Yale Scholar Draws Parallel Between America and Rome

The "failure of nerve" and "sense of collective impotence" that contributed to Rome's downfall may now be afflicting American society, a Yale classical historian said yesterday.

Jaroslav I. Pelikan said he thinks the American people, like the Romans, have come to doubt whether or not the "future holds anything worth striving for," adding that when "ennui sets in, society atrophies."

Pelikan presented similar views and made comparisons between declining Rome and modern American at a conference in Washington Wednesday commemorating the upcoming bicentennial of historian Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

America is more handicapped than Rome, Pelikan said yesterday, because of "privatism" or putting private fulfilment above the public good.

"One of the characteristics of Rome, even in decline, was the public spirit of her citizens. The lack of this spirit in America has become shockingly apparent," he said.

Pelikan cited the professionalism of the army, changing attitudes towards the family, and the growth of moral relativism as further parallels between Rome and the United States.

Harvard professors contacted by The Crimson yesterday disagreed with Pelikan's analysis. Oscar Handlin, University Professor, said he does not believe American suffers from a failure of nerve. "We show all the signs and problems of a society still on the ascent," Handlin said.

John L. Clive, professor of History and Literature, said yesterday that America's tremendous technological capability makes any comparisons between the United States and Rome meaningless. John Womack Jr. '59 professor of History, agreed with Clive and called Pelikan's speculations "idle and frivolous."

"One sure indication that America is not declining is that more and more people are reading Gibbon," Clive said.

Clive said yesterday that he and G. W. Bowersock '57, chairman of the Classics Department, will attend another Gibbon bicentennial conference in Rome this January, The conference, which Bower-sock called "Clive's brainchild," will be sponsored by the magazine "Daedalus," and will include 20 scholars from the United States and Europe.

Recommended Articles

Reporter's Notebook
Dance AIDS Away Free condoms, safe-sex pamphlets and the music of Christian and the Infidels were featured at a fundraiser
Two Win Fellowships
The American Academy in Rome has awarded Rome Prize Fellowships to two students here. Howard Hibbard, John Thornton Kirkland Travelling
'Cliffe Picks Senior Marshals
Electoral chairman Jean L. Anderson '59 announced the 1956 Radcliffe Senior Class Marshals yesterday. They are Nancy D. Campbell, Julia
Woman of Rome
Woman of Rome, contrary to the Brattle's poor-taste ads, is no frolicking bedroom comedy. It is of the school of
Czech Exile Recalls Tensions Leading to 'Spring of Prague'
Jiri Pelikan, a former member of the deposed Dubcek government in Czechoslovakia, told a group of about 30 people in
A CRITICAL DECLINE
To the Editors of The Crimson: Jaroslav Pelikan has had the good sense to call attention to the obvious: that