Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Last time we saw how closely the preparations to make Gordon Brown prime minister paralleled those to make Tiberius emperor (princeps, 'first man') in AD 14, after the death of the first Roman emperor Augustus. Still, the successor to an epoch-making leader faces a big problem -- making his own mark. Tiberius had very specific views on the matter.

When Augustus was emperor, there was no question about who made the decisions: he did, and the Senate, consuls and the rest -- mere shadows of their earlier republican counterparts -- knew it. They were not about to risk their careers by crossing him.

Tiberius was not having this. In his first address as princeps to the Senate, he said that he had seen for himself how difficult and chancy running an empire was -- only Augustus was really up to the task; with so many able people in the Senate, he therefore thought the burdens of state should be shared. The Senate begged him to do no such thing.

Tiberius then produced a document in Augustus's hand detailing the resources of the empire -- troop strength, finances, state of the provinces and so on -- and said he would, of course, be prepared to do his part. …

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