As Augustus embarked on a crusade to revitalize traditional institutions throughout the Roman capital, the Empire’s oligarchs fled to Baiae.
With sprawling villas along the ocean, Baiae attracted Rome’s ruling elite seeking reprieve from civil unrest. This city of antiquity catered to the sexual appetites of the rich and powerful. Seaside orgies, grottos devoted to ‘earthly pleasure’; the perpetual preservation of fantasy; Baiae was detached from Rome’s political turmoil, despite housing its greatest enablers.
“In order to be recognized as a member of the elite, you needed to have a presence in Baiae. Every single Emperor since Augustus had a villa there,” Kevin Dicus, an assistant professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Oregon, tells Paradox. “Really, this was a place where incredibly important decisions happened that affected Rome. Some extraordinary politics happened.”
If an outsider were to visit Miami today, they would not know America is a fading global superpower. They would not know thousands of insurrectionists had just stormed the gates of the Capitol to overturn an election, or that major cities like New York and Los Angeles remain in pandemic lockdowns. In Miami Beach, these historical events exist as abstracts consumed through designer technology like the iPhone 12, an ominous backdrop to a roaring stock market making the wealthy wealthier. Throughout Brickell, Indian Creek, and South of Fifth, a new community of Florida transplants hailing from Manhattan, Georgetown, Silicon Valley, and Malibu has taken over.
From Palantir chairman Peter Thiel to Ivanka Trump, America’s elites have fled the American reality for Miami Beach. With rampant homelessness overtaking San Francisco, police forces occupying the heart of Washington, and crime resurging across New York City, the powerful have set up headquarters in a beachside metropolis reminiscent of Baiae. They work poolside at the Ritz, order bottle service at Baoli, and crack shellfish at Joe’s Stone Crab.
“With Miami Beach you have this license to misbehave, but with all of these powerful people in one place, you also have a lot of important decisions happening,” explains Dicus.
The history expert likens Miami Beach to Baiae during the first century B.C., the period which saw the ascent of Julius Caesar and violence in the capital between Populari and Constitutionalist groups.
“This was the time when the most important Romans had massive villas in Baiae. All these great characters from the end of the Republic like Augustus found Baiae as a refuge,” continues Dicus. “There are definitely parallels to the rise of populism in the ancient world with Julius Caesar and Sulla, to the rise of populism under Trump and the desire to go back to tradition under Biden.”
Competition between the two warring factions led to blood in Rome. Populists like Caesar appealed to the emotions of their base, while Constitutionalists sought to make power through traditional means. Behind each group, a politician stood in the background urging their supporters on. Despite the sharp rhetoric used to rally crowds, politicians from both sides vacationed in Baiae and used the city to further their own political interests.
“There were factions of citizens taking sides and killing each other in the streets, which sort of parallels to the events of last week where you had this populist faction literally overrun the capitol,” said Dicus. “In the course of twenty years in Rome, you had a wonderful parallel of what has gone on in the past 4 years in America. And meanwhile Baiae is just a couple hundred miles to the south and the elite would go there, have their fun, live in their villas, and return to Rome for their responsibilities.”
As the Biden administration staffs up in Washington and recommits the U.S. Empire to the liberal international order, the former architects of America’s populist movement flee to Miami Beach to build up new bases. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner recently bought real estate on “Billionaire’s Bunker” in Indian Creek along with football legend Tom Brady. Even Peter Thiel, who bankrolled numerous GOP candidates as a megadonor and spoke at the 2016 RNC, just bought a massive waterfront property facing Miami’s Biscayne Bay.
Most of Baiae today is underwater, and interested parties can explore the city’s ruins through scuba diving. If history is any indicator, the same fate awaits Miami as its beaches continue shrinking from climate change (the sands are currently imported from the Bahamas).
100 years from now, archeologists will marvel that submerged strip clubs like E11EVEN once functioned as pillars of high society where American politicians and celebrities congregated to discuss the business of the day…