Polybius described the Roman constitution as ‘the Senate proposing, the people resolving, and the magistrates executing the laws.’ To the extent to which it was a conscious agreement to respect a mixture of elements as superior and more viable than any one, there was a constant tendency to instability only mitigated by the political skill of the Patrician class. The violence of conflicts of faction and of class rocked the boat dangerously many times before the Republic finally shipped too much dirty water and sank. Aristocratic rivalry placed armies in private hands and dictatorships ceased to be a constitutional office and became the route to absolute personal power. But even when the Republic fell, the machinery of the state and the Empire itself continued.
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