Polybius ? Histories Essay, Research Paper
Polybius wanted to explain to his fellow Greeks how the Romans had risen to world power in a short span of time. Polybius criticized bitterly those writers of his time who wrote history as romance or who blindly celebrated their homelands or famous men without regard to deeper truth. Polybius? combination of philosophical underpinnings, clear purposes and capable narrative made the important influence which he has been.
Polybius saw in the Roman constitution a marvelous combination of the three legitimate forms of government. The Roman Republic elected each year two Consuls as its joint heads of states. Although the terms of Consuls was short, and they could check one another, Polybius regarded the executive power of the Consuls as kingly in nature, providing the leadership which the Republic needed to manage its affairs, especially in times of crisis.
The Senators were selected on the basis of their wealth, moral character and experience. The Senate provided advice to the Consuls and others magistrates. They also regulated the treasury, directed military and foreign affairs and acted as a court in important cases. Polybius noted that foreigners including Greeks, often regarded the Roman Republic as aristocratic in nature.
Polybius referred to the third part of the Roman constitution simply by calling them the people. These ?people? elected the magistrates, made the laws and ratified the important decisions of the Senate.
Polybius followed his discussion of the military system of Rome with comparisons between the Roman constitution and the constitutions of some Greek states. He says for example, that Carthaginians were more skilled men in warfare, but they don?t have the valor of their men. His conclusion here is because they fell and we haven?t fell ours must be better.
Polybius? main contribution is the formation of a constitution characterized by a balance of the three legitimate forms of government. Balance is everything — like a “well-trimmed ship” says Polybius, which shall long remain afloat and reach its destined port.
The impact of classical models, especially Roman models, on the thinking of the Founders of this country helped to form a source for some words and stories. But, it did more than simply supply a surface vocabulary of names and allusions. A preoccupation with Roman history supplied Americans with an instinctive awareness of the fragility of liberty.
In their efforts to maximize the lifespan of the Republic which they were creating, the Founders consulted the experience of the Romans: they sought to benefit from the legacy of the past, in the same way that they hoped to leave a legacy of their own to the future. Among the ancient writings, which described the Roman Republic, none served as a more important guide to the strengths of the Roman Republic at the zenith of her vitality than the works of Polybius.