iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Vicky Alvear Shecter

GET UPDATES FROM Vicky Alvear Shecter

Ancient Thinking in Modern Dress

Posted: 08/30/11 06:44 PM ET

Michelle Bachmann claims that Hurricane Irene was God's way of telling American politicians to cut spending.

She follows in the footsteps of another former presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, who claimed that the earthquake in Haiti was the fault of a "pact with the devil" and that flying a rainbow flag would cause, among other disasters, tornadoes.

As an ancient history buff, I can't help but think that Bachmann and Robertson are actually Romans in modern dress.

Put a toga on 'em and the Romans would've completely "gotten" them (except for the female part, but that's another post). After all, the ancient Romans also believed that the gods spoke to humans through strange and unpredictable signs from nature. And, more importantly, that only certain "privileged," usually "wealthy" individuals got to interpret those signs.

Oh, and the fact that those interpretations always somehow pointed in their favor? Pure coincidence!

Watch kids' expressions in history when you tell them that Romans would've disengaged from battle if chickens were "off their feed," or if lightning struck a statue. They usually smirk and shake their heads in disbelief that people actually thought that way.

And yet we have a presidential candidate doing the very same thing. This is exactly why it's so important to study history. It allows us to hold a mirror up to ourselves and expose the many ways in which irrational thinking persists in modern politics. If we roll our eyes and smirk at the crazy, fear-based thinking of the ancients, perhaps we can spot our own politicians trying to manipulate us in the same way.

And call them out on it.

Did you know Queen Cleopatra VII had a daughter who survived to adulthood? Click here to read more about Vicky's historical novel on the great Queen's daughter, Cleopatra Selene.

For more fascinating historical facts, visit Vicky's blog, History With A Twist.