Originally Posted by Little Nemo
I think real totalitarianism is a modern phenomenon. Prior to the twentieth century, a regime had only limited ability to apply its power over an entire society. Caligula may have wanted to be an absolute dictator but his actual reach really didn't extend much further than a few miles. He could order people killed in his court but how much effect did he really have in Gaul or Dalmatia or Egypt?
Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety were probably the first regime to really make a serious attempt at taking over every aspect of a society but the reality was their impact was pretty hit or miss. Some regions were changed but other regions basically ignored what Paris wanted.
Yes, this gets to the often-ignored difference between authoritarianism
, control of a ruler over their own power and authority, and totalitarianism
, the total control of a ruler over all aspects of society. Totalitaranism is relatively modern for lots of reasons, not the least of which is mass media. It's tough to brainwash a population when all propaganda has to be sent on horseback.