Posts Tagged ‘Thucydides’

Deal or No Deal

Not many posts at the moment as I’m struggling to keep on top of the teaching prep with two new modules this term, plus having to catch train before 7 am on both Thursdays and Fridays which then leaves me staring blankly into space by lunchtime. BUT! I am still capable now and again of stringing together a series of thoughts on the Twitter, which quite possibly get a bigger audience there, but if I copy them onto here I will at least have a record…

In the Melian Dialogue (Choose Your Own Adventure version), the discussion eventually ends up going in circles. There’s actually no limit on how long this can continue, but it’s pretty obvious after a while that talking has reached its limit. (more…)

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WAG the Dog

Somewhere on my ever-expanding list of ‘Things it would be really cool to try if I wasn’t already deep into time/energy/sleep deficit’ is the idea of a video series called Thucydides Explains It All, in which the incomparable wisdom of Thucydides would be applied to the analysis of contemporary issues – not just vacuous speculation about China, but things that actually matter to people. Case in point, which is why I thought of this again yesterday: the Rooney-Vardy bust-up. It was the rise of a new generation of WAGs, and the fear of media obsolescence this aroused in the established influencers, that made conflict inevitable… My wife suggested that I ought to buy a false beard and present these videos as Thucydides; I would much rather hire the brilliant animators who did the ‘Heavyweight Champion Historian’ video, so if anyone out there has lots of money and fancies sponsoring this project… (more…)

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I have sometimes reflected that my epitaph should probably be ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’ – especially when, as seems all too likely, I perish from a surfeit of missed deadlines. What I’ve always thought of as a boundless intellectual curiosity, able to get excited by and imagine my own contribution to any number of different projects, could equally well be described as a butterfly mind or a puppy-like lack of discrimination, randomly chasing cars and shiny things. The net result is the same, an excessive ‘to do’ list and regular bursts of apology-writing when the time and energy just run out.

Which isn’t to say that the original ideas weren’t good (more…)

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The Thucydides virus continues to spread through British political culture, and has inevitably made the jump from the naturally-susceptible Conservatives (cf. the statistics on the number of MPs with classical degrees) to the wider population. On Monday, Ian Blackford of the SNP came out with a bit of Pericles in the House of Commons: “Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it” – no, not the most exciting or original quote, but it’s normally the preserve of the E”R”G Sparts, not least because of its association with the Bomber Command Memorial, and a few years ago any sort of classical reference in the House of Commons would have been greeted with mockery. And yesterday Nick Clegg read a substantial portion of the same Funeral Oration as part of the memorial service for Paddy Ashdown in Westminster Abbey. I fear that my new paper for History & Policy on the use and abuse of Thucydides in political commentary has come too late to serve as any sort of vaccine…

The obvious reason for including Pericles in Ashdown’s commemoration (more…)

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I for one welcome our new Thucydides-quoting overlords… Well, no, not really. Back in 2013, when Dominic Cummings publicly expressed his love for Thucydides and his belief that there is no better book to study for understanding politics, I expressed concern that this was one more data point for the proposition that studying Thucydides can be a Really Bad Thing that leads people to Terrible Conclusions. I decided then not to spend any time developing a detailed analysis of the role played by Thucydides (and Pericles) in his essay ‘On education and and political priorities’, aka the ‘Odyssean Education’ piece, as on first reading it seemed that Cummings was mainly taking Thucydides as a model for critical thinking, something with which I wasn’t inclined to disagree too much, even if this idea clearly then led us in very different directions. A few years later, when Cummings resurfaced in the Vote Leave campaign, there seemed more important things to do than re-read the essay – though in retrospect, as discussed below, I now suspect that there were a few clues in there about his approach to politics that could have been worth discussing.

And now? (more…)

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You know, I think the following tells us something vaguely interesting about the impact of the Internet. In 1998, the critic Harold Bloom edited a collection called The Best of the Best American Poetry 1988-1997, which he had selected from a regular publication called The Best American Poetry, with an introductory essay, also published as part of a forum in The Boston Review (April/May 1998), entitled ‘They have the numbers; we, the heights’. It opens like this: (more…)

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The Outrage Machine

Victor Davis Hanson is at it again… “It’s fun to celebrate Sparta, but let’s look deeper,” he declares in The National Review. “There are so many lessons we can learn from the Greco-Roman city-state, especially from those who ran it.” So far so boilerplate – I’m not sure whether he’s directly responding to recent articles by Myke Cole and Nick Burns in The New Republic. Then it gets weird: “The main ideology of Sparta was that all men should be educated as scholars… Homer wrote that the culture wars are never ended. However, so long as our educational system leaves millions of young men without the basic technical know-how to wage war, the cult of arms continues to roam the Earth…”

Okay, it’s not actually VDH (more…)

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