Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

IF THE politicians are to be believed, nothing is more important than education. Why, then, is no one doing anything about the recruitment and retention of teachers? The way the Roman emperor Augustus dealt with the problems of Rome's most important institution, the army, offers the way ahead.

In the 1st century BC, the Roman army was still recruited on a largely ad hoc basis, and generals began enlisting anyone on personal terms generous enough to win their loyalty. When Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC and civil war ensued, the price of a soldier went through the roof as competing generals offered better and better terms.

The young Octavian (Augustus to be) came out on top in 31 Bc and stopped the rot by establishing the army as a professional body, with fixed conditions of service salaries, length of duty (12-16 years), promotion prospects, a bonus at the end (cash or land) and other perks. In so doing, he offered the prospect of a secure and generally agreeable existence after the chaos of the civil war years. …

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