Ancient and modern

The best guide to being an EU politician – from 1,900 years ago

Plutarch’s advice to Greek rulers suggests he would understand today’s politics to a T

28 May 2016

9:00 AM

28 May 2016

9:00 AM

Boris Johnson argues that the current European Union is yet another failed attempt to replicate the golden age of a Europe united under the Romans. But how golden was it? The Greek biographer Plutarch (c. AD 100) thought it brought ‘peace, freedom, prosperity, population growth and concord’ but agreed that there was a price to be paid.

In his essay on statecraft, he advised the Greek politician ‘not to have too much pride or confidence in your crown, since you can see the boots of Roman soldiers just above your head. So you should imitate an actor, who puts his own emotion, personality and reputation into a play but obeys the prompter and does not go beyond what he allows. For on your stage, the result of failure is not just hissing, hooting and stamping feet — it’s your neck that is on the line.’

Further, Plutarch went on, while it was amusing to see small children trying on their fathers’ boots, it was not advisable for politicians to rouse the instincts of the mob by recalling the mighty but currently ‘unhelpful’ deeds of their ancestors. That way lay consequences ‘which are not amusing in the slightest’.

Likewise, ‘Not only should you and your city remain blameless in the eyes of our Roman rulers, but you should also have a friend among the great and good at the top table. They will prop you up very securely. Romans are very keen to promote the political interest of their friends. A man can reap a fine harvest from the friendship of the great… .’ At the same time, Plutarch went on, ‘While our legs may be fettered, we must not submit our neck as well to the yoke by referring all decisions, great and small, to our masters, reducing us to terrified impotence.’ So Plutarch would disapprove of banana regulations.

He concluded: ‘As for freedom, the people have as much as Rome allows. It is perhaps best that they have no more,’ and urged the politician to ‘settle for a quiet life: fortune has left us no other prize to fight for’.

Bananas apart, then, Plutarch understood the EU to a T.

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  • Lothlórien

    Forget the past, look to the future – the EU is becoming totalitarian already:

    EU Vows To Use New Powers To Block All Elected ‘Far Right’ Populists From Power (in other words, any political party that is anti-EU)

    British ‘deserters’ will face the consequences, warns EU’s Juncker

    I wish there was a way to wake up the younger generations that have been indoctrinated by political correctness via the education system. Alas I cannot see how this will be possible before the referendum.

    • Conway

      Do not forget the ECJ’s decision that criticism of the Commission is a punishable offence. The Enabling Act of 2016.

  • MrUnclevanya

    The EU, aka EU-SSR is nothing but a ‘Political construct’ the same as the Eurozone currency – The EU WILL soon become the ‘New Communisms’ as they are busy empire building looking Eastwards just like the Thrid Reich for more ‘Lebensraum’, or in the EU’s case, more people and states to gather into the Club EUSSR.
    If the UK votes to ‘Remain’, then Brussels apparatchiks such as that blockhead Claude Junkers will be so inflated by his own political bullshite, that he will be impossible to live with. The Brussels Politburo is just a bunch of Crapaudes, Merdes, Manneken Pis, Voleurs, and Sheitz.

  • MrUnclevanya

    The stinking slimebound EU-SSR will soon enact a new crime called ‘Political Heresy’ – any attempt to investigate, write about, or publish insults, or investigations into the EU’s corrupt practices will be met with criminal prosecutions and the the opening of ‘Gulags’ or camps to put political and other dissedents in if the “Do Not Love The EU’. The EU has already sown the seeds of its own destruction, and the demise of the Euro currency (aka EU-rine currency).