Monday, April 05, 2010

Politics - Semper Idem

Came across this in The Spectator of a couple of weeks ago. Peter Jones in his "Ancient and Modern" column has something to say about ancient Roman custom and the modern spectacle of a pair of M.P.s offering their political selves for sale.

The Latin for 'electioneering' was ambitio, and its cognate ambitus meant 'bribery'. Since vote-winning was an honourable pastime, bribery did not mean corruption. It meant doing favours by offering gifts for something in return, which could (at a pinch) be seen to be in the public interest. Such a culture was at the heart of all relationships, social, political, legal and business, in the Roman world. The general public also played the game, getting to the head of the queue by greasing palms. The emperor Caracalla (A.D. 198-217) offered sound advice to officials here: do not take 'everything, nor every time, nor from every one.'

Earmarks, pork, sweetheart deals, log-rolling, junkets and expense padding. Who says no one majors in classics anymore?