Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

HILLARY Clinton has many distinctions to boast of, but her recent Grammy award surely tops them all. True, one does not immediately associate America's First Lady with the world of American pop music, though she did win the 'award' for reading, not ululation. Nevertheless, she is in splendid company - Nero's. The ancient world humoured him too.

Nero did not fiddle while Rome burnt, but, as the Roman historian Suetonius tells us, sang. Enraptured by the beauty of the flames, he put on his tragedian's clothes (Suetonius wrote) and worked his way through `The Fall of Troy' from beginning to end. The point is that Nero was passionate about `the arts'. Early on he took up the lyre so that he could accompany himself on it, and kept his voice in trim by diet and slimming. He put his name down for all the musical contests, in one instance singing the complete opera Niobe without a break so that no one else had time to compete. He promptly held the award ceremony over for a year so that he could perform again next time. …

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