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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - What Makes a Republic?

What Makes a Republic?

The purpose of this collegium is to establish a group for those interested in ancient philosophy and a place where philosophical discussion and study may take place. Join at: http://romanrepublic.org/civitas/joint_ ... sophiae/42

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What Makes a Republic?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Thu Apr 21, 2016 3:04 pm

Salvete omnes!

In recognition of our wonderful Republic and the founding of Rome, my next topic of discussion will be: What Makes a Republic?

What Makes A Republic.pdf
(455.06 KiB) Downloaded 122 times


Of course, I welcome comments and arguments!

Keep thinking!
C Cassia Longina
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Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Fri Apr 22, 2016 12:41 pm

Salvete, Quirites!

The anniversary of the foundation of our capital is a nica opportunity to remember what a republic is about.
I think it cannot be said in a better way than Cicero did. A republic is a community of citizens working for the common good and common values. It is not necessariily a community of friends.

Unfortunately not all modern and ancient republics by name have followed these principles. Sometimes the common good was replaced by the good of a ruling elite or the citizens have only a very limited participation or the community has no common values any more.

Modern democracies have all suffered from the creation of a separate class of public servants who have come to be identified as "the State", while citizens just feel as subjects of the State. Their participation is limited to the ballots every four years. They do not feel responsible to work for justice in the republic and leave this to the police, the attorneys and the politicians. The defense of the republic is left to professional soldiers. Every responsibility within the modern states is assigned to a certain class of professionals, so the citizen does not really feel that he has part in the res publica, which means the public affairs.

In modern Europe there is now additionally a new problem, which is the lack of common values. Huge masses of people from foreign cultures are important who have different values. So there is nothing left, which would give the citizens of the European states a feeling of community. They feel often closer to people in other countries than citizens of their own republic. For example an ethnic French (Frank, Gaul or whatever you want to call him) feels that he has more in common with other Westerners like a Canadian, an Australian or American than with a fellow citizen of Algerian descent. Equally the French citizen of Algerianbackground feels that he has more in common with members of other Arab nations who share his culture and values.

The concept of a republic is in a serious crisis. The people cannot identify with their nation state anymore for the above mentioned reasons.
And this is also the reason why we have come together here to create the Roman Republic. We come from different nation states, but we feel alienated from them. Here we find people of similar values and a common culture (the Roman one). And here we can still participate and take responsibility in our republic.
In some way this online community is closer to the idea of a republic than the modern nation states. There is apparently a certain desire to live and to be part in a real republic. The modern nation states cannot satisfy this desire any more.

Curate ut valeatis!
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Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Fri Apr 22, 2016 6:22 pm

Gaia Cassia Longina
 

Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sun Apr 24, 2016 11:55 am

I would like to say a few words about how I really got so fascinated with the political system of the Roman Republic.

From the movies I had seen about ancient Rome I had the impression that Rome was a fascist state, that military patrolled the streets and that order was based on the use of force, an ubiquitous military and a strict hierarchy.
I could not be more wrong.

The real eye opener for me was the book "SPQR" by John Maddox Roberts that showed a totally different Rome and which was actually the historically correct one as I discovered to my surprise after looking up all these surprising details.

There was no police in the times of the Republic. Nobody was armed within the pomerium, not even a legionary could enter it with his weapons and armor and the lictores had to remove the axes from their fasces. Even in imperial times the pomerium was a demilitarized zone where the praetorian guards wore plain clothes and no armor or visible weapons. This is so totally different from the movie version of Rome.

When somebody was arrested for a crime the praetor simply summoned him by sending one of the two lictores to him that he had within the pomerium. And the accused would come, just because of the authority of the praetor who he had after all voted into office himself. The praetor did not need force. The dignity of his office was enough. And if the accused would resist, then the praetor simply needed to call any bystander for help and he would immediately obey his authority and enforce the law.
The power of the magistrates was not based on force, but simply on the dignity of their office. And after one year the magistrate would again become a normal citizen who could be sued in court for any misconduct. He was just a simple citizen who had temporarily held a public office.. This is the entire meaning of res publica, the public affairs.. It is every citizen's responsibility.

If we imagine such a system today with an unarmed sheriff that is elected for only one year and who would be obeyed without any armed deputies in a city where nobody carries a weapon, but which at the same time has the strongest military of the world, it would be almost unthinkable. Nobody would believe that such a system could ever work. Without the heavily armed law enforcement agencies that have all the citizens outgunned, law and order would not work anymore.
Nevertheless the Roman Republic worked successfully for many centuries. This is the evidence that such a true republic can indeed function, a republic based on dignitas and responsibility, not on force.
This also shows us how far we have deviated from the republican ideals. We cannot even imagine them anymore to work. Rome was a real democracy (in spite of what modern sociologists claim), our modern democracy is only a shadow of it. We do not understand what "rule of the people" (i.e. demokratia) actually means and that the right to vote is only an insignificant part of it.
In the Roman Republic the citizens were the public officers, the law enforcement, the military and the government. There was no class of professional politicians, soldiers, policemen or public employees. It was the normal citizen who was in charge of all this. And for a short period he could be elected in a special function. But he always remained a simple citizen and he became a simple citizen again afterwards.
The late Roman Republic was a society of equals and no titles were used. No citizen kneeled before another one, not even the Emperor (at least during the principate when the Roman Empire was still Roman). Everybody was first of all a citizen even when the individuals were distinguished by their wealth. Dignity and merit were what assigned a citizen to his position in society.

There is much we can learn from the Roman Republic.
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Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Lucius Vitellius Triarius » Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:40 pm

Being a former corrections officer, I have always found it absolutely fascinating that when one was arrested and placed in the carcer in the forum...the carcer had NO BARS OR DOORS! It was open and you were free to run away...you were killed if you did, but you were free to attempt it. Imagine a penal system today where there are no bars on the cells. Unthinkable. Today's criminals have no thought of displeasing the gods or any results that might occur from such actions...and of course, absolutely no honor in dealing with others, nor respect for our modern day "praetors." Sad world we live in.
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Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Mon Apr 25, 2016 6:22 pm

Master Triarius;

We in the US also operate under the code of the Constitution which has certain stringent rules about cruel punishments. When convicts escape from prison in the modern day they are not killed, but rather sought after, caught, and reimprisoned. Now, this cost is borne by the government and therefore by the citizens as a whole.

I would doubt very much that thieves, murderers, and such of the Roman Republic considered reverence to their gods any more than criminals of the modern day have any reverence toward their dieties, whatever/whoever they may be. The human attitudes have changed little in the 2000+ years since the Roman Republic. I suspect that theRoman convict's fear that they would be killed by an efficient and ruthless government; would much more the reason that they stayed in a barless prison, than any thought of their gods.

Now please do not get me wrong, like most correction officers, I believe that there are some who certainly deserve to die immediately and by the hand of such officers for the hienious crimes they commit, :( but we all live and obey a greater agenda, unlike any other country in the world. I am in agreement withmost of the ideas of the ancient world, and todays world would have many of the same values understood if our representatives were focused on service to those whom they represented, rather than to themselves, which gives rise to those criminals who take advantage of others. :(

Respectfully;
Marcus Audens
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Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Lucius Aurelius Curio » Tue Apr 26, 2016 7:41 am

Curio Audens Sal.

To a degree I agree with you on the mindset of criminals. However, the state of the world now is one of anti-religion. Back then, they even had deities for thieves and criminals. So they had a respect for the gods that is missing in our modern time. Whether it was the government or fear of the gods that kept them from running can only be truthfully answered by those long sent to meet Charon.

As for the pomerium, I also find that to be an interesting concept, one which I wish could be implemented in our modern society. The nobility of political offices nowadays has greatly lessened due to a combination of corruption and lack of respect of said authority. A very sad day and age this is. Most people believe their personal justifications put them above the law, which is quite sad. After all sed lex, dura lex.

Vale!

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Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Tue Apr 26, 2016 8:47 pm

Salvete,

While I do agree that the nobility of politics certainly has declined, I do not believe that religion necessarily has such a huge impact, because religion is still a large factor in our world (even if it is not in our lives, particularly). I agree - that if we placed the same honor on offices as they did, we could live in a world where no bars or doors on cells would happen. Sadly, we do not.
Although I agree with most of you, I must say that I do not think religion has such a part as one may think. Possibly the morals of our time has deteriorated leading to the politician's lack of --- nobility. Or maybe since the politicians' morals have deteriorated, that leads to the decline of the general populace's morals and ethics?
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Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Wed Apr 27, 2016 10:31 am

I agree with Cassia Longina. I also do not believe that it was the fear of the gods that prevented a defendent to run away. I think it was the spirit of the Republic. People defined themselves as citizens of the Republic. When they were accused of a crime, then they wanted to explain their case to the public. They accepted the legitimacy of the trial and the praetor and trusted in the justice of the system.
Dignitas (one's standing in the public) was very important for them. Exile was feared as one of the worst punishments. And running from prison would be identical with voluntary exile without the chance of ever returning to Rome.
Today's criminals are different. They feel not as part of any republic. Thy are outsiders. Often they have not even any loyalty to their criminal gang they might belong to. They are extremely individualist and their public standing has no meaning for them.

The problem was to allow such a class of people to form within the society. The very values of our society, which are otherwise very positive, have made this possible.
It is our tolerance towards behavior that deviates from the norm, something that did not exist in earlier centuries. And it is the right of free movement within a country and even internationally. In earlier centuries it was dangerous to be a stranger. Even being a stranger in a village or a small town had significant disadvantages. In antiquity it was impossible to travel through or settle down in a foreign country without a major number of armed guards and an agreement with the locals. Today travelling is easy and a fugitive crminal can go anywhere without fear for his safety.

We certainly do not want to abolish our tolerance and our almost global freedom of movement, but we have to be aware that this will also benefit criminals. What could be done, is educating our children to develop a republican spirit as well as a sense of honor and dignitas. But this is difficult in one of the modern republics that have no identity anymore and no common system of values and culture. I had hoped that human rights and the values of Enlightenment could provide such a system of values that was worth fighting for, but apparently they did not. Nobody is willing to fight and defend this freedom, only to enjoy it.

We have to live with the sad reality that there are people among us that dispise the laws and have no sense of belonging to any republic. Therefore our jails need to have bars.
The necessity of using force and military to enforce the laws is a phenomenon that we can also see in imperial Rome. Augustus had to introduce an armed police force, the cohortes urbanae, and the praetorian guards to ensure order in the City. And they wore arms even within the pomerium, although they wore them concealed to maintain at least the appearance of the sanctity of the pomerium.
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Re: What Makes a Republic?

Postby Appius Claudius Tuscus » Thu Jul 07, 2016 11:31 pm

Salvete, omnes -

Cassiae Longinae - I found your .pdf much worth the reading, thank you.

Omnibus - One thing I thought I might mention is that (to my mind) the special quality of a proper republic is that it (1) maintains its unity and identity (2) based around a shared notion of the Common Good, but (3) does so DESPITE the antagonisms and disagreements inherent in human nature, in differences in economic interest, and in cults and factions. For at least the functional majority of citizens and residents, a quite basic and somewhat flexible idea of the Common Good must be shared; and for that republic to function, that Common Good has to involve both (i) a recognized authority for settling differences and (ii) a common recognition of quid pro quo (I uphold your rights so that you uphold mine).

Freedom with (and tempered by) Community, that's my two cents on the res publica.

Valete.
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