Zonaras 7.4 Part III: Romulus Becomes a Tyrant


Zonaras relates how Romulus consolidated both the substance and the pageantry of despotic power:

While things were going well for the Romans, those with less power stooped under the yoke of their neighbors, while the powerful did not think that it was necessary to take this into consideration, but rather to check their growth. The people of Veii were the first of the Tyrrhenians to start a war against Rome. They came against the Romans and, losing many men, the made a treaty of friendship lasting one hundred years, and they offered fifty of their noblest citizens as hostages.

Romulus led those whom he had conquered in triumph. Then, puffed up by his own unbelievable good fortune and being possessed of a rather dull mind, he departed from the more democratic aspects of government and exchanged it for a burdensome and grievous form of monarchy which he fashioned after his own mold. He then began to wear a purple cloak, as well a toga encircled with purple, red sandals, and he delivered his declarations while sitting in a reclining chair. There were always about his person many young men, whom he called ‘Celeres,’ which in the language of the Romans means ‘swift,’ and some others walked before him bearing rods which they used to part the crowd, and they had straps tied to them, so that they could bind those whom they ordered around.

῾Ρωννυμένων δὲ τῶν πραγμάτων ῾Ρωμαίοις οἱ μὲν ἀσθενέστεροι τῶν προσοίκων ὑπέκυπτον, οἱ δυνατοὶ δὲ οὐκ ᾤοντο δεῖν περιορᾶν, ἀλλὰ κολούειν τὴν αὔξησιν. πρῶτοι δὲ Τυρρηνῶν Οὐήιοι ἀρχὴν ἐποιήσαντο πολέμου. συμβαλόντες οὖν καὶ πολλοὺς ἀποβαλόντες ὁμολογίαν ἐποιήσαντο καὶ φιλίαν ἐπὶ ἐνιαυτοὺς ἑκατόν, καὶ τῶν παρ’ αὐτοῖς ἀρίστων παρέσχον εἰς ὁμηρείαν πεντήκοντα.

᾿Εθριάμβευσεν οὖν τούτους νικήσας ῾Ρωμύλος. εἶτα ἐπαρθεὶς ταῖς παραλόγοις εὐτυχίαις καὶ βαρυτέρῳ φρονήματι χρώμενος ἐξίστατο τοῦ δημοτικοῦ καὶ παρήλλαττε καὶ εἰς ἐπαχθῆ μοναρχίαν καὶ λυποῦσαν ἀπὸ τοῦ σχήματος ἑαυτὸν ἐσχημάτιζεν. ἁλουργῆ μὲν γὰρ ἐνεδύετο χιτῶνα καὶ τήβεννον ἠμπίσχετο περιπόρφυρον καὶ πεδίλοις ἐκέχρητο ἐρυθροῖς καὶ ἐν θρόνῳ ἀνακλίτῳ καθήμενος ἐχρημάτιζεν· ἦσαν δὲ περὶ αὐτὸν ἀεὶ καὶ τῶν νέων συχνοί, οὓς Κέλερας προσηγόρευεν, ὃ κατὰ τὴν τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων διάλεκτον δηλοῖ τοὺς ταχεῖς, καὶ πρόσθεν ἐβάδιζον ἕτεροι βακτηρίαις τὸν ὄχλον ἀνείργοντες, ὑπεζωσμένοι ἱμάντας, ὥστε συνδεῖν οὓς κελευσθῶσιν.

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