Zonaras 7.13 Part IV: The Establishment of the Dictatorship

A new office developed to deal with war and rebellion:

When war was once again raised by the Latins against the Romans, the common people did not wish to take up arms, thinking that there should first be a cancellation of all debt. For that reason, the powerful created a new type of office to deal with both situations. The man selected for this was called a Dictator, and in all respects he had power equal to that of the kings. Although they hated the name of ‘king’ because of the Tarquinii, they yet wished for the benefit deriving from monarchy, which deals most effectively with the circumstances of wars and rebellions. Therefore, they created a kingship with a different name. As has been stated, the Dictatorship possessed the same power as kingship, with the exception that the dictator was not permitted to mount a horse except when he was about to lead the army, nor was he allowed to take anything from the public funds if it were not approved by a vote. The Dictator was allowed to pass judgment and execute citizens both at home and on campaign; he held this power not only over the plebs, but also over the equestrians and the senate itself. Further, no one was allowed to prosecute him nor do anything contrary to him – not even the chief magistrates, nor if some sort of appeal case should be made. The Dictator’s rule was not extended beyond a period of six months, so that no dictator would, having spent so much time in such power and unmixed license, grow overweening and find himself impelled to desire monarchy. This is what happened in the case of Julius Caesar, when he attempted to take more than what was properly appointed to the dictatorship.

Αὖθις δὲ πολέμου παρὰ Λατίνων κατὰ ῾Ρώμης κεκινημένου οὐκ ἤθελον οἱ πολλοὶ τὰ ὅπλα λαβεῖν, ἀποκοπὴν τῶν χρεῶν ἀξιοῦντες γενέσθαι. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο καινήν τινα ἀρχὴν ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέροις αὐτοῖς τότε πρῶτον οἱ δυνατοὶ κατεστήσαντο· δικτάτωρ ὁ ταύτης ἠξιωμένος ὠνόμαστο, ἠδύνατο δὲ πάντα ἐξ ἴσου τοῖς βασιλεῦσι. τὴν μὲν γὰρ τοῦ βασιλέως ἐπωνυμίαν διὰ τοὺς Ταρκυνίους ἐμίσησαν, τὴν δ’ ἐκ τῆς μοναρχίας ὠφέλειαν θέλοντες, ὡς πολὺ ἰσχυούσης ἐς τὰς τῶν πολέμων καὶ τῶν στάσεων περιστάσεις, ἐν ἄλλῳ ταύτην ὀνόματι εἵλοντο. ἦν οὖν, ὡς εἴρηται, ἡ δικτατωρεία κατά γε τὴν ἐξουσίαν τῇ βασιλείᾳ ἰσόρροπος, πλὴν ὅτι μὴ ἐφ’ ἵππον ἀναβῆναι ὁ δικτάτωρ ἠδύνατο, εἰ μὴ ἐκστρατεύεσθαι ἔμελλεν, οὔτε ἐκ τῶν δημοσίων χρημάτων ἀναλῶσαί τι ἐξῆν αὐτῷ, εἰ μὴ ἐψηφίσθη· δικάζειν δὲ καὶ ἀποκτείνειν καὶ οἴκοι καὶ ἐν στρατείαις ἠδύνατο, καὶ οὐ τοὺς τοῦ δήμου μόνους, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἱππέων καὶ ἐξ αὐτῆς τῆς βουλῆς. καὶ οὔτ’ ἐγκαλέσαι τις αὐτῷ οὔτ’ ἐναντίον τι διαπράξασθαι ἴσχυεν, οὐδὲ οἱ δήμαρχοι, οὔτε δίκη ἐφέσιμος ἐγίνετο ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ. οὐκ ἐπὶ πλέον δὲ τῶν ἓξ μηνῶν ἡ τῆς δικτατωρείας ἀρχὴ παρετείνετο, ἵνα μή τις αὐτῶν ἐν τοσούτῳ κράτει καὶ ἐξουσίᾳ ἀκράτῳ χρονίσας ὑπερφρονήσῃ καὶ πρὸς ἔρωτα μοναρχίας ἐκκυλισθῇ. ὅπερ ἐς ὕστερον καὶ ὁ Καῖσαρ ᾿Ιούλιος ἔπαθεν, ἐπεὶ παρὰ τὰ νενομισμένα τῆς δικτατωρείας ἠξίωτο.

2 thoughts on “Zonaras 7.13 Part IV: The Establishment of the Dictatorship

    1. Thanks! What a coincidence that the Zonaras stuff is currently dealing with tyranny in its various pseudo-Republican forms!

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