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338). Grotius accepted the Aristotelian idea of natural sociability, but departed considerably from the classical tradition by insisting that government is the product of human will embodied in contract. He also proposed the non-existence of God solely for theoretical purposes, even though atheism assumes that which “without the greatest wickedness cannot be granted, that there is no God, or that he takes no care of human affairs” (Grotius 2005: proleg 89). With this famous etiamsi daremus statement Grotius outlined the path to a purely secular contract theory.

Some form of aristocracy, rule of the wise few, would be Cicero’s idea of the best regime, even if this required some accommodation providing for a measure of political liberty for the plebs. The degeneration of the Roman regime into the rule of the Caesars eliminated practically the last vestiges of republican liberty in the ancient world. The smothering effect of Roman imperialism on the practice of democratic self-government in the classical world was unstoppable. Within the Roman world, political thinkers and philosophers were often as harshly critical of the role of the plebeian mobs as their Greek predecessors had been toward the demos.

In fact, the chief characteristic of Roman constitutional development in the centuries of Rome’s rise to imperial greatness is the internal conf licts between and among the various orders that produced the complex system of mutual checks and balances. For example, it was only in response to the threat of civil strife that the senatorial class accepted the office of the tribunes, who were to act as powerful representatives of the plebs. If Roman constitutional I N T RO DU C T ION 19 development through much of its history was a work in progress, the same cannot be said of Roman philosophical ref lection on regimes.

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