Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Bread, Circuses and Hamas

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Bread, Circuses and Hamas

Article excerpt

There must be some reason why Hamas seems to remain quite unfazed by Israel's merciless slaughter of its people. Perhaps it is all part of a grand strategy.

The point about Greek democracy is that its purpose was to enable internal disputes to be settled peaceably, by argument and not recourse to arms, and for the most part that is what happened. The Roman republic was a res publica -- the people's property/business -- while Senatus Populusque Romanus was displayed on army insignia and inscriptions all over the empire: the Senatus and the Populus were in it together. Even if this was slightly economical with the truth, Roman emperors knew that if the populus was unhappy, there was trouble ahead. The public servant Cornelius Fronto (c. ad 95-166) pointed out that the emperor Trajan was aware that the people were controlled principally by two things: free grain and shows ('bread and circuses', as Juvenal put it): general popularity was politically as important as effective policy. …

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