The new image on the cover for Time magazine – a caricature of a tiny Donald Trump coiffed in a mountainous hairdo the shape and color of a bonfire – is a perfect pictograph of the president’s fiery first year as well as his explosive reaction to Michael Wolffe’s barn burner about him called “Fire and Fury.”

The Trump world is a tinderbox

The cover artist, Edel Rodriguez, told the magazine how he feels living in the U.S. with Trump since the election, “You wake up every day and try to figure out where’s the next fire, where do we have to go, what do we have to try to contain...you’re always trying to contain, like a wildfire that’s moving from one place to the other at all times.”

The powder keg that was old Rome

This must be how it felt back in old Rome when it went up in flames.

The devastation of 64 AD kept spreading. And just as that conflagration was pinned on Emperor Nero, Trump can be held responsible for setting his day and age aflame. Of course, the inferno back in ancient time was brought under control after six days. America’s situation remains combustible likely as long as this president leads us. At this point, it’s probably a good idea to remember that Rome’s great fire led not only to the fall of the old city but also to the fall of the whole Roman Empire.

A what-if history of the world

But there’s the flipside to ancient history imagined in a debut novel by British author Sophie McDougal titled “Romanitas” that tells a tale of the Roman Empire as if it didn’t fall, as if it lived to this day - 2756 AC (2004, the year the book was written).

But by now the Empire had stretched far, pretty much to everywhere on planet earth. Even at that, it never became a good thing. Instead, it made for an unstable world with unexplained fires that cannot be contained, which put you in mind of the raging wildfires in California.

Sign of the times

Meanwhile, the Emperor was killed in a car crash, which was said to be an accident.

But as his heir, Marcus Novius takes his throne; shadowy forces threaten his reign. Even in this alternate universe, the hope of a better Rome never happened. Conflicts abound, tempers run hot in various factions threatening to boil over. Sound familiar? Author McDougal thinks so.

As she sees it, “The Roman Empire has so much in common with the modern world.” A good example of this is her way of working.

McDougal penned her tome in her living room, “with the television or radio on or while talking to somebody. I like to be distracted. If there’s too much peace and quiet, I can’t think.” Apparently, the only change in the story of humankind is the rise in the decibel level.

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