Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

ROMANO Prodi, President of the European Commission, appointed a committee of three Euro-chums to recommend what steps the EU should take to deal with any enlargement. No doubt to his enormous surprise, they reported that the EU was not working very well because he did not have enough power, so he should be given lots more, while all the ghastly little member countries who irritatingly make up the EU should lose some rights of veto affecting their dreary little national interests. Augustus' eyes would be quite misty with nostalgia.

Since 509 BC Rome had been a republic. The (usually aristocratic) executive officers like praetors and consuls (magistratus) were appointed from a preselected list by the people to oversee public business for a year at a time. They did this under the effective control of the Senate (senex, 'old man'), a body consisting of all ex-magistrates. This system crumbled in the first century BC under the onslaught of dynasts like Pompey and Caesar, and when in 27 Bc Augustus came to power be quietly abandoned the republic, established the imperial principle and became Universal Patron.

Augustus' power was expressed in four areas. …

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