Montesquieu

The prin­ci­ple of monar­chy beco­mes cor­rupt when the grea­test digni­ties are marks of the grea­test ser­vi­tude, and when the gran­dees are dives­ted of the peo­ples’ res­pect and are made into the vile ins­tru­ments of arbi­trary power.

It beco­mes even more cor­rupt when honor has been pla­ced in contra­dic­tion with honors, and a per­son can be cove­red with infamy and digni­ties at the same time.1

It beco­mes cor­rupt when the prince turns his jus­tice into seve­rity, when like the Roman empe­rors he pla­ces a Medusa’s head on his chest,2 when he assu­mes the threa­te­ning and fright­ful air that Commodus spe­ci­fied for his sta­tues.3

The prin­ci­ple of monar­chy beco­mes cor­rupt when sin­gu­larly cowardly souls derive vanity from the great­ness which their ser­vi­tude could have, and believe that inso­far as eve­ry­thing is owed to the prince, nothing is owed to one’s home­land.

But if it is true (as has been seen in all times) that as the monarch’s power beco­mes immense, his secu­rity pro­por­tio­na­tely decrea­ses, is not the cor­rup­tion of that power to the point of making it change its nature a crime of lese-majesty against him ?

Under the reign of Tiberius, statues were raised and triumphal ornaments were given to informers, which so debased those honors that those who had merited them spurned them (fragment of Dio, book XVIII, taken from the Extracts of Virtues and Vices of Constantine Porphirogenitus [p. 668]). See in Tacitus how Nero, upon the discovery and punishment of a supposed conspiracy, gave triumphal ornaments to Petronius, Turpilianus, Nerva, and Tigellinus (Annals, book XIV). See also how the generals did not condescend to wage war because they disdained its honors, pervulgatis triumphi insignibus [‘the insignia of triumph had been vulgarized’] (Tacitus, Annals, book XIII).

In that state, the prince knew well what the principle of his government was.

Herodianus.