Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

So John Prescott joins the long list of ministers whose behaviour has brought disgrace on their office. But as Dorneywood was finally prised from his clammy grasp, what did parliament do about it? Nothing. Step forward Pericles and Cicero.

In 431 BC the Spartan king Archidamus marched on Athens, beginning what we know as the 'Peloponnesian War' (immortalised by the contemporary historian Thucydides).

Pericles, the most powerful man in Athens at the time, immediately saw the problem. He owned extensive property outside Athens, but Archidamus was an old family friend, and he feared Archidamus would not ravage it, either out of friendship or to stir up prejudice against him (Pericles) among the Athenian people. So Pericles immediately gave up ownership of his estates, handing them over to the people of Athens as public property. In other words, Pericles saw at once how he could be compromised by this situation, and acted on it immediately. And Prescott clung on. Status-obsessed? Or just thick?

In 70 BC Cicero made his name by successfully prosecuting Gaius Verres, the provincial governor of Sicily who for three years had been murderously exploiting the province for financial gain. …

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