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From Catiline to Boris—the Roman lessons for Brexit Britain

Is Boris Johnson with "the people" or the mob?

Is Boris Johnson a "patrician cynically whipping up the mob to gratify his own ambition"? Illustration: Kate Hazell

In the mid-1st century BC, Rome’s republican constitution, which had served the city well for hundreds of years, was coming under strain. The people’s assembly voted military leaders such as Pompey exceptional powers, overturning traditional checks and balances, often because of real or imagined threats from foreign powers. This febrile, violent period eventually resolved into strong-man rule under Augustus. For history enthusiasts, it is one of the most fascinating going—providing thrilling…

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