By Bruce Buchan, Lisa Hill (auth.)
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Additional resources for An Intellectual History of Political Corruption
112 Whether or not this kind of atavistic argument holds water, Rome’s decline does, in fact, seem to have correlated with an imperial escalation. With the spread of its Empire, Rome was no longer able to exert the effective ties of obedience that had previously made it strong. In its ‘better centuries’, it had been able to enforce law effectively, construct public works and wage war with great efﬁciency because ‘a generally accepted code of obligations pervaded both its public and private relations’.
Yet, we are also struck by the degree of moral uncertainty that vexes Fronto’s request; as a Stoic man of learning, he would have been well aware of where his moral duty lay. 160 Perhaps he also understood that such interference had a disproportionately bad effect on the legal standing of the poor. As Ammianus Marcellinus would later write, ‘unprincipled men inﬂict injuries because the laws are not valid against all classes. 162 Probus was ‘generous and ready to advance his friends, but sometimes a cruel schemer, working harm by his deadly jealousies’.
104 Sallust sees the corruption of the military as the death knell for Roman virtue; indeed, it was a common belief in antiquity that a peoples’ corruption is complete once the military has become infected. Prior to Rome’s greatness, waxes Sallust with unabashed nostalgia, ‘good morals were cultivated at home and in the ﬁeld’ and ‘justice and probity prevailed’. 105 However, when Rome ‘had grown great’ through its own efforts as well as through the ‘forced’ subjugation of ‘mighty people’, the population grew spoiled and no longer able to ‘bear hardship and dangers, anxiety and adversity’.
An Intellectual History of Political Corruption by Bruce Buchan, Lisa Hill (auth.)