Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Commentators arc expressing shock at the Hutton inquiry's 'revelation' that Tony Blair consults a private cabal of chums about policy. Excuse the Roman historian while he stifles a yawn.

The Greeks had a word for 'a monarch's court', and Roman writers adopted it (aula) to describe the imperial 'court' that emerged with the advent of emperors: politics having been a relatively open affair under the republican system (rule by Senate and elected executives), power was now in the hands of the emperor and his chosen associates, a closed circle with personal access to the emperor and the power to control access for others. Immediate family, including wives, bulked large in this circle. There is a marvellous letter from the first emperor Augustus to the people of Samos (a Greek island), who had asked for exemption from tax - 'my wife Livia has been pestering me on your behalf, but I am sorry to have to say . . . '. Many of the emperor's inner ring were slaves or exslaves (freedmen): owing everything to the emperor, they could be trusted.

A good example of how powerless the Senate had become is provided by Augustus. In his will he left a full account of the state of the empire - the number of soldiers serving in the provinces and the amount of money in the treasury, in provincial accounts and due in outstanding taxes. …

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.