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Rome Reborn on Western Shores

Historical Imagination and the Creation of the American Republic

Eran Shalev

Publication Year: 2009

Rome Reborn on Western Shores examines the literature of the Revolutionary era to explore the ways in which American patriots employed the classics and to assess antiquity's importance to the early political culture of the United States. Where other writers have concentrated on political theory and ideology, Shalev demonstrates that classical discourse constituted a distinct mode of historical thought during the era, tracing the role of the classics from roughly 1760 to 1800 and beyond.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

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p. xi

When I took the first steps toward writing the manuscript o n which this book is based, a friend warned me of the intellectual sharks swimming in the Hobbesian waters of academia. They will, my good-intentioned adviser cautioned, take a snap whenever they get a chance. That friend could not have been more wrong. In terms of mentors,..

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pp. 1-8

Reflecting on the American Revolution from his retirement in 1805, the second president of the United States “read the history of all ages and nations in every page” of a Roman history he was studying at the time. Indeed, it was “especially the history of our country for forty years past” that John Adams could recognize and discover in the Roman annals....

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Chapter 1: A Revolutionary Language

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pp. 9-39

American patriots found classical history, its narratives and patterns, instrumental from the early days of the constitutional disputes with Britain in the mid-1760s. Indeed, revolutionaries articulated grievances and gained the imperial contest’s rhetorical and moral high ground over and again through appeals to the classics. Along the way, they developed...

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Chapter 2: Britannia Corrupt

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pp. 40-72

The distinguished South Carolinian planter and merchant Henry Laurens, imprisoned in the Tower of London during the last years of the War for American Independence on charges of high treason against the British Crown, had plenty of time to contemplate the origins and meaning of the enduring imperial contest. Caught on a boat sailing...

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Chapter 3: “Judge the Future by the Past ”

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pp. 73-113

At the foundation of the classical discourse of the American Revolution lay a set of assumptions about history and its meaning. So effective was that language that by elaborating on their relation to, and the relevance of, the classics to revolutionary America, American patriots rendered the classical discourse as a distinct mode of historical thought....

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Chapter 4: Taking the Toga

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pp. 114-150

On the morning of March 6, 1775, according to Rivington’s Gazette, Joseph Warren burst into Boston’s swarming Old South Church dressed in a Ciceronian toga to deliver the fifth annual oration to commemorate the Boston Massacre. Even in a period of extraordinary obsession with Roman antiquity, this episode was remarkable. Only a few years later, toward the conclusion of the War of Independence, however,...

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Chapter 5: Cato Americanus

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pp. 151-187

On September 27, 1787, Cato spoke: “You have already, in Common with the rest of your countrymen, the citizens of other states, given to the world astonishing evidence of your greatness—you have fought under peculiar circumstances, and was successful against a powerful nation.” He admonished, “Beware of those who wish to influence your passions...

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Chapter 6: “The Pen of the Historian, or the Imagination of the Poet”

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pp. 188-216

As the first histories recounting the Revolution were surfacing during the late 1780s and the following decade, Americans were worried how posterity would remember them and their endeavors.1 John Adams, conveying his characteristic insecurities, predicted that “the history...

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Epilogue: From Republic to Empire: Beyond 1776

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pp. 217-240

Are we Rome?” asks a trendy book that compares the United States and the Roman Empire. In light of the return of classical Rome as a common metaphor for the United States this question does not seem as odd as it would have only a few years ago. After a long-term decline in the perceived aptness of Rome as an explanatory model for America, the trend...


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pp. 241-276


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pp. 277-294


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pp. 295-311

E-ISBN-13: 9780813928395
E-ISBN-10: 0813928397
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813928333
Print-ISBN-10: 0813928338

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 8 b&w illus. (8 redacted), 1 table
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 757723458
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rome Reborn on Western Shores

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Political culture -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Literature and the revolution.
  • Political science -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • Classical literature -- Study and teaching -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • United States -- Civilization -- Classical influences.
  • Civilization, Classical -- Study and teaching -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
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