The Peloponnesian War was the most defining event of the Hellenic community.
A Vietnam-styled conflict, it caused social, economic, and political strife
for every Greek Polis. Lasting well over two decades it finally concluded with
the devastating loss of Athens. Two military debacles followed by an oppressive
oligarchy provide a backdrop to understanding Socrates death. Included
are several contemporary accounts of the events leading to the end of Athens
as a dominate power.
Though there were centuries of history still to be written for the emerging
Empire, Nero stands as one of the distinct icons of the cultural rot that
begins to overtake Rome and some of its leaders. By only age 31 when he finally
met his death, Nero had managed to garner the hatred of most of Rome. His
military preparations were mainly concerned with transporting stage equipment
(he fancied himself quite the singer) and for making arrangements that his
concubines receive male haircuts. Public resentment reached an apex with his
profiteering from grain prices. All this aside, reading The Twelve Caesars
does remind us that as long as writers like Suetonius - gossip that he was
- exist, political leaders will find it difficult to segregate their "public"
and "private" lives from the probing eyes of history.
Art of Love
Keep in mind as you read the following passage the context in which Ovid was
writing. Though he seems rough on the woman, his subject isnt her but
rather the man who has as the Romans so greatly feared lost his
to the amours. This "illness" which causes him to become
must be rectified through tough "medicine," which Ovid
administers mostly by convincing him that she isn't as desirable as he has come
to thinks she is. So in actuality, what Ovid presents isnt a method for
to break off a relationship, but rather the self deluding tricks
needed to want
to end it.
Sexuality in the Roman Empire
When it comes to history, things are often not as they seem. This seems particularly
true regarding the perceived libertine nature of the ancients when it came
to sexuality. The sexual morality of Rome, so the assumption goes, was freer
and less restrained being unfettered by the later Christian morality. The
writings of Ovid and other chroniclers are often read with an eye filtered
through a modern sensibility. The result is a conclusion more fitting to our
desired fantasy of what Rome should have been, than any resemblance to how
things really were. The great arts and monuments of a society may give us
a feel for the public life of an age, but its in the private lives
where the glare of the public light is dimmed that we begin to fully
understand the people who gave us these master works. What better way to come
to terms with a society of humanists than to address their notion of sexuality.
A History of Private Life edited by Aries and Duby provided a wealth
of information which I freely drew on in formulating this original profile,
but any incorrect conclusions I reach are of course completely my own.
Fall of Rome
Historians may have an expert's interest, but everyone
is fascinated with the fall of the Roman Empire. How is it that such a successful
political structure would implode upon itself without addressing the problems
that are - at least to historians - self-evident. Like watching a slow motion
train-wreck, years of Roman leadership would deny, defer, or ignore the financial
crisis altogether. This is an excerpt from an extensive footnoted essay on
the topic posted at the Cato Journal. In his essay, Bruce Bartlett takes on
the financial collapse of a once great empire and puts in perspective the
gradual erosion of freedom and prosperity that society must deal with as an
every growing state begins to eclipse its own citizen's ability to produce.
A must read for students seeking to put the Medieval Period which rises on
the ashes of Rome in perspective, and of course anyone who has every asked
themselves... where is Washington getting all that money they keep spending.
Resource of Mark Hunter