Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

THE new prime minister Tony Blair has announced that the Labour party is not the master but the servant of the people. Really?

Hadrian (Roman emperor AD 117-138) was on his travels abroad when a woman came up to him, took hold of his toga and demanded to be heard. Hadrian shook her off, saying he was too busy. She shouted, `In that case, do not be emperor!' Hadrian stopped and listened.

It is an astonishing fact that the Roman emperor, controlling territory that stretched from Britain to Syria, from the Rhine to Egypt, was personally involved at every level of decision-making throughout the empire, from the grandest embassy to the humblest individual.

Imperial correspondence, for example, came direct to the emperor. The emperor Trajan once acceded to the request of a centurion for citizenship for his daughter in a letter pinned to one from the provincial governor Pliny. Imperial hearings to administer personal appeals for justice continued even when the emperor was on campaign or his travels. …

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