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2 - The republic's two ends

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Mikael Hörnqvist
Affiliation:
Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
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Summary

A city that lives free has two ends – one to acquire, the other to maintain itself free.

Niccolò Machiavelli

The Renaissance idea that the Republic had two ends – one internal, centered around the classical concept of liberty (libertas), and one external, aspiring to acquisition of dominion (imperium), material goods, greatness, and glory – went back to the revival of Roman republicanism in the fourteenth century. During the early Trecento Roman historians, primarily Livy and Sallust, began to exert a profound influence on the intellectual life of the Italian city-states. In Livy's history of Rome, republican theorists encountered the fullest and most detailed history of the Roman republic ever written. Livy relates how Rome rose from her obscure and humble beginnings to become the ruler of the world, and how the early kingship developed into a strong and vigorous republic based on citizenship, liberty, the common good, simple and austere mores, piety towards the ancestral gods, and an ardent and uncompromising pursuit of personal glory. From Sallust was derived the notion that republican government, expansionism, and imperial authority were not merely compatible but closely related and mutually supportive phenomena. The idea that freedom-loving republics are more acquisitive and more vigorous than monarchies and principalities underlies his widely read Bellum Catilinae, where Rome's exceptional growth under the republic is contrasted to her more hesitant progress under the kings and the stagnation and decline that followed her loss of liberty.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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