Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

THERE has been a recent debate about the funding of the royal family, especially in relation to the private activities of its offspring. Since Her Majesty does in fact own private property (e.g., Balmoral and Sandringham) and has an income of her own, it is hard to see why there should have been any problem in principle, but there is a broader question to consider in the Golden Jubilee year.

When Augustus (first Roman emperor, 27 BC to AD 14) decided to record everything he had done for the Romans, he composed the Res Gestae (`My Achievements'), which showed how he `brought the world under the empire of the Roman people' and listed `the private expenses which he devoted to the state and the people'. These expenses ran to billions. Think of the sestertium as about a fiver. Augustus lists handouts to every single Roman of 300 ss. in 44 BC (under Julius Caesar's will) and 400 ss. in 29, 24 and 11 Bc. He bought land for troops in Italy and the provinces to a sum of 860 million ss.; and gave another 400 million ss. in 'rewards' to soldiers later on. He transferred private funds of 320 million ss. to the treasury; he paid for grain distribution among the people when treasury funds ran short; built temples; laid on games. …

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