Cicero’s How to Run a Country: An Ancient Guide for Modern Leaders has recently been published in Spain, translated and featured by Philiph Freeman. It brings back to life Cicero and his advice on good governance: “Quosque tandem abutere Catilina patientia nostra” (How long, O Catiline, will you abuse our patience?)
It is a phrase of the first Catiline Orations that Cicero directed against his enemy, Sergio Lucio Catiline. These words were spoken before the Roman Senate on 8 November in 63 BC. Thus the conspiracy was discovered in time and conspirators – Catilina wanted absolute power–fled the city to be defeated the next year at the battle of Pistoia.
From that very same Senate, Italy is now preparing to expel another singular citizen, Berlusconi, who is threatening to bring down Prime Minister Leta. Next week Letta will present a vote of confidence to its Parliament. Cicero is valid today.
Cicero, who perhaps lived at Rome’s more exciting time, corrupt and cruel, grand and eternal, saw the disappearance of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire. Without being a member of the
privileged patricio class he became the highest-rank political office. He left for posterity not only their legal discourses, but also tips and practical guides for their future politicians. And his words seem like perfect present today.
Trajano, from Seville, first emperor not born in Rome, in his ascension to the throne of the Caesars finds an empire in not very good state after the catastrophic Domitian era.And what does he do? Although the coffers are empty he does not increase taxes: he resorts to the devaluation of currency, cuts expenses, but not social ones.
Instead, he promotes a campaign of food distribution to the most needy; he decides to make the imperial family’s expenses public; he begins a campaign against the senators and corrupt Governors of provinces. He forces them to return what they stole and banishes them from the city; he makes a pact with the Senate and organizes a “League” of chariot races (revamping the Roman Circus Maximus, with 250,000 seats, more than the Bernabeu and the Nou Camp altogether!). And on top of that he did huge infrastructure construction works around the empire, defending it with his weapons.
People, of course, love him. Those near Trajano don’t appreciate him very much, tough , and in the end he dies by a plot hatched between his wife and his nephew Adriano, also Hispanic, who gets the throne.
Does this ring a bell? To us it seems quite up-to-date.