Polybius

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Polybius was born around 200 BC in Arcadia. He was a Greek deported to Rome as a son of someone who opposed Roman rule in his own country, Macedonia. In Rome Lucius Aemilius Paulus employed him to tutor his two sons. He eventually placed his allegiance with the Roman Republic.

Polybius believed all democracies fail.

"The masses continue with an appetite for benefits and the habit of receiving them by way of a rule of force and violence. The people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others... institute the rule of violence; [1] and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder,[2] until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch." [3]

Polybius saw the downfall of the republic a 150 years before the first Emperor of Rome and 175 years before the birth of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.

The authoritarian State uses force and violence to become the Benefactors of the people. They force one class of citizen to provide for another. Proverbs 23 warned and Christ forbid that type of socialist government.

Real Christians of the early Church had actually repented and were diligently seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness by the practices of pure religion according to the perfect law of liberty. Since most modern Christians are under a strong delusion about the reality of their faith in Christ and what it should mean they find themselves back in the bondage of Egypt and often workers of iniquity.

The solution of the early Christian community was to not pray to the Fathers of the earth for their free bread and benefits which are a snare but to set the table of the Lord through the Eucharist of Christ which was a daily ministration established by His Church through faith, hope, charity and the perfect law of liberty in the practice of Pure Religion.

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Polybius was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BC in detail.

Polybius wrote The Histories which provided a detailed account of Rome's ascent as an empire. It included his eyewitness account of the Sack of Carthage in 146 BC by one of his former pupils.

He helped organize the new governments in Greece after their destruction.

He set the standards for honest historians influencing the historian like Sempronius Asellio.

Polybius was widely read by Romans and Greeks alike.

He is quoted extensively by Strabo explaining causes of events rather than just recounting events. He is mentioned by Cicero and Diodorus, Livy, Plutarch and Arrian. Montesquieu

Polybius gained a following in Italy, with men like Niccolò Machiavelli but also in French, German, Italian and English. His popularity among the learned public with such men as Isaac Casaubon, Jacques Auguste de Thou, William Camden, and Paolo Sarpi

Polybius' political thoughts inspired republican thinkers like Charles de Montesquieu and the Founding Fathers in America.

John Adams, considered him one of the most important teachers of constitutional theory.

Jose Ortega y Gasset calls Polybius "one of the few great minds that the turbid human species has managed to produce", and says the damage to the Histories is "without question one of the gravest losses that we have suffered in our Greco-Roman heritage".

“There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man.” ― Polybius
“If history is deprived of the Truth, we are left with nothing but an idle, unprofitable tale.”― Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire
“In our own time the whole of Greece has been subject to a low birth rate and a general decrease of the population, owing to which cities have become deserted and the land has ceased to yield fruit, although there have neither been continuous wars nor epidemics...For as men had fallen into such a state of pretentiousness, avarice, and indolence that they did not wish to marry, or if they married to rear the children born to them, or at most as a rule but one or two of them, so as to leave these in affluence and bring them up to waste their substance, the evil rapidly and insensibly grew.”― Polybius, The Histories, Vol 6: Bks.XXVIII-XXXIX
“At the sight of the city utterly perishing amidst the flames Scipio burst into tears, and stood long reflecting on the inevitable change which awaits cities, nations, and dynasties, one and all, as it does every one of us men. This, he thought, had befallen Ilium, once a powerful city, and the once mighty empires of the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, and that of Macedonia lately so splendid. And unintentionally or purposely he quoted---the words perhaps escaping him unconsciously---
"The day shall be when holy Troy shall fall

And Priam, lord of spears, and Priam's folk."

"And on my asking him boldly (for I had been his tutor) what he meant by these words, he did not name Rome distinctly, but was evidently fearing for her, from this sight of the mutability of human affairs. . . . Another still more remarkable saying of his I may record. . . [When he had given the order for firing the town] he immediately turned round and grasped me by the hand and said: "O Polybius, it is a grand thing, but, I know not how, I feel a terror and dread, lest some one should one day give the same order about my own native city.”― Polybius
“Can any one be so indifferent or idle as not to care to know by what means, and under what kind of polity, almost the whole inhabited world was conquered and brought under the dominion of the single city of Rome, and that too within a period of not quite fifty-three years?”― Polybius, The Histories


“They want the centurions not so much to be venturesome and daredevils, as to be natural leaders, of a steady and reliable spirit. They do not so much want men who will initiate attacks and open the battle, but men who will hold their ground when beaten and hard-pressed, and will be ready to die at their posts.”― Polybius
“From this I conclude that the best education for the situations of actual life consists of the experience we acquire from the study of serious history. For it is history alone which without causing us harm enables us to judge what is the best course in any situation or circumstance.”― Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire


“The order of battle used by the Roman army is very difficult to break through, since it allows every man to fight both individually and collectively; the effect is to offer a formation that can present a front in any direction, since the maniples that are nearest to the point where danger threatens wheels in order to meet it.”― Polybius


“There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible, as the conscious that dwells in the heart of every man.”― Polybius


“The particular aspect of history which both attracts and benefits its readers is the examination of causes and the capacity, which is the reward of this study, to decide in each case the best policy to follow. Now in all political situations we must understand that the principle factor which makes for success or failure is the form of a state's constitution: it is from this source, as if from a fountainhead, that all designs and plans of action not only originate but reach their fulfillment.”― Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire


The anacyclosis of society

"The central problem in anacyclosis, as Polybius characterizes it, is the lack of continuity between successive generations. The justice of the monarch decays to the pride of the tyrant." The Separation of Powers: From Polybius to James Madison

“[A]ll existing things are subject to decay and change is a truth that scarcely needs proof; for the course of nature is sufficient to force this conviction on us.”[4] Polybius and Aristotle believed in the political doctrine of anacyclosis which is that the theory of political evolution is cyclical.[5]

Concerning the "rule by the one, the few, and the many" Democracy is not the rule by the many but rather rule by the majority whereas a true Republic is the rule of the many individuals by the each individual in voluntary cooperation with each other through "Right Reason" or "Divine Will. This is because the leaders of a true Republic are titular and they may only rule over things public that are freely given to them.

It is not "Right Reason" to think you are a product of your own "self-creation". You cannot be a part of society today without due humble recognition of the generations that have gone before. This begins with honoring your Father and Mother but continues from our forgotten ancestral beginnings to the unseen progeny of the eternal future which all reside in the heuristic of a timeless God.

Without that decent and pious respect and reverence of that which existed before us, society will rapidly decay to a corrupted form. Many believe that, like other animals, humans naturally form herds for the purpose of mutual protection but only mankind forms herds by contract. The nature of those contracts, covenants and constitutions will not only transform the herd but man himself.

The evolution of society into "perfect savages" is a "natural transformations" or natural process that occurs when we abandoned basic social rituals and ceremonies for the covetous practices which makes people merchandise and curse children with debt. Before Polybius explained how the people's appetite for benefits at the expense of others would alter them he stated in the context:

5:1 "Perhaps this theory of the natural transformations into each other of the different forms of government is more elaborately set forth by Plato and certain other philosophers; but as the arguments are subtle and are stated at great length, they are beyond the reach of all but a few. 2 I therefore will attempt to give a short summary of the theory, as far as I consider it to apply to the actual history of facts and to appeal to the common intelligence of mankind. 3 For if there appear to be certain omissions in my general exposition of it, the detailed discussion which follows will afford the reader ample compensation for any difficulties now left unsolved."

Not knowing the pain and struggles of history past down from generation to generation the grandchildren of those who won freedom for their descendants will be subject to that "natural transformation" into "perfect savages" who banish freedom and liberty. Polybius warns of this in the preceding context of the original quote concerning the warning to our modern millennials of their inevitable transformation into perfect savages if they do not learn and appreciate their own history:

"But when a new generation arises and the democracy falls into the hands of the grandchildren of its founders, they have become so accustomed to freedom and equality that they no longer value them, and begin to aim at pre-eminence; and it is chiefly those of ample fortune who fall into this error. 6 So when they begin to lust for power and cannot attain it through themselves or their own good qualities, they ruin their estates, tempting and corrupting the people in every possible way. 7 And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. 8 For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; 9 and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch."
"10 Such is the cycle of political revolution, the course appointed by nature in which constitutions change, disappear, and finally return to the point from which they started. 11 Anyone who clearly perceives this may indeed in speaking of the future of any state be wrong in his estimate of the time the process will take, but if his judgement is not tainted by animosity or jealousy, he will very seldom be mistaken as to the stage of growth or decline it has reached, and as to the form into which it will change. 12 And especially in the case of the Roman state will this method enable us to arrive at a knowledge of its formation, growth, and greatest perfection, and likewise of the change for the worse which is sure to follow some day. 13 For, as I said, this state, more than any other, has been formed and has grown naturally, and will undergo a natural decline and change to its contrary. 14 The reader will be able to judge of the truth of this from the subsequent parts of this work."
10 1 "At present I will give a brief account of the legislation of Lycurgus, a matter not alien to my present purpose. 2 Lycurgus had perfectly well understood that all the above changes take place p291 necessarily and naturally, and had taken into consideration that every variety of constitution which is simple and formed on principle is precarious, as it is soon perverted into the corrupt form which is proper to it and naturally follows on it. 3 For just as rust in the case of iron and wood-worms and ship-worms in the case of timber are inbred pests, and these substances, even though they escape all external injury, fall a prey to the evils engendered in them, so each constitution has a vice engendered in it and inseparable from it. In kingship it is despotism, in aristocracy oligarchy, 5 and in democracy the savage rule of violence; and it is impossible, as I said above, that each of these should not in course of time change into this vicious form. 6 Lycurgus, then, foreseeing this, did not make his constitution simple and uniform, but united in it all the good and distinctive features of the best governments, so that none of the principles should grow unduly and be perverted into its allied evil, but that, the force of each being neutralized by that of the others, neither of them should prevail and outbalance another, but that the constitution should remain for long in a state of equilibrium like a well-trimmed boat, kingship being guarded from arrogance by the fear of the commons, who were given a sufficient share in the government, and the commons on the other hand not venturing to treat the kings with contempt from fear of the elders, who being selected from the best citizens would be sure all of them to be always on the side of justice; 10 so that that part of the state which was weakest owing to its subservience p293 to traditional custom, acquired power and weight by the support and influence of the elders. 11 The consequence was that by drawing up his constitution thus he preserved liberty at Sparta for a longer period than is recorded elsewhere.
12 "Lycurgus then, foreseeing, by a process of reasoning, whence and how events naturally happen, constructed his constitution untaught by adversity, 13 but the Romans while they have arrived at the same final result as regards their form of government, 14 have not reached it by any process of reasoning, but by the discipline of many struggles and troubles, and always choosing the best by the light of the experience gained in disaster have thus reached the same result as Lycurgus, that is to say, the best of all existing constitutions." [6]

So why study history?

8 "What chiefly attracts and chiefly benefits students of history is just this — the study of causes and the consequent power of choosing what is best in each case."


  • "...his kingdom is from generation to generation:" Daniel 4
"And his mercy [is] on them that fear him from generation to generation." Luke 1:50
== Footnotes ==
  1. Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
  2. Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets [were] until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
  3. "But when a new generation arises and the democracy falls into the hands of the grandchildren of its founders, they have become so accustomed to freedom and equality that they no longer value them, and begin to aim at pre-eminence; and it is chiefly those of ample fortune who fall into this error. 6 So when they begin to lust for power and cannot attain it through themselves or their own good qualities, they ruin their estates, tempting and corrupting the people in every possible way. 7 And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. 8 For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; 9 and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch" Polybius: The Histories (composed at Rome around 130 BC)Fragments of Book VI, p289
  4. Polybius, The Histories 6.57.
  5. Anacyclos is a cyclical theory of political evolution. The theory of anacyclosis is based upon the Greek typology of constitutional forms of rule by the one, the few, and the many.
  6. The Histories of Polybius published in Vol. III of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1922 thru 1927. The text is in the public domain.

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