How beautiful the Roman artifacts look now that the horrible Romans are gone. The mosaic pictures of daily life: fish on a plate, flowers, a pretty girl. Profiled on silver coins, the famous sociopaths look harmless and small, their features worn smooth by many hands and many centuries. Look, there’s Julius Caesar, and Augustus; here’s one with Cleopatra on one side and Mark Antony on the other, and who’s on this little one? Oh right, Vespasian, who sent his son to destroy Jerusalem and who built the Colosseum, where people of every class could sit in comfort and watch wild animals tear prisoners to pieces.

Katha Pollitt on ended empires.