The Rise of the Roman Empire

Polybius on government

In Book VI Polybius digresses into an explanation of the Roman constitution and he shows it to be mixed. The purpose for this is involved in the Hellenistic nature of the work, particularly his audience, Greeks. Greeks at this time believed that the strength of a state is manifested in the strength of its constitution. The mixed constitution was touted as the strongest constitution as it combined the three integral types of government: monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Polybius makes further distinction in the forms of government by including the nefarious counterparts to the ones mentioned above; tyranny, oligarchy, and ochlocracy. These governments, according to Polybius cycle in a process called anacyclosis, which begins with monarchy and ends with ochlocracy. The Roman model avoids this problem when it sets up the republic and becomes a mixture of the three types. The Consuls represent Monarchy and have power over the army in the field and the expenditures in Rome. A noted exemption from consular authority is the Tribune of the Plebs. The Senate is responsible for the appointment and approval of Consuls and Censors and is the driving force behind the business that needs to be done in the city and with respect to foreign policy. Of course, none of this can happen without the censure of the people and no man can be installed in any position without the vote of the people. It is in this way, as Polybius understands it, that the strength of the Roman state is shown and held together.

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