Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

Prime Minister May is aged 60, the Labour cult-personality Jeremy Corbyn 68, and putative Lib-Dem leader Sir Vince Cable 74. All too old? The biographer and philosopher Plutarch (2nd century ad) wrote an essay entitled 'Whether the Older Man Should Serve in Government', and came to the view that he should -- on certain conditions.

First, he said, there was no greater honour (and therefore, to an ancient Greek, no greater reward) than serving both the community and the state in a legal and democratic government. If one had been doing that all one's life, it was disgraceful to abandon it, allowing one's hard-earned standing to wither away in favour of household affairs, money-making and self-indulgence.

When the great Pompey fell ill, he was told that Lucullus, a fine general who had retired into a life of total extravagance, had a cure. Pompey refused, saying 'Is Pompey then to live merely because of Lucullus' love of luxury?' Further, consider other callings: many mere actors had gone on to the very end -- the famous Polus, for example, aged 70, performing in eight tragedies over four days before his death. …

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