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Evil LordsTheories and Representations of Tyranny from Antiquity to the Renaissance$
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Nikos Panou and Hester Schadee

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199394852

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199394852.001.0001

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There Are No ‘Bad Kings’

There Are No ‘Bad Kings’

Tyrannical Characters and Evil Counselors in Medieval Political Thought

(p.137) 8 There Are No ‘Bad Kings’
Evil Lords

Cary J. Nederman

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a discussion of the conceptual impossibility of the ‘bad king’ in the medieval Latin West—a conundrum that caused evil lords to be defined exclusively as tyrants. Nonetheless, political theorists from Isidore of Seville to John of Salisbury, Thomas Aquinas, and Dante display a remarkable ambivalence toward the tyrant’s role in civic life. While condemned in normative political theory, tyranny was often viewed as acceptable when a populace was deemed incapable of benefiting from good government, or when it was legitimized as an instrument of divine punishment. This chapter demonstrates furthermore that even overtly tyrannical behavior could be countenanced by attributing it not to the prince himself but to his evil counselors, who were subjected to much scrutiny in high and late medieval mirrors for princes.

Keywords:   tyranny, counselors, Isidore of Seville, John of Salisbury, Thomas Aquinas, Middle Ages

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