Silvio Berlusconi In Historical Perspective . . .

The scandals that buzz ever more insistently around Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are hardly the first that old Rome has ever seen. Julius Caesar, in addition to being a good deal more intelligent and better looking than his contemporary counterpart (although similarly challenged when it came to the amount of hair on his head), was also a far more charismatic lover—and unlike Berlusconi, who recently declared “It’s better to be passionate about pretty girls than gay,” Caesar happily bedded both men and women. Hordes of prostitutes flocked in their time to the imperial residence on the Palatine Hill, as many, perhaps, as have ever gathered chez Berlusconi for sing-alongs, gelati, and “bunga-bunga” (a word and orgiastic practice the prime minister allegedly learned from his good friend Muammar Qaddafi).

Furthermore, Berlusconi has never—as far as we know—dressed up as a female prostitute himself, as the third-century emperor Elagabalus liked to do. As the historian Dio Cassius reports, that young ruler, despite the five wives he acquired and shed during his brief reign,

would go to the taverns by night, wearing a wig, and there ply the trade of a female huckster. He frequented the notorious brothels, drove out the prostitutes, and played the prostitute himself. Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain that hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by.

And if Berlusconi phoned the police station in Milan to negotiate for the release of a seventeen-year-old accused thief and sometime intimate acquaintance with the stage name “Ruby,” at least he didn’t make Ruby a cardinal, as Pope Julius III did with his own seventeen-year-old paramour, Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte, in 1550.

Julius III died of natural causes in 1555, but Caesar and Elagabalus ended less happily: the former stabbed, of course, by a cabal of Senators in 44 B.C.E., and the latter slain in the year 222 at the tender age of 18 by the Praetorian Guard, the imperial security force. Senators, cardinals, and Praetorians are willing to put up with a good deal of eccentricity in a chief executive so long as they preserve their own privileges, but sometimes enough is enough even for them, and then they move swiftly and implacably.

Berlusconi’s senators and Praetorians are not quite at that point of exasperation— so far, the checks, favors, and tax exemptions have kept on coming—but they are getting closer . . .

Read Ingrid D. Rowland’s entire piece “Berlusconi: Will Someone Please Pull the Plug?” Berlusconi’s been a great friend to the STSOZ Quote Machine. In that sense he will be missed.


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    UPDATE: Turns out that thousands protested Berlusconi. *HUNDREDS* rally across Italy against Berlusconi. If only Eyetalians had net access, Facebook and Twitter.

  2. Comment says

    Obama should have called him The Poet of Financial Reform – Bliss was it that dawn to regulate/ To Be Volcker Was very Heaven.

  3. Comment says

    Come to think of it, Volcker prob would not like to be called elderly – Perhaps even preferring a brush off compliment like “visionary.” Never mind.

  4. Comment says

    It just seemed like an odd insult to call an elderly grandee a visionary. It was the kind of thing you say to a young up and comer whose advice is ignored. Oh well, we bet Tweety will approve of the Immelt hire, but it does seem a bit awkward to hire Immelt as jobs czar when he closed 2 dozen factories in the US after getting tarp money, while opening factories in China. Not saying he didn’t do what was best for GE, but the incoherent optics (which will be ignored by most of the msm) do suggest a disconnect.

  5. Dr Leo Strauss says

    We’re guessing Volcker wasn’t big on hugs and embracing empathy while pointing out problems with the FinReg lowest common denominator. One hopes Obama’s final conversation with him was filled with words of hope and healing.

  6. Comment says

    Sometimes Tweety thinks he is Edward Lansdale, other times he is Sarge Shriver. But he knows he broke with the thin tie New Frontier ethos for awhile when draft age and it irks him to no end.

  7. Comment says

    Chuck Todd seems to think Cheney still in power as he relates hopefully that Cheney might be open to slight restrictions on gun magazines. Says Cheney left the door open. Pathetic.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      It *is* sad that Cheney exerts any hold at all on the Beltway courtier mindset. Especially among the self-identified younger ‘smart set’.

      But then there was Tweety tonight wrapping himself in the Kennedy mantle, listing those noble Americans such as those serving in the military, then specifically the special forces, then himself as a Peace Corps volunteer.

      It’s undeniable that Kennedy — for good and ill — took personal interest in special forces. Substantively, the breakout emphasis makes sense. Nonetheless, Tweety’s emotional subtext of his inner monologue – appalling.

  8. DrLeoStrauss says

    Berlusconi has long been Putin’s most ardent friend in Europe, and sees himself as the man best able to explain Russia’s leader to an often perplexed west. Such is their friendship that transcripts of an audio tape recorded in Berlusconi’s Rome villa capture the Italian leader speaking lucidly about “Putin’s bed”.

    The bed was the scene of an alleged intimate encounter in November 2008 between Berlusconi and a high-class call girl, Patrizia D’Addario.

    Berlusconi: “I’m going to take a shower too. And if you finish before me, wait for me on the big bed.”

    D’Addario: “Which bed? Putin’s?”

    Berlusconi: “Putin’s.”

    D’Addario: “Oh, how cute. The one with the curtains.”

    The Putin-Silvio bromance has been pretty public as have speculation about energy sector skimming. The last line could have come from ‘The Holy Grail’.

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