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About Augur

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  • Birthday 06/16/1941

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  1. Augur

    Ask The Expert - Dr Bryan Ward Perkins

    Hello Professor, I'm a Toynbee man and so am compelled to ask your opinion of: Toynbee's grand design of "the civilizations", of the accuracy of his much sited (some might say central) references to Rome in arguing this theory, and finally, of his combining Greek and Roman histories in the single Hellenic Civilization (particulary irksome to many devoted Romanophiles). Also, if Toynbee got did get it right how did Spengler seem to get it so wrong? Augur
  2. Please, no string on retarded gay whales on my account. The group that needs our serious attention are the homeless clinically depressed penguins.
  3. Actually, I do understand what you are trying to say, you say it very well. And yes, I do agree that societal condemnation of "brutality" is heartening, an encouraging sign. Our difference is that I find all that righteous indignation unconvincing, indeed downright gratuitous in the face of so much contemporary violence and havoc. Marching to save the retarded gay whales, fainting at the site of gore, and crying for huricane victems is all well and good, but not if one fails to fight or even to acknowledge mass murder (which is going on as we write). Finally, no, the positive, enlightened views you attribute to modern societies are far from universal. Just ask many of the survivors of Stalin and all those skin heads running around in nazi uniforms. Peace.
  4. Well posted DanM, but I am afraid our mutual attempts to compare the morals and brutality of different societies is a slippery slope that can only end in battles of semantics. Sure, we all agree that the man who kills 100 men with a rock or a short sword is brutal, but how about the man who kills a million with the flick of a switch or simply with his signature? This is not just a theoretical question. As a young man I was once a B-52 pilot sitting on alert with six nuks targeted to take out several cities in China. They called it MAD
  5. I agree, PP, war-death counts, wheather in absolute or percentage form, are a shaky way to argue the relative "brutality" of any time period, particulary when comparing earlier times with the last two centuries of human development, pro or con. The inventions of nationalism, total war, and the mass mechanization of killing processes make any such comparisons meaningless. My comments above are directed at those who insist on applying our [Western] society's current norms to condem the actions and motives of the ancients (particularly Romans). This may be unavoidable, of course. But what is frustrating is that many of this group have a totally ideolized misperception of what "our norms" are. 20th Century Man is not a monster, but neither is he a saint against whom all others can or should be measured. Who knows what Sulla, Marius, Pompey or Ceasar whould have done if they had had a 5 megaton nuk in his arsenal? More important for us: who knows what we will do with the 20,000 we still have in ours?
  6. Sure, Dan, things have gotten murderously nasty in the past, and you have mentioned a nice representative group of them. The problems is that you have collected those examples from throughout history. My guess is that the 20th century -- with its 180 million war deaths and political murders -- may be more brutal than all those other centuries combined. Oops, I have just learned that that last statement was wrong from some very strange people who actually keep tract of such arcane killing information. Their estimates are these: For prehistory, that is from 50,000BC to 8,000BC (420 centuries), total human war deaths are estimated at 170 million killed, for an average of about .4 million killed/century. For most of known history, ie 8,000BC - 1,500AD (95 centuries) total war deaths are estimated at 214 million killed, for an average of 3.3 million killed/century. This provides a grand total of 384 million humans killed in 515 centuries, for an average of .75 million killed/century. Thus, the "less brutal" 20th century you refer to had a war death rate per century that is 240 times greated than the average. What does this prove? Absolutely nothing, of course. Sure, in today's Western popular culture all brutality is "ikk, disgusting!," and beating your dog will land you in jail. Fine. But when it come to serious brutality the numbers above do suggest that modern man's enlightened philosophies and belief systems are having little impact in reducing brutality in its most lethal form, organized killing. Indeed, it seems obvious to me, that just the opposite is true. The final question regards the "morality" issue you raised. The question is this: Who is most moral, the society that kills in the belief that brutality is normal and acceptable? Or the society that hates and totally rejects brutality in all its forms, but kills anyway -- on a massive, unprecedented scale? Face it. Whether measured by kill-rates or by moral standards, the 20th Century was clearly NOT one of our specie's shining moments.
  7. "...nations were brutal until the 20th century." Which I assume means that they weren't brutal in the 20th. Yes? If so, I must disagree on this one, DanM. Yes, it is true that the appearance of "brutality" became less acceptable and eventually unacceptable for Western/industrialized nationstates in the 19th and the 20th centuries. But this is generally attributed to the information/communications explosion and the growing importance of public opinion during that period, and seems to have been more a political necessity than a new moral consideration among leadership elites. Despite the higher moral tones, particularly in the West, it was during this same period that the concepts of popular government, citizen armies, national mobilization, etc. acted to create an environment in which war became "total war," which eroded and then eliminated many of the traditional restraints on warfare that had existed in the past. I am not sure how the term "brutality" is defined and doubt it can be quantified, but I must assume that a primary aspect of this term must focus on organized killing, either through Wars or political persecution/murder. To the extent that organized killing does reflect brutality, the 20th century is without a doubt the all-time, hands-down, no-contest winner in the "human brutality" department. (Google has many sites that list, summarize and chart the the tragic details.)
  8. Yes, it is tiring to hear todays "moral/cultural norms" repeatedly used so casually to denounce societies that existed in entirely different times and circumstance. Yes, also, most of these denunciations do seem to come from people who are unable to think beyond today's modern norms -- people who continue to be indignant and downright angry that ancient Rome didn't act like modern Denmark. But the most frustrating aspect of all this is that the people voicing all this moral indignation simply do not know their history. First, the high point in the mans'-inhumanity-to-man contest did not occur 2,000 years ago. It is happening now, we are in the midst of it -- 80+ major wars killing roughly 180 million people in one short 100-year period. Second, and more important, even when measured by modern standards a society's cultural norms are NOT, repeat NOT defined by the moral standards and aspirations it espouses -- every villianous thug, from Popes to Hitlers, have had lofty motives and self justifications. What defines every society is not what it believes or what it says it believes, but what it DOES, what it actually DOES. And, folks, what humanity as a whole has done to itself in the last 100 years makes the ancients -- including the Romans -- look like a troop of girl scouts. So get with it Rome-haters. If you are looking for the real murderers, Nazis and ethnic cleaners, look closer to home -- its all there in today's (and everyday's) New York Times.
  9. Augur

    Top 10 Movies Of All Time

    Godzilla Meets Bambie?... Conan The Barbarian?... The Princess Bride? I'm surprised I didn't see Born Yesterday in those lists. I see a major generation gap here. Have you ever heard of any of these... Casablanca (42) Streetcar Named Desire (51) Citizen Kane (41) Dr. Stranglove (64) Raging Bull (80) Apocolypse Now (79) The Quite Man (52) Shindlers List (93) Lawrence of Arabia (62) Gone With The Wind (39) The Battleship Potemkin (25) Godzilla Meets Bambie, indeed!
  10. Augur

    Areas Of Expertise

    No expert here, but with an engineering background my life-preoccupation with Rome has focused on identifying the sequence and patterns of events in which direct cause and effect relationships can be identified, e.g.: land policy > Marius' "reforms" > Republican collapse. Thus, I may be less a student of Rome than a deciple of Arnold Toynbee.
  11. Augur

    Roman Emperors

    The greatest: Octavian/Augustus without question. But not just the greatest Emperor or even the greatest Roman. As recently noted in other strings, Augustus is considered by many to be history's greatest statesman, period. In terms of practical impact and consequence I tend to agree. As for the last speculation (Octavian killing Cleopatra), I am not sure how that would make a whit of difference. Obviously Antony had to go -- why repeat Brutus' fundamental error (of letting Antony live). But I am sure Octavian would have very much preferred that Cleopatra survive, at least long enough to be paraded as the most exotic trophy in his triumph.
  12. Augur

    Wealth Of The Romans

    [From a number of sources] A talent is an ancient unit of mass. The Roman talent consisted of 100 libra (something like a pound). When used as a measure of money,
  13. Augur

    Hbo Rome and... BBC too

    The HBO service we receive here (in New York city) shows each new episode, and then keeps all of the prior episodes available to be watched at any time and as many times as one likes, again and again. The suprising thing is how enjoyable it has been to re-watch each of the first four Rome episodes several times, first to settle in-house arguments about who said and did what (my wife is also a Romanophile), and then as a primer to prepare for the next episode. My wife and I keep telling each other that we must "get a life!" but this damned series seems to have captivated the Augur family completely. Wasn't it Pullo who said? "Marry not a women who knows more about Rome than dust thou."