Wednesday, November 26, 2008
At The Times Online, Cambridge classicist Mary Beard on the Roman Obama analog:
In the second century AD, Lucius Septimius Severus became the first ‘African-Roman’ emperor of Rome. Like Obama he was of mixed race -- his father from Libya, his mother of European descent. He too had an outspoken and determined wife, from Syria. And his first task on coming to the throne in 193 AD was to deal with a military disaster in Iraq (‘Parthia’ as it was then known). The success of his surge was commemorated in the great arch, which remains to this day one of the most impressive monuments in the Forum at Rome.
The two little children he took with him to the palace did not fare so well. In fact they grew up to be murderous thugs – even if the elder, Caracalla, did go on to initiate the most daring extension of civic rights in the whole of world history. Once he had got rid of his brother (nastily murdered on his mother’s lap), he gave full Roman citizenship, and the legal privileges and protection that went with it, to all the free male inhabitants of the empire.
Some ready-made precedent for an alternate future history? Flash forward to the Obama girls as a near-future Uday and Qusay? I would totally read that.
P.S. -- Wikipedia trivia on the death of Caracalla: "While travelling from Edessa to begin a war with Parthia [the territory subsequently known as Iraq], he was assassinated while urinating at a roadside near Harran on April 8, 217 by Julius Martialis, an officer in the imperial bodyguard."