Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Importance of not Judging on Looks

No that's not John Reid, that's the Emperor Vespasian. I just thought I'd post the picture, because so often Reid gets characterised as a "bruiser" or "thug", by middle class types who shudder at the thought of someone as, well, thuggish, in one of the great offices of state. Appearances can be deceiving though -just as the "thuggish-looking" Reid holds a doctorate, Vespasian lacked a noble profile, but turned out to be one of Rome's greatest emperors.

He became Emperor in AD 69, the "year of the four emperors", following the civil war after Nero's death. He was of humble birth, the son of a customs official, who joined the army and rapidly rose through the ranks. He participated in the invasion and conquest of Britannia and then governed Africa, and also put down the Jewish revolt of AD66. He was undoubtedly very tough, (else he wouldn't have won the battle to be emperor, against more artistocratic opponents), but he turned out to be a great emperor. His great skill was reading character and spotting talented people, whom he promoted. He restored discipline in the army, repaired Rome's finances, and built the Colloseum. He was one of the few emperors to die peacefully in his sleep (as no one wanted his reign to end prematurely).

Clearly the Romans were wise not to bother with chatteratti who judged soley on appearance and niceness. They didn't care he was a pleb either (but that may have been because at the end of A69 they were utterly exhausted and welcomed anyone who looked like he could last longer than five minutes, even if he wasn't a patrician - Vespasian didn't have a hope of being emperor at the start of the year, he had to wait for attrition to fell the others before making his move).

If I come across emperors that look like Blair or Brown, I'll post their pictures (the BBC drama last week notwithstanding, Blair does not look like Nero, who had a very fleshy sensuous face).

2 comments:

GlassHouse said...

I hear that Frank Luntz's thing on newsnight tonight will show Reid in a favourable light.

snowflake5 said...

I heard that - I think I must be psychic, 'cause I did this piece on Reid on Sunday!