“The particular aspect of history which both attracts and benefits its readers is the examination of causes and the capacity, which is the reward of this study, to decide in each case the best policy to follow. Now in all political situations we must understand that the principle factor which makes for success or failure is the form of a state’s constitution: it is form this source, as if from a fountainhead, that all designs and plans of action ot only originate but reach their fulfillment.”
Roman historian Polybius contended that Rome survived her battles with the Carthaginian empire because Rome possessed a form of government that encouraged public and private virtue. Rome’s constitution was mixed, combining the best elements of each regime–monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. This creates stability and allows a nation to escape anacyclosis or the cycle of regimes. Without a mixed constitution, the government will endlessly revolve to the different forms of regime and cannot survive.
In this episode of Handmade Humanity, Austin Hoffman takes Polybius’s teaching on the Punic Wars and the Roman constitution and applies it to the current political climate in America. We should all heed this insight of the political philosophers because every human society has a form of government. By recognizing the seeds of destruction inherent in each form of governance, we can best prepare for the future and avoid evils.
Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire Penguin Edition