We classicists like to think that our subject is one of the great civilising disciplines, that it makes the people who study it better. Sadly for us, though, there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. A lot of us are arrogant, offensive and utterly assured of the rightness of our position. The most famous exemplar of this is probably the poet and scholar A.E. Housman whose unsurpassed skills as a Latinist were communicated by the most venomous pen of his time.
Mercenaries make big money in Iraq but, says Sam Kiley, the ‘outsourcing’ of security work is adding to the chaos in the countryThey bustle through the Palestine Hotel lobby in central Baghdad clanking with military hardware. They have a very special look. The head is crew-cut, the sunglasses wraparound. A Heckler and Koch 9mm submachine gun is de rigueur — strapped across a black Kevlar bullet-proof vest, barely hidden by a photographer’s jacket.
Twelve months after the war which was supposed to return Iraq to the ‘international community’, to open it up for democracy, trade and progress, Baghdad is a city almost totally cut off from the outside world.
Not one of the four main roads linking the capital with its neighbours, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Kuwait, is safe to travel on. At the city approaches from north, south and west, Baghdad has gunmen like London has DIY warehouses.