The most biggest lie about roman emperors

Jan 2015
3,538
Australia
Tiberius meant well and as a conservative wanted the senate to function with a degree of independence. He failed to realise that it wouldn't have suited him if they really HAD proved independent; and the psychology of the situation of his absolute power rendered most of them incapable of doing so anyway.
I tend to think Tiberius was just sick of it all once his son died, and he realised all his dreams of passing on power to a blood heir were gone. There are similarities between him and Sulla actually, though Sulla was the far more capable.

As for the Senate, it's use was basically confined to being a springboard from which someone could aspire to be the new Emperor, after which it became subservient to this new Emperor rather than the other way around.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,303
Just want to go back and highlight this comment, because it encapsulates everything wrong with Cal's argumentation. First, he poses the most outrageously inaccurate comment he's made in pages, then he follows it up by asking whether we "want to be taken seriously in this debate". Nero not dictatorial. Nero. Nero! It's a claim like this that makes clear that:
1) You either need to do alot more reading about Nero's career, or
2) Your definition of "dictatorial" exists in it's own parallel universe, with a meaning that is totally different to the actual meaning it possesses.
Nero who had his brother poisoned, killed his mother, executed his first wife, then his girlfriend, had treason trials to remove his enemies, ordered his own tutor to commit suicide, and delayed the Olympics for a year so he could enter; awarding himself the medals for all the events he entered. This was in addition to all the swathe of usual dictatorial powers he exercised on a daily basis, which he inherited from the previous emperors, from fiat legal declarations and the removal/appointment of important governmental positions through to the oppression of minority groups on a large scale (for whatever reason he oppressed Christians, it seems evident he did it). He may not have been a very competent dictator, although the position of emperor had been left so strong by Augustus that he still survived for some years nonetheless, but here's no question Nero was a dictator. Truly a jaw dropping claim on your part that he wasn't. He may not have really and truly ramped up the exercise of those powers until he'd gotten comfortable in the job, but the guy was only 16 when he ascended. Got to give him some time.
Actually I suggest you do the reading. Anyone who places Elagabulus in the same category as Hitler and Stalin needs some education.

DIctatorial means what it says. it's the same definition as you find in any dictionary. The problem is you're applying it to create a stereotype where none existed. Nero was guilty of dynastic crimes. That was survival in the Roman world in much the same way similar behaviour is repeated in any culture where power and wealth are available. However, one cannot read about Nero without encountering his boredom with governmental affairs, and his preference for the celebrity lifestyle. He worked hard at becoming a performing artist - though his reviews were privately disastrous - and showed off his greatness by driving chariots in the circus (He fell off a couple times, didn't finish, and was awarded victory anyway)

Nero was effectively put in place by his mother, Agrippina the Younger, who was a far more domineering presence than him. The early coins of his reign show them both as equals, and for a ruler of Rome to be a 'mummy's boy' must have been intolerable in the context of Rome's masculine society. He went on night-time boozes with his mates, indulging in a youthful practice of beating up unfortunate individuals they encountered in the dark alleyways. This was not unusual for Rome's youngsters. However, one of his victims recognised him, and Nero - panicking as he often did - stabbed him, putting the body in the sewers. This was not dictatorial behaviour but lads behaving badly. Rome was like that at night.

As Nero grew older he became more self confident and self obsessed. His mother was trying all sorts of shenanigans to keep him under control, reputedly offering herself for incest (She had had reputedly indulged Caligula in that regard). Agrippina was an embarrasment to him and needed getting rid of. He tried to poison her, though she had apparently forseen that possibility, and made an attempt to drown her via a ship rigged to sink. The attempt was disastrous. Chaos broke out on the ship as sailors either in on the plot or ignorant of it struggled. A slave woman declared herself as Agrippina pleading for help - she was beaten to death there and then. The real Agrippina swam ashore, and when Nero found out she had survived the attempt, he panicked again, sending soldiers to bump her off.

Nero also conducted a scheme after the Great Fire in 64 of whereby he blackmailed senators and wealthy patricians to leave him their estate in their wills and commit suicide, or else their families would suffer. With his plans for Neropolis costing a vast sum, he needed cash, and quickly. This was one of the reasons why he was eventually declared an enemy of the state - whereupon he panicked again and fled, only to despair and have his slave kill him because he couldn't commit suicide.

An egotist, certainly, but dictatorial? Not by the standards we infer, and like many of the self important Roman caesars he lost control of the state by his own indulgences. If you want figures that come close to the familiar twentieth century dominators, you need to look at different personalities. Constantine the Great, Septimius Severus, or to a lesser degree Trajan and Hadrian. The fact a Roman was using his power badly and ended up in a bad way doesn't equate to dictatorial politics. For that, you need people who rule with stern firmness and ruthless intent to maintain control. That is not true of either Caligula or Nero.

And there was no position of Emperor. The Romans did not allow monarchs during the Principate. None of them were awarded ruling power in one hit or title, office, or whatever. They were dominating politics for one reason or another and accumulated enough of a power portfolio to justify control. Rome was not a twentieth century fascist state.
 
Jan 2015
3,538
Australia
Actually I suggest you do the reading. Anyone who places Elagabulus in the same category as Hitler and Stalin needs some education.
You seem to be conflating different ideas, ones I'm not sure anyone here has presented. Has anyone said Elagabulus was in the same category as Hitler? I haven't seen that anywhere certainly, and definitely didn't say it. Obviously there are degrees of dictatorial control. That has no bearing on whether the Emperors were dictators (they certainly were). The fact someone else in history might have wielded even greater authority doesn't negate this in any way (though whether that is true is up for debate for a lot of the Emperors).

DIctatorial means what it says. it's the same definition as you find in any dictionary. The problem is you're applying it to create a stereotype where none existed.
Again, I think you're clearly projecting your own failures of argument onto us. For instance, you say dictatorial has the same definition as I'd find in any dictionary. Ok, here's some of the first definitions I googled:
DICTATOR | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary

a leader who has complete power in a country and has not been elected by the people

a person who gives orders and behaves as if they have complete power:


Here's another definition:
the definition of dictator
a person exercising absolute power, especially a ruler who has absolute unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession

So the gist is basically the same as the common sense meaning. It's a person with absolute power, not accountable to democratic processes. You basically conceded this already, by admitting that to oppose an Emperor like Augustus you'd need to act outside the legal system; because within the legal system his power is effectively unchallengeable. The problem is you're projecting a stereotype of a dictator who is basically Dr Doom or Ainz from Overlord; someone whose power is absolute in a fantastical and unrealistic manner. Under such a characterisation nobody in history has been a dictator ever. Nothing is absolute to the degree you expect the power of a dictator to be. Hitler and Stalin, two examples you invoke as apparently valid dictators, were almost assassinated or killed while in office. Both survived in part due to pure dumb luck. Were they not dictators because it was technically possible to overthrow them? Hitler lost power because he was overthrown in a war. Stalin could have been overthrown in a war too. Dictators are always at risk of such a coup, even if it is unlikely. I don't see how that invalidates the dictatorial nature of their power. Hitler was at least legitimately elected in the first instance, and we could muse on ways that other factions from the recently democratic Germany might have been able to oppose him still. It would have been tough, but more plausible than democratic forces challenging a Roman Emperor (this basically never happened successfully in centuries of history).

You discount Nero as a dictator because he was "bored" with absolute power. Who cares? He still had absolute power, which is the point. You don't need a Dr Doom obsession with constantly exerting your dominance to count as a valid dictator. Where in the standard dictionary does it say you are only a dictator if you enjoy it? No, Rome was not exactly identical in structure to 20th century governments 2000 years in the future. Duh. But I'm at a loss to understand what these Hitler and Stalin dictatorships possessed that made them "valid" dictatorships, while the Emperors were somehow "invalid". In some ways the power of the some Emperors was even more absolute.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,303
No, he did not have absolute power. You really let your imagination run away with you. Despite the wild anecdotes and clear abuse of his position in society, his power was not provided in total and singular terms. I keep explaining this to you but the truth is you don't like what history says. All you want are the fairy stories about Roman emperors. Okay. But let me know when you want to be serious about Roman history.
 
Mar 2018
753
UK
No, he did not have absolute power. You really let your imagination run away with you. Despite the wild anecdotes and clear abuse of his position in society, his power was not provided in total and singular terms. I keep explaining this to you but the truth is you don't like what history says. All you want are the fairy stories about Roman emperors. Okay. But let me know when you want to be serious about Roman history.
No power is total, absolute, and singular. He couldn't reverse time for example, of run at 1000mph. But you don't need total, absolute, and singular power to be a dictator; requiring that as a definition for dictator is defining the term such that it is impossible to be a dictator. HOWEVER, his political power was so great that he had nobody who came vaguely close to rivalling him, and nobody could remove that political power from him short of a coup. That makes him a dictator and autocrat by any sensible definition of the term.
 
Jan 2015
3,538
Australia
No, he did not have absolute power. You really let your imagination run away with you. Despite the wild anecdotes and clear abuse of his position in society, his power was not provided in total and singular terms. I keep explaining this to you but the truth is you don't like what history says. All you want are the fairy stories about Roman emperors. Okay. But let me know when you want to be serious about Roman history.
Like Olleus says above; no dictators power is utterly absolute in real life, this isn't a comic book. In what way would the classic emperors powers have been less than Stalin or Hitler, two dictators you seem to regard as "valid" dictators? It seems to me all the criticisms you make of the Roman Emperors for not being dictators would apply much the same to them.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,303
HOWEVER, his political power was so great that he had nobody who came vaguely close to rivalling him, and nobody could remove that political power from him short of a coup. That makes him a dictator and autocrat by any sensible definition of the term.
Your political science is woeful. Whilst no-one is going to argue that Augustus was able to construct considerable influence, he did not do so in the manner of latter day dictators, nor was he dictatorial in office. Had he been so, there were plenty of conspirators waiting in the wings for some inkling of support. The fact remains that Augustus played out his role with adherence to republican sympathies. As I previously described, he was also willing to respect individual opinion, free will, and self determination - factors that determine whether anyone is a human being or an animal. Where the Senate decreed against him - and a few times they did such as the rulings on marriage - he accepted the adverse course of events without persecution. He was therefore a very powerful politician, not a very powerful dictator.

Like Olleus says above; no dictators power is utterly absolute in real life, this isn't a comic book
Good grief. Keep up the good work. That's one of your sacred cows overturned.
 
Mar 2018
753
UK
You quoted my post, and then gave a completely unrelated reply... Here are two simple yes/no questions, please just answer them directly.

1) Is it true that nobody had the political power to rival August, or remove him from power, short of a coup?
2) Is that, to you, enough for him to be a dictator?


Now your post seems to be about Augustus not being evil or mean to people, and listening to advisers (which is, at most, what the Senate had become). Sure, he did that. That doesn't mean he wasn't a dictator. A dictator doesn't have to go around chopping bits off people , or demanding everyone has exactly the same beliefs as him, or screaming like a mad man to be a dictator. I'd go as far as to say Augustus was a benevolent dictator. But that still makes him a dictator.

Honestly, I think what's happening here is that you hold Augustus to a high regard, and think of dictator as a derogatory term, and therefore are twisting yourself into knots to make that term not apply to him.
 
Jan 2015
3,538
Australia
Your political science is woeful. Whilst no-one is going to argue that Augustus was able to construct considerable influence, he did not do so in the manner of latter day dictators, nor was he dictatorial in office. Had he been so, there were plenty of conspirators waiting in the wings for some inkling of support. The fact remains that Augustus played out his role with adherence to republican sympathies. As I previously described, he was also willing to respect individual opinion, free will, and self determination - factors that determine whether anyone is a human being or an animal. Where the Senate decreed against him - and a few times they did such as the rulings on marriage - he accepted the adverse course of events without persecution. He was therefore a very powerful politician, not a very powerful dictator.


Good grief. Keep up the good work. That's one of your sacred cows overturned.
This latest turn from you continues the strange journey your argument has gone on. Now a dictator is only a dictator based on their "state of mind", not "the actual powers they exercised and possessed in reality". This is a bizarre definition of a dictator, undoubtedly unique to you. In what way were dictators you apparently consider "valid" dictators different to your average entrenched Roman emperor like Augustus, Hadrian, Tiberius, etc. Don't tell me about their state of mind, or whether they were angry, happy, sad, liked chocolates on weekends, etc. Whether you like being a dictator, or have a "dictatorial mindset" has nothing to do with the actual powers you possess and exercise. Your description of augustus as accepting free will, self determination, etc, is just a fantasy. Yes, he would accept those things on fringe issues that didn't change his fundamental grip on power... but if you crossed him he'd happily destroy you, as he did so many times. Having learnt that lesson the new Senate he assembled himself wasn't going to ever make any meaningful attempt to challenge his powers, and it was the same deal with the emperors that followed him. This has been explained at great length and it seems like you're just not reading people's arguments.
 
Feb 2011
1,078
Scotland
Whilst no-one is going to argue that Augustus was able to construct considerable influence, he did not do so in the manner of latter day dictators, nor was he dictatorial in office. Had he been so, there were plenty of conspirators waiting in the wings for some inkling of support. The fact remains that Augustus played out his role with adherence to republican sympathies. As I previously described, he was also willing to respect individual opinion, free will, and self determination - factors that determine whether anyone is a human being or an animal. Where the Senate decreed against him - and a few times they did such as the rulings on marriage - he accepted the adverse course of events without persecution. He was therefore a very powerful politician, not a very powerful dictator.
Perhaps you would define what you consider constitutes 'Dictatorial in Office' as well as explaining in what ways you consider modern day dictators are different from ancient, technology aside.

The fact that you consider that had he been unfeeling in his attitude to his senators, then 'conspirators were waiting in the wings' suggests you believe a coup d'état might have been the upshot; which in and of itself suggests that no route within constitutional remedies was to hand for dissidents. This rather supports the concept of Augustus not being removable without recourse to murder and therefore acting as do facto, dictator. (I realise this was not theoretically the case de jure).

The fact that he worked with senators, could be generous to them and allowed them to make decisions (non-vital ones) from time to time is perfectly in keeping even with such extreme examples of dictators as Hitler or Stalin. Nevertheless, Greek coins of the period start to refer to Augustus/Tiberius as Autokrator, or sole ruler.

Since even a dictator cannot do all the work- only so many hours in a day- he must delegate. That was the Senate's new task, an executive body, no longer only advisory. In that degree, there was co-operation or partnership- a co-operation akin to a proprietor and his (or her) employees. The boss needs the employees, can reward them and delegate to them. Ultimately however, the buck stops with him. (S)He can hire- or fire. He takes the responsibility for the success or failure of the company ultimately- or the state, if he is dictator.
 

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