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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

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