Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Cicero's Brexit Moment

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Cicero's Brexit Moment

Article excerpt

If Remain has won, for all the political and financial flurries, it will be business as usual for us plebs. But such is the EU's octopus-like embrace, so it will be if the Leavers win, creating much disillusionment. Cicero felt equally impotent at a similarly dramatic turning point -- the assassination of EUlius Caesar.

Cicero had long despaired at the slow collapse of the 'free' republic and the rise of the tyrant Caesar. 'We ought to have resisted him while he was weak -- then it would have been easy,' Cicero wrote in a letter. When Caesar started the civil war in 49 BC, he exclaimed 'Are we talking about a Roman general or Hannibal?' and deplored Caesar's desire for 'that first of deities, "Sole Power" '. His son-in-law Dolabella advised him to get real: 'It is now time to take our stand where the res publica actually is, rather than pursuing its old image.' Cicero would have none of it.

So it is no surprise that Cicero was ecstatic at Caesar's assassination -- free at last! …

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