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Trump as Horatius

Now here’s a YUUUGELY flattering comparison I’ll bet you never thought of before.

Donald Trump – Our Horatius at the Bridge?
After reading the account of Horatius again, I wonder if some of the electorate view Donald Trump as our Horatius. Bear with me; I’ll explain all that.

Horatius’ fame resulted from his action described in Macaulay’s poem and by Plutarch; he planted himself at a bridge and, with only two comrades, faced down an invading army until the bridge could be removed and the gate closed. He did so without question, an act of courage, patriotism, and duty so profound that it has survived through the ages.

Even so, a lot of people jumped on board the Trump train right at the outset, and lots of those folks are still riding that train today. Is it because they see Donald Trump as the latter-day Horatius?

It may very well be. There are several parallels.

Horatius took a stand, with only two faithful followers, against an invading army. Donald Trump’s campaign now portrays him as the only man who could take on the army of the Deep State, and that he is taking a stand to do so.

Horatius was unafraid, taking his stand out of a sense of duty to Rome. Trump’s message was that the Deep State scares him not a whit, that he is losing wealth by running for President, but that he does it out of a sense of duty to America.

Horatius took his stand with two others, also loyal soldiers of Rome, who shared his commitment. Trump sells himself similarly, that he is a “team builder” who would put together a crew to put our national affairs in order.

There are, of course, some key differences.

Naturally there would be, not all of which redound to Trump’s discredit. In the final analysis, we’re left with this.

There are probably a lot more holes in the comparison than I’m mentioning here. An actual scholar of ancient Rome would probably pick the idea apart. But I do think that this is a big part of Trump’s appeal. It’s a potent symbol: The strong, stoic man, standing at the head of a small band of heroes, with weapons drawn, saying, “No more. It ends now. This far and no farther. Now we will drive you back.”

Mind you, I’m not saying Donald Trump is that man. He may prove to be, but it remains to be seen. But I think, consciously or unconsciously, that this is the image he is trying to portray, and it may well work for him if he can resolve some of his other issues. And it may be a cautionary note that Horatius’ brave stand being what it was, Rome still fell to the Etruscans.

Here’s another important cautionary note. About five hundred years after Horatius, another Roman leader emerged, and this one saw the end of the Republic. That’s a parallel that voters should be watchful for. Caesar was a populist, legally elected Dictator first for ten years, then for life, largely on a slate of jobs and benefits for the common people of Rome. But in the end, his actions led to the fall of the Republic and the rise of the totalitarian Empire.

It’s tempting to say it can’t happen here. But a lot of Romans about 49 BC probably thought the same.

It may be tempting to say that, but that’s probably due more to its being comforting than it is to any factual accuracy. Because, as history has demonstrated for us over and over again, it can happen anywhere—and it WILL.

2 thoughts on “Trump as Horatius

  1. Pournelle said that schoolboys used to be required to memorize at least this much of the poem:

    Then out spake brave Horatius,

    The Captain of the gate:

    ‘To every man upon this earth

    Death cometh soon or late.

    And how can man die better

    Than facing fearful odds,

    For the ashes of his fathers,

    And the temples of his Gods

    It was an aspirational bit meant to tell boys what their society expected of them.

    I wouldn’t know. The expectation, of memorizing the verse and of heroic self-sacrifice, had died before I was born. I’m not sure I even heard the poem mentioned until my late teens.

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