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1 Setting the Stage

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Chapter Summary

Ancient and modern analysts have praised the government of the Roman Republic for its dedication to shared power, which its leaders apparently achieved without significant dissent. The Roman populace also had some degree of authority: it elected its magistrates, declared war and peace, and voted on laws. This system was perfectly balanced, according to Polybius, during its prime in the late third century BCE. The mixed constitution is also the government that Cicero praises in his treatise on the state, the De Re Publica. In Roman authors' reconstruction of their own history, one might expect to find the fulfillment of the Republican ideal: that two men in power on the whole worked together without dispute and in the interest of the state. Many of the major players depicted in Rome's founding episodes are strongly marked as individual actors who work best alone.

Keywords: Cicero; De Re Publica; Polybius; Roman Republic



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