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date: 22 February 2024



  • Christopher Kelly


Corruption is a difficult term; its use largely a matter of perspective. Indeed, from a modern, western point of view, many practices widely accepted in antiquity seem both immoral and detrimental to good government. But beyond underlining the difference between classical societies and our own, the imposition of expectations or prescriptions derived from contemporary ideals does little to advance our understanding of the past.Charges of corruption (fraud, *bribery, *ambitus, double-dealing, peculation, or the sale of offices) must always be viewed against the norms of the society in which the accusation is made. It should also be recognized that the majority of the surviving classical evidence comes from works whose primary purpose is denigration. Accusations of corruption—along with other vices and depravities—were part of a complex moralizing rhetoric of execration intended to damn an opponent in as many memorable ways as possible. These claims should be accorded the same degree of credibility as invective concerning dubious ancestry, sexual perversion, or physical *deformity.


  • Late Antiquity

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