Ancient and modern

Call the polis

17 November 2018

9:00 AM

17 November 2018

9:00 AM

If Brussels is willing to offer the British Parliament only a dog’s Brexit, that should tell Parliament everything it needs to know about any future prospects for a Britain tied in with the EU. It is about time for Parliament to say, ‘Enough is enough’. As every Greek polis (city state), however small, averred, its aim was to ensure that it alone was the arbiter of its own freedom.

Antiochus III, a distant successor to Alexander the Great, had ambitions in 196 bc to ‘bring all the cities of Asia under his domination, as they once had been’. But while Antiochus was sure that many Greek cities on and around the western coast of Turkey (according to the historian Livy) ‘were ready to accept his yoke because they had little confidence in their location, fortifications, weapons or warriors’, there were two still holding out and ‘there was a danger that if they were allowed their way, other cities would follow their lead’. (Sound familiar?)


On top of a show of force, ‘he also tried soft words and a mild reproach for their stubbornness, in the hope that he would persuade them that they would be free, as they had hoped, just as soon as they made clear that their freedom was due to him, and not to their own desire to seize it’. (All very EU.) ‘To this they replied that Antiochus ought not to be surprised or angry if they were not inclined to submit impassively to the deferment of their freedom.’

Which should be our reply to Brussels. The fact is that no one could have tried harder than Theresa May to reach a mutually acceptable deal, but she was unable to persuade the EU to abandon their interests for ours. After all, why should they? Why should we? So we must walk away. As a Greek statesman said: ‘If you follow my advice, we shall possess a free polis and be our own masters, able to respond like men, on our own terms, to anyone doing us good or harm.’

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