Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

Sign in to follow this  
Guest spartacus

Power Corrupts

Recommended Posts

Guest spartacus

Some Emporers whom gained total power used it on the whole quite wisely, others did not!

 

The question for this thread is :

 

Does having to much power corrupt ?

 

 

Would Rome and Romans have been better off if Emporers were given limited powers instead of total control ?

 

Your thoughts please ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Does having to much power corrupt ?

If one believes Shakespeare than yes. :D I however don't think so. Corruption is as much a result of systems, just as much as it is of the individual morals of those involved. The powerful can be corrupt or not corrupt, depending on the system surrounding them and their own conviction. If the system is weak, one of weak character and in a position of power has a higher chance of corruption. Each variable would have a different possible equation in my opinion.

 

Would Rome and Romans have been better off if Emporers were given limited powers instead of total control ?

 

 

More of a philosophical question about Republic vs. Empire I think. If they weren't granted both Consular and Tribunician power, than they wouldn't have been 'Emperor'. I don't believe the system would have worked in that circumstance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it boils down to character above all else. PP is right about it is not a mear statement of republic verses empire but i think the systems do have their pitfalls. In the republic it requires that a person put the state above his own interests or it will fail. Someone with personal ambition with no concern for the Republic will cause it to tremble -- See Julius Caeser. :D

In the Empire --the absolute power of the Emporers could be used for good or evil. But what it was used for depended greatly on the person who was the Emporer and what they would do with that power.

 

Character wins the day -- it is possible for a person to have a great deal of power but use it for the interests of others. On the other hand they could use it for themselves. The choice was up to them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest spartacus

So the debate comes down to either Empire or Republic!

 

Which do you prefer and why ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The republic at its end was corrupt to the core. the Boni versus Caesar. The senate was always corrupted by Patricians as well as the courts. The empire I have little knowledge of as I have not yet begun my study of it. What I will say is after the end of the julii line of emperors things just got ugly. If you want to point a finger, Gaius Marius is a good choice. His reformation of the army to make troops loyal to the general instead of the state caused civil wars in the late republic- Sulla and Marius/ Pompey and Caesar/ Octavius and Anthony. This also was true in the empire after the end of the age of peace in the early empire. By 500 AD Rome was so corrupt that it nearly rotted, only to be saved by the Goths who preserved parts of Roman culture.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One might imagine the office of princeps becoming gradually restrained by law and custom as various royal traditions have done in other countries, such as in Britain. Unfortunately the system for both the emperor and the "nobles" (for lack of a better word) was too unstable to evolve along those lines.

 

The Republic might have worked if it had been considerably overhauled to take into account the reality of a world spanning empire. Unfortunately the Romans were too conservative (or, rather, the Senatorial oligarchy was too entrenched) to bring about decisive change except at the hands of a strong man government.

 

I certainly prefer Republics to Empires. But I don't mourn the fall of the Roman Republic because as it existed it couldn't deal with the realities of empires. The Empire gave Rome and its provinces another chance at survival, at least for a few generations before the parade of idiots and lunatics began.

 

Power corrupts? I would say it was the corruption of the patrician oligarchy of the Republican era, rather than the corruption of later emperors, which is what ultimately led Rome on the track it did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does absolute power corrupt? Not necessarily, but it takes a very particular kind of character to deal with it.

More often than not it does indeed corrupt, eventually. There is a long line of absolute rulers who began their reigns well, only to sink into depravity, self indulgence, and paranoia.

 

As for Republic v Empire

Certainly, by the end the republic was becoming untenable and the creation of the Empire enabled the glories that were to follow. The thing is, its clear from history that fascist and totalitarian goverment works extremely well economically with the right man at the helm. I guess if you had to live in this era you would have to ask yourself which do you value more - the chimerical freedom of living in a corrupt and possibly dangerous and disintegrating republic or the security of living in a coherent totalitarian state, subject to the will of one man ? Seems like an easy choice but freedom is underrated by the many people these days who can afford to take it for granted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you want to point a finger, Gaius Marius is a good choice.

 

That is an excellent observation -- the late republic because of his actions was a place fo loyalties to the individual rather than the state like the Early and Middle Republics. The power became more concentrated in the few rather than the Senate. Gaius' reforms paved the way for the chaos that followed -- he wasn't thinking long term which does tend to be a weakness of republics.

The Empire did well in the early going but it began to fall out when the Emporers began to take their people for granted -- the problems with dictatorships is that when benevolent they rarely remain so and never permanently in any case.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Power can be corrupting....in the case of Fidel Castro, the guy started out loving Democracy and had full intention to have a Democracy in Cuba, but in the end the temptations of money, having an army at your finger tips and be loved by your Communist brainwashed Cuban people was to much and he effetivally became dictator for life. I mean I love Fidel Castro but all that wealth and power has made him blind to Democracy.

 

So yeah power can be corrupting, I am sure Napoleaon and Hitler started off with humble intentions to but they got greedy and well almost took over all of Europe. Or there is those types of people that known their going to have alot of power some day and plan it out when their really young and become great people.

(But thats a different story)

 

In the Empire's Case, I am sure alot of Emperors started out with humble intentions but in the end they became preety awful dictators. But also there is certain characters flaws, people can be naturally greedy and want everything so power has nothing to do with it, they were already power hungry before they got the power. Or there is good people like Marcus Aurelius who got power but never abused it.

 

So power can corrupt, but it also depends on a person's personality.

 

Zeke

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps it is not power itself that corrupts, but the jealousy of others. In my understanding, authority is synonem to responsibility. If those who you are responsible for disrespect you, well... It takes strong character indeed to sustain it. Or a very sober view.

 

Look at the 'mad' emperors. They were all disrespected in some fashion, even before they were emperor. Then look at the good emperor. I can't recall one bad remark on Augustus or Marcus Aurelius.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Demson is on the right track. There are people who live life by their own standards and people who live life by the standards of the people around them. The latter have essentially 'sold their soul' and these are the corruptable ones, IMO. After all, what real integrity do they have if they don't hold themselves to their wn standard? By the very nature of most positions of authority, its pretty much impossible to hold one without living by the standards of the people under your authority. If you don't then you're a 'selfish egotist'. :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What if you actually like the standards of a culture and find them reasonable and "moral"?

 

As I see Roman society, it was a system where people were concerned about their honor and social prestige. Which is fine. But there were certain safeguards put into place. It was fine to have glory as long as you didn't go out of your way to rub it into people's noses. It was fine to have wealth, but not to be obnoxiously crass about displaying it. It was fine to be a capable military leader, but you couldn't march your legions on Rome itself.

 

In other words, it was acceptable and expected you'd climb the social ranks and seek to have a spot light shone on your fame and glory. But you couldn't get so carried away with it that you crowded everyone else out and denied them their own possibility of climbing the ladder. The complaints from Sulla onward was the various strong men did overreach themselves and monopolize the spotlight. These strong men ignored the rather minimalist cultural standards placed on the social game. That's why an overreaching Caesar was murdered, why many of Antony's supporters ultimately deserted him, and conversely why a deliberately moderate Augustus was accepted.

 

It seems to me in the Roman world it wasn't power that was corrosive - Roman society was all about power. From politics, to the military, to even sexual activity. It was all about power. But when people tried to monopolize power, to go beyond a certain cultural standard in acquiring and displaying power, that's when the trouble started.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Culture does not supply standards and morals. It gives you norms for comparison. Everybody has their own perspective and is therefor relient upon their own judgement.

 

Copying the norms of a culture can not be done. There is not one single cultural norm. There are thousands of similar yet identical norms that makes culture.

 

Why was it wrong to rub your wealth into other people's noses? Because the dominant majority says it was wrong. Read; dominant majority. There will always be those who think it's alright to do. These are the ones usually causing corruption amongst those who 'go with the flow'.

 

Sometimes, going with the flow will work; if you're influenced by the dominant majority. But when you're not, that's when the ackward events happen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Culture does not supply standards and morals. It gives you norms for comparison. Everybody has their own perspective and is therefor relient upon their own judgement.

 

 

That's a completely modern view, influenced by postmodern deconstruction, and it might be valid for us moderns in the post Nietzsche era.

 

To ancient Romans, however, the traditional culture, the mos maiorum, the way of the ancestors, did furnish them with (in so many words) the ethics and values which they were expected to live by. When individuals or groups deviated from ancestral custom and established morality, they considered it "immoral." The Ancient Romans did not have the belief that every individual's perspective could be different but valid, or that culture rested on assumptions that could be arbitrary and oppressive which individuals could deconstruct and transcend at their leisure. Even most of the philosophers felt there was some ultimate nature to which human behavior should be subject, and deviation from that nature was unacceptable.

 

I think we should judge the ancient Romans by how they thought. To an upper class male in Roman society, power was everything and we he was expected to pursue it in all levels of his life. There was a definite social game to which all Romans of some background were expected to follow and pursue, but there were certain limitations built into the game by ancestral custom to keep it within certain parameters. When some individuals, either through political chicanery or mental defect, went beyond acceptable boundaries of acquisition and display, that's where the problems happened.

 

Personally I rather like the idea of pagan Rome that worldly glory and one's reputation is in some sense the whole point of life, as long as the pursuit thereof is kept within boundaries, it is not to begrudged. Wealth, power, fame, glory, honor, service to the patria. All good stuff. But I admit I am sort of a Heathen. I'm not much into modern religions which seem to be hostile to worldly glory. Nor am I postmodern desconstructionist, who all seem to become rather nervous any time a while male seeks after wealth or power.

 

Power corrupts? After a point, certainly. But I would say on the whole that power empowers. :rolleyes::) :) :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×