his own sons for attempting to restore the monarchy. During the Republic 509-44 BCE the people of Rome began referring to themselves as Citizens and at Brutus’ insistence took an oath:
- Omnium primum avidum novae libertatis populum, ne postmodum flecti precibus aut donis regiis posset, iure iurando adegit neminem Romae passuros regnare.
- First of all, by swearing an oath that they would suffer no man to rule Rome, it forced the people, desirous of a new liberty, not to be thereafter swayed by the entreaties or bribes of kings.
We have never, since the beginning of the American Republic, been required to take such an oath although we insist on school children repeating a mindless pledge to a flag that was written by a socialist minister and used to enforce a belief in a unitary democracy.
At any rate, the antique Romans believed in defending the Republic but not giving power to a king or a dictator. Unfortunately, as time progressed the Senate allowed generals their way and was happy with conquest. While maintaining the trappings of republicanism, the actual form of government that began to develop was an empire. Cato the Elder, Rome’s Joe Lieberman, would end his senate speeches on any topic with ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam or “in my opinion we should destroy Carthage.” While Republicans would counter this, in 146 BCE Rome destroyed the Phoenician port of Carthage and the die was cast about a century before Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon.
At any rate, Caesar was content to keep the fiction of a Republic—the Senate made him dictator for life in 44 BCE. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a shorter term than expected as Marcus Junius Brutus, descendant of Lucius Junius Brutus, led the assassination that got him mention in Dante and Shakespeare. With Gaius out of the way, his nephew Octavian defeated Antonius and Brutus to become Caesar Augustus. Plutarch used the term “fall of the Republic” rather than “rise of the Empire.”
I am more of an Antique Roman than a 21st Centuty progressive. I am a citizen of the Republic.