The politics of Greece was based on reason, that of the Romans on love – love of country, love of Rome itself.
All Europeans, however, have benefited from the inheritance of two quite distinct vocabularies with which to explore political life: the political vocabulary of the Greeks – policy, police, politics itself – and the civic vocabulary of the Romans – civility, citizen, civilization. Both the architecture and the terminology of American politics, for example, are notably Roman.
...the Romans identified kingship with servitude, but in recasting their constitution, they exhibited their characteristic political creativity by a profound modification of their constitution which yet left most of the scaffolding standing.
Roman history revolves around the dramatic events through which the republic gave way to the empire.
Rome is the supreme example of politics as an activity conducted by men holding offices which clearly limit the exercise of power.
When the Romans thought about power, they used two words in order to acknowledge an important distinction: potentia meant physical power, while potestas signified the legal right and power inhering in an office; in addition, all offices shared in the imperium, or the total quantum of power available to the Roman state.
Both these forms of power however were separate from another idea which constituted the most distinctive contribution of the Romans to politics: auctoritas. (Significantly, this term represented the junction of politics with the Roman religion, which involved the worship of families, and hence of ancestors. An auctor or author was the founder or initiator of something – a city, a family, even a book or an idea. The reservoir of auctoritas lay in the Senate as the body closest to the ancestors.) It has been characterized as more than advice but less than command, and the Romans' respect for it was the real source of their political skill. It was in no sense a kind of political power, but those charged with the conduct of the res publica, or public business did not lightly ignore it.
Rome’s fame largely rested on a moral strength evident to all who had dealings with her. Bribery of officials was a capital crime, and Romans could be relied on to stand by their oaths...In those earlier days, love of country predominated, but in time success and wealth began to corrupt the Romans, who then fell under the sway of despotic forms of order which they had previously found repugnant. Virtue and freedom declined together. It was the literature of Rome, especially the work of Cicero, that persuaded later Europeans that virtue was the condition of Freedom.
He[Machiavelli] argued that conflict within the state, so long as it was subordinated to the public interest, merely reflected the Roman concern for liberty and for the protection of civil rights. The policy of Rome, like that of the Greeks, issued not from some supposedly supreme wisdom but from a freely recognized competition between interests and arguments within a society.
Western politics is distinguished from other forms of social order by its exploration of this theme: that beyond the harmony that results from everyone knowing his place is another harmony, in which conflict is resolved by the free discussion and free acceptance of whatever outcome emerges from constitutional procedure.