How to succeed in Ancient Rome

From becoming a master charioteer to keeping the gods on your side, making a success of yourself in Ancient Rome was no mean feat. In his new self-help book, Release Your Inner Roman, written from the perspective of a fictional Roman nobleman named Marcus Sidonius Falx, Dr Jerry Toner sets out the characteristics that have made the Romans the most successful people in history. Here Marcus Sidonius Falx shares his top tips for climbing the social ladder...

A mosaic depicting the poet Virgil writing the Aeneid. (Photo By DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

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Learn a trade

If you are poor you will have to work hard to improve your financial position. But it is vital for you to understand which trades are suitable for a gentleman and which ones are unacceptably vulgar.

One highly undesirable job is that of tax gatherer. These people not only have to deal with the common herd but prey on them too. Another vulgar livelihood is hiring yourself out for paid employment, especially when it only involves mere manual labour. The wage these people receive is simply a symbol of their virtual slavery. We must also consider those involved in the retail trade as plebs. They buy from wholesalers then sell the goods immediately to members of the public for a profit, meaning the only way to make money is to misrepresent the true value of what’s on sale. Next come those engaged in skilled labour – there is nothing gentlemanly about a workshop.

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