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Ancient and modern

Donald Trump could be America’s Nero — if we’re lucky

The President’s true talents lie in entertainment. Like the Roman emperor, he should recognise that

4 February 2017

9:00 AM

4 February 2017

9:00 AM

A Washington Post interview with ‘senior officials’ in the Trump White House reveals that ‘Trump… feels demoralised that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.’ Diddums! Nero could have taught him a trick or two.

Unlike Nero, Trump will not kill his mother, murder political rivals, indulge in drunken orgies or marry a boy, though he entertains the same sort of feelings about Muslims as Nero did about Christians; and he would doubtless love to turn central Washington into a vast, private, ruinously expensive 300-room Golden House, complete with fields, vineyards, pastures, woods and wildlife, fronted by a 120ft pillar with a bronze statue of himself as the sun-god on top (a Colossus Trumpi), like Nero built in the centre of Rome after the fire of AD 64.


The point about the Golden House is that it had no bedrooms. It was purely a place of entertainment. And that is the point about Nero. He was first and foremost a showman. Eventually tiring of politics, he turned his back on the senatorial elite and devoted himself entirely to the theatre and games. He entered competitions in oratory, poetry, acting, lyre-playing, singing and charioteering. Naturally, he won all the prizes — many handed over before the event — even when he fell out of a chariot and had to be helped back on. In all he recorded 1,808 ‘victories’. Winner! And adored by the plebs, who loved it all.

This is pure Trump, who made a huge splash with his TV shows, beauty pageants, modelling companies and interests in American football, baseball, cycling, wrestling, golf and boxing. Come on, the Donald (Domhnall, ‘world-ruler’)! Like a good ancient Greek, know yourself — what you can and cannot do. Leave the politics to your advisers and do what you are good at. The elite may hate you, as you them, but the people will love every minute of it, and on your deathbed you will be able say with Nero Qualis artifex pereo — ‘What a showman dies in me!’


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