Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Nero's Scandalous Spads

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Nero's Scandalous Spads

Article excerpt

Theresa May has brought her own advisers with her into No. 10, and as usual the knives are out for them: they are parasites, and what are the civil service and the cabinet for anyway? Romans had the same trouble with freedmen.

A 'freedman' (libertus or libertinus ) was someone who had been a slave but been freed by his master. The emperor had hundreds of such slaves at his service, many with valuable skills, and any who were freed could be invited to retain their position in the imperial entourage, a duty they had to fulfil if their master asked them.

While such a man was a slave, whatever his position, he was a non-person. But once freed, he became a citizen (though not a full one) and that was a very different kettle of fish. As a citizen, and one so close to the levers of power, he posed a threat to everyone else fighting for the emperor's ear. Many of these would have been of distinguished ancient families and in positions of considerable authority, and the idea that they could be usurped in the emperor's favours by an ex-slave was not one they took kindly to. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.