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About phil25

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  • Birthday 03/12/1951

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    Birmingham, UK
  • Interests
    Historical enigmas and histories (Princes in Tower, Jack the Ripper, Man in Iron Mask; Who killed JFK etc); ancient Rome, ancient Egypt; Trojan War and Mycenae; military history and uniforms; Star Wars; theatre; gladiators; writing (fiction); international politics (my degree subject long ago); Pompeii and Herculaneum.

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  1. Happy birthday, Phil.

  2. phil25


    As I said in an private message to Augusta before this nonsense erupted, I will be taking an extended break from UNRV anyway - for other reasons. So discuss as you wish - i won't be getting in anyone's way. Ciao, Phil
  3. phil25


    YOU started the "name calling" in this thread MPC, not me. Nor is my response to you a fallacy of distraction (what a pompous term IMHO). You defamed Sulla, I simply reflected your terminology back onto a figure you admire. I note you have not refuted my points. In this thread I have taken the line of making the case FOR Sulla - your views on him are irrelevant to me, but your fallacious arguments are not. Phil
  4. phil25


    When Sulla retired, he was a debauched, bitter, evil old man. Moral relativism would only have warmed his black, rotten heart. Couldn't one say much the same for your hero and namesake, MPC? Wasn't cato "debauched" (he was a noted drunkard wasn't he, a toper of wine?) bitter (and how), evil (I've always perceived him as a hating, perfervid, nasty piece of work) though thankfully he never lived to be old. I'm sure moral relativism would only have warmed Cato's black, rotten heart too. Phil
  5. phil25


    You mean he may have been human, caldrail - inconsistent, capable of mistakes. I never thought otherwise.
  6. phil25

    Rome and the USA

    If I thought you wrote with sincere conviction, I'd be really ticked off by this rubbish... Good, because at least that would break any complacency and make you argue your case.... I may have exaggerated for effect - it doesn't mean I don't thinkl there is force behind my words. Phil
  7. phil25

    Rome and the USA

    American imperialism is plain, the American empire has always been concealed in the main. What was "manifest destiny" but imperialism writ large, or the Munro Doctrine but hegemony spelled out? The US - on whatever pretext - has raped Mexico repeatedly, greedily bought Louisiana from the french, occupied the Phillipines, Cuba, Puerto Rico etc at various times. This, of course, all in a state set up by self-seeking aristocrats on false pretexts for their own sends. Quite often the actions are the results of policies decredd by "another crooked president" (see MP Cato's post for the reference, if you missed it!!). Modern US imperialism is economic in nature and they are now exploring the possibilities of being a sole global super-power. Half the world sees their action in Iraq as related to US economic and natural resource ends, rather than about truth, freedom and the American way. Now, let me say that I am actually a life-long Americophile, a supporter of the UK's special relationship - and much of what is said above is "tongue-in-cheek". But not all, and increasingly, I find myself disillusioned. I spent part of the weekend talking to well-read historians and people interested in politics, who are also long-standing lovers of the USA. But they too are beginning to question things. The US and Rome are hardly similar at all, except in the extent that all empires rise and fall and all nations have similar histories. But I think there are lessons to be learned - not only by the US but by the "west" as a whole, from the fall of Rome. I set out those parallels in another post a while back. "Would to God the gift t' gi' us; to see ourselves as others see us" wrote Burns (or something roughly similar). I think the perception of the US from outside - and maybe from minorities inside - is very different from the rather deceptive self-congratulation that often passes for analysis in the States it seems. Would a native American, an Empire Loyalist, an ex-slave, a modern black American necessarily see the same things or reach the same conclusions? I write to ferment debate. Please come back to me - that is why I have written in a flagrantly confrontational way. Phil
  8. phil25


    One thing I have not seen mentioned in this thread, and which I think is important - forgive me if I have missed something in my unavoidable absence - is that there are two ways of evaluating a man's actions: a) by how successful they were in retrospect (but this is based on hindsight and a viewpoint that the originator could not have had); the man's motives and purposes at the time - and the extent to which we can understand what that person was seeking to do (and at a time when the eventual outcome/result could not be known. In retrospect we know that Sulla's settlement and actions were in many ways short-lived and broadly can be said to have failed. But, without being an expert on the period, it does seem to me that there is a perceptible and arguable consistency in Sulla's actions that reflects his desire to take the Republic back to an earlier state of balance. Whether one agrees with his assessment or with his aim is, of course, up to the individual. But Sulla was a patrician and his motives and views perhaps predicable, if more extreme than others. I don't know incidentally whether it is a coincidence that I write this on the day a somewhat similar individual - Augusto Pinochet - is buried. beloved and mourned by some, cursed and unregretted by others. Sic transit Sulla. Sulla failed in the long-term, but I think he would have replied - had he deigned to reply at all - that at least he TRIED. On a separate point, but reflecting recent posts - much of the logic of the ancient world runs counter to our own - for instance the concept that slaves' evidence could only be accepted if obtained under torture. equally, Romans were expected to make their fortunes from the jobs (even as late as C17th, Samuel Pepys did something similar). Thus themen who gained from the proscriptions may not have been seen as QUITE so reprehensible in their own time, as now. While to modern liberal eyes, and against C21st moral standards, Sulla maybe deemed reprehensible, I remain unconvinced that those who hold such views and conden from that standpoint, will ever UNDERSTAND Sulla. Phil
  9. phil25

    The REAL Tiberius

    As usual Caldrail, your view of the world - and clearly your judgement of men - differs from mine. So be it. Phil
  10. phil25


    Cato - don't be surprised at my not criticising past actions. It is NOT for ME to do so. Sulla was there, made his decisions, so did the triumvirs. Those times were bloodier than ours, violence sometimes closer to the surface. Expectations were different. As an historian I see my part to be to enter into the times as far as I can (in some ways like an historical novelist) and understand what happened. In doing that one has to try to drop anachronistic assumptions and feelings as far as one can. When one comes face to face with political pragmatism one has to face it, cold and frightening though it may be. I personally would never cut anyone's throat or order that done; nor fail to compromise, if that were possible. But sometimes it is not. In 1940, after Dunkirk, Churchill recognised that the slightest compromise with Hitler would have meant defeat - the appeasers would have stopped the war to prevent more useless deaths. So Winston did NOT compromise, but kept the flag flying long enough for others - especially Russia and the US to be brought into the war and defeat Nazism and its fascist partners. In two briliant scholarly books, (Five Days in May and The Duel) Jay Lukaas demonstrates how close the compromisers came to over throwing Churchill, and the import of their failure. So NO, I do not accept that compromise is always or ever a good thing. It may or may not be appropriate as a choice for those who do not know the outcome. Sulla was faced by problems he saw as fatal to the Rome he loved, an ideal which went beyond the mere mechanics of the republic to what he no doubt saw as the mos maiorum. Probably he saw his own survival and interests as bound up in that. I can, I think, glimpse why compromise might not have been that attractive or pragmatic an option to him. Phil
  11. phil25

    A Day of Infamy

    It was certainly a day that we in Europe should be grateful for, as it brought the US into the war. Who knows what might have happened otherwise. As a non-American, I have been interested to read about the event - I have acquired a small library on the subject over the years. It is interesting historiographically to see how the US came to terms with the tragedy and the debacle it represented: the blame placed somewhat unjustly on the two local naval and army commanders Kimmel and Short. But it was a day of great personal heroism too. On a separate point, a favorite film of mine is Tora, Tora, Tora, a relatively accurate and factual (compared to the more recent Ben Affleck "Pearl Harbor"). I think few films of war achieve the faithful telling of BOTH sides of the action in such a non-judgemental way. In a sense the day was a tragedy for the Japanese empire too, because on that day its defeat began. One can forget sometimes that the US is a comparatively young nation. To me, with the Civil War, 7 December 1941 was part of the growing up process, as the Caudine Forks or Cannae were for Rome; or Hastings, Bannockburn or Castillon for the English. Truths get learned and the nation arises stronger and with greater self-knowledge. From the blackness of Pearl Harbor and those sunken ships, arose a super power ever more conscious of her ability, resources and place in the world. But how nearly things might have been more difficult - had the carriers been sunk; if some strange chivalry had not made Hitler support his Axis partner by declaring war on the USA. I'm sorry to hear that fewer Americans now mark the day. I think they should. I bow in homage to those who died. Death came from blue skies and suddenly that day. Phil Edited to remove a disatrous and unintentional "not".
  12. phil25

    Pesky Abbreviation

    Going back to the original post about an inscription, my understanding was that, in many cases, there was a very standard format, and use of abbreviations, for names and for the record of a man's cursus honorum (under the empire). there were abbreviated forms - like the "f" for filius discussed earlier, which represented voting tribes, first names, times an emperor held the tribunician power or was named imperator by his troops, etc. they are quite easy to learn. I have quite a useful little book (which I bought some years ago) called "Understanding Roman Inscription" by Lawrence Keppie (London 1991). On a separate note - did not the Romans read ALOUD because of the lack of punctuation. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Caesar was unusual in that he could read silently. Indeed, reading aloud was common until late medieval times. Hope this helps, Phil
  13. phil25


    But Cato, it was the "free competition" that that got the republic into the mess it was in, that Sulla had to repair. All the people involved were aristocrats, patrician or plebian, so Sulla's origins are only of interest to the extent that they particularly shaped his views. I think, personally, his patrician feeling may have been motivation, but not much more. He may have felt that he was chosen by the gods to act, but I doubt it coloured his judgements much. I don't think I characterised any of the three men you mention, MPC, as half-wits. I am unsure of pompeius I must admit - never quite the sum of his parts, maybe a consulate short of a dictatorship (to coin a phrase) - but I was thinking of other men. Someone else mentioned Colleen McCullough's portrait of Sulla. I found the early years quite imaginative and plausible. But I don't think she was comfortable with, or understood, the man after his return from the east. She changes her drawing of him, makes him appear prematurely senile and seems to say "he was an ill man". Interestingly, she does not come close with the older Marius either, in his last consulate. She gives the earlier Marius a very detailed and consistent character, and makes him quite attractive as a personality. But as with her Sulla, cannot seem to grasp the more driven, cranky and vicious older men. So i don't think her Sulla explains much in the end. As I said before, I think some politicians discover a logical development to their vision and aspirations, and follow it no matter where it leads. Caesar, in an opportunitic way, I think did that. Sulla may have done the same. In the end, Augustus may have had a similar approach. Opportunists all - but ones of immense ability and reach. Sulla, as the first, perhaps the most to be admired, since he invented the prototype. Phil
  14. phil25


    When it all comes out in the wash his influence on the Republic is a great big minus. Is that a bad thing? But was it a minus? The republic was dying - he saw the direction it would go, before others did. Pompeius, Caesar, Octavian all followed his lead in many respects. His war with Marius was conducted in such a politically scorched earth manner that the compromises or reconciliations of past internal conflicts were now fought in a civil war. Sometimes wars have to be fought to be WON. Compromise suggests that you may be wrong, or that you don't care about the outcome. Sulla did. Compromise almost never provides a full loaf either - why settle for anything less than all, if you believe you are right. A man with more political prescience could have worked to diffuse the Republic's internal conflicts with an eye towards future stability once in power. As octavian later did you mean - hardly ANY bloodshed no political changes of consequence everything done by concensus and compromise.... Come off it, Sulla only failed because there wass no one of the same mettle to follow him. The same old Republican half-wits started devouring themselves again. That was why Caesar and Augustus had no alternative but to return to a form of monarchy. Instead he proscribed on a level greater than ever seen before and rejected past reforms. Boldness, not half-measures is sometimes what is required. If you understand that the Augean stables need to be cleansed, with a simple wash-down do? And if he felt past reforms were wrong - why continue them. Sulla did not know what was to come, or how things would turn out. He had no guarentee of success, his life was potentially in danger, and he saw the problems. he also had a vicious, mono-maniac and several dangerous demagogues as opponents. Men who would stop at nothing and had only their own interests at heart. Sulla had the courage to act, come what may. he may not have managed to effect lasting change, but he certainly changed the nature of the "game" - and that was what was needed. The eventual cure for the republic's ills (c30BC) was, IMHO, not far from the remedy prescribed by Sulla. Not likeable as a man, but undoubtedly pro-active. Phil
  15. I thought his head had long been preserved in the church of St Paul Without the Walls (the very one where the excvations are said to have taken place). I don't find the discovery surprising, unexpected or unlikely. The tomb of Peter was clearly known and venerated long on the site of what was the Vatican - though I cannot recall whether his body has been found. St Paul was only slightly less notable in Christian terms - maybe he had the edge up to around 300 when the power/succession requirements of the emerging Papacy put Peter in the stronger position. If St Paul's remains do indeed rest within the coffin then analysis would be fascinating - I wonder whether a missing epistle (or three - perhaps one to the Spanish) could be lurking under his shroud. What might they reveal if so - and what would the catholic church do about publishing such potentially explosive documents? Phil