Why Do We Want Ceasefires?

A 7th-Century Roman-Arab Conflict Shows the Power of Enduring Peace Treaties Over Temporary Truces

Why do we want a ceasefire?

This question is in the news as a result of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, but the question is actually ancient. It reminds me, a historian of ancient Rome, of the 7th-century emperor Justinian II, and of some very old but still relevant concerns about whether ceasefires are worth pursuing.

Romans and others in the ancient world distinguished between a peace treaty and a truce, what we now call a ceasefire. Truces paused fighting, often for a specified period of time and sometimes following concessions by one …

How Would Emperor Tiberius Have Handled Silicon Valley Bank?

A First-Century Roman Bailout Holds Lessons for Today’s Financial Institutions, and Their Regulators

The recent failures, and subsequent government rescues, of Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic, prompt us to consider an ancient question: How do banks prevent the actions of very rich …

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 …

What Would Cicero See in American Governance Today? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

What Would Cicero See in American Governance Today?

Before the Rise of Caesar, the Roman Statesman Predicted How the Spread of Lawlessness Could Destroy a Republic

At some point in the early summer of 54 BC, the Roman statesman Cicero set to work on his most consequential work of political philosophy: De Re publica (On 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 …

How Will California Survive the End of America’s Empire?

A Trip to Rome Offers Old Lessons, Young City Officials, and Inspiration for How to Rebuild Democracy on Imperial Ruins

How will California survive the end of the American empire?

The question might seem hypothetical, but I found it inescapable last week in Rome, where I was running a global forum …