Criticising the Benefactors: The Severans and the Return of Dynastic Rule

in Cassius Dio: Greek Intellectual and Roman Politician
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This chapter focuses on Dio’s critique of the Severan dynasty and on dynastic rule in general. The negative portrayal of the emperors of Dio’s own lifetime is here read as a frustration over how the rule of a new dynasty had replaced the practice of electing the next emperor through adoption among established members of the Senate, who had already proven their administrative and military skills. Even if the notion of how the adoptive emperors opened up their government and involved the senators in the decision making process was an illusion, Dio still portrays the better part of the second century as one of the most stable periods in Roman politics, in which the Senate both acted as the emperors’ trusted advisory board and formed the book-body from which the next emperor was chosen. When read in its entirety, Dio’s Roman History stands out as work of political history with the specific aim to convince the readers of how monarchical rule was the only safe form of government for a state the size of Rome. But, just as importantly, it needed to be a monarchy in which the emperor took into consideration the advice of a Senate recruited from across the entirety of the Empire.

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