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A World History of Ancient Political Thought$
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Antony Black

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199281695

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199281695.001.0001

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(p.175) 9 Rome
A World History of Ancient Political Thought

Antony Black (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Romans conceived their state as a public domain (res publica), governed by responsible patriots, prepared to die for their country. Their unwritten constitution allocated most power to the senate of notables; citizen assemblies also took part. There were numerous checks and balances. Polybius thought that Rome successfully combined rule by one, the few, and the many. Conquest and empire led to tension between aristocratic and democratic principles. Cicero preached political uprightness, harmony between classes, and freedom of speech. He argued that the various forms of human association, culminating in the state, are all based on consent. He opposed putting expediency before morality. With Augustus, Rome became a de facto monarchy; some personal freedom for citizens under a rule of law survived. Unlike elsewhere, there was little monarchical theory before the adoption of Christianity. Stoicism provided a moral framework for some. The contrast with China, where empire was the culmination of age-old aspirations, was significant.

Keywords:   republic, patriotism, constitution, Polybius, aristocracy, democracy, consent, empire, Cicero, Stoicism

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