Friday, April 02, 2010


The Roman Revolution

Excerpts from Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939; rpt. 1960):

p. 4:
Heaven and the verdict of history conspire to load the scales against the vanquished.
p. 7:
In all ages, whatever the form and name of government, be it monarchy, republic, or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the façade.
p. 59:
Liberty and the laws are high-sounding words. They will often be rendered, on a cool estimate, as privilege and vested interests.
p. 60:
Without a party a statesman is nothing. He sometimes forgets that awkward fact. If the leader or principal agent of a faction goes beyond the wishes of his allies and emancipates himself from control, he may have to be dropped or suppressed.
p. 78:
When a party seizes control of the Commonwealth it cannot take from the vanquished the bitter and barren consolation of defaming the members of the new government. The most intemperate allegations thrown about by malignant contemporaries are repeated by credulous posterity and consecrated among the uncontested memorials of history.
p. 105:
A blameless life is not the whole of virtue, and inflexible rectitude may prove a menace to the Commonwealth.
p. 284:
When an official document records voluntary manifestations of popular sentiment under a despotic government, a certain suspension of belief may safely be recommended.
p. 315:
The Romans as a people were possessed by an especial veneration for authority, precedent and tradition, by a rooted distaste for change unless change could be shown to be in harmony with ancestral custom, 'mos maiorum'—which in practice meant the sentiments of the oldest living senators. Lacking any perception of the dogma of progress—for it had not yet been invented—the Romans regarded novelty with distrust and aversion. The word 'novus' had an evil ring.
p. 319:
The theorists of antiquity situated their social and political Utopias in the past, not in the future.
p. 325:
It is an entertaining pursuit to speculate upon the subtleties of legal theory, or to trace from age to age the transmission of perennial maxims of political wisdom; it is more instructive to discover, in any time and under any system of government, the identity of the agents and ministers of power. That task has all too often been ignored or evaded.
p. 346:
A democracy cannot rule an empire. Neither can one man, though empire may appear to presuppose monarchy. There is always an oligarchy somewhere, open or concealed.
p. 477:
Lack of prosecutors does not prove a lack of criminals.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?