London Mayor and former Tory MP Boris Johnson is a man with a passion for the classics, and in “The Dream of Rome” it shows. A moderate eurosceptic himself (Because, as he points out, he actually worked in Brussels as a journalist.) he uses his love of the Roman world to compare and contrast with the hopes and failings of the European Union.
The book is written in a very light-of-touch style, which makes it enjoyable and in parts quite funny, but attempts by eurosceptics to use it as an “I told you so!” will fail, primarily because it highlights the EU’s respect, unlike the Romans, for diversity. He rightly points out that the Romans managed to convert English warlords, German chiefs and Spanish fishermen all into Roman citizens holding similar values (And culinary tastes such as the disgusting fish-sauce Garum, which was to the Roman table what ketchup is to the American.) in a way that the EU has failed to do. But then the EU never put the sword to the throat of its citizens either. And whereas the Emperor Augustus created in himself a uniting image, right down to putting his head on the coinage, for the whole empire, it is doubtful Jose Manuel Barrosso would be willing, or appreciated for, doing the same.
Of course, could you say the same for President Blair? Augustus pretty much declared himself a god. Tony wouldn’t do that, would he?
A very entertaining holiday read, and doesn’t require too much pre-read knowledge of the Roman Empire. Which is nice.