Book Review of "Empire of Trust" Written by Thomas F Madden

Title: Empires of Trust

How Rome built -And America Is building- a New World

Author: Thomas F. Madden

Publisher: Dutton edition

Year: 2008

Pages: 336



This book explores the similarities and differences between the ancient Roman Republic and United States of America.

It mentions that Rome was actually not a ruthless empire of conquest built by conquering legions and vain Caesars but an agrarian -based republic with an isolationist desire to be left alone by the outside world. Both states built the rarest from of empire, an empire of trust. This empire made up of free states bound together into alliances, was based on the wide-spread trust that the allies had in responsible use of military force by the dominate power.

Both Rome and U.S. were distrustful of concentrated power in the world, so, they built an empire on security and trustworthy which their people inside or outside of the sphere of their influence, trusted them. And this is why many nations today feel they don’t need to build up any armed forces, because they trust U.S. to protect them from enemies.


First chapters (1-7)

Madden lay out 3 types of empires:

1)empires of conquest

2)empires of commerce

3)empires of trust

In the first empires, military power rules over and control the world like Mongols/Persians and Turks. Empires of commerce are interested only in securing enough of a political foothold rather than political control or tribute.Example are British and Dutch empire. These empires intended to carry on their commerce by enforcing enough stability in the surrounding area.

But book focus is on empires of trust as Madden in page(5) explains that:”many people have an image of the Romans as brutal conquers which does not reflect the actual dynamics at all”. But it was actually that “rejection” that made the Romans seem trustworthy to others that formed the basis of their empire of trust.

The Madden in other first few chapters talks about Roman culture and history which led it to become a world power. The cultural values that he mentions are: household as the essential social building block, and ideal of small farmer citizen-statesman, emphasis on martial skill and duty, distrustful of kingship and absolute rule and the desire to expand the horizon in order to make it safe towards invasion.

Rome in 390 BC was the greatest military power in central Italy. when “Gaulic” invasion threatened Rome, she decided to form tight alliances with neighbor states and so “The Latin League of city states ” was built which provided all alliances security towards enemies.This Latin league fielded a strong joint military force, but because of the Rome’s power on confederation, some allies rebelled.

After civil war in 340 BC and Rome’s victory, the “Latin league” re-accepted them as allies with independent local government, thus Rome could develop her unity whereas different levels of independence was given to allies governing in states: “The closest Latin towns would receive Roman citizenship with full voting rights and the right to run for roman offices, Although they maintained local state governments, the big decisions for the region were mad in Rome. “Others, particularly non-Latin allies, were given citizenship without voting rights. The lowest rung were “equal allies ” who were not citizens, but could do business with Romans, approval.”(p 75)

This alliance can be close o the united states in 20th and 21th century and recent events. for example in 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait which was a minor American ally, so The U.S. leads a large coalition in liberating Kuwait.The U.S. invades both Afghanistan (to prevent al-Qaida terrorism) and Iraq and attempts to turn them into independent allied governments.However this event, increased tensions in the neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan if they had to be overthrown by an anti-U.S. faction resulting in war there.

The last chapters (8-11):

Madden in these chapters asks this question:”Has the United states reached the level of power that Rome had achieved by 146 BC? Then he answers:”yes”. He says today, the American Empire of Trust is still too young to be compared with final Rise of the Roman Empire but it is still superpower. And to achieve Pax (peace) it is necessary to have an extraordinary level of power.

Roman Empire after the fall of the Macedonian Kingdom became the great power in both military and economics. U.S. is also after the fall of the Berlin Wall and especially 9/11 event could become more United and powerful.

The threat of terrorism:

Terrorism is caused by the American foreign policy, when for over 7years America has been occupying the Muslim sacred lands, humiliating it’s people, plundering its reaches and terrorizing it’s neighbors. So Talban and Al-Qaeda have blamed such American policy and began to fight U.S. During Roman Empire, Jews terrorists targeted them, and their basic aim was to make Roman Empire go out of their sacred lands and could spread their religion to the whole World, But Roman Empire’s responsibility to secure all allies doesn’t allow her to make Jews free in their decisions. so it wanted from Jews to adapt themselves with Roman Empire’s laws, like U.S. today that has said Islam should interpret it’s holly law within a modern, rather than a medieval context. And because of this, American’s hope is to win over this war Finally and believes that Islam will no longer contains the elements to support it.

Today most of the Americans are optimistic about the future, they know that this road is not an easy path. They believe that, there will always be challenges, more wars, more bloodshed and more disunity, so far they have achieved their goal such as security for themselves, their allies and its horizon.

At last Madden says that we may not be able to see the end of the road for America but it’s direction seems clear enough to follow Roman’s path with taking lessons of it’s failures and wrong doings.


1) While Madden is an academic history writer, he has tried to make ancient history relevant to the political events and not only does he scribe the ancient past but makes it immediately useful for understanding turbulent present.

2) Unlike popular myth and wrong attitude to the Roman and U.S. empire, Madden has argued that both Rome and U.S. possessed and possesses an “empire of trust ” which has built on security and protection not conquest. Rome was not a society bent on spreading its influence as far as it could through military service, in fact like the United states, it was an isolationist culture that preferred alliances to the use of force and was pushed reluctantly into empire building by the desire to defend itself and its friends.

3) This book doesn’t want to convince that the U.S. empire is a good thing or that is fundamentally peace-seeking (because it isn’t always ) but rather to get you think seriously about world affairs and not to fall into shallow intellectual ruts.

4) As some authors such as (Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer prize winning author of “Founding brothers” and Nail Ferguson author of the “Ascent of money ” and Professor of History at Harvard university ) mentions,” this book is a new approach to America and it’s similarity to the Rome empire Which cause to appreciate what we (American) really are because it asks us to contemplate the invisible and often unconscious dynamic that transforms some nations into empires, often against their will, he doesn’t want to say we are Rome but he explains how American constitution and military service was influenced by Roman service”

5) Madden actually shows that Roman Republic uphold high moral standards in dealing with defeated enemies and brought stability and the rule of law. Both Rome and America ended up the role of policemen in the world and they become global authorities that other powers trusted and looked to for guidance.

6) Madden doesn’t say that U.s empire will be last forever, but he believers all empires will pass away but the point is if they could last as long as the Romans, then so be it.


I think whereas there are some events that repeat in historical process but even they have lots of similarities through different eras, we can not definitely say, they are the same. (The author hasn’t say so of course ) but when he believes that Islam should be more moderate and adapt it self with the United States’ aim to gain security for itself and allies (like Jews in Roman Empire), it should be mentioned that the context of Islamic discourse is much different from Jewish ones. And religious terrorism that exists today isn’t related to Islam as a whole ideology but it is a deviation from the essence of Islam. therefore “terrorism ” is not a Islamic problem it is a new form of anomy which needs to resolve in its social mechanism. However I am not pro this book prediction about the future of peaceful U.S. and Islamic flexibility to join to Americans’ allies because terrorism and ideology of islam are mutually exclusive.


1)Any who is interested in history of western civilization

2)Those who likes historical comparative approaches in analyzing new events of contemporary U.S.

Immobilienmakler Heidelberg

Makler Heidelberg

Source by Maryam Rouintan

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.