HBO's series Rome focused on the exploits of two Roman soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, weaving a tale of how these relatively minor characters had a huge impact on the course of human history itself. In the episode How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic, for example, a friend of a man Pullo had killed attacks Pullo as he is escorting Marc Antony to the Senate. The ensuing brawl is seen as an assassination attempt by Pompey, and the political fallout of the event directly leads to the collapse of the Roman Republic. And so we see how one man, a bit player by all accounts, can through his actions change the tide of history.
I think of this episode when I reflect upon the death of Neda Agha-Soltani, whose shooting at the hands of a Basij sniper is becoming the banner around which pro-democracy protesters are rallying. Neither Ms. Agha-Soltani, nor her killer, were major political figures. The sniper likely will remain anonymous for all time. Moussavi did not intend for to die, and I am sure that Ahmadinejad did not wish her to be killed.* And yet, in their deathly duo, they may be the ones who cause the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Iran in its current form.
There is much happening in Iran's halls of power, which will undoubtedly have great impact on the future of that nation. But everyone's best laid plans can be swept away by the squeeze of a single over-zealous triggerman, and the martyrdom of a brave young woman.
* Not out of any tenderness of his heart, but because the fallout from her death may be the event which finally causes him to break his grip on power.