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Cassius Loginus

Republican Politics

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However, I would remind you that simply because the Romans did operate a voracious conquest state does not necessarily mean that their domestic politics were not reasonably, even exceptionally democratic for the times.

I'm not disputing the apparatus of roman democracy, just to what extent it actually meant to the ordinary people. Study of such things tends to emphasise these laws and such, which is fine, but I see it as more important to study how meaningful these laws actually were and how people related to them. For instance, a law might say that the population were allowed some benefit, whereas the great and good simply ignore it as an incovenience. Thats not a historical point, just that things aren't always so cut and dried and records of various institutions don't underwrite everyones actions and views.


Actually, the Presidential election is quite undemocratic, as long as we follow the rather ambiguous definition of "democratic" that you have argued for. And what is so wrong with comparing the Roman system to the American?

Democracy is always ambiguous, because it relies on the sum of differing opinions. But then I notice a lot of people have very precise definitions of what they believe democracy to be, whereas I would say it's a generic term for a range of possible systems.


I would argue that democracy as an unattainable ideal is actually a rather modern conception. I'm not quite certain how you can assert that the Greeks fell short in democratizing - they did invent it as a system of government, after all. I would like to hear your argument for why democracy is more an ideal than a concrete system - the Athenians certainly did not quibble over such matters, because democracy was simply their system of government. As conceived, democracy was simply a form of government that allowed the Athenian citizens to vote in a body on policy and governing matters. I think the idea of democracy as some grand "Brotherhood of Man", where all are allowed to speak and be heard would be quite alien to Athens.

Cato's description of a 'free state' is a specific description of socio-political contructs, which require rules, regulations, boundaries, obligations, and responsibilities. These are not freedoms. A society of that nature protects a certain amount of freedom in theory, not in practice, because as we know human nature tends toward getting what you want at someone elses expense. People thrive on exploitation, and always have. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some anarcho-commie rebel in the hills, but all our socio-political constructs are extensions and derivations of instinctive social behaviour, which even on a primitive level require that members of the herd do as the boss says or you get bitten, humiliated, or chased away. The greeks invented a democratic system (I believe they were the first?), but I would shy away from describing it as a huge step forward in human relations. It was extraordinary political experiment but one that actually doesn't usually work too well, since inevitably an individual comes along and says, 'No, I want to be top dog'. Which is why modern democracy is about voting for leaders as opposed to the greek participation method. And lets face, since when did modern politicans give ordinary people a chance to participate directly unless they can benefit from that themselves? Where the romans any different? No, of course not. You have a non-hereditary aristocracy that like calling the shots. I've no doubt some of them were happy with roman democracy as it stood, I can easily see some of them hissing with fury and frustration when they couldn't get their own way. So what do you do about that? You make allies. You do a deal. You persuade people to do what you want both publicly and privately. You do as the romans.

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