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THE DICTATOR'S TRUST: REGULATING AND CONSTRAINING EMERGENCY POWERS IN THE ROMAN REPUBLIC

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Abstract:

This article seeks to explain how it was possible that, until the first century BC, the Roman dictatorship was never abused and turned against the constitution itself. The traditional explanation is that, contrary to its first century imitations, the dictatorship was subject to formal restrictions, such as the six months' tenure, which were strictly applied. By contrast, this article suggests that informal constraints on the dictator's powers, such as moral and religious norms, were as important as formal constraints. It shows, more particularly, how the fides, or the requirement of trust, was essential for preventing an abuse of dictatorial powers.

Keywords: Roman Republic; dictatorship; emergency powers; fidelity to the constitution; fides; formal and informal constraints; trust

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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