Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

So the Bruvvers have chosen the younger Bruvver, Ed, and Big Bruvver has chosen to keep his powder dry and leave him to it. So, probably, would any ambitious Roman - for the time being.

Romans philosophers might have recommended getting out of government entirely and become an Epicurean, seeking ataraxia - the absence of physical and mental pain. The key lay in avoiding a desire for anything that might cause anxiety, especially anything that had no limits, like wealth, status or power, because these could never be satisfied.

Alternatively, Roman Stoics would have suggested, in Seneca's words, that he 'deal with his own ills, sift himself, see for how many vain things he is a candidate - and vote for none of them.

How can you call it enjoyable, when a candidate promises gifts here, does business through an agent there, accepts the kisses of people to whom he will reject even a finger touch when elected. . .

seeking yearly honours, permanent power, triumphs and riches?' That would not mean giving up labouring like Hercules for the common good. It would mean seeking and praying for nothing but what it is in one's own power to do - and that primarily is to make a moral choice, broadly (in ancient terms) doing the right thing for the right reason without having to think about it. …

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