Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

The Test of Power

By
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” -- Abraham Lincoln


One can easily imagine Abe Lincoln standing proud and tall in his wool, stovepipe hat, reciting these very words that he is now famous for. Of course, the above quotation pales in comparison to the Gettysburg Address, but it stands alone as a powerful proverb in the modern world. Basically, it clarifies the fundamental idea that the enemy of mankind is not the challenges, the difficulties, the hurdles that we overcome; rather, it is the gratification of our wishes, our very ability to make our dreams come true that can undo us.

The quintessence of Abe Lincoln’s example is the power hungry dictator; whether it be Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong II, or Julius Caesar; it matters not the century or the continent, the only relevance is that all of these individuals share the same story. Caesar fought bravely in the army, became a lawyer; and finally, became a Praetor, which was the real starting point for his career in politics. However, Caesar’s hardest battles were not the difficult steps he had to take in his political career or the many rungs of his ladder to success and domination. Rather, the most tremulous times for him came when he was vulnerable to his own inflated head. His title of “Rome’s First Emperor” only served to enhance his opinion of himself; a sense of authority consumed him, and power bred more power. Eventually, he became consumed with his power, and he marched on his own city in order to gain another term of office, effectively committing treason and starting a civil war, all in the name of more titles, wealth, and supremacy.

It is effortless to imagine the day of January 10th, 49 B.C., in Rome. The penniless plebeians must have stood outside on that hot day, dutifully tending the farmland as sweat trickled down their backs, imagining the events of that day. They considered the crops that needed planting, then watering, and the animals that needed feeding, for it would soon be market day. Perhaps, in their boredom at the mundane work, the thought of the upcoming consul appointments crossed their minds. They anticipated that the famous “First Man of Rome” would once again hold the prestigious position of consul member, though he would probably cause some discontent by doing that yet again, against the wishes of a few Senate members. However, these plebeians still respected him, and they most likely went back to their work without a second thought of Caesar, their thoughts turned back to the blushing beauty they had seen the other day at the forum. A young girl among them gathered her pail and wandered to the Rubicon River, where she fetched water each day for her household, as her father and brothers were always thirsty after a long day in the sweltering sun. The girl meandered along slowly, hesitating for a moment to gather a few wildflowers for the table; surely her mother would be proud. Finally, the girl arrived at the Rubicon, where she knelt to fill the pail. She hummed to herself as she did so, and it was then that she suddenly noticed a noise unlike any that she had heard before. Could it be drums? The girl stood slowly, shaded her eyes with her hand, and she saw, to her shock, line after line of men walking along the beaten dirt path. At first, she was pleased, and watched to her delight; but as the men came closer, she realized that this was not an ordinary parade; it was an auxiliary gathering, these were soldiers with weapons, marching right toward her village. The girl realized that staying by the river had been a mistake, and although she was nearly paralyzed with fear, she scampered for home, her pail lay forgotten in the muddy river, her mind racing with what she had just witnessed. Hadn’t she just seen Caesar himself? But why would he be marching toward her town, crossing the Rubicon? This could only mean one thing, a civil war.

Those Roman citizens of nearly two thousand years ago were about to learn an important lesson about power, and the effects it has on men. Power can transform civil men into slaves for titles; friends into bitter rivals who would fight to the death; and a nation of ordinary people into a country that would turn its back on those of its citizens in need. By comparison, what is adversity, really? Men who are strong in the face of danger are found all over the world, in army commanders, naval officers, and NYPD policemen. However, it is a rare thing to find someone who has withstood the tests of time and hardship in order to obtain power, and then, with their dreams seemingly at their fingertips, remained sensible and ultimately incorruptible.



Join the Discussion


This article has 1 comment. Post your own!

Caesar123This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 28 at 1:55 pm:
Great article! Can’t help but draw comparisons to our country today! I only hope that things don’t turn out as they did for Rome. Either way, keep up the good work!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback