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La costituzione mista in Polibio

Author(s): John Thornton

Journal: : Biblioteca Elettronica su Montesquieu e Dintorni
ISSN 2035-5769

Volume: 3;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: Mixed Constitution | Middle Constitution | Anacyclosis | Roman Republic | Aristotle | Montesquieu

This paper examines the theory of mixed constitution and the sociological doctrine of anacyclosis in Book VI of Polybius’ Histories. The ideal of a mixed government was popularized by Polybius, who saw the Roman Republic as a manifestation of Aristotle’s theory. Monarchy was embodied by the consuls, the aristocracy by the Senate, and democracy by the elections and great public gatherings of the assemblies. Each institution complements and also checks the others, presumably guaranteeing stability and prosperity. Polybius makes further distinction in the forms of government by including the nefarious counterparts to the ones mentioned above; tyranny, oligarchy, and ochlocrazy. These governments, according to Polybius cycle in a process called anacyclosis, which begins with monarchy and ends with ochlocrazy. The Roman model avoids this problem when it sets up the republic and becomes a mixture of the three types. Of course, none of this can happen without the censure of the people and no man can be installed in any position without the vote of the people. It is in this way, as Polybius understands it, that the strength of the Roman State is shown and held together. Polybius’ political beliefs have had a continuous appeal to republican thinkers from Cicero to Montesquieu to the Founding Fathers of the United States.
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