Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Autocratic Temperament in Our Times

Autocratic regimes throughout the Middle East have been falling one after the other--first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, and now it appears in Lybia as well. The Arab Spring gives us hope for a world completely free of petty tyrants and vicious dictators, regardless of whether they rule over occupied Tibet or the boardrooms of Wall Street. It is this dream of a world in which the masses control their own destinies that underlies the political vision of that poet-sage and neo-beatnik from Brooklyn, Alcibiades J. Grunthaler. Here's what Grunthaler has to say about the psychological make-up of the autocrat that all but insures his or her ultimate downfall:

"The capricious autocrat is incapable of compromise even on the most insignificant of matters, because she necessarily views herself as being all-knowing and completely infallible. To admit that anyone else has the slightest amount of expertise to offer on any matter is to admit that she is something less than omnipotent. And this is one thing that the capricious autocrat can never willingly acknowledge to herself or to anyone else.

Because she and she alone knows what is best for all, she can tolerate no disagreement, no alternative perspectives, and, above all else, absolutely no dissenting viewpoints. Thus she surrounds herself with those who are temperamentally and intellectually most like herself -- yes-women who will always agree with whatever dictates flow from her divinely inspired lips -- and those eunuchs who daily sing hosannas to her eternal glory.

Because the capricious autocrat views her wisdom as divinely inspired, those who dare challenge her mandates -- no matter how erratic and destructive these mandates might be -- must be treated as infidels. And infidels must be crushed at all costs. For the mere existence of those who dissent is enough to throw into question her so-called omnipotence and shows the autocrat up for what she truly is: an insecure, intellectually barren parasite feeding off the industry and creativity of those she seeks to dominate.

Although the capricious autocrat may do considerable harm to the polis she seeks to control, in the end she must inevitably fail in her quest at total domination. She must fail, because each act of domination engenders greater and greater resentment, and resentment leads to resistance, and resistance to outright revolution. In fact, the autocrat cannot withstand the people's revolution, because she has no real power-base or support other than in her own mind. When the end of her reign comes, all of her self-proclaimed accomplishments will be swept away on the garbage heap of oblivion and her very name will become infamous with future generations.

And thus it is for all those who dare violate the sovereign will of the people...."

From Sic Semper: The Political Writing of A.J. Grunthaler


  1. Autocrats are not just a threat to political communities, they destroy any organizations that they run. I've had more than a few autocractic bosses in my time. Fortunately, they never succeed in the long run.

  2. That Psych Profile sounds like a LARGE number of our current "representatives" IN CONGRESS!!!!

  3. While the will/needs of the people are something any leader must at the very least listen to, stock should be put into the belief of Alexander Hamilton the the common man has no place in government, and the mandate for which the person in power rose to said power. For one reason or another they got to power setting them aside from the common man.

  4. The example that I always provide concerning the topic of unbridled hegemony and malevolent rule is the autocracy of Alexander III Megas.

    Persepolis was consumed by a conflagration after the Macedonian soldiers of Alexander III Megas descended into a state of inebriation. Alexander III allowed an Athenian harlot to extend her poisonous influence over him. In retaliation for the Persian sack of Athens under Xerxes in 480 BCE, the Athenian harlot demanded the burning of Persepolis. The inebriated Alexander did not dissuade her from her established goal. Instead, the truculent despot participated in the destruction of Persepolis...

  5. In addition, direct your attention to the Carthaginian Empire.

  6. Sir, I dispute your claim concerning the composition or framework of the Carthaginian (Liby-Phoenician) state.

    (Part One):

    In my mind, Carthage was a thalassocracy (Maritime supremacy). It was a distinct form of a thalassocracy that was separate from the Athenian thalassocracy (478-404 BCE). The Carthaginians or the Liby-Phoenicians were a commercial or a maritime empire that thrived on the flow of commodities in the West Mediterranean. I would consider the Carthaginian state to contain a hegemonic city in which power steadily emanated from its core and extended to the peripheral territories of this cluster of trading outposts and garrisons. The hegemonic state or the premier state of the Liby-Phoenicians was Carthage itself. Initially, Carthage vied for control and trading influence with the other North African cities (Utica and Hippo Regius). However, Carthage superseded the influence of the other North African towns. I maintain that the Carthaginian state was a conglomeration (A mixed cluster: note the differences between a conglomeration and an agglomeration) of trading outposts and centers that were gradually eclipsed by the hegemonic state of Carthage. Now, to illustrate this particular point, I will refer to Agathocles' invasion of Africa. Although Agathocles (Tyrant of Syracuse) was repulsed from his invasion of the African territories of the Carthaginians, his African descent sent the Carthaginians to a state of consternation as they feared the mutiny of their mercenary forces. In addition, as Carthage's chief arm was invested in its maritime superiority (A thalassocracy differs depending on the particular empire. A maritime supremacy significantly differs from a state whose sole means of exerting its sovereignty consists in the maintenance of its fleets. The Athenian thalassocracy crumbled at the naval engagement of Aegospotami in 405 BCE. Athens' status as the hegemonic power depended on its dominance of the Aegean Sea and the supremacy of its formidable force of triremes. Carthage exerted a different form of thalassocracy or a maritime supremacy. It was not as vulnerable as the First Athenian Hegemony. At the termination of the First Punic War in 241 BCE, the Liby-Phoenicians turned to a permanent occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Carthaginian trading outposts had already existed in the coastal regions of the Iberian Peninsula, however, it was through the incessant wars that were waged in Iberia between the Carthaginian occupants and the autochthonous tribes after the termination of the First Punic War that allowed Carthage to recover from its ignominious defeat to the burgeoning Roman state.

  7. (Part Two):

    Athens was unable to maintain its hegemony after the naval engagement of Aegospotami (405 BCE). After the naval engagement at the Aegates Islands (Termination of the First Punic War), Carthage astonished the world with Hannibal Barca's quartet of victories at Ticinus, Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae), the denizens of Carthage did not deem it necessary to fortify the collection of outposts and enclaves of Carthagian rule along the North African coast. Perhaps, if granted the full support of the Grecian cities in Sicily, King Pyrrhus of Epirus would have been able to subjugate the Carthaginians. In his Sicilian Campaign, the Epirote king managed to wrest control of almost the entirety of Sicily. Only the Carthaginian port-city of Lilybaeum remained in the Carthaginian sphere of influence (The fortress of Eryx was captured in 277 BCE). In summary, the Carthaginian state was a conglomeration of trading cities and outposts in which the scattered collection of its African territories varied in degrees of autonomy and influence. Although Carthage was the central point of this network of cities, trading emporiums and military garrisons, its supremacy was not incontestable. Carthage exerted a thalassocracy or a maritime supremacy until the termination of the First Punic War, however, it was not a fragile thalassocracy as in the case of imperial Athens during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE). The Carthaginians were an avaricious people in which their greatest concern was for the relentless acquisition of material goods. The Carthaginian state was a conglomeration or a mixed cluster of cities, trading outposts and commerical centers in which the multitudinous cities recognized the superiority of the premier city of Carthage. However, the Carthaginians were unable to impose homogeneity over the different peoples of North Africa. As a result, the weakness of Carthage was evident with the African descent of Agathocles (Syracuse) and the African invasion of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major (Rome). If Carthage was severed from the other cities of North Africa, the preponderant influence (Hegemony) of Carthage would decline and its loosely-held empire or conglomeration of allied, subject and subordinate states would crumble.

  8. Mr. Conrad, it appears that you have been dazzled by the false glaring light of despotism. Do not delve into the lives of Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, Gaius Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Instead, direct your attention to the glorious lives of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major, Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Numantinus, Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis and Marcus Tullius Cicero.

  9. Pseudo-Alcibiades (Conrad?)December 24, 2011 at 5:05 AM

    After gazing at your main profile, I must ridicule your passion for the Byzantines. Did the Byzantine Empire ever emerge triumphant against the Sassanid Persians in their perennial struggles for control of the Levant, Armenia and the territory adjacent to the Euphrates River (Osroenia: Northern Mesopotamia)? How could an intellectual such as yourself possibly defend the despotic, autocratic and decadent Byzantine Empire? The Byzantines were an ingordigious (Avaricious), bigoted and superstitious people. The Byzantine state was structurally and politically ossified. The Byzantine autocrats were profligate, hubristic and generally incompetent. Have you forgotten the usurping parvenu Phocas (602-610)?

  10. My response, sir:

    I. The Origin of the Roman-Parthian/Sassanid Conflicts

    The Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602-628 CE terminated the struggles for supremacy between the Roman Empire and the great Oriental power of the Arsacids of Parthia and their eventual successor the Sassanids. Before delving into the Sassanid ascendancy during the reign of the Sassanid monarch Chosroes II and the counter offensive of Flavius Heraclius Augustus (622-628 CE), I will briefly explain the underlying enmity and tension that arose between the Mediterranean power of the Roman Commonwealth ("Of the body politic") and the Oriental powers of the Parthians and the Sassanids. After Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus' subjugation of the great Mithridates VI Eupator Dionysius of Pontus, the humbling of Tigranes II of Armenia and the annexation of the remnants of the Seleucid realm, the demarcation line between the two mighty powers of the Roman Commonwealth and Arsacid Parthia was the Euphrates River. However, the equilibrium in the Near East was upset by the failed Roman attempts to wrest control of Mesopotamia from the Oriental empires. The failed invasions of Crassus in 53 BCE, Marcus Antonius in 36 BCE and Valerian in 260 CE serve to illustrate the futility of the incessant Roman-Parthian/Sassanid conflicts. The Parthians arose from the tottering empire of the Seleucids which had sunk into ignominy after the loss of hegemony that had existed under Seleucus I Nicator and Antiochus III Megas. The Arche Seleukia was crushed between the two burgeoning powers of the Romans and Parthians. Neither power could subjugate the opposing empire. Trajan's annexation of Armenia, Mesopotamia and Assyria proved to be ephemeral while Galerius' sacking of Ctesiphon in 299 CE did not eliminate the Sassanid threat. The repeated conflicts of the Romans and Sassanids proved to be disastrous for both empires as it allowed for the fanatical Arabs to subjugate the Sassanid Empire and reduce the Roman Empire (Byzantines) to a rump state centered in the Balkans and Anatolia as well as southern Italy. In the Roman-Sassanid stalemate in Western Asia, both powers relied on frontier defenses. For example, Diocletian refortified the border defenses or the limes in Rome's Levantine and Mesopotamian provinces.

  11. II. The Byzantine-Sassanid War (602-628 CE)

    In regards to the Byzantine-Sassanid War that was waged from 602-628 CE, the roots of this final and decisive conflict were expressed in the penultimate conflict of the Roman-Sassanid War of 572-591 CE. After the successful conclusion of this conflict, affairs in the Near East swung favorably to the Romans. Under the competent rule of Maurice Tiberius (582-602 CE), the Oriental Roman Empire gained northeastern Mesopotamia, the greater portion of Armenia and Caucasian Iberia. However, with the brutal murder of Maurice Tiberius and the usurpation of Phocas in 602 CE, the Sassanid monarch Chosroes II who was elevated to the throne under the auspices of his patron Maurice Tiberius, endeavored to restore the old frontiers of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. With the despotic regime of the usurper Phocas and his ineptitude in maintaining an effective and orderly control of the empire coupled with the Sassanid onslaught, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire approached its own annihilation. When the Exarch of Carthage Heraclius the Elder raised the standards of rebellion against the foul usurper, his son was sent to the glittering capital of Constantinople to assume the porphyrogene and depose the usurper. After the deposition and execution of Phocas, Heraclius the Younger ascended to the throne in 610 CE. In the early portion of Heraclius' reign, the Sassanids enjoyed a quick succession of victories over their Roman adversary. Antioch was captured which sundered the Roman Empire into the two portions of the Balkans and Anatolia on one end and the Levant, Egypt and the Exarchate of Carthage on the opposing end. In 614 CE, the Sassanids captured Jerusalem while the Sassanid subjugation of Egypt occurred from 618-621 CE. In 617 CE, Chalcedon was captured while Ancyra in central Anatolia was seized in 620 or 622. It is also possible that the Sassanids captured the important naval base of Rhodes in 622 or 623. Heraclius' counter offensive lasted from 622-628 CE. The campaigns waged by Flavius Heraclius Augustus were centered in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. In 622 CE, the Romans defeated the Sassanids at the town of Issus and then defended the Cilician Gates from the incursions of the Sassanids. In 627 CE, the Romans defeated the Sassanids near the ruins of Nineveh. The entirety of Heraclius' counter offensive (622-628 CE) was centered in Anatolia, the northern portion of the Levant and Mesopotamia as opposed to the Dead Sea region. With the conclusion of the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602-628 CE, both powers were reduced to sheer exhaustion. As the splintered Arab tribes were infused with the prophetic utterances of the Prophet Mohammed, the emergence of the Arab Caliphate resulted in the swift subjugation of Sassanid Persia and the reduction of the Oriental Roman Empire into its Medieval form as a rump state centered in southern Italy, the Balkans and Anatolia. As a response to the Arab threat, Constans II (Ruled from 641-668 CE) formed the theme system in Anatolia. (According to George Ostrogorsky, the organization of Anatolia into its separate themes occurred during the reign of Flavius Heraclius Augustus who ruled from 610-641 CE. However, modern historians attribute the formation of the Anatolian themes to Constans II.) The Eastern Romans (Byzantines) would later halt the relentless expansion of the Arabs into Europe with the successful defense of Constantinople in the two sieges of 674-678 CE and 717-718 CE.

    Access to my original article:


  12. Well, no one could ever suggest that you are at a loss for words on a topic like this one!

    I like the way the Pseudo-Alcibiades thinks and believe that he would be a worthy addition to our Philosophy Department!