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Posts Tagged ‘lessons of the past’

A stranger appears in the city. He is awkward and sometimes distant in social interaction, and appears to regard many well-established customs and traditions with curiosity or even irony – but most people are happy to attribute this to the vaguely defined ‘foreign connections’ that are also offered as the explanation of his considerable wealth. That’s enough to win him acceptance in the upper levels of society, even to the point that he is assigned to lead an important mission in the war that the city has been waging for some years. His performance in this role is best described as diffident or hesitant – a former subordinate reports his habit in crisis situations of muttering the phrase proton prostagma, and then generally opting for inaction – and it is wholly unsuccessful. Banished from the city, over the next twenty years he visits many different parts of the region, appearing unexpectedly at every major crisis point in the war, taking notes and talking to people before vanishing just as mysteriously. At the end he returns to the city, remaining long enough to hand over a manuscript – “I have compiled your war,” he is supposed to have said. “Use it well.” – before disappearing from this planet for the final time. (more…)

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One of the hazards of studying references to Thucydides in contemporary public debate is that, after a while, you start to anticipate them, and develop pre-emptive analysis. Clearly there are people who can’t see an international crisis without thinking of a Peloponnesian War analogy; I seem to be turning into someone who can’t see an international crisis without thinking of what Peloponnesian War analogy these people are likely to think of – which occasionally means I end up drawing parallels that no one else bothers to develop. (more…)

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