Roman Emperor Statistics

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Re: Roman Emperor Statistics

Post by Salmoneus »

I think the general historical assessment is that the stricter and more impersonal your rules of succession are, the less likely you are to get good rulers (because you're making the system effectively more random with regard to personal characteristics)... but the more likely you are to have stability. And while in the short run it's good to have good rulers, in the long run it's much more important to have stability. Also, the stricter system is less likely to give you really awful rulers (spoiled sons are often not great, but megalomaniacal social climbers who'll stop at nothing in their search for power are worse). And since in most of history the ruler's job is primarily just to not fuck things up, mediocrity is generally preferred.

Rome's best years, the Five Good Emperors, came when they had what seemed like the best of both worlds: succession based on some sort of merit, but also strict succession, thanks to the old emperor picking the best candidate and making that pick clear before death (in fact in several cases officially making the heir co-emperor so that nothing could stop their accession). This is also what Diocletian tried to do with the tetrarchy. But this system also has several flaws: it goes bad very quickly as soon as one emperor picks the wrong successor (who then goes on to keep picking wrong successors); it collapses into chaos when an Emperor dies too soon to pick an heir (more common than with sons, because emperors naturally want to have sex, whereas they're inherently averse to nominating an heir in case the heir gets impatient; also, a fully hereditary system can extend inheritence laws to account for a lack of a direct son, albeit controversially); and it means continually trying to promote people who don't necessarily have a strong power base (sons tend to have a power base because they grow into having one by being heir to the throne since childhood), which means that eventually you'll have one who is just outright rejected by the powerbrokers...
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Re: Roman Emperor Statistics

Post by Torco »

That's like the default position in historiography, yeah, but often such consensuses (consensa?) are wrong. I was literally taught in uni that modernity consisted on, amongst other things, the invention of politics out of a supposed premodern attitude that social structure was just what it was and that people basically followed it blindly up until the renaissance or something like that, which is ludicrous. But this critique of the general historical opinion only goes so far: civil wars are, I grant, not generally good for polities, but the concept of stability seems too continuous for what is probably a discrete effect: if there are no riots in the streets, widespread destruction of property, teenage red guards lynching their teachers, civil wars and presidents fleeing the palace in helicopters you probably have all of the good things stability is going to give you. "old emperor says who is next emperor" is pretty free, as these things go, without being so free that you start having civil wars over it. Then again, too much stability can be bad: we're likely gonna not cock things up and not make waves and just keep doing what we're doing ourselves into a +5° world.

If you're going to have relatively free succession, though, it's probably better if there's some legitimized system for making the call, if only so that the decision is only made once. Still, the fact remains that there are extremely effective empires with and without formal rules of hereditary succession, so it's safe to say it's not an essential piece of the puzzle. more like having two chambers of congress: it has pros and cons, but ultimately it doesn't affect viability.
which means that eventually you'll have one who is just outright rejected by the powerbrokers...
luckily, they can quit, marry the american and leave the last guy's daughter to it.
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