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I have already noted in various posts here and here the resemblances of American Politics and Constitution to that of ancient Rome.  So it was a delight to find American Caesars: Lives of the US Presidents from Franklin D Roosevelt to George W Bush by Nigel Hamilton is just about to go into the shops and is an absolute must-read for your summer holidays.

Hamilton has taken as his model Suetonius, the most famous, most scurrilous and most gossipy biographer of the ancient world, who wrote a book charting the lives of the first twelve Caesars from Julius Caesar in the 40’s BC through to Domitian at the end of the first century AD.

Neil Hamilton doesn’t go the whole hog with the parallels to the empire which I think is a shame but it does not detract from the whole.

Hamilton has marked his sights on twelve American Caesars of our own age starting with Franklin D Roosevelt and ending with George W Bush.  He has given them the “Suetonius” treatment.  He examines the inner workings of these Imperial Presidencies, their public lives and their real private lives.  He measures the challenges they faced, and creates a gripping narrative that shocks and delights in equal measure.

The main thrust is his attempting to answer the question as to what makes the difference between a “great” president such as Roosevelt or Truman, and a complete total disaster like George W. Bush.

That we are invited to view the presidency of JFK as similar to that of Nero is wonderful, and of course there are indeed parallels.  Both had their own “Camelots” with literary circles attached, both engaged in hopeless foreign policy initiatives which needed to be passed off as victories.  The vast mad public work projects with the Avernus canal for Nero and a space race for Kennedy.

Ford is shown as plain, simple and worthy.  Well two out of three ain’t bad.

Nixon, skulks the corridors of the palace, devious, cunning, sly as Caligula.  This is a lovely picture – drawn by a master.

And ending the twelve with a portrayal of Dubya as Domitian is genius and a delight.

Infamy, Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me…

It’s great.  It available this side of the pond at £25.00 but you know you can get it for around £14.00 on the internet sites.  Go and buy it.

Copyright David Macadam 2010

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