What’s that peeking through the urban thicket of New York? Why, the New York Stock Exchange, where your savings are currently being lost. And what about that patriotic-looking edifice on the right? That’s the US Treasury, where your savings are also currently being lost. But I digress. What’s my point?
By now I shouldn’t even have to make it explicit. It is that those buildings, like thousands of libraries and state capitols and what not, are explicitly and intentionally built to look … Roman!
And what would America look like if Hannibal, ie Carthage, had won? Exactly. We have no idea. We don’t know what Carthaginian columns and buildings looked like because the Romans were too thorough in wiping it off the map.
And what do we speak? English, a Germanic tongue, admittedly, but one that got half its vocabulary from Norman French, an offshoot of Latin. To our north and south in this hemisphere, they speak French, Spanish and Portuguese, other offshoots of Latin.
And what would the Americas sound like if Hannibal had won? Exactly. We have no idea. Perhaps remotely like Hebrew or Arabic, since Punic was a Semitic language, but we can’t say because it’s been dead so long.
We could go on and on. We have Senators because our founding fathers wanted to model themselves after the Rome that Polybius described, the one that survived and overcame Hannibal. Toga parties, Caesar’s Palace, …. Please don’t expect me to go there.
The point of all this, of course, is to instill in you a retroactive sense of wonderment about the mysterious events between, roughly, the death of Alexander and the Roman double-sack of Carthage and Corinth. Recall that Alexander had never heard of Rome but had Carthage in his sights, because it was the superpower of its region. Recall that, 177 years later, those Romans of whom he had not heard razed Carthage and Corinth to the ground and began to turn the world into what we know today.
Those epic and mysterious events that explain the mystery are the backdrop–the context or scene–for the astonishing individual and human stories of the main characters in my book, who proved with their own lives that triumph and disaster are impostors.