Ancient and modernrss

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

Aristotle on public relations

2 March 2013

So many people’s reputation is under threat these days — from bankers to cardinals to the Lib Dem peer Lord Rennard — that one imagines reputation management agencies, online or… Read more

Hacks vs spads

23 February 2013

A senior civil servant in the Department of Education, having lost a case for ‘bullying’ brought against its special advisers, took her grievance to a tribunal and was promptly awarded… Read more

The Stoic stiff upper lip

16 February 2013

Last week, Stoics applauded the idea that the doctor might in certain situations give the patient a book, not a pill, on the grounds that thinking rationally solved all personal… Read more

Stoicism at the doctor’s

9 February 2013

It has been proposed that, to deal with certain sorts of emotional problems for which we go to the doctor, we should be given an improving book to read. Quite… Read more

Socrates vs Rod Liddle

2 February 2013

Last week Rod Liddle suggested that on Question Time the Cambridge classicist Professor Mary Beard did not distinguish herself on the subject of immigration, and concluded that the BBC hired… Read more

Socrates on career advice

19 January 2013

Young girls are constantly being told that they will have failed unless they get a top job as prime minister, CEO of a Footsie company, rocket scientist or cutting-edge TV… Read more


12 January 2013

The government is having its annual fit about the fat. In the ancient world, most of the population worked the land, while aristocrats kept trim in the gymnasia. Only the… Read more

Seneca on the Church of England

5 January 2013

Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, may have to confront this year the possible break-up of the world-wide Anglican communion. Perhaps the splendid letter from Seneca the Younger (AD… Read more

Rome vs the EU

29 December 2012

On the eve of the first day of 2002, when the euro became the official EU currency, this column turned to Tacitus for its judgment: ‘the ignorant called it civilisation:… Read more

A woman’s place in Homer

15 December 2012

Christmas is the time in the church calendar when Woman-as-Mother comes into supreme prominence. But in classical literature, Women-as-Anything never seem to enjoy much of a press, being either ignored… Read more

Classical press regulation

8 December 2012

Forget Leveson. If the press, always keen to be above the law, must remain free of state control (and it must), it cannot expect state protection. It must be prepared… Read more

Democracy and the C of E

1 December 2012

By refusing to consecrate women as bishops, the C of E has failed in the eyes of all its Revd Lucys and Giles to fulfil its sacred calling of acquiescence… Read more

Athenians on voting fatigue

24 November 2012

‘Politics is polarised’ intoned the chatterati after the Obama-Romney race to the White House. ‘Sick of party politics’ said the people after the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners. Ancient… Read more

Aristotle on Entwistle

17 November 2012

George Entwistle accounted himself ‘honourable’ as he resigned his position as head of the BBC, and Lord Patten joined in the applause. It was as if Entwistle thought he deserved… Read more

Hesiod on work and welfare

10 November 2012

Job, jobs, jobs: no political party can talk of much else. But the concept of the ‘job’ and the ‘wage’ emerges out of the Industrial Revolution. What of worlds where… Read more

Punishment and retribution

27 October 2012

Prime Minister Cameron has argued that ‘retribution [against criminals] is not a dirty word’ and ‘punishment is what offenders both deserve and need’. Many ancients would have keenly agreed. Ancient… Read more

Provoking war

20 October 2012

The Pacific countries have tended to look to the USA for protection in territorial disputes and general security, stimulating their peaceful economic expansion. But the more powerful China becomes, the… Read more

Cicero on public emotion

13 October 2012

If Ian Hislop in his new TV series is right, the English up to the 19th century were a bunch of softies. It was from studying the Romans, among others,… Read more