A Case of Impiety

| November 4, 2016

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If you could put Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Marcus Aurelius in the same room, what would the outcome be?

In the year 180, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius gave a dinner at his winter headquarters in the town of Sirmium, in modern-day Serbia. Present were his son and future successor Commodus, several of his close friends and senior officials–and a farmer who had traveled all the way from southern Italy to attend.

This farmer had acquired the rare ability to speak across time and space, and his patron, the consul Bruttius Praesens, had thought it prudent to bring this unusual prescience to the attention of his friend and emperor. By means of the man’s telepathic abilities, Aurelius finds himself in conversation with an American astronaut of the twenty-first century–a man who once walked on the moon.

Born politicians, the Romans soon turn the conversation from science and history to the state of the world. They discover that the astronaut’s country is engaged at the moment in its version of a consular election. Good! Who are the candidates? they ask. What are the parties? What are the policy proposals at stake? The Roman telepath obligingly lays before them a summary of the American campaigns, issue by issue. Aurelius the philosopher, the most insightful of all Rome’s rulers, listens and weighs the politics of the United States in the balance of Stoicism. Occasionally he is mildly approving; more often he is scathing, and his criticisms, with the weight of eighteen unborn centuries behind them, fall on Clinton and Trump alike with unsparing force.

Inspired by the dialogues of Plato, A Case of Impiety interweaves up-to-the-minute politics with classical philosophy to present a radical and uncomfortable new perspective on the American political process.

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