Friday, November 25, 2005

Tyranny

Thucydides, son of Olorus, was a citizen of Athens. He lived, we think, between the 460's and the early 390's BCE. His history of the Peloponnesian War stands as the definitive account of Athens and Sparta at the height of their power; economic, political, military, cultural. One was ruled by two Kings, five Ephors and 28 old men in the Gerousia. The other was ruled, according to Thucydides by those who flatter the Demos as though it were a tyrant - the demagogues. Speakers in the Athenian Assembly who could carry the vote by the force of their argument and by force of their reputation.

In modern times, no one dares speak against Democracy. It is the Goddess to which all pay homage, even if that homage amounts only to lip service to camouflage a hidden viewpoint. In many ventures into the meeting place between theory and practice I have discussed what democracy actually is as applied to NationStates. Perhaps an approach that would be more successful is that examining what tyranny might be. In doing so, my readers will have to forgive me for utilizing examples from Ancient Rome or Classical Greece and their respective worlds.

A subject of comparatively recent study has been the method by which elections occurred under the Roman Empire, particularly in the early years under Augustus and Tiberius, the first and second Emperors of Rome respectively. The technical terms include nominatio, commendatio and suffragatio. These terms cover the ways in which the wishes of the Emperor might be known and his chosen candidate appointed to the relevant office. These were legal terms enshrining a system whereby the elections were controlled when the Emperor wished them to be but were subject to competition when he did not.

No scholar I have ever read questioned whether or not the people involved agreed with the system and if not, why they did not protest it.

The first provides an interesting area of study. All of our sources portray the Senate as a willing accomplice in the new world order. No wonder perhaps since their ascendancy was assured by Augustus who, as a political manipulator far excelled his adoptive father. Gaius Iulius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator Perpetua preferred giving clear orders and expected them to be obeyed, responding with proscriptions and murder when they were not. Yet all the military ascendancy of Caesar did not protect him from a vengeful Senate which felt its own dignitas to be affronted by this short balding little man.

Why was Augustus not assassinated in like manner? For certain the Praetorian Guard were created under Augustus - but they could not have stopped a Brutus nor a Cassius had his associates Agrippa and Maecenas wished to fulfil those roles. Any Senator could in fact have fulfilled this role and killed Augustus Caesar while he spoke in the Senate. With the deed done, the imperial household would have stood leaderless; as anyone who has studied Ancient Rome knows, Augustus went through an awful lot of trouble to designate a successor and the process was not complete until some thirty five years into his reign. Republicans might have moved to restore the Republic - as Agrippa is alleged by Cassius Dio to have wanted.

If we consider then that the Senate was indeed an accomplice in its own subjugation, must we not ask then, how was Augustus a tyrant if at all? He was a supreme ruler with unlimited authority. With regard to the Senate, is this not a form of democracy? After all, if they did not want the Emperor in control, they need only kill him (not an unusual occurrence in the Republic for those who made themselves a nuisance to the wrong people). Or they could leave Rome. They were there voluntarily after all. Yet Rome provided great wealth to the local elites which flocked to it.

I leave it to the reader to draw the comparisons between the arguments and viewpoints laid out herein and any actual organisation. Undoubtedly I need not even name the one foremost in my mind, with its very own Antonine spider at the centre of the web, to paraphrase the Cambridge Ancient History Vol XI, for people to understand what I aim at.

In every tyranny there are those who agree with the tyrant. Those who keep silent because they derive some benefit from the tyranny. There are those who point that anyone who argues can leave if they don't like the tyranny. There are those who point to the absence of opposition to indicate a democracy. There are those who point to levers whereby the tyrant might be removed as though they indicate the lack of a tyranny. It is amusing to understand how wholly flawed the viewpoint of these people can be.