Free Speech and Parrhesia

Not too long ago, my attention was brought to this article in the Atlantic magazine, which discusses current debates in the United States (and to a lesser degree, in other Western nations) over the right of controversial and indeed widely offensive speakers to speak at major universities. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/two-concepts-of-freedom-of-speech/546791/ In the article, the writer traces the... Continue Reading →

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Ancient Spookiness IV: Hauntings

And finally we come to what might be regarded as the archetypal form of spookiness: the spirits of the dead, returned to the world of the living.  In ancient literature, ghosts are everywhere.  Friendly, hostile, frightening or comforting, the souls of dead Greeks and Romans are shown popping back into the world all over the... Continue Reading →

Ancient Spookiness III: Demons

Content note: Depictions of violence In this third look at the dark and spooky side of the ancient world, we'll be looking at demons. What do I mean by demon? The word demon is derived from the Greek daemon, which, for most Greek and Roman times, was a generic term for god or spirit, with no... Continue Reading →

Ancient Spookiness II: Werewolves

Content note: Child death, cannibalism, animal death If vampire stories were few and far between in the ancient world, werewolves are pretty much everywhere. It was clear a pretty strong belief among the ancient Greeks and Romans that there were human beings who could transform themselves into wolves and prey on livestock and even other... Continue Reading →

Ancient Spookiness I: Vampires

Content note: Brief mentions of rape and child death As Halloween draws near, it seems a perfect time to look at some of the ancient equivalents of the various ghouls, ghosts and creatures of the night that have come to haunt the Western imagination.  First off, the hungry, sinister, and sometimes sexy devourers of the... Continue Reading →

There goes the Sun

(photo credit: William Unruh) Something is happening to the Sun.  Though the sky is clear and cloudless, and the Sun far above the horizon, the light has been slowly dimming, until it seems as dark as a cloudy day in winter.  The air is feeling wintry too - it's been getting steadily colder for a... Continue Reading →

Words that Last: Clay, Papyrus, and Computers

Two articles recently published on the BBC website recently caught my eye. The first was a discussion of the earliest known writing on Earth, as part of a series on ‘50 things that made the modern economy’. These earliest written texts were economic texts: inventories of goods, sale contracts, IOUs, written in Sumerian Cuneiform more... Continue Reading →

The Byzantine Republic

I recently finished reading a book on an aspect of the Classical world that neither I, nor many other Classicists likely have thought much about. The book is Anthony Kaldellis’ The Byzantine Republic, which deals with the Eastern Roman Empire (called by modern scholars “Byzantine”) which ruled a fluctuating area centred on Anatolia and the... Continue Reading →

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