An intelligent, skeptical American would no doubt scoff at the thought that what has happened since 9/11 could presage the destruction of a centuries-old constitution; but then, I suppose, an intelligent, skeptical Roman in 68 B.C. might well have done the same.
It may be that the Roman republic was doomed in any case. But the disproportionate reaction to the raid on Ostia unquestionably hastened the process, weakening the restraints on military adventurism and corrupting the political process. It was to be more than 1,800 years before anything remotely comparable to Rome’s democracy- imperfect though it was – rose again.
The Lex Gabinia was a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences: It fatally subverted the institution it was supposed to protect. Let us hope that vote in the United States Senate does not have the same result.