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marcus silanus

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  1. marcus silanus

    Hail Neptunalia!

    Could you suggest an alternative festival for those of us in the northern outposts of the empire? As NN etc will bear out, we have need of shelter from the drab slate grey skies and any homage to Neptune might only make things even more wet and miserable.
  2. marcus silanus

    Polytheism versus Monotheism

    This video (53:16 min) is about Mr Wright's book The Evolution of God; its subject is Abrahamic religions ("monotheism"); "polytheism" refers here to other middle East ancient religions (as the original source of the Abrahamic religions). Mr Kleiman considered that Wright implicitly described monotheism as "ethically superior" (meaning more tolerant) to polytheism, but Mr Wright plainly denied having done such statement. Mr Kleiman only tangetially dealed with classical polytheism. IMHO, as stated the main conclusions of both panelists were clearly biased: - Mr Kleiman considered polytheism more tolerant just because it acknowledges the existence of many cosmic beings instead of only one. In fact, polytheists don't acknowledge the existence of all Gods but exclusively of their own, and they can perfectly be intolerant against alien divinities; Wright in fact quoted some modern examples (Hinduism). - Mr Wright considered Abrahamic religions as not intrinsically less tolerant than other religions; this seems to be mostly a political correct statement, hardly compatible with History, even if we admit another statement of Mr. Wright, namely that religious conflicts are fundamentally not about religion (ie, they would be explained by other social, political or economical factors). As originally posted, the answer for MPC's question is easy; as ethics and religion are independent domains, no religion is "ethically" "superior" or "inferior" to any other. Thanks for the summary and analysis of the clip. As I said, my old laptop wouldn't let me take a look. I happen to dislike the relatively modern definition of 'tolerance' to denote acceptance as it has superceded somewhat the more traditional one of endurance. When applied to religious beliefs, the implications of being tolerant are in these contexts markedly different. The Abrahamic religions, or those ministers within them, I feel sure would say that their respective faiths have most definitely influenced the ethics of the regions or states in which they predominate. This however is largely an attempt to debunk the ethics of the classical, pantheistic west. Many of the 'ethics' promoted by Christianity, for example, can be found in Plato and the Stoic philosophers including Marcus Aurelius. The monotheists did not introduce the idea that, for example, theft was unethical to anybody whatsoever. The difference is that whilst the classical world accepted the 'ethic' that they should honour the gods, their moral life was derived from other sources. The Judeo-Christian and Islamic faiths have promoted the idea that only by following their ethical course, will your spirit be reconcilled with god. Certainly Christianity and Islam, not Judaism, have evangelised in a way that suggests that they believe themselves to be the only true path. That being the case and if tolerance means acceptance and if acceptance means ethical, then perhaps we should fall on the side of polytheism as the more 'ethical'.
  3. marcus silanus

    Polytheism versus Monotheism

    My laptop, that should be debated in this forum, won't let me into the link! I can not therefore respond in that context, but will do so otherwise. I do not see how in themselves, one or the other can be ethically superior. An argument could be constructed for the relative theological merits of each, but that is all a matter of faith or the lack of it; there is no truth in this arena. My understanding of Greco-Roman polytheism is that depending on the age and the individual, great emphasis might be placed on obligation to the gods. However, their ethical life was determined by virtues detached from religious obligations in a way distinctly different to those devotees of the monotheistic "Abrahamic" faiths. I dislike moral equivalence for the sake of appeasing those who might disagree with me and will therefore say that on an ethical level, I would be happy to place Greco-Roman polytheism above that of Carthage that - for a certain period - demanded infant sacrifice on a large scale. The monotheistic faiths for me, are mutually exclusive and one can not be superior to the other on a purely theological level. There can only be therefore, ethical questions derived from the cultures influenced by each faith. The only debate that I can see is that within the classical polytheistic religions and that within the "Abrahamic" faiths.
  4. marcus silanus


    I've found myself staring at these wonderful drawings and coming back time after time. My favourite has to be Cicero and my youngest daughter loves the Hoplite. BTW, I think that his face looks like the actor that played Brutus in the "Rome' TV series. Seriously good work!
  5. marcus silanus

    roman military helmet question

    These classifications come from H. Russel Robinson's "The Armour of Imperial Rome", so there is a detailed source. Basically, the differences are subtle, certainly in the first century when both were prevalent. The Gallic type was a development of the Coolus type helmet taking styling cues from Gallic helmet design. They were originally manufactured by the skilled iron smiths of Gaul and featured a deep neck guard, embossed eyebrow pattern and re-enforced brow peak. That is a very basic description and it is also worth pointing out that they were always made of forged iron. Still influenced by the Gallic type, workshops in Italy began to produce the Italic helmet. Originally it was usually less decorative and of lower quality. It remained in use into the third century and conversely, many examples have been found of superior quality and ornate decoration. The patterns were different and the Italic type was sometimes made of bronze. The iron of the day was rather brittle and bronze allowed the employment of 'spun' manufacture. They were also sometimes iron with bronze adornments. Second century examples of Imperial Italic type helmets have been found with cross pieces across the skull cap. It is widely acknowledged that they were added in response to the ferocious 'falx' employed by the Dacians. Sorry if this is a little vague, but the truth is that there are not huge differences between these helmets. Caldrail has already pointed you in the direction of one good source. Obviously Robinson is a prime choice and otherwise, may I suggest the Osprey series. I hope that this is at least a small help.
  6. marcus silanus

    Hannibal's Last Battle

    I wonder if any one has read or come across Hannibal's Last Battle (Pen & Sword) by Brian Todd Carey? The Punic Wars are a pet subject of mine and without pretending to be an academic, which I am not, I fear my
  7. marcus silanus

    Power To The Poor

    I do agree that the perception of the Plebians as a class and as the universally poor masses of Rome is quite incorrect. The landless poor are more correctly referred to as the Proletarii or the capite censi. There were many wealth and powerful Plebian families and perhaps the distinction between Plebian and Patrician nobility is rather like the British aristocratic families whose lineage goes back to, for example, the days of the Tudors and those wealthy and powerful families enobled because of a member's contribution to commerce or politics, the latter being the Plebian equivalent.
  8. marcus silanus

    146 BCE

    In mentioning Polybius, am I right in thinking that you are referring to the anacyclosis detailed in his theory of the forms of states? I understood that a large part of his admiration for the Republic was that he saw it not following the course of anacyclosis because of the mixed nature of the constitution. I wonder though, if by 133BC he may have felt that Rome was indeed following that theory of states and seen elements of an ochlocracy following a fragile democracy.
  9. marcus silanus

    146 BCE

    Although there were no constitutional changes associated with the events of 146 BC, they do, for me, demonstrate a change in the character of the Republic. It certainly wasn't the first time that Roman legions had sacked and destroyed cities, but their actions at Corinth and Carthage sent out an unequivocal message that Rome was now mistress of the region and would not accept even the prospect of disorder. Of course, there were many, many cases of serious disorder and rebellion after these events but this, I think, was the intention. It was perhaps, in part, this change of character that allowed the acceptance of more autocratic styles of leadership; men whose ability to lead and keep or restore order ranked more highly than any orthodox Republican credentials.
  10. marcus silanus

    Identification of a motif

    Could it possibly be connected somehow to the Scythians mysterious heritage from Heracles? All the useful information about this piece appears in relation to its transfer of ownership to the Republic of Italy from the Boston Museum Of Fine Arts about three years ago. The main image is described as four barbarian horsemen, probably Scythians, given their pointed caps, long sleeves and check trousers. There are mentions of images containing both herakles and Scythian archers on other pieces by the Antimenes Painter, but none that I can find to put this one in a particular mythical context.
  11. marcus silanus

    Identification of a motif

    As far as I can find, this is a hydria decorated by the Antimenes Painter who was active in the last third of the 6th century BCE. I can't find exactly what this scene is representing although the favourite theme of the painter was Herakles. I found one description that simply mentioned four horses and warriors so there is a possibility that the theme is non mythical, but once you lock into the period and the painter, almost every description is mythical.
  12. marcus silanus

    Ides of March

    I also wonder what on earth is meant by "ruling oligarchy". Can it really be that Divius Julius doesn't know the difference between the ancien regime of Louis XIV and the Roman republican system whom French revolutionaries sought to emulate? What possible meaning of "oligarchy" -- except the most tautological -- could be truthfully applied to the republic?? An "oligarchy" is a rule by the few. But let just one volume of Broughton's Magistrates of the Roman Republic fall on your foot to disabuse yourself of the fantastic notion that only a few ruled Rome! Oh, you might say, but the magistrates were the oligarchy. But then what form of government is NOT an oligarchy? A government not run by magistrates? And what then would run the government? Maenads? Of course not -- every government must be run by men, and the number of men is limited. What truly distinguishes an oligarchy from its antithesis is whether the same small number of men always rule the state -- yet this is exactly what one had under that Julio-Claudian dynasty. Only DJ's admiration for this dynasty could explain his willingness to ensorcel himself with the inversions of facts and language in the post above. I would be inclined to support MPC on this point. All states are ultimately run buy an executive and therefore all are oligarchies in at least a tautological sense. This does not mean, however, that - a priori - all states are run by oligarchies. If oligarchy is rule by a few, it is not a self defining and rational statement to say that all states are oligarchies in the same way as all Englishmen are from England. If the clock is turned back a couple of hundred years before the period in discussion here, some have pointed out that the same gens appear time after time on the fasti of magistrates. The Claudii, Cornelii, Fabii, Manlii and Valerii did dominate for a period but this does not constitute an oligarchy of a 'few' clans, if there can be such a thing. Many others from a wide variety of other gens saw their men rise to prominence. However, a crude google search will deliver in excess of 31,000 entries against "Roman Republic Oligarchy". Does this mean that despite any thorough analysis of this point, there is simply wide acceptance that it was an oligarchy? This may mean that in common with many well defined terms, its use has been allowed to become undisciplined and loose. The current UK government has been referred to by some as a Scottish oligarchy because a disproportionally high number of executives have been Scottish when Scotland is home to only about 8.5% of the UK population. This may be an issue but it is not an example of an oligarchy. The UK government, all democracies and the Roman Republic were governed by a large number of representatives and a few executives. The Roman Senate, anything between 300 and 600 hundred members was not elected in the same way as the House of Commons, the House of Representatives or the US Senate, but that did not mean that it was a meaningless talking shop under the sway of a true oligarchy.
  13. marcus silanus

    Hannibal's Last Battle

    Scipio had decided that landing in Africa via Sicily, was the best way in reaching a final victory over Carthage, almost certain that this would draw Hannibal after him. He was, however, bitterly opposed by Fabius Maximus who saw this strategy as somewhat devious and therefore un-Roman. The old 'delayer' was now in favour of a direct attack on Hannibal in southern Italy and concerned himself with the prospects for Licinius once left alone to deal with Hannibal. Scipio's response was that enough destruction had befallen Italy during the fourteen years of Hannibal's presence and he would now take this misfortune to his homeland. He recognised that Hannibal's army was certainly past its best and Licinius was more than capable of dealing with it if the occasion arose. Scipio's plan was aggressive and, in my view, was correct for the circumstances of the time. However, although Carthaginian forces were still highly capable, I don't quite think that had he taken the Fabian line and remained to attack in Italy, that at this stage it would have been a defensive move. Fabius somewhat contradicts himself by stating that Hannibal is still formidable and how he might march on Rome after defeating a lone army under Licinius and later stating that he was "boxed in" in Bruttium and was therefore weak and ripe for the taking.
  14. marcus silanus

    Greatest Roman Figure??

    I think that your picking Horatius Cocles is the first 'legendary' choice. This is interesting in as much as so much, quite rightly, has been said here about some of the most significant historical figures held in high regard by both the Romans and those familiar with their history. However it may be worth thinking about those other figures revered by the Romans and considered great who do not necessarily fall into the historical category. This is unavoidably speculative, but if it can be supposed that by the time of Livius and Virgil, Rome had been fully 'versed' in her history, who might a citizen of that time consider to be 'great'? These figures are from mistier times and are often two dimensional representations of particular virtues, but are still important in understanding the greatness of Rome and her understanding of herself. Some are less so, with better documented achievements. I wonder, therefore, who was considered great by the Romans of the early Principate, in addition to the characters already discussed? In what esteem did they hold the likes of Poplicola, Cincinnatus or Camillus for example?
  15. marcus silanus

    The Roman Republic and Fascism

    With hindsight, I have to admit to my original post and question being somewhat ill conceived and certainly badly constructed. It was not my intention to determine if the Roman Republic was Fascist in as much as it systems, beliefs, economic life or military objectives matched those of twentieth century regimes. That would, as has been pointed out, be absurd. I was rather looking for similarities between the Republic and some of the core beliefs of Fascism and this is in no way intended as a denegration of a culture that plainly I greatly admire, hence my activity in this forum. A great deal has been made elsewhere in this forum of semantics and connotation. The word Fascist has been used as the default positon insult by those of the political left to equate those that are forthright in opinion, acknowledge the nation state or accept that there is a duty on the part of a citizen to his or her fellows with morally bankrupt racists. My interest is more in which aspects of the Roman Republic were distilled by the Fascists such as the dedication to the state as the focal point, duty as a citizen etc. However, my fault entirely for having worded the original post incorrectly.
  16. marcus silanus

    The Battle of Polybius

    On a couple of points, I don't think that Polybius can be described as a Roman patriot. He was after all a Greek and in particular, an Acheaen. His disgust at the Epirote betrayal of Acheaen assistance against the Illyrians in a great way, demonstrates that his national loyalty remained in his homeland. The ancients had a far more pragmatic view of war and conquest. Although his homeland had become part of the Roman domain and he was transported to Rome as a 'hostage', this did not mean that he automatically despised the new regime. After a time, Polybius returned to Greece to live out the rest of his days and can not in any way, I believe, be described as a Roman patriot: so what was he? Polybius in my view, was a Greek patriot who sought to explain to his countrymen how Rome had become the dominant power of the "known world". With respect to Rome, he was a huge admirer. His explanation of the political cycle - anacyclosis - stated that this had been a true analysis of states apart from Rome that avoided this return to chaos from a process of ever more sophisticated political institutions. His admiration for the Republic was fixed on its mixture of kingly, aristocratic and democratic power. This admiration was plainly cultured by his positive relationship with his Scipione patrons. A great deal of use has been made of the term 'supremacist'. There are some very good dictionaries where the word is not even found! It has connotations, forgive me Sylla for saying this again, with which I am uncomfortable of not cultural supremacy but pure racism. If the accusation is of cultural supremacy, I doubt if that would be the case with Polybius any more than any other cultured Greek. He may well have held Rome, her values and her politics in the highest esteem and, indeed her developing culture but ultimately I don't think that a Greek can be described as a Roman supremacist.
  17. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    Really??? I simply can't understand how using "Mein Kampf" as an example of extreme irrational chauvinism can in any way "sanitise" it.A social study cannot be based solely on hostile chauvinistic texts; that's the whole and only idea behind my analogy, which I still find perfectly valid. From what I remember, Mein Kampf has far more unpolluted idiocy than anything else, and it is certainly not an Holocaust manual (that was a late improvisation from the F
  18. marcus silanus

    Commonly taught inaccuracies about the classical world

    That's a curious statement. If Dalton Trumbo couldn't even use his own name in the credits for fear of the Hollywood blacklist how are we to believe that he could browbeat anyone on that set? With hindsight, 'browbeaten' is the wrong word to use. My point was that Kubrick wanted to present a more balanced picture of brutality on the part of both Spartacus's slave army and the Romans. He shot a number of 'gory scenes' only a few of which were approved by Kirk Douglas. Trumbo, who could not actually be present on set, had a vision of the 'big Spartacus' that he feared was being written out by Kubrick and Howard Fast. Trumbo did bring pressure to have his vision of Spartacus realised in the finished film, regardless of whether he was blacklisted. In fact, a rival production of the story, by another blacklisted writer was to some extent the cause of the conflict remaining unresolved as Kubrick, Douglas etc pressed on with production to beat the competition. My point is that many misunderstandings about the ancient world are because portrayals within popular culture are accepted as fact. When the writer has a naive political agenda such as Trumbo, modern values are ascribed to the ancient and ancient virtues are taken out of context.
  19. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    "With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with this blood, thus stealing her from her people. With every means hetries to destroy the racial foundations of the people he has set out to subjugate. Just as he himself systematically ruins women and girls, he does not shrink back from pulling down the blood barriers for others, even on a large scale. It was and it is Jews who bring the Negroes into the Rhineland, always with the same secret thought and clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily resulting bastardization, throwing it down from its cultural and political height, and himself rising to be its master." From Mein Kampf. "When Hannibal asked him to explain what he meant, Monomachus replied that they must teach the army to eat human flesh and accustom themselves to this. Hannibal could not say anything against either the audacity or the practicality of the idea, but he could not persuade himself or his friends to entertain it. It has been said that the acts of cruelty in Italy which were attributed to Hannibal were really the work of this man......" Polybius. Whilst I accept that Polybius has his distinct leanings towards Rome and in the above quote he does not consider the possibility of propoganda, the comparison with the repugnant rants of Adolf Hitler is inappropriate in my view. Hitler did not begin to present Mien Kampf as history, but in part as a summary of what he saw as a natural order in which Jews were behind all the calamaties of the world. Polybius has his faults. He is clearly writing with his Roman patrons in mind. In his criticism of the Epirote's alliance with the Illyrians, he is clearly most indignant because his Achaean compatriots had their support betrayed. by comparing the two, equivalence is given to the writings of on the one hand and at the very worst a propogandist and on the other, the vile intellectual garbage of National Socialism. I can accept the use of an extreme example or comparison in an attempt to drive a point home, but using Mein Kampf somehow sanitises the evil that it contains.
  20. marcus silanus

    Commonly taught inaccuracies about the classical world

    We have that in North America, too. In fact, even on this forum we occasionally get people who feel the better part of intellectualism is denigrating everything that is Western (pre-Marx, anyway). They eventually leave once they find out most of us actually like Roman history. Much of what is learnt, or accepted as fact, in the West derives from popular culture. However because of the freedom of expression in liberal democratic law, that expression can lead at times to deliberate distortion of truth. I do not know anybody that does not think that Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" is not a great film. It is therefore sacrilege to suggest that whilst it is great in the context of cinema, some of its greatest scenes are pure 'lefty' propoganda. My position is that the story of the Servile War is dramatic in content enough to provide great cinema. This is also my position on most historical drama - why mess with the facts or the consensus born of decades of debate? That consensus is very well represented by Philip Matyszak's piece in his "The Enemies Of Rome", which I am sure many here are familiar with and provides a somewhat different picture to that derived from Kubrick's epic. Spartacus is depicted as almost faultless; a freedom fighter with a concept of freedom and self determination that, I think, did not exist in the ancient world. To be fair, Kubrick was unhappy with this portrayal but was browbeaten by Dalton Trumbo, writing under the name of Sam Jackson that appeared on the credits. I will get to the point. As a result of the popularity of the Trumbo/Kubrick film, Spartacus is seen as the ultimate freedom fighter. In truth he gave no mercy and expected none. Spartacus executed hundreds of prisoners and many thousands died in his prosecutions. He also enslaved captives; at Rhegium at least which is hardly the action of an anti-slavery campaigner in the modern context. If we accept the ancient context of Spartacus, he was to all intents and purposes, a "terrorist". Crassus was not a 'good' man but Spartacus was in no way the saint portrayed in the film that is responsible for the general perception of his character.
  21. marcus silanus

    Commonly taught inaccuracies about the classical world

    I think that this is actually a very important observation. We are afflicted, in Europe, with a post colonial self hatred that leads to such ludicrous revisions of history. It also leads to insidious cultural relativism and moral equivalence where we dare not criticise the questionable aspects of former subject peoples. The teaching of the classics has for so long been considered the fun part of formal education, with little attention to detail and consequently full of inaccuracies. In the little time that children in the UK are exposed the the subject, that all members here know to be vast, they learn that Rome was the "emperor" Julius Caesar, baths and gladiators. Carthage, Gallic tribes and everybody else that came into conflict with Rome were plucky underdogs striving for freedom and self determination. Without being glib, this is the connotation of various History Channel one hour wastes of time. If the "educators" would acknowledge that Rome was responsible for creating a highly efficient and unified Europe, from which the current EU would do well to emulate and that her opponents were not universally pastoral, peace loving victims, we might be able to glean some benefit to assist in improving our current circumstances.
  22. I understand that one Gaius Julius Caesar was left-handed. He was no stranger, of course, to military service. It is said that he established the custom of shaking hands with the right, to leave his stronger arm free to attack or defend if needs be, whilst his opponents stronger arm aws thus engaged.
  23. marcus silanus

    Druids committed human sacrifice, cannibalism?

    There is direct evidence of Celtic human sacrifice at least in the 'bog bodies' such as Lindow Man and less famously Worsley Man. Analysis of both finds certainly establishes that they were ritually killed, the weight of evidence pointing towards religious sacrifice. These finds are totally divorced from Roman views of Celtic culture. Although it is quite right to draw attention to the bloodthirsty or brutal practices of other cultures, I think it would be wrong to idealise the Celts because it suited the Romans to focus on their darker side.
  24. marcus silanus

    Newcomer to Roman History - Recommended books?

    I would certainly second SPQR in recommending "In The Name Of Rome". It is highly accessible and entertaining whilst giving a serious grounding in some of the key personalities and events throughout Roman history. Also, although much is unverifiable as actual history, I continually find myself revisiting Livy's early history - Penguin Classics The Early History Of Rome. It forms a guide to what the Romans believed about themselves and describes through events the piety and gravity of the Roman character. This is obviously in an idealised way, but I do think that it is an important choice because it assists in understanding nature of the subject. It is also as riveting as any modern thriller!
  25. marcus silanus

    Guess the ancient city!

    To return the honour and to admit to having problems with imageshack that I can't resolve until tomorrow evening, would you like to pick up the baton?