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Journal Articles Fundamina Year : 2018

La Raison d’État dans la Rome antique : prolégomènes (Cicéron, Tite-Live, Tacite)

Yasmina Benferhat
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This paper discusses the concept of raison d'Etat, or statecraft, in Rome under the Republic and the early Empire. The first part focuses on Republican times, when the Romans took extraordinary measures to stop a revolt abroad - Numance in 133 BC and Corinth in 146 BC - or to return order and stability to Rome with a senatusconsultum ultimum. This can be considered first steps where the State's survival was more important than the lives of citizens. The second part deals with statecraft under the Roman Empire (first century AD), considering the state as an entity independent from the prince. Examples deriving from Tacitus' Histories have been used to emphasise the fact that some Roman politicians took decisions in order to preserve the State, for example in 69 when Mucianus convinced Vespasian to rebel against two bad emperors, namely Otho and Vitellius. The third and last part deals with another point of view on the Roman Empire, namely that the raison d'Etat was actually the will of the emperor to save his own power and its dynastic transmission. It was often very difficult to distinguish between the Emperor and the State. The reigns of Tiberius and Nero offer a dark version of statecraft, full of dissimulation and violence against whoever was willing or able to reign after them. In consequence, the essay shows that the strong prejudice that Statecraft originated with Machiavelli and was unknown in ancient states is not correct and that the concept of raison d'Etat can be applied to ancient Rome.

Dates and versions

hal-02984770 , version 1 (01-11-2020)



Yasmina Benferhat. La Raison d’État dans la Rome antique : prolégomènes (Cicéron, Tite-Live, Tacite). Fundamina, 2018, 24 (1), pp.1-17. ⟨10.17159/2411-7870/2018/v24n1a1⟩. ⟨hal-02984770⟩
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