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Empires of Trust: How Rome Built--and America Is Building--a New World

4.7 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0525950745
ISBN-10: 0525950745
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas F. Madden is Associate Professor of History and Chair at Saint Louis University. He has published numerous studies on the crusades including "The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople" (1997) and "A Concise History of the Crusades" (1999). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"An entertaining comparison by an astute historian. . .Gems for history buffs as well as those who have never considered that something that happened before 1900 might matter."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"A breakout book."
-Richard Ellis, author of Founding Fathers --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (July 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525950745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525950745
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Classicist Thomas F Madden has seen the light. He realized after 9-11 that academics have a larger role to play in society than ivory tower occupiers. Since 9-11 he has consciously striven to help people understand the past and how it can help us determine the context in which we make some monumental decision in the present. While he still writes and publishes for academics, he has included the lay person and politician in his circle and has tried to make ancient history relevant.
Such is the foundation of Empires of Trust--ancient history made accessible. After having taken two years of College Latin and Roman history my understanding of that great civilization was changed forever after finishing Madden's work. He wrote the book mainly out of the misunderstanding of Rome and its empire, which has been used by a flood of writers of late to compare what they see as the decline of the United States' Empire with the corruption and decline of the Roman Empire. For starters, he points out that all comparisons of the US with the late Roman Empire is somewhat of a stretch and much of the material written is absurd. For instance whatever one's feelings about President Bush the comparisons to him and the Roman Caesars is laughable:
"Claiming that President Bush or any other American president is a new Pompey or Augustus is simply the kind of frivolousness to be expected in a time of pax. It sells books and makes for good talk show fodder, but it is historically absurd. The men who overturned the Roman Republic did so by wielding raw military power against their own government. Sending the armed forces to Iraq(after a supporting congressional resolution) is one thing, sending them to Washington DC, is quite another. (p.
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Format: Hardcover
The US is often compared to historical empires, yet the comparison usually rings hollow. If we are an empire and we conquered a country that produces oil, how come fuel is so expensive? If we are truly imperialistic, why did our troops leave Germany after conquering it in WWI? Why give Japan back its independence after WWII?

In this book, Thomas F. Madden compares the US to Rome. Rome is considered the quintessential empire in the west because it ruled so much and survived for so long. Thomas F. Madden shows the differences between Rome and other empires in history.

He makes the case that during the time when the Romans conquered their empire (until about 140 BCE):

1. They did not want an empire.
2. They wanted safety, which required allies in a dangerous world.
3. Keeping those alliances required them to fight their allies' enemies.
4. Having conquered their enemies, the Romans often attempted to turn them into allies, rather than conquered territories.
5. By 140 BC they had implicit control of the entire Mediterranean area, yet still insisted on keeping up the charade of their relationships with other polities being alliances between equals.

This, by itself, would make this book worthy reading for anybody interested in the history of western civilization. But Thomas Madden goes further than that. He shows the parallels between Rome and the US, and the world Rome inhabited (Greeks and Jews) and the one the US inhabits (West Europeans and Muslims).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most Americans don't like the idea of empires, myself included. But not all empires were of the purely conquest type. Madden offers a fresh look at how Rome grew to become the empire it did and how America is dealing with its own superpower status. He admits that the two are not similar in every way, but there are some similarities and common patterns that stand out. While I may not find what he has to offer as necessarily comforting, he does make some solid points.

Rome, as Madden argues, did not acquire an empire out of a desire to rule over other territories or to exploit their lands. Madden argues that Rome was merely interested in guaranteeing its own peace and security, which necessarily led to its expanding realm. It wanted allies, not enemies, and as a result Rome became a trusted power and was depended on by other states to safeguard their own security and their own way of life. Only in cases where Rome's adversaries posed ongoing threats did Rome find it necessary to destroy its rivals, such as Carthage, for example.

America also had and has a history of isolationist sentiment and has had to accept its role in the world, especially when its own security was threatened as in World War II. America became and remains a trusted power that doesn't seek to deprive other nations of their freedoms, as we ourselves cherish our own. This doesn't mean that other nations love us. To the contrary, because other nations expect us to act in a just fashion, do they feel they can verbally abuse us. If they thought we would deprive them of their sovereignty and destroy their way of life, do you think they would heap this verbal abuse on us? Most likely not. I agree with Madden on this point. Madden uses the Greeks behavior towards the Romans as an example.
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