Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

IF THE papers are not banging on about `the need for constitutional change' (as if we had a constitution), they are wringing their hands about the state of the monarchy and the need for it to `move with the times'. This is quite the wrong way to change our mighty organs of state.

Like us, the Romans had no constitution and, like us, they loved it. They looked back fondly to the days of 509 Bc when the little city of Rome expelled the king (Tarquin) imposed on it by its powerful Etruscan neighbours and the Republic sprang into life. They rejoiced that their institutions continued to develop through experiment and modification. The elder Cato boasted that it was the strength of the Roman 'constitution' to have been put in place not at one moment by one man but over a period of centuries.

But when this highly effective republican system began to crumble in the first century Bc as dynasts like Caesar and Pompey, with armies at their back, rode roughshod over rule by the Senate and the traditional ways of doing things, Romans changed their tune. …

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