Ancient and modernrss

From Caligula to Yanukovych

1 March 2014

Tyrants never learn, do they? From Caligula through Gadaffi to the ex-Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovych, they rule not to serve the people but themselves — and all in virtually identical… Read more

Hadrian on the Somerset levels

22 February 2014

Since the Somerset Levels are a flood plain, nature will flood it. Romans had no problems with that. Much of Rome was low-lying and pretty marshy. The main drain — the… Read more

Ancient Rome’s fraudulent foreign students

15 February 2014

Foreign students getting on to courses under false pretences, overstaying their welcome and so on are nothing new. Ask the Romans. In the 4th century AD, the Roman empire was tottering,… Read more

Democritus on the 50p rate

1 February 2014

What a song and dance about a tax rise affecting a minuscule proportion of the richest in society! Greeks would have been baffled. Classical Greeks did not have the automatic… Read more

Dieting with Hippocrates

25 January 2014

There is, apparently, an ‘obesity epidemic’ in the UK, such that two million people could benefit from weight-loss surgery. Ancient Greeks would have argued that they would benefit much more from… Read more

Sorry, Rory Stewart, but you don't understand the Greeks

18 January 2014

In last week’s Spectator, Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith, was reported to be proposing that we should create in Britain ‘1,000 little city states, and give power right down to… Read more

Ancient and modern: Ovid on selfies

11 January 2014

A ‘meme’ is ‘an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture, often by mimicry’. If selfies, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, tweets and all the other… Read more

Why does the year start in January?

4 January 2014

The ancients were an inquisitive lot, a characteristic shown to best effect in works like Aristotle’s Problems (‘Why do sex-maniacs’ eyelashes fall out?’) and Plutarch’s Greek and Roman Questions. Among… Read more

While shepherds watched, civilisation was born

14 December 2013

‘And lo, there were shepherds in the fields, watching over their flocks by night…’   Reading recently that it was the 25th anniversary of the invention of the world wide… Read more

Master charlatans at work

7 December 2013

To watch the Revd Paul Flowers being grilled by the Treasury Select Committee on his role in the demise of the Co-op Bank is to watch a master charlatan at… Read more

Barometer: How the new 'third class' would be worse than the Victorian version

30 November 2013

The grim tales of ‘modern slavery’ that are currently emerging across the UK make one wonder whether ancient Roman slavery was preferable. The fact that it was institutionalised means that… Read more

The age of consent according to Aristotle

23 November 2013

Prime Minister Cameron has rejected the proposal that the age of sexual consent be reduced from 16 to 15, arguing that it was needed to ‘protect children’. In the ancient… Read more

What are you doing for 'Live like a Stoic' week?

9 November 2013

On 21 November The Spectator is hosting a discussion about addiction — disease or choice? — and how we should best treat it. This neatly coincides with ‘Live like a… Read more

Grayson Perry thinks democracy has bad taste. Is that why he sells luxury goods to the rich? 

2 November 2013

‘Democracy has bad taste’, declared potter Grayson Perry in his Reith Lectures on the BBC about art. Tell that to the inventors of democracy. Ancient Greeks would have been appalled… Read more

Why did Athenians resort to arbitration by hedgehog? 

26 October 2013

Since trial by jury is so expensive, government is keen to cut costs on legal aid by ‘alternative dispute resolutions’ (ADR) and settle e.g. family disputes before they ever come… Read more

Gaddafi and the greatest sex tyrants in classical history

19 October 2013

A new book about Colonel Gaddafi goes into shocking detail about his monstrous sexual appetites. He used rape as a political weapon and instrument of blackmail. Viagra was on constant… Read more

Livy on Ed Miliband

12 October 2013

What should we make of Ed’s support for his father Ralph against the Daily Mail? Livy’s life of Torquatus suggests two possible responses. Torquatus was the obtuse, inarticulate son of… Read more

Aristotle on winning the centre ground

5 October 2013

Party conferences always provide the most agreeable spectacle of politicians desperately trying to appeal to both the diehards among the party faithful and the soft underbelly of the general public.… Read more

No wonder Damian McBride has attracted the contempt even of Alistair Campbell

28 September 2013

Damian McBride’s revelations about back-stabbing in Gordon’s imperial court raise a serious question: what was in it for him? The Roman delator (‘informer’) was not some little squirt from central… Read more

Plebs rule!

21 September 2013

Momentarily banish thoughts of policemen on duty at the House of Commons, and picture a Roman pleb. You will probably visualise a toothless peasant howling for ‘bread and circuses’ (i.e.… Read more

Herodotus in Sochi

14 September 2013

As a result of Russian laws against propagating homosexuality, there are calls to boycott the 2013 Winter Olympics in Sochi and 2018 Fifa World Cup due to be held there.… Read more

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