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What the Roman general Vegetius could teach Obama about Syria

7 September 2013

So the USA must launch its onslaught against Syria without the Brits. Well, if Obama will make public announcements of what he is going to do, more fool him. The… Read more

Varro on The Apprentice

31 August 2013

Budding businesswoman Luisa Zissman, with her A in A-level English, has enquired whether ‘Bakers Toolkit’ or ‘Baker’s Toolkit’ is correct. As usual, the ancients are to blame. Ancient Greeks were… Read more

Ancient and modern: Modern Egypt vs ancient Athens

24 August 2013

Whatever problems Greeks and Romans faced, a politicised priesthood was not one of them. They might have made three observations on Egypt’s current plight. First, though Roman emperors were autocrats,… Read more

Lucretius vs Richard Dawkins

17 August 2013

Richard Dawkins has been confusing his categories again, comparing Trinity College, Cambridge, with Islam. His attack on religion does precisely the same, as if the pre-scientific Biblical account of the… Read more

Epictetus on Twitter

10 August 2013

One definition of addiction is repetition of a behaviour despite adverse consequences. Twitter users will know all about it, especially those on the end of abusive or illegal threats. All… Read more

Ancient and modern: Herodotus on 111

3 August 2013

The NHS 111 line, designed to deal with problems that do not count as emergencies, is in financial and organisational trouble yet again, but the Greek historian Herodotus (c. 490-c.… Read more

Plato on the Today programme

27 July 2013

A woman is invited to join the Today programme, and the chatteratae are immediately a-twitter on the subject of female equality. Unlikely as it seems, Plato was all in favour… Read more

Why Egypt needs a Socrates

20 July 2013

No one seems to know, or is willing to say, whether the Egyptian army’s intervention in Egyptian democracy was legal or not. Presumably that means it was illegal. But who… Read more

Ancient and modern: Socrates on TV election debates

13 July 2013

Lord Hennessy has been arguing that, as a result of TV debates between party leaders prior to elections, ‘the plausible tart bit will play too powerfully in [parties’] choice of… Read more

Common enemies

6 July 2013

One assumes that it will eventually dawn on those so deeply committed to slaughtering each other in Syria that, whatever interest they represent, diplomacy is the only way they will… Read more

Ancient and modern: Cicero on tax havens

29 June 2013

David Cameron wants the international community to do something about big business avoiding paying tax. If only it were as simple as that. Ancient philosophers, beginning with Aristotle (4th C… Read more

A little foresight

15 June 2013

After a damning IMF report on the EU’s botching of the Greek financial crisis, a Eurocrat snootily commented that hindsight was all very well, but…. Had the EU shown a… Read more

Imperial Athens and imperial Brussels

8 June 2013

Last week Matthew Parris argued that Ukip was ‘extremist’ because its supporters thought of the EU’s ‘methods, despotism and oppression of them and their daily lives as barely distinguishable from… Read more

Ancient and Modern: the nature of war

1 June 2013

Syrians continue to slaughter each other, and seem eager to draw others into the conflict. Thucydides, the great Greek historian of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta (431-404 bc),… Read more

Athenian democracy vs Cameron’s referendum

25 May 2013

So Mr Cameron is offering us the faintest prospect of a referendum on the EU. Ancient Athenians would have laughed him to scorn. Meeting in the Assembly roughly every week,… Read more

Football, Sir Alex Ferguson, Seneca, Classics, Ancient Rome

18 May 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson is going to be in big trouble in retirement: how will he control or defuse his famous rages, now that they have no outlet? Ancients took a… Read more

Aristophanes’ advice for Nigel Farage

11 May 2013

Ukip is on the march, and the F word on the lips of every ashen-faced MP in the House — or the NF word, to be exact. What should be… Read more

The arts, the Ancient Greeks and Maria Miller

4 May 2013

The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, has said the arts world must make the case for public funding by focusing on its economic, not artistic, value; it must ‘hammer home the… Read more

Attractive opposites

20 April 2013

Every Polly in the country is up in arms about the ‘divisiveness’ of Mrs Thatcher. But for ancient Greeks, opposition, or polarity, was as inherent in the nature of things… Read more

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A touch of class

13 April 2013

Class is back in the news, and the BBC’s online do-it-yourself ‘class calculator’ confirms that wealth is the overriding determinant of class status. No change there, then. The Athenians had… Read more

Livy vs Justin Welby

6 April 2013

The new Archbishop of Canterbury has argued against ‘pinning hopes on individuals’. The Roman historian Livy (59 BC–AD 17) would have found that most bizarre. Livy’s 142-book Ab Urbe Condita traced… Read more

Quintilian on Michael Gove

30 March 2013

One hundred professors have complained that Michael Gove’s new curriculum will stifle children’s ‘creativity’ because they will have to learn things. How very true! The Roman educationist Quintilian (c. AD… Read more

The European Empire

23 March 2013

The EU’s decision to ignore its own rules and steal money directly from the pockets of the citizens of Cyprus is an important development in the history of an institution… Read more

Greek justice and Vicky Pryce

16 March 2013

Every ancient Greek juror would have warmed to their descendant Vicky Pryce, when she admitted in court that she wanted revenge on her faithless husband. Revenge, in other words, did… Read more

Priests and pagans

9 March 2013

The Catholic tradition of priestly celibacy (Latin caelebs, ‘unmarried’), by which Cardinal O’Brien was bound, is not a dogma, but a discipline. In other words, it can be altered at the… Read more