Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ruthlessness and Ruin

The most powerful man in the world used his family and friends ruthlessly, decade after decade, in schemes to secure his political dynasty.
Augustus, who famously said, “Let them hate, as long as they fear,” permanently exiled his daughter for sexual transgressions. He forced his stepson to divorce a woman he loved and marry a woman he loathed. He may even have inadvertently turned his wife into a serial poisoner.
“Over the years, the princeps had allowed his household to be corrupted into a court where a family’s ordinary loves and tiffs gradually mutated into a political struggle,” wrote Anthony Everitt. “Maybe this was an inevitable development, but it was Augustus who set the inhumane tone. His insensitivity to the feelings of others (one thinks of Tiberius’ thwarted love for Vipsania), his treatment of his relatives as pawns, created a deadly environment. It would not be surprising if, in time, blood relations came to bloody conclusions.”
The irony is that all Augustus’ political scheming, for which he paid everything, came to nothing. The lesson is that ruthlessness in the name of power finally consumes everything of value that the power was supposed to protect. To exercise power without humanity is to erect an imposing palace on quicksand.
Source: “Augustus” by Anthony Everitt

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