Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

THE new Prime Minister may now have appointed his ministerial teams both in and out of Cabinet, but (as they well know, or will soon find out) they are of no importance. Tony Blair won the election his way and his teams will do as they are told, or else. It is Blair's faithful inner ring, like the Roman emperors' 'court', where, to everyone's fury, the real business will be done.

Roman historians like Tacitus (AD 56-117) and Dio Cassius (AD 150-235) found this propensity for secrecy exasperating as they attempted to describe the workings of empire. All they essentially had to go on was rumour. Dio puts it well, pointing out that under the republic all decisions were taken by the Senate and people and made a matter record. But under the emperors, 'even though some things are made public by chance, they are not believed because they cannot be verified. People suspect that things are said and done in accordance with the wishes of the men in power and their associates. …

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