Nicolas Guilhot

22 December 2022

How Not to Save Democracy

Last spring, the Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the January 6 Committee, was spotted with a copy of Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae. It was the new Princeton edition, translated by Josiah Osgood, which comes with a new title, How to Stop a Conspiracy: An Ancient Guide to Saving a Republic. ‘I’m getting ideas from wherever I can,’ Raskin said. According to Sallust’s account, Lucius Sergius Catilina was a morally corrupt yet charismatic figure who refused to concede defeat at the ballot box. A member of the Roman oligarchy burdened with debt, he surrounded himself with a crew of louche characters; he fomented riots and assembled an armed mob to march on the Capitol and burn the Senate. The coup was thwarted in extremis but the republic was in danger.

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