Et quidem si non fuerit excessus tyrannidis, utilius est remissam tyrannidem tolerare ad tempus, quam contra tyrannum agendo multis implicari periculis quae sunt graviora ipsa tyrannide. Potest enim contingere ut qui contra tyrannum agunt praevalere non possint, et sic provocatus tyrannus magis desaeviat. Quod si praevalere quis possit adversus tyrannum, ex hoc multotiens proveniunt gravissimae dissensiones in populo, sive dum in tyrannum insurgitur, sive post deiectionem tyranni dum erga ordinationem regiminis multitudo separatur in partes. Contingit etiam interdum ut, dum alicuius auxilio multitudo expellit tyrannum, ille potestate accepta tyrannidem arripit, et timens pati ab alio quod ipse in alium fecit, graviori servitute subditos opprimat.
Indeed, if there be not an excess of tyranny, it is more expedient to tolerate the milder tyranny for a while than to become involved in many perils more grievous than the tyranny itself by acting against the tyrant. For it may happen that those who act against the tyrant are unable to prevail and the tyrant then will rage the more. Yet if one can prevail against the tyrant, the gravest dissensions frequently ensue among the people from this very fact: the multitude may be broken up into factions either during their revolt against the tyrant, or in process of the organization of the government, after the tyrant has been overthrown. Moreover, it sometimes happens that while the multitude is driving out the tyrant by the help of some man, the latter, having received the power, thereupon seizes the tyranny. Then, fearing to suffer from another what he did to his predecessor, he oppresses his subjects with an even more grievous slavery.
Sic enim in tyrannide solet contingere ut posterior gravior fiat quam praecedens, dum praecedentia gravamina non deserit et etiam ipse ex sui cordis malitia nova excogitat. Unde Syracusis quondam Dionysii mortem omnibus desiderantibus, anus quaedam ut incolumis et sibi superstes esset continue orabat; quod ut tyrannus cognovit, cur hoc faceret interrogavit. Tum illa Puella, inquit, existens cum gravem tyrannum haberemus, alium cupiebam; quo interfecto aliquantulum durior successit, eius quoque finiri dominationem magnum existimabam. Tertium te importuniorem habere coepimus rectorem; itaque si tu fueris absumptus, deterior in locum tuum succedet.
This tends to happen in tyranny: the second becomes more grievous than the one preceding, inasmuch as, without abandoning the previous oppressions, he himself thinks up fresh ones from the malice of his heart. Thus, in Syracuse, when everyone desired the death of Dionysius, a certain old woman kept constantly praying that he might be unharmed and that he might survive her. When the tyrant learned this he asked why she did it. Then she said: When I was a girl we had a harsh tyrant and I wished for his death; when he was killed, there succeeded him one who was a little harsher. I was very eager to see the end of his dominion also, and we began to have a third ruler still more harsh—that was you. So if you should be taken away, a worse would succeed in your place.
Et si sit intolerabilis excessus tyrannidis, quibusdam visum fuit ut ad fortium virorum virtutem pertineat tyrannum interimere, seque pro liberatione multitudinis exponere periculis mortis; cuius rei exemplum etiam in Veteri testamento habetur. Nam Aioth quidam Eglon regem Moab, qui gravi servitute populum Dei premebat, sica infixa in eius femore interemit, et factus est populi iudex. Sed hoc apostolicae doctrinae non congruit. Docet enim nos Petrus non solum bonis et modestis, verum etiam dyscolis dominis reverenter subditos esse: haec est enim gratia, si propter conscientiam Dei sustineat quis tristitias patiens iniuste. Unde cum multi Romanorum imperatores fidem Christi persequerentur tyrannice, magnaque multitudo tam nobilium quam populi esset ad fidem conversa, non resistendo sed mortem patienter et armati sustinentes pro Christo laudantur, ut in sacra Thebaeorum legione manifeste apparet. Magisque Aioth iudicandus est hostem interemisse quam populi rectorem, licet tyrannum; unde et in Veteri testamento leguntur occisi fuisse hi qui occiderunt Ioas regem Iuda, quamvis a cultu Dei recedentem, eorumque filiis reservatis secundum legis praeceptum.
If the excess of tyranny is unbearable, some have been of the opinion that it would be an act of virtue for strong men to slay the tyrant and to expose themselves to the danger of death in order to set the multitude free. An example of this even occurs in the Old Testament, for a certain Aioth slew Eglon, King of Moab, who was oppressing the people of God under harsh slavery, thrusting a dagger into his thigh; and he was made a judge of the people. But this opinion is not in accord with apostolic teaching. For Peter admonishes us to be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly (1 Pet 2:18–19). Wherefore, when many emperors of the Romans tyrannically persecuted the faith of Christ, a great number both of the nobility and the common people were converted to the faith and were praised for patiently bearing death for Christ. They did not resist although they were armed, and this is plainly manifested in the case of the holy Theban legion. Aioth, then, must be considered rather as having slain a foe than assassinated a ruler, however tyrannical, of the people. Hence in the Old Testament we also read that they who killed Joas, the king of Judah, who had fallen away from the worship of God, were slain and their children spared according to the precept of the law.
Esset autem hoc multitudini periculosum et eius rectoribus, si privata praesumptione aliqui attentarent praesidentium necem, etiam tyrannorum: plerumque enim huiusmodi periculis magis exponunt se mali quam boni; malis autem solet esse grave dominium non minus regum quam tyrannorum, quia, secundum sententiam Salomonis, dissipat impios rex sapiens. Magis igitur ex huiusmodi praesumptione immineret periculum multitudini de amissione boni regis, quam remedium de subtractione tyranni.
Should private persons attempt on their own private presumption to kill the rulers, even though tyrants, this would be dangerous for the multitude as well as for their rulers. This is because the wicked usually expose themselves to dangers of this kind more than the good, for the rule of a king, no less than that of a tyrant, is burdensome to them since, according to the words of Solomon: A wise king winnows the wicked (Prov 20:26). Consequently, by presumption of this kind, danger to the people from the loss of a good king would be more probable than relief through the removal of a tyrant.
Videtur autem magis contra tyrannorum saevitiam non privata praesumptione aliquorum, sed auctoritate publica procedendum. Primo quidem, si ad ius alicuius multitudinis pertineat sibi providere de rege, non iniuste ab eadem rex institutus potest destitui, vel refrenari eius potestas, si potestate regia tyrannice abutatur. Nec putanda est talis multitudo infideliter agere tyrannum destituens, etiam si ei se in perpetuum ante subiecerat; quia hoc ipse meruit in multitudinis regimine se non fideliter gerens ut exigit regis officium, quod ei pactum a subditis non servetur. Sic Romani Tarquinium Superbum, quem in regem susceperant, propter eius et filiorum tyrannidem a regno eiecerunt, substituta minori, scilicet consulari, potestate. Sic etiam Domitianus, qui modestissimis imperatoribus Vespasiano patri et Tito fratri eius successerat, dum tyrannidem exercet a senatu Romano interemptus est, omnibus quae idem perverse fecerat per senatusconsultum iuste et salubriter in irritum revocatis. Quo factum est ut beatus Ioannes evangelista, dilectus Dei discipulus, qui per ipsum Domitianum in Patmos insulam fuerat exilio relegatus, ad Ephesum per senatusconsultum remitteretur.
Furthermore, it seems that to proceed against the cruelty of tyrants is an action to be undertaken not through the private presumption of a few, but rather by public authority. If to provide itself with a king belongs to the right of a given multitude, it is not unjust that the king be deposed or have his power restricted by that same multitude if, becoming a tyrant, he abuses the royal power. It must not be thought that such a multitude is acting unfaithfully in deposing the tyrant, even though it had previously subjected itself to him in perpetuity, because he himself has deserved that the covenant with his subjects should not be kept, since, in ruling the multitude, he did not act faithfully as the office of a king demands. Thus did the Romans, who had accepted Tarquin the Proud as their king, cast him out from the kingship on account of his tyranny and the tyranny of his sons; and they set up in their place a lesser power: namely, the consular power. Similarly Domitian, who had succeeded those most moderate emperors, Vespasian, his father, and Titus, his brother, was slain by the Roman senate when he exercised tyranny, and all his wicked deeds were justly, and profitably, declared null and void by a decree of the senate. Thus it came about that Blessed John the Evangelist, the beloved disciple of God, who had been exiled to the island of Patmos by that very Domitian, was sent back to Ephesus by a decree of the senate.
Si vero ad ius alicuius superioris pertineat multitudini providere de rege, expectandum est ab eo remedium contra tyranni nequitiam. Sic Archelai, qui in Iudaea pro Herode patre suo regnare iam coeperat, paternam malitiam imitantis, Iudaeis contra eum querimoniam ad Caesarem Augustum deferentibus, primo quidem potestas diminuitur, ablato sibi regio nomine et medietate regni sui inter duos fratres eius divisa; demum cum nec sic a tyrannide compesceretur, a Tiberio Caesare relegatus est in exilium apud Lugdunum Galliae civitatem.
If, on the other hand, it pertains to the right of a higher authority to provide a king for a certain multitude, a remedy against the wickedness of a tyrant is to be looked for from him. Thus when Archelaus, who had already begun to reign in Judaea in the place of Herod his father, was imitating his father’s wickedness, a complaint against him having been laid before Caesar Augustus by the Jews, his power was at first diminished by depriving him of his title of king and by dividing one-half of his kingdom between his two brothers. Later, since he was not restrained from tyranny even by this means, Tiberius Caesar sent him into exile to Lugdunum, a city in Gaul.
Quod si omnino contra tyrannum auxilium humanum haberi non possit, recurrendum est ad regem omnium Deum qui est adiutor in opportunitatibus, in tribulatione. Eius enim potentiae subest ut cor tyranni crudele convertat in mansuetudinem, secundum Salomonem Cor regis in manu Dei, quocumque voluerit inclinabit illud; ipse enim regis Assueri crudelitatem, qui Iudaeis mortem parabat, in mansuetudinem vertit; ipse est qui ita Nabuchodonosor crudelem regem in tantam devotionem convertit, quod factus est divinae potentiae praedicator: Nunc igitur, inquit, ego Nabuchodonosor laudo et magnifico et glorifico regem caeli, quia opera eius vera et viae eius iudicia, et gradientes in superbia potest humiliare.
Should no human aid whatsoever against a tyrant be forthcoming, recourse must be had to God, the King of all, who is a helper in due time in tribulation (Ps 9:10). For it lies in his power to turn the cruel heart of the tyrant to mildness. According to Solomon: The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Prov 21:1). It was he who turned into mildness the cruelty of King Assuerus, who was preparing death for the Jews. It was he who so filled the cruel king Nebuchadnezzar with piety that he became a proclaimer of the divine power. Therefore, he said, I, Nabuchodonosor do now praise and magnify and glorify the King of Heaven; because all his works are true and his ways judgments, and they that walk in pride he is able to abase (Dan 4:34).
Tyrannos vero quos reputat conversione indignos, potest auferre de medio vel ad infimum statum reducere, secundum illud Sapientis Sedes ducum superborum destruxit Deus et sedere fecit mites pro eis. Ipse est qui videns afflictionem populi sui in Aegypto et audiens eorum clamorem, Pharaonem tyrannum deiecit cum exercitu suo in mare. Ipse est qui memoratum Nabuchodonosor prius superbientem, eiectum non solum de regni solio sed etiam de hominum consortio, in similitudinem bestiae commutavit. Nec est abbreviata manus eius, ut populum suum a tyrannis liberare non possit: promittit enim per Isaiam populo suo requiem se daturum a labore et concussione et servitute dura qua ante servierat; et per Ezechielem dicit Liberabo meum gregem de ore eorum, scilicet pastorum qui pascunt se ipsos. Sed ut hoc beneficium populus a Deo consequi mereatur, debet a peccatis cessare, quia in ultionem peccati divina permissione impii accipiunt principatum, dicente Domino per Oseam Dabo tibi regem in furore meo; et in Iob dicitur quod regnare facit hominem hypocritam propter peccata populi. Tollenda est igitur culpa ut cesset tyrannorum plaga.
Those tyrants, however, whom he deems unworthy of conversion, he is able to put out of the way or to degrade, according to the words of the wise man: The Lord has cast down the thrones of rulers, and has seated the lowly in their place (Sir 10:14). He it was who, seeing the affliction of his people in Egypt and hearing their cry, hurled Pharaoh, a tyrant over God’s people, with all his army into the sea. He it was who not only banished from his kingly throne the above-mentioned Nabuchodonosor because of his former pride, but also cast him from the fellowship of men and changed him into the likeness of a beast. Indeed, his hand is not shortened so that he cannot free his people from tyrants. For by Isaiah he promised to give his people rest from pain and turmoil and hard service (Isa 14:3) in which they had formerly served; and by Ezekiel he says: I will rescue my sheep from their mouths (Ezek 34:10), that is, from the mouth of shepherds who feed themselves. But to deserve to secure this benefit from God, the people must desist from sin, for it is by divine permission that wicked men receive power to rule as a punishment for sin, as the Lord says by the Prophet Hosea: I will give you a king in my wrath (Hos 13:11) and it is said in Job that he makes a man who is a hypocrite to reign for the sins of the people (Job 34:30). Sin must therefore be done away with in order that the scourge of tyrants may cease.
Quod mundanus honor seu gloria non sunt sufficiens premium regis
That worldly honor and glory are not an adequate reward for a king
Quoniam autem secundum praedicta regis est bonum multitudinis quaerere, nimis videretur onerosum regis officium nisi ei aliquod proprium bonum ex hoc proveniret. Oportet igitur considerare quale sit boni regis conveniens praemium.
Since, according to what has been said thus far, it is the king’s duty to seek the good of the multitude, the task of a king may seem too burdensome unless some advantage to himself should result from it. Therefore, we must consider what a suitable reward for a good king is.
Quibusdam igitur visum est regis praemium non esse aliud quam honorem et gloriam, unde et Tullius in libro de Republica definit principem civitatis esse alendum gloria; cuius rationem Aristoteles in libro Ethicorum assignare videtur, quia princeps cui non sufficit honor et gloria consequenter tyrannus efficitur. Inest enim animis omnium ut proprium bonum quaerant; si ergo contentus non sit princeps gloria et honore, quaeret voluptates et divitias, et sic ad rapinas et subditorum iniurias convertitur.
Some men considered this reward to be nothing other than honor and glory. Hence Cicero says in the book On the Republic: The prince of the city should be nourished by glory, and Aristotle seems to assign the reason for this in the Ethics: Because the prince for whom honor and glory is not sufficient consequently turns into a tyrant. For it is in the hearts of all men to seek their proper good. Therefore, if the prince is not content with glory and honor, he will seek pleasures and riches, and so will resort to plundering and injuring his subjects.
Sed si hanc sententiam receperimus, plurima sequuntur inconvenientia. Primo namque hoc esset regibus dispendiosum, si tot labores et sollicitudines paterentur pro mercede tam fragili: nihil enim videtur in rebus humanis fragilius gloria et honore favoris hominum, cum dependeat ex opinionibus hominum et verbis eorum, quibus nihil mutabilius in vita hominibus; et inde est quod Isaias propheta huiusmodi gloriam nominat florem foeni. Deinde humanae gloriae cupido animi magnitudinem aufert: qui enim favorem hominum quaerit, necesse est ut in omni quod dicit aut facit eorum voluntati deserviat; et sic dum placere omnibus studet, fit servus singulorum. Propter quod et idem Tullius, in libro de Officiis, cavendam dicit esse gloriae cupidinem: Eripit enim animi libertatem, pro qua magnanimis viris omnis debet esse contentio. Nihil autem principem qui ad magna peragenda instituitur, magis decet quam animi magnitudo; est igitur incompetens regis officio humanae gloriae praemium.
However, if we accept this opinion, a great many incongruous results follow. In the first place, it would be costly to kings if so many labors and anxieties were to be endured for a reward so perishable: for nothing, it seems, is more perishable among human things than the glory and honor of men’s favor, since it depends upon the report of men and their opinions, which nothing in human life is more fickle than. And this is why the Prophet Isaiah calls such glory the flower of grass (Isa 40:6). Moreover, the desire for human glory takes away greatness of soul. For he who seeks the favor of men must serve their will in all he says and does, and thus, while striving to please all, he becomes a slave to each one. Therefore, the same Cicero says in his book On Duties that the inordinate desire for glory is to be guarded against: It takes away freedom of soul, for the sake of which high-minded men should put forth all their efforts. Indeed, there is nothing more becoming to a prince who has been set up for the doing of good works than greatness of soul. Thus, the reward of human glory is not enough for the services of a king.
Simul etiam est multitudini noxium si tale praemium statuatur principibus. Pertinet enim ad boni viri officium ut contemnat gloriam sicut et alia temporalia bona: virtuosi enim et fortis animi est pro iustitia contemnere gloriam sicut et vitam. Unde fit quiddam mirabile, ut quia virtuosos actus consequitur gloria ipsaque gloria virtuose contemnatur, ex contemptu gloriae homo gloriosus reddatur, secundum sententiam Fabii dicentis Gloriam qui spreverit, veram habuit. Et de Catone dixit Salustius Quo minus petebat gloriam, tanto magis assequebatur illam; ipsique Christi discipuli se sicut Dei ministros exhibebant per gloriam et ignobilitatem, per infamiam et bonam famam. Non est igitur boni viri conveniens praemium gloria quam contemnunt boni. Si igitur hoc solum praemium statuatur principibus, sequetur bonos viros non assumere principatum, aut si assumpserint impraemiatos esse.
At the same time it also hurts the multitude if such a reward be set up for princes, for it is the duty of a good man to take no account of glory, just as he should take no account of other temporal goods. It is the mark of a virtuous and brave soul to despise glory as he despises life, for justice’s sake. From this comes a wonder: glory ensues from virtuous acts, and out of virtue glory itself is despised. And therefore, through his very contempt for glory, a man is made glorious—according to the sentence of Fabius: He who scorns glory shall have true glory, and as Sallust says of Cato: The less he sought glory the more he achieved it. Even the disciples of Christ exhibited themselves as the ministers of God in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute (2 Cor 6:8). Therefore, it is not fitting for glory, spurned by good men, to be the reward of a good man. And, if it alone be set up as the reward for princes, it will follow that good men will not take upon themselves the chief office of the city, or if they take it, they will go unrewarded.
Amplius, ex cupidine gloriae periculosa mala proveniunt. Multi enim dum immoderate gloriam in rebus bellicis quaerunt, se ac suos exercitus perdiderunt, libertate patriae sub hostium servitute redacta: unde Torquatus Romanus princeps, in exemplo huius vitandi discriminis, filium, qui contra imperium suum ab hoste provocatus iuvenili ardore pugnavit, licet vicisset occidit, ne plus mali esset in praesumptionis exemplo quam utilitatis in gloria hostis occisi.
Furthermore, dangerous evils come from the desire for glory. Many have been led unrestrainedly to seek glory in warfare, and have sent their armies and themselves to destruction, while the freedom of their country was turned into servitude under an enemy. Consider Torquatus, the Roman chief: in order to impress upon the people how imperative it is to avoid such danger, he slew his own son who had acted against his orders (he had been challenged by an enemy whom he had fought and vanquished). Torquatus acted thus lest more harm should accrue from the example of his son’s presumption than advantage from the glory of slaying the enemy.
Habet etiam cupido gloriae aliud sibi familiare vitium, simulationem videlicet. Quia enim difficile est paucisque contingit veras virtutes assequi, quibus solis honor debetur et gloria, multi gloriam cupientes virtutum simulatores fiunt; propter quod, sicut Salustius dicit, ambitio multos mortales falsos fieri coegit: aliud clausum in pectore, aliud promptum habere in lingua, magisque vultum quam ingenium bonum habere. Sed et Salvator noster eos qui bona opera faciunt ut ab hominibus videantur, hypocritas, id est simulatores, vocat. Sicut igitur periculosum est multitudini si princeps voluptates et divitias quaerat pro praemio, ne raptor contumeliosus fiat, ita periculosum est si ei determinetur gloriae praemium, ne praesumptuosus et simulator existat.
Moreover, the desire for glory has another vice akin to it: namely, hypocrisy. Since it is difficult to acquire true virtues, to which alone honor and glory are due, and it is therefore the lot of but a few to attain them, many who desire glory become simulators of virtue. On this account, as Sallust says: Ambition drives many mortals to become false. They keep one thing shut up in their heart, another ready on the tongue, and they have more countenance than character. But our Savior also calls those persons ‘hypocrites,’ or simulators, who do good works to be seen by men. Therefore, just as there is danger for the multitude that the prince may become abusive and a plunderer if he seeks pleasures and riches as his reward, so there is danger that he may become presumptuous and a hypocrite if glory is assigned to him as reward.
Sed quantum ex dictorum sapientium intentione apparet, non ea ratione honorem et gloriam pro praemio principi decreverunt tanquam ad hoc principaliter ferri debeat boni regis intentio, sed quia tolerabilius est si gloriam quaerat quam si pecuniam cupiat aut voluptatem sequatur. Hoc enim vitium virtuti propinquius est, cum gloria quam homines cupiunt nihil aliud sit, ut Augustinus definit, quam iudicium hominum bene de hominibus opinantium. Cupido enim gloriae aliquod habet virtutis vestigium, dum saltem bonorum approbationem quaerit et eis displicere recusat. Paucis igitur ad veram virtutem pervenientibus, tolerabilius videtur si praeferatur ad regimen qui, vel iudicium hominum metuens, saltem a malis manifestis retrahitur. Qui enim gloriam cupit, aut vera via, id est per virtutis opera, nititur ut ab hominibus approbetur, vel saltem dolis ad hoc contendit atque fallaciis. Qui vero dominari desiderat, si cupiditate gloriae carens non timeat bene iudicantibus displicere, etiam per apertissima scelera quaerit plerumque obtinere quod diligit, unde bestias superat sive crudelitatis sive luxuriae vitiis, sicut in Nerone Caesare patet, cuius, ut Augustinus dicit, fuit tanta luxuria ut nihil putaretur ab eo virile metuendum, tanta crudelitas ut nihil molle habere putaretur. Hoc autem satis exprimitur per id quod Aristoteles de magnanimo in Ethicis dicit, quod non quaerit honorem et gloriam quasi aliquid magnum quod sit virtutis sufficiens praemium, sed nihil ultra hoc ab hominibus exigit. Hoc enim inter omnia terrena videtur esse praecipuum, ut homini ab hominibus testimonium de virtute reddatur.
Looking at what the above-mentioned wise men intended to say, they do not seem to have decided upon honor and glory as the reward of a prince because they judged that the king’s intention should be principally directed to that object, but because it is more tolerable for him to seek glory than to desire money or pursue pleasure. For this vice is akin to virtue inasmuch as the glory which men desire, as Augustine says, is nothing else than the judgment of men who think well of men. So the desire for glory has some trace of virtue in it, at least so long as it seeks the approval of good men and is reluctant to displease them. Therefore, since few men reach true virtue, it seems more tolerable if one be set up to rule who, fearing the judgment of men, is restrained from manifest evils. For the man who desires glory either endeavors to win the approval of men in the true way, by deeds of virtue, or at least strives for this by fraud and deceit. But if the one who desires to domineer lacks the desire for glory, he will have no fear of offending men of good judgment and will commonly strive to obtain what he chooses by the most open crimes. Thus he will surpass the beasts in the vices of cruelty and lust, as is evidenced in the case of the Emperor Nero, of whom Augustine says: He was so lustful that he despised everything virile, and yet so cruel that nobody would have thought him to be effeminate. Indeed all this is quite clearly contained in what Aristotle says in his Ethics regarding the magnanimous man: true, he does seek honor and glory, but not as something great which could be a sufficient reward of virtue. And beyond this he demands nothing more of men, for among all earthly goods the chief good, it seems, is this, that men bear testimony to the virtue of a man.
Quod sufficiens premium regis est a Deo expectandum
That the king should look to God for adequate reward
Quoniam ergo mundanus honor et hominum gloria regiae sollicitudini non est sufficiens praemium, inquirendum restat quale sit eius sufficiens praemium.
Therefore, since worldly honor and human glory are not a sufficient reward for royal cares, it remains to inquire what sort of reward is sufficient.
Est autem conveniens ut rex praemium expectet a Deo. Minister enim pro suo ministerio praemium expectat a domino; rex autem populum gubernando minister Dei est, dicente Apostolo quod omnis potestas a Domino Deo est, et quod est Dei minister vindex in iram ei qui male agit; et in libro Sapientiae reges regni Dei esse ministri describuntur. Debent igitur reges pro suo regimine praemium expectare a Deo.
It is proper that a king look to God for his reward, for a servant looks to his master for the reward of his service. The king is indeed the minister of God in governing the people, as the Apostle says: There is no authority except from God (Rom 13:1) and God’s minister is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom 13:4). And in the Book of Wisdom, kings are described as being ministers of God (Wis 6:5). Consequently, kings ought to look to God for the reward of their ruling.
Remunerat autem Deus pro suo ministerio interdum temporalibus bonis, sed talia praemia sunt bonis malisque communia; unde Dominus ad Ezechielem dicit Nabuchodonosor rex Babylonis servire fecit exercitum suum servitute magna adversus Tyrum, et merces non est reddita ei neque exercitui eius de Tyro pro servitute qua servivit mihi adversus eam, ea scilicet servitute qua potestas, secundum Apostolum, Dei minister est, vindex in iram ei qui male agit. Et postea de praemio subdidit Propterea haec dicit Dominus Deus: Ecce ego dabo Nabuchodonosor regem Babylonis in terra Aegypti, et diripiet spolia eius et erit merces exercitui eius.
Now God sometimes rewards kings for their service by temporal goods, but such rewards are common to both the good and the wicked. Hence the Lord says to Ezechiel: Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare; yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had performed for me against it (Ezek 29:18), namely, for that service by which power is the minister of God and the avenger to execute wrath upon him who does evil (Rom 13:4). Afterwards he adds, regarding the reward: Therefore, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon; and he shall carry off its wealth and despoil it and plunder it; and it shall be the wages for his army (Ezek 29:19).
Si ergo reges iniquos contra Dei hostes pugnantes, licet non intentione serviendi Deo sed sua odia et cupiditates exequendi, tanta mercede Dominus remunerat ut eis de hostibus victoriam tribuat, regna subiiciat et spolia diripienda proponat, quid faciet bonis regibus qui pia intentione populum Dei regunt et hostes impugnant? Non quidem terrenam sed aeternam eis mercedem promittit, nec in alio quam in se ipso, dicente Petro pastoribus populi Dei Pascite qui in vobis est gregem Domini, ut cum venerit Princeps pastorum, id est Rex regum Christus, percipiatis immarcescibilem gloriae coronam; de qua dicit Isaias Erit Dominus sertum exultationis et diadema gloriae populo suo.
Therefore, if God recompenses wicked kings who fight against the enemies of God, though not with the intention of serving him but to execute their own hatred and cupidity, by giving them such great rewards as to yield them victory over their foes, subject kingdoms to their sway, and grant them spoils to rifle, what will he do for kings who rule the people of God and assail his enemies from a holy motive? Indeed, he promises them not an earthly reward, but an everlasting one, and in none other than in himself. As Peter says to the shepherds of the people: Tend the flock of God that is your charge . . . and when the chief Shepherd is manifested, that is, Christ the King of kings, you will obtain the unfading crown of glory (1 Pet 5:2, 4). Concerning this, Isaiah says: The Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to his people (Isa 28:5).
Hoc autem ratione manifestatur. Est enim mentibus omnium ratione utentium inditum virtutis praemium beatitudinem esse; virtus enim uniuscuiusque rei esse describitur quae bonum facit habentem et opus eius bonum reddit. Ad hoc autem quisque bene operando nititur pervenire quod est maxime desiderio inditum; hoc autem est esse felicem, quod nullus potest non velle: hoc igitur praemium virtutis convenienter expectatur quod hominem facit beatum. Si autem bene operari virtutis est opus, regis autem opus est bene regere subditos, hoc etiam erit praemium regis quod eum faciat beatum. Quid autem hoc sit, hinc considerandum est.
This is also clearly shown by reason. It is implanted in the minds of all who have the use of reason that the reward of virtue is happiness. The virtue of anything whatsoever is explained to be that which makes its possessor good and renders his deed good. Moreover, everyone strives by working well to attain what is most deeply implanted in desire: namely, to be happy. No one is able not to wish this. It is therefore fitting to expect as a reward for virtue that which makes man happy. Now, if to work well is a virtuous deed, and the king’s work is to rule his people well, then that which makes him happy will be the king’s reward. What this is has now to be considered.
Beatitudinem quidem dicimus ultimum desideriorum finem; neque enim desiderii motus usque in infinitum procedit, esset enim inane naturale desiderium, cum infinita pertransiri non possint. Cum autem desiderium intellectualis naturae sit universalis boni, hoc solum bonum vere beatum facere poterit, quo adepto nullum bonum restat quod amplius desiderari possit; unde et beatitudo dicitur bonum perfectum, quasi omnia desiderabilia in se comprehendens. Tale autem non est aliquod bonum terrenum; nam qui divitias habent amplius habere desiderant, qui voluptatibus perfruuntur amplius perfrui desiderant, et simile patet in caeteris. Et si ampliora non quaerunt, desiderant tamen ut ea permaneant, vel alia in locum eorum succedant: nihil enim permanens invenitur in rebus terrenis; nihil igitur terrenum est quod quietare desiderium possit. Neque igitur terrenum aliquod beatum facere potest, ut possit esse regis conveniens praemium.
Happiness, we say, is the ultimate end of our desires. Now the movement of desire does not go on to infinity, else natural desire would be vain, for infinity cannot be traversed. Since, then, the desire of an intellectual nature is for universal good, that good alone can make it truly happy which, when attained, leaves no further good to be desired. Hence happiness is called the perfect good inasmuch as it comprises in itself all things desirable. But no earthly good is such a good. They who have riches desire to have more, they who enjoy pleasure desire to enjoy more, and the like is clear for the rest: and if they do not seek more, they at least desire that those they have should abide or that others should follow in their stead. For nothing permanent is found in earthly things. Consequently, there is nothing earthly which can calm desire. Thus, nothing earthly can make man happy, so that it may be a fitting reward for a king.
Adhuc, cuiuslibet rei finalis perfectio et bonum completum ab aliquo superiore dependet, quia et ipsa corporalia meliora redduntur ex adiunctione meliorum, peiora vero si deterioribus misceantur; sicut argento si misceatur aurum, argentum fit melius, quod ex plumbi admixtione impurum efficitur. Constat autem terrena omnia esse infra mentem humanam; beatitudo autem est hominis finalis perfectio et bonum completum ad quod omnes pervenire desiderant: nihil igitur terrenum est quod hominem possit beatum facere, neque igitur terrenum aliquod est praemium regis sufficiens. Non enim, ut Augustinus dicit, christianos principes felices dicimus quia diutius imperarunt, vel imperatores filios morte placida reliquerunt, vel hostes reipublicae domuerunt, vel cives adversum se insurgentes et cavere et opprimere potuerunt; sed felices eos dicimus si iuste imperant, si malunt cupiditatibus potius quam gentibus quibuslibet imperare, si omnia faciunt non propter ardorem inanis gloriae, sed propter caritatem felicitatis aeternae. Tales imperatores christianos dicimus esse felices, interim spe, postea re ipsa futuros cum id quod expectamus advenerit. Sed nec aliud aliquod creatum est quod hominem beatum faciat et possit regi decerni pro praemio. Tendit enim uniuscuiusque rei desiderium in suum principium a quo suum esse causatur; causa vero mentis humanae non est aliud quam Deus qui eam ad suam imaginem facit: solus igitur Deus est qui hominis desiderium quietare potest et facere hominem beatum et esse regi conveniens praemium.
Again, the last perfection and perfect good of anything one chooses depends upon something higher, for even bodily things are made better by the addition of better things and worse by being mixed with baser things. If gold is mingled with silver, the silver is made better, while by an admixture of lead it is rendered impure. Now all earthly things are beneath the human mind; but happiness is the last perfection and the perfect good of man, which all men desire to reach. Therefore, there is no earthly thing which could make man happy, nor is any earthly thing a sufficient reward for a king. For, as Augustine says, We do not call Christian princes happy merely because they have reigned a long time, or because after a peaceful death they have left their sons to rule, or because they subdued the enemies of the state, or because they were able to guard against or to suppress citizens who rose up against them. Rather, we call them happy if they rule justly, if they prefer to rule their passions rather than nations, and if they do all things not for the love of vainglory but for the love of eternal happiness. Such Christian emperors we say are happy, now in hope, afterwards in very fact when that which we await shall come to pass. But neither is there any other created thing which would make a man happy and which could be set up as the reward for a king. For the desire of each thing tends towards its source which causes its being. But the cause of the human soul is none other than God, who made it to his own image. Therefore, it is God alone who can still the desires of man, and make him happy, and be the fitting reward for a king.
Amplius, mens humana universalis boni cognoscitiva est per intellectum et desiderativa per voluntatem; bonum autem universale non invenitur nisi in Deo, nihil igitur est quod possit hominem beatum facere eius implendo desiderium nisi Deus, de quo dicitur in Psalmo Qui replet in bonis desiderium tuum; in hoc ergo rex suum praemium statuere debet. Hoc igitur considerans David rex dicebat Quid mihi est in caelo et a te quid volui super terram?; cui quaestioni postea respondens subdit Mihi adhaerere Deo bonum est et ponere in Deo spem meam. Ipse enim est qui dat salutem regibus, non solum temporalem qua communiter salvat homines et iumenta, sed eam de qua per Isaiam dicit Salus autem mea in sempiternum erit, qua homines salvat eos ad aequalitatem angelorum perducens.
Furthermore, the human mind knows the universal good through the intellect, and desires it through the will: but the universal good is not found except in God. Therefore, there is nothing which could make man happy, fulfilling his every desire, but God, of whom it is said in the Psalm: Who satisfies your desire with good (Ps 103 :5). In this, therefore, should the king place his reward. Thus King David, with this in mind, said: Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you (Ps 73 :25) and he afterwards adds in answer to this question: It is good for me to adhere to my God and to put my hope in the Lord God (Ps 73 :28). For it is he who gives salvation to kings, not merely temporal salvation by which he saves both men and beasts together, but also that salvation of which he says by the mouth of Isaiah: But my salvation shall be forever (Isa 51:6), that salvation by which he saves man and makes them equal to the angels.
Sic igitur verificari potest quod regis praemium sit honor et gloria. Quis enim mundanus et caducus honor huic honori similis esse potest, ut homo sit civis sanctorum et domesticus Dei, et inter Dei filios computatus haereditatem regni caelestis assequatur cum Christo? Hic est honor quem concupiscens et admirans rex David dicebat Nimis honorati sunt amici tui, Deus. Quae insuper humanae laudis gloria huic gloriae comparari potest, quam non fallax blandientium lingua, non decepta hominum opinio profert, sed ex interioris conscientiae testimonio prodit et Dei testimonio confirmatur qui suis confessoribus repromittit quod confiteatur eos in gloria Patris coram angelis Dei? Qui autem hanc gloriam quaerunt eam inveniunt, et quam non quaerunt gloriam hominum consequuntur, exemplo Salomonis qui non solum sapientiam quam quaesivit accepit a Domino, sed factus est super reges alios gloriosus.
It can thus also be verified that the reward of the king is honor and glory. What worldly and frail honor can indeed be likened to this honor, that a man be made a fellow citizen with the saints and member of the household of God (Eph 2:19), numbered among the sons of God, and that he obtain the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom with Christ? This is the honor of which King David, in desire and wonder, says: Your friends, O God, are made exceedingly honorable (Ps 138:17). And further, what glory of human praise can be compared to this, not uttered by the false tongue of flatterers nor the fallacious opinion of men, but issuing from the witness of our inmost conscience and confirmed by the testimony of God, who promises to those who confess him that he will confess them before the angels of God in the glory of the Father? They who seek this glory will find it and they will win the glory of men which they do not seek: witness Solomon, who not only received from the Lord wisdom which he sought, but was made glorious above other kings.
Quem gradum in beatitudine optinebunt reges beati
What degree of heavenly beatitude the king may obtain
Considerandum autem restat ulterius, quod sublimen et eminentem obtinebunt caelestis beatitudinis gradum qui officium regium digne et laudabiliter exequuntur. Si enim beatitudo virtutis est praemium, consequens est ut maiori virtuti maior gradus beatitudinis debeatur. Est autem virtus praecipua qua homo aliquis non solum se ipsum, sed etiam alios dirigere potest, et tanto magis quanto plurium est regitiva, quia et secundum virtutem corporalem tanto aliquis virtuosior reputatur, quanto plures vincere potest aut pondera plura levare. Sic igitur maior virtus requiritur ad regendum domesticam familiam quam ad regendum se ipsum, multoque maior ad regimen civitatis et regni. Est igitur excellentis virtutis bene regium officium exercere: debetur igitur ei excellens in beatitudine praemium.
Now it remains further to consider that they who discharge the kingly office worthily and laudably will obtain an elevated and outstanding degree of heavenly happiness. For if happiness is the reward of virtue, it follows that a higher degree of happiness is due to greater virtue. Now, that virtue is eminent by which a man can guide not only himself but others, and the more persons he rules, the greater his virtue. Similarly, in regard to bodily strength, a man is reputed to be more powerful the more adversaries he can beat or the more weights he can lift. Thus, greater virtue is required to rule a household than to rule one’s self, and much greater to rule a city and a kingdom. To discharge well the office of a king is therefore a work of extraordinary virtue. To it, therefore, is due an extraordinary reward of happiness.
Adhuc, in omnibus artibus et potentiis laudabiliores sunt qui alios bene dirigunt, quam qui secundum aliorum directionem bene se habent. In speculativis enim maius est veritatem docendo aliis tradere, quam ab alio traditam capere posse; in artificiis etiam maius existimatur maiorique conducitur praemio architector qui aedificium disponit, quam artifex qui secundum eius dispositionem manualiter operatur; et in rebus bellicis maiorem gloriam de victoria consequitur prudentia ducis quam militis fortitudo. Sic autem se habet rector multitudinis in his quae sunt a singulis secundum virtutem agenda, sicut doctor in disciplinis et architector in aedificiis et dux in bellis. Est igitur rex maiori praemio dignus si bene subiectos gubernaverit, quam aliquis subditorum si sub rege bene se habuerit.
Again, those who rule others well are more worthy of praise than those who act well under others’ direction. This applies to the field of all arts and sciences. In the speculative sciences, for instance, it is nobler to impart truth to others by teaching than to be able to grasp what is taught by others. So, too, in matters of the crafts, an architect who plans a building is more highly esteemed and paid a higher wage than is the builder who does the manual labor under his direction; and in warfare the strategy of the general wins greater glory from victory than the bravery of the soldier. Now, the ruler of a multitude stands in the same relation to the virtuous deeds performed by each individual as the teacher to the matters taught, the architect to the buildings, and the general to the wars. Consequently, the king is worthy of a greater reward if he governs his subjects well than any of his subjects who act well under him.
Amplius, si virtutis est ut per eam opus hominis bonum reddatur, maioris virtutis esse videtur quod maius bonum aliquis operetur. Maius autem et divinius est bonum multitudinis quam unius; unde et interdum malum unius sustinetur si in bonum multitudinis cedat, sicut occiditur latro ut pax multitudini detur. Et ipse Deus mala esse in mundo non sineret, nisi ex eis bona eliceret ad utilitatem et pulchritudinem universi. Pertinet autem ad regis officium ut bonum multitudinis studiose procuret; maius igitur praemium debetur regi pro bono regimine, quam subdito pro recta actione.
Further, if it is the part of virtue to render a man’s work good, it seems that one does greater good from greater virtue. But the good of the multitude is greater and more divine than the good of one man. Hence the evil of one man is sometimes endured if it redounds to the good of the multitude, as when a robber is killed to bring peace to the multitude. God himself would not allow evils to be in the world unless he brings good out of them for the advantage and beauty of the universe. Now, it belongs to the office of the king to have zealous concern for the good of the multitude. Therefore, a greater reward is due to the king for good ruling than to the subject for acting according to rule.
Hoc autem manifestius fiet si quis magis in speciali consideret. Laudatur enim ab hominibus quaevis privata persona et ei a Deo computatur in praemium, si egenti subveniat, si discordantes pacificet, si oppressum a potentiore eripiat, denique si alicui qualitercumque opem vel consilium conferat ad salutem. Quanto igitur magis laudandus est ab hominibus et praemiandus a Deo, qui totam provinciam facit pace gaudere, violentias cohibet, iustitiam servat, et disponit quid sit agendum ab hominibus suis legibus et praeceptis.
This will become clearer if considered in greater detail. For a private person is praised by men, and his deed reckoned for reward by God, if he helps the needy, brings peace to those in discord, rescues one oppressed by a mightier—in a word, if in any way he gives to another assistance or advice for his welfare. How much the more, then, is he to be praised by men and rewarded by God who makes a whole province rejoice in peace, who restrains violence, preserves justice, and arranges by his laws and precepts what is to be done by men?
Hinc etiam magnitudo regiae virtutis apparet quod praecipue Dei similitudinem gerit, dum hoc agit in regno quod Deus in mundo: unde et in Exodo iudices multitudinis dii vocantur; imperatores etiam apud Romanos divi vocantur. Tanto autem est aliquid magis Deo acceptum, quanto magis ad eius imitationem accedit; unde et Apostolus monet: Estote imitatores Dei sicut filii charissimi. Sed si secundum Sapientis sententiam, omne animal diligit simile sibi, secundum quod causae similitudinem aliqualiter habent causata, consequens igitur est bonos reges Deo esse acceptissimos et ab eo maxime praemiandos.
The greatness of kingly virtue also appears in this, that he bears a special likeness to God, since he does in his kingdom what God does in the world; wherefore in Exodus the judges of the people are called gods, and also among the Romans the emperors were called ‘divine.’ Now the more a thing approaches to the likeness of God, the more acceptable it is to him. Hence, also, the Apostle urges: Be imitators of God, as beloved children (Eph 5:1). But if, according to the saying of the wise man, every creature loves its like (Sir 13:15) inasmuch as causes bear some likeness to the caused, it follows that good kings are most pleasing to God and are to be most highly rewarded by him.
Simul etiam, ut Gregorii verbis utar, quid est [potestas culminis] nisi tempestas mentis? Quieto autem mari recte navem etiam imperitus dirigit, turbato autem tempestatis fluctibus etiam peritus se nauta confundit; unde plerumque in occupatione regiminis ipse quoque boni operis usus perditur, qui in tranquillitate tenebatur. Valde enim difficile est si, ut Augustinus dicit, inter linguas sublimiter honorantium et obsequia nimis humiliter salutantium non extollantur, sed se homines esse meminerint. Et in Ecclesiastico beatus dicitur dives qui post aurum non abiit, nec speravit in pecuniae thesauris; qui potuit impune transgredi et non est transgressus, facere mala et non fecit: ex quo quasi in virtutis opere probatus, invenitur fidelis. Unde secundum Biantis proverbium principatus virum ostendit: multi enim ad principatus culmen pervenientes a virtute deficiunt, qui dum in statu essent infimo virtuosi videbantur. Ipsa igitur difficultas quae principibus imminet ad bene agendum, eos facit maiori praemio dignos, et si aliquando per infirmitatem peccaverint, apud homines excusabiliores redduntur et facilius a Deo veniam promerentur, si tamen, ut Augustinus dicit, pro suis peccatis humilitatis et miserationis et orationis sacrificium Deo suo vero immolare non negligunt. In cuius rei exemplum de Achab rege Israel, qui multum peccaverat, Dominus ad Heliam dixit Quia humiliatus est mei causa, non inducam malum in diebus euis.
Likewise, if I may use the words of Gregory: What else is it for a king to be at the pinnacle of power if not to find himself in a mental storm? When the sea is calm even an inexperienced man can steer a ship straight; when the sea is troubled by stormy waves, even an experienced sailor is bewildered. Hence it frequently happens that in the business of government the practice of good works is lost which in tranquil times was maintained. For, as Augustine says, it is very difficult for rulers not to be puffed up amid flattering and honoring tongues and the obsequiousness of those who bow too humbly, but to remember that they are men. It is said also in Sirach: Blessed is the rich man who has not gone after gold, nor put his trust in money, nor in treasures, who could have transgressed with impunity and did not transgress, who could do evil and did not do it (Sir 31:8, 10). Hence, having been tried in the work of virtue, he is found faithful, and so according to the proverb of Bias: Authority shows the man. For many who seemed virtuous while they were in lowly state fall from virtue when they reach the pinnacle of power. The very difficulty, then, of acting well, which besets kings, makes them worthy of greater reward; and if through weakness they sometimes do amiss, they are rendered more excusable before men and more easily obtain forgiveness from God: provided, as Augustine says, they do not neglect to offer up to their true God the sacrifice of humility, mercy, and prayer for their sins. As an example of this, the Lord said to Elias concerning Achab, king of Israel, who had sinned a great deal: Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days (1 Kgs 21:29).