Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

CAMBRIDGE University is advertising for an `unearmarked fundraiser', one of whose jobs will be `legacy marketing'. What on earth can that be? It sounds suspiciously like a euphemism for the ever popular Roman sport of legacy-hunting. Petronius (d. 65 AD) in his Satyricon establishes the principle, satirising Croton (S. Italy) as a place where having a child to whom to leave your estate is the mark of the social pariah. Man's whole raison d'etre is to jockey for position in the legacy stakes.

The poet Horace (658 BC) details the tactics in a poem in which he imagines an impoverished Odysseus consulting the prophet Teiresias in the underworld about how to return home to Penelope after all these years without a bean to his name. Teiresias suggests he seek out the old, rich, frail and childless and make himself indispensable to them. One particularly profitable service to offer is as personal legal and financial adviser. Even if they have a son, it is worth trying to become second heir (the son might die). …

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