“It is well known that in the Roman republic the legislative authority, in the last resort, resided for ages in two different political bodies not as branches of the same legislature, but as distinct and independent legislatures, in each of which an opposite interest prevailed: in one the patrician; in the other, the plebian. Many arguments might have been adduced to prove the unfitness of two such seemingly contradictory authorities, each having power to ANNUL or REPEAL the acts of the other. … And yet these two legislatures coexisted for ages, and the Roman republic attained to the utmost height of human greatness.”
– Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No. 34
In the second century BC, there was an armed uprising against the rule of the “Roman Republic,” by an alliance of Greek states known as the “Achaean League.” There had been close military and religious ties between the two groups before this time, I should note here; but they were soon cast aside in a conflict known as the “Achaean War.” This was a bitter conflict, I might add here, in which the Romans quickly crushed the Achaean League; to make sure that all of Greece would soon be under their control. Greece was quickly annexed by the Roman Republic in 146 BC, the same year that Rome was laying siege to the city of Carthage in faraway North Africa. When the city of Carthage was finally sacked in the spring of that same year (after three long years of siege), the last of the three Roman wars with Carthage finally ended. The Roman Republic now controlled much of the Mediterranean.
Roman villas built on the site of Carthage
Polybius was present at the Fall of Carthage in 146 BC
One of the men present at the Sack of Carthage was a Greek historian named Polybius, who would later write an influential work called the Ἱστορίαι (“Historiai”), or “The Histories.” This famous work would cover the history of the Roman Republic from 264 BC to 146 BC, and conclude with his eyewitness account of the fall of Carthage in 146 BC. This work was originally written in his native Koine Greek as 40 different “books,” but only the first five of these “books” have survived in their entirety. The rest of these books survive only in bits and pieces, I should add here, and it is the surviving portion of the sixth book that I will be focusing on today. (This is the book in which he talked about separation of powers in the Roman Republic.) His analysis of checks and balances in this republic that had conquered his homeland would have a powerful influence on men like Montesquieu and Madison. By extension, it would thus eventually influence the United States Constitution as well.