Clemson University: Rome, Machiavelli, and the Fate of Imperial Republics

Machiavelli sculpture

Lyceum Program: “Rome, Machiavelli’s Discourses, and the Fate of Imperial Republics”


On January 23, 2020, the Lyceum Program Speaker Series, a JMC partner program, will host JMC fellow Daniel Kapust. The event, hosted by the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, will be the first of a JMC-supported speaker series.

Rome was at the center of Machiavelli’s historical imagination.  This is the case not only in his most (in)famous book, The Prince (Il Principe), but also in his less (in)famous book, the Discourses on Livy (Discorsi sopra la prima Deca di Tito Livio).  Drawing on the Rome he encountered in the first ten books of Livy’s Ab urbe condita, Machiavelli argued that we are better off living under republics than princes and that liberty is a key good.  In this regard, Machiavelli’s Discourses—and the Rome he depicted in the Discourses—was very different from his depiction of Rome in The Prince.  Yet within this same book,  he also argues for the synthesis of two concepts typically thought to be incompatible by republican writers, both past and present: republic and empire.  How are we to make sense of his paradoxical attachment to both republic and empire?  What does this mean for how we understand Machiavelli, Machiavelli’s Rome, and contemporary republics?  Dr. Kapust argues that making sense of this puzzle requires us to move beyond the surface of the text and delve into Machiavelli’s deep ambiguity toward empire, an ambiguity no less relevant today than it was 500 years ago.

Thursday, January 23, 2020, 6:30 PM
Clemson University

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Daniel KapustDaniel Kapust is a Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Professor Kapust’s research focuses on the history of political thought, especially Roman, Florentine, early modern, and 18th century, with thematic interests in rhetoric, empire, classical receptions, democratic theory, and the republican tradition. His first book, Republicanism, Rhetoric, and Roman Political Thought: Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011; his second book, Flattery in the History of Political Thought: That Glib and Oily Art, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. He has published or had accepted for publication articles and chapters on Hobbes, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Cicero, Sallust, Livy, Lucretius, Smith, Tacitus, and 18th century American political thought, along with topics including flattery, republicanism, rhetoric, censorship, and political fear. He is currently working on a new book project on imperial republics (The Tragedy of an Imperial Republic). He is also the Director of the Political Economy, Philosophy, and Politics Certificate Program.

Professor Kapust is a JMC fellow.

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Open to incoming freshmen, the Lyceum Scholars Program, a JMC partner program, is the first college program in the United States to use a Great Books approach to studying liberty, capitalism, the American Founding, and moral character. All Lyceum Scholars are assigned faculty “Socratic Tutors” who guide their intellectual development for their entire four-year education. The Program draws inspiration from the Lyceum School founded by Aristotle in ancient Greece. Lyceum Scholars study the moral principles of a free society, the political ideals of the American Founding and the economic foundations of capitalism.

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