“I Rule Without Fear of the Laws”

Coluccio Salutati, de Tyranno:

“It is the proper sphere of the tyrant not to rule by law, which can happen in two different ways. Either the tyrant can seize power in a communal republic, or he may rule unjustly or, considered more broadly, he may not observe the force of laws and rights. Consider the tyrant who speaks of himself in Seneca:

‘I will rule with the scepter stolen by my victorious hand, and I will do everything without fear of the laws.’

‘The stolen scepter’ suggests the injustice of his position, and the phrase ‘I will do everything without fear of the laws’ concerns the deformity of his administration, which Gregory claimed to be particularly suited to a tyrant, saying that the tyrant is one ‘who governs not by law.’

We may conclude then that the tyrant is one who seizes power and does not have a just title of power. And because he is a tyrant who dominates haughtily or perpetrates an injustice or does not observe rights and laws. Just so, on the other hand, the legitimate prince is one to whom power has been granted by right, one who ministers justice and preserves the laws.”

salutati