Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: The Roman Road to Power

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: The Roman Road to Power

Article excerpt

One of the justifications of the House of Lords is that it embodies 'collective experience'. That is not a quality which the eternal rebel Jeremy Corbyn can cite on his CV.

Over many years, Romans developed a political system such that anyone who wanted to reach the top of the greasy pole and become consul had to have under his belt a considerable experience of government. The cursus honorum ('race for honours') consisted of a series of age-related hurdles that, at least in theory, had to be leapt before the winning of the ultimate prize.

To start with, it was taken for granted that a candidate would have serious military experience. Then the first hurdle was that of quaestor , at about age 30. That post was largely financial, devoted to administering the state treasury under the senate's direction, whether at home or in a province. Then, as aedilis (c. 36), one had charge of the city's fabric and corn supply, staged games, and protected the rights of the plebs -- a high responsibility and one that could gain one great personal advantage by e. …

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