Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

When an emotional Tony Blair bade farewell to the Labour party conference, he said how hard it was to give up, but needs must. The ancients too knew all about the love of power: but at least there was a serious price to pay for failure. Today's failures simply wind up in the House of Lords.

Ancient Greeks were as power-mad as anyone -- despite the fact that, of the top ten executive officials appointed every year, two on average incurred the wrath of the people's Assembly so badly as to be condemned to death. But it did not prevent candidates lining up for the jobs.

The price of power came high for Romans too. Assassination of emperors was not uncommon, and damnatio memoriae greeted those who did not come up to scratch. The great historian Tacitus reports how in AD 69 the emperor Vitellius was hauled out of his hiding place in the palace, driven at the point of the sword through Rome, 'now seeing the jeering mob, now the statues of himself as they were pulled down' and crudely dispatched.

One major exception, however, was Sulla, who made himself dictator in Rome in 82 BC at a time when dynasts with armies at their back (like Pompey and Caesar after him) were imposing their will on people and senate. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.