The Byzantine Republic,
People and Power in New Rome

by Anthony Kaldellis

Harvard University Press, 2015

But Greek writers such as Plutarch, Appianos, and Kassios Dion (all Romans, albeit Greek-speaking Romans of the empire and therefore proto-Byzantines), make a more subtle observation, that the politeia had changed its form of governance from whatever the Republic was (a democracy?) to a monarchy.

Anthony Kaldellis, The Byzantine Republic, People and Power in New Rome, p.28

The three kinds of government that I spoke of above [monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy] all shared in the control of the Roman state. And such fairness and propriety in all respects was shown in the use of these three elements for drawing up the constitution and in its subsequent administration that it was impossible even for a native to pronounce with certainty whether the whole system was aristocratic, democratic, or monarchical...

Such being the power that each part has of hampering the others or cooperating with them, their union is adequate to all emergencies, so that it is impossible to find a better political system than this.

Polybius of Megalopolis, The Histories [Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, translated by W.R. Paton, 1923, Frank W. Walbank, and Christian Habricht, 2011, Volume III, Book VI, 11.11 & 18.1-2, pp.329 & 345]

Dico adunque che tutti i detti modi sono pestiferi, per la brevità della vita che è ne' tre buoni e per la malignità che è ne' tre rei. Talché, avendo quelli che prudentemente ordinano leggi conosciuto questo difetto, fuggendo ciascuno di questi modi per se stesso, ne elessero uno che participasse di tutti, giudicandolo più fermo e più stabile, perché l'uno guarda l'altro, sendo in una medesima città il Principato, gli Ottimai e il Governo Popolare.

I say, therefore, that all these kinds of government are harmful in consequence of the short life of the three good ones [monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy] and the viciousness of the three bad ones [tyranny, oligarchy, and anarchy]. Having noted these failings, prudent lawgivers rejected each of these forms individually and chose instead to combine them into one that would be firmer and more stable than any, since each form would serve as a check upon the others in a state having monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy at one and the same time.

Niccolò Machiavelli, Discorsi Sopra La Prima Deca Di Tito Livio [1984, BUR Rizzoli Editore, Milano, 1996, 1997, 2016, Mondadore Libri S.p.A., Milano, 2018, pp.67-68], The Prince, With selections from THE DISCOURSES [translated by Daniel Donno, Bantam, 1981, p.94]

Quod principi placuit, legis habet vigorem: utpote cum lege regia, quae de imperio eius lata est, populus ei et in eum omne suum imperium et potestatem conferat.

Whatever the Emperor has decreed [i.e. pleases the prince] has the force of law; since by a Royal ordinance which was passed concerning his sovereignty, the people conferred upon him all their own authority and power.

A decision given by the emperor has the force of a statute. This is because the populace commits to him and into him its own entire authority and power, doing this by the lex regia which is passed anent his authority.

Justinian, Digest, 1.4.1; S. P. Scott, The Civil Law, II, Cincinnati, 1932 [Alan Watson, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985, Revised English-language edition, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998]; noteworthy that the power of the Emperor, although absolute in principle, derives from the people, not from himself or from God -- there is no "Divine Right" in Roman law; and when the people pronounce an Emperor ἀνάξιος, "unworthy," that may be the end of him.

The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a Republican Form of Government...

The United States Constitution, Article IV, Section 4.

The Byzantine Republic by Anthony Kaldellis continues his revolution in Byzantine studies that I have previously examined in Hellenism in Byzantium [2011]. This time, the question is the nature of Byzantine government. Contrary to the traditional view of the Byzantine monarchy as an unqualified absolutism, ordained by God in a way that all citizens believed and obeyed, Kaldellis identifies the actual operating ideology as continuous with earlier Roman imperial law and government. Indeed, the traditional view was never consistent with a feature of Byzantine history that could never be forgotten but that was carefully ignored, or decried, in certain contexts, namely that Emperors were regularly overthrown, either by rebels or by the aroused populace of Constantinople. Kaldellis reports that there averaged a revolt about every ten years over the course of Byzantine history, with just under one out of five "fully fledged military rebellions" succeeding in the removal of an Emperor. This means that Byzantine Emperors were more likely to be deposed than modern American Congressmen, of whom 90% are regularly reelected [note].

The success of the popular depositions of Emperors seems often to be treated as an embarrassment by Byzantinists, who come across as more indignant that the "mob" should insult the "Equal of the Apostles" than that these regular events should actually tell us something about the political beliefs of the participants. The Byzantinists are more persuaded of the Divine Right of Byzantine monarchs than were most Byzantines. Thus, in 1734 Montesquieu said, "the Greek Empire is nothing more than a tissue of revolts, seditions, and perfidies... Revolutions created more revolutions, so that the effect became the cause." One might think that evidence of a robust political life, in which rulers had little reason to be complacent about the security of their office, would have been admirable to thinkers in an age when the nature and legitimacy of political institutions was being questioned, and after an English King had already been deposed and executed (in 1649) because of a conflict with the Parliament. But we find Montesquieu, like so many others, looking for reasons to dismiss the "Greeks" rather than to carefully investigate the principles behind their political culture.

Indeed, the "Imperial Idea" of the divine sanction of the Throne, and perhaps what we could call the "Divine Right" of the Byzantine monarchs, originated with those monarchs themselves. So it is not made up out of whole cloth by later historians. However, it should not be overlooked, as it often or usually is, that the strategy of reinforcing the status of the Throne with such ideology, which Kaldellis traces back even to the pagans Aurelian and Diocletian [p.175], was obviously not entirely effective and seems to have had little hold on the rioters who end up in the act of blinding or murdering a sitting Emperor. If the people of Constantinople, or the frequent military rebels from the provinces, did not take the "Imperial Idea" entirely seriously, this calls for an explanation of the sort that standard Byzantine historiography really just does not provide. At the same time, early in the book [pp.9-14] Kaldellis examines the law cases, the Novels (Novellae Constitutiones), of the Emperor Leo VI (886-912), in which Leo must compromise the authority of the Emperor with concessions to "custom and usage" [p.13], the "will of the people" [p.10], and the principle of "the advantage and security of those who compromise the politeia (politeuomenoi)," i.e. the res publica and the people (the politeuomenoi, "those who constitute the state," the πόλις). Kaldellis says "there is almost no scholarship devoted to them [the Novels] in English" [p.9], and it is not hard to see how the peculiar and biased treatment of Byzantine politics would want to ignore them.

A signficant feature of Kaldellis's book is that, as we go along, we discover things, including kinds of language, that we would not know from reading standard Byzantine histories. These oversights are frequently tendentious. Foremost among them, of course, is the name of the Empire itself, not so much as the "Roman Empire," which is usually at least mentioned by Byzantinists (if not subsequently used), but as the proper name Romania, or Ῥωμανία in Greek. One can read most of the standard Byzantine histories, as I have discussed elsewhere, without being informed that "Romania" was the proper name of the state and the nation under study. Kaldellis himself, on fifteen different pages of this book, uses or mentions "Romanía" (sic, with the Greek accent curiously added to the Latin spelling) but does not discuss or explain the name, as in fact he has previously done in Hellenism in Byzantium. Given the surprising neglect and even concealment of the word among Byzantinists, I would recommend more attention to the matter; but readers of The Byzantine Republic will not be unaware of its existence.

A challenge posed by "Romania" is how to naturally substitute its use for "Byzantium" or the "Byzantine Empire" if we wish to avoid using expressions that are modern inventions, unused in the Middle Ages, and which reflect a persistent ideology that is really hostile to the identity of the people studied. For there is little doubt that modern historians just don't like calling the "Byzantines" what they called themselves, namely "Romans," because, from Gibbon and earlier, those people are not regarded as real Romans or as worthy of being treated as real Romans -- and to many, in turn, they are not even real Greeks -- Kaldellis mentions the term Graeculi, "Greeklings" or "little Greeks," from Mediaeval Latin usage, which was used to disparage the Ῥωμαῖοι, Rhômaîoi, the Mediaeval (Greek speaking) Romans. The real Romans, on this view, were not just the inhabitants of the original Rome from the first Brutus to Marcus Aurelius, but also were the genuine heirs of the Latin tradition in the Popes, Charlemagne and the German Emperors, and probably also Queen Victoria and British Imperial proconsuls. The mental gymnastics required for this we see displayed in Gibbon:

After the restoration of the Western Empire by Charlemagne and the Othos [sic], the names of Franks and Latins acquired an equal signification and extent, and these haughty barbarians asserted, with some justice, their superior claim to the language and dominion of Rome. They insulted the aliens of the East who had renounced the dress and idiom of Romans, and their reasonable practice will justify the frequent appellation of Greeks. But this contemptuous appellation was indignantly rejected by the prince and people to whom it is applied. Whatsoever changes had been introduced by the lapse of ages, they alleged a lineal and unbroken succession from Augustus and Constantine; and, in the lowest period of degeneracy and decay, the name of ROMANS adhered to the last fragments of the empire of Constantinople. [Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Modern Library, p.298-299, boldface added]

The conceits of this passage are astonishing. How "haughty barbarians" that were mostly illiterate Germans (Charlemagne reportedly never quite learned to write his name) could with "some justice" assert a "superior claim" to the "language and dominion" of Rome is preposterous, when the language they actually spoke (German) had nothing to do with Rome and their "dominion" was gravely truncated from the Roman Empire at any period (including only Gaul, Northern Italy, and rather more of Germany than had been in the Empire since Augustus withdrew from the Elbe -- with Gaul missing from the Empire of the Ottos). The "Roman Empire" of the Franks did not even de jure include the City of Rome itself, which had been ceded to the rule of the Popes and generally was not welcoming to the presence of Emperors and German armies. Also, the Emperors and their armies had a habit of dying from the climate and diseases of summertime Italy -- which meant that German armies could not remain to assert permanent authority. We see German interests maintained because Italian cities divided into Papal and Imperial factions -- the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, respectively, as in romantic Verona. See the Emperor Louis II in 871 make just such claims and arguments as recounted by Gibbon.

Meanwhile, the "dress" of the "Greeks" meant robes that looked a lot more Roman than the trousers of the Germans, while the "idiom" of the Ῥωμαῖοι was the language in which, according to Suetonius, the last words of Julius Caesar were spoken (καὶ σὺ τέκνον; -- "and you child?") and in which Marcus Aurelius kept his diary (the Meditations, Εἰς Ἑαυτόν, "To Himself") -- what Claudius had called one of utrique sermones nostri, "both our languages," i.e. Latin and Greek.

In turn, we get the perspective from Romania in the historian Agathias of Myrina (c.532-c.582 AD), writing about the contemporary Franks. This is in his Histories [1.2.3-5] and is quoted by Anthony Kaldellis in the present work.

εἰσὶ γὰρ οἱ Φράγγοι οὐ νομάδες, ὥσπερ ἀμέλει ἔνιοι τῶν βαβάρων, ἀλλὰ καὶ πολιτείᾳ ὡς τὰ πολλὰ χρῶνται Ῥωμαϊκῇ καὶ νόμοις τοῖς αὐτοῖς καὶ τὰ ἄλλα ὁμοίως ἀμφί τε τὰ συμβόλαια καὶ γάμους καὶ τὴν τοῦ θείου θεραπείαν νομίζουσιν. Χριστιανοὶ γὰρ ἅπαντες τυγάνουσιν ὄντες καὶ τῇ ὄρθοτατῃ χρώμενοι δόξῃ. ἔχουσι δὲ καὶ ἄρχοντας ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι καὶ ἱερεῖς καὶ τὰς ἑορτὰς ὁμοίως ἡμῖν ἐπιτελοῦσι καὶ ὡς ἐν βαρβάρῳ γένει ἔμοιγε δοκοῦσι σφόδρα εἶναι κόσμιοί τε καὶ ἀστειότατοι καὶ οὐδέν τι ἔχειν τὸ διαλλαττόν ἢ μόνον τὸ βαρβαρικὸν τῆς στολῆς καὶ τὸ τῆς φωνῆς ἰδιάζον. ἄγαμαι γὰρ αὐτοὺς ἐς τὰ μάλιστα ἔγωγε τῶν τε ἄλλων ὧν ἔχουσιν ἀγαθῶν καὶ τῆς ἐς ἀλλήλους διακαιοσύνης τε καὶ ὁμονοίας.

The Franks [Φράγγοι] are not nomads [νομάδες], as some barbarians [βάρβαροι] are, but their politeia [πολιτεία, res publica] and laws are modeled on the Roman pattern, apart from which they uphold similar standards with regard to contracts, marriage and religious observance. They are in fact all Christians and adhere to the strictest orthodoxy. They also have magistrates in their cities and priests and celebrate the feasts in the same way as we do; and, for a barbarian people, strike me as extremely well-bred and civilized and as practically the same as us except for their uncouth [βαρβαρικὸν] style of dress and peculiar [ἰδιάζον] language. I admire them for their other attributes and especially for the spirit of justice and harmony which prevails amongst them. [p.67, Greek text in footnote p.222]

In an almost uncanny echo, 1200 years earlier, of Gibbon's gibe at the "dress and idiom" of the "Greeks," Agathias refers to the "uncouth [βαρβαρικόν, barbarikón] style of dress and peculiar [ἰδιάζον, idiázon] language" of the Franks -- where ἰδιάζον is of course related to ἰδιώτης, "idiot." Agathias didn't think that their "dress and idiom" had anything to do with Rome, and he was right. Note that Agathias writes as though his readers have never heard of the Franks and know nothing about them. It would be nice to think of this directly addressed to Edward Gibbon: "We've never heard of you" [note].

And if Gibbon wants to question the "alleged" lineal and unbroken succession from Augustus and Constantine I to Constantine XI, he should say why; but of course he cannot, as his very own history, with narrative continuity, attests. The name "Romans" would indeed be used by the people who had always used it, since Antiquity. Gibbon would be simply another in a succession of "haughty barbarians" who seem consumed more by envy than anything else. As such, he could not be counted among the English Varangians who continued their fight against the Norman invaders of 1066 by enlisting, with "faith and valor" in the words of Gibbon himself, with the Emperor in Constantinople, who had his own Norman enemies.

But even if we carefully and conscientiously wish to remove the bias of people like Gibbon, we are still faced with the ambiguity and confusion that is likely to result from the traditional usage. Thus, part of the bias is the association of the real Roman Empire with the City of Rome, to the point where I've seen documentaries that defined the "Roman Empire" as a state ruled, controlled, and dominated by the City of Rome.

But anyone familiar with Roman history knows that this definition becomes false in the Third Century, when the Emperors travelled with their armies, were made and unmade by them, and sometimes never even visited Rome. This situation became regularized with Diocletian, who came to the Throne in 284, when the Emperors began to use new residences and capitals, namely, Nicomedia, Milan, Trier, York, Sirmium, Antioch, Arles, Thessalonica, and even Sofia.

In the Fourth Century, when we see "Romania" come into use, Constantine definitively settled on a permanent capital, a "New Rome" at Constantinople. He never went back to the Old Rome. The corresponding capital of the West, at Milan (not Rome), moved to Ravenna in the Fifth Century, to remain there, as the administrative capital of Italy, through Gothic occupation and Roman reconquest, until 751 AD, when the Lombards permanently occupied it. Their capital was at Pavia. Rome itself, neglected, eventually fell by default under the de facto and then de jure rule of the Popes (754-1870) [note].

I have discussed these issues elsewhere at this site, and perhaps rehearsing it again is redundant. However, given how little the matter is considered in popular culture, scholarship, and even in Byzantine historiography -- i.e. not at all -- it should be brought up at every opportunity. Although Kaldellis does not make a point of it in The Byzantine Republic, and he is willing to use "Byzantine" in his book, including in the title, addressing the neglect if not the hostility of Byzantinists for the use of "Romania" is entailed and consistent with his project. Like Kaldellis, I have continued using "Byzantine" in a restricted, if continually annoying, sense.

Other terms that are neglected in standard Byzantine histories are often associated with the popular rebellions that Byzantinists are often too sensitive and offended to take seriously. Foremost among these is the word ἀνάξιος, anáxios, "unworthy" [p.135, etc.]. This was shouted by crowds protesting or rioting against sitting Emperors. The striking implication of its use is that Emperors are not entitled to their office unless they are ἄξιος, áxios, "worthy" of it. This in itself contradicts any notion, at least in the popular mind, of the Divine Right of Byzantine Emperors. John Locke himself could not have have expressed better the idea that the Imperial office is a conditional trust, which can be forfeit for misbehavior, incompetence, or just ineffectiveness. Modern political rhetoric is rarely so direct or blunt or cogent. In 2012, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney called the other "unworthy," yet it certainly was suitable for at least one of them, if not both. Yet I cannot recall any standard Byzantine history mentioning that the populace of Constantinople called bad Emperors "unworthy." Perhaps I have just missed, or forgotten, it.

An equally striking expression used by the people of Constantinople, in part for its strangeness, was ἀνασκαφῇ τὰ ὀστέα, anaskaphêi tà ostéa, "Dig up the bones!" [p.124]. This is something else I don't remember seeing in the histories, and part of the problem may be that, like ἀνάξιος, it tends to get mentioned in the original historical record in chronicles or minor sources and not by the major narrative historians, like Procopius or Anna Comnena. Thus, the idea that we should exhume someone who is actually a living Emperor goes back at least to the overthrow(s) of Justinian II (who was deposed in 695, restored in 705, and then killed in 711), when Theophanes Confessor reports that the crowds shouted ἀνασκαφῇ τὰ ὀστέα Ἰουστινιανοῦ, anaskaphêi tà ostéa Iousinianoû, "Dig up the bones of Justinian!" [p. 229, note 12 of Chapter 2, reference to the Chronicle of Theophanes for the year 695 AD; note]. Similarly, Kaldellis reports that a shout during the Nika Revolt in 532, promoting a rival to Justinian I, was "Probos for Romanía!" [p.153]. It seems that Probos didn't want any part of it and fled. This shout is not to be found in the prinicipal historian of the period, Procopius, and it attests to the popular use of "Romania," which Procopius probably does not use because it did not occur in the paradigmatic texts of Attic Greek literature.

The tradition of crowds calling out ἀνάξιος and ἀνασκαφῇ τὰ ὀστέα, which continued over centuries, shows that revolts took on something of a formal, ritual quality. It was also the case that Emperors had difficulty dealing with such popular unrest. Concessions, compromise, and promises were usually the order of the day; and the sort of thing we might expect now, that the Emperor would call in the riot police or the army to put down the unrest, almost never happened. Indeed, a successful military suppression of a popular revolt may have happened only once, when Justinian I sent Belisarius against the Nika rebels, who were trapped in the Hippodrome and slaughtered. For, as it happens, there were no riot police, and the army present in Constantinople was often more a part of the problem than of the solution, just as in the Third Century.

Disaffected crowds were shouting their δυσφημία, dysphêmía, or "disapprobation" [p.93]. Kaldellis points out that this was the opposite of the εὐφημία, euphêmía, or the "acclamation" that confirmed the installation of a new Emperor. The latter was a practice with a long Roman history. All Emperors, in principle, were confirmed in office by an acclamation, at first of the People of Rome, later usually of the particular army that was enthusiastic about elevating its particular commander. Since many later Emperors never went to Rome, or did so only long after they had been in office, the military acclamation became standard -- at least until civilian Emperors typically were both already resident and elevated to the Throne in Constantinople. Since there never was a principle of a right of hereditary succession in Romania, and many, many instances where that did not occur at all, the acclamation is what effectively installed an Emperor. It was then revoked with the δυσφημία on grounds of ἀνάξιος.

We do not see anything remotely like this in any of the rest of Mediaeval Europe, where hereditary succession usually became entrenched, while in elective monarchies, such as Germany or Poland, the electors were all nobility or rulers in their own right; and, of course, the claim of the Mediaeval Papacy was that Popes could make and unmake any secular rulers. They almost never had the opportunity to actually do so, but the sanction of the Church was politically necessary for rulers in Francia, without which, as when the Pope excommunicated John of England, Philip II of France, or Frederick II of Germany, political opposition to them was legitimated and energized, which resulted in things like the Magna Carta or John's loss of Normandy to, as it happened, Philip II (1202). It is a striking truth of history, whose significance has hitherto really not been appreciated, that the People of Constantiniople had far more power to make and unmake their rulers than the Popes ever had in Francia. The Byzantinists have been mesmerized by the "Caesaro-Papism" of the Byzantine Emperors, which meant their interventions in religion, but have failed to notice that the populace of Romania had powers far beyond the most arrogant pretentions of the Papacy, whose interventions in politics reached a nadir when Philip IV of France sent his thugs to terrorize and humiliate Boniface VIII in his summer palace at Anagni.

Now we come to the terms around which the theme of the book is built, Latin res publica and Greek πολιτεία. If Kaldellis is going to call the "Byzantine Empire" the "Byzantine Republic," what is this going to mean? Much of the problem is the way that the meaning of the words has shifted around. A "republic" in modern political discourse means a certain kind of government, as referenced in the United States Constitution above, although chances are most Americans would have difficulty saying what kind of government that would be. It is not really taught in the schools, and most people probably think that the United States is or ought to be a democracy. The occasional crank who objects that the United States is a republic and not a democracy usually is dismissed as, well, a crank, or worse, someone who is against democracy -- which probably makes them a fascist, if not a Neo-Nazi. But this problem has little bearing on what res publica originally meant in Latin. At the same time, the shifts in meaning are not entirely a modern phenomenon. In the beginning, the Latin and Greeks terms did not mean the same things, and the drift of meaning of "republic" to a kind of government was, in turn, initiated in ancient political philosophy.

The Greek word πολιτεία originally had a range of meanings, from "citizenship, civic life, or the body of the citizens," to "government, a constitution, a form of government," and finally "a republic, commonwealth" [Liddell and Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, 1889, 1964, p.654]. Thus, we see it as the title of Plato's Republic, which was at once about a constitution and a certain kind of ideal state. This got translated into Latin as Res Publica, the "Public Thing." Res is a curious word in Latin, whose basic meaning as "thing" spreads out into "matters" and "affairs" and even into a "cause of legal action," from which we get the legal terms mens rea and actus reus, about which modern law has become seriously confused and corrupted. A similar use of "thing" with a meaning much broader than in English we can see in the name of the Mediaeval popular assembly of Iceland, the "Althing" (Alþingi).

Since Greek doesn't have a word as protean as res, πράγματα, "affairs," made do; so that res publica could be closely translated as τὰ δημοσία πράγματα, "the public affairs." Kaldellis details other translations, e.g. τὰ πολιτικὰ πράγματα, "political affairs," τὰ κοινὰ πράγματα, "common affairs," and τὰ Ῥωμαϊκὰ πράγματα, "Roman affairs," or just τὰ πράγματα, "affairs," and τὰ Ῥωμαϊκά, "Roman [things]" [pp.20 & 44]. But πολιτεία itself, having been translated res publica and already having its own range of meanings, which approached that of res publica already, begins to match res publica more closely in its Latin meaning and range. The title of the book, The Byzantine Republic, might well be rendered ἡ Ῥωμαϊκὴ Πολιτεία, hê Rhômaïkè Politeía, "The Roman Politeia."

Thus, neither res publica nor πολιτεία need tell us anything in particular about the kind of government that Rome or Romania possessed. Nevertheless, their meaning has important implications for our evaluation, since they encompass what now we would distinguish as the state, the government, the people, and all of society. The broad and indefinite meaning of these terms curiously matches another modern word of flexible meaning, which would be "commonwealth." One definition of that word given in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary is a state "founded on law and united by compact or tacit agreement of the people for the common good" [G.& C. Mierriam Co., 1973, 1980, p.225]. There is much about the definition that fits Kaldellis's argument for the Roman res publica.

The examination of Leo VI's Novels, referenced above, leads to questions about whether the Byzantine Emperor was above the law or subservient to it. The answered, oddly enough, seems to be both. The Emperor in priniciple could promulgate any laws he wanted, but in practice things were more complicated, and the idea that the Emperor served the law, in the interest of τὰ κοινά, was widely believed and respected. An Emperor engaged in arbitrary and unjust rule became ἀνάξιος. Similarly, the purpose of the government was the good of the whole, in a way that is now somewhat unfamiliar. The "tacit agreement" for the common good also fits the notion of ideology described by Kaldellis, which need not be explicit or deceptive. Kaldellis thus rejects the original Marxist definition of "ideology," without, however, acknowledging that this is what he is doing:

I do not define ideology explicitly as false belief, for example, as a belief whose function was to rationalize social orders and hierarchies by making them appear natural and thus inevitable.., when in fact they were only contingent fictions linked to the interest of specific groups, usually elites. [p.2]

Thus, Kaldellis does not believe that the ideology of Romania was, in Marxist terms, a mystification in order to deceive the masses into accepting a system that exploited them. The ideology described by Kaldellis, after all, is what motivated the masses to regularly overthrow Emperors, often blinding or murdering them.

The common good, τὰ κοινὰ πράγματα, was not a reification of the State, such as we might find in Hobbes [p.37] or Hegel; but neither did it allow for what liberal philosophers, such as Locke, or even illiberal ones like Hobbes, would have called "civil society," i.e. a sphere of private community independent of the state, but protected by it. Kaldellis is correct that this is not a conception applicable to Ancient or Mediaeval society. However, references like this have been used to justify and sanctify totalitarianism, as I have already had occasion to notice. While the dismissal of civil society by Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx does directly lead to modern totalitarianism, not to mention the Terror of the French or Russian (etc.) Revolutions, the full conception requires the denial of private life altogether, which is not what we find in Ancient or Mediaeval thought.

Thus, Kaldellis himself cites Roman Law that "all human goods are either public (δημοσία) or private" [p.43]. This echoes an expression that Socrates actually uses in the Apology, "Money does not bring about virtue, but virtue brings about money and all other private and public blessings for men" [30b, translation modified from G.M.A. Grube]. Here "private" and "public" are ἰδία, idía, and the familiar δημοσία, respectively. Thus, there would be matters, like religion, that now would be considered private but that were previously considered part of the public order; and the idea of a "free market" in economics wouldn't have crossed the mind of any Ancient or Mediaeval thinker, especially when the general opinion of philosophers and then theologians was that trade and commerce were ignoble if not wrongful. Since ἰδία gets us the modern word "idiot" (ἰδίώτης), we have some sense of how a truly isolated private life was seen, even while its boundaries were acknowledged.

There is a peculiarity in the evaluation of Roman government that compromises the treatment, if not the argument, of Kaldellis's book. I have given an indication of this is the epigraphs above. In the change of government from Republic to Empire, Kaldellis expresses uncertainty, "whatever the Republic was (a democracy?)," about what kind of government the Republic had been. This is a very strange statement given the history, of which Kaldellis cannot be unaware, of the analysis of Roman government. Thus, the first full description of Roman government was by the historian Polybius of Megalopolis in the 2nd Century BC. Among the hostages that Rome demanded from the Achaean League in 167 was Polybius, who ended up observing a great deal of Roman history, like the Third Punic War (149-146), when Carthage was annihilated. He thus had a ring-side seat for the way Rome operated, in politics and in war, in a period when little the Republic did could be resisted by anyone.

Polybius gives an extenstive discussion and analysis of government in general and of Roman government in particular in Book VI of his Histories. This characterized the Roman government, in the terms previously defined in Aristotle's Politics, as "mixed" in form, that is, it was not a pure example of monarchy or democracy or oligarchy or aristocracy but contains elements of several of such simple forms, in this case monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Characteristic statements about this by Polybius are given in the epigraph above. The argument is that while monarchy is good, it tends to degenerate into tyranny. The tyranny may be overthrown and replaced by an aristocracy, but then this degenerates into an oligarchy, which then is overthrown and replaced by democracy, which itself eventually decays into anarchy. Polybius believes that the remedy for the instablity of this process is a mixed government where monarchical, aristocracy, and democracy elements serve as checks and balances on each other and prevent the process of decay.

Polybius believed that the strength and success of Roman government rested on the way in which it actually effected this sort of mixed constitution. Since Roman government was the res publica, this became the name of the kind of government that Polybius had described and identified in Rome. The analysis of government, and the idealization of Rome, was later repeated all but term for term in Machiavelli; and, with what Cicero had written about it, this introduced the whole business forcefully into modern political philosophy. Thus, when the United States Constitution says, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a Republican Form of Government" [Article IV, Section 4], this is what it means. The idea we have gotten that the United States is, or ought to be, simply a democracy would have horrified the Founding Fathers. Thus, in Federalist Paper #10, James Madison comments on the problem of democracy to be overcome:

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

This is not what Madison and the other Founders wanted, and the system they -- and in particular Madison -- created, with a Federal Government of limited and enumerated powers, divided between Executive, Legislative, and Judicial authorites, was intended to emulate the Roman system, and remedy its defects.

And, of course, defects there were; for the Roman Republic, in the sense of a kind of government, did not survive; and there is every reason to ask why not. Part of the answer may be revealed in the abbreviation used to signify the identity of the Roman Republic itself:  S.P.Q.R., which stood for Senatus Populusque Romanus, the "Roman Senate and People." In this both the aristocratic and the democracy elements of the government are obvious. The Senate was drawn from the Senatorial class, the Patricians (patricii), which was indeed an ancient aristocracy by blood, whose members were known by their gens or clan, which was part of the traditional tria nomina, or "three names." Thus, Gaius Iulius Caesar belonged to the Julian gens; and Julius was his nômen or central name. Women were frequently known by the nômen alone, which is why the family of Caesar and Augustus was full of Julias. We may think of "Julius" as Caesar's given name, but it wasn't. That was "Gaius." On the other hand, the common "People" of Rome, the Plebs, originally were those without a gens (gentem non habent, "they have no gens" -- like the Shudras in India). The growth of their rights and powers involved much of the history of the Roman Republic, with alarming episodes like the murder of the Gracchi [note].

At the same time, the formula of S.P.Q.R. entirely lacks a monarchical element; and Polybius seems to be wrong, that anyone might have mistaken the Republic as monarchical in any way. Having gotten rid of the Kings, the Romans were vigilant to avoid getting them back. Yet another mixed government, well known to all, with its own aristocratic and democratic elements, did have Kings, in fact a tradition of two at once. That was Sparta. Rather than have such a thing, the Romans had annually elected Consuls. Where a stronger executive was needed, the Senate could designate a Dictator for six months, most famously in the case of Cincinnatus. That ordinarily there was no single Commander-in-Chief of the Roman Republic turned out to be a fatal flaw. Thus, a general like Caesar was given imperium in Gaul, which meant he was the absolute military and civil authority over his conquests, with his own army. Bringing his army out of his jurisdiction by crossing the Rubicon made him an outlaw, but the army obeyed him, and the legitimate government was left with no way to resist. The opposition fled, soon precipitating a civil war. Caesar refused a crown, but he was made Dictator, and then Dictator for Life -- before his assassination. Augustus was never even Dictator, but the Senate gave him imperium, i.e. command authority, in Rome itself; and this, with other offices, was all he needed:  The term eventually gave a name to the new de facto office, "Emperor" (Imperator), and to the government and domain, "Empire" (Imperium).

With a fatal deficiency of Executive power in the Republic in mind, we find a curious phrase in the Mediaeval Norman historian Ordericus Vitalis (1075c.1142 AD), who referred to the government of Romania, in the course of his account of the English Varangians, as Cesar et senatus populusque, i.e. Caesar and the Senate and the People [The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy, Volume II, Book IV, Chapter III; Henry G. Bohn, London, 1854, p.9-10]. Does this mean that in Romania the government was actually and simply that of the Roman Republic with the addition of a strong Executive, the Emperor? Well, not really, but something of the sort is actually the thesis of Anthony Kaldellis in The Byzantine Republic, whose argument, after a fashion, is that the breakdown of Republican institutions and ideas under the de facto monarchy of the Empire was never complete.

However, anyone who did not already know about the traditional analysis of Roman government that began with Polybius would not learn any better from reading The Byzantine Republic. Kaldellis does not mention Polybius, not even once. This is odd considering that he has two references to the government of the Republic being "mixed." The first involves a citation of Cicero:

Cicero's view of Rome under the kings shows that he recognized the possibility of a monarchical res publica, and his Scipio, when pressed to choose one of the three simple constitutional forms (rather than the mixed constitution of Rome), opts for monarchy. [p.21]

What is striking about this passage is that, although Kaldellis mentions that the "three simple constitutional forms" are monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, he gives no hint that there is a history and background to this beyond Cicero. Thus, the history and meaning of the very word "mixed," which goes back to Aristotle, is not mentioned, explained, or discussed, and why these three forms should be regarded as "simple" is not explained or discussed either.

Indeed, there would be no explanation of them without reference to Polybius, especially when in Greek political philosophy, including Plato, Aristotle, and Polybius, there actually are a lot more than just three "simple" constitutional forms. That particular construction was introduced by Polybius as involving the three good forms of constitution. As we saw above, there are actually six forms altogether even in Polybius. And a form that we find in Plato, the timarchy, the rule of honor (such as the honor of later European aristocrats), is found nowhere in these traditonal discussions about Rome.

Kaldellis uses the term "mixed" one other time:

During the past century scholars have occasionally been willing to assert that Byzantium was a mixed type of regime with roots in Roman republicanism. In 1924, Charles Diehl could write that "on connait la formule fameuse: S.P.Q.R. Il semble bien, que, de la fin du VIe à la fin du IXe siècle, le Senatus populusque Byzantinus ait été semblablement un realité." [p.159]

However, so central a role for the Senate in Constantinople seems questionable, and, leaving out Caesar, Diehl describes the structure of government less well than Ordericus Vitallis. But this is what Kaldellis is getting at, as we saw earlier in his discussion of the historian Dio Cassius:

Kassios Dion's [sic] narrative of the end of the Republic and the rise of the monarchy is the longest that survives and the most sophisticated from the standpoint of political theory. While for him too the politeia of the Romans carried on under the empire, he presents a more complex succession of regimes, from a demokratia to a dynasteia (the warlords) and finally the monarchia. Dion offered the most powerful exposition of "regime-change" at Rome, and was followed by later Byzantine writers, as we will see. His final verdict was that "in this way the politeia was reformed for the better and it became more secure; in any case, it would have been impossible for them to be safe under the previous democracy." Augustus, for him, established order and preserved the freedom of Romans by combining democracy with monarchy. [pp.28-29, note]

Now, the idea that Augustus combined "democracy with monarchy," was that Dio's idea? Or Kaldellis's idea? It looks like Kaldellis's; for he has just quoted Dio as saying that monarchia succeeded the demokratia and that Augustus made for a more secure and safe society and state than "under the previous democracy." Thus, Dio dismisses democracy altogether; and if Romania achieved a "mixed" constitution by combining "democracy with monarchy," this is the suggestion of Kaldellis, not of any Ancient or Mediaeval author.

And, it must be said, the thesis that the government of Augustus or Mediaeval Romania involved any truly democratic elements is nothing less than proposterous. Emperors were neither formally elected by popular franchise nor ever simply voted out of office. They were deposed by violence. So why would Kaldellis say something like this; and, most significantly, why does his treatment ignore Polybius and the tradition of analysis, down to the Enlightenment, that the Greek historian initiated? Indeed, as we see in the epigraphs above, Kaldellis expresses uncertainty about what sort of government the Republic had ("a democracy?") without informing the reader of something Kaldellis, with his uses of the term "mixed" and his reference to the three "simple forms," seems to be aware, that a theory exists of the Republic as a combination of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy -- a theory that Kaldellis in fact wants to perpetuate with the notion of combining "democracy with monarchy."

First of all, we should note that Julius Caesar was the champion of the Popular party in Rome, as opposed to the Senatorial party of people like Pompey. The tendency of politics in the Republic had constently been in favor of greater power for the Plebs, and the victory of Caesar arguably was the culmination of this process. However, democratic aggitation ending in Dictatorship looks like nothing so much as the decay of government described by Plato, in which Democracy decays into Tyranny [note]; and since popular riots in Rome really never resulted in the overthrow of Emperors, we cannot say that the People of Rome ever exercised the kind of power that those of Constantinople later demonstrated. Indeed, Kaldellis admits this; and he asserts, "I would propose that this aspect of popular culture was stronger in Byzantium than it had been in the early imperial period and late antiquity" [p.145]. The Praetorian Guard began to make and unmake Emperors in Rome, until Armies from the provinces began to install their own Emperors, in Rome or elsewhere, a process that continued until civilian rule was more or less regularized in Constantinople -- with dramatic exceptions, like the landing of Heraclius with an army from Carthage in 610 AD.

Kaldellis obviously has no sympathy for the Senatorial party:

The problem with our partisan terminology is that it requires us to talk about the Republic where a handful of sources are only reflecting nostalgia under the monarchy for freedom (libertas, ἐλευθερία), and to forget that they have a narrow conception of what freedom entailed. We tend to blur the distinction between "senatorial" interests and "republican ideology" and thereby conclude that the latter was essentially antimonarchical. But the res publica was not just about the senate. In many respects, the monarchy served the needs and interests of the populus better than the late Republic, as was recognized at the time and afterward. [p.24]

The "Republican" bias in scholarship is the assumption that there was no res publica after Augustus. This is actually only a terminological confusion on our part. We should not take a few men's nostalgia for "freedom" (in reality, their own privileged position) as a standard for defining what is and what is not a res publica. [p.25, color added]

Actually, it is Kaldellis who is a little confused about the meaning of libertas. The "Liberty of the Ancients" meant political power. This was strongly and nicely expressed by Fustel de Coulanges:

It is a singular error, therefore, among all human errors, to believe that in the ancient cities men enjoyed liberty. They had not even the idea of it... We shall see, farther on, that the government changed form several times, while the nature of the state remained nearly the same, and its omnipotence was little diminished. The government was called by turns monarchy, aristocracy, democracy [our "three simple constitutional forms"]; but none of these revolutions gave man true liberty, individual liberty. To have politcal rights, to vote, to name magistrates, to have the privilege of being archon, -- this was called liberty; but man was not the less enslaved to the state. [Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, A Study of the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome, translated by Willard Small, 1874, Doubleday & Company, 1955, Dover Publications, 2006, p.223; La cité antique, 1865; color added]

Thus, to the extent that the res publica was a kind of government with a mixture of monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic elements, the "freedom" and "privileged position" of the Senatorial class were essential elements in it. In those terms, "senatorial interests" actually were central to "republican ideology." And if the Emperors "served the needs and interests of the populus better than the late Republic," by abolishing both Senatorial power and meaningful elections, this could only mean that the populus surrendering their own libertas, i.e. their own political power, to the Caesars somehow served their "needs and intrests" better, which would be a disturbing circumstance. And, if the "privileged position" of the Senatorial class is somehow illegitimate, then Kaldellis has rejected the very principle of a "mixed" government that the Senators have as much right to their interests as the Plebs -- all for the sake of the "common good," τὰ κοινά. At the same time, when both Caesar and Augustus conspicuously refused a crown, and Augustus even the Dictatorship, anyone would be excused from thinking that "republican ideology," even of the Popular party, "was essentially antimonarchical." That de facto monarchy developed nevertheless was the inevitable consequence of the cession of power to the Emperor, at the expense of any real aristocratic or democratic power.

So what is going on with Kaldellis? Well, when someone winks at the surrender by the Roman People of their political power to the Caesars, and the neutering of the function of Rome's democratic institutions (and not just the Senate), and seems to think that this is in their better interest, one begins to wonder what such a person actually thinks of democracy. With Kaldellis, we need not remain in doubt; for he supplies us with numerous statements about modern democracy (in the broadest sense), all as political asides with reference to modern government and contemporary affairs. These take the form that a great deal of irrelevant political sniping in modern scholarship does, which is to say that they are presented without evidence or argument [note]. In the present case, the effect of these is actually not irrelevant, since they reveal what must be Kaldellis's own political preferences, which color his judgments about Roman government. While elsewhere such comments might simply be signals from the scholar of his bona fide membership in the Ruling Class of academic progressives, Kaldellis's own views are more idiosyncratic but also more connected to a historical reality, namely that of Romania.

How this all fits together will become evident when we correct Kaldellis's description how "Romania achieved a 'mixed' constitution by combining 'democracy with monarchy'." No, the actual form of government that Kaldellis sees is not a combination of democracy with monarchy, but of anarchy with monarchy. This means that we need not pretend that Augustus preserved anything of the democracy, which he didn't, except in form, let alone that the military rulers of the Third Century did anything of the sort, but that we can see the riots and rebellions of the populace of Constantinople, not as introducing a new democratic element, the genuine forms of which never developed, but as introducing a functional anarchical element, which serves some of the same ends as democracy and so might be confused with it. Kaldellis says:

The history of Byzantium oscillated between two states of exception [i.e. suspension of the rule of law]:  governance by an emperor and the tumult of regime-change. The laws governed only the states in between (though this was a big "only"). [p.87; note]

Whether Kaldellis avoids speaking directly of "anarchy" deliberately or insensibly it is difficult to say, but it is hard to construe his preferences any other way. Preferences or no, biases or no, this does not mean that Kaldellis is not correct about the form of Byzantine government. The cycle of governments in Polybius remains, with the intermediate steps eliminated, so that his best form of government, Monarchy, lapses directly into the worst, Anarchy, which in turn leads back to Monarchy. This entails all the excitement of Anarchy without most of the drawbacks, while the overall resilience of the government reflects the general stability of Monarchy. After all, we are looking at institutions that lasted a thousand years, or more, depending where we begin. This is what historians have found so unnerving about Byzantine political history. They simply could not wrap their heads around what was happening, or credit it with the kind of success and durability that it had.

To see how Kaldellis does not seem to have a whole lot of respect for actual democratic institutions in their modern form, we should review the political asides that he tosses in with some regularity. This kind of thing was really missing from Hellenism in Byzantium [2007, 2011] and occurs exceptionally in Ethnography after Antiquity [2013]; but here in The Byzantine Republic not only is it frequent, but it effectively contribues to the argument:

Taking all these statements together, we might gather that Kaldellis beieves modern democracies like the United States are governed by an "elite" consisting of "plutocrats" who manipulate the political process and use "sham" elections to legitimate their choices, which usually consist of members of "political dynasties" who "pass [irresponsible and unaccountable] power from generation to generation in a hereditary way."

In these terms, it is hard to know, for instance, what to make of Barack Obama. He came out of nowhere and belonged to no political dynasty. If he was selected by plutocrats -- a charge I am willing to entertain -- this would have to mean people like George Soros, whose Lefist preferences and comparisons of America to Nazi Germany make him a poor candidate as a representative of the Marxist class of capitalist exploiters that Kaldellis seems to have in mind. There were plenty of the rich, like Soros, Warren Buffett, Castro buddy Ted Turner, California Green Fascist Tom Steyer, crony-capitalist, federal-subsidy electric car maker Elon Musk, and others, who have supported Obama, despite (or because of) his obvious leftist preferences, and now despite the relentless denigration, harrassment, and legal assault on business, finance, banking, and, in short, on capital that has consistently been carried out by the Obama Administration (and its Justice Department), which has produced the worst economic recovery after a recession since World War II and the worst business climate in memory, with the number of businesses and commercial banks in the country actually declining -- with on average a community bank or credit union now closing every day [cf. Jeb Hensarling, "After Five Years, Dodd-Frank Is a Failure," The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2015, A15]. While the millionaire Elizabeth Warren could in fact be called a "plutocrat," she made her money off of the law, not business, and has now distinguished herself with relentless hostility to business in general. This would not be a plutocracy that would really have anything to do with capitalism, except as an enemy -- a plutocracy of "looters," as Ayn Rand would say, whose effect is to reduce the nation to poverty, as in the leftist ideal of Cuba.

So it is sometimes hard to know what Kaldellis thinks he is talking about. Currently, the best candidates for a politcal dynasties would be the Kennedies and Bushes, none of whom is actually in elective office -- although Jeb Bush ran for President in 2016 -- as an "Establishment" Republican, despised by most conservative and libertarian voters -- and generating exactly zero enthusiasm, or success, despite being better funded than any other candidates. The "Plutocrats" made a bad choice. And while Washington is certainly rife with "cronyism and nepotism," the nepotism is of a trivial and often embarrassing sort, while the cronyism has become, not only the policy of the Obama Administration, but a significant part of the general program of Leftist politics. That is because business oligopolies and monopolies that have been co-opted by the government and broken to its will -- and are cash cows for extorted "settlements" of bogus legal assaults and other official racketeering -- are now essential parts of the "crony capitalism" or corporate statism that is the obvious preference and practice of the Obama Administration. Perhaps Kaldellis has not gotten the memo. Or perhaps in his heart of hearts he is a genuine Anarchist (and/or Monarchist) and sees all this for the neo-Soviet fraud and absurdity that it is.

But it looks like by "political dynasties" Kaldellis mainly means George W. Bush, who comes in for two explicit references in The Byzantine Republic [pp.170 & 181] and one in Ethnography after Antiquity, so that an example of one generalizes to a whole political system -- something that perhaps follows if one's animus about "W" is strong enough (what was called "Bush Derangement Syndrome" or "BDS"). The casual reader will be puzzled to find Kaldellis say, about Bush, that "in fact he did lose the election" in 2000, when Bush actually won the election, and the one in 2004, and thus was President for eight years. Since Kaldellis does not explain what he is talking about, we can only guess what he means. Either he means that Bush lost the popular vote, which he did, or that the Supreme Court prevented Florida from continuing the endless recounts that have recently become the strategy for the Democratic Party to steal elections. Democrats, of course, claim that the Supreme Court itself stole the election for the Republicans by preventing Democrat officials from throwing out enough Republican votes, especially absentee military votes, or "finding" enough Democrat votes, to change the outcome. On the other hand, the claim that Bush "did lose the election," if this means that he lost the popular vote, would be part of an argument that the Electoral College, which gives disproportionate influence to smaller and less populous States, is "undemocratic" [note]. If that is Kaldellis's view, it certainly ought to be brought into the open in the middle of arguments about the nature of Roman government and the difference, for the ages, between a "republic" and a democracy. Since, as we have seen, Kaldellis shortchanges this discussion by ignoring Polybius and the tradition of analysis he began, his absurd remark about President Bush is no more than an example of the aforementioned political sniping in modern scholarship, where explanation or argument are considered unnecessary, since "progressives" will already know what is meant. It is no more than a shibboleth test for the anointed.

The other reference to Bush targeted the possible defensiveness of the statement that the Iraq war had "not been in vain" (like Hillary Clinton saying, "People do trust me"?), with the comment that "large parts of the elite and the population at large had come to believe exactly that." Although he does not say so, we are left to infer that Kaldellis believes exactly that also, which would leave us to wonder how the overthrow, for instance, of Hosni Mubarak in the "Arab Spring," about which Kaldellis is enthusiastic [p.163], would be a good thing but the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would not be. Since, when Bush left office, Iraq had a stable government, with defeated terrorists, and (more or less) reconciled communities, and all these advantages were cited, but squandered, when President Obama withdrew all American forces (after which ISIS rolled into Northern Iraq and the Iraqi military literally ran away), it is not at all obvious who might be blamed if the war now looks to have been "in vain."

Another, indirect, reference to George W. Bush may be in Kaldellis's remarks on page 87, where we learn that many "modern democratic regimes" are "now in a permanent state of exception," which means that the rule of law is suspended and "people in power are able to act outside the law and are almost never brought to justice," so that, "Some would argue that these contemporary societies are no longer lawful polities and so no longer qualify as democracies, republics, or whatever." Again, Kaldellis leaves us to guess what he is talking about, but perhaps he means the exercise of military power by President Bush. If he is honest and consistent, he would need to include President Clinton in such a characterization, for his own use of military force against Haiti and Serbia (where I suspect Kaldellis would have been strongly pro-Serbian), but, most especially, he would need to include President Obama, for suspending and/or rewriting laws to suit his taste, and for trying to rule by decree through Executive Orders, with the Supreme Court sometimes allowing and sometimes rebuking these practices. But, of course, Kaldellis provides no examples, explanation, or argument for his statements and leaves us to speculate about his meaning.

The remarks by Kaldellis about the fraudulent, manipulated, or lawless nature of modern democracies serve, if nothing else, to inform us about the seriousness of his respect for the Byzantine system, especially the role of periodic anarchy, that he is describing. This is the clue, probably, to why Kaldellis ignores Polybius and subsequent political philosophers who comment on or seek to emulate Roman government, such as Machiavelli, John Locke, James Madison, etc. Instead, Kaldellis has recourse to a very different kind of political philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Almost everything about Rousseau's thought that was suited, not just to the event of the French Revolution, but even to the subsequent Reign of Terror, and to modern totalitarian dictatorships, are matters that draw enthusiasm from Kaldellis. Indeed, the French Revolution thus becomes an ideal that can be matched to the episodes of anarchy and revolution in Constantinople. The key concept, as often noted with Rousseau, is the "general will":

I call republic any state ruled by laws, whatever may be the form of administration:  for then the public interest alone governs and the res publica counts for something. Every legitimate government is republican... By this word I understand not only aristocracy or a democracy, but in general any government guided by the general will, which is the law. [p.98]

This works well for Kaldellis, who here has a principle by which the Byzantine Monarchy can nevertheless be called "republican," which is the argument of his book. But Rousseau's principle is also deceptive; for "any state ruled by laws" does not mean that the rule of law is actually observed, or that laws need to even exist; for "the law" is defined as being "guided by the general will," which itself need not be positively expressed in law, elections, or any other manifest feature of government. Instead, Robespierre (1758-1794) can claim to be following the "general will," while slaughtering hundreds and thousands, without ever bothering to seek electoral legitimation for this practice.

But Kaldellis wants no Robespierre. Indeed, the paradigm of Byzantine government precludes his possibility. The rebels or insurgent populace of Romania install a new Emperor, not a Robespierre; and what Kaldellis valorizes is the act by which this is done. He quotes Rousseau again:

The instant the people is legitimately assembled as a sovereign body, all jurisdiction of the government ceases. [ibid.]

Kaldellis notes that Rousseau may actually have been thinking of the direct democracy of the Swiss assemblies with which Rousseau was familiar. But such a statement comes to mean something very different in political history, and apparently for Kaldellis also. Anarchists have always liked the idea that "the People" can simply act as a unified, collective, corporate body and express the "general will" directly. This is why government, for them, is not necessary. As such, it is a preposterous fantasy. Yet the idea of "collective action" or "collective social action" is a favorite trope of the Left and is voiced by Democratic politicians, including President Obama. "Collective" decisions, however, imply consensus and unanimity, and they implicitly delegitimize dissent and political minorities. If "the People" have a collective or "general" will, then dissenters do not, by defintion, belong to "the People." They are enemies, and Robespierre probably had the right idea about how to deal with them.

Kaldellis himself calls for a People's History of Byzantium to follow the culture and actions which reveal that "the people were not powerless just because there were no formal institutions to channel their agency other than their accalmation of the emperor" [p.145]. The use of the term "people's" in "People's History" should remind us that communist regimes liked to call themselves "people's democracies," "people's republics," or even "people's democratic republics" when they were actually vicious, brutal dictatorships and police states; and we have seen the Left begin to re-introduce the term, perhaps beginning with communist historian Howard Zinn's widely used (in education!) People's History of the United States. The recent "People's Climate March" in New York City (September 21, 2014) was largely taken up with groups obviously hostile to capitalism. Kaldellis's use of the expression may indicate complacency or approval for its communist history, or it may simply mean that the fiction of the "general will" and collective action of "the People" is an ideology held commonly by both Communism (which, once in power, suppresses popular expression) and Anarchism (which sees the popular will in riot and revolution). In neither way (both of which eschew "formal institutions" of democracy) is it a good sign if Kaldellis has views or recommendations about current politics, as (we have seen) he does [note].

How far Kaldellis would go with this is not clear, since he does not explain or discuss this political history. However, his paradigm of Byzantine government only makes sense in terms of anarchy. Every so often, the People of Romania take back their authority, depose an Emperor, and then by their will install a new one. Since this happens in the course of riot and looting (even of churches and monasteries, which had been protected even when the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410), we cannot say that it involves a regular mechanism or "formal institutions" of established government. It can be called "democracy," in the sense that the People are thereby thought to rule, but in terms of institutions -- in which case there are none -- it is really an example of Anarchy, whose evils are only mitigated by the brevity of the episode and the determination of the new Emperor to assert his traditional authority, which is more likely to be legitimated in terms of God, not of the "general will," which no one had ever heard of.

By ignoring the anarchism built into his own theory, Kaldellis also misses a chance to connect it up to a basic principle of 17th and 18th century political theory, namely the State of Nature. The State of Nature is the absence of government, which is a common feature, at least as a thought experiment, to Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Their political philosophies are differentiated by how they see it. Now we can add Kaldellis, who should be able to see the State of Nature, not just as a thought experiment, but as the condition achieved when the populace of Constantinople deposes an Emperor. Since Hobbes and Locke are starkly different in that Hobbes denies that natural justice or natural rights exist in the State of Nature, while Locke affirms that they do, we might ask if the Byzantine ideology reconstructed by Kaldellis takes the form of one or the other. As it happens, Kaldellis sharply contradicts the judicial positivism so characteristic of Hobbes, saying:

Clearly, the Byzantines were not Hobbesians. Their politeia was not dissolved when an emperor was taken down and the crown transferred, nor did the poeple become a "disunited multitude." They were the sovereign populus Romanus. But Hobbes, unlike Rousseau, has no conception of the mores that can create a people apart from their monarch:  he thought in terms of abstract relations of power, legally defined. He was also far from the Roman way of thinking when he said this about the monarch:  "whatever he do, it can be no injury [i.e. Latin injuria, "injustice"] to any of his subjects; nor ought he to be by any of them accused of injustice." Hobbes basically defined this to be the case. In his view, subjects are not allowed to question or abuse the monarch. In the Byzantine tradition, by contrast, there was hardly a single emperor not accused of injustice... [p.99]

This clarifies a couple of things. Kaldellis wants to argue that the res publica and the politeia still exist in the anarchy or the State of Nature that exists while the populus Romanus are in a condition of riot and revolt against a sitting Emperor. What constitutes their unity even in the absence of government institutions are the mores that ground their tradition and that here play the part of Natural Law in Locke. Hobbes can define his theory to be the case just because his definition of "justice" is the Positivist one of statute law, case law, and the practice of the courts, denying Natural Law.

The attention that Kaldellis gives to Hobbes is probably the result of the preference for Hobbes that we find in recent political philosophy, which is itself strongly Positivist in tendency. This means that a source of Classical Liberalism, such as John Locke, is studiously ignored; and students or readers may be left with the impression that Rousseau, with the terrifying overtones and consequences of his thought, is the obvious or only alternative to Hobbes. With Kaldellis, my conclusion is that Rousseau is preferable to either Polybius or Locke because he is more suited to an Anarchist fantasy of collective action. That such a theory is not a fantasy in the sense that something of the sort seems to have actually worked, for centuries, in Constantinople, is the remarkable thing about this book; but then the circumstances of political life in Constantinople were themselves extraordinary and, for all the Roman traditions involved, had not functioned the way they would later as in the earlier eras of Roman history, whether under the Republic, the Principate, the Third Century, or the Tetrarchy.

The political life of Constantinople required the politicized urban population of Constantinople, something that did not exist, in size or character, anywhere else in Europe, because of the need for a cash economy and a commercial culture (everything that Elizabeth Warren despises), until perhaps the rise of the Italian Republics -- which themselves were more oligarchic than popular. An extraordinary popular revolt in Mediaeval Flanders, the "Matins of Bruges" (1302), led to the commercial republic of Jacob van Artevalde, the "Brewer of Ghent" (1337-1345), but this soon expired in the conflict between England, France, and Dukes of Burgundy. Equally extraordinary was the revolt of the "Sicilian Vespers" (1282), which, like the unheavals in Constantinople, resulted in a transfer of monarchs (i.e. from the Anjevians to Aragón). But these episodes, and some similar ones, are noteworthy by their rarity, and by their frequent failure, while revolts in Constantinople are distinguished by their regularity and by their success, much to the distress of Classicists, Byzantinists, and others who are embarrassed or scandalized by the "mob" taking so active a part in the political history of Romania. Why they have this problem is for them to consider themselves. At the same time, Anthony Kaldellis, although not forthrightly stating the Anarchist element to his theory, perhaps out of similar embarrassment for the absurdities of Anarchism, nevertheless has produced something, the combination of anarchy with monarchy, that actually seems to fit the case.

At the same time, we must suspect that Kaldellis ignores Polybius precisely because there is something about this "anarchy with monarchy" paradigm that is his personal preference, with the idea of a mixed constitution, involving real, regular checks and balances between monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic elements, as something that he dislikes, rejects, and would rather not think about -- the disparaging references to contemporary politics are mainly to say, "the government of Romania was no worse than our modern institutions, which are fraudulent." Otherwise, it is hard to explain his assertion that, "In many respects, the monarchy," i.e. the autocracy of the Caesars, "served the needs and interests of the populus better than the late Republic" [p.24]. Who says something like this? A fan, perhaps, of autocracy (cf. Greek Αὐτοκράτωρ, one of the translations of Imperator). Would such a person have been alarmed at the powers assumed by Mussolini? Or Hitler? Or Stalin? Or were such powers, even with such men, going to serve "the needs and interests of the populus better" than the messy venality of parliamentary democracy? At the same time, there is no formal or institutional check on such autocracies, and their unspeakable crimes, except, if they were to function like Romania, the occasional riot and revolt whereby authority disintegrates and extended violence, with looting and other mayhem, determines who the new autocrat will be. But the unique situation of Constantinople was not repeated in a way that allowed the People to rise against Fascism or Communism and "take back" their sovereignty. In the history of modern totalitarianism, only one such sudden revolution took place -- in, of all places, România, as the Ceauçescu dictatorship was overthrown in a few hours. Thus, even if the government of Mediaeval Romania really were no worse than modern democracy (dubious in itself), it is a fantasy to think that the extraordinary circumstances of Constantinople, which functioned without actual democratic institutions, could be repeated today [note].

If we have someone who, on the one hand, is a fan of autocracy and, on the other hand, sees the "general will" truly expressed only in violence and revolt, i.e. anarchy, while at the same time voicing sometimes absurd criticisms of the functioning of modern constitutional republics, it is not surprising that such a person would ignore the political heritage of the Roman Republic, as a kind of government, for all subsequent political philosophy, namely the idea of a mixed government with the regular, legal interplay and checks and balances of competing institutions, such as the Executive, Legislative, and Judical authorities, or the States and the Federal Government, or, for that matter, the use of Initiative and Referendum for direct votes by the People on any issue. When we see that the tendency of "Progressive" politics is to concentrate absolute and unlimited power in a single authority (like the Castros or Barack Obama), or in irresponsible bureaucrats (like the EPA) -- in great measure because government as a system of protecting individual rights is rejected in favor of collective purposes -- it is both hard to see Kaldellis disagreeing with this and not hard to see how an eruption of Anarchy might be the only effective check on its evils and excesses. Indeed, "Progressive" politics has gone so far in the project of destroying the political system, and even the political values, of the United States of America ("That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men"), vesting unaccountable and lawless power in institutions whose very existence is against Constitutional principles [note], that an anarchical rebellion may soon in fact be the only solution.


Philosophy of History

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Consuls of the Roman Republic, 509-27 BC

Rome and Romania, 27 BC-1453 AD

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 1

This statistic is given by Kaldellis on page 152. It is in one of his remarks referring to contemporary politics, about more of which below. He does not mention, however, that incumbent Congressmen are protected, of course, by political gerrymandering and the fraud of "campaign finance reform," which is one of the great jokes and successful mystifications of recent politics. Since Kaldellis has previously complained about money in politics [p.103], it is not clear that he understands how the "reform" of campaign financing, which is sold to "keep money out of politics" is actually an effective way of harrassing, suppressing, and silencing political opposition, not just to incumbents, but in general for the Democratic Party, which, under the Obama Administration, with the illegal cooperation of agencies like the IRS, has been willing to target Republicans, conservatives, libertarians (e.g. the Koch brothers), and even Zionists. The campaign finance laws have even been used to harrass and threaten small grass roots groups, as in Colorado, where some neighbors were threatened with prosecution for spending $300 on yard signs about a local annexation issue. The courts, so far, have struck down such travesties, but the people who like such laws, and the power of government to attack and silence the citizens, eventually appoint their own piable judges -- for whom the First Amendment does not apply to political enemies, while "progressives" can speak without the distress (the "micro-aggression") of being contradicted.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 2

That the clothes of the Germans were substantially different from those of the Romans is illuminated by an issue arising in the Vandal dominion in North Africa. The Vandals retained their Arian version of Christianity and, unlike some other Arian German rulers, were harsh about it with the native Catholics. And they were at some pains to prevent Vandals from converting to Roman Orthodoxy:

The king [Huneric, 477-484] was apparently particularly concerned to stamp out any possibility of Vandal conversions to Catholicism; to this end he ordered that no one in Vandal dress should be allowed to enter a Catholic church, and posted armed men to enforce the rule with considerable brutality. This order was vehemently opposed by the Catholic bishop of Carthage, Eugenius, 'because a large number of our Catholics came to church dressed in their [Vandal] clothes, since they worked in the royal household'. [The Fall of Rome, Bryan Ward-Perkins, Oxford University Press, 2005, 2006, p.69]

A distinctive feature of Germanic dress, and the most βαρβαρικόν, was, of course, trousers. So it is particularly ironic to imagine Edward Gibbon sitting in his 18th century knee-breeches and writing about how the Ῥωμαῖοι had "renounced the dress" of the Romans. The Catholics of Carthage would have tossed their Vandal clothing as soon as Belisarius overthrew the Germans; but if Gibbon is thinking of something besides togas or trousers in Constantinople, he doesn't say what it is. Actually, "Byzantine" dress began to resemble the Central Asian caftan, ; but I'm not sure if Gibbon was aware of that. It certainly wasn't trousers.

In the Greek passage of Agathias, I had some difficulty understanding the word χρῶνται. This is contracted from χράονται and is the third person plural middle/passive of (active) χράω, whose first person citation form is χράομαι, contracted to χρῶμαι. After all that, χρῶνται just means "[they] use," i.e. the Franks use things after the manner of Roman politeia and laws.

We also get the masculine nominative plural participle χρώμενοι "users," agreeing with Χριστιανοί, "Christians."

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 3

It would help to distinguish the "Roman" of the City from the "Roman" of the Empire. In time, this would be done in Greek, where the general word for "Roman," Ῥωμαῖος, had been used since the Hellenistic Age. This continued to be used in Greek for the Roman Empire. Later, Romanus was borrowed from Latin, as Ῥωμανός, to mean "Roman" in relation to the actual City of Rome -- although it was also the name of four Byzantine Emperors and a Saint (after whom one of the gates of Constantinople was named).

In English, or even in the Latin, this distinction is not really available. However, since it was the Empire and never the City that was called "Romania," all ambiguity could be avoided just by deriving the adjective from "Romania" instead of directly from "Rome," i.e. as "Romanian."

However, "Romanian" is not used by Kaldellis nor even by myself in this sense, for overcoming its association with the modern Kingdom and Republic of Romania (Roumania, Rumania) would probably be more difficult than the similar difficulty of reviving "Romania" for the Roman Empire. Few people, especially modern Romanians, have any notion of the origin of the name.
Roma, Rome,
Rom, Ῥώμη,
the City, Urbs
Roman, Romaeus, Romanian?
Ῥωμανία, Romanie, Romagna
the Empire, Orbis
The awkwardness of this is avoided by historians using "Byzantine," but this, of course, involves its own problems.

A curious case is the Mediaeval Latin word Romaeus, which looks like nothing less than a Latin transcription of Ῥωμαῖος. So Romaeus could have been a Mediaeval Latin word for a "Byzantine" -- rather than the ambiguous Romanus or the insulting Graecus or Graeculus ("little Greek").

However, this does not seem to be the only meaning it had. Romaeus (and Romeus) were used to mean "pilgrim to Rome." This turns up in French as Romée and Italian as Romeo. Yes, Romeo, as in Romeo and Juliet, the tragic lovers of Verona. A term of more obvious meaning in Latin for such a pilgrim was Romipeta, rather like the German Rompilger.

As it happens, Romaeus was sometimes used by the German Emperors and other Western monarchs in addressing the Emperor in Constantinople, when they wished to be particularly diplomatic and avoid insults. But this was exceptional, and the general meaning drifted towards "pilgrim." See more discussion of this issue here.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 4

In looking into the background of the references in Kaldellis's book, I found a curious situation in the sources for the Greek text for this expression in the Chronicle of Theophanes. Kaldellis uses the Theophanes Chronographia edited by Carolus de Boor and published at Leipzig, 1883-1885. The text of this edition is dated to 1833 -- all of which attests of the disgrace of many of the Greek texts of Byzantine literature having editions no later than the 19th century -- where we find ἀνασκαφῇ, anaskaphêi, as Kaldellis gives it, for "dig up" or "exhume." This is from the verb ἀνασκάπτω, anaskáptô, "dig up," as the subjunctive of the second aorist ἀνασκάφην, anaskáphên, used as a hortative, i.e. an exhortation.

But there was another edition of the Greek text of Theophanes, from apparently a different recension, i.e. textual tradition. Whereas the 1833 edition was sponsored by the Bavarian Academy, there was also one published by the Prussian Academy in 1839. In the Prussian text, ἀνασκάφην was in the optative, as ἀνασκαφείη, anaskapheíê. Since Warren Treadgold reports that there are no less than 14 "substantially complete" manuscripts of Theophanes [The Middle Byzantine Historians, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, p.490], it is not surprising that we should see a variation like this.

I think that the subjunctive, as a hortative, makes more sense. So whence the optative? There seem to be different manuscript traditions. And there are various possibilities, especially given that the use of the optative had died out in the spoken language by the Middle Ages. There is no optative, as a result, in Modern Greek. However, the optative is sometimes preserved in fossilized form in expressions that date from the time when the optative was used. And this could be rather late, since Mediaeval authors would often use the optative in their deliberate style of using the forms of ancient Attic Greek. And it will be in the Bible, which is now translated into Modern Greek but would not have been in the Middle Ages. It is unlikely, however, that a popular chant by a mob would derive from a high literary source, or from the Bible. And it seems unlikely that a popular chant in Constantinople would derive from a Classical source old enough to still be using the optative. At the same time, if the pronunciation of Greek had progressed very far in the direction it now stands in Modern Greek, ê and eiê might already have both been pronounced î, in which case the spoken langauge would have been unable to distinguished between subjunctive and optative anyway.

My suspicion is that a Mediaeval copyist substituted the optative for the subjunctive, just because he thought that was appropriate.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 5

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, Tribune of the Plebes, 133 BC, assassinated, 132 BC. Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, Tribune of the Plebs, 123 & 122 BC, assassinated 121 BC. The Gracchi, as sacrosanct tribunes, could not be touched while in office but were vulnerable to violence when they were not reelected.

In the late Empire how the tria nomina was supposed to work was being forgotten. Flavius began to be used by almost everyone as a praenômen, even though it was the gens and the nômen of the true Flavian Emperors, e.g. Vespasian, or T. Flavius Vespasianus. Instead, we start getting a sort of salad of names, with the Constantians randomly using Valerius, Claudius, or even Julius as the nômen, all with the Flavius prenômen. But it is unlikely that any of these people really belonged to the Flavian gens; and the cognômen has become the personal name. All of this was soon replaced by a single Christian given name, with the addition, after some centuries, of a family name.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 6

The Greek of the latter is interesting:

καὶ γάρ που καὶ παντάπασιν ἀδύνατον ἦν δημοκρατουμένους αὐτοὺς σωθῆναι: "for it was no doubt quite impossible for the people to be saved under a republic." [Dio Cassius, Roman History, Volume VI, LIII:19:1, translated by Earnest Cary, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1917, pp.242-243]

What Kaldellis renders "safe under the previous democracy" and the Loeb edition as "to be saved under a republic" is δημοκρατουμένους αὐτούς, "those having a democracy [masculine plural, participle & pronoun]," σωθῆναι, "to be safe [aorist passive infinitive of σώζω]." Here, "having a democracy," or "living in a democracy," is a verb in its own right, δημοκρατέομαι, dêmokratéomai. It is hard to state this the same sort of way in English. So it "was impossible" for those practicing democracy to be safe.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 7

If is often observed that the rule of tyrants in Greek history usually comes before the institution of democracy, not after, as in the system of Plato. This is evident with Peisistratus (d.527) at Athens. However, there is a connection between tyrants and democracy because tyrants generally appealed for support to the people at large against their more immediate enemies, who might be a hereditary aristocracy or, later, the rich.

Even traditional Kings respond to such circumstances, such as what we see in the Mediaeval Kings of France, who cultivated support among cities, to whom they granted charters, against the feudal aristocracy, who had all but destroyed the power of the French monarchy. This attention to the cities was especially to obtain the money that the cities, engaged in a growing commercial economy, could supply, which enabled the Kings to hire their own armies, rather than rely on the (obviously) unreliable feudal levy. Once the aristocracy was domesticated and French monarchy secure, then the Bourbons could turn against the cities and strip them of their privileges. Thus was French Absolutism established, unlike in Britain, where the Kings were unable to defeat Parliament.

We find Aristotle saying:

For almost the greatest number of tyrants have risen, it may be said, from being demagogues [ἐκ δημαγωγῶν], having won the people's confidence by slandering the notables [τοὺς γνωρίμους]. [Politics, VIII-3, translated by H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1932, 1998, p.439]

At Athens, Solon had removed privileges of birth and made wealth alone the principle of political qualification. Peisistratus, therefore, was against the rich. As such, it was not the people of Athens who actually opposed him. Fustel de Coulanges said:

The people showed themselves little desirous of recovering their liberty. Twice a coalition of the great and the rich overthrew Peisistratus; twice he returned to power, and his sons governed Athens after him. The intervention of the Lacedæmonian army was required in Attica to put an end to this family's rule. [Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, A Study of the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome, translated by Willard Small, 1874, Doubleday & Company, 1955, Dover Publications, 2006, p.280; La cité antique, 1865]

Peisistratus left his power to his son Hippias, who was overthrown by the Spartans in 510. Another son, Hipparchus, was killed (in 514) by the lovers Harmodius and Aristogeiton, after Harmodius rejected his advances and feared the revenge of the Peisistratids. They also attempted to assassinate Hippias. After they were executed, the narrative developed that Hipparchus had been a tyrant with his brother and that the lovers were consequently "tyrannicides." Hippias, however, may have been more discredited by his arrival with the Persians in 490, hoping to be restored by them.

The association of tyrants with the popular party is characteristic; and when we find a similar association in the case of Julius Caesar, with the assertion of Kaldellis, which we will see, that "the monarchy served the needs and interests of the populus better than the late Republic," we begin to wonder if the People (or Anthony Kaldellis) really have a love for individual liberty, let alone the power of democratic institutions, at all. Historically, they have been far too willing to sell their birthright for a "mess of pottage" (Genesis 25:33), i.e. the promises of demagogues for free stuff, or at least for revenge on the "enemies of the people." In the 20th century, it was painfully obvious that intellectuals loved dictatorships, from Lenin and Stalin to Mao and the Castros, and this continues into the 21st, with supporters of Barack Obama openly advocating dictatorial powers for him, even as he attempts to assume them through Executive Orders and irresponsible administrative regulations. The delusion, of course, is that absolute power means you can control and do anything, when, in the end, the failure of your ability to do so simply means that you must do what you can do, i.e. kill people.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 8

I first noticed this phenomenon in a book called Warriors into Traders, The Power of the Market in Early Greece, by David W. Tandy [University of California Press, 1997]. In his conclusion, Tandy opined that the market economy of Classical Greece has now culminated in "late capitalism," so that it was "nothing other than the beginning of a historical trajectory that may finally now be coming to an end." I wrote him a letter about this, which he never answered, and which is now one of the oldest postings at this website.

I had previously heard about "late capitalism," not from a book, but directly from someone teaching English (of course) at Princeton University, in about 1991. The phrase used was "overproduction in late capitalism," which was a reflex of the idea in Marxism that capitalism would collapse because capitalists would produce goods that, of course, the impoverished workers would not be able to buy. This was a genuine Marxist notion, which means it never entered the heads of Marx or Marxists that capitalists reduce prices until consumers in the target market are in fact able to buy the goods. This was how Henry Ford (and others) demonstrated the truth of Say's Law. Meanwhile, the value of labor is determined by supply and demand in the labor market.

The discussion in 1991 was actually how a great many graduates with higher degrees at American universities were having difficulty finding jobs. This surplus (which in 2015 now affects all college graduates) was attributed to "late capitalism." And this was, of course, farcical. Universities that are either publicly owned or largely beholden to public funds hardly qualify as capitalist enterprises. One wonders who the greedy robber barons of capitalism would be in such cases. Instead, the whole process of degree production is heavily subsidized by the government, something that is as sure to create surpluses as it is with agricultural subsidies. At the same time, schools seek to keep their programs large and active just because this sustains the numbers of faculty (and, as it happens, administrators) that the schools employ. Thus, unlike capitalism, where businesses seek to cut costs (to increase profits and/or reduce prices), often by cutting the most expensive cost, namely labor, universities often seem conducted so as to increase costs and increase their own employment (with administrators now outnumbering teachers). This is the familiar dynamic of bureaucracy, not market forces. So the reference to "late capitalism" that I heard in 1991 was a bit of free-floating ideology that had nothing to do with the economic realities, or, for that matter, any realities, of the matter under discussion.

While Professor Tandy was certainly not the first scholar to throw a bit of Marxism into his work, this was the first example that came to my notice while writing for this site, and also the first time that I had ever noticed something of the sort published in a work of Classics. Its noteworthy characteristics are also evident in the comments about contemporary politics that Kaldellis makes, usually by comparison with his Byzantine examples of government. Thus, Tandy apparently assumes that his readers will know what he means by "late capitalism." He offers no explanation. Informed readers, however, will be aware that this terminology is typical in the discourse that I have called "English Department Marxism," which means that its practitioners actually don't know Marx very well and tend to use a processed knock-off of Marxism, which is often little more sophisticated than Cargo Cult economics -- what Robert Hughes called "Lumpen Marxism."

If "late capitalism" is not explained, Tandy offers no explanation, evidence, or argument for the notion that the Greek market was "the beginning of a historical trajectory that may finally now be coming to an end." I think that this is typical, indeed almost defining, of the way that English Department Marxism is expressed. Tandy and, for that matter, Kaldellis feel no need or obligation to provide details like this to the reader, which means they must assume that readers not only will know already what they are talking about but are more than likely to agree with them. No explanation, let alone evidence or argument, is necessary. With most of their academic peers, they are probably right. For any readers who don't know what they are talking about, perhaps the thought is that they are insufficiently educated to be reading this level of scholarship. For any readers who know what they are talking about and think that it represents an appalling level of ignorance and folly, well, obviously they are going to be the kind of race, class, and gender enemies who are going to need some time in reeducation camps (or "classes," "training," "public service," etc.).

In the modern American university, this is not an exaggeration. Disagreeing with the dogmas of "oppression studies" (a dominant element in English Department Marxism, or "Theory," as its advocates may prefer) is at least a "micro-aggression" and at most "hate speech," which means criminal sanctions will be warranted. It is this tendency by which we recognize the doctrine of "Theory" as dogma -- it cannot be questioned within the pale of allowed discourse. This what we have come to, twenty-five years after the Fall of Communism.

More recently than David W. Tandy, there is the interesting book Taken at the Flood, The Roman Conquest of Greece by Robin Waterfield [Oxford, 2014]. Like Kaldellis and Tandy, Waterfield makes a couple of side comments relevant to contemporary political issues. On the topic of bogus charges against King Perseus of Macedonia, which were used to justify Roman aggression, Waterfield says:

The charges consist largely of innuendo, or unproved and unprovable allegations, some of them far-fetched. The tactic is appalling familiar from our own recent history -- from the unproved assertions by prejudiced statesmen that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction," and sheltered al-Qaeda, and that therefore we had to go to war. [p.175, color added]

Since Saddam Hussein had used poison gas against Kurdish citizens of Iraq, with the interanational press able to examine the results, and had possessed a nuclear program that the Israelis had bombed out of existence, it is not clear how being "prejudiced" about Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" would be a bad thing for any statesman. He was a man with a history. At the same time, who is Waterfield talking about? An American writer would certainly mean George W. Bush, but Waterfield is a British citizen ("we") who lives in Greece. He could well be thinking of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who actually supplied some of the evidence that was used by George Bush to justify the Iraq war, and who openly challenged other European leaders to deny that Hussein had the weapons that all of their intelligence services thought that he had. None denied it. But if there was evidence, as indeed there was, which was presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations, then Waterfield's expressions, "unproved assertions" and "prejudiced," are misrepresentations, perhaps even dishonest ones. Hussein was under U.N. sanctions because of his invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Constantly fighting the U.N. inspections that he had accepted in the armistice that ended the liberation of Kuwait, Hussein was an international outlaw, which was not something that either the Roman Senate or Robin Waterfield could say about King Perseus of Macedonia.

Thus, in Robin Waterfield we see the same kind of political sniping without argument or evidence that is noted here in Anthony Kaldellis and David W. Tandy, with the added irony that his own statements qualify as the kind of "unproved assertions" that he wishes to attribute to his unnamed "prejudiced statesmen." But irony, or any other subtlety, is usually lost when it comes to academic writers trying to demonstate their politically correct bona fides. But one might well wonder if Waterfield really thinks that the world would be a better place had Hussein been left to his own devices to murder Kurds and Shiites, to torture, rape, and murder his political opposition, and to invade his neighbors.

Finally, we get a remark by Waterfield that is relevant to the issues of Byzantine history examined on this page. Talking about how, after the Roman conquest of Greece, the Greeks became embarrassingly subservient to the Romans:

The lesson of subservience lasted a very long time: Greece was in turn part of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, until it gained its freedom in 1832 CE. It is still a young country. [p.232]

There is a very curious aspect to these statements. It is not hard to imagine Greek subservience to Latin speaking Romans or Turkish speaking Ottomans, but to whom are they subservient in the Byzantine Empire? The general impression, past and present, is that the Greeks were the Byzantine Empire. So what can Waterfield possibly have in mind? Did Leo V, the Armenian represent Armenian oppression of the Greeks? If so, he did it while speaking Greek and maintaining the countenance of the Greek citizens of Constantinople. So it is an issue that never arises in historical analysis. Waterfield simply does not seem to be thinking very clearly, unless his (unexplained) take on it is that, since the Mediaeval Greeks were Ῥωμαῖοι rather than Ἕλληνες, they suffered, subserviently, from some kind of false consciousness. But he gives us no clue.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 9

Since the "states in between" would mean when Emperors govern according to the law, by "governance by an emperor" Kaldellis could only mean when the Emperor legislates, changes the law, and thus is "above the law," although this function itself was perfectly legal under Roman Imperial law, as Kaldellis has previously noted.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 10

If George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, and this discredits his election, well, Bill Clinton lost the popular vote in 1992, and this is never said, even by Republicans, to mean that his election was discredited. While a majority of Americans did not vote for Bill Clinton, their vote was divided between George H.W. Bush and Ross Perrot, so that Clinton did have a plurality of the vote. In many elections, if no one gains a majority, then there is a run-off between the top two candidates. We might wonder what might have happened in a Clinton-Bush run-off. As it happens, Al Gore did not win a majority of the vote in 2000 either, since the Leftist and Democrat vote was split with Ralph Nader. Both Clinton and Bush, of course, won a majority in the Electoral College, which means they had popular majorities in enought States to obtain all their electoral votes. Presidential elections where there is no majority in the Electoral College are throw into the House of Representatives for a determination. If this all seems not entirely democratic, that was of course the purpose. The whole Electoral College was designed as a check on pure democracy, and it remains a check on the most populous states, like California and New York, from dominating national elections and national policy. I have previously examined this issue elsewhere. On the other hand, the second most populous State is now Texas (followed now by, not New York, but Florida), which has very different political, economic, and social values than California or New York. At this point Democrats may be grateful that small, absurdly socialist States like Vermont may have influence comparable to larger, conservatives ones like Wyoming, and that the influence of Texas is similarly diluted.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 11

The fantasy that "the People" can act as a unified and corporate body while government is in a state of anarchy is a conceit with the very convenient use of obscuring one of the principle failings of democracy, which is that majority rule, by which democracies operate, easily becomes the Tyranny of the Majority. This was understood by commenators as diverse as Alexis de Tocqueville and James Fenimore Cooper. De Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America (1835, 1840), said:

If it be admitted that a man, possessing absolute power, may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should a majority not be liable to the same reproach? Men are not apt to change their characters by agglomeration; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with the consciousness of their strength. And for these reasons I can never willingly invest any number of my fellow creatures with that unlimited authority which I should refuse to any one of them.

Cooper, the author of classic American novels like The Last of the Mohicans, said in his political statement, The American Democrat (1838):

The common axiom of democracies, however, which says that "the majority must rule," is to be received with many limitations. Were the majority of a country to rule without restraint, it is probable as much injustice and oppression would follow, as are found under the dominion of one.

Conditions of civil disorder, of course, such as we find in the revolutions in Constantinople, are no more effective than pure democracy at protecting political minorities or, in Madison's phrase, "an obnoxious individual." Riots in Indonesia or the Philippines historically have targeted resident Chinese, as did riots in 19th century San Francisco. We thus learn that "the People" have often detested overseas Chinese, Indians in Africa, or Jews in Europe. Since all these minorities have been singled out for their economic success, the anti-capitalist Left does not waste much concern over them. But then the Left is in the business of delegitimizing all opposition to its program.

While the Left likes to say that one failing of capitalism is that there are "winners and losers," it carefully ignores two key circumstances:  (1) the winners and losers in capitalism are among producers, not consumers, while the statist and bureaucratic regimes evidently favored by the Left protect producers, which may have become state industries or the cronies and tools of politicians -- such things were the basis of the critique of Mercantilism by Adam Smith. Thus, the elimination of inefficient and obsolete businesses benefits consumers, while, suspiciously, it is always the Left complaining about "consumerism," which means that they disapprove of what people actually like and want. "You don't know what you want" (what the wise call "false consciousness") is the statist, authoritarian, and even totalitarian answer. And, (2) winners and losers are a much more serious matter in politics than in economics. Even in a democracy, losing an election can endanger one's livelihood, one's property, one's liberty, and even one's life. In other kinds of regimes, these disabilities are often immediate and obvious; but the common factor to all is that men with guns can be legally sent by political winners against their opposition. Germans and others feared the midnight knock of the Gestapo; but today in the United States, SWAT teams of agencies as diverse as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Park Service break (not to mention the IRS) into homes through windows in the small hours of the morning, throwing grenades into baby cribs, shooting dogs, often shooting citizens who think that the intruders are burglars, and then freely engaging in the sorts of mayhem and vandalism that are now called "searches." That the public complacently allows these outrages to continue is no more than evidence that majorities can easily tolerate evils that do not affect most of them ("First they came for the...."). The Left obscures these effects with absurdities such as conceptions of "collective social action," the "solidarity" of the corporate body of "the People," or meaningless slogans such as "We are the government."

The rights of minorities or individuals will be protected neither in conditions of anarchy nor under pure democracy. Hence the ideas of the Rule of Law, a Government of Limited and Enumerated Powers, and a Bill of Rights -- all reinforced by provisions like the Ninth and Tenth Amendments -- are built into the "mixed" structure of a Republican form of government, where the various parts are motivated to enforce limits, and its own powers, against the others. Kaldellis seems to be impatient with this kind of thing, preferring the anarchic purity of riot and rebellion. In his impatience, he joins most politicians and bureaucrats, who inherently respect no limits to power and who relish the power that enables them to act unaccountably and also, in the event, to prevent, by force, riot and rebellion. Since, as Jefferson said, it is the way of government to expand and liberty to retreat, the People of the United States have gradually allowed the partisans and minions of government to get their way, all from demagoguery, lies, or promises of impossible "benefits."

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 12

A government that is the extraordinary combination of monarchy and anarchy reminds me of a book, Democracy -- The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe [Perspectives on Democratic Practice, Transaction Publishers, 2001]. Hoppe is a Ludwig von Mises anarcho-capitalist libertarian. In the book he keeps calling anarcho-capitalism the "natural order," which strikes me as absurd, since there is nothing "natural" about an "order" that has actually never existed and actually is part of no more than a utopian ideology. I recently attended a debate about anaracho-capitalism and have noted there its shortcomings. Hoppe, however, is a true believer.

While Hoppe prefers his "natural order," he also argues that monarchy is better than democracy. This is for simple reasons. Capitalists believe in private property. The state is the private property of the sovereign monarch. While monarchs may be good or bad, the incentive, which is what economic reasoning is all about, is for them to preserve and expand the value of their property. Politicians in a democracy, however, have no such incentive. Their incentives are getting elected and then looting the government on behalf of themselves and their friends. If successful, they escape with their loot; and the evil consequences of their tenure falls on subsequent politicians and later generations of voters. The monarch, however, with life tenure, plans for no such escape. He will die in office and seeks to provide for his heirs, whose inheritance and patrimony is the state.

We can see from history that this did not always work out, as the French monarchy was brought down by the imprudence of the wars pursued by its Kings, especially Louis XIV. However, the French monarchy had already demonstrated a durability that modern democracies have yet to match -- and acquisitions such as the German-speaking Alsace are now considered intrinsic parts of France. The wise provision of the limitations of the power of the federal government in the United States having been undermined in the Roosevelt Administration, we are now faced with a government that has accumulated unprecedented debt (now over 18 trillion dollars in 2015) from the simple strategy of promising benefits and buying votes -- problems that do not face a hereditary monarchy. But they are problems characteristic of democracy -- i.e. a true democracy, where unlimited power is invested in the "people," i.e. in demagogues. As a Republic, the United States originally limited the power of the Federal Government that could be abused by demagogues. Folly and sophistry have destroyed this.

If we proposed a combination of monarchy and anarchy to Hans-Hermann Hoppe, he would certainly find it preferable to democracy, however much he might long for pure anarchy. With Anthony Kaldellis, it is not at all clear whether his preferences would be for anarcho-capitalism or anarcho-socialism. One suspects socialism, but he is not so open or honest as to confess his preference in this regard. Certainly, in the context of Romania, socialism is not an option. The Empire of the Romans protected private property, even as it flourished in the commercial culture that is now so despised by the Left. Yet that is what Constantinople enjoyed; and Kaldellis, for all his acid remarks about modern democracies, never takes the opportunity to condemn the nascent capitalism, i.e. the cash nexus, private property, and free exchange, of Mediaeval Romania. Indeed, it is evident that what was unique about Constantinople was its commercial culture -- although a similar culture of the United States has drawn the sustained animus of the Left. Kaldellis may also possess this animus; but, if so, he seems to be disciplined enough to avoid stepping too far out of his historical context to express it. The Code of Justinian never heard of socialism.

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The Byzantine Republic, by Anthony Kaldellis; Note 13

For instance, the "Dodd-Frank" financial regulation law -- named after two Congressmen, Senator Christopher Dodd and Represenative Barney Frank (both since retired), who themselves helped create the mortgage bubble, credit collapse, and recession of 2008-2009 -- created an agency, the "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau," which can fund itself with unlimited money from the Federal Reserve (meaning it is not subject to Congressional appropriations) and, according to the law, cannot be abolished by any act of Congress in the future. The Bureau can summarily rule any "consumer-credit product 'unfair' or 'abusive' and outlaw it"; and the law "requires courts to grant the bureau deference regarding its interpretation of federal consumer-financial law" [Jeb Hensarling, "After Five Years, Dodd-Frank Is a Failure," The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2015, A15]. These are all astonishing provisions for any public agency in a democracy or a republic, especially the preposterous idea that Congress cannot abolish an agency that it has previously created, so that it is effectively independent of the whole rest of the government, and of the citizens, whatever their will. But it is good evidence of the kind of autocratic, self-perpetuating, and unaccountable government that is actually favored by the Democratic Party. It deserves an attack from the mob of Constantinople.

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