Ronald Syme

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Sir Ronald Syme, OM, FBA (11 March 1903 – 4 September 1989) was a New Zealand-born historian and classicist. Long associated with Oxford University, he is widely regarded as the 20th century's greatest historian of ancient Rome. His great work was The Roman Revolution (1939), a masterly and controversial analysis of Roman political life in the period following the assassination of Julius Caesar.


  • In all ages, whatever the form and name of government, be it monarchy, republic, or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the façade ....
    • The Roman Revolution ([1939] 2002), Introduction.
  • Without a party a statesman is nothing. He sometimes forgets that awkward fact.
    • The Roman Revolution ([1939] 2002), ch. 4.
  • Security and aggression are terms of partisan interpretation.
    • The Roman Revolution ([1939] 2002), ch. 7.
  • The best party is but a kind of conspiracy against the Commonwealth.
    • The Roman Revolution ([1939] 2002), ch. 9.
  • The political cant of a country is naturally and always most strongly in evidence on the side of the vested interests. In times of peace and prosperity it commands a wide measure of acquiescence, even of belief. Revolution rends the veil.
    • The Roman Revolution ([1939] 2002), ch. 11.
  • ... libertas [liberty], like regnum [kingship] or dominatio [despotism], is a convenient term of political fraud.
    • The Roman Revolution ([1939] 2002), ch. 11.

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