Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: The Greek Donald Trump

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: The Greek Donald Trump

Article excerpt

Why does the Republican party loathe Donald Trump? Because Trump is the ultimate loose cannon, beholden to no one. And even worse, he is popular. What trumpery! Ancient Athenians would have loved him.

With no known political or military experience behind him, Cleon surged into the gap left by the death of Pericles in 429 BC, when Athens was locked in a difficult war against Sparta. The son of a rich tanner -- certainly not 'one of us' -- he presented himself as the warmongering, go-get-'em alternative to the cautious Pericles. Full of extravagant promises (including state handouts), he increased the tribute from Athens' imperial possessions and worked up a strong following by his heated speeches in the rough and tumble of the democratic Assembly. It was this 'brutal and insolent' speaker, said the historian Plutarch, who introduced shouting and abuse and excessive gesturing, encouraging other speakers to behave equally irresponsibly. A contemporary of Cleon's, the historian Thucydides, called him 'violent' but 'very persuasive'. …

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