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In the early part of the 20th century, in Decline of the West Oswald Spengler suggested that like all organic creatures, nations progress through a life cycle. They are born, pass through an adolescence, mature, come into their prime, age, and finally die. Of course some are murdered before their natural time, and others come to power long before they’re ready. In all cases, the mark of wisdom is when a people recognizes its own stage of life and acts accordingly. We can agree or disagree about some of the specifics of Spengler’s life cycle, but I think there’s something to this argument. For example, under the the Roman Republic the Senate was the capstone of a political career; it was the place where senior officials would settle down in retirement and give advice to sitting politicians. Beginning with Augustus, the Senate evolved into an aristocratic administrative pool, from which bureaucrats could be drawn and set out to help with the governing of the Empire.
In his new book The Triumph of Empire: The Roman World from Hadrian to Constantine, Dr. Michael Kulikowski describes yet another stage in the life of Rome.

You can also read my review of this book here.

Books Mentioned in the Show:

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