Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

MR BERNARD Ecclestone, who makes a great deal of money out of motor-racing, has given 1 million to the Labour party. But because that 1 million seems retrospectively to be connected with the question of the highly lucrative advertising of cigarettes on racing-cars, the Labour party intends to give it back, and has agreed to overhaul the whole mechanism of gifts to political parties.

Ancient Greeks would have licked their lips at the prospect. They understood what political 'gifts' meant only too well - bribery. It was so rife that the comic poet Cratinus was moved to invent three mock goddesses of bribery: Doro (St Give), Dexo (St Receive) and Emblo (St Backhander). You could bribe your way into positions of political or executive power, to start a war or bring peace, to secure citizen rights or a legacy, to prevent or win a legal action, to stop a proposal going to the Assembly, to gain a favourable oracle, and so on and on. Courts dealing with such cases bandied about terms like 'corruption' and metaphors from the despised world of trade ('buying', 'selling', 'profit' and so on). Outside the courts, however, it was more usually described as 'giving', 'receiving' and 'persuading'. …

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