The Polybian Moment: The Transformation of Republican Thought from Ptolemy of Lucca to Machiavelli

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Recent research has emphasized the continuities in European republican political thought from the late Middle Ages until well into the Renaissance and even beyond. Two of the central figures in the story of the persistence of republicanism are Ptolemy of Lucca, who is commonly viewed as the quintessential late medieval republican, and Niccolò Machiavelli, whose work is generally regarded as the classic statement of early modern republicanism. We argue that these two remain conceptually at considerable remove from one another, a claim we illustrate by analyzing the impact of the reception, Latin translation and transmission of the Histories of Polybius, and especially the theory of constitutional change proposed in Book 6. The unavailability of the Histories to Ptolemy and its rather ample use by Machiavelli at the beginning of the Discourses signal an important divergence in the theoretical principles underlying the defense of republican institutions. In turn, this variation captures one facet of the distinct qualities of republican thought that separated the intellectual terrain of the early fourteenth century from that of the sixteenth century.

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En pasajes tanto de El Príncipe como de los Discursos sobre la primera década de Tito Livio, Maquiavelo asocia la resistencia a la introducción de nuevos órdenes con la envidia. Si bien en ninguno de éstos ofrece un tratamiento sistemático de este afecto, de su uso en ciertos contextos derivan consecuencias teóricas relevantes, particularmente en lo referente al aseguramiento de nuevas instituciones. Especialmente relevante en este sentido es la interpretación que realiza del episodio bíblico sobre el becerro de oro (Discursos, III, 30), evento al que interpreta como una rebelión en contra de Moisés motivada por la envidia. De una lectura “sensata” de este pasaje, sugiero, se derivan dos conclusiones: que los enemigos de las instituciones mosaicas eran los “grandes” y que el único modo de combatir a los envidiosos es armando al pueblo
Niccolò Machiavelli occupies an important place in the canon of military authors. He is often considered the first original Western writer on war since the fall of Rome because his book, Arte della guerra (“Art of War”), synthesizes contemporary military customs with those of antiquity. However, in this essay I challenge the originality of three of that book’s core elements: its use of military exempla, its emphasis on educated generals, and the reciprocal military-state relationship it describes. I argue that it was actually John of Salisbury, the notable twelfth-century English writer, who first formulated these principles in his book Policraticus. This essay explores the dimensions of John’s antecedents and also the intellectual connections between the two books, including the influence of Policraticus in Renaissance Italy and, possibly, upon Machiavelli himself. It concludes by advocating for John of Salisbury’s own place in the canon of original military authors.
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The point of departure of this paper is the perplexity before two irreconcilable images of Machiavelli. In fact, the main question leading to this confusion is whether there exists a continuity between Aristotelian, civic humanist and Machiavellian conceptions of republicanism. The main purpose of this paper is to discuss the points of continuities and ruptures of Machiavellian republicanism in relation to classical republicanism which is best represented by Aristotle.
Now in paperback, this highly acclaimed volume brings together some of the world's foremost historians of ideas to consider Machiavelli's political thought in the larger context of the European republican tradition, and the image of Machiavelli held by other republicans. An international team of scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (notably law, philosophy, history and the history of political thought) explore both the immediate Florentine context in which Machiavelli wrote, and the republican legacy to which he contributed.
Hegel's often-echoed verdict on the apolitical character of philosophy in the Hellenistic age is challenged in this collection of essays, originally presented at the sixth meeting of the Symposium Hellenisticum. An international team of leading scholars reveals a vigorous intellectual scene of great diversity: analyses of political leadership and the Roman constitution in Aristotelian terms; Cynic repudiation of the polis - but accommodation with its rulers; Stoic and Epicurean theories of justice as the foundation of society; Cicero's moral critique of the traditional political pursuit of glory. The volume as a whole offers a comprehensive guide to the main currents of social and political philosophy in a period of increasing interest to classicists, philosophers and cultural and intellectual historians.
Contrary to most interpretations, the article argues that the scandalous dimensions of Machiavelli's thought are the outcome of his critical reflections on humanist discourse. Machiavelli drew the radical conclusions from the humanist rejection of the classical and medieval vision of man as a creature with an objective telos, within a rational order of Being. From this perspective the article accounts for Machiavelli's separation of politics from ethics, his anti-Christian stance as well as his appreciation of the social and political importance of religion, his views concerning corruption and the fragility of the political body, and ultimately his anthropological premises, notably his perception of man as a creature driven by indeterminate and insatiable desire.
The paper examines two aspects of empire in Machiavelli's thought. First, Machiavelli's model of the empire-building state is analysed.Machiavelli's answer to a classical question of the best form of government is discussed, establishing (1) why Machiavelli prefers a republic to a principality, and (2) why he prefers the expansionistic model of the republic based on Rome over the non-expansionistic model based on Sparta and Venice. In both cases, it is argued, Machiavelli's choice is dictated by his understanding of greatness: the Roman Republic is the ultimate example because it has achieved the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Accordingly, Machiavelli develops his political ideal, the model of the expansionistic republic that should closely follow the Roman example. The crucial role of Machiavelli's reading of the ancient historians, Livy, Sallust and, particularly, Polybius, is strongly emphasised. A second thread is developed later in the paper. Following Pocock's account(s), the author examines various causes of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire that Machiavelli offers in different places in his opus, trying to find a description of the most general cause, that would encompass all others. In the final part of the paper both threads converge; a key passage from Arte della guerra is analysed, with important conclusions reached: (1) It is shown that Machiavelli fully realised the unavoidable final destiny that awaits his model state. (2) Machiavelli also described the 'main', most general cause for Rome's downfall; a general mechanism of this process is outlined.
In recent years, scholars have begun to give greater attention to the 14th-century political writer, Ptolemy of Lucca, mostly on account of his avid defense of republican government in the treatise, De regimine principum. Educated in the scholastic curriculum at the University of Paris, Ptolemy has typically been identified by scholars as one of the most thoroughly Aristotelian medieval thinkers. Ptolemy, like many of his contemporaries, peppered his writing with citations from Aristotle's major works. This article, however, examines the sources employed in Ptolemy's republican arguments, finding that the legacy of Republican Rome played a far more critical role in shaping his republicanism than could be attributed to Aristotle's moral or political works. Though conversing fluently in an Aristotelian language system, Ptolemy's arguments in De regimine principum are derived, at their core, from his reading of Roman Republican sources, not from Aristotelian influence. This discovery reveals Ptolemy to be an even more artful and original writer than was previously assumed, and should add to, rather than detract from, his place as a key figure in the development of western political thought.
John Pocock's The First Decline and Fall (2003) presents a novel argument for drawing a clear distinction between medieval and early modern varieties of political thinking and writing that implicitly challenges the current historiographical trend that "softens" the dividing line between the two. The present paper critically examines Pocock's claim, which is based on the appearance of the theme of the historicity of the Roman Empire (imperial decline and fall) in early modern (and especially Florentine) political theory. In particular, the works of Marsiglio of Padua and Nicholas of Cusa are surveyed to demonstrate that Pocock's thesis, while useful, fails to capture fully the historical complexity of the medieval / modern divide in European thought.
In his famous Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance (1955) Hans Baron treated the Dominican political thinker Ptolemy of Lucca (1236-1327) as purely medieval, his ideas totally separate from the doctrine that Baron named civic humanism. However, in an unpublished, and previously-unstudied, manuscript written more than a decade earlier, Baron maintained that Ptolemy's ideology evolved into something quite close to civic humanism. He attempted to prove this through a comparison of early and late work of Ptolemy and through an analysis of Ptolemy's process of composition of his De Regimine Principum. This article analyses Baron's arguments and in general supports them, with some qualifications. Baron's manuscript supports the conclusions previously published by Blythe and is also significant in what it reveals about the intellectual evolution of one of the twentieth century's most significant historians of political thought.
Ptolemy of Lucca's sympathetic description of republican self-rule together with his unfavourable view of monarchy in the De regimine principum has led many scholars to categorize him as a pioneer of civic republicanism. The present study refutes this common opinion. It illuminates Ptolemy's theory of government through its relationship to the papalism he repeatedly expressed in several works. This study argues that Ptolemy's theory of government in the De regimine principum was inspired by his papalist convictions, and demonstrates how that theory clearly reflected Ptolemy's papalist point of view, especially in the context of the feud between Pope Boniface VIII and the kings of Western Europe, in particular, Philip the Fair of France.
This essay examines the place of Sallust in Machiavelli's political theory. Such an examination is necessary and fruitful for two basic reasons. First, the interpretative and secondary literature on Machiavelli's classical sources has neglected, with very few exceptions, the influence and role Sallust may have played in the formulation of Machiavelli's thinking. Second, the essay argues that Sallust is important to Machiavelli's attempt to recover republican liberty. At the core of Machiavelli's project to discover (or to rediscover) 'new modes and orders' is the fundamental Roman republican antithesis between libertas and dominatio. The very critique of dominatio presupposes a conception of libertas without which such a critique would be impossible. Sallust is a useful source for Machiavelli's inquiry into the political, social and military determinants foRA vivere libero e civile. Elements of such a political life are prefigured in Sallust's conception of republican politics, where 'cives cum civibus de virtute certabant' -- that is, where robust competition and healthy conflict express the virtus and the bonae artes of the body politic. In effect, Sallust is important to Machiavelli both as a historian who provides a useful critique of monarchy and despotism, and as a source through which Machiavelli is able to develop his conception of politics in general, and of republican politics in particular.
The True Origins of Republicanism: The Disciples of Baron and the Counter-Example of Venturi,'' in Il republicanesimo modero: L'idea di repubblica nella riflessione
  • David Wootton
David Wootton, ''The True Origins of Republicanism: The Disciples of Baron and the Counter-Example of Venturi,'' in Il republicanesimo modero: L'idea di repubblica nella riflessione storica di Franco Venturi, ed. Manuela Albertone (Naples: Bibliopolis, 2006), 296; see also 283–86.
The Worldview and Thought of Tolomeo Fiadoni (Ptolemy of Lucca) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), 211Civic Humanism' and Medieval Political ThoughtAristotle's Politics and Ptolemy of Lucca
  • James M Blythe James M
  • Blythe James M
  • Blythe
James M. Blythe, The Worldview and Thought of Tolomeo Fiadoni (Ptolemy of Lucca) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), 211; James M. Blythe, '''Civic Humanism' and Medieval Political Thought,'' in Hankins, Renaissance Civic Humanism, 32; and James M. Blythe, ''Aristotle's Politics and Ptolemy of Lucca,'' Vivarium 40 (2002): 103–36.
The Worldview and Thought of Tolomeo Fiadoni
  • The Polybian
  • See
  • Blythe
THE POLYBIAN MOMENT 11. See Blythe, The Worldview and Thought of Tolomeo Fiadoni, 207–10.
A useful survey of the general historiographical issues at stake is provided by Michel Senellart
  • Eudaimonia
A useful survey of the general historiographical issues at stake is provided by Michel Senellart, ''Ré, Eudaimonia et Liberté Individuelle: Le Modèle Machiavé selon Quentin Skinner,'' in Aristotelica et Lulliana, ed. Fernando Domí, Reudi Imbach, Theordor Pindl, and Peter Walter (The Hague: Nijoff, 1995), 259–87.
Sallust and Machiavelli: From Civic Humanism to Political Prudence
  • Patricia J Osmond
Patricia J. Osmond, ''Sallust and Machiavelli: From Civic Humanism to Political Prudence,'' Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 23 (1993):
On the Government of Rulers, trans
  • Ptolemy
  • Lucca
Ptolemy of Lucca, On the Government of Rulers, trans. James M. Blythe (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 2.
Reading Aristotle through Rome
  • See Nederman
  • Sullivan
See Nederman and Sullivan, ''Reading Aristotle through Rome.''
Polybius' Reappearance in Western Europe
  • See Momigliano
See Momigliano, ''Polybius' Reappearance in Western Europe,'' 86–88, and Carlo Dionisotti, Machiavellerie (Turin: E. Einaudi, 1980), 139–40.
Between Form and Event: Machiavelli's Theory of Political Freedom
  • See E Miguel
  • Vatter
See Miguel E. Vatter, Between Form and Event: Machiavelli's Theory of Political Freedom (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2000), 51–62;
The Machiavellian Elite: Prudence and the Mixed Regime in the Thought of Niccolò Machiavelli,'' in Ideal Constitutions in the Renaissance
  • Cary J Nederman And Mary Elizabeth Sullivan
  • Downloaded
880 CARY J. NEDERMAN AND MARY ELIZABETH SULLIVAN Downloaded by [The Aga Khan University] at 01:13 09 October 2014 Mikael Hö, ''The Machiavellian Elite: Prudence and the Mixed Regime in the Thought of Niccolò Machiavelli,'' in Ideal Constitutions in the Renaissance, ed. Diana Stanciu and Heinrich C. Kuhn (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009), 29–52;
Slashing a Sword on the Western Classical Tradition
  • Nevio Cristante
Nevio Cristante, Machaivelli Revivus: Slashing a Sword on the Western Classical Tradition (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), 31–39;
The Discourses, trans Middlesex: Penguin, 1970), 1.2, 105; hereafter cited in the text
  • Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses, trans. Leslie J. Walker, S.J., ed. Bernard Crick (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1970), 1.2, 105; hereafter cited in the text.
Machiavelli's direct source for this doctrine may well have been derived from other Roman sources. Cf. Sasso, Machiavelli e gli antichiSallust and the Politics of Machiavelli.'' 31. Hanan Yoran, ''Machiavelli's Critique of Humanism and the Ambivalences of Modernity
  • Fontana
Machiavelli's direct source for this doctrine may well have been derived from other Roman sources. Cf. Sasso, Machiavelli e gli antichi, 401–535, and Fontana, ''Sallust and the Politics of Machiavelli.'' 31. Hanan Yoran, ''Machiavelli's Critique of Humanism and the Ambivalences of Modernity,'' History of Political Thought 31 (Summer 2010): 267.