the do-nothing belly, they starved the entire body, includingrnthemselves. The story—and the agreement to appoint Tribunesrnof the people—^had its effect.rnThe Roman plebs was not without legitimate grievances.rnThe patricians of that era, although they did provide militaryrnand political leadership, had excluded plebeians from office onrnthe basis of a racial theory. Only patricians, they insisted, hadrnthe blood of gods in their veins, and only they were entitled torndischarge the sacerdotal functions of Roman magistrates.rnSince it would have been sacrilege to contaminate divine blood,rnintermarriage between patricians and plebeians was forbidden.rnRace myths of this type are a common justification of politicalrnprivilege, and they often reflect a history of conquest andrnsubjugation: the Aryans in India, the Dorians in Sparta, thernNormans in England, and even the Franks in France all establishedrnthemselves as a master class on the backs of conqueredrnaborigines. In each of these cases, populist revolt had some ofrnthe flavor of race war. The real Hereward the Wake and the legendaryrnRobin Hood are expressions of Saxon revanchisme, andrnin the years leading up to the Revolution, French intellectualsrn”discovered” their Celtic roots—an ethnic myth that lives on inrnAsterix the Gaul.rnA more subtle but equally powerful race myth was at work inrnmedieval Tuscany, where Lombard knights had saddled themselvesrnon a Romano-Etruscan population that included not justrnpeasants in the countryside but also merchants in the towns. InrnPisa, where the nobles moved into the city and joined forcesrnwith the merchants, class tensions were relatively minor comparedrnwith Florence, whose nobles remained aloof, dueling andrnfeuding with each other and treating the commoners with contempt.rnThe merchants, in seizing power, loaded the aristocratsrnwith civil disabilities which further exacerbated the feudsrnbetween Guelphs and Ghibellines, and, after the Guelphrntriumph, between the Whites and the Blacks.rnIt is perhaps no accident that Florence gave birth to the firstrnpolitical philosopher to regard power as the basic principle ofrnpolitics. The price for letting this aristocratic cat out of the bagrnhas been the eternal reproach summed up in the term “Machiavellian”rn—as if the philosopher had invented tyranny and notrnmerely explained it. Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy are thernclearest exposition on the difficulties of maintaining a republicrnin the face of the disciplined ambitions of aristocrats andrnwould-be tyrants. His Prince remains the most objective portraitrnof the man of power, a type that both Herodotus and Aristotlernhad previously outlined in their depictions of Greekrntyrants.rnAfter centuries of lies told about Machiavelli and his disciplesrn(among whom we should include James Burnham andrnSamuel Francis), we still cannot bring ourselves to confess thatrnmost of us envy the Prince, that most of us—if we had the gutsrnand the discipline—would gladly sacrifice friends and family tornhave the chance to gratify our desires. Why else do we play thernlottery, if not for the remote possibility of being in the positionrnof Bill Glinton or O.J. Simpson, the exemplary heroes of ourrncivilization?rnThe tyrant as hero is the subject of a recent book, // tiranno ernI’eroe (Mondadori, 1996), by Carmine Catenacci, who pointsrnout that the lives of great leaders, historical as well as mythical,rntend to follow a similar pattern. The Leader is usually born,rnsometimes out of wedlock, to a humble or undistinguishedrnfamily (Sargon of Akkad, Periander of Corinth) that receivesrnsupernatural indications of the event and warnings of threats tornthe baby’s existence (Moses, Oedipus). On coming to power,rnthe Leader is ruthless in eliminating aristocratic rivals and indulgesrnhis sexual appetites to a degree that others regard asrnpathological (Gilgamesh, Heracles), often with hints of incestrn(Oedipus with his mother) or other deviance (Pisistratus ofrnAthens apparently sodomized his wife to avoid having children;rnPeriander, after his wife’s death, is said to have “baked his loavesrnin her cold oven”). Few leaders escape the consequences ofrntheir actions, and either they or their children suffer a tragic andrnexemplary downfall.rnWhen I met Catenacci in May, I asked him about parallelsrnbetween Greek tyrants and the Signori of the Italian Renaissance,rntough violent men like Francesco Sforza, Braccio Fortebraccio,rnCesare Borgia, suggesting that even today the Italianrnobsession with “la hella figura” is a residue of the signorial style.rnEven though most Italians are fed up with the corruption andrninefficiency of their business and political leaders, most menrnstill act as if they wanted to be pezzi grossi (big shots) themselves,rnwhether as cabinet ministers or only as professoroni.rnCatenacci went farther, pointing out that Bill Clinton is a figurernout of the pages of Herodotus: a white-trash background,rndoubtful paternity, a political career littered with dead bodies,rnand a sexual pathology that Heracles might have envied. “History,”rnconcluded Catenacci, “is only the myth we choose to believernin.”rnA great many people do believe in Clinton, and many ofrnthem actually admire him, both for his success and for his impudence,rnand I cannot help observing that man learns to crawlrnbefore he walks. Faced with an arrogant leader, our first impulsernis to get on our knees and lick his boots; to stand up andrnstrike a blow requires discipline and courage. In his book, Catenaccirnnowhere mentions the figure to whom it should havernbeen dedicated: Benito Mussolini, whom the Italians adored asrna god, putting up with his mistress and her awful family, sufferingrnthrough the blunders that brought the armed wrath of thernAllies on their virtually innocent heads, and in the end, turningrnon the designated scapegoat and dishonoring his corpse withrnthe same vindictive fury they once visited upon the family ofrnSejanus.rnThere is nothing new under the sun that shines on NorthrnAmerica only a little later than it lights up Europe. Our sturdyrnrepublican citizens made a god out of Lincoln, adored the President-rnfor-life Franklin Roosevelt, and elevated the dimwittedrnson of a rum-runner to the status of royalty. Whether we callrnhim king, tyrant, Fiihrer, Party Secretary, or President, thern”modern prince,” as Catenacci points out in a phrase borrowedrnfrom Gramsci, is the new political myth. His regime may havern”a collective structure” or even “go by the name of. .. democracy,”rnbut the modern leader plays by very ancient rules: herneliminates or suppresses all who possess integrity or distinction,rnhe elevates the feeblest members of society—women, children,rnthe “disadvantaged”—and under the cover of good governmentrnor human rights he enriches himself and indulges his sexualrnappetites with abandon.rnThe time for republican independence appears to have comernand gone, at least so far as great nations are concerned, andrnmost Americans, after trying to maintain ourselves upright inrnthe boxer’s stance, have returned to a posture that is more relaxingrnand more natural. “Leave us alone,” we say, “with ourrnJacuzzis and the all-modern kitchens where we cook no meals;rngive us digital television with a hundred cable channels andrnSEPTEMBER 1997/11rnrnrn