Mubarak and Ben Ali: what would Tacitus say?
So the story is that Mubarak and Ben Ali are now both desperately ill -- indeed, it is said, in a coma. And there have been a handful of sharp comments, wondering what the "Deposed Dictator Syndrome" (DDS) actually is -- and how convenient it might be as a protective device against assassination.
I couldn't help thinking how Roman it all looked. There is a whole series of similar scenarios, brilliantly concocted by the brilliant Tacitus (I say 'concocted' because he cant possibly have known what went on). They are all centred on the grimy last moments of autocrats and dictators.
The basic rule for Tacitus is that despots don't die a natural death. In the midst of a power struggle they get smothered or poisoned, while the word is put out that they have been struck down by some nasty illness. Alternatively, they have long died (and this is more the 'Soviet president scenario'), while the word is put out that he is still hanging on to life -- until the new emperor is ready to be presented to the troops and the people. Livy even manages to retroject this scenario to the earliest kings of Rome, and has Tanaquil easing Servius Tullius onto the throne, by carefully managing the death of Tarquinius Priscus. (And it is the emperor Tiberius at the top of this post.)
It's not hard to invent what Tacitus might have to say about the roles of Susan Mubarak, Gamal, Alaa, Suleiman -- and a few strategically placed pillows and poisoned mushrooms. There is a difference though. Tacitus' stories were all about ensuring the succession of some favoured, or not so favoured, son. Whatever family disputes went on before these guys decided to cave in, they have presumably given up all hope of imperial style dynasty. Here the aim is presumably to avoid (as DDS has it) the assassin's bullet -- or to ensure the succession of the wealth, even if not the political office itself.
Let illness take its course.