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The Republican Dictatorship: an Imperial Perspective

Burden-Strevens, C. W. (2019) The Republican Dictatorship: an Imperial Perspective. In: Osgood, J. and Baron, C., eds. Cassius Dio and the Late Roman Republic. Brill Historiography of Rome and Its Empire . Brill, Leiden & Boston, pp. 131-157. (KAR id:68940)


This chapter proposes to look at one of the less studied aspects of Cassius Dio’s narrative of the decline of the Republic, namely the dictatorship. It argues that, in keeping with his especial interest in the Republic’s institutions and constitutional framework, Dio believed that the collapse of the res publica and emergence of Augustus’ Principate was intimately connected to the failures—constitutional, practical, and reputational—of Rome’s emergency magistracy. It shows that as a monarchist, Dio believed that the Republic could only survive intact while it had a temporary recourse to legitimate and temporary monarchy under restrictions agreed by the community—dictatorship—and that this view perhaps emerges more from a reading of Cicero than from his fellow Greek historians. However, the failure of the dictatorship to inspire confidence in the wake of Sulla, especially in the 60s and 50s BCE, as well as its practical and legal restrictions, led to a greater number of corrosive extraordinary commands and other destructive innovations. The solution, for Dio, ultimately lay in Augustus, who (like Pompey) recognised the flaws in the dictatorship and found different ways to define his power.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: Cassius Dio, Late Republic, Roman Republic, Roman History, Dictatorship, Tyranny, Political Theory, Cicero, Coinage
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D51 Ancient History
D History General and Old World > DE The Greco-Roman World
J Political Science > JN Political institutions and public administration (Europe)
P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Christopher Burden-Strevens
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2018 16:12 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 06:35 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Burden-Strevens, C. W..

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