The author of The Final Pagan Generation offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains why Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy after a period of political corruption, social unrest, and civil wars.
Mortal Republic may present no new ideas about the fall of the Roman Republic, but it is a timely reminder that republics are precarious ... Mortal Republic provides excellent insights into how the Republic became the Empire, and more broadly it speaks to the ever-present threat of centralized power. The more a civilization centralizes, the more powerful a central government becomes. A powerful central government will almost always give way to authoritarianism of one stripe or another
Watts, a professor of history at the University of California at San Diego, abandons a careful analysis of the larger trends for a blow-by-blow account of the many conflicts that divided the republic in the last century of its existence. At times, this endless onslaught of calamities—a new violation of some traditional norm, the latest commander to threaten an invasion of Rome, one more shift in the ever-fragile constellation of power—starts to numb the mind. But in another sense, the sheer repetitiveness of the calamities that befell Rome only serves to underline the book’s most urgent message. If we were to make explicit the implicit analogy that runs all the way through Mortal Republic, we would most likely cast Donald Trump as a farcical reincarnation of Tiberius Gracchus ... If the central analogy that animates Mortal Republic is correct, the current challenge to America’s political system is likely to persist long after its present occupant has left the White House.
...swift and competent ... Watts's latest offers a solid argument and serves as a fine historical companion to Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's How Democracies Die. It will appeal to audiences interested in both popular Roman history and contemporary American affairs.