Monday, May 21, 2012

Rome on the Potomac

(Note to regular readers.  I'll be taking a break from England/Archeology now to give a little attention to my recent first ever trip to Washington DC. Back across the pond in a bit)

Its no great secret that the Founding Fathers had a thing about Rome.  They hoped to take the best of it and, avoiding its failings, transplant it to new shores.  Some of the borrowings are direct.  We too have a Senate, a Capitol.  Others are stylistic, hence the dramatic architecture:
Other influences are more subtle.  Note this statue of George Washington:

Here we see The Father of His Country leaning on a Fasces traditional symbol of Roman authority.  Note that this version is without a protruding axe blade, indicating that within the capitol city the ruler did not have the arbitrary power of life and death.  Make of it what you will, but in the House Chamber you see this:

Perhaps this indicates that power comes directly from the People, or is a reference to the power of Congress to declare War, under which condition the ancient Romans allowed the State the power of Life and Death even in Rome, as symbolized by carrying the Fasces with the axe.

As to the later association of the symbol with 20th century Fascism, well we have avoided it so far.

Tune in over the next little while for more images of Rome as transplanted to the Potomac.

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