Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Coming Caesars: A Modern Prophecy

My friend Tim Price of Trestle Press will soon release a reprint of Amaury de Riencourt's classic work The Coming Caesars. Riencourt's book, first published in June 1957, caused an enormous stir in the scholarly world. In October 1957 Newsweek magazine devoted an astonishing ten pages of its weekly edition for the printing of excerpts from The Coming Caesars without any commentary. Tim's reprint will give the book a new design (see picture left), make it available in both softcover and in digital format, and will serve a new generation of Americans with the caution that throughout history great civilizations built on republican ideals eventually collapse under the tyranny of Caesarism. Tim says he worked to update and republish The Coming Caesars because "there is hardly a book that more accurately depicts what is happening in America. If De Riencourt's thesis was true in 1957, it is far more so today." I would agree. I've read The Coming Caesars and see in it a remarkable prophecy of America, paralleling what happened historically in ancient Rome. The book is not about politics. It is about human history, the natural laws of liberty, and the psychology of human beings that lead us to eventually unquestioningly follow strong leaders.

De Riencourt's thesis is explained on page 5 of his book:
"Expanding democracy leads unintentionally to imperialism and that imperialism inevitably ends in destroying the republican institutions of earlier days; further, the greater the social equality, the dimmer the prospects of liberty, and that as society becomes more equalitarian, it tends increasingly to concentrate absolute power in the hands of one single man. Caesarism is not dictatorship, not the result of one man's overriding ambition, not a brutal seizure of power through revolution. It is not based on a specific doctrine or philosophy. It is essentially pragmatic and untheoretical. It is a slow, often century-old, unconscious development that ends in a voluntary surrender of a free people escaping from freedom to one autocratic master."
The Coming Caesars is uninterested in promoting party politics, be it Republican or Democratic, but successfully indicts Americans in both parties for allowing the power and prestige of the Presidency to rival that of a Roman Caesar. Riencourt writes "Those who doubt that today an American President might be elected for life should remember that no constitutional amendment, such as was voted after World War II, can stand in the way of public opinion if it truly wishes to elect a Caesar for life."  Reincourt traces the rise of Caesarism in Rome and parallels it with the increasing willingness of Americans to follow one man in any emergency, whether it be economic, military, or social. Reincourt argues that this willingness is not political or ideological, but rather it is psychological. It is easier to "personalize" problems and follow a powerful Caesar-like leader than it is to trust increasingly irrelevant legislative assemblies. This, he argues, is historical fact, not political theory.

If this post has sparkedan interest to read The Coming Ceasars,  I would encourage you to wait for Trestle Press's re-print of the book which should be available from Amazon in just a matter of weeks. Until then, it would serve you well to carefully read the excellent on-line scholarly review of The Coming Caesars by the St. John Law Review.

Reincourt did not necessarily believe in the inevitability of Caesarism in America. He writes, "Though all Civilizations have chosen the easy solution of Caesarism, man's historical knowledge (today) makes it possible for the first time to avoid the deadly shoals on which every other Civilization has destroyed itself."

In other words, those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.


Alaskan in Texas said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I look forward to reading Riencourt's book in reprint. I am glad you also recommended people read the book-review article from the May 1958 St. John's Law Review. There, the reviewer Charles Zinn issues a good warning about Riencourt's book that also applies in our age where so many apocalyptic prognosticators on cable news networks and talk-radio airwaves also write America-is-going-to-hell-in-a-hand basket books: "It must be reported that this is a well written, readable book that reflects an enormous wealth of learning and historical information. The author writes in a strong style that may too easily beguile the reader who accepts at face value many of his statements that are unsupported. If his premises are accepted his conclusions seem almost inescapable - post hoc ergo propter hoc."

Wade Burleson said...

Alaskan in Texas,

Good point. There is a difference between apocalyptic procrastinations (which seem to me to be despicable) and measured, historical analysis of the rise and fall of various civilizations (which seem to me to be respectable).

Riencourt's work seems to fall in the latter category rather than the former, albeit St. John's Review may disagree with my assessment. The St. John's review was written in 1958. A lot of things have happened in the intervening 56 years.

Bob Cleveland said...

Another of the things that make ms glad to be 75. There aren't many, so I gotta hang onto all I can...

I will add that this is simply indicative of the sin nature of people, and probably why free countries don't last all that long in the span of history.

Chuck Andrews said...

Not a lot has changed in 3000 years. Israel's reply to Samuel (or the Lord through Samuel) may be one of the first societies willing to give up their freedoms for a "Caesar."

“Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”” (1 Sa 8:19–20)

Rex Ray said...

It’s been said to be a good leader, one must first be a good follower. How good can a Commander and Chief of the Military be if he was never a soldier?

To see Obama dressed as an ancient soldier is like seeing Mickey Mouse in a Superman costume.

The link below tells of the book written by former Pentagon chief, Robert Gates criticizing Obama and Biden of being wrong about every big foreign policy issue.

I’m surprised there have been such few comments to Wade. Is it because America has become afraid of their ‘Caesar’? I mean if our phone calls are known by Him, how much more are blogs?

Maybe it’s time to say, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Wade Burleson said...


The issue of caesarism transcends political lines.

George Bush was as caesaral as Obama, just with different principles.

The issue is the power of one, not the principles of the one. The conservative Caesar is a fascist, the liberal Caesar is a totalitarian. The problem is the power invested in one person.

Rex Ray said...

Had to look up the definition of “caesarism”: A form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)

You said: “The conservative Caesar is a fascist, the liberal Caesar is a totalitarian. The problem is the power invested in one person.”

Again, I had to see what internet said: “As a rule, fascist governments are dominated by a dictator. Totalitarian describes a political system in which the state holds total authority.”

I believe you would agree the power invested in one person is NOT the problem if that person is God. The main problem is “principles” of the person in charge.

I believe the ‘principles of Bush and Obama is night and day. Whereas Bush is proud of America, Obama apologizes. Bush stands before foreign leaders, but Obama bows. Bush doesn’t believe the most beautiful sound on earth is the Muslim call to prayer. I could go on and on but you get my point.

Wade Burleson said...

"I believe you would agree the power invested in one person is NOT the problem if that person is God. The main problem is “principles” of the person in charge."

Wade Burleson said...

Of course, Rex I believe the above quote. The problem is becomes when any man acts as if he is God to others.

The principle of sole authority of God over the human being is called "soul competency" - meaning, every soul has the moral and spiritual ability to answer for himself to God and needs no vicar.

Wade Burleson said...

I also understand you believe there is a stark difference between the political principles of Obama and Bush. So do I. My point is this post is not about principles, but about power, and the institution of the President has obtained the power that the former institutions of our country once had (the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, etc...). In other words, separation of powers has in these last few decades become a consolidation of power.

Rex Ray said...

I find it most frustrating when I realize I’m arguing with someone that’s right. Yes, your blog is from the standpoint of our government no longer has its power distributed among sources that represent the people because the President has taken that power under the disguise of ‘national security etc.’

On the other hand, Syria has a dictator by the name of Bashar Al Assad who lets Christians live in peace, but what will happen if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over? More than likely they will die. More Christians have been martyred in the last 100 years than the previous 1900 years.

Wade Burleson said...


Headless Unicorn Guy said...

I can guess the target audience for this edition.

Note that all the Presidents from Kennedy on are dressed normally in business suits. It's when you get to Obama that he's dressed in the ceremonial parade armor of a Roman Emperor. (Cue Ominous Music -- Dun Dun DUUUUUUN!)

Rex Ray said...

Off topic

My daughter called and wanted some information. I told her to hang on and I’d find it. I laid the phone down and it took a while. I gave her the information but she didn’t reply.

“Are you there? DID YOU HANG UP ON ME?”

I looked at the phone but it was the TV remote.

Anonymous said...


I came across this book and thought you might be interested:

Especially, since it appears to be for free.

TimPrice said...

Alright... The eBook version is live, see:

The hard copy should be up in the next couple days... I will post as much when it first lights

Rex Ray said...

God made Eve from a rib, but some preachers preach as if He used a toe bone.

I like the song, “You are the wind beneath my wings”, and it doesn’t matter if a woman or man sings it. That’s what marriage is all about.

When we retired to the farm, our SS director announced he had bad and good news. Said, “We’re loosing Belle, but she’s taking Rex with her.”

I’ve wondered why God made animals male and female except man. Did He want to show Adam what life was without Eve so Adam would love Him/her more?