Vanity Fair's US editor-at-large pits the modern USA against the might of the Roman Empire - and finds two very similar opponents. The rise and fall of ancient Rome has always been a metaphor for America, but here Cullen Murphy ventures past the obvious, bringing the brutal colours of Rome and the complexities of today's USA together in this beautifully written, intelligent and hugely readable book. He explores how the two populations saw their political elites, and the insular cultures of Washington and Rome. He looks at the consequences of military overstretch and the widening gap between military and civilian society. Murphy sees both states weakened through 'privatisation' and vexed by the paradoxical issue of borders.Pressingly, he argues that America most resembles Rome in the burgeoning corruption of its government and in its arrogant ignorance of the world outside; in these conditions, idealism, however well-meant, can too easily be a form of blindness. Lively and richly peppered with historical stories, Murphy's book brings the ancient world to life, and casts today's biggest superpower in a provocative new light.
Cullen Murphy is the editor-at-large of Vanity Fair magazine. He was previously, for two decades, the managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly. He lives and works at his home near Boston.