The Fragility of Republican Institutions as Viewed through the Fall of the Roman Republic
Early on a mild January day, supporters of a controversial political figure stormed the capital of the world's oldest republic. This politician had become famous for his disregard of democratic institutions and his abuse of power while holding the highest elected office in the government. This politician's name was Gaius Julius Caesar, it was January 10th 49 BC, and through his actions and the actions of those who stood opposed to him, the Roman Republic would come to an end. Ultimately, it was not the actions of Caesar alone that caused the collapse of the Roman Republic, nor was it the fault of the common citizens. The political class failed to consider the long-term ramifications of their actions—instead, choosing to focus on short term gains, political partisanship, and their own political careers. As a result, these politicians presided over the demise of the 600-year-old Republic. Almost 2,070 years later—to the day—a political figure in the United States would spur his supporters to storm the capital in Washington, D.C.. If we are to protect our own democratic institutions, we must look back upon the failures of Cicero and his colleagues as they fought against Julius Caesar to protect the Roman Republic. Their failures as guardians of democracy can offer a unique perspective into how the modern world can safeguard itself from the dangers of authoritarianism.