Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

NEW Labour, new faces, but as little Robin Cook buzzes importantly about his business at the Foreign Office, does he realise the problems he is causing other countries? They have to start assessing British foreign policy all over again. Only when they have got his line and length, and he theirs, can they begin to do business and work productively together. That is why someone as capricious as Libya's Colonel Gaddafi makes life so impossible for everyone.

Rome had a number of Gaddafi lookalikes. Caius Caligula ('Little Boots', a pet name from childhood) was one (born AD 12, emperor 37-41). Soon after his accession on the death of Tiberius, he fell seriously ill - some form of nervous breakdown, or a disease like epidemic encephalitis? - and ancient sources argue that this turned his mind.

Whatever the truth of this analysis, his behaviour became odder and odder. He started butchering friends, exiled his two sisters and, having abused the memory of the previous emperor Tiberius, announced that slandering the emperor was now a treasonable offence. …

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