Ramsay MacMullen’s Portrait of Rome Begs the Question: Does the Ninety-Nine Percent have Parallels in History?

22 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2011 Last revised: 26 Jun 2016

See all articles by DiMarkco Stephen Chandler

DiMarkco Stephen Chandler

Claremont Graduate University; California State University, Northridge

Date Written: December 12, 2011


The social, economic, and political parallels with Ancient Rome are perhaps too numerous to include them all in this brief study. However, several characteristics identified by MacMullen seemed to accurately describe present conditions throughout the United States of America especially the populous movement called Occupy Wall Street. This study has described Rome’s political environment as having two distinct social groups that were aware of the other. MacMullen identified these two groups as urban and rural, and additionally provided their etymological connections. The term rural he argued, was geographically acquainted with resident peasants, and was believed to be akin to the word idiot. Moreover, this group was looked at by social elites (those higher on Rome’s social ladder) as outsiders. On page 5 of this study, the discussion intimates that farmers and shepherds alike were employed by rich landowners to oversee their affairs in lands significantly far from any of Rome’s urban centers. This picture is understandable since many of the roads leading to Rome’s rural areas and back to their neighboring cities abounded in abundant crime. Therefore, the task of tending these rural landholdings could only attract poor peasants destined to remain in poverty. As MacMullen pointed out, proximity from the city determined one’s lot and people of the day were content with a perfunctory existence, disinterest in challenging the status quo. Urbanites however, embraced a different set of values that were quite admirable even in today’s mores. They were thought of as favorable to society; and the term urban implied the idea of goodness and dignity. A reading of my introductory essay to this study titled “The Historical Model: The 99 Percent” may engender a more lucid understanding of the terms rural and urban. I liken them to what I call privilege and marginalized. They are akin to former presidential candidate John Edwards description of two Americas, and today’s idea which argues that there is a widening gulf between the haves and have not’s. Attention to this very real social condition is often classified by some in the “Haves” group, as class warfare. Nevertheless, as MacMullen has pointed out, rural and urban was just another name for “Haves and Have not’s”. He seems to tie the class of Have’s directly to the Empire’s ultimate demise by pointing to the relationship between patron and client. MacMullen suggests that greed and bribery eventually permeated, like an infection, all of the Roman Empire. We might understand his conclusions as somewhat identical to Crony-Capitalism along with a number of unscrupulous practices performed first by the ruling elite but which seemed to trickle down, eroding values of their constituents. However, as does many of the conclusion offered by historians since the decline of the Roman Empire, something is missing. MacMullen knew it; others have struggled with their own inadequate answers: “What was the primary cause for the downfall of the Roman Empire?” I believe the answer is quite simple, however, it could not have been understood until the emergence of the occupied movement; a movement that I will argue in Chapter Two, has its parallels with the period in Ancient Rome that began in 133 B.C. and ended around 31 B.C... I will argue in the second chapter of this study that the Empire served as the solution to the problem of mobs in the street as historians will arguably agree occurred during the Gracchi period. This period of Rome’s history is uniquely characterized by the assassinations of two leading political figures; two brothers, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus and has its parallels in the Kennedy Assassinations.

Keywords: Occupy Movement, 99 percent, Rome's history, ancient history, social, political, economics, the decline of the Roman Empire, the Roman Empire, occupy Wall Street, Ramsay MacMullen, Yale University, political corruption, bribery

JEL Classification: A14, B12

Suggested Citation

Chandler, DiMarkco Stephen, Ramsay MacMullen’s Portrait of Rome Begs the Question: Does the Ninety-Nine Percent have Parallels in History? (December 12, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1971108 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1971108

DiMarkco Stephen Chandler (Contact Author)

Claremont Graduate University ( email )

150 E. Tenth Street
Claremont, CA 91711
United States

California State University, Northridge ( email )

18111 Nordoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330
United States

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