Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

Students eager to pull down statues and silence debate on topics of which they disapprove -- and vice-chancellors who pusillanimously cave into them -- would do well to consider the history of such censorship. The Roman historian Cremutius Cordus was on the sharp end of what can happen.

In 44 bc, Brutus and Cassius led the conspiracy to kill Julius Caesar. In the ensuing civil war, Caesar's heir Octavian took his revenge on the conspirators, and eventually emerged as the first Roman emperor, Augustus (27 bc-14 ad). Clearly, Augustus would not have regarded Brutus and Cassius with much favour; nor did his successor, and stepson Tiberius.

In 25 ad, two of Tiberius's cronies found that, in his history, Cordus had 'praised Brutus and said that Cassius was the last of the Romans'. This looked like an insult directed at Augustus, and so at Tiberius, as if they were not proper, patriotic Romans. So Cordus faced a 'novel charge' of treason.

Since Tiberius himself turned up at the trial, looking particularly grim-faced, 'Cordus realised that his days were numbered'. So he did not hold back. He gave examples of past great men like Caesar and Augustus who showed true statesmanship in tolerating criticism. …

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.