5
The Political Theorizing of Book 6

As we will see in the epilogue, the warm praise he received from John Adams, the second president of the United States of America, reflects the high regard in which Polybius has been held by political scientists since he first entered the stream of modern political thought at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Although some scholars have doubted the value of his political theorizing, in almost any contemporary discussion of Republican forms of government Polybius continues to receive honorable mention. The source of this fame is his discussion of the Roman constitution in book 6, in particular his analysis there of the way in which Rome’s government, as he saw it, was a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. This analysis is, as far as we know, the first attempt to apply Greek political theory to the reality of Roman governmental structures and history, and the only attempt by someone who was technically an outsider to understand Roman success in terms of its constitutional excellence. Even if it is not equally successful in all its aspects, it is still a remarkable, problematic, and fascinating part of Polybius’ bequest to posterity.

Book 6 was integral to Polybius’ purpose, an essential part of his whole design. His fundamental aim, stated right at the start of the

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Polybius' Histories
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Editors’ Foreword v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Maps xi
  • Contents xv
  • Introduction 3
  • 1- Contents and Organization of the Work 17
  • 2- The Historian’s Task 51
  • 3- Art and History- The Narrative of Books 4 and 5 95
  • 4- The Historian as Homeric Hero 129
  • 5- The Political Theorizing of Book 6 169
  • Epilogue- into the Future 203
  • Appendix- Outline of the Work 223
  • Bibliography 241
  • Prominent Persons 247
  • Index 257
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