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President Trump will find it hard to match Augustus

Financial Times, March 8, 2016

Augustus Caesar Sir, The unexpected political ascendance of Donald Trump has so jolted the Fourth Estate and so disrupted the 2016 US presidential narrative that pundits have lost their sense of history. But in equating the vulgar American billionaire with Caesar Augustus, Martin Wolf errs egregiously ("How great republics meet their end", March 2).

After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BC and the young Octavian's defeat of Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium (31BC), Rome's first emperor who would henceforth be called Augustus ushered in an unparalleled period of efficient, prosperous and inspired leadership known as the Augustan Reformation. In addition to establishing both a police force of 3,000 men and a corps of professional firefighters, he appointed boards of commissioners to safeguard public buildings, the water supply and the maintenance of the roads. Moreover, Rome boasted 856 public baths, 150 tradesmen's guilds, a network of paved roads, domed basilicas (for town-hall meetings) and 11 aqueducts.

Augustus's Principate preserved Rome's constitutional framework while giving the Emperor a free hand to end decades of civil strife, create an imperial civil service and institute across the board reforms. His astute stewardship paved the way for the Pax Romana, providing the world with 200 years of peace, economic prosperity and individual and political freedom all undergirded by the rule of law.

The philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead declared: "I know of only two occasions when the people in power did what needed to be done about as well as you can imagine its being possible." The first period was Rome under Caesar Augustus; the other, the American Revolutionary era.

Should Donald Trump ever attain the White House, the erstwhile host of "The Apprentice" would be hard pressed to match the Augustan brand.

Rosario A Iaconis

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