Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Silvio Berlusconi

For a time, it seemed that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was the modern, nonmurderous version of the Roman emperor Caligula, a potentate of boundless, indelicate sexual appetite and wealth. But after the events of 2011, it's more likely we'll remember Berlusconi as Nero, the hapless monarch who fiddled while Rome burned. Berlusconi withstood years of scandals and investigations, all the while cementing his reputation as Italy's most powerful politico, dominant media tycoon and unrepentant adulterer. The Premier's invulnerability came to an end, though, when it was clear that his presence in office would push Italy's ailing, contagion-hit economy off the precipice, potentially dragging the rest of Europe down with it. He formally resigned his post on Nov. 14, a casualty of a European financial crisis far larger than his outsize ego.