Wake up Sheeple!

So there was a bit of a running joke (if I remember correctly)among some of my fellow ancient history undergraduates about the Roman general/dictator and all round stand up guy Lucius Cornelius Sulla being lord Voldemort…..





Honestly I just can’t see it, sure they were both violent psychos born to aristocracy but who grew up poor to eventually rise up in soceity by dint of extraordinary natural ability and drive who then resorted to violence and death squads while seizing absolute power and ruling through fear with the aid of a significant segment of thier society’s traditional elite but……..Sulla clearly has eyebrows! I just don’t see it…..

I’ll tell you what I do see though people: The hidden truth! What THEY don’t want you to know! This so-called great man:

Proffesor “Dumbledore”

Is really:

Sulla. Notice the telltale eyebrows.

Don’t let the fake ass santa clause beard fool you, their one and the same! Wake up Sheeple! The true dark lord has been among us, ruling over us this whole time! He’s even got himself a new private army! Quiver in fear! because compared to Lucius Cornelius Sulla Voldedorks a pussy!


or…..maybe their all the same person………..*gasp*

Welcome back for another year students, In order to provide a little extra excitement to this years house competition, the house with the least points will be proscribed. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to see me for you will find no better freind in me…….nor worse enemy…..

Triumvirate versus dictatorship: Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Assasination and the outlet factor

Sup peeps, How’s it hanging? Today I’m here to talk to you about why Julius Caesar was assasinated and Augustus Caesar was not, well we all know that the straw men audience in my head scoff in their hypothetical hubris: it’s because Augustus Caesar cloaked his power like a sneaky fox but Julius paraded it like a pompous fool, no wonder they knifed him!

Well while I have no doubts whatsoever that Augustan massaging of political realities for the benefit of the senatorial class helped his regime to endure what I wish to discuss is an aspect of the often overlooked factor of their particular circumstances. Simply put Julius is often criticised for not being his nephew with scant thought given to what at least should be a blindingly obvious fact: He couldn’t be, among other things he likely didn’t have the time. Nor was Augustus always the respectful soft touch from the shadows sought of guy: Before Princeps Augustus there was Triumvir Octavianus a man who ruled through naked imperium and military might only limited by his absentee colleagues. This Octavian dealt with opposition summarily and brutally and did not cloak his power. If Caesar doing the same inevitably lead to his violent death, why not the future Augustus? Especially when the triumviral part of his career lasted for about a decade?

Before the Rubicon Caesar was essentially just another late Roman Republican strongman, albeit one of the most powerful their had been. He ruled over multiple provinces with a formiddable army but had not been in Rome for more than a decade and held no authority there or in most of Italy. It is only after the onset of civil war, by which time Julius Caesar was middle aged that that changed and Caesar’s tenure as a Roman ruler with the powers of Dictator was not long, but it was by the time of his death near absolute. To put it plainly Caesar’s office held no time limit nor did he have any colleagues either de jure or de facto and protracted military opposition to him had repeatedly failed. His Imperium was absolute, he had no rivals nor did significant alterior powerbases remain within the Roman world. Simply put if by 44BC you as a Roman senator found being under the rule of Caesar intolerable (even more so if you weren’t SUPER keen on Pompey’s sons, eh Cassius?) it would seem that only two options presented themselves to you: suicide or assasination. Cato had already chosen the former and we know that Brutus and Cassius et al would choose the latter despite the extreme risk and drastic nature of such an action.

But what if Sextus Pompey were much more powerful, or Caesar had a colleague more to your liking with whom his relationship was one of mutual rivalry and mistrust who ruled the East independently of Caesar and was keen to host like minded members of Rome’s elite. Perhaps joining either man would be preferable to the risk of an assasination plot? perhaps your preffered candidate if you were but patient would ultimately triumph and Caesar would topple from power, afterall this uneasy peace cannot last forever.

Or perhaps you realise with despair that thier all insufferable tyrants and killing Caesar would just mean exchanging one for another and you further realise Caesar’s colleague to the East may not care for the man personally but they are officially at least allies and at times useful to each other, whatever his actual feelings he’s unlikely to reward his assasin, indeed you may end up like the Egyptian’s who presented Caesar with Pompey’s head: sacrificed for the reputation of the victor…..

No assasination does not seem like such a smart move anymore, not unless we can get all of them, and their almost never in the same place. best (and safer) to back the lesser of the evils available to us or wait it out, aftertall even should this despicable tyrant somehow prevail over better men, even should we have to wait for more than 10 years for the right time Rome will never get used to Autocracy, never forget the crimes of earlier years, the origins of this so-called Caesar. Welcome to Triumviral period Rome.

Cinderella, The secret History of the Mongols and other Ancient texts I have perused, True story;)

Juius Caesar, The Civil War:

“Two triremes had sighted the ship of Decimus Brutus, which could easily be recognized from its ensign, and bore down on it from different directions. Brutus, however had just enough forewarning to make an effort and propel his ship a little way ahead of them. The two triremes collided at speed so hard that both were severely damaged by the impact, and in fact one had its beak broken off”- Julius Caesar, Civil war, part 2, 6. Reminds me of cartoon slapstick comedy…..

“a good commander should be able to gain as much by policy as by the sword”- Julius Caesar, The Civil War.

Julius Caesar, The Spanish War:

To think, if not for the failure of Gnaeus Pompeuius’s (Pompey’s elder son) invasian of the kingdom of Bogus, king Bogus may not have been able to help Caesar defeat the Boni/Pompeian’s in Africa, which would be totally bogus.

“one man, Antistius Turpio; confidant in his strength, he began boasting that there was not his match among his opponents. Then, like the legendary encounter between Achilles and Memnon, Quintus Pompeius Niger, a Roman knight from Italica, came forward from our ranks to engage with him. Antistius’s ferocity had drawn everyone’s attention away from the construction work; both battle lines were arrayed; for in this contest between two outstanding warriors, the outcome was uncertain, and it almost appeared that the fight between these two would bring the wart to a conclusion. Everyone was alert and eager, gripped by the enthusiasm of the partisans and supporters on his own side. The champions, with ready courage, came on to the plain to fight, their shields with engraved work, emblems of their renown, flashing*…..” {Text defective}- Spanish war, 25. Dammit Spanish war! That was probably going to be the coolest fight ever too…….stupid buildiup…………

Just finished reading the Spanish war after reading the African war, Alexandrine war and civil war. Aside from being easily the most poorly written (The Spanish, Alexandrine and African wars were not written by Caesar, who was a fantastic writer) about the only thing it illustrates well (there are many lacunae making much of the conflict incomprehensible) is the savagery of this last desperate phase of “Caesar’s” civil war, many have noted that the early part of the war (up to and to an extent including Pharsalus) was notably unbloody considering the scale of the conflict, in part due to Caesar’s famed clementia, the disclipine of his troops and his capacity to convince enemies to surrender or desert, after Pharsalus however increasingly only the real hardliners are left many of whom had already abused Caesar’s initial “mercy” and Caesar’s own troops and himself become tireder and less forgiving. It is perhaps no wonder that Caesar’s account of the civil war stops shortly after Pharsalus, recollections of the African war, and especially the Spanish war could hardly do his reputation for clemency credit nor Roman attempts to heal, the Spanish war was a particularly ugly conflict.
I mean after the battle of Munda, the Caesareans constructed a rampart out of the bodies of the pompeins they killed, while sticking thier heads on thier discareded pikes while beseiging the remnants of the Pompeian army………..Sh*t got dark!


The secret history of the Mongols:

Piece of advice if ever you offend one of Genghis Khans kin and he suggests the two of you sort it out with a freindly wrestling match, run. Letting the other guy win will not save you (seriusly this seems to be murder code for him).

Another thing to note about the secret history of the mongols is the propensity of Genghis and his brothers in it after slaughtering an entire tribe to abduct a small child from it to give to thier mother to raise as a gift, it’s like she’s collecting them. “Hi mum were back and look what we brought you, a one of a kind Tartar kid!” “oh isn’t he just adorable, but one of a kind really?” “well……as of yesterday……….”

Finished reading a partial translation of the secret history of the Mongols, Mongolia before and during the childhood and early life of Genghis Khan comes across as highly reminiscent of Hobbes state of nature. “Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall………and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”



So just read the earliest datable version of the Cinderella (only she isn’t called cinderella) story (at least at the time the article was written which I think was in the fifties). This story purportedly has originates from the natives (non-Han Chinese) of Sichuan and was recorded by a Tang dynasty official and scholar in the 800’s. Instead of a ball we have a ‘cave-festival'(reading into it further it’s possible no caves were involved, tricks of etymology and so forth.), instead of a fairy godmother (and I suppose the industrious clothes mice) we have the bones of our heroine’s over 10 foot long fish friend, treacherously killed by her stepmother and the king (not prince) arrests and tortures people to get info on the golden (not glass) shoe! Also the stepmother and stepsister get killed by flying rocks for some reason and thier resting place becomes a place for cavemen to make offerings and pray to acquire women. But she of the gold shoe and her fish bones got to go live with the king and his other wives.


True Histories/True lies:

Finally reading True Histories by Lucian of Samosata, I can definitly see why this satire written in the 2nd century AD is sometimes dubbed the first work of Science fiction- even if I the “scifi” element seems to compose less than half the text, it’s got airships (technically), alien abduction, interstellar colonisation, multiple sentient and non sentient alien species, first contact (well depends whether you count mr. abducted but I suppose if you counted backstory…), organ doning or lending, paths through the sky, inter celestial body war and politics, “people” grown rather than born, pregnant men and (sort of) sentient appliances. Also lots of themes and allusians to events from the classical era, particularly in regards to celestial war and politics by way of satire- transposing them to a ridicoulous and overblown context, again Sci Fi has imitated him here, only more often then not we are now expected to take them seriusly;).

Lucian moon

Undergraduate Capstone Thesis: Roman politics, literary archetypes and perceptions of Publius Licinius Crassus son of Marcus Crassus the triumvir

Capstone thesis (very slightly revised….I added some full stops, I’m sure any of you who’ve read much of this blog will appreciate the importance of that….): Roman politics, literary archetypes and perceptions of Publius Licinius Crassus son of Marcus Crassus the triumvir

So Yeah, this was an essay I submitted for a compulsary unit of my major for my Bachelors degree where we had to pick a research topic and write a roughly 5,000 word essay on it. While the subject I picked was of interest to me (it having to do with late Republican politics of course) I admittedly largely picked it over a few other ideas that intrigued me more because it was safer and less ambitious and I was by that time kinda lazy and very much anxious and lacking in confidance. Still I think it turned out pretty well. Behold my academic writing! Quake in fear before it’s majesty!…….and footnotes…..MOSTLY THE FOOTNOTES!!!! *spooky ghost sounds*

Publius Licinius Crassus was the son of Marcus Licinius Crassus famous for his membership in the so-called First Triumvirate, there is some debate as to whether he was Crassus’s first or second son, his brother also being called Marcus Licinius Crassus[1], while most scholars consider him the younger pointing out Marcus’s significantly earlier marriage[2] and the fact that as was traditional for the eldest son he was named after his father[3] others consider him the elder arguing that due to the childless and premature death of Marcus  Crassus ‘the Triumvir’s older brother Publius Crassus, Crassus the Triumvir named his eldest son Publius as the eldest male Crassus of any generation was traditionally so named (this fits with our picture  of Crassus attempts to take over the family responsibilities of his older brother by his marriage to his widow[4]) and so both sides use naming conventions to make their case. The waters are further murkied on this issue by Publius serving as one of Caesar’s lieutenants 4 years before his brother[5]. In any event either through birth, charm or ability Publius was clearly the favoured son.

By the time Publius joined his father for his ill-fated invasion of Parthia perhaps no aristocrat of his generation in Rome looked likely to have a more promising political future, the favoured son of Marcus Crassus one of Rome’s richest and most powerful men (and from an aristocratic family of long standing). Whose position within the so-called first triumvirate (I use the term to refer to the informal, though still quite real alliance between Pompey, Crassus and Caesar, though certainly, especially in Crassus’s case such an alliance did not preclude other valuable political connections) had perhaps never been stronger[6]. He (Publius) had recently married Cornelia Metella[7], connecting him directly to the extremely important Metelli clan and in particular to Metellus Scipio her father, who was at the time the family’s senior member. Despite the deep seated personal dislike and frequent political antagonism between his father and Cicero Publius Crassus had succeeded in obtaining Cicero’s good feeling and friendship[8] and due to his service under him in Gaul he also quite clearly attained the favours of Caesar. Few could boast such a breadth of positive connections, perhaps none so young. However The almost uniformly positive portrayal of this promising young man is briefly broken during the Carrhae campaign before the veil of impetuous hubris is itself replaced at death by the veil of the Tragic hero. How the biases of our sources as well as literary archetype’s and conventions affect the portrayal of Publius Crassus constitutes the core theme of this paper which in doing so also seeks to (some extent to) explore Publius’s role in his father’s political career and his own capabilities. We begin our exploration into Publius’s life and its sources with Caesar’s commentaries on the Gallic War.


Caesar’s Gallic war is composed of seven books, the final conflicts of Caesar against Gallic tribe’s being recorded by Aulus Hirtius in a final book[9], there is some dispute over whether these books were published all at once as used to be the popular opinion or individually or at least In batches in between campaigning seasons[10]. For a variety of reasons this paper holds to the latter view for instance it seems unlikely that the legate Sabinus so defamed in book 5 would be portrayed relatively favourably in prior books if they were written after the events of book 5[11] nor is Caesar likely to have boasted of the virtual annihilation of the adult male Nervii population only for a supposed army of tens of thousands of them to appear a few years later[12] nor claim that all Gaul was pacified with such regularity were he aware of at the time of writing of all or most subsequent  conflict.

Publius Crassus served with Caesar during his first three years in Gaul and accordingly makes his appearances in the first three books, Caesar while seldom negative in his portrayal of his lieutenants (indeed portrayals were usually at least implicitly positive[13]) was clearly writing to enhance his own prestige and as such keeps the focus primarily on himself[14]. While keeping the interest of his audience by significant coverage of the nature of his adversary’s (both as individuals such as Vercingetorix and as tribe’s such as the Aedui[15]) and on the quality and accomplishments of his army, the legate’s take a distinct backseat[16]. Despite their largely positive portrayal it is unlikely that Caesar’s legates were all men of exceptional military ability- choosing one’s legate’s was at the time as much motivated by political networking and patronage as military-administrative competence. It would seldom have been in Caesar’s interest barring a true disaster to offend a political contact, and the one time that happened a scapegoat (Sabinus, previously portrayed competently) was found[17]. Besides as members of Rome’s upper class many senior officers serving with Caesar are likely to have recorded their own version of events (Cicero certainly kept in contact with his brother Quintus[18]) and particularly if said officer had important Roman contacts political pragmatism cautioned against contradicting them or reporting something which they felt compelled to contradict without strong motive[19]. However usually this favourable treatment was implicit through a description of the actions of said lieutenants not explicit by attaching positive appellations directly to them as was often done with the army as a whole, legions, lower ranking officers and valiant foes[20] there are however a number of at least partial exceptions to this low key  positive portrayal.

Of all Caesar’s legate’s (and officers of equivalent rank, Decimus Brutus and Publius Crassus due to their youth were not technically legates but were functionally so[21], in this paper for convenience unless otherwise specified all military officers given command of a force larger than a cohort will be referred to as such) the aforementioned Quintus Titurius Sabinus was the only one to receive truly extensive negative treatment in the commentaries in which he is blamed for the annihilation in ambush of the legion over which he held joint command[22]. Other exceptions to the rule are due more too unusually positive rather than negative portrayals. Titus Labienus for instance who served with Caesar for the entirety of the Gallic wars is mentioned more times than any Roman in the commentaries other than Caesar himself and holds that distinction by a wide margin, and was both formally and by dint of the responsibility entrusted to him the senior legate[23] and is given credit in part for Caesar’s first victory over the Nervii[24] and for multiple independent victories in the field[25]. However in two of Labienus said victories Caesar records him giving a speech before the battle encouraging the soldiers to fight as if Caesar himself were with them and to do him proud as it were. By this device Caesar draws some of the reader’s attention back to himself and makes his legend part of the reason for victory even in his absence[26], though without directly detracting from Labienus’s contribution.

Labienus is not however the only Caesarean legate who merits an unusual degree of attention, Publius Crassus receives fairly extensive coverage in the Gallic wars for a legate, especially in book 3[27]. As Labienus is given much tactical credit for the defeat of the Nervii, Publius initiative in the decisive battle against the Germanic king Ariovistus is deemed pivotal[28]. However in his independent victories commanding a force for Caesar in Aquitaine, in which he won a battle, successfully besieged a well-defended town, stormed a well-fortified and defended camp and pacified the region[29] , the psychological role of the absent Caesar is reversed. The high moral of Crassus men in the face of the enemy is attributed in a positive light to their eagerness to prove what they could accomplish in the absence of their general and under such a young commander[30]. In essence Caesar deliberately divorced himself in particular from these victories and (as was admittedly his wont) emphasized the difficulty of the opposition Crassus faced, aside from the usual high estimates of enemy numbers Caesar records that the Gallic tribe’s recruited significant numbers of veterans of the Sertorian war who had expertise at constructing fortified camps and were otherwise formidable[31] and perhaps most ominously lists two Roman commanders that met defeat and death in the region in question[32]. Crassus first victory over the Aquitanians according to the Gallic war consisted of repulsing an attack on the march by the Sotiates tribe’s cavalry and pursuing them into an ambush by their infantry. Despite the ambush Crassus’s forces prevailed and Caesar does not indicate that the retreat of the enemy cavalry was feigned, nor censure Crassus for falling into an ambush[33] even though the following ambush by the infantry would strongly imply that it was (why else would you place your infantry in ambush and attack separately with your cavalry if not to lure the enemy to that location unprepared). Nevertheless it was the army more than its commander that distinguished itself here. Crassus army’s subsequent siege of the Sotiate capital was also successful, despite several sally’s including one rather hard-fought one that took place during a parley which may be what Dio is referring too when he says “He lost a few men, to be sure, by treachery in the course of a parley, but punished the enemy severely for this”[34]. His most notable accomplishment during this campaign however was perhaps his storming of an enemy camp highly fortified in a Roman manner: in the engagement that followed Crassus’s cavalry noticed that part of the enemy camp was not as well defended as the rest and Crassus promptly and boldly ordered the cavalry and the cohorts tasked with guarding the camp to take a circuitous route to the position so as not to be seen and attack the enemy at this vulnerable location while the mainstay of his forces continued their frontal assault, outflanked the enemy was comprehensively defeated[35]. The plan was excellent and as it involved removing the very camps defenders very bold. In future this young officer’s boldness would be seen in quite a different light.

Crassus’s achievements during his Aquitanian campaign were impressive but it’s clear Caesar was giving him favourable press, Decimus Brutus, the only other legate of Caesars referred to as young, during the same year defeated the Veneti but as with Labienus’s independent victories he shared the credit with Caesar and his failures (like Crassus getting caught in an ambush) do not appear to have been brushed over. Caesar claims that Decimus and his tribune’s did not know how to defeat the larger Veneti vessels, the crucial innovation it is implied was generated by men further down the hierarchy, while this is probably all true and Decimus is by no means portrayed as inept or as a failure there is a key difference in portrayal here[36]. Publius’s uniquely favourable treatment is unlikely to come down purely to ability, Labienus if not quite yet would in time prove himself by far the most distinguished of Caesar’s Gallic legate’s nor were others such as Decimus and Gaius Trebonius clearly without martial ability. Personal affection is likely to have played a role in a letter to Caesar Cicero bemoans the fate of young Publius who he describes as a man dear to them both. however Decimus Brutus was also in all probability close to Caesar, he was approached by Caesar’s assassins specifically because Caesar was known to trust him and was supposedly the man who convinced him to attend the senate on the Ides of March despite his wife’s misgivings (Though such stories involving ill-omens are highly suspect the story is still illuminating for what it tells us of Roman perceptions of the relationship between Caesar and Decimus Brutus)  and unlike many of Caesar’s other lieutenants and partisans, including Marcus Antonius he was named in Caesar’s will[37]. Though these events took place many years later and due to his earlier death we cannot know whether Caesar would have named Publius in his will) it is likely considering Decimus’s youth at the time of this command and Caesar’s possible relationship with his mother Sempronia[38] that he already favoured this young man as well.

During his later career Caesar showed a marked penchant for patronising talented, ambitious and perhaps impetuous young aristocrats, such as Publius Crassus, Decimus Brutus, Marcus Antonius, Caelius Rufus, Curio and Dolabella[39] aside from other motivations Caesar had no son and thus no known heir and a hunt for a suitable candidate was quite possibly a motivating factor behind this penchant or a successor to lead his faction (contrary to Augustan propaganda these need not have been the same thing). However if either of these were the case (a big If among many if’s so far explored)  it is particularly unlikely to have been Publius. The favoured son of Crassus is unlikely to have required such patronage and Caesar’s legacy would be suitably diluted in this regard by being shared with Marcus Crassus a man of comparable standing.

Which brings us to one final consideration, the importance of the father to the portrayal of the son; Marcus Crassus and Caesar at the time of the opening of the Gallic wars had a long history of close political collaboration[40]. While it is true that Crassus the triumvir’s other son, Marcus Crassus would serve with Caesar as Quaestor in Caesar’s fifth year in Gaul and likely from then onwards to the end of the Gallic wars and is barely mentioned and certainly not singled out for praise, though Marcus Crassus seems to have been an innocuous figure who barely appears in the sources dealing with his time despite his august parentage[41] this is more evidence of the importance of the father than it is the opposite. When Publius was serving with Caesar Crassus was a living and powerful ally who became particularly important towards the end of Publius’s time with Caesar when the alliance between Pompey, Crassus and Caesar threatened to break down. Crassus clearly benefited the least from the initial alliance with Caesar and Pompey around the time of Caesar’s first consulship. Caesar got an agrarian bill (which would have granted him much patronage) and a five year command over three provinces, Pompey got his Eastern settlement ratified and land for his soldiers, Crassus merely managed to get a difficult contract for Publicani clients rescinded (and a place on Caesar’s land commission)[42]. Furthermore the two consuls chosen for the next year had closer ties with Caesar (his new father-in-law) and Pompeius respectively and the two strengthened their alliance by marriage, with Pompey marrying Caesar’s daughter[43].

Crassus responded to his marginalization by allying himself with the Claudii in particular the radical tribune Clodius and other elements of Rome’s aristocracy and used them to politically weaken Pompey[44]. Under pressure Pompey drew closer to more conservative, anti-Crassan and anti-Caesarean politicians, eventually using his influence to recall Cicero whom had a history of hostility towards Clodius, Crassus and to a lesser extent Caesar[45]. As the political competition between Crassus’s and Pompey intensified, Pompey came more and more to rely on politicians opposed to Caesar to support himself against Crassus’s own emerging faction and the triumvirate itself came under threat[46].  At the time Caesar would have wrote the third book of the Gallic war (going with the above assumption that they were generally published at the end of the campaigning season under discussion) This conflict was coming to a head and it was likely becoming increasingly clear that the five year command previously granted Caesar (already over half over) would prove insufficient for the pacification of Gaul and the senator Domitius Ahenobarbus (who had strong associations with Caesar’s enemies) was energetically campaigning to replace Caesar in his command[47].Soon afterwards Crassus and Caesar would meet in Ravenna before going on to meet with Pompey as well at Luca[48], though we don’t know the details of the negotiations the results are clear: Cicero was pressured by Caesar and Pompey to reconcile with and support Crassus and Clodius likewise reconciled with Pompey, Pompey and Crassus ran together for the consulship with the support of Caesar and benefitted from the intimidation of Caesar’s veterans (led by Publius Crassus himself) at the election[49]. Both men were granted provincial commands with large armies and Caesar’s command in Gaul was extended by five years[50].

Simply put at the time Caesar wrote the third Gallic war he needed Crassus support a great deal as Crassus enhanced standing in the coalition after Luca indicates and so it is not surprising that his son is portrayed so favourably in that book in particular, by contrast Marcus Crassus came to Gaul as Caesar’s quaestor two years later, the year after Crassus consulship. Due to the five year extension Caesar’s position was now more secure and soon afterwards, well before Caesar’s political position once again became perilous Crassus had died at Carrhae with Marcus’s promising brother removing the key political impetus to praise his son. This makes all the more sense considering Quintus Cicero, the famous Marcus Cicero’s brother also receives perhaps unduly good treatment in the sources[51]

Our sources of Publius Crassus’s life outside of the role of military officer are scanty we know that he was a monetalis and became an augur when a position in that religious college opened up upon the death of Lucius Licinius Luccullus[52]. Publius also cultivated Cicero who deemed him a promising young orator, helped him develop said ability and prevailed upon him to pursue a conventional political career and focus on his civic talents. However as the source of this information is a work on oratory called the Brutus written by Cicero after Publius death in which Cicero uses the example of Publius to make a point about the sageness of such advice by bemoaning how Publius’s youthful ambition and military glory seeking lead to his death[53] he may have chosen to exaggerate the degree to which he advocated said course to Publius at the time. As mentioned above Dio records Publius being sent to Rome by Caesar with many of his veterans to lead them in violent and successful intimidations of rival electoral candidates and Cicero further mentions his attachment to the young man in letters both to Caesar and to Crassus, in the latter the connection is highlighted clearly in part to aggrandize himself with the newly re-empowered Crassus with whom Caesar and Pompey had forced him to reconcile[54] but it is noteworthy that he claims to be like a second father to the young man[55]. The former written after Publius’s death bemoans the loss of a well-liked mutual protégé but perhaps contains some of Cicero the new man’s resentment of consul’s in their cradles[56]. What may have proved decisive for Publius’s future had he lived longer was his marriage to Cornelia Metella which occurred shortly before the Parthian expedition[57]. Many years previously Publius’s brother had himself married into another branch of the powerful Metelli family, a branch seemingly hostile to Pompey who at the time still had good relations with other members of the family[58], in both marriages the hand of Crassus the triumvir can be felt and represent a key tactic utilized in Pompey and Crassus’s rival attempts to ally the Metelli with themselves. The marriage of Publius to Cornelia Metella shows that following the reestablishment of his alliance with Pompey and Caesar Crassus successfully reached out to the Metelli and perhaps even the Boni in general, this may have resulted from his having to abandon his anti-Pompeian alliance with the Claudii and Pompey his increasing Boni ties[59].



Finally we come to the Carrhae campaign, though many other sources refer if briefly to Rome’s defeat at Carrhae and In particular the death of both Marcus and Publius Crassus[60] only two descriptions of the battle and prior campaign survive from antiquity: Cassius Dio’s Roman history and Plutarch’s life of Crassus[61]. Of these Plutarch’s account is far more detailed and on the whole likely to be more accurate[62] however it is important to note that unlike Caesar or Cicero neither of these are primary sources, being born much later neither man was there during the campaign or spoke to anyone that was. Both men wrote well over a century later and so represent interestingly the only sources on the life of Publius Crassus who would not have been influenced by their relationship either with him or perhaps more crucially his father. Clearly however they must have got there information somewhere. The most important Roman involved to survive the Carrhae campaign was Lucius Cassius Longinus the future assassin of Julius Caesar, he served as Marcus Crassus’s quaestor during the ill-fated campaign (well from the Roman perspective…..) and commanded one of the army’s wings during the battle[63]. After the battle he succeeded in escaping back to Syria with the men then under his command, with no more senior Roman present at this tumultuous time Cassius took command of the approximately 10,000 legionaries who made it back from the Parthian campaign and defended the province successfully against first Parthian raids and a Jewish revolt then a larger Parthian force[64] earning acclaim at Rome. In the sources for the Carrhae campaign Cassius plays the role of a Roman military Cassandra, always giving the right advice, always being ignored, in favour frequently of the advice of treacherous foreign allies (such as the chieftain and guide Ariammes)[65], what’s more he is frequently portrayed as obviously right, however both Marcus and Publius Crassus had distinguished military careers, Marcus having played a pivotal role in the battle of the Colline gate and suppressed the Spartacus revolt mistakes were clearly made but they are unlikely to have been as obvious at the time as the sources suggest.

As the leading Roman survivor of Carrhae who however his service in the East started ended it (before the coming civil wars at least) with glory Cassius was in an excellent position to spread his version of events. We do not know the details of how though we do know that Quintus Dellius who served under Cassius in the civil war of Phillipi wrote a history of Parthia that Plutarch made use of in his life of Antony, it is likely all things considered that it served as a source for Crassus’s Parthian campaign as well[66]. Even so Cassius self-interest is unlikely to serve as a complete explanation for his portrayal and that of Publius Crassus and others during this campaign. If Cassius was a martial Roman Cassandra he did not lack for company, the prudent (or in some cases like Cassius downright prescient) but ignored Roman officer or ally at some point seems to have become a literary staple in accounts of Roman defeats. At Cannae the consul Aemilius Paulus reputedly cautioned against engaging Hannibal, was overruled by his co-consul Varro and died heroically in the battle[67], the allied Germanic chieftain (again reputedly) Segestes futily warned Varus of Arminius’s treacherous intentions[68]. Finally in the aforementioned ambush and alliance of Titurius Sabinus’s legion in the Gallic wars by Ambiorix’s forces Sabinus’s co-commander Marcus Cotta see’s Ambiorix’s protestations of friendship and warnings for what they are. His failure to convince Sabinus leads to their deaths, unlike Sabinus however who through his desperation to live falls for treachery a second time by agreeing to Parley with his attackers Cotta dies heroically leading his men in a last stand[69]. Due to his positive press Cassius is assigned the nobler literary trope and Marcus Crassus that of the man who consistently listens to bad council, indeed in Dio’s more hostile account Crassus’s portrayal is extremely similar to that of Sabinus, first being misled by supposed foreign allies and then at his most desperate moment having his judgement impaired by his desperation to live to fall for the enemy’s offer to negotiate where he died in a fight that broke out, probably due to treachery[70].

There is however one key difference between Carrhae and the ambush of Sabinus and indeed between Carrhae and Cannae, our Cassandra is not also our tragic hero. As he lived Cassius would have to wait many years to play second fiddle to Brutus in this role at Phillipi. In Dio clearly the more pro-Cassian and anti-Crassan of our sources no-one fills this role satisfactorily, despite Dio’s claim that Crassus acquiesced to the desire of the army following Carrhae for Cassius to take command (a claim not repeated in the more detailed Plutarch). In Plutarch’s account the death of the elder Crassus is nobler and the role of Publius in the battle and the nature of his death emphasized and romanticized, Plutarch’s Carrhae has its tragic heroes, oddly the same commanders he blames for the defeat, the Crassi.

When the Roman scouts first came into contact with the Surena’s Parthian army Publius reputedly reinforced his father’s inclination to seek battle that same day in opposition to Cassius (implied) and most of the officers who suggested making camp reconnoitring the enemy’s position and seeking battle in the morning[71]. The decision to seek battle immediately is naturally regarded as a mistake by our sources and Publius next action in our sources relating to the battle did not end well either, in command of one of the flanks and a portion of the cavalry Publius is ordered by his father to lead a combined force of cavalry, archers and legionaries to chase off the Parthian horse archers on one of the army’s flanks, ending the encirclement, relieving pressure and allowing his father’s army to reform. Publius’s counterattack is initially successful, chasing off the horse archers and allowing such a reform, however supposedly sensing victory Publius pursued the fleeing horse archers further away from the army and was then attacked by a division of cataphracts (a form of heavy cavalry) at the same time the fleeing horse archers counterattacked, using the cataphracts as protection while they continued to harass Publius’s forces. Furthermore it seems in the pursuit that Publius infantry fell behind his cavalry. It seems that like in his first battle in Aquitaine Publius had once again fallen for a feigned retreat[72], despite this paper’s attempt to expose stereotype’s that of the gifted but hot-headed aristocratic young cavalry officer does look like it might fit. Forced to engage the Cataphracts unsupported with his lighter cavalry Publius lead the Romans in probably the fiercest fighting of the battle, defeated and wounded he and his remaining men retreated to the shelter of their infantry. The situation being untenable Publius and some of his officers and friends reputedly killed themselves rather than flee before their force was overwhelmed and annihilated[73]. The death of Publius and his men was probably the decisive moment of the battle, his defeat demoralized Crassus’s remaining forces and the loss of most of the army’s cavalry prevented the romans from striking back against Surena’s horse archers nevertheless Plutarch does not drag Publius over the coals and he is given the most heroic (to the Romans) death of the campaign. In his combat with the Cataphracts and subsequent death Plutarch emphasis his courage in the fight and in his refusal to abandon his men taking his own life (with assistance)[74].

Considering the virtual annihilation of Publius’s detachment and the Roman penchant for heroic dramatization of their dead the details here are highly suspect and there may have been no witnesses of the final moments. This account may also be influenced by Publius’s freedman Appollonius who may have written an account of Publius’s life and was later praised by Cicero for his loyalty to the memory of the Crassi[75], regardless clearly Cassius did not represent (either directly or through his partisans) the only sources available to our own sources on the campaign.

So ends our recount of the life and sources of Publius Licinius Crassus: Military prodigy, glory hound and hot-head, ambitious, modest, eloquent, charming and well-liked high aristocrat, networker, marriage pawn, thuggish election fixer and tragic hero.



The Sons of Crassus

Ronald Syme

Latomus , T. 39, Fasc. 2 (AVRIL-JUIN 1980), pp. 403-408

Published by: Societe d’Etudes Latines de Bruxelles

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41531764


Goldsworthy, A. “CAESAR”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006.

Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri.

Gruen E. (1974). The Last Generation of the Roman Republic. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

Syme R. (1952). The Roman Revolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Crassorum Funera

Elizabeth Rawson

Latomus , T. 41, Fasc. 3 (JUILLET-SEPTEMBRE 1982), pp. 540-549

Published by: Societe d’Etudes Latines de Bruxelles

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41532598


The Departure of Crassus for Parthia

Adelaide D. Simpson

Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association , Vol. 69, (1938), pp. 532-541

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/283197


Crassus’ New Friends and Pompey’s Return

Eve J. Parrish

Phoenix , Vol. 27, No. 4 (Winter, 1973), pp. 357-380

Published by: Classical Association of Canada

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1087808


Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire.

Marshall B. A. (1976). Crassus A Political Biography. Adolf M. Hakkert, Amsterdam.

Cassius Dio, Roman history, trans. Cary E (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1914).

Julius Caesar, The Gallic War, trans. Edwards H. J (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1917.

Plutarch, Life of Crassus, trans. Warner R & Seager R (Penguin Books, 80 Strand, London, England, 2005).

Cicero, The Letters To His Friends, trans. Williams W. G (Harvard University Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1927).

Welch K, Powell A (Ed). (1998). Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments. The Classical Press Wales, 15 Rosehill Terrace, Swansea.



Cicero, Brutus, trans. Jones E.

Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, trans. C. Edwards (Oxford University Press, New York, 2000).

No Son for Caesar?

Ronald Syme

Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte , Bd. 29, H. 4 (4th Qtr., 1980), pp. 422-437

Published by: Franz Steiner Verlag

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4435732


Goldsworthy A. (2000). The Fall Of Carthage The Punic Wars 265-146BC. Orion books, Orion house Upper St Martin’s Lane, London.


Tacitus, The complete works of Tacitus, tans. A. J. Church, W. J. Brodribb (Random house, New York, 1942).


[1] Syme, R. The Sons of Crassus, Latomus , T. 39, Fasc. 2 (AVRIL-JUIN 1980), pp. 403.

[2] Syme, R. The Sons of Crassus, Latomus , T. 39, Fasc. 2 (AVRIL-JUIN 1980), pp. 403-408.

[3] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg. 55.

[4] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri., pg 48.

[5] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg. 55-56.

[6] Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire, pg. 78-80.

[7] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 284-285.

[8] Cic. Fam. VIII.

[9] Julius Caesar, The Gallic War, trans. Edwards H. J (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1917.

[10] Goldsworthy, A. “CAESAR”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, pg. 187-188.

[11] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg. 93-94.

[12] Caes. Gal. 2, 28, Caes. Gal.5, 49.

[13] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg. 89.

[14] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg. 86-87.

[15] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg. 89-90.

[16] Goldsworthy, A. “CAESAR”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, pg.188.

[17] Caes. Gal. 5, 26-37.

[18] Goldsworthy, A. “CAESAR”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, pg. 190.

[19]Goldsworthy, A. “CAESAR”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, pg. 189-190.

[20] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg 89-90.

[21] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg 92.

[22] Caes. Gal. 5, 26-37.

[23] Goldsworthy, A. “CAESAR”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, pg. 191.

[24] Caes. Gal. 2, 26-28.

[25] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg 98-100.

[26] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg 99.

[27] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg 91-92.

[28] Caes. Gal. 1, 52-53.

[29] Caes. Gal. 3, 20-27.

[30] Caes. Gal. 3, 21.

[31] . Caes. Gal. 3, 23.

[32] Caes. Gal. 3, 20.

[33] Caes. Gal. 3, 20-21.

[34] Dio Cassius, Roman history, 39, 46.

[35] Caes. Gal. 3, 24-26.

[36] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg. 92.

[37] Suetonius, the deified Julius Caesar, 81-83, Plutarch, Caesar, 63-64, Plutarch, Brutus, 12.

[38] Syme R, No Son for Caesar? Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte , Bd. 29, H. 4 (4th Qtr., 1980), pg. 429.

[39] Goldsworthy, A. “CAESAR”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, pg. 365-366.

[40] Goldsworthy, A. “CAESAR”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, pg. 165.

[41] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg 93.

[42] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 218-219.

[43] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 222.

[44] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 231-233.

[45]Marshall B. A. (1976). Crassus A Political Biography. Adolf M. Hakkert, Amsterdam, pg. 118-121.

[46] Marshall B. A. (1976). Crassus A Political Biography. Adolf M. Hakkert, Amsterdam, pg. 124-127.

[47] Marshall B. A. (1976). Crassus A Political Biography. Adolf M. Hakkert, Amsterdam, pg. 124.

[48] Marshall B. A. (1976). Crassus A Political Biography. Adolf M. Hakkert, Amsterdam, pg. 127-128.

[49] Dio Cassius, Roman history, 39, 31.

[50] Marshall B. A. (1976). Crassus A Political Biography. Adolf M. Hakkert, Amsterdam, pg. 128-129.

[51] Welck K, Caesar And his Officers In The Gallic War Commentaries, Julius Caesar As Artful Reporter: The War Commentaries as Political Instruments (1998) pg 97-98.

[52] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 284-285.

[53] Cicero, Brutus, 281-282.

[54] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 279, Cic. Fam. VIII.

[55] Cic. Fam. VIII.

[57] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 284-285.

[58] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 203-204.

[59] Ward A. (1977). MARCUS CRASSUS AND THE LATE ROMAN REPUBLIC. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, pg 280.

[60] Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire, pg. 186-193.

[61] Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire, pg. 186-187.

[62] Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire, pg. 186-187.

[63] Plutarch, Crassus, 23.

[64] Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire, pg. 152-160.

[65] Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire, pg. 109.

[66] Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire, pg. 188-189.

[67] Goldsworthy A. (2000). The Fall Of Carthage The Punic Wars 265-146BC. Orion books, Orion house Upper St Martin’s Lane, London, pg. 199-213.

[68] Tacitus, Annals, 1, 55.

[69] Caes. Gal. 5, 26-37.

[70] Caes. Gal. 5, 26-37, Dio Cassius, 40, 20-27.

[71] Plutrach, Crassus, 23.

[72] Dio Cassius, Roman history,40, 21-22.

[73] Plutarch, Crassus, 25.

[74] Plutarch, Crassus, 25.

[75] Sampson G. C. (2008). The Defeat of Rome Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East. Pen & Sword Books,47 Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire, pg. 189.

Terry Jones is a barbarian part IV The desolation of smug

Episode 4- The End of the World: In this final episode Terry talks about the Huns, the Vandals and the fall of the Roman Empire, principally through the tale’s of Attila and Gaiseric the most famous leaders of the Huns and Vandals respectively before summing up. We begin with a very brief pre-title introduction illustrating just this ending: “with Rome gone Europe would enter a thousand years of ignorance and chaos: the dark ages…..well at least that’s what I was told.” First up both the term dark ages and the view of the time encompassed by it implied by the name are no longer fashionable in scholarship and have not been for decade’s  but (perhaps in part because popular understanding lags behind academic trends) such was probably not the case when Terry was in school, so that part of what he’s saying is fine (leaving aside that I suspect the show’s target audience is significantly younger than our presenter) it’s the thousand year claim that’s the problem. That would bring the dark ages well into the 1400’s, not even the most generous definitions of the term had it last that long, I have difficulty believing Terry was taught that either. Again I would like to remind you that Terry claims some medieval expertise.

“If I’ve learn’t one thing making these programs about barbarians it’s that nothing is ever as simple as it seems” “the Greatest achievement of the Romans…..was propaganda” “2000 years after Rome’s collapse I was still being peddled their version of the past at school” I didn’t know you were from the future Terry! this explains everything! No wonder you know so much about history, you have a time machine! Stop the press everyone! Turns out Life of Brian is the most historically accurate recreation of the time of Jesus, so the History Channel was right aliens did visit Roman Jerusalem http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2sI8vIJQY8 ! besides it’s the only way this makes any sense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Uvt83YWWWY

What follows is a summary of what Jones wants us to take from the preceding three episodes if you’ve read my previous posts in this series than you can guess what he says and my rebuttle (even brings up the Rome stopped an industrial revolution thing again…..still a heck of a claim to just toss around) he then sets the scene “by this time [by which he seems to mean roughly the fourth and fifth century’s] the empire was too unweildly and spawling to be managed solely from Rome, so at the end of the fourth century the Roman empire was split into two, now thier would be two empire’s East and West.”  While Terry is saying this sadly often repeated fallacy a map appears showing the division into two empires and the locations of Rome and Constantinople (Now Istanbul, just ask the Turks) in the Western and Eastern Empire respectively. Now the empire was divided administratively with multiple emperors and multiple courts a number of times even discounting periods of civil war and a binary roughly East West form of division had also occured repeatedly but here Jones is almost certainly refferring to the division upon the death of emperor Theodosius I in 395 CE which split the empire between East and West for the final time before the Wests fall, but it would hardly matter if he were not. The map clearly implies that each is the capital of it’s respective part of the empire and if it is the Theodosian division we are dealing with this holds true for Constantinople and the East but not for Rome and the West, since the very founding of Constantinople Rome (and indeed earlier Constantine’s breif residence there notwithstanding) had not been what could be called a capital of empire, not in the same way as post-Theodosian Constantinple the emperor and his court resided at the Norther Italian city of Ravenna making that the political capital of the West, Rome still mattered, it was still a large city and as among other things the residence of the senate and the Western Empire’s only patriarch of the Church it was of considerable symbolic importance but it was not Constantinople’s Western Equivalent (though as Constantinople with Senate emperor and patriarch was beggining to take on similar symbolic importance to Rome you could argue that Ravenna was not it’s equivalent either…..). But as often I have wasted too much time on in many ways the least important but also least excusable error.

It is often claimed that the empire was eventually divided into two and in the case specifically of the administrative arrangements of the emperor Diocletian (late 3rd very early fourth centuries) 4 parts because the empire was simply too big to be managed by one emperor and/or one capital, it is less frequently explained however how the empire managed just fine (and for the last 60 or so years before Diocletian well…..managed……) with one of either for around 3 centuries. The empire’s territories were not substantially smaller under Augustus Diocletian and the succesors of Theodosius under Trajan and over a century of his succesors they were bigger still yet the empire endured and functioned well for a long time. Most states do not last three century’s at all, not even close. There are other far more plausible explanations for the division of empire that have nothing to do with administrative necesity or even efficiency due to an excess of territory but this is a complex and contentious issue and it is best to leave it here for now. Suffice to say Terry is wrong here but he has a lot of company including in scholarship so I must grudgingly accord him some leeway.

We then move on after some emotively  charged  but vague stuff about the empire being Christian now and the resulting new framing of the us vs them narrative to the first of this weeks barbarians: The Huns, Terry claims they migrated from Mongolia, many scholars think so, many don’t, I don’t have a strong opinion myeself and don’t know the details but I thought you should know thats contentious as is the degree to which the Hunnic invasians sparked a wave of Germanic migrations westward into the empire, the extent of Hun caused migrations is played up by many scholars such as Terry favoured consultant Peter Heather whereas others such as Paul Halsall contend convincingly that the Hun caused migrations have been exaggerated though in Terry’s defense he could not have read the book of Halsall’s from which I gathered that information and the Huns certainly played a key role in the Germanic migrations that resulted in the famed battle of Adrianople (see my second Terry post).

For the next while Terry adds a good dose of padding and investigates the nature of the Huns, putting foreward thier warlord style socio-political structure as something distinctive (only perhaps in that they took it to extremes) then we get to Attilla and his short lived empire aside from the usual hyperbole and some of the visual subtext (equating Attilla with Soviet style personality cut leadership etc. Uncle Attilla indeed….) it’s all very conventional and decently accurate in terms of the actual information conveyed. The Huns as Walter Pohl Terry’s onscreen historian for this segment explains to Terry and as Heather (as previusly mentioned a clear source for Terry dealing with late Antique barbarians who shows up later in the episode) claims in his writing were a society of parasites, Attilla being merely the biggest parasite of all (though Pohl does not put it quite so explicitly or nearly so negatively) Terry interestingly enough essentially runs with thier conclusion (even making a mafia reference in regards to the way Attilla operated), one with which I am also esentially in agreement, I know,I know this is scary not only am I agreeing with Heather but Jones himself! Fear not for something is still very wrong here (aside from me agreeing with Terry) that being Terry’s tone, how he chooses to emotively portray this data, he clearly admires (if perhaps ruefully) Attilla despite the fact that he seems to think (not as I have said without good cause) he’s the godfather, I quote: “It seems that Attilla really did think he was destined to rule the world, well he certainly made everyone around him believe it. But he didn’t want to rule the world the way the Romans did- you know actually having to run things, making laws and organizing administrations thats, thats a mug’s game. No all he needed was one secretary and a big army to get everyone to bow down before him, humbly submit and hand over the money, in the evenings he would come home to singing maidens holding white cloths over his head and watch everyone grovel. Now thats ruling the world!”  Now you may be thinking this makes perfect sense he’s having some lighthearted fun, loads of people think Vikings or pirates and yes the Mafia are cool it doesn’t mean they approve of them morally no need to be a prude loads of documentaries have a bit of fun some badass warlords.

Yes all of this is true and in many circumstances perfectly fine (historical comedy and selective admiration of historical figures is a complicated social issue, why is it ok to make jokes about Viking sacks and not Soviet Gulags or genuinly admire the military genius of Genghis Khan but not the charisma of Adolf Hitler seperate from thier policies and broader persons etc.) I wrote for an ancient history revue for years (and will probably do so again) and wrote skits involving comedy about crucifiction, persectution, murder, oppression etc, and on the selective admiration side of the coin have long admired many of the qualities of historical figures of shall we say suspect characters Genghis Khans determination and energy, Stalin’s cunning etc. and there can be no denying the awesome badassery of the likes of Sulla, Tamerlane, Baibars, Robert Guiscard, (Tywin Lannister;)) etc. Which brings me to the first of my two objections: Terry? Attilla, really!? HE”S your badboy historical crush (well one of, the great thing about this is you can have as many as you want)? oh Terry……….you can do SO much better, I know his name’s kinda cool and you add in the nickname “the Scourge of God” and it starts sounding really cool and he’s got this sword called the sword of Mars (supposedly) and that story from Priscus you related about him is just awesome isn’t it practically dreamy. But Honey they’ve like ALL got swords it don’t matter what you call it it’s what you do with it that counts, like how many people has he killed in single combat? Oh none……Heraclius emperor of Byzantium killed like loads, total f*cking badass, like seriusly but maybe he’s too much of a goodie goodie for you and as for strength well Theodoric the Ostrogoth like cut a guy in two at dinner before he could blink then joked that the poor bastard wouldn’t have had time to sh*t. In terms of badass nicknames there was this guy called Nicephorus Phocas who’s nickname was “pale death of the saracens” no idea what the pale part refers to but thats pretty damn cool, you want badass barbarians did Attilla make a drinking cup out of the skull of a Roman emperor he’d killed? Did Attilla even kill a Roman emperor? wow talk about overrated, he at least sacked Rome right?…………why is this guy famous again? ok so Attilla probably outmaneurverd and killed his brother Bleda to attain sole rulership but thats like ruthless backstabbing 101 a million monarchs did that. You want your ruthless intriguers, your machiavellian masterminds? you got your Wu Zetian empress of China your Tokugawa Ieyasu Shogun of Japan, Your Joseph Stalin your Basil I or every fourth Byzantine emperor and have you even met Augustus?! Play the field girl. And then there’s the Khan, face it Terry Attilla the (very) poor mans Genghis, Genghis rose from an outcast child eating roots in the wilderness to stay alive to found and rule an empire severel times larger than Attilla’s. He was more loved by his men and more widely feared by everybody else, and his empre survived his death. Attilla wasn’t just an ephemeral parasite he was also despite his fearsome reputation a mediocre general. dump his ass. Skank.

Now to my more serious objection namely the manipulative inconsistency you see while an analysis of the information provided by Terry and co on the huns may lead one upon reflection to disaprove of Attilla and his society to judge them a net detriment to civilisation Terry crucially does not do the job for you, this would be fine perhaps even commendable (depending on the documentary’s point) if he extended the same courtesy to the Romans. If you recall way back in episode one in regards to Caesar and the gaul’s, Caesar’s actions are not described with roguish admiration but with moral outrage and self-righteous indignation, the Roman desire to “rule the world” (if they had any such) is condemned in episode 3, their supposed leeching role in regards to the societies they conquered, thier avarice condemned. Caesar is judged, Rome is condemned even for that that she should not be while Attilla is forgiven even praised. By this point the series has well established itself as a work of revisionist moral instruction and its treatment of Attilla undermines Terry’s little witch-burning.

Terry then relates Attilla’s final campaigns first his invasian of Gaul in which he claims the battle that stopped Attilla’s invasian killed more people than any other battle in history, the battle of the Cautalonian fields would certainly have seen immense slaughter but here Terry is almost certainly taking ancient sources on the matter at face value. If one were to take all Ancient sources on face value I suspect it would have been some Chinese enagagement but even modern historians often ignore Chinese history when proclaiming this or that to the biggest city, the greatest empire, the largest battle up to that point in history but it’s just that a strong suspicion. Regardless one shouldn’t take the numbers provided in ancient sources at face value anyway and I strongly suspect considering it’s previusly superior resources and resource management that the Roman army had fought bigger and bloodier battles whose numbers were less inflated than this struggle couched in apocalyptic terms probably was.

Next he relates Attilla’s final campaign his invasian of Italy, well he doesn’t really relate the campaign just pope Leo the Great’s meeting with Attilla to convince him not to sack Rome, he in my view correctly surmises that the view put foreward by the Catholic Church that Attilla was threatened by saints Peter and Paul and the pagan fled from Italy of his own accord through fear of divine wrath is shall we say very, very, (very) suspect. He then blithely implies that it was probably because the Pope paid him off, while papal bribery may certainly have played a part Terry omits to mention three important details, one, that the Eastern Empire was taking advantage of Attilla’s (and his army’s) abscence to invade his territories, two, that at long last the Western Romans were approaching with an army of thier own and finally that Attilla’s army had come down with plague. All three factors may have convinced Attilla to withdraw his already booty laden army but would undermine Terry’s portrayel here that Attilla was strong and the empire weak (which it was just not near as much as portrayed).

Terry goes on to inflate the importance of Pope Leo’s propaganda coup to the Catholic Church and the Papacy in particular claiming Attilla created the Pope and “All he left behind was his last rival the pope, who would dominate Europe for the next millenium, Rome didn’t fall to the barbarian it fell to the church, Attilla’s only real achievement was inadvertently to establish the pope of Rome as the unquestioned leader of the Roman Catholic Church, his legacy was not the foundation of a magnificent barbarian kingdom but a Catholic one.” Leo and the papacy made great currency on his supposed saving of Rome from Attilla but this massively overstates the case, the papacy most certainly could not claim to have dominated Europe for the next thousand years, as discounting non-Christian Europe (be it Islamic, Polytheist etc) the pope’s were often deposed by or puppets of local Roman nobility and strong men much less Byzantine or Holy Roman emperors or other monarchs, there were often rival pope’s and the papacy very often failed to control Rome much less Europe, it was a powerful and very important institution but not that powerful, indeed before the schism with the East in the 100’s CE the papacy certainly couldn’t claim unquestioned dominance of the church even amongst fellow bishops as the patriarch of Constantinople could attest and Byzantine and Holy Roman emperors had their own claims to spiritual authority. Over the centuries following Leo the papacy would on the whole increase it’s importance at times dramatically but this was a long and complicated process that began before Leo and was not inevitable and anyone claiming that from Leo onward for the next Thousand years the papacy would dominate the Catholic Church and Europe doesn’t have any idea what thier talking about, at all.

As for the Church destroying Rome, if your going to parrot Gibbon Terry then please explain why the Eastern Empire survived or at least try to make a case, it’s possible it contributed but it doesn’t really hold water as some kind of primary cause.

And with that we are done with Attilla and the Huns and on to Gaiseric and the Vandals. Terry relates How the Vandals (though he omits that thier were two seperate Vandal polities at the time) fled across the Rhine as a migrating people fleeing the Huns and looking for somewhere to settle, the devastation that follows throughout France and then Spain in the wake of the wandering people’s (other groups such as the Alans were migrating through the region at the same time though Terry doesn’t mention this) is blamed on the Romans and others attacking them with Terry focusing on the sufferings of the vandals not the inhabitants of France and Spain, blaming them and the Romans for the violence against the poor vandals who were just looking for a place to settle, with thier political structure intact of course, and seemingly indignant and incredulous that the Romans wouldn’t leave them alone. Migrating people’s in the ancient world were dangerous, desperation to survive brings out the thief and murderer in people, food would have been scarce and they would have had little means of purchasing it and even if they had wished to the Vandal leaders would have found it extremely different to control thier people in these circumstances and stop looting, murderering and raping and these all happened. Despite Terry’s claims that the Vandals were a peaceful people they had raided the empire before and this was an invasian, that’s what settling in someone else’s territory through force is called Terry and that should prove sufficient explanation for why the Romans weren’t so keen on the Vandals.

We then move on to Gaiseric and the Vandals Arianisim (though thats not what they would have called it) which Terry claims was more reviled by the Catholics (to the extent we should remember to which our understanding of the term Catholic is applicable to the time period, much of present doctrine for the Catholic Church had not yet been established) than the beliefs they would entitle Pagan, giving as evidence it’s outlawing by Rome at the time as “paganisim” was also outlawed this isn’t a very good argument and broadly speaking was untrue there was a lot of hostility between Arians and Catholics but probably less than between Catholics and “pagans”, case in point contrary to Terry’s portrayel it is the pagan Attilla not the Arian Gaiseric who is painted as more of the sinister other, though both men are treated with hostility.

Terry then goes on to claim that the primary reason for Roman opposition to Arianisim was that as the emperor was associated with Jesus (Terry plays up the association considerably) the Arian doctrine that the son was not the equal of the father diminished the emperor and threatened the concept of Imperial infallibility in which the Romans believed. Considering the early Christian emperors Constantine I (the first “Christian” emperor) and his son Constantius had arian sympathies and were most definitly autocratic personalities it is difficult to justify this explanation but Terry’s case is further weakened by the fact that there was never a widely held belief in the empire that the emperors were infallible nor did they claim to be so, this is a basic error or a lie and suits Terry’s attempts now and later in this episode to liken the emperor to the pope and the papal doctrine of infallibility, the comparison is not even remotely apt and besides the papal doctrine itself would not exist for some centuries. The very few other comments on religion and state mentioned such as the political independence asserted from the emperor and empire by a king being Arian rather than Catholic essentially holds true.


What follows is a few minutes of largely ineffectual but not very informative stuff on Gaiseric and his people’s invasian ended by the downplaying of Vandal persecutions of catholics mocking them for complaning that Gaiseric banned thier hymns, one can’t help but think that the banning of key and inoffensive rituals for other faiths would get him up in arms, what follows is a description of the wealth and sophistication of late Roman North Africa and it’s largest city Carthage in particular and it’s strategic importance to Rome through taxation of it’s wealth and the supply of free grain to Italy and Rome in particular, here Heather’s influence shows yet again and he is one of the experts consulted in this section, the picture of ruins are pretty and the picture is essentially accurate (to the extent of my knowledge) and I’m grateful for a few minutes repreive from the stupid and asinine. Though Terry only mentions one of a number of Roman attempts to retake North Africa to emphasize another legacy of Attilla for thematic reasons it is only with the account of the Vandal sack of Rome that we again enter truly dodgy territory Terry strongly implies that the infamous Vandal sack of Rome despite going on for 14 days was practically bloodless and minimal and essentially insignificant in it’s levels of destruction, if you believe that of a three week sack of an ancient city well, I can’t think of anything clever to say so basically: you are a moron. It shoyld be noted that the peaceful civilised Vandals under Gaiseric’s penchant for large scale Meditteranean piracy and conquest of islands (such as Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica) is never so much as mentioned.

Finally we come to how civilsed the Vandals were mentioning thier poets and architects/engineers I don’t know enough to comment on poetry specifically but like the writers of most early barbarian kingdoms most would have been culturally Roman, outside the class of society deemed by both the Vandals themeselves and the Roman empires as Vandals and this is certainly the case with engineers and architects, not much calling for that proffession in the tribe’s of Germania, my only real problem with this is that cultural Greeks who were Roman citizens are usually not counted as Romans by Terry so why should cultural Romans residing in Vandal ruled North Africa? Otherwise this breif section is ok, the Vandals did not utterly destroy the wealth and culture of the society they conquered, well done. Finally it should also be mentioned that this like prior episodes takes favourable accounts or opinions of barbarian people’s or leaders as in previous episodes at face value while questioning more hostile accounts only, shades of Tacitus, the Germans and episode 2……….

Finally we get to the last roughly five minutes and wrapping up the series, in which Terry explains if the Roman empire fell and the barbarians were like super cool guys why is it that the Roman view has prevailed? Because Catholicism. Well thats simple, The Catholic Church was responsible for the preservation of most surviving Ancient literature and was an institution of the Roman empire, it’s language was Latin, the Vandals were Arians, the Huns non-christians as were the earlier barbarians. Of course there was bias in what the church chose to preserve and yet more in what they themeselves wrote but the bias was not absolute, Catholic scribe’s dutifully copied texts that contained anti-Christian material and plenty of material complimentary to non-Romans and Non-Greeks and it should be noted that often no-one was stopping the various groups Terry has mentioned from writing and preserving thier own material, it is natural for any society, political, social or ideological to focus on there own society put simply if the huns didn’t write anything or leave a sufficient cultural legacy then they shouldn’t go blaming the Catholic Church for not making sure they were remembered in appropriately loving detail.

Terry: “If I’ve learn’t one thing making these programs about barbarians it’s that nothing is ever as simple as it seems”

Thus Terry relates is how “we”, by which I assume he means Western Europeans (and to an extent ex-colonies of such), lost our history and forgot the story of our ancestors, while you would be hard pressed to find a European without “barbarian” blood in his veins considering Vandals and Goths, Huns, franks etc. merely composed a small fraction of the population of the regions thier kings came to politically control compared to the local Roman citizenry and basically everybody at some point is related to everybody else, especially in Europe that’s essentially meaningless, this surface elite it should be noted largely culturally assimilated into the local populations, French, Spanish and Italian are easily more influenced by Latin than the Germanic languages of thier conquerors, the literature, religion, architecture and legal systems of Western Europe are also easily more influenced by Rome than any of the barbarian groups mentioned except perhaps the Greeks who should never have really been in this doco series anyway (for reasons explained in the opening paragraphs of my third post on this subject), this is not to say that the history and culture of the Vandals, Huns, Goths, Celts etc. Aren’t important, they are but the implication here in calling this the real history is to claim that they were more important or at least more legitimate, the first implication is simply untrue the second insidious. There are many history’s and there’s nothing inherantly wrong with revisionisim, perhaps this history corrected some of the myths you held to about Antiquity but if so it probably replaced them with even more, jumping on bandwagons and proclaiming old perspectives as revolutionary and new isn’t very clever, demonising one side and idolising another isn’t very clever, lying to your audience isn’t very………respectable, this series isn’t very clever and those proffesional scholars who associated themeselves with it if they had any idea what was going on should be ashamed.

Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!- Monty Python’s life of Brian.

In conclusion regardless of what you think of his politics Terry Jones demonstrates amply in this politically correct pompous propaganda piece that unlike everyone’s favorite non-messiah he doesn’t want you to think for yourself, He doesn’t wish to try to persuade you fairly, adult to adult, mind to mind and respect you and the evidence, Terry wants you to follow him, because he knows better and he doesn’t have the time to let the truth get in the way of convincing you so, instead he relies on spin and outright lies, after all he has all that smug lazy sarcasm to fit in…..that and the cross-dressing…….your not the messiah Terry your just a Very naughty boy.

heil me

Sulla’s shadow: The proscriptions and the defining of a generation

Madame Guilotine

Hi all, I’ve kinda been thinking lately about how so many that mattered in the generation of senators who replaced the initial cabal of senior statesman dominant in Roman politics upon Sulla’s death (eg. Catulus, Hortensius, Lucullus etc) regardless of faction had a Sullan defiance story. Pompey, Cicero, Caesar and Cato all had such a story. Sort of like the Bolsheviks and the October revolution or the generation of Brits who fought in the first world war or (in some ways closer to the mark) Germans and the third Reich.  Roman politicians, in particular those old enough to have been viewed as adults at the time of Sulla’s dictatorship but not senior enough to have been considered politically significant (the glaring exception there is Pompey who achieved great political significance at a very young age) asked each other where were you and what did you do when Sulla came to town. Seemingly everyone had to have a story that in many cases would form an integral part of the construction of their public Persona, It was clearly important to be seen to have in some way stood up to the dictator, similarly implication in the perceived excesses of the Sullan regime became the starting point for Character assassinations (see Catilina and Crassus (both enemies of Cicero who thus get their reputations blackened) and to an extent also Pompey).

So now let’s (crudely, oh so very crudely) relate and compare these stories in regards to their likelihood and impressiveness, by which I mean how much bravery they would have taken. Of All these stories Cicero’s is in many ways the least direct as it consisted of his defending a client of his (Sextus Roscius) on a charge of murder in court in one of Cicero’s first great cases, he did this by turning the trial into an attack on the corruption of Chrysogonus, Sulla’s freedmen who was overseeing the administration of much of the proscriptions in doing so Cicero was at least implicitly criticizing Sulla’s regime publicly, before a large crowd in the Roman forum itself. However Cicero went to pains to make it plain that he was not criticizing Sulla himself, even praising the man, laying all the excesses in question at the foot of a few corrupt individuals. As such Sulla was able to scapegoat Chrysogonus as he may have already intended (or not, either way) and Cicero a nobody with no army was clearly little threat. In terms of reliability though the speech handed down to us of the trial by Cicero has likely been slightly revised by him after the fact, this was a well known public event and if Cicero had not in fact said something like what is recorded his enemies (in which he was seldom deficient) would have exposed it easily, the gist of this Sullan defiance story is thus in my view highly reliable, this one happened ladies and gentlemen. Oh and he won the case btw.

Now to Pompey whose defiance story is as brazen, direct and impudent as they come, but that’s Pompey for you (another reason these stories likely survived is that they were likely reflected the public perception of these historical personages as well as helping to create it in a sort of cyclical effect), Firstly according to Plutarch after Pompey had defeated the Marian/Cinnan/Carbo (rapid turnover of leadership among the faction, I don’t even think Carbo was the leader any more by the time of Pompey’s victory in Africa) faction in Africa Sulla commanded him to dismiss most of his legions and await replacement as governor, instead Pompey’s army mutinied and returned to Rome, Pompey claimed (and Plutarch believes him, more fool him) that he the mutiny was against his wishes and he tried to stop it, and if you believe this of Pompey I have a house I’d like to sell you…..nevertheless Sulla backed down and welcomed Pompey back, Pompey then demanded a triumph, Sulla refused to grant it to him in the words of Plutarch “intimating that he could not by any means yield to his request, but if he would persist in his ambition, that he was resolved to interpose his power to humble him” to which Pompey replied that “More people worship the rising than the setting sun” implying that while his own power was rising that Sulla’s was waning, or to point out the sheer impudence, gall and hubris of such a statement: “it’s my time old man, you’ve had yours, get out of my way”. Seemingly stunned by the sheer gall of this Sulla backed down immediately exclaiming “let him triumph”.

As to the reliability of the above, the mutiny and march on Rome could hardly be a made up anecedote (“Yo remember when Pompey’s army marched on Rome in defiance of Sulla”, “hang on when did that happen”, you get the point, this isn’t the kind of thing that turns out to be an after the fact myth) so the earlier parts definitely solid, except in regards to Pompey’s motivations and role in the ‘mutiny’ to which I feel as evidenced by Pompey’s record for egotisim and treachery I must say liar! liar! Toga on fire! As to the stuff about the triumph, well we know Pompey triumphed for his campaign in Africa and as to the famous exchange Plutarch makes it clear that others were present but he gives no detail as to who those others were, this part is more likely to be apocryphal but still unlikely to be, both Pompey and especially Sulla were important people at the time, at the heart of Public life as such if this were in some way a public exchange (even if just among Rome’s elite) there are important people who would have known about it. As to the impressiveness of the defiance we have already mentioned it’s brazenness and audacity but it should always be remembered that unlike any of the others I’m covering he had a personal army to back him up. People with their own armies tend to get a bit of leeway with the boss, keep that in mind while angling for your next promotion.

Next up is Caesar, Now Caesar was a bit younger than Cicero and Pompey and held (or was scheduled to hold) a priesthood -the Flamen Dialis, that was really restrictive in its rules as well (for instance the Flamen Dialis could not have contact with iron, ride a horse or go far from the city and thus obviously could not lead an army or have much of a chance at a significant political career, at some point Sulla removed his priesthood carving the way ironically considering what I am about to convey for Caesar’s brilliant future politico/military career) and thus had not really entered public life, his family was patrician but was not prominent among Rome’s senatorial families and until recently had been outright obscure and for someone of a senatorial family the young Caesar was outright poor. He was however Marius nephew by marriage and married to Cinna’s daughter. In Sullan Rome this was a problem, Sulla demanded that Caesar divorce his wife, Caesar refused, indeed according to my plutarch (Plutarch doesn’t connect this explicitly with Sulla’s demand for Caesar’s divorce but it is normally associated with it and as we have no other accounts of a disagreement between the two aside from a confused reference to a priesthood by Plutarch that is likely a mistake for something else….) Sulla threatened him with his power to which Caesar answered him with a smile, “You do well to call it your own, as you bought it.” referring to allegations that Sulla won election to the office of Praetor through bribery. As a consequence of his defiance Caesar’s property was seized and a price put on his head, he went into hiding, supposedly having to bribe a soldier who captured him after he caught Malaria. Fortunately for Caesar his family also had connections with Sulla and pressured him to pardon the boy, Caesar was no threat and his connections to Sulla’s enemies old and made as a child, with Cinna long dead Caesar’s marriage to his daughter did not mean that much in practical terms.

This is one impressive story a young political nobody with no private army defying the dictator to his face and seemingly even calmly insulting him when subsequently threatened, this is in my opinion the most impressive of all the stories and it is important to note that of the four men discussed here he was the only one who was actually proscribed (this time around Cicero turn would come……), even if it was later revoked, that has got to win you some serious street cred. What’s more is that just like the preceding 2 tales it’s even likely to be true. Proscriptions and appeals would have been matters of public record and knowledge, the social world that Sulla, Caesar and Caesar’s relatives lived in was such that if a young patrician (the son-in-law of the late Cinna no less) was proscribed then pardoned people would know about it, furthermore like Cicero Caesar had many enemies throughout his career and there is a significant anti-Caesarean strain in much literature including much of Cicero’s prolific writings, if this wasn’t true he was unlikely to get away with it. The one aspect of the story on shaky ground is Caesar’s retort to Sulla’s threat, it is not near as well represented in the sources as the actual refusal, threat and flight and smacks more of anecedote, besides unlike the essential facts of the matter who would remember the gritty details of Caesar’s exchange with Sulla well enough to be able to deny a zinger. It could still easily be true however.

Cato in HBO”s drama Rome
Cato the Younger.

Finally we come to Cato Uticenses or Cato the Younger (we are just going to call him Cato), with his reputation as a particularly stubborn arch-conservative Cato is often depicted in film and popular culture as older than he actually was. For example in the novel series “emperor” Cato is portrayed as much older than Caesar (as well as a fat hedonistic amoral Machiavellian senior Sullan who dies during the Spartacus rebellion………I don’t know where to start………) in HBO”s Rome he is played by an actor who looks older than the guy they got for Pompey, much less Caesar and the same is the case for the 2002 mini-series called Julius Caesar where Christopher Walken plays Cato as a senator of long standing at the time of Sulla’s takeover of Rome and decades older than Caesar and again significantly older than Pompey (Richard Harris, the first Dumbledore, played Sulla in one of his last performances….so there’s a contrast…….). In reality Cato was the youngest of the four and unfortunately for him seemingly on the very edge of this generation, old enough to be expected to have such a story perhaps but not old enough to have much of a chance at actually having one, Caesar had not yet begun his public career and Cato was roughly 5 years his junior.  His story is that his tutor was wont to take him to Sulla’s house to wait on him (this was possible due to Sulla’s relationship with Cato’s family) in order for him and the boy to attain favour, Cato seeing the excesses of The Sullan regime up close and sensing the terror of those around him enquired of his tutor “Why does nobody kill this man?” his tutor replied that it was because they feared him more than they hated him, “why then” inquired Cato “did you not give me a sword, that I might stab him, and free my country from this slavery?” and afterwards seeing that he meant it his tutor kept a closer eye on him.

Well doesn’t that sound bold?! None of the previous stories go as far as muting a likely suicidal assassination attempt! and all this from a teenage boy!…………it does indeed SOUND bold but I just highlighted the key word for you in that statement, sound. All the other stories mentioned include some ACTUAL defiance of Sulla (Pompey, Caesar) or at the very least open criticism of his regime (Cicero), the declaration is audacious but it is made in anger to his tutor, not to a crowd, not to other members of the Senatorial class and certainly not to Sulla and as to actions well let’s just say he obviously never got that sword (Cato must decided to put off the whole martyrdom thing till a more futile time after he’d achieved his professional goal of starting a Civil war). We’ve all said some pretty daring things (especially when very young) when no-one, only close friends or someone less important than us is around.

As to it’s reliability well for the reasons given in the previous paragraph this story is extremely unreliable too, there are no reliable witnesses, just Cato and his tutor, a socially inferior employee of his family. What’s more it’s case as something impressive is based entirely on Cato’s tutor (Sarpedon) believing according to Plutarch that he’d do it too, that’s a few too many degree’s of separation for my liking all other stories mentioned involved something notably more public or at least involved witnesses of equal or greater standing to the putative politician in question. Incidentally this isn’t even supposed to be Cato’s first defiance of a powerful figure, Plutarch (who else?) records that he stood up to the threats of Poppaedius Silo a leader of the Socii people the Marsi (Italian allies of Rome) who had playfully asked the children of Drusus’s household (where Cato grew up) to support him and Drusus in their bid to gain the Roman citizenship for the Italian allies. As this soon happened (after a war, thanks to people who shared Cato’s attitude) It seems even as a small child Cato was determined to stubbornly back history’s losing sides.

Murder of Cicero.

In conclusion I think I’ve shed a little light on Sulla’s effect on what Erich Gruen dubbed “the last generation of the Roman Republic” and shown how for

book on Cato, picture is artists rendition of his death by suicide in Utica.

politicians of this generation your perceived actions during the dictatorship and terror of Lucius Cornelius Sulla formed an integral part of your origin story, for better or worse. Indeed this seems to have been so Important that Cato or those who supported or sympathized with him felt the need to claim that a very young Cato would have killed the Dictator for being a tyrant………if his tutor hadn’t stopped him….., in other words it was inconceivable to those who saw Cato as the greatest defender of the Republic’s narrow conception of liberty of his generation that he had had not in some way stood up to Sulla and so he or those who sought to believe in him clutched at/constructed rumors. In light of the less dubious and arguably more impressive defiance of all the others mentioned for someone whose authority was heavily reliant on moral pre-eminence  by comparison to his rivals (Pompey the absurdly rich accomplished general and administrator, Cicero the extremely talented lawyer and orator and Caesar, Cato’s great enemy, who was not only a great orator, politician, administrator and general but also had the most impressive Sulla defiance story) this was especially important as Cato had no great conquests to his name, no brilliant reputation in the courts and never even reached the consulship too bad he or some supporter had to lie to give it to him. Finally it is interesting to note that despite continued political instability, violence and outright civil war it is only with the emergence of a new and younger generation who were outright children or (In Octavian’s case) not even born at the time of Sulla’s proscriptions that the ugly practice returns, it is in a strange and morbid way fitting that the last survivor of these four dictator defiers died as a result of these second proscriptions and that though they survived Sulla none died of natural causes make of that what you will.

By the way I don’t much care for Cato, thought you should know.

Regards,Samuel ‘I said someone should kill Robert Mugabe once, where’s my medal’ Runge.

Ladies and gentlemen, we got him: Sulla, Sallust and the capture of Jugurtha

A long time ago (in my second post) I talked about/compared the various layers of historical bias in favour of the Roman political figures Marius and Sulla and at one point I mentioned how Sulla’s writing of his own memoirs (even though they haven’t survived) lead to bias in his favour as other ancient writers (whose writings have survived, at least in part) used said memoirs as a source without being sufficiently critical (which was kinda their thing…..). For example I believe insufficiently critical use of Sulla’s memoirs as a source is responsible for the content of the following extract (keep in mind that if I’m wrong about the present extract there’s no shortage of other potential examples) from Sallust’s Jugurthine war, more specifically the extract is about Sulla’s negotiations with king Bocchus of Mauretania and the negotiations of Jugurtha and his representative with the same king:

“On the next day the king [Bocchus] called Aspar, Jugurtha’s legate, and said that through the agency of Dabar he knew from Sulla that the war could be laid aside under certain conditions: could he therefore find out the opinion of his king. Delightedly the man set off for Jugurtha’s camp; then, fully informed by the latter, he sped on his way and returned to Bocchus after eight days and reported that, while Jugurtha desired to do everything that was being commanded, he had little confidence in Marius: often before, a peace agreed with Roman commanders had proved fruitless; but, if Bocchus wanted the interests of both of them to be consulted and a certified peace, he should do his best to ensure that they all convened for a dialogue as if concerning peace, and should there hand Sulla over to himself: when he had such a man in his power, that would be the time for a treaty to be made on the order of senate or people! A noble individual in the power of the enemy not through his own cowardly apathy but for the sake of the commonwealth would not be abandoned.”

Now to me this seems suspect, Sulla at this time was not a very important Roman magistrate or a figure of much standing, he was a Quastor, the lowest rung on the cursus honorum, furthermore his family though patrician were obscure and he himself was born into (by Senatorial standards at the very least) poverty. As members of Rome’s elite go he was not at the time important, lacking office’s and achievements and likely money and friends as well. Why then would his capture result in much better conditions of peace for Jugurtha? At least ones that would last,on a few occasions whole Roman armies (with thier commanders) had been surrounded facing nearly certain destruction and their commanders had signed peace treaties with the enemy in order to get themselves and/or their men home alive. However on all occasions once the Roman army had gotten safely away the treaty was repudiated. Jugurtha himself early in the same war had by his surrounding of a Roman army provided an example of this behaviour. Furtheremore during the First Punic war Carthage captured Marcus Atilius Regulus, a Roman pro-consul, who had been consul twice (one suffect but still) and
refused to bargain for his safe return.This extract smacks of Sulla building himself up after the fact, with hindsight on Sullust’s part projecting Sulla’s later importance to his very early career (Ancient biographers/historians loved over projecting stuff from the later years of a key figure to thier early life/career, indeed thier over and inappropriate use of projecting would make the modern motivational industry proud) this and the lack of other available sources conspired succesfully to obtain Sullust’s credulity.

The adventures of Invincitoe and other amusing Ancient source soundbites

Hello all, in the interests of laziness this is a longer list of funny ancient quotations with commentary composed of the stuff that wasn’t Alexander the Great related, to explain context efficiently (for me not for you, heavens forbid that) I just slightly edited the intro from my Alexander the Great amusing quotations list to serve as this one’s intro.

Hello All, I realize I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I’d remedy that. As you’ve no doubt noticed this isn’t the fourth and hopefully final post on Terry Jones Barbarians. No I’m far too lazy to do that right now, what this is is a collection of amusing soundbites with pithy and generally silly commentary by me largely but exclusively from Plutarch that I put up on facebook quite some time ago (courtesy of my lack of a social life finding it was much easier than you might assume). The Plutarch stuff was from a thing I did called Plutarch week where I read through a Penguin Classics volume of Greek lives by Plutarch (theoretically one every day or so….) and posted amusing quotes on my wall with what I hoped passed for amusing commentary, the idea was that it would motivate me to keep reading by adding a social dimension etc. I got the idea from doing a bit of the same kind of thing while reading through Suetonius, only it turns out Suetonius is much better suited to that kind of thing (should have seen that one coming). Plutarch is chock full of the weird, the amusing and the absurd.

But his style is different and didn’t lend itself that well to the Facebook format (which may well be a form of praise…..), quotations often had to be longer to establish context and a lot of stuff that was funny to me  would be extremely difficult to explain, This fact and the lack of general responsiveness to my quotes made the task more of a chore than a motivator but I had committed myself and so Plutarch week ended up being more like Plutarch month. Basically this is not a list of the most interesting and certainly not close to the most profound or useful of Plutarch’s passages nor those of Suetonius as passage’s from him were selected along the same lines. Nor are they even necessarily the funniest just the humorous ones I happened to post that were deemed serviceable (ish) as wall posts.

Before we begin a note on Suetonius: Among the lost works of Suetonius are treatise on bodily defects, on correct terms for clothing, on famous courtesans and “on Greek terms of abuse”- So basically he wrote a book on Greek insults……why is it all the cool works are lost……

“The great toe of his right foot was also said to possess a divine power, so that when the rest of his body was burned after his death, this was found unharmed and untouched by the fire.”- Plutarch, life of Pyrrhus, 3. Just like his purported ancestor Achilles part of Pyrrhus body was apparently invincible- only rather than having an Achilles heel Pyrrhus had an Achilles absolutely everything except the right toe….and now I’m imagining the adventures of a super hero with one invulnerable toe……

“The enemy became all the more elated when Pyrrhus was struck on the head with a sword, and retired a little way from the fighting. One of the Mamertines, a man of giant stature clad in shining Armour ran out in front of the ranks and challenged Pyrrhus in a loud voice to come foreword if he were still alive. This infuriated Pyrrhus, and in spite of the efforts of his guards to protect him, he wheeled round and forced his way through them. His face was smeared with blood and his features contorted into a terrible expression of rage. Then before the barbarian could strike, he dealt him a tremendous blow on the head with his sword. So great was the strength of his arm and the keenness of the blade that it cleft the man from head to foot, and in an instant the two halves of his body fell apart.”- Plutarch, life of Pyrrhus, 24. So yeah incidentally invincitoe here was pretty badass- at least personally, that and he could supposedly cure diseases of the spleen with his right foot (coincidence that it was the right foot? I don’t think so!) and ladies, he’s polygamous!

“Demetrius went to war with the people of Rhodes because they were allies of Ptolemy and he moved up against thier walls the greatest of his so-called ‘city-takers’. This was a seige tower with a square base, each side of which measured seventy-two feet at the bottom. It was ninety-nine feet high with the upper part tapering off to narrower dimensions……The machine never tottered or leaned on its base, advancing with an even motion and with a noise and an impetus that inspired mingled feelings of alarm and delight in all who beheld it”.- Plutarch, life of Demetrius, 21. And so the Rhodians oooed and ahhh’d as they watch the oversized “firm and upright” phallic symbol approach to breach their walls………….

“On another occasion when Demetrius had been drinking for several days continuously, he excused his absence by saying that he had been laid up with a severe cold. ‘So I heard’, remarked Antigonus, ‘but did your cold come from Chios or from Thasos?’ Another time after hearing that his son was sick, Antigonus went to visit him and met one of his beautiful mistresses coming away from his room. Antigonus went inside, sat down by his side, and felt his pulse. ‘The fever has left me now’, Demetrius told him, ‘Yes, so I see’, his father replied, ‘I met it just now as it was going away’.”- Plutarch, life of Demetrius, 19. Ah, classic father-son banter, Antigonus and Demetrius should have a sitcom.

“Demosthenes, one of the orators who opposed his policies, said to him, ‘One of these days, Phocian, the Athenians will kill you, if they lose their heads,’ to which Phocian replied, ‘Yes, but they will kill you, if they get them back again”- Plutarch, life of Phocian, 9. Classic.

“So when they complimented Phillip as the most eloquent speaker, the handsomest man and the drinker with the biggest capacity in the company, Demosthenes could not from belittling these tributes and retorting sarcastically that the first of these qualities was excellent for a sophist, the second for a woman, and the third for a sponge, but none of them for a king”- Plutarch, life of Demosthenes, 16. Chauvinist? yes, hypocritical? very, but still pretty good.

“However he himself was one of the first to be brought to court [he had been bribed with stolen goods, at least according to Plutarch], and when the case was heard, he was found guilty, sentenced to a fine of fifty talents, and committed to prison in default of payment…….he escaped thanks to the negligence of some of his gaolers, and the active assistance of others.”- Plutarch, life of Demosthenes, 26. ladies and gentlemen I present to you Demosthenes, orator spectacular, champion of liberty (in this case his own) and Democracy.

“At any rate the people of Athens were so pleased with Demosthenes efforts that they voted for him to be recalled from exile. The degree was introduced by Demon of Paenia, who was a cousin of Demosthenes”- Plutarch, life of Demosthenes, 27. Considering the disaster that would befall Athens in Demosthenes latest and last attempt to throw off Macedonian Hegemony it is perhaps fitting that he was called forth by a Demon….

“When reports came in that Antipater and Craterus were marching upon Athens, Demosthenes and his supporters escaped secretly from the city, and the people condemned them to death…Antipater sent troops to scour the country and arrest them: these detachment were under the command of Archias, who was known as ‘the exile-hunter’. This man was a citizen of the colony of Thurii in Italy, and it was said that he had been a tragic actor, and that Polus of Aegina, the finest actor of his time, had been a pupil of his. According to Hermippus, however, Archias had been one of the pupils of Lacritus the rhetoritician, while Demetrius of Phalerum says that he was a pupil of Anaximenes the historian.”- Plutarch, life of Demosthenes, 28. Does anyone else think it’s a tragedy *wink* that Archias the dramatically, rhetorically and historically trained all singing, all dancing exile-hunter isn’t yet a TV show?

“Telecleides…the most distinguished and influential man in Corinth rose and appealed to Timoleon to show all his valor in the enterprise he was undertaking. ‘If you fight bravely’, he said, ‘we shall think of you as the man who destroyed a tyrant, but otherwise as the man who killed his brother'”- Plutarch, life of Timoleon, 7. ‘This is your moment of vindication Timoleon, hero or fratricide, no pressure.’ Mind in Ancient Greece their pretty much the same thing.

“For Sicily is sacred to Persephone: it is the scene of her mythical rape by Hades, and the island was presented to her as a wedding gift”- Plutarch, life of Timoleon, 8. Hades: ‘Yo Persephone dear, you know that Island where we first met?’ Persephone: ‘…..yes…..’ Hades: ‘Well I got it for you as a wedding gift, so you can revisit all the happy memories anytime you want!’ Persephone: ‘……………’

“He [Timoleon] had it proclaimed that any Syracusan who wished could come with a crowbar and help to cast down the bulwarks of tyranny. Thereupon the whole population went up to the fortress, and taking that day and its proclamation to mark a truly secure foundation to thier freedom, they overthrew and demolished not only the citadel but also the palaces and tombs of the tyrants.”- Plutarch, life of Timoleon, 22. So basically a Syracusan Bastille day, fitting, considering the “freedom won” on that day lasted about as long as the freedom of the French during the revolution……

“He [Plato] maintained that the life of the just is happy, while the life of the unjust is full of misery….Accordingly, as Plato was by then anxious to leave Sicily, they arranged passage for him on a tirireme which was taking Pollis the Spartan envoy back to Greece. But Dionysius secretly approached Pollis and asked him to have Plato killed on the voyage, or, if not, at least to sell him into slavery. This he argued, would not do Plato any harm, since according to his own doctrines he would, as a just man, be equally happy even if he became a slave. Pollis therefore took Plato to Aegina, so we are told, and sold him into slavery”- Plutarch, life of Dion, 5. Is it bad that part of me feels Plato deserved this? I don’t think he learned a lesson though….

“The story goes that the young man [Dionysius II] once kept a drinking party going for ninety days in succession, and that during the whole of this time no person of consequence was admitted or business discussed, while the court was given over to carousing, scurrilous humour, singing, dancing and every kind of buffoonery”- Plutarch, life of Dion, 7. Move over Dionysus, theirs a new god of partying in town, and the best part is: we barely have to alter the temple inscriptions!

“All of these urged him [Plato] to make the journey, establish his influence over this youthful soul [dionysius II, tyrant of Syracuse], which was now being tossed and buffeted about as it were on seas of great power and absolute rule, and steady it with his balanced reasonings. So Plato yielded to these requests”- Plutarch, life of Dion, 11. “Oh that poor youthful *weak willed and impressionable* soul, burdened with absolute power, how could he cope without my guidance, without me to share the load, take the burden from his shoulders…..what?! how dare you question my motives! for I am the great Plato/Seneca/Aristotle, what could possibly go wrong?

“Dion sprang up on this, addressed the citizens, and urged them to defend their liberty. Then the people in an excstacy of joy and gratitude appointed Dion and Megacles generals with absolute powers” – Plutarch, life of Dion, 29. Dionysius reign of terror is over! now begins my reign of terr…iffic management!

“Now that the moment of opportunity seemed to have arrived, the conspirators set out in two parties. One, led by Pelopidas and Damocleides, was to attack Leontides and Hypates who lived near one another: the other under Charon and Melon went to Archias and Phillip. The men had put on women’s gowns over their breast-plates and wore thick wreaths of pine and fir which shaded thier faces. For this reason when they first came through the door of the dining-room, the company shouted and clapped their hands, imagining that the long-awaited women had at last arrived. The conspirators looked carefully around the party, took note of each one of the guests as they reclined, and then drawing their swords they threw off their disguise and made a rush for Archias and Phillip. Phillidas prevailed upon a few of the guests to stay quiet: the rest who staggered to their feet and tried to defend themselves and help the polemarchs were so drunk that they were easily dispatched”- Plutarch, life of Pelopidas, 11. *Ahem* “Are their any women here?”

“This is very like the answer which a less well known Spartan gave to an Argive who had said, ‘Many of you Spartans lie buried on Argive soil’, to which the Spartan retorted ‘Yes, and not one of you lies buried in Laconia.’- Plutarch, life of Agesilaus, 31. gotta love a little laconic wit;).

“So one solitary error turned the scale and destroyed the city’s strength and prosperity….The Spartan constitution was admirably designed to promote peace and virtue and harmony within the bounds of the state. But the Spartans had added to it an empire and a sovereignty won by force, something which Lycurgus would have regarded as quite superfluous to the well-being of a city, and it was for this reason that they lost their supremacy.”- Plutarch, life of Agesilaus, 33. I’m not sure that Lycurgus can talk considering the constitution of Sparta attributed to him depended on a large class of serfs acquired and suppressed by force and terror and near constant war and resulted in such a limited franchise as to leave the state incapable of absorbing defeats, if you create a constitution which requires constant war, but hampers the ability of said state from fully exploiting its victories or absorbing its defeats this kind of thing is only a matter of time- in short I’m calling bullsh*t on this one Plutarch.

“At the beginning of his [Domitian’s] principate he would spend hours every day closeted on his own, occupied with nothing other than catching flies and impaling them with a very sharp writing implement”- Suetonius, life of Domitian, 3. and thus we encounter villain cliche 14, from this alone we can determine that Domitian was either evil or a previous incarnation of Mr. Miyagi.

“Finally, seized with a passion for handling money, he would often walk with bare feet on the huge heaps of gold pieces he had piled up in the most public places and sometimes he would even roll about in them with his whole body.”- Suetonius, life of Caligula. So Scrooge Mcduck was based on Caligula, who knew.

“As regards lawyers, he acted as if he was going to abolish the profession, often threatening that he would make sure, by Hercules, that none of them could give an opinion that went against his own.”- Suetonius, life of Caligula. So you see kids Caligula wasn’t all bad.

“meanwhile those who had been instructed to dig their way through underground emerged inside a house where a woman miller happened (even though it was still dead of night) to be grinding flower. As she was about to cry aloud she was killed by a blow from the man who had surfaced first, Superantius, a worthy from the cohort of the victores.”- Zosimus on the storming of a town by Julians army in Persia.

haven’t you always wanted to know who killed the female miller? I can think of few more important things to know, I mean isn’t that something you want to be in the history books for? and with a name like Superantius and a position as august as a “worthy from the cohort of the victores” you just know that anything he does is going to be both heroic and epic! I the great Superantius, worthy from the cohort of the victores! was the one who slew the female miller in her house at the dead of night! tremble before me, for truly I am a defender of the weak and a slayer of the mighty!

And now I present for your entertainment the sack of Nero: “A lock of hair was placed on the head of his (Nero’s) statue, with a greek inscription: ‘Now finally there is real competition and you must give in at last’. a sack was tied to the neck of another together with the tag ‘I did what I could but you deserve the sack’.”- Suetonius, life of Nero.

“Near the end of his (Nero’s) life, indeed, he publicly made a vow that, if his regime survived, he would perform at the victory games on the water-organ, the flute, and the bagpipes”- Suetonius, life of Nero. Now part of me wishes Nero weathered that storm just to know that a Roman emperor played the bagpipes publicly……..bagpipes………

“among other parts, he (Nero) sang those of Canace giving birth, Orestes the matricide, Oedipus blinded, and Hercules insane.”- Suetonius, life of Nero. Those last three songs seem particularly fitting…..

singing Canace’s giving birth….origins of screamo anyone? but seriously Orestes killed his mother, Oedipus slept with his mother, Hercules went insane and killed his wife, Nero supposedly killed his wife in a fit of rage by assaulting her when she was pregnant causing her death soon after the pregnancy..supposedly (also blamed for the death of his first wife), I hardly need to point out the parallels to Oedipus and Orestes though…..it’s just too perfect..

from the Wei-lio: “the sea-water being bitter and unfit for drinking is the cause that few travellers come to this country (Ta-tsin, roughly Roman Syria…ish)” ……………..Now I’m fairly sure (haven’t personally tested it mind you) that ALL sea water is unfit for drinking…….

My Horse! My Horse! All your lives for my horse! And other amusing soundbites from the ancient sources on Alexander the Great.

Hello All, I realize I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I’d remedy that. As you’ve no doubt noticed this isn’t the fourth and hopefully final post on Terry Jones Barbarians. No I’m far too lazy to do that right now, what this is is a collection of amusing soundbites with pithy and generally silly commentary by me on Alexander the Great from his biography by Plutarch and the history of his campaigns by Arrian that I put on my Facebook wall a long time ago. The Plutarch stuff was from a thing I did called Plutarch week where I read through a Penguin Classics volume of Greek lives by Plutarch (theoretically one every day or so….) and posted amusing quotes on my wall with what I hoped passed for amusing commentary, the idea was that it would motivate me to keep reading by adding a social dimension etc. I got the idea from doing a bit of the same kind of thing while reading through Suetonius, only it turns out Suetonius is much better suited to that kind of thing (should have seen that one coming). Plutarch is chock full of the weird, the amusing and the absurd.

But his style is different and didn’t lend itself that well to the Facebook format (which may well be a form of praise…..), quotations often had to be longer to establish context and a lot of stuff that was funny to me  would be extremely difficult to explain, This fact and the lack of general responsiveness to my quotes made the task more of a chore than a motivator but I had committed myself and so Plutarch week ended up being more like Plutarch month. Basically this is not a list of the most interesting and certainly not close to the most profound or useful of Plutarch’s passages nor those of Arrian as passage’s from him were selected along the same lines. Nor are they even necessarily the funniest just the humorous ones I happened to post that were deemed serviceable (ish) as wall posts.

Fair warning Alexanderphiles, I don’t like Alexander. This dislike does not come from any aversion to the concept of the Great man in history (I have my hope’s/delusions for myself where that is concerned) nor a distaste for dead white males (I am morbidly aware that one day- barring expensive surgery or enough tattooing to give me ink poisoning- I will become one myself) or Conquerors for that matter. I find him and his times fascinating and acknowledge his genius. I do however think him overrated and think he gets off far too easily as far as the Ancient sources are concerned, particularly in regards to people he is often compared to like Caesar, above all I just think he was frankly more than a bit of a spoiled narcissistic ego-maniacal dick. Their disclaimer given we can have a serious or semi-serious conversation about Alexander another time for now: amusing quotes!

“It was Stasicrates who had remarked to Alexander at an earlier interview that of all mountains it was Mount Athos which could most easily be carved into the form and shape of a man and that if it pleased Alexander to command him, he would shape the mountain into the most superb and durable statue of him in the world: its left hand would enfold a city of ten thousand inhabitants, while out of its right would flow the abundant waters of a river which would pour, like a libation, into the sea.”- Plutarch, life of Alexander, 72. When founding a city and naming it after yourself isn’t enough what is left but to BE the city! Interesting coincidence that Mount Athos is now a very prominent Eastern Orthodox Holy site, littered with monasteries. Still at least it wasn’t Olympus…..

Note: this idea was almost certainly never actually mooted (at the very least on this scale) and according to the story Alexander declined the suggestion anyway.

“Aristobulus declares that his drinking bouts were prolonged not for their own sake- for he was never, in fact, a heavy drinker- but simply because he enjoyed the companionship of his friends”- Arrian, The campaigns of Alexander, book 7. Aha, sure Aristobulous you just keep telling yourself that your man crush wasn’t an alcoholic, and he didn’t like fighting either, after all he only did it socially;).

Olympias: “Looting and arson! really!?” Alexander: “Only socially mother, I promise, everyone was doing it”

“He founded a city in his [his favorite horse] memory on the banks of the Hydraspes and called it Bucephalia, and there is a story that when he lost a dog named Peritas of which he was very fond and which he had brought up from a puppy, he again founded a city and called it after the dog”- Plutarch, life of Alexander, 61. He must have been barking mad…

“Alexander was also more moderate in his drinking than was generally supposed. The impression that he was a heavy drinker arose because when he had nothing else to do, he liked to linger over each cup, but in fact he was usually talking rather than drinking: he enjoyed long conversations, but only when he had plenty of leisure. Whenever there was urgent business to attend to, neither wine, nor sleep, nor sport, nor sex, nor spectacle could ever distract his attention….The proof of this is his life-span, which although so short, was filled to overflowing with the most prodigious achievements…He sat long over his wine, as I have remarked, because of his fondness for conversation…When the drinking was over it was his custom to take a bath and sleep, often until midday, and sometimes for the whole of the following day.”- Plutarch, life of Alexander, 21.

So let me get this strait Plutarch, Alexander gained a reputation for excessive drinking because, when he had the time he liked to linger over his drinks for social purposes? time which judging by how busy you claim he was, he rarely had, quick question, just how often (and for how long) do you have to be seen “lingering” over drinks with friends to secure a reputation as a raging alcoholic? Considerably more so I imagine than if you were in the habit of downing the good stuff by the gallon as soon as you sat down at the court social, time old Alex may well not have had. Furthermore sleeping through the whole of the next day is not what typically happens after lingering over a few drinks. it’s time you attended a meeting of the AAAA (Alexander’s alcoholism apologists anonymous) Plutarch, Arrian’s there, you’d like him.

note: highly selective quoting has been used here and as such the above does not fully represent Plutarch’s views on Alexander’s drinking habits.

“Not long afterwards a Macedonian named Pausanias assasinated the king: he did this because he had been humiliated by Attalus and Cleopatra and could get no redress from Phillip [the translater notes that Pausanias had been “outraged” by Attalus some eight years prior…EIGHT YEARS!]”- Plutarch, life of Alexander, 10. Isn’t it interesting how often an assassination seems to be perpetrated by a lone assassin (mind to be fair to Plutarch he does briefly cast some suspicion on old Alex) motivated by insanity or “personal reasons”, but aside from the fact that he had people waiting for him with get-away horses, I find it difficult to believe he waited 8 years to act on his grudge? Which you know only directly harmed one (Phillip) of the people he bore a grudge against.

Attalus, the guy who actually “outraged” him could not be harmed as he was in Asia with Parmenio (a general and relative), though you’d think he’d be first on Pausanias list. However as a result of Pausanias actions Alexander came to power and he and his mother were enemies of Attalus and Cleo who as a result were soon killed, Pausanias himself being cut down by close friends of Alexander as he fled the scene before he could talk. I’ve sat on the fence on this one for a while but I’m now of the opinion that Alexander probably had his own father assassinated in a fairly well planned and orchestrated coup d’etat (seriously I’m a little impressed), that Olympias likely knew and Antipater may have.

“In Uxia, once, Alexander lost him [his horse Baucephalas], and issued an edict that he would kill every man in the country unless he was brought back- as he promptly was”- Arrian, The campaigns of Alexander, book 5. Imagine that on a modern sign for a lost pet.  “My horse! My horse! your lives for my horse!”. Good old Alexander threatening genocide over lost pets…….

LOST: This horse (minus sexy rider) if found return to king Alexander the Great (and sexy rider) at 52 royal tent road, giant military camp. Reward: Your life and the lives of all you know.

in fairness to poor old Alex, I have my doubts that this actually happened.

“One of these daughters was named Roxane. She was a girl of marriageable age, and men who took part in the campaign used to say she was the loveliest woman they had seen in Asia, with the one exception of Darius’s wife. Alexander fell in love with her at sight; but, captive though she was, he refused, for all his passion, to force her to his will, and condescended to marry her. For this act I have, on the whole, more praise than blame”- Arrian, The campaigns of Alexander, Book 4. I Arrian hereby declare that, on balance, the lack of extra-marital rape was probably a good thing, I am Arrian, that is all.

“While he was in camp on the Oxus( Amu Darya), a spring of water and another of oil quite near it came up from the ground close to his tent…………Aristander declared that the spring of oil was a sign of difficulties to come”- Arrian, The campaigns of Alexander, Book 4. You can say that again Aristander! Also Translater guy claims this is the ‘first mention of petroleum in Greek literature’, I thought that was worth noting.

“Alexander was compelled to make a temporary withdrawal to his original position”- Arrian, the campaigns of Alexander, book 3. What a dissimulating way to describe a retreat…….nothing to see here folks where simply advancing in the opposite direction!

“We are also told that while he was in Egypt he listened to the lectures of Psammon the philosopher, and especially approved his saying to the effect that all men are ruled by God, because in every case that element which imposes itself and achieves the mastery is divine.”- Plutarch, life of Alexander, 27. I can think of two ways of interpreting this saying, 1. that whatever actions or behavior comes most naturally to you or otherwise prevails is the right one- therefore you can literally do no wrong, but simply acting in accordance with your divinely appointed nature. 2. might isn’t just right, its divine…..no wonder Alexander approved….

Terry Jones is a barbarian part III: Return of the bullshit

All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat, All spin and no facts make Terry a toad-faced twat……………….

Hello and Welcome back to the third part of what was intended to be a trilogy on Terry Jones Barbarians, This however is not the final part as it only covers episode 3: “The brainy barbarians”. This episode is bad, really really bad, so bad that it drove me up the wall….as evidenced by the preceding paragraph (added for dramatic effect obviously but trust me, I’ve wanted to just stop multiple times while covering this episode). The sheer horribleness of this episode is partly why my rant on it is so long, other things that have contributed to this have been the episode’s structure, it’s very premise and the fact that I am more familiar with its subject matter than with those of the prior two episodes, please continue if you wish to read my poorly edited rambling thoughts on what is quite possibly my most hated episode of my most hated documentary, that’s quite an accomplishment, that said it might just be quicker to watch the damned thing yourself (though on youtube the audio does get out of sync again, though not as badly as in episode 1) and that too is quite an accomplishment, perhaps in the same light.

Episode 3- The brainy barbarians: this episode is divided roughly as follows the first section deals with the Greeks then we move on to the Parthians and Persians before returning to the Greeks briefly for the conclusion. We begin with the mother of all straw men, leaving aside whether the Romans considered the Greeks barbarians at all- it’s a complicated issue, in some ways the Greeks represent their own category separate from Roman and barbarian just as I think the Romans in many ways come to represent their own category separate from Greek and barbarian alike to the Greeks, Terry at least acknowledges that the term Barbarian is Greek in origin and that the Romans by and large didn’t consider the Greeks uncivilized as such. No this mother of all straw men consists in manufacturing the profound revelation that “for centuries we’ve been told that the Romans were the inventive geniuses of the Ancient world….this (referring to the Antikythea mechanism) confirmed that it wasn’t the Romans who were the brains of the ancient world but the barbarians” By which we will find out soon he means in particular the Greeks (responsible for said mechanism).


less than a minute after this straw elephant we are introduced to an outright fallacy whose timing within the series could not be less appropriate, “our whole picture of the time (referring to the ancient world) comes from Rome”- this just as your about to start looking at the Greeks, Rome’s twin pillar of the Classics which have dominated studies of Antiquity for centuries, The Greeks unquestionably left far more literary sources than any of the other so-called “barbarians” Terry covers in this series, indeed we are more reliant on literary sources in Greek (Thucydides, Herodotus, Xenophon, Polybius, Plutarch, Arrian, Plato, Aristotle etc)  for our understanding of the Ancient world than those in Latin. Manifestly untrue does not begin to describe that statement from a Greek perspective…….Greek was the lingua franca, Hellenistic culture the dominant culture of the Eastern Mediterranean and highly influential in the Western Med, particularly in you know….ITALY!!!! and a little place called ROME!!! GAHHHRRR!!!!

But now to return to the straw elephant in the room: what I want to know Terry is what school you attended exactly? It must have been the only school in Britain at the time not going on about

The straw Elephant

Ancient Greece as the birthplace of Western Civilization, history, democracy, science and philosophy at many times in Western history particularly among the intelligentsia Greece has been placed on a pedestal as the Greatest ancient civilization, for the majority of Western history since the renaissance the argument for “greatest” as it were was one almost exclusively between Greece and Rome the two linked closely by a limited rivalry, the cult of Greece in scholarship and popular understanding is near as great or even greater than Rome’s and not sullied in recent years by near the same association with Imperialism as Rome (an association which in the past often benefited Rome). What exactly is Terry playing at “Hey guys turns out there were these guys called the Greeks and they were a really big deal” Even most pro-Romans and many many Romans themselves considered the Greeks were the great theoretical scientists, the intellectuals and the most “cultured”….whatever that means. It is extraordinarily dishonest to portray a centuries old traditional view of the Greeks, held by the Romans themselves by and large as some kind of great anti-establishment revisionist revelation. Simply put you’d be hard to state a more conservative position, in my view the cultural worship of the Greeks could actually do with a little revising but on this matter Terry is more traditional than your great grandmother, this is a total red herring.

The kind of straw man that I wish Terry Jones would become intimately familiar with....

Some time is spent in describing the Roman siege of Syracuse as is often and understandably the case Archimedes role in the city’s defense is highlighted and in all likelihood exaggerated, This goes back to an extent to the ancient sources (in my view) likely because it makes the story more interesting (certainly more unique) and perhaps by way of excusing initial Roman difficulties in taking the city, the first reason plays in to modern attempts to hype it up as well (that said Mythbusters has not yet convinced me that Archimedes death ray couldn’t have worked….). That said it’s not like there’s much reason to wonder that the Romans had considerable difficulty taking the place, it was a vast, heavily fortified, wealthy city with a large Garrison- that’s usually enough of an explanation (that and the Romans had to contend with Carthaginian forces helping the defenders from outside the city) , prior to the Romans the Athenians had famously failed to take the city and the Carthaginians advance across the territories of Magna Graecia had been repeatedly halted by it’s walls….often because their army got sick (I think from nearby marshes…) but I digress. The Romans are curtly judged with sarcasm (Terry like myself often utilizes this highest form of wit) for killing Archimedes going on soon afterwards to say that “In fact the murder of Archimedes could stand as an epitaph  for the Roman destruction of the barbarian world of learning and ideas, except that it was only the beginning.”  DUN DUN DUN!!!

In all seriousness I remember many years ago when I read the Horrible histories books (I recall thinking that the Romans got a raw deal there too, seriously “The Awesome Egyptians”, “The Groovy Greeks” and “the Rotten Romans”, I think the series was primarily written by another Terry too (Terry Deary) so maybe Terry’s just hate Romans…..Also half the Rome stuff was on Roman Britain, nobody cares poms! still it was easily fairer than this piece of cr*p) that the Groovy Greeks books epilogue ended with the Roman sack of Syracuse and the death of Archimedes itself so this isn’t a new trope, even for Terry’s. Still there are to my mind limits as to how indignant you can be about Archimedes murder, firstly Terry (both Terry’s actually) are good enough to point out that the murder was against the Roman commander’s order and punished, secondly this was during a sack of a city after a long siege. In the brutal world of the time it was normal for the Romans, the Greeks and others to do far worse when sacking cities, particularly ones that had given them this much trouble. Finally Archimedes was not some innocent old tinkerer as the story of his death suggests, Terry is at pains to point out his contributions to the cities defense, Archimedes may not have fought with a sword or shield but he was one of his cities leaders and even by conservative estimates his machines killed many Romans and were designed by him to do so. He was defending his home and there was no point to killing him anyway but if we look at Archimedes as an artillery and/or engineering officer rather than as a harmless eccentric inventor it does start to make more sense. All in all though I’ve seen much worse than this section on Syracuse.

We now move briefly to cover Terry Jones claim mentioned between the transition between Greece and Persia/Parthia as a topic for the second time this episode (less than 20 minutes in) that the Romans were  obsessed seemingly from early days (it’s not specific when he thinks they embraced this goal but it’s certainly implied by the end of the second Punic war and definitely by the first

century) with world domination, The Mongols and at least some Caliphates as well as possibly Alexander embraced notionally at least such a goal, the Roman Republic never did nor for practical

Vorenus: "We must prepare for tomorrow night" Pullo: "What are we going to do tomorrow night?" Vorenus: The same thing we do every night, Pullo- try to take over the world!"

purposes did the empire (I say for practical purposes because it’s a really long period of time and some crazy emperor or other that didn’t last might have embraced the notion and some aggressive emperors we don’t know enough about might have had some thoughts on the matter, but we don’t know). Roman expansion during the Imperial period was directed but for the most part with limited goals based on defense (Britain being an exception) of Rome’s already largely established empire. Roman expansion during the Republican period was seldom so directed and largely driven by threats real or perceived by foreign powers to them or their interests as Rome won wars, the Roman world expanded creating fresh opportunities for conflict and there was of course the political/social need of Roman politicians for military glory and the wealth and clients brought by conquest.

However a Cassus Beli however dodgy was always required for a war because Romans possessed the concept of the Just war, Roman wars had to be Just (obviously as implied in the preceding sentence they often weren’t) and Roman politicians and writers weren’t above criticizing their own state on this ground (the Third Punic war comes to mind), states that believe in their divine right to rule the world seldom bother with all that, this state/people/city does not acknowledge me as its overlord or I’m bored or “because I’m a god b*tch! RAWR!!!!!” usually does nicely without the need to dress it up with claims of self-defense or a violated treaty. Roman expansion during the Republican period was ugly, haphazard, and seldom virtuous but it was not the grand plan of a bond villain, here Jones is simply being infantile.

Now for Parthia/Persia and we’re off to a bad start, first by implying political continuity between the Parthians and the Achaemenid Persian Empire (the first and most famous empire to be labelled Persian, though not the first Iranian empire) but of course it is reasonable to assume some cultural continuity of which there is some evidence but not as much as you would think, the Parthians being in origins a steppe tribe called the Parni the first Seleucid satrapy (Achaemenid administrative unit, basically a province, the name and the system were by and large retained by the Seleucids who were the Hellenistic successor kingdom that occupied most of the old Persian empire’s Asian territories at the time) they conquered was Parthia, thus they were not actually from there, as foreigners and nomads who entered the Persian empire’s former territories after it’s fall, their can be no argument of political continuity between the two and they likely had less of a cultural link than the Sassanian Persian dynasty that replaced them, with it’s origins in roughly the same region as the first empire.

Almost in the same breath when this continuity is first implied Terry claims that the Parthian’s territories reached into Eastern Turkey and demonstrates this with a map which clearly indicates that the Parthian’s also controlled upper Syria including Antioch (in modern Turkey today but for historical purposes part of the Syrian region). Parthia never securely controlled these territories, the map portrays a time when Parthia attempted and failed to wrest such territories from a distracted Rome, it was during the triumviral period when Mark Antony ruled the East, his general Ventidius Bassus (the only person I can think of who marched in a Roman triumph as a foreign prisoner and a triumphant Roman general) defeated the Parthians and those Romans who had allied with them (long story, suffice to say this was not just a forgotten foreign war but a forgotten episode of the civil wars) in three battles and expelled them from North Syria and East turkey alike- the map depending on your definition of conquest may not technically be inaccurate (though I don’t think it would count by most) it is however likely to be highly misleading.

He then goes on to talk about Persia for a bit, so vaguely that I’d be impressed if you learnt anything before going on to describe the first Parthian-Roman conflict, the famous/infamous battle of

"Will no one rid me of this terrible python!?"

Carrhae where in reference to the first contact between Rome and the Parthian Cataphracts “the desert sun reflected off of the Armour of thousands of mounted warriors, each mounted on an armored horse…a sight that wouldn’t be seen in Western Europe for another 1500 years, knights in shining armor”………..before I go on I just want to mention that the battle of Carrhae took place in the first century BC and that Terry Jones considers himself a medievalist, indeed he’s done a series of documentaries on the Western European medieval world and is in many ways quite fond of it, quite biased in its favor as we’ve seen hints of before with his veneration of early medieval Celtic lore and seeming total indifference to Rome’s fall and as we will see again more explicitly as he talks more about the Parthian empire, one of the episodes of his series “Medieval lives” was specifically on knights………..

………*takes a gulp of air* ALL THIS MAKES IT COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY INEXCUSABLE THAT HE IS CLAIMING THERE WERE NO KNIGHTS IN WESTERN EUROPE BEFORE WELL INTO THE F*CKING 1300’s!!!!!!!!!!! In case my excessive use of capitalization is unclear, there were knights then! their were knights in the 1000’s by most definitions (knighthood being an evolving social class as well as a type of soldier) certainly if the definition of knight is armored melee orientated horseman with armored horse, they had been around for centuries by the 1300’s, maybe I’m being harsh, maybe Terry knows his medieval history very well and he just failed basic math in school or maybe he’s just exaggerating for dramatic effect (or in layman’s terms: lying).

Anyway back to Carrhae, just a few things the Romans actually repulsed the initial charge of the Cataphracts, maybe they fled intentionally, either way they did not shatter the Romans lines. Secondly I suspect considering future Roman success in battle against Parthia and the fact that the Romans didn’t discover adamantium armour between Carrhae and their next clash with Persia that the effectiveness of Parthian archery against Roman Armour and shields was somewhat overstated, but that’s just my suspicion finally Terry relates the less highly regarded account of Crassus death that claims the Parthians killed him by pouring molten gold down his throat (A literary trope for ironic justice for greedy villains) rather than the account more popular with scholars of Crassus being cut down in a parley gone wrong. However these are all minor issues and are in practically every doco that mentions Carrhae (and as a battle, like Teuotoberg Wald it’s a popular choice)

Now to continue with why the EU, I mean medieval Europe! I mean Parthia was better than Rome, because of the Parthian “knights” code of “chivalry” for evidence of which we talk to a leader of an organization of an Ancient Iranian martial art…….because you know that’s as reputable as it gets! At the conclusion of this interval Terry blanketly claims that “These were values that could be traced back to the culture of the Parthian knights” Maybe Terry, maybe, if I recall correctly (if) there is some evidence that the Parthian cataphractoi formed a social class with some similarities with Western European knights, they certainly seem to have had a feudal structure in Parthia, there certainly isn’t much evidence though, the truth of the matter is that we know very little about Parthia, certainly less than we know about the Achaemenid Persians and the Sassanian Persians who succeeded them.

Roman monument.

And now for the outright equation of Parthia with Achaemenid Persia, we start our journey down fantasy lane with a visit to Persepolis- a site the Parthians neglected and only really received

Parthian monument.

attention again under the Sassanian regime. Terry claims that you can tell a lot about a state by the monuments they put up-in this context referring in particular to their capital’s. True enough I suppose, Terry goes on to claim that the overall impression you get from Roman monuments is “Fear us” showing at the time imagery of the Colosseum and in particular Trajan’s column with it’s engravings of surrendered or killed Dacians, of course this is nonsense these monuments weren’t built with barbarian’s in mind at all, much less their intimidation, they were built (funnily enough in Rome…) with Romans in mind, often to communicate to his fellow Romans (as in Trajan’ case) how awesome, he was and Rome was.

Of course Terry neglects to mention the Romans marked inclination for practical building’s such as Baths, Basilicas, Aqueducts and Forums (practical reasons certainly wasn’t the only reason they were built…but still…) and so by contrast Terry show’s us some Parthian monuments: ……………………………..Terry?…………..*crickets chirp*………Terry?………..*grass grows*………TERRY! some time today would be nice! oh what’s that? you don’t have any Parthian monuments to show us? What’s that Terry from like 10 minutes later? No Parthian buildings have survived! well I’m sure they were awesome and you have some ancient Parthian writers who can tell us all about them? ……………..*paint dries*………….

So your just going to keep harping on about the ruins of Persepolis……….ok then, oh and Terry those engraving’s in Persepolis of various people in procession to give tribute….yeah that art is likely meant to demonstrate to foreigners how mighty we are, nothing wrong with that but still. They were also conquered btw, subjugated, perhaps that was a good thing, the middle East (like everywhere) was no stranger to war, Persian domination brought peace and efficient administration to a vast area, for their time the Achaemineid Persians were enlightened in many ways but they did not establish an empire from India to Macedonia by asking nicely nor were all regions always happy to be part of the fold, after his invasion of Greece Xerxes had to deal with large revolts in Egypt and Babylonia, under Darius there was the Ionian revolt and there were multiple other large Egyptian revolts throughout the empire’s history, the Persians were pretty cultural tolerant but not universally so (no-one is and that can be a a good thing). Terry Jones claims that by contrast to Persia Rome was culturally intolerant because “For the Romans you either learned to look like, dress

The Cyrus cylinder: Persian propaganda, the persians were highly influenced by Zarathustra, Nietsche wrote "thus spake Zarathustra", Nietschie influenced the Nazis, Iran means "land of the Aryans". The Cyrus Cylinder, first declaration of human rights or ancient Mein Kampf? You be the judge.

like and be like them or you were a barbarian” There is truth in this (even if Roman culture is more adaptable than this implies) but if you weren’t interested in entering Roman politics no-one was forcing you, Rome did persecute some cultural groups, every once in a while some weird Eastern cults followers or/and priests were expelled from Rome, the druids were persecuted, as were at times the Christians, and as for the Jews….well they found it difficult to get on with anyone trying to rule over them….and most people who weren’t……(that said ironically considering present circumstances Iranian regimes seemed to have fared better in their relations with the Jews than others) by and large however you could worship, dress and speak how you liked and during the imperial period virtually anyone could become a roman citizen and in theory enter the senate- perhaps even become emperor. This was not the case in Persia.

On the Cyrus cylinder I will simply say this, I find it quite amusing that Terry is using a piece of ancient Persian propaganda to prove to us that what he’s been saying isn’t just ancient Persian propaganda……go figure….

As Terry Jones wraps up his section building up Parthia by praising their culture, thinkers and architectural legacy I’ll naturally wrap up my counter argument by tearing them down. Let’s start with architecture, it is here that Terry claims “The Parthians were also great builders” just before admitting “although no actual Parthian structures have survived intact” but then goes on to insist “we know that they developed styles and building techniques that influence Islamic architecture even today” and you know what that’s probably even true, Sassanian architecture had a massive influence on Islamic architecture (Just like Rome did) and Parthian architecture no doubt had some influence on Sassanian. How much? we don’t know we do however know that by comparison to the Achaemenids that preceded them and the Sassanids who came after the Parthian era was an architectural black hole and has no business comparing itself to those eras or Rome or the Caliphates on those grounds. He then claims that the Parthians used a quick-drying cement, quite unknown to the Romans. I have no idea whether it would be the same cement but the Romans had quick-drying cement.

Moving on to culture, to the writers and the thinkers Terry claims that Parthia produced some “that could knock the socks off the Romans” and goes on about the superior learning culture and education of the Parthians, without providing any details aside from the Roman record of the Parthian king Orodes watching the play Euripedes when Crassus’s head arrived to be used as a prop (he doesn’t mention the head as prop part just the Euripides….I wonder why…..seemed like the height of good taste to me but then what would I know I’m a Romanophile!) or any examples, he doesn’t even interview a martial arts society official! No I’m sorry he eventually names one poet: Hafez a twelfth century Islamic poet but you know close enough, I think the legendary poet Ferdowsi’s in here too (could be wrong, isn’t mentioned by name) but he lived and wrote well and truly into the Islamic era, his work being strongly influenced by Sassanid Persian culture. In fact I’m fairly certain not a single Parthian literary text, be it history, poetry, philosophical treatise etc has survived. In short this claim is frankly laughable.

We now move briefly by way of hamfisted Iranian 1979 Islamic revolution analogies to the oft-mentioned (in this blog post not in this episode) Sassanian Iran. First up you should know that the Sassanian Persian empire is sexy, it’s name is sexy, it’s history is sexy, it’s conflicts with Rome were EPIC……ally sexy, Parthia is a damn cool name too actually but aside from that their just not as cool. Right now for said hamfisted analogies, Terry says: “Rome’s defeat at the battle of Harran (Carrhae)……had started a historic struggle between Rome and Persia and constant war so destabilized Parthian civilisation that in 200 AD their rule crumbled beneath the hoofs of a new more brutal Persian dynasty the Sassanids.” and then a bit later “The Romans had provoked a reaction in Persia that produced a state even more centralized, better organized and less tolerant than the Romans themselves”.

Following this is a  brief speel about the military triumphs of Sassanid Shahanshah (king of kings) Shapur I against Rome during which he gives purely an abridged version from Shapur’s own self-glorifying account, this is not to say it’s nonsense at all but that the Roman account often differed and historians (and myself) are inclined to believe Shapur some of the time and the Romans some of the time depending on the matter in question, if this kind of thing looks like it might interests you btw and you go to Macquarie Uni then I’d recommend taking a look at the course AHIS 242 or 342: Rome’s Persian wars which is I’m fairly sure the same course I did almost 2 years ago then called Rome’s Eastern Frontier.

Augustus: "I am as they say, the shit."

Anyway Terry wraps up his the Sassanians are bad guys and the Romans fault with a speel about reduced cultural tolerance, increased centralization (Terry is that peculiar type of person whose views are quite socialist but loathes centralization that I suspect is typical of EU supporters, the kind of person who thinks the state should do everything for you provided it is as inefficient as possible, you know idiots) and decreased religious tolerance while the camera pans over iconic images of Islamic Iran like women in full burqas, subtle. Now there is some truth behind the claim that Rome was responsible for the fall of the Parthians and rise of the Sassanids, Rome had relatively soon before the Parthian dynasty’s fall fought and won significant conflicts with Parthia (though I think the very last major battle Parthia and Rome fought was either a draw or a Parthian victory) however contrary to what Terry Jones first quote implies Rome and Parthia during the period when they were neighbors (and obviously when they weren’t) were at peace far more often than not.

This regime change was not the result of near continuous external conflict for a century or more, constant internal strife would have definitely plaid a part though, Parthia had for well over a century before it’s fall been in a state of civil war or marked internal instability considerably more often than not, this was a state of affairs that Rome definitely encouraged with marked success by supporting one candidate or another for the throne (Augustus by inaugurating this policy (in my view it was a policy) in my view may have done more damage to Rome’s Eastern rival than any Roman general who faced them in battle….and all without any war…..*sigh* Augustus you brilliant, devious son of a b*tch!) but it’s origins were again internal, the inherent weaknesses of a feudal system and the degeneration of the dynasty along with the state’s halt in effective expansion after running into Rome must also again in my view have had a role to play.

Secondly there is far less evidence than is often supposed or asserted for Sassanian Iran being as different an animal from Parthia as is often claimed, the issue is contentious in scholarship as to what changed and when, as mentioned in parts I and II of this blogpost Peter Heather is a significant source for Terry Jones and there is a good chance he follows his view here just as he did with his account of Alaric, Heather supported the view that Sassanian Iran was a very different kettle of fish from the prior Parthian regime practically right from the outset, whereas I lean more to the school of thought that says otherwise (at least initially), Terry should also be castigated (as for so many things) for equating weak and frankly parasitic rule and lack of information for an enlightened secular and culturally liberal regime, a little secret here: feudalism sucks, things certainly got worse for certain religious minorities after the Sassanian’s started aggressively favoring Zoroastrianisim but once the state really did begin to centralize further life likely became better for the poorer segments of society as the state became more efficient and the power of local lords was curtailed, this is of course just my own fairly poorly informed supposition.

But this is all almost irrelevant because Terry is talking about the USA and the Iran of the ayatollah’s and the former’s considerable responsibility for the existence of the latter, it is also an attempt to paint the two as one and the same. The USA and UK do really have a lot to answer for when it comes to Iran, if Terry had just said what he actually wanted to say here I might have even agreed with him as it is he drags Ancient history through the mud to make a political point and neither his thoughts or his methods are nearly as original or clever as he seems to think they are.

Now finally to return to the Greeks, whom Terry claims by comparison to the Parthians/Persians “the Greeks were easier meat because they lived in fiercely independent city-states. The Romans

the Hellenistic world, clearly dominated by city-states but if you squint your eyes and look real closely you might just see the Seleucid Empire!

could pick them off one by one.” That was true for the most part before Alexander the Great Terry but by the time Rome is off conquering the Eastern Mediterranean it hadn’t been true for centuries, ya see since Pericles a little thing called the Hellenistic era had begun, Greek city states still existed but the majority of Greeks lived in Hellenized kingdoms of varying size, such as Ptolemaic Egypt, Macedonia and the vast Seleucid empire, along with some smaller kingdoms like Pergamum and Bithynia, and in the initial phases of Rome’s expansion into the Eastern med it was these large kingdoms with which Rome had to primarily contend.

Terry then goes on about Rhodes for a little while and how awesome it was etc, as I don’t know much about Rhodes and as he seldom goes into specifics (incredible I know, Jones has been so in to backing his sweeping statements up previously) I don’t have much to say, and I am immensely grateful for this roughly ten minutes respite, but then it’s back slowly to business when Jones starts discussing Rome again, first he seems to imply based on the writings of Philo of Byzantium and the previously mentioned Antikythera mechanism that Hellenistic Greece was on the verge of becoming steampunk (awesome but untrue) before Rome showed up and that the Romans weren’t interested in engineering……funny in my view they were the greatest engineers of the ancient world and anyone who claims they lacked interest in the subject would have to be talking out of their arse, how strange to finally disagree with you Mr. Jones! And we’d been getting on so well!

The Antikythera Mechanisim: It's practically the holy grail and the fountain of youth rolled into one only sciency!

“And it wasn’t just Rhodes, The whole Greek world of learning sank into oblivion” Between this bold claim relating to the sack of Rhodes by the assassin of Julius Caesar Gaius Cassius Longinus in order to raise money for his civil war and the continuation of it’s theme and argument we have a several minute long discussion of the antikythea mechanisim (which apparently “proves” the Greeks were “light years ahead of the Romans” scientifically, just this one mechanism apparently, one used it’s believed primarily for horoscope’s, no other evidence whatsoever is required….apparently….) after being lulled into this state of (relative) security by these digressions we get down to business with our epilogue and it’s….it’s….it’s….shamelessly, brazenly, smugly awful, because of it’s structure and how almost uniformly horrendous it is I will give you most of it straight out, we begin with:

“it wasn’t the Romans who were the clever ones in the ancient world, it was the barbarians, all the Romans could do was steal their gadgets and and ship them back to Rome to admire as novelties

You Greeks may have been intellectually light years ahead but we Romulans are literally.....well you can guess.....also we can blow you up, just saying.

without ever really understanding them. Astronomy, mathematics, scientific speculation these are all the province of the barbarian worlds of the Persians, the Indians, the Greeks…..The Antikythera mechanisim proves that the ancient Greeks were intellectually light years ahead of the Romans, one of their astronomers even came up with the proposition that the Earth might revolve around the sun rather than the other way around but nobody could get their heads around that one. I suppose they might have done if the Greek centers of learning had kept going in places like this (he’s in Rhodes at the time he says that) but they didn’t. What happened? Rome happened. Could you name one famous Roman mathematician?  No? well that’s because there weren’t any, the Romans didn’t want new inventions and discoveries, new ideas were a threat to the system….in their paranoid grab for world domination Rome crushed and destroyed other cultures and in destroying them it destroyed knowledge.”

………….but………..but…………but……….”But there’s a happy ending  because Rome failed to crush all the barbarians and knowledge survived in the land that Rome could never obliterate: Persia. If Rome had succeeded the whole world of ancient scientific knowledge might have been stamped out forever but scholars in Persia would translate the works of the Greeks and the Babylonians and keep it safe. Hundreds of years later their knowledge would re-emerge in the west carried by the successors to the great Persian civilization: the Arabs”

………………….CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!……….GAHHHRRRRR!!!!!! You know this level of smug dishonest shameless bullshit should not go unpunished, he must pay! troll and spam his email and other digital outlets, let him know your outrage! and illegally download (or otherwise pirate) all python material! He must not get another cent! He owes us for what he’s put us and our beloved field through! As for the other Pythons I’m sorry but you owe us for helping make this man famous rather than you know killing him and using his body as a high end prop, you’ve been rewarded for your comedy now it’s time you were punished for your dereliction of civic duty………….this is despicable…….I’m calm, I’m calm…..In all seriousness please don’t pirate things, except if you absolutely must have this series.

Now let’s go through this epilogue and I’ll try and make it quick (infamous last words….or in my case infamous many words), Firstly to finish off with the Antikythera mechanisim, the wreck it was on was dated to a time (an early time but still) when Rome controlled most or all of the eastern Med, at least very loosely through client kingdoms. I’ve covered the world domination thing earlier and as for Roman mathematicians well no if you mean the theoretical sort that wrote in Latin but then I’m an undergrad with a focus on political history, plenty of engineers though those aqueducts, bridges, bath houses and colossally big dome’s don’t design themselves but hey I’m sure you can name loads of Parthian mathematicians? or scientists? Geographers? poets? historians? I’ll accept agricultural treatise writers……..or florists? Thought not Terry, better luck next time. Now if we include those writing in Greek who were Roman citizens or others who were otherwise Roman subjects the list of then I should be able to come up with a few after a quick wiki: Ptolemy (Roman citizen), Anthemius of Tralles (Roman citizen), Isidore of Miletus (Roman citizen), Diophantus (Roman citizen) and Heron of Alexandria (not sure of citizenship) speaking of Heron he studied at Alexandria, just like many others under Rome did (scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, scholars, literati) and if anyone was going to bring about your steam punk Classical world Terry it was this man’s astonishing discoveries and inventions combined with the industry and development Rome had brought to the Classical world.

"So yeah, apparently this exists."

Which brings us to the big one: Rome killing Greek culture and suppressing learning. Alexandria continued as a major scholarly center along with many other’s like Athens (A city whose importance had declined well before its absorption by Rome) and newer centers of culture and knowledge like Rome itself and Constantinople, Rome brought literature- it’s own and Greek, scientific and otherwise to new areas of the world. It is in large part due to Rome that Western Europe gives a damn about Greece in the first place.

Jones provides no evidence for the assertion that Rome felt “new ideas were a threat to the system” frankly that sounds like a paranoid delusion, how was new astronomical information a threat to the system? how was advanced mathematics? how the bloody hell were clocks a threat to the system? what system!? arguments have been made that steam power was a threat to the system because of slavery (linking steam power perhaps a bit too closely to industrialization) but the Greeks were more than a little bit fond of that institution themselves, besides if the actual industrial revolution taught us anything it’s that there’s plenty of use for the poor, vulnerable and expendable and what master wouldn’t want to get more out of his slaves, besides at the empire’s height slaves definitely did not compose the entirety of the shall we say “working class”- though that’s a difficult term to apply to a per-industrial society.

As for the suppression of culture and literature, well there’s always some but if Roman censorship and curtailing of freedom of speech was as harsh as Terry suggests

Do you know why this is funny? because it never happened. The complaining that is, not the violence!.......yeah that happened a lot...

than there’s no way works and information critical of emperors deemed legitimate and praise of Republican martyrs would ever have been permitted, and in the literature it’s freaking everywhere! Augustus for instance sometimes honored and always tolerated the historian Asinius Pollio who was highly critical of him, in general you could say or write things about Roman government or emperors that would simply not be tolerated in Ancient Egypt or the Hellenistic monarchies or Parthia and I shouldn’t have to remind you about Athens and Socrates. Much of our criticisms of Rome come from her own writers, ironically giving Rome in the eyes of many a reputation for tyranny and censorship that she might not have had if her culture and government were more repressive.

Finally once more to the Parthians, Persians and Arabs (oh my!), after long neglect it has become politically correct to emphasize the role of the Arabs in bringing about the renaissance and I feel it’s gotten somewhat out of hand, don’t get me wrong I love me some gorgeous Andalusian architecture but it’s gotten to the point where credit is being taken away from other cultures who contributed to the revival of Classical learning in Western Europe and things are attributed to the Arabs as if they likely wouldn’t have happened anyway.

As some of you may know the Eastern half (roughly) of the Roman empire endured after the fall of the Western half for roughly a thousand years, Greek quickly became the official language of and was always the dominant tongue of this half, thus it is in Byzantium (a modern name for this half of the empire for the rough thousand years between the west’s fall and it’s own….it’s complicated) which was Rome that Greek learning principally survived and later this state had a significant role in transferring this knowledge back West. It is worth emphasizing that Byzantium WAS Rome and it’s inhabitants proudly identified as such but also unmistakably Greek in it’s dominant culture and it was one of the most advanced states in Europe or the Middle East for most of its history. This is more than enough by itself to render the claim that learning was only preserved in Persia patently absurd.

But there’s more, Terry would have us believe that the Arabs acquired the classical tradition they eventually spread to Europe (by way of invasion btw) from Sassanian Persia (also by way of invasion), you know the Iranian dynasty he isn’t so fond of…funny how they stopped being a “monster”, intolerant and just like the Romans when Terry needs them to be enlightened preservers, there is a lot of truth in this, particularly in so far as things like administration, architecture and poetry go the Arabs were heavily influenced by the Sassanians but at the same time the Arabs conquered Roman Syria, Egypt and soon after North Africa and as such the influence of Byzantium was immense and it was from Byzantium not Persia that the Arabs absorbed the bulk of their Greek learning and they did so through conquering much of their territory, whose to say that Byzantium might not have done yet more of the work directly to return Greek learning to the West if they had not been so busy trying to avoid oblivion at the hands of the Arabs. Arab scholars came to add much but initially what they preserved was already being preserved and added too before they essentially nicked it (full props for further synthenisation of Graeco-Roman and Iranian culture though).

And that is that, if you actually read all that, thank you, well done and I hope you found it interesting and/or amusing and if it made your blood boil and neither my punctuation nor my Parthia bashing was the primary cause then good news you have a sense of honesty, a dislike for hypocrisy and a sense of integrity in scholarship…..that or your a definite Romanophile, but there practically the same as far as I’m concerned:).

As for you Terry:

"now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!"