Snakes on a cage.


Some days ago now I watched the movie Outcast with my brother Nathan late at night on the Netflix. The film starred Nicholas Cage and Hayden Christensen as (ex?) templar knights in China. It is as you would expect one of the worst acted movies I’ve ever seen. Also ex templar turned mysterious bandit Nicholas Cage (like anyone cares what the qoute unqoute characters name is) when he gets reintroduced after severel years has snakes on his arms like thier gauntlets or something (kinda thought he was going to start punching people…..with snakes!) for his whole prolonged reintroduction scene. He just walks around with snakes on his arms and dangling over his fists and everyone acts like it’s nothing (the camera knows it’s weird though it zooms up on them a few times) and then thier gone. No-one ever mentions them again, in fact no-one ever mentions them at all. He also decides that the appropriate voice for a templar turned bandit living in medieval China is the most over the top growly Carribean pirate stereotype accent…….because reasons………….

Samuel Runge and the pipe dream of safety and sense

About 2 weeks ago at my work for the dole at a store, I did soceity a great service and by that I don’t mean my contributions at said store and necesarily self-flaggelation for being impertinent enough to be unemployed (I mean these go without saying) but I personally disposed of 3 dreaded dragons before they could do further damage to the good citizens of Sydney and all in the shadows (or you know the backsection of said store, much the same, I’m basically batman). I am speaking of course of three cursed tomes each more dreadful than the last.

The first such foe to catch my eye was a book on “healing and Autism” (thats the actual title) co-written by celebrity Jenny Mccarthy and some Dr. It promises advise on a wide range of other diagnosis such as ADHD (wish I could come up with a better example, my memory is failing me) as well obvously as other parts of the autistic spectrum. I should mention at this point for those who are unaware that I was diagnosed with aspergis as a child. After disposing of this beast of pseudo-science I then faced the high dragon itself………….

Cursed tomes 2 & 3 made cursed tome 1 seem benign by comparison despite my personal skin in the game. Tome the 2nd, the aforementioned high dragon to tome 1’s more common beast of pseudo-science was more pamphlet than tome in truth (like a pocket high dragon, a sort of pocket monster, a……..look it’s basically a high level Dragonite, that’s clearly where this was going) but perhaps all the dealier for it’s portability and ease of reference. it’s title was basically and I shit thee not “homeopathy for emergencies”…………and if the reasons for concern there are not abundantly obvious to you than I’m afraid courtesy of your mother not heeding cursed tome the 1st you came down with a serious case of stupid as a result of a childhood injection.

I scanned it very breifly and it seemed at least as bad as the title suggests. Curiously the cover made reference to some of the serious conditions it would detail “treatment” of within, which included Syphilis. Treatments (not necesarily for Syphilis, didn’t check) included the use of hellabore, which is poison and by that I don’t mean like most medication dangerous in high doses (though obviously depending on the dose that is how poison works there is still a functional distinction) I mean poison, well known for that. I believe some ancient cultures did appropriate it for medical use and with some effect but even then with serious caution and this along with syphilis (a serious and still very much extant condition but one with a distinctly old timey vibe) and the seeming adherence to the miasma theory of disease (yep…….miasma, the dominant pre-germ theory…..if I’d looked properly I probably would have found reference to the body’s humours (almost certainly spelling that wrong, can’t be arsed to check).

Anyway needless to say if some idiot decided to treat a serious or life threatening illness with “basically just water” or worse you know……poison (probably statistically negligible amounts but I don’t trust this book nor those who put into practice with deciding how much that is, I’d rather no poison thanks). That person could actually die. I regret not purchasing the book myeself but I would have to wait till the end of the day and I was not going to let this out of my site, no way that was going on the shelves. Homeopathy for emergencies…………….

We now come to a danger of a different sought (this one with pictures!)…..ideological and 6 million jews agree (or would if they……you know could……) it’s at least as dangerous as the former. In the depths of a kids display panel in the store’s booksection (ok their really isn’t any depth, it’s a shelf, work with me here) next to a bunch of brightly illustrated books for small children was an epic novel (the third volume in a saga) entitled “lebensraum!” and subtitled “the dream of land and peace” my curiosity piqued I picked it up thinking this can’t possibly be what it looks like…….and now we both know that it was.

Right (wing) there among the children’s picture books facing you standing on an eye-level end of alcove display in a charity shelf was a nazi apologist novel written by a prominent holocaust denier whose very title is a reference to the excuse for basically unprecedented mass murder and whose implementation formed a key role in said murder and deportation of millions of east europeans. “Lebensraum: the dream of land andpeace”……in reply to whose title I will now attempt paraphrase Tacitus: Romans. Deserts. Peace. Anyone who purchased this for the kiddies (maybe that can pass it around at scouts….) was in for a rapid and shocking awakening (kinda like operation Barbarossa) at least you would hope………..naturally I thought getting rid of it to be in the organization’s best interest, not a good thing for PR, or so you’d hope.

nothing out of place here, anthropomorphic bears build nests, bob builds things, children rescue animals, freinds exchange secrets (presumably not about the Holocaust being a lie) and the master race acquires "living space".
nothing out of place here, anthropomorphic bears build nests, bob builds things, children rescue animals, freinds exchange secrets (presumably not about the Holocaust being a lie) and the master race acquires “living space”.

One final question remains (ok many questions remain, shut up, it’s a rhetorical device), who donated it and WHY!? was it a joke or is this part of an elaborate plan to distribute Nazi propaganda. *insert Pauline Hanson joke here*. Of course disposing of books was a beloved hobby of the Nazis, so the irony on my part is palpable (and dare I say pulpable……..I’m not sorry) so we can reasonably ask who the real villain is here, the Nazis or your freindly neighbourhood book binner……..wait……..This has been Samuel Runge not the hero you deserve (I’m way too good for you people) but the one you’ve got signing off.

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…’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… wonder Alexander approved….

Istanbul not Constantinople

Edit: So yeah it seems the date I published this was the date it happened according to the Julian calender, not the Gregorian which we use, The Gregorian date of the fall is June 7th. I don’t know why modern Byzantinists don’t use the Gregorian calender or why they refuse to even mention that their using the Julian one but they do.

On this day in the year 1453 AD Constantinople capital of the Byzantine empire for roughly a thousand years fell after a brutal seige to the Ottoman Turks under Mehmed II Fatih (the conqueror) and with it fell the Byzantine empire (Though there are some who argue that the state technically endured for a few more years the fall of Constantinople is generally taken as the symbolic end of the empire) and some would argue after roughly two thousand years the Roman state, though Byzantine remnant territories and a state in Trebizond with its own claim to being the Byzantine (and thus the Roman) empire limped on for a few years, they were all swiftly devoured by the Ottomans under the same sultan Mehmed. Byzantinists let us give a moments silence in remembrance of this fascinating phase of the Roman empire’s existence and then let us toast to its august memory to this song!

Istanbul not Constantinople

Long live Byzantium!

Regards, Samuel.

Tribune hunting season! senator slaying season! Tribune hunting season! Senator slaying season! Tribune hunting season! Tribune hunting season! Senator slaying season fire!

Hello all my name is Samuel Runge and welcome to my blog.

Hello all my name is Samuel Runge and welcome to my blog, one that my brother Nathan long ago first suggested I start, no doubt to transfer the burden of listening to my rants from himself to bored and assumedly nerdy individuals surfing the Internet. Nevertheless it was only at the beginning of my uni holidays (now drawing to a close) that I resolved to create one as I had many things I wished to rant about and precious few people to rant too. Which is I imagine why many people have blogs, so they can pretend their not talking to themselves, the nearest wall or the family pet. Unfortunately it was still quite some time till I got a blog as I required technical assistance and in the meantime I lost my ‘inspiration’- If you can call it that and had no idea what to say. Thus now you know why this place has been postless for so long.

Anyway we’ll start our adventures in history on the (relatively) well trodden path of the late Roman Republic, specifically by revisiting in blog form some musings I made while doing the excellent course Ciceronian Rome at Macquarie University. Those of you who (like me) had the pleasure of doing this course would have assumedly also done its predecessor: Rome: from Republic to Empire (itself an excellent course),  which covered the immediately preceding period in Roman history to Ciceronian Rome, that being roughly from the 3rd Punic war till the death of Sulla.

Now the decline and fall of the Republic is generally portrayed as well…..a decline, at least in terms of stability (Rome continued to expand its territories at quite a pace during this period) with some exceptions until Augustus and the Principate and there’s a lot to be said for this conception, certainly civil wars, the first of which occurred near the end of the period covered in the Rome: from Republic to Empire with Sulla squaring off against Marius, Cinna, Carbo and co. (for simplicities sake lets not count the Social war as a civil war, I know thats a stretch but I want to get to my point before 5 in the morning). In the period between the death of Sulla and the death of Cicero (roughly the Ciceronian Rome timespan-and well under a century) you have quite a few more civil wars, with more still following between Cicero’s death and the suicide’s of Antony and Cleopatra, we also have proscriptions and mob and gang violence on a grand scale (Clodius and Milo and their homeboys in particular) as well as the most formidable slave revolt in Roman history (though I suspect the slave part has been overstated).

Yet one form of violence and civil strife appears to have become notably less prevalent (at the very least in comparison with the rise in other forms of political violence) post Sulla then in the decades preceding him beginning all the way back with the Grachii (in other words very roughly the Rome from republic to empire period) when Rome’s social fabric is just beginning to visibly tear (pedants you get what I mean), that being the assassination, murder and lynching of radical tribune’s of the plebs by and large by irate aristocrats. Seriously in the period from the Grachii up to and including Sulla’s first march on Rome, it seems like whenever Rome’s aristocracy had a slow day in the senate, discussing tax reform in Sardinia or something they decided to blow off steam by going on a tribune hunt (like a fox hunt except without woods, without horses, with Togas, furniture legs instead of guns and rabid old blue bloods frothing at the mouth instead of pedigree breed hunting dogs frothing at the mouth….see not much difference at all…..oh and a tribune instead of a fox). You know kinda like Africa and military coups and French uni students and rioting, we all need to pass the time of day somehow.

alright to illustrate my point lets go through them, first off Tiberius Gracchus bites the dust, followed by his little brother Gauis, then Saturninus and Lucius Equitius followed by Livius Drusus and then finally Sulpicius (please tell me if I missed anyone), all supposedly inviolate Tribune’s of the plebs cut down while in office (not that some of them left their rivals much choice) most killers facing nor form of formal punishment (though often the enmity of much of Rome’s non-senatorial orders). By comparison  in the period covered by Ciceronian Rome (after which Tribunes seem to become an irrelevancy) while there was much violence incited by and against active tribune’s (though if of a serious nature this was normally limited to some of their followers), nor were threats rare such as those made by the consuls (I think it was them…) against the tribune’s Marcus Antonius and Cassius (the famous assassins brother) that led to thier flight from Rome to their patron, Julius Caesar and the threats made by the same Caesar against a tribune that tried to deny him access to the state reasury.

All the same I can not name a single tribune known to have been cut down in office during this time period, a speech attributed to the tribune Macer in one of the fragments of Sallust’s history seems to imply that a certain Sicinius was murdered by a faction of nobles but that seems to be contested and its very difficult to find more information on him (particularly If your lazy and presently only have access to the internet and your own books) but thats about it.  yet little seems to suggest that this was due among the nobility to a newfound respect for the sacrosanctity of Tribunes of the Plebs (or the sacrosanctity of anyone else for that matter as Caesar was to find out the hard way…) as evidenced by the above threats and intimidation as well as violence on a lesser scale.

So why then? how with everything else going to Tartarus in a vomitorium did being an uppity tribune actually become safer (allowing for the fact that it was generally speaking becoming more dangerous to be a politician- or even just rich period)!?

Ironically the tribune’s of Cicero’s time may at least in part have Sulla to thank, Sulla who marched an army on Rome and killed Sulpicius, Sulla who did to the powers of the Tribune’s what the words “Democratic republic of” before the name of a nation do to that nations chances of being either. Sulla, Sulla, Marius, Pompey and Crassus.

let’s start at the beginning with Marius himself an uppity Tribune once, why Marius? Because he started two important precedents that I believe were key role in redefining the role of the active, populist tribune in particular and tribunes in general. The first precedent- Marius’s reform of the army is well known to Roman Republican history buffs (even if some of what he supposedly did is contested), the Marian army reforms were key in switching the primary loyalty of many an army from the state at large to the general of the army in question and secondly he was the first of the new model of Roman general to bring into his service violent, agitating demagogue tribunes (both Saturninus and Sulpicius) in order to further his own aims, in exchange he offered the political support of the most distinguished living Roman, not that Saturninus and Sulpicius were small fish (especially Saturninus who appears to have been the most prominent tribune of his time) but one suspects that they and Marius were not equal partners. Indeed After Pompey and Crassus restored the rights of the Tribunes ambitious generals using tribune’s as their instruments seems to almost become the norm (see Curio, Vatinius and the aforementioned Antony and Cassius for Caesar and Manlius and Gabinius for Pompey etc).

This is significant as from the little I know of the Grachii despite their youth  and the support that they possessed from a number of highly influential elder statesmen as tribunes they don’t seem to have been anyone’s junior partners, neither (by the even less I know about him) does Drusus -who I believe was after Saturninus, so the transition from “independent” (no Roman politician could thrive without allies and supporters) player to junior ally of a bigger fish for the tribune of the plebs was neither a complete transformation nor accomplished overnight.

Then comes Sulla, though his rival Marius had no qualms with violence and the legally dubious, it was Sulla who backed into a corner by Marius that raised the stakes, marching an army on Rome, not once but twice, showing for the first time the full scope of what Marius’s reforms allowed an ambitious (or otherwise finished) general to do. The precedent was set, the era of civil wars had begun. Sulla’s army on his first march on Rome demonstrated that a mob whipped up by a radical tribune was no match for a professional army, after his second seizure of Rome he initiated a reign of terror, robbed the tribune’s of the plebs of virtually all their authority and demonstrated that it was from generals and their armies not Tribune’s and their rabble rousing that the greatest threat to the aristocracy, the senate and its power came from.

Between the death of Sulla and the 1st consulship of Pompey and Crassus there was much agitation and pressure to restore the powers of the tribune’s of the plebs, slowly a few powers were given back until Pompey and Crassus two generals who had camped their respective armies just outside Rome before the consular elections, something which doubtless played a large role in getting them elected gained great popularity by restoring all the rights of the Tribune’s of the plebs as they stood pre-Sulla.

I think its important to note who and under what circumstances the powers of the tribunes were both taken away and returned in full on both occasions a powerful general/generals who had risen to his/their position/s by the use or the threat of force was responsible, the Imperator giveth and taketh away. I can not think of a better example of the shift in power, the fate of Sulpicius had shown that even if a tribune gained control of Rome through violence, enemies and opportunists could use the opportunity to march an army on Rome, one wonders whether a Saturninus or Sulpicius would ever have dared go as far as they did in post-Sullan Rome, Sulla had shown the tribunes (and those who would oppose them) the limits of their power, however the years following Sulla up to and including Pompey and Crassus’s first consulship revealed another truth to the many senators opposed to the restoration of the tribune’s powers, that being that the tribunate still had its place and those that aimed to return its powers would receive great accolades and influence and those that opposed it, mounting pressure and popular hostility.

Thus I suspect that the notable decline in the tribune assassination rate has something to do with both the tribunes and those senators opposed to populist tribunes coming to realise just how far they could effectively push each other with any degree of success, radical tribunes had a habit of being killed and attempts by them to run roughshod over all opposition by force risked military intervention on the one hand, on the other hand however the attempt to turn the tribunate into a lame duck had been both dangerous and an abject failure. Furthermore as mentioned above many of the most prominent tribunes of the post Sulla period achieved their prominence acting as the agents of powerful generals, threatening much less actually killing a Pompey or a Caesar’s representative could leave them feeling the need to recourse to more direct methods (like crossing a certain small stream in North Italy…..) to get what they want or merely to ensure their own safety (If someone offs your supposedly sacrosanct political representative with impunity in broad daylight thats rather easy to take as a personal threat), the threats directed at the tribune’s Antony and Cassius, though no doubt also aimed at disposing of a nuisance were primarily in effect a (in my opinion) a declaration of war against Julius Caesar.

None of this is to say that violence disappeared or that Tribune’s of the Plebs were never important or powerful post Sulla.

In conclusion if a primary cause (secondary cause mentioned at beginning of preceding paragraph) must be given for the marked reduction in the assassination of Tribune’s it was the rise of generals whose soldiers were loyal to them above the senate this created an atmosphere in which it was increasingly inviable (or rather more obviously so) for a radical tribune to control the Republic by controlling Rome and simultaneously it was often both less beneficial and more dangerous for a Tribune’s opponents to resort to Assassination.

With Sulla Rome moved into a new hunting season: senators and Equites.