Worried About Biden’s Age? Consider Claudius

The Ancient Roman Emperor Was Mocked as Feeble, But Ruled Wisely

Those who criticize President Biden as “too old” or “slow” or “confused” might learn something from the very similar treatment of the Roman emperor Claudius.

Claudius, who ruled from 41 to 54 CE, was the most effective and successful member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, apart from Augustus. He was also the only emperor mocked as weak-willed and feeble. Claudius grew up a sickly, unattractive child with a limp and a speech impediment. His own family teased and derided him, in his early years and beyond. Like other Romans, they saw his …

When an Empire Withdrew from an Unwinnable War | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

When an Empire Withdrew from an Unwinnable War

Hadrian’s Retreat From Parthia Drew Fierce Criticism—and Opened the Door to a Better Roman Future

Ending wars has always been hard for great powers. Hadrian knew this. In 117 A.D., the new Roman emperor decided to withdraw his forces from an unwinnable war against the …

Complacency—Not Hubris—Is What Killed the Roman Republic

Over the Years, Democratic Norms Quietly Eroded, Not Unlike in Today’s America

Representative democracies have wildly different life expectancies, but they tend not to live long.

Democratic governments have existed for more than 2,500 years, but most democracies have historically failed to survive …

Why I’m Staying in Rome, Even While It Crumbles 

A British Novelist Will Remain in the Eternal City Because of What Its Past Can Teach About Surviving the Present

When I tell Romans I have been a resident of their city for the last 16 years and have no desire to live anywhere else, they’re often a little baffled. …

Women Rocked the Ancient World—But Ruling It Was Harder

Nefertiti, Cleopatra, and Hatshepsut Commanded Empires and Flipped Gender Roles While Pushing Against the Patriarchy

Cleopatra shattered the glass ceiling of power in ancient Egypt. Boudica, the fearsome first-century Celtic Iceni queen, “leaned in” by leading a bloody uprising against the occupying Roman army.

But …

How Fishing Created Civilization

From Nile River Catfish to Anchovies in the Andes, Great Empires Were Built on Harvesting the Sea

Of the three ancient ways of obtaining food—hunting, plant foraging, and fishing—only the last remained important after the development of agriculture and livestock raising in Southwest Asia some 12,000 years …