This evening, at N° 2 sprog’s suggestion, we watched Gladiator, an epic if ever there was one. I have written before about the educational effects of this sort of film, loosely based on historical fact. Love them or loathe them, they spark interest and provide understanding in a way that historical novels once used to for previous generations. It’s not just visualising the Colosseum as it once used to be or understanding why the Roman army was so effective, for example, but concepts such as imperial versus republican rule. Joaquin Phoenix, playing a sociopathic usurper (Commodus), puts in a particularly convincing performance, I thought, and a perfect illustration of Lord Acton’s dictum that absolute power corrupts absolutely. As Commodus turns paranoid and starts to wipe out the opposition I was reminded of Seneca’s brilliant reminder to all tyrants: you can kill as many enemies as you like, but your successor will be among those who survive.