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The Wicker Man

There’s a persistent belief that simply describing contemporary political figures in classical terms automatically furthers understanding; Trump is depicted as a Roman emperor, Johnson as Pericles, Cleon or Alcibades, as if this offers us vital clues to their personality or to the situation we’re in. I’m not referring to the passing comments or allusions – the endless evocation of Caligula supposedly making his horse a senator, whenever one or other of these modern autocrats makes an especially egregious appointment, for example – but to the longer-form discussions, the essays and op ed pieces, where the classical frame is clearly intended to illuminate (or at the least to indicate the illumination of the author; the audience may simply be expected to nod admiringly at their erudition). Continue Reading »

This Is What We Do

Even before Friday morning, I was feeling despondent; partly premonitions of doom (local political doom, apocalyptical climate and environmental doom), partly the after-effects of a heavy teaching load this term and of a year in which I seem to have been ill and/or insomniac quite a lot of the time, hence massively behind with research and writing commitments. And now? We’re definitely leaving the EU, and still at risk of a disastrous version of that departure; the culture war will continue and probably accelerate, with Johnson’s ‘bring the country back together’ a form of ‘you lost, time to get with the programme’ coercion rather than a genuine concern about engaging with other views; nothing will be done about climate change, or poverty. Continue Reading »

Parlez-vous Thucydide?

Sprechen Sie Thukydideisch? I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to me before to check for Thucydides references in other languages on the Twitter – I did it back when I was playing around with Google ngrams – but it took an error this morning to push me in this direction, leaving off the ‘s’ at the end and suddenly finding a lot of French tweets. Nowhere near as many per day as you get in English, unsurprisingly, but a lot of references to la piège de Thucydide, a certain number of references to the Castoriadis book that I still need to get round to reading, and evidence that someone has gone to the trouble of translating “the society that separates its scholars from its warriors…” so that it can be misattributed in French as well. Continue Reading »

Beware The Locusts

One of my favourite passages in classical literature comes from the sixth-century CE historian and poet Agathias Scholasticus; it’s a poem preserved in the Greek Anthology (11.365), in which the farmer Calligenes goes to the house of Aristophanes the Astrologer and begs him to say whether he’ll get a good harvest. Continue Reading »

Dear Editor…

Subject Heading: Why you are not getting that article/chapter any time soon

(1) It’s been a horribly busy term and I simply haven’t had any time to focus on research or writing. I have a couple of commitments in June and early July, plus taking a short holiday (at last!), but I’ll then be able to get down to this properly. Continue Reading »

One assumes that it’s something to do with the imminence of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Remortgage Wednesday and the rest of the run-up to Christmas, but in the last week or so a couple of very strange accounts have appeared on the Twitter. One (“Towoti Group”) has a profile picture of Ryan Gosling, the other (which has now disappeared completely ) had picture of Jake Gyllenhaal, and they tweet punctiliously every fifteen minutes, on a regular cycle of advert, advert, Thucydides quote, advert, advert, Thucydides quote. The quote is always “The secret of happiness is freedom… the secret of freedom is courage”; the adverts are mostly for women’s clothing, with the occasional LED illuminated bracelet, Christmas elf costume for your dog or cat, 90% human hair hairdressing training mannequin head, and so forth. I have questions… Continue Reading »

A minor update, ‘cos I’m sitting on a train with nothing to read but student essays, on the ongoing development of Thucydides-related games, this time the card-based rock/paper/scissors variant that’s become known as the Peg Game because players accumulate (or lose) clothes pegs and display them as a sign of their power (or lack of it). I ran a version of this at a student Classics Society games evening tonight – it was supposed to be a debate, but not enough people signed up – and because I didn’t have any pegs to hand I tried using the cards themselves as the tokens of power.

This is quite entertainingly fiendish, Continue Reading »