Ancient and modernrss

The lesson of Athens: to make people care about politics, give them real power

15 November 2014

Voters explain their apathy about politics on the grounds that the politicians do not understand them. No surprise there, an ancient Greek would say, since the electorate does not actually… Read more

Image: Getty

No, Richard Branson, our greatest achievements don’t come from our greatest pain

8 November 2014

Explaining the death of a pilot testing a Virgin Galactic rocket-ship, Sir Richard Branson intoned: ‘I truly believe that humanity’s greatest achievements come out of the greatest pain.’ The ancients… Read more

(Photo: Getty)

Forget Ukip – what we need is some ostracisms

1 November 2014

For all Nigel Farage’s appealing bluster, he is never going to be in a position to get us out of Europe or, indeed, achieve anything at all. He is, in… Read more

Why the Ancient Greeks thought adultery was worse than rape

25 October 2014

A footballer serves his sentence for rape, insisting on his innocence. Debate rages whether he should play again. To us, rape is taken to be the most serious of sexual… Read more

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, by J.M.W Turner (Picture: Tate Britain)

Hannibal (and Alexander the Great) vs the Islamic State

18 October 2014

Whatever the Islamic State hopes ultimately to achieve by its current onslaught on all and sundry in the Middle East, Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, would… Read more

No Paisley patterned pyjamas this time. The Sun on Sunday's cover has Brooks Newmark in his birthday suit - as seen, it says, by a second woman

What Aristotle would have made of Brooks Newmark's selfies

11 October 2014

News that the soon-to-be-ex-Tory MP Brooks Newmark has sent pictures of his genitals to a second (presumed female) contact has centred yawningly around ‘rights’, ‘exploitation’, ‘power’ and so on. Aristotle can… Read more


The ancient roots of Alex’s Salmond’s demagoguery

27 September 2014

Alex Salmond spent two years campaigning for independence for Scotland on the grounds of ‘social justice’. Now, claiming that the vote was lost because of the ‘old’ (subtext: the rich), he… Read more

What Romans would have made of Obama's Syria strategy

20 September 2014

President Obama was assailed for saying that the USA had no strategy on combating Isis. Vegetius (late 4th century AD), the author of the only surviving Roman treatise on military science,… Read more

The Boris Island of ancient Athens

13 September 2014

During his lecture on Athens at the Legatum Institute (see p. 22), Boris Johnson placed great emphasis on Athens’ development of Piraeus harbour in the 5th century BC. Did he… Read more


Would Alex Salmond give up his job to a heckler? It happened in Athens

6 September 2014

Alex Salmond claims to be thrilled that so many people in Scotland are suddenly gripped by politics. The importance of the question before the Scots — the future of their… Read more

Horace still understands happiness better than the LSE

30 August 2014

So here comes another book about how to be happy, written by Professor Dolan, an ‘internationally renowned expert’ at the LSE. The key evidently lies in ‘pleasure and purpose’, derived… Read more

Why the Ancient Greeks didn’t have middle-aged spread

23 August 2014

A drug has been invented to halt what is known as middle-aged spread. But it would be so much better if there was no such thing as middle age in… Read more

Demosthenes’ lessons in ambition for Boris Johnson

16 August 2014

The ancient Greek word for ‘ambition’ was philotimia: ‘love of high esteem in others’ eyes’. Both Boris and Alex Salmond are consumed by this desire for what Greeks saw as… Read more

A Palestinian child (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty)

Roman emperors understood more about democracy than Hamas

9 August 2014

There must be some reason why Hamas seems to remain quite unfazed by Israel’s merciless slaughter of its people. Perhaps it is all part of a grand strategy. The point… Read more

Emperor Hadrian

Hadrian’s advice for a new Defence Secretary

2 August 2014

Michael Fallon, the new Defence Secretary, is a classicist by training. What lessons, if any, might he take from his study of the ancient world, especially in relation to military… Read more

(Photo: Carla Miller)

Plutarch on smartphone addiction

26 July 2014

Adults, we are told, as much as children, become gibbering wrecks if deprived of their mobiles or iPhones for more than 15 seconds. The 2nd-century ad essayist Plutarch foresaw the… Read more


Ancient & Modern: the rumour mill

19 July 2014

Geoffrey Dickens’s ancient dossier of (alleged) paedophiles in high places cannot be found among the 138 miles of government files, and rumour immediately takes wing. The ancients knew all about… Read more

The Dying Gaul

Assisted dying? Ancient religion was all for it

12 July 2014

There is something mildly unexpected about religious groups’ hostility to euthanasia. After all, in the ancient world one of the major differences between e.g. Christians and pagans was that Christians… Read more

Brussels will treat Britain as Macedonia treated Sparta

5 July 2014

The EU is a federation of states (Latin foedus, ‘treaty’, from the same root as fides, ‘trust, good faith’). But for how long can such a federation endure a recalcitrant… Read more

Of course fish are smart. Even the Romans knew that

28 June 2014

Dr Culum Brown of Macquarie University, Australia, has been doing some research on fish, and concludes that they are intelligent, live in social communities (etc) and generally display ‘behavioural and… Read more

How ancient Athens beat tax avoidance

21 June 2014

The taxman will soon be ordering those planning dodgy tax avoidance schemes to declare them beforehand and pay the full tax on them up front. Only if HMRC finally decides… Read more

The true gods of football (hint: they don’t work for Fifa)

14 June 2014

The World Cup has started, and the gods of football will be in their heaven for a whole month. Not the players, of course: the spectators. Ancient gods, wielding absolute… Read more

What Julius Caesar would have done about Nigel Farage

7 June 2014

Our politicians are desperately keen to turn the toast of the people, Nigel Farage, into toast himself. But is that wise? Time to consider the career of the Roman general… Read more

How the Ancient Greeks did wealth taxes

31 May 2014

After 685 tightly argued pages, the ‘superstar’ economist Thomas Piketty unfolds his master-plan for closing the gap between the rich and poor: you take money away from the rich. Novel.… Read more

Plato would probably criticise state handouts (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty)

How Plato and Aristotle would have tackled unemployment

24 May 2014

Labour is up in arms because many of the new jobs currently being created are among the self-employed. This seems to them to be cheating. Quite the reverse, ancients would… Read more