Polybius–too much of a gentleman to say “I told you so”
I wrote this essay for Chalcedon in 2006, and 13 years later, it seems more on target than it was when it was new. Maybe Chalcedon is rubbing off on me.
Polybius was a Greek who lived in Rome when Rome’s Republic was at the height of its power and prosperity. He studied it shrewdly and intently, praised Rome for its system of checks and balances [which inspired our own country’s system of checks and balances, and divided government]–and accurately predicted its collapse.
As a pagan, for Polybius there was no escape for humanity from the impersonal, unchanging, hopeless “cycle of political revolution.” Rome, he predicted, would be brought down by the intense “craving for office” among her elites, who would do literally anything to obtain it, and the masses “roused to fury” by class warfare rhetoric. He could imagine no way out of it: for him there was no Kingdom of Christ, no sanctification, no redemption.
But if we’re going to behave and think like pagans instead of joint-heirs with Christ, well–take another look at today’s headlines. If Polybius could see them, he’d swear he’d seen it all before.