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Ancient Tyranny$
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Sian Lewis

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748621255

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621255.001.0001

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Adfectatio regni in the Roman Republic

Adfectatio regni in the Roman Republic

(p.49) Chapter 4 Adfectatio regni in the Roman Republic
Ancient Tyranny

Christopher Smith

Edinburgh University Press

In his article ‘Roman history and the ideological vacuum’, Peter Wiseman argued powerfully for a return to a reading of Roman history which acknowledges the political gulf between optimates and populares. Wiseman made a brief reference to one story which illustrates his point. In 439 BC, Spurius Maelius supplied corn to the people and was suspected of aiming at tyranny; the dictator Cincinnatus ordered Servilius Ahala summarily to execute Maelius, an act often compared to the murder of Tiberius Gracchus. There were two ways (at least) of telling the story. Dionysius describes Maelius as cut down ‘like an animal’, but in Livy, Ahala is praised for saving the Republic. The historical accounts of those who aimed at tyranny, Spurius Cassius, Spurius Maelius and Manlius Capitolinus, were heavily influenced by events contemporary to the writers. This chapter reviews the accounts of these three canonical would-be tyrants, giving a fascinating account of the Republican Romans who aimed at monarchy and arguing for the historicity of the adfectores.

Keywords:   Rome, tyrants, tyranny, monarchy, Spurius Cassius, Spurius Maelius, Manlius Capitolinus, Servilius Ahala

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