The Third Leader: Ancient history

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The Independent Online

Which, of course, it will be nothing like. But we do seem to get rather a lot of Rome, don't we? When, for example, are we going to see something about a couple of star-crossed Vandals, a wrongly convicted Ostrogoth, or, indeed, anything to do with the most unjustly ignored tribe of all, the Alans, from whom, no doubt, the great gardener is descended?

Why this fascination? I know about the nostalgic nod from one lost empire to another, and the parallel achievements in organisational skills and subjugating technological inferiors, but has no one paused to ponder on our more concrete association, their invasion, conquest and occupation of us?

We don't come out of it well. There was no stout Captain, no Manneringia, Pike or even Asterix waiting, invincible, indefatigable. Instead, it is a sorry tale of cowardice and collaboration, of an indecently hasty rush to abandon the old ways and embrace soft-living in a nice villa while Boadicea and the Iceni could go hang and worse and the Druids could go to Anglesey. Even Caractacus opted to spend his retirement in Rome.

It was, though, an early and excellent opportunity to practise our remarkable talent for presenting disaster as triumph, which is probably the most important thing the Romans did for us, along with, of course, socks and leeks.

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