Monday, April 28, 2008

Polybius on Democracy.

"In the same way a state in which the mass of citizens is free to do whatever it pleases or takes into its head is not a democracy. But where it is both traditional and customary to reverence the gods, to care for our parents, to respect our elders, to obey the laws, and in such a community to ensure that the will of the majority prevails - this situation it is proper to describe as democracy." - from On The Forms of States, book VI of The Rise of the Roman Empire, apparently written before 118 BC because that is when Polybius died.

Democracy in the US drew heavily from classical writers, including Herodotus, Polybius and others. I have been interested in Polybius because of some claims that the book of Acts has many similarities of pattern and style with Polybius. Polybius has many comments on what is required to write a proper history and these seem to be followed by Luke. The main thing, however, is that Polybius outlines the rise of Rome which ends in Palestine. Luke, of course, reverses this pattern with the Kingdom of God beginning in Palestine and ending in Rome.

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