Republics, Their Rise and Fall: From Ancient Greece to Modern America
Plato’s “Republic” is not one, but Aristotle’s “polity” is. Regardless, Rome is our model; all subsequent republics look back to Romulus’ village of migrants, farmers, and refugees that threw off tyranny to become the Roman Republic. Americans copied it in forming their own nation of migrants, farmers, and refugees. It took another two centuries for the poor of Rome to achieve political equality with the upper classes, but, as with America, the struggle between the classes never ceased. We will follow republican thinking and experiment from Plato and Aristotle through Rome, Machiavelli and the Renaissance, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau and the French Revolution, Adams and the U.S., to Hannah Arendt, to what sorts of places call themselves republics now. We will watch as republics suffer the centrifugal curses of prosperity and multiculturalism, fall into factionalism, and finally collapse gratefully into dictatorship, as Plato predicted they must.
Douglas Kenning, raised in Virginia, received a PhD from the Univ. of Edinburgh, Scotland, and has lived overseas for most of his life, teaching at universities in Tunisia, Japan, and Italy. Besides being a professor of history and literature, he also has been a professional biologist, actor, army officer, Manhattan taxi driver, academic administrator, and writer of books, articles, and stage plays. He lives half the year in the San Francisco Bay Area, giving lecture series on subjects related to the histories and cultures of the Mediterranean area, and half the year in Siracusa, Sicily, where he runs Sicily Tour, a small tour guide business.