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How Much Do We Really Know About the Roman Empire?
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How much do we really know about the history of the Roman Empire? We have enough that Edward Gibbon could write a massive series just on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — when Gibbon presented a new volume to his patron, the Duke of Gloucester, the duke responded, “Another damn’d thick, square book! Always, scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?” — but I get the feeling that mostly the most vivid anecdotes and most biased accounts survived the Dark Ages. We have extremely interesting accounts of various Roman Emperors, but they seem rather sure of themselves, making them more like political punditry than history of the “but on the other hand” genre.

How many surviving detailed sources do we have on each Roman Emperor? For those for whom we have multiple sources, how many times do they disagree in general on the quality of the man?

We have a lot of surviving carved inscriptions in stone, although they tend to be fairly short. But manuscripts only lasted a few centuries on average until they were eaten by mice or flooded or burned up in library fires. So we only have what later people felt like laboriously copying.

Overall, we seem have had come down to us a lot of wonderful gossip from Roman times about politicians, but little in the way of nuts-and-bolts books on how things worked. I read Edward Luttwak’s Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire over Christmas. He makes the point that we have little in the way of written documentation come down to us about Roman strategy in particular or its military in general. We do have a lot of archaeological evidence about the Roman legions, so from that he tries to reverse engineer what the Roman strategy must have been. Being Luttwak — very smart and very self-confident — he manages to come up with a plausible-sounding tale.

Similarly, we have very little in the way of business books from Rome, although judging by the sophistication of the Roman economy there must have been some How To Succeed in Business manuscripts.

But, apparently, they weren’t interesting enough to the medieval monks doing the copying, while the juicy tales that Gibbon eventually wrote up were.

 
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  1. Go to Italy. It’s still there.

    • Replies: @Polistra
  2. glib says:

    History was written by the children of the upper class/upper caste, similar to today for media and academia. And so, specifically populist emperors, such as Nero and Caligula, were picked for extreme vilification. What happened to Trump has happened many times in (western) history.

    • Agree: Sean, Harry Baldwin, Abe, Beckow
    • Thanks: wren, eD
    • Replies: @jimmyriddle
    , @Jack D
  3. Neoconned says:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040902090552.htm

    I dunno about Rome in general but i do know that after Rome fell the average height in Europe over centuries dropped by a foot…..i presume by breakdown of food and trade supply routes….

  4. ES says:

    Julius Caesar wrote his own account of the strategies and tactics he used to conquer the Gauls. The one I remember best is his description of laying siege to a city by encircling it with fortifications. Then he heard that a Gallic relief force was on the way to lift the siege. Normally the besiegers would have to give up the siege if they were subject to attack from a field army. Julius dealt with it by building a second ring of fortifications facing outward. The relief force was stymied and the city fell.

    I Claudius is an entertaining BBC mini-series produced in the early 1970s. It depicts the depravity of the early Caesars, from Augustus to Nero. The primary source for the stories of the depravities, e.g. an aged Tiberius retreating to an island to amuse himself with little boys, Caligula cutting his baby out of his sister’s womb and eating it (that’s the grand slam of depravities: incest, murder, infanticide and cannibalism) was a history by Suetonius. But Suetonius was a republican (wanted a return to the Republic) and disliked the Caesars. Imagine if the only account of Donald Trump to survive a thousand years from now were written by Rob Reiner. The stories about Caligula seem too horrible to be complete fiction. But the account of Tiberius seems suspect to me. He was an effective if boring emperor and soldier for most of his adult life. Would such a person suddenly morph into a pervert in old age?

  5. Magylson says:

    For a long time knowledge of lorica segments came from its name plus depictions of it on Roman arches so the early Hollywood films had the armour made of leather (lorica).

  6. wren says:

    Youtube’s recommendation algorithms are killing my free time. I spent an hour today learning about the various Sumerian and Babylonian accounts of Gilgamesh. Tens of thousands of these cuneiform clay tablets are known to exist with who knows how many more out there buried for further millennia. Lots of info from four or even five thousand years ago that we can sit down and read if we want to.

    There are a lot of nutty YouTube “pre-cataclysmic lost ancient technology” videos about various megalithic structures all over the world, and some of those are… really great!

    Today I saw one where they were very excited to check out some potentially interesting site somewhere but bummed to decide that it was just a run of the mill Roman-era well, with a long staircase running down to it. Oh well.

    I wish I had a time machine.

  7. J.Ross says:

    When Robert Graves was accused of simply riffing off Suetonius and Tacitus for his novel I, Claudius, he cited a number of less famous sources. I doubt any really fix Steve’s challenge but they would complicate the picture by their numbers.

    • Replies: @Polistra
  8. I remember a comment from the 90s. “…the currently fashionable thing to say, “It was obvious the Soviet Union was going to fall”. Funny, I don’t remember any of these people saying that at the time. Quite the opposite, in fact”.

  9. Polistra says:
    @obwandiyag

    It’s also in France, Britain, Spain, Croatia, North Africa, Turkiye, the Levant, etc etc.

  10. It is clear from ancient sources that being rich helped you succeed in politics and that succeeding in politics could help make you rich.

    But I have not been able to find any detailed discussion of how this actually worked. Specifically, how did Julius Caesar, for example, get the money to pay his army: I take it that the Senate did not simply appropriate the money out of state funds.

    Do sources exist that tell us this, but most historians would rather repeat the gossip than look into the financial nuts and bolts? Or do the relevant sources not exist at all?

    I’m curious, of course, to know how similar ancient Rome was to, say, the current Biden-family “business.”

  11. Polistra says:
    @ES

    Imagine if the only account of Donald Trump to survive a thousand years from now were written by Rob Reiner.

    Or even a dozen years from now. Not as far-fetched as you might imagine.

    Would such a person suddenly morph into a pervert in old age?

    Doubtless there are many exaggerations, but what we consider perversions (or what we did until recently) weren’t necessarily so in Imperial Rome.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  12. Polistra says:
    @J.Ross

    One fascinating angle is to consider, for example, the reign of Hadrian’s successor: Antoninus Pius. Relatively little is known about his long, peaceful reign because it was so uneventful–especially in relation to what came before and after. The reverse of the proverbial curse. It’s also a testament to Hadrian.

  13. Lot says:

    It may not be as well documented as 1977, but there are tons more sources and detail about the Western Empire than 500-1200 AD, so if you’re going to complain that should be it.

    As for economics, there are Roman census records, medical and agriculture handbooks, and tax records.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  14. @wren

    wren wrote:

    I wish I had a time machine.

    Bedbugs. Smallpox. Rotting food (no refrigeration). And no anesthesia for dental work (probably no competent dentists anyway).

    By the way, a recent thoughtful and readable attempt at thinking through real time travel is Jack McDevitt’s Time Travelers Never Die He is very clever in dealing with the paradoxes, and he gives a real feel for what olden times were like. But, for the most part, he does have his travelers return to the present before they have to sleep over (bedbugs!) or get dental work.

    • Thanks: wren
    • Troll: R.G. Camara
    • Replies: @wren
    , @Buffalo Joe
  15. Icy Blast says:
    @ES

    Tacitus is studiously ignored by anyone aspiring to hipness.

  16. Anonymous[141] • Disclaimer says:

    Tom Holland argues that the tales of depravity are overdone.

    I don’t know if he’s right or not. I don’t really have a sound understanding of the orthodox history, let alone revisionist takes.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Inquiring Mind
  17. You have to remember, the Romans didn’t have movable type or anything approaching a publishing industry. We’re lucky we have the few recopied manuscripts that we do.

    IMHO, The printing press and the feedback loop between literacy levels and book production (kickstarted by the Protestant reformation), was probably what caused Western Europe to reach the “escape velocity” that Rome and every other previous civilization failed to reach.

    It’s also a real shame that nothing resembling a “Roman novel” ever survived to give a sense of what the ancients thought and felt about their society. Was such a work ever done in the first place? I guess there is no way to know.

  18. wren says:
    @PhysicistDave

    My favorite time travel book is Chrichton’s Timeline, but if I had a time machine, I might prefer it to be like Verne’s, but with a Tesla dash with big screen YouTube-like controls, so I could pick ten minute chunks of various times and events, recommended to me by the algorithm. I’d check the pre-Inca Machu Pichhu (if that is what it really was) for a bit for brunch and then head off to ancient Egypt for lunch, etc. It would be nice to see some of those sites as they originally stood. But I wouldn’t want to deal with the bed bugs. More of an ADD time machine…

    • Replies: @Ganderson
  19. Back in the day – when I last studied Classics – my teachers would tell me that less than 1% of the written record survived from Antiquity. This was the generally agreed estimate. So very large areas of Roman life we know very little of, unless from archaeology.

    Fortunately, The Ten Books on Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio has survived in its entirety ( Still have my well-thumbed student copy in the library ). Architecture and engineering were things that the Romans were supremely good at – indeed in many areas of civil engineering, Roman standards were not equaled again until the early 19th Century. So Vitruvius’ authoritative text
    is very helpful in understanding the practical accomplishments.

  20. LondonBob says:

    Isn’t there some theory a lot the remarkably intact manuscripts were medieval or early renaissance forgeries. The stories of Caligula and the others seem too fantastical to me, and too detailed, we know almost nothing of the intrigue of other civilisations that came later. What would we know of the Ango-Saxons if not for the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle? We have the archaeology and the dates but I suspect not much else is genuine.

    • Agree: S. Anonyia
    • Replies: @LondonBob
  21. Anon[154] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anonymous

    It’s also worth remembering that the ancient Romans did not have a background of Christian morality to get in their way.

    Any culture that came up with the concept of proscription- state-sponsored mass murder-is not a nice one.

  22. @PhysicistDave

    Specifically, how did Julius Caesar, for example, get the money to pay his army

    Good question. They were presumably paid wages out of the Imperial treasury in normal times. But they also clearly did a fair bit of “living off the land.” That is, getting their share of loot and slaves from anyone they conquered. That’s partly why their first loyalty was to their commanding general, and to Rome itself only as an afterthought.

    • Replies: @Majority of One
  23. LondonBob says:
    @LondonBob

    Poggio Bracciolini is the suspected forger.

  24. Anon[357] • Disclaimer says:

    we have very little in the way of business books from Rome, although judging by the sophistication of the Roman economy there must have been some How To Succeed in Business manuscripts.

    Check out the books by Raoul McLaughlin, who earned a PhD for his study of Roman foreign trade and then skipped trying to enter academia by writing books. He is transparent about his sources and it’s fascinating. It turns out there’s valuable information in the New Testiment Letters, in graffiti on crumbling walls along an old canal route between Alexandria and the Red Sea, on tombstones of various traders (by word count, most extant Roman era Latin is on tombstones, not in stuff copied in monestaries), in crumbling papyrus accounting documents, in plays where fun is made of various aspects of business, and in a wacky map/travel guide for traders called the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (what sort of goods were for sale by East Africans at the time? the Periplus dishes on it). There were a zillion Indian city state kingdoms, and they all have archives. When you get into the Silk Road the Chinese kept amazing records. The pottery in some Silk Road intermediate cities has illustrations that are valuable, including pictures of the Pharos. McLaughlin’s book on silk is especially detailed in using all kinds of sources to paint a picture of this one product, what a craze it was. Rough textured Chinese silk was brought to Alexandria, disassembled into threads and fibers, then rewoven into diaphanous finer cloth. Mentions in plays, poems, and letters makes it clear that it was literally transparent in some cases, and some women wore it that way.

    Stuff we know very little about from Roman times:

    — Spartacus

    — Cleopatra

    — Carthage and Hannibal (the salting is fake news though; we do know that)

    These three are only known via things written by people who hated them and had an agenda to vilify them.

    — The Alexandria library and what happened to it, whether it even ever burned down, and when

    The library surprised me. We really don’t know. The entire extant texts mentioning it fills less than a page of large text, from about half a dozen sources, and the centuries are different, and the whole thing is really ambiguous. But just the other day a television documentary authoritatively told me that the libary burned down during a visit by Julius Caesar. It seems that there may have been a number minor fires over half a millennium, but no one big fire.

    Many Roman consul’s names did not survive, so we don’t know the names of the equivalent of American presidents.

    When I first noticed the Bible being used by historians, for example in a Toby Wilkinson’s big history of Egypt, I was shocked. But the more I learned and thought about it, the Bible is just a docuemnt with an agenda … and every other ancient source of information is the same.

  25. @PhysicistDave

    It is clear from ancient sources that being rich helped you succeed in politics and that succeeding in politics could help make you rich.

    Just like present day America.

    But I have not been able to find any detailed discussion of how this actually worked. Specifically, how did Julius Caesar, for example, get the money to pay his army: I take it that the Senate did not simply appropriate the money out of state funds.

    Caesar was leading the armies of the Roman Republic in the Gallic Campaign. Like all such armies they were paid out of general taxation.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_legion

    From the time of Gaius Marius onwards, legionaries received 225 denarii a year (equal to 900 Sestertii); this basic rate remained unchanged until Domitian, who increased it to 300 denarii. In spite of the steady inflation during the 2nd century, there was no further rise until the time of Septimius Severus, who increased it to 500 denarii a year. However, the soldiers did not receive all the money in cash, as the state deducted a clothing and food tax from their pay. To this wage, a legionary on active campaign would hope to add the booty of war, from the bodies of their enemies and as plunder from enemy settlements. Slaves could also be claimed from the prisoners of war and divided amongst the legion for later sale, which would bring in a sizeable supplement to their regular pay.

    Caesar and his generals got massive loot and plunder from the Gallic Wars. Caesar used it to pay off the massive debts he had run up as Consul – indeed this was probably the principal reason for the Campaign. Also it made him enormously wealthy, enough to bankroll all his future military actions.

    • Agree: Dutch Boy
    • Replies: @JMcG
    , @nebulafox
  26. Marquis says:
    @Anon

    Lack of Christianity didn’t mean lack of morals. Augustus famously worried about things like the degrading institution of marriage, declining birth rate, etc..

  27. judging by the sophistication of the Roman economy there must have been some How To Succeed in Business manuscripts

    The concept of economics was not that elaborated. It was more something that was done.

    There was an economic theory written by Aristotle. But – after his death, hardly anybody cared about it. Not in Greece and even less in classical Roman times (later on- yes. In Christian debates about justice starting maybe with Boethius (from the 6th century after Christ on: De Consolatione // The Consolation of Philosophy)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_(Aristotle)

    Aristotle’s economy is based on the well-run house (=household management) and refers therefore to the Greek word Oikos.

    • Replies: @Agathoklis
  28. Physical archaeology will tell us more. Along with genetics (whatever you call the work being done by guys like David Reich to look into deep history). And hopefully, new techniques to examine and expose hard facts about the past.

    Intellectuals were sure the old sculptures of Greece and Rome were unpainted. It was ridiculous to think they painted them in a “gaudy” manner. But sure enough they did and the colors have been revealed using high intensity UV light.

    The myth of the white marble started during the Renaissance. So, I’d imagine there are some other myths we still live with from that time.

    https://legionofhonor.famsf.org/exhibitions/gods-color-polychromy-ancient-world

    • Agree: Kylie
    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  29. Lurker says:

    Arguing with a family member – an archaeologist – he abhors anything that sounds like a conspiracy theory in the Current Year. ‘Noticing’ is not allowed.

    But if we go back to the Roman era (his speciality) all we have is a few scattered and partisan bits of history plus those inscriptions, artefacts, buildings and ruins etc. And that’s it. Any attempt to discern what Roman Imperial policy was in, I dunno, AD80 is really just a conspiracy theory. An attempt to infer what was happening using the only scant evidence available. But applying the same methodology in the present . . . oh no, can’t have that.

    Whereas in 2021 the state/media can proclaim that reality is this, not what your lying eyes tell you, and you better not start noticing anything. But with the distant past, all we have is ‘noticing’ and family member is happy with this!

    Anyhow, I’ve not developed my ‘history is a conspiracy theory’ further yet.

  30. @Anon

    Are you talking about Rome pre- or post- Constantine?

  31. Polish up your Latin and Tacitus and Livy have you covered for the first century of the Empire. You have to go through quite a few obscure Greeks to get the rest.

  32. @Anon

    Many Roman consul’s names did not survive, so we don’t know the names of the equivalent of American presidents.

    The problem isn’t a lack of names (there seem to be names recorded for pretty much every consulate from 509 BC to the end of the Republic) but establishing further details of the individuals who were named as consuls. Related to this is the problem of working out whether two consuls with the same name are the same person or two persons – perhaps father and son – who happen to have the same name.

    An analogue in American history might be if the names of the presidents were preserved but most details of their lives and administrations were lost. So future historians might ask: was the President Cleveland in office from 1885 to 1889 the same person as the President Cleveland from 1893 to 1897? Or were they father and son, like President John Adams and President John Q. Adams?

    • Replies: @Anon
  33. It’s all there, waiting for the right technology to read it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herculaneum_papyri

    Hopefully there’s some Elon Musk classicist willing to throw a few resources at the task.

  34. JMcG says:
    @ES

    Like Bruce Jenner? Or that guy in our host’s MBA class?

  35. Gibbon’s Decline and Fall is 3000 pages, with 8000 footnotes and covers 1500 year of history from Augustus through the sacking of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453.

    Gibbon called himself a “philosophical historian” modeled on the philosopher David Hume who himself was no slouch as a historian. His History of England runs to 6 volumes in the Liberty Fund edition.

    Like Hume, Gibbon treated his sources as partial and always attempted to balance his accounts with competing interpretations. As a stylist he is magnificent — worth reading just for sardonic humor.

    One of his characters: “The past he regretted. With the present he was discontent, and the future he had reason to dread.”

    https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9780792347859

  36. @Lurker

    The idea that some people did intentionally do things others did not know (of or should not have know of) or had no clue of might well be a universal truth.

    PS
    Speaking with Kant, you could also call this theorem a synthetic truth, because the presuppositions it rests upon are so universal, that it just makes no sense to doubt or reject this theory at all.

    PPS

    The problem with such synthetic truths is, still according to Kant, that they don’t reveal much (at least not to those capable of an a bit elaboreted form of reasoning – such as – – Immanuel Kant’s, for example, or maybe I should rather end with these two words: Bien sure.

    • Thanks: Lurker
    • Replies: @El Dato
    , @The Alarmist
  37. JMcG says:
    @PhysicistDave

    There’s a fellow named Raoul McLaughlin who has written books on Roman trade with China and India. I believe he has some stuff up on YT as well. He has a lot of information on Roman taxation and the means with which the legions were financed.
    One is called “The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes”.
    Pretty interesting stuff.
    Razib Khan recommended them, which is how I came to know of them.

  38. JMcG says:
    @Verymuchalive

    I recently read an article on a piece of papyrus found near Masada. It was the receipt that a Roman soldier was given on his discharge. His mustering out pay was noted along with deductions for his food, sandals, etc. It turned out that his expenses equaled his pay, so no denari for him!
    I wish I could remember where I saw it, it was only a week ago or so.

  39. ‘But, apparently, they weren’t interesting enough to the medieval monks doing the copying, while the juicy tales that Gibbon eventually wrote up were.’

    Like the rest of us, medieval monks had a bias towards what they saw as significant — which in their case tended to be matters of religion. So for example, apparently some huge peasant revolt engulfed most of Normandy in the eleventh century or so.

    We only know of it from one reference.

    • Replies: @Ezio Bonsignore
    , @Wielgus
  40. El Dato says:

    Here is one I wish I had had in high school

    Instead of admiring the forgettable cycles of Emperor This And That (whether hiding from the Praetorian Guard behind curtains or not), you get New Deal Economics:

    The New Deal in Old Rome

  41. @Lurker

    ‘Whereas in 2021 the state/media can proclaim that reality is this, not what your lying eyes tell you, and you better not start noticing anything. But with the distant past, all we have is ‘noticing’ and family member is happy with this!’

    This is a recent development. We’re entering an era where everyone realizes the official narrative has parted ways completely with actual reality.

    I find myself repetitively having conversations with acquaintances and even total strangers — the gist of which is, ‘I see x — do you see x as well?’

    This is a function of what the mass media tells us diverging completely from what each of us sees happening all around us. We’re all getting pissed on and told it’s raining — but we can all smell the urine. It’s a strong smell.

  42. @RichardTaylor

    ‘Intellectuals were sure the old sculptures of Greece and Rome were unpainted. It was ridiculous to think they painted them in a “gaudy” manner. But sure enough they did and the colors have been revealed using high intensity UV light.’

    ? It was a commonplace that they were painted forty years ago. I imagine the realization dates back a lot further than that.

  43. nebulafox says:
    @ES

    IMO, Tiberius struck me as a classical Republic-era aristocratic stoic type struggling to deal with the Augustan age, both in politics and personality: he seemed to actually expect the Senate to act as his partner and was confused and baffled by their refusal to do so, and also seemed to have little patience for flattery or foolishness. The unhappiness of his marriage to Julia symbolized the clash between Old and New Rome, in a lot of ways. He probably would have been far happier commanding a legion or two in Germany by day (definitely seemed to get along with blunt army centurions far better than Senators) and reading Greek philosophy in his campaign tent at night than dickering with politics at Rome. The lurid stories of Capri might be suspect, but there’s no question he took a downward turn after his son was covertly assassinated, and not just because he was one of the few people he was truly close to on a personal level: he was probably going to retire away from Rome, from a job he came to hate, in favor of him.

    Thing is, ancient historians always had an agenda: unlike in modern times, being biased was considered the point. Many of the most famous speeches and incidents in Herodotus or Thucydides were replications of what Herodotus and Thucydides believed their subjects said. The point wasn’t the details of what they actually said, but what the whole affair represented. They weren’t lying or making things up: but they were working without source notes in an era where history was more expected to be about moral lessons than facts. In the case of Rome, history was always written by the aristocracy, with their views heavily coloring our understanding of the various emperors. And in medieval Byzantium, clerics were often the ones doing it, with emperors who ended up on the losing side of theological controversies (Constantine V and iconoclasm) being vilified in ways that made Tacitus look objective. Often, Byzantine historians would show off their learning by modeling passages off the classical giants, and it isn’t hard to see Tactius’ old treatment of Domitian (who was, in reality, a highly effective if humorless totalitarian) as the standard “bad emperor” treatment.

  44. El Dato says:
    @Polistra

    Instead of Trump and Epstein, you have one historical figure: Drumpstein, who got impeached (among others for grabbing the pussy of the Speaker of the House), then killed himself in prison!

    • LOL: Gabe Ruth
    • Replies: @Bubba
  45. El Dato says:
    @Dieter Kief

    A nitpick: It’s “Bien sûr”.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  46. nebulafox says:
    @Verymuchalive

    Caesar was a massive debtor his whole life. It was part and parcel of his political strategy from the get-go, and as much as anything was responsible for the Triumvate: Crassus was the only guy who was willing and able to keep his fiscal nuts out of the fire.

    Not that the man didn’t know what he was doing. Plutarch sums it up better than I can:

    “He was unsparing in his outlays of money, and was thought to be purchasing a transient and short-lived fame at a great price, though in reality he was buying things of the highest value at a small price. We are told, accordingly, that before he entered upon any public office he was thirteen hundred talents in debt. Again, being appointed curator of the Appian Way, he expended upon it vast sums of his own money; and again, during his aedileship, he furnished three hundred and twenty pairs of gladiators, and by lavish provision besides for theatrical performances, processions, and public banquets, he washed away all memory of the ambitious efforts of his predecessors in the office. By these means he put the people in such a humour that every man of them was seeking out new offices and new honours with which to requite him. ”

  47. nebulafox says:
    @PhysicistDave

    >Do sources exist that tell us this, but most historians would rather repeat the gossip than look into the financial nuts and bolts? Or do the relevant sources not exist at all?

    They weren’t interested. Less because they were gossips or willing to cover up corruption than because history was assumed to work because of the characters of the great individuals of the day in conjunction with the supernatural, not because of material factors.

    Luckily, coins don’t decay, so they make an excellent alternative source when it comes to the economic history of Rome, especially the hyperinflation of the 3rd Century.

    >I’m curious, of course, to know how similar ancient Rome was to, say, the current Biden-family “business.”

    It’s *deeply* unlikely that, whatever the republican Roman oligarchy’s flaws, the kinds of relationships akin to what our modern bipartisan political and economic elites have with hostile rival states like China (and have had since the 1990s) at the expense of national interests would have been tolerated for a nanosecond.

    • Replies: @Skylark Thibedeau
  48. Anon[303] • Disclaimer says:
    @BlackFlag

    We can’t even figure out what happened in an election 3 months ago.

    • Replies: @Inquiring Mind
  49. Fact is, Anglos were barely part of the empire, but they treat it like Londinium was on par with the mother city, Antioch, Athens, Lyon, Italica in Iberia, and so on. Britannia produced no legitimate Emperors, just a failed usurper — no literature or art of note, and the only place you could grow wine was Kent (Britain’s only true whites). They’ve also imposed their insufferable received accent on everything Roman, when in fact they should sound like Italians.

    We need to remove any trace of Anglo revisionism from Rome, and then we can move forward. If that means more Arab and Black Emperors, so be it. They’ve quite literally got more of a claim to Rome than ANY Briton does.

    • Troll: Verymuchalive, TWS
    • Replies: @Anonymous
  50. Anonymous[317] • Disclaimer says:
    @BlackFlag

    He who controls the past controls the future.

    SF school board pauses renaming 44 schools, promises to consult historians in future

    In response to widespread criticism that the school board had not consulted historians before the near-unanimous decision, Lopez promised a “more deliberative process moving forward, which includes engaging historians at nearby universities to help” with future name-change discussions…

    The school board approved three weeks ago the renaming of schools in seeking to exclude affiliations with racism, slavery, colonization and other troubled legacies.

    https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/SF-school-board-pauses-renaming-44-schools-15968504.php

  51. @El Dato

    My eyes agree, my fingers didn’t care – spooky. No – now I remember what happened: My mind was insecure about the french adverb (would it be understood in the US?) and then (milliseconds later, I guess) it dawned on me that the French and the English words are pretty much alike (sûr/sure) – from then on, it’s dark. I was still thinking about the Kantian reference, which wasn’t all too bright and clear before my eyes – what it means actually in this case? It means that there is a shortcut to insights that is deceptive and it goes like this: I know x because I can reason about it. – No you don’t! – There is a difference between being able to reason about something and: Making an argument. – That is the point it was after.

    (Even more interesting is what Hans-Georg Gadamer makes of this insight: He a) says we all are constantly prone to hold practical things (insights) for granted for rather formal (=insufficient) reasons and thus make mistakes. b) This can’t be changed by theoretical means (a more rational philosophy or some such.) –

    – What really helps when deciding upon practical questions is – experience (and wit (=Urteilskraft, Vernunft (sensu communis))). So here you go: Jimi Hendrix and Truth and Method – A Synthesis as given on iSteve, February 22nd, 2021.

    Finis opusculum.
    Laus Deo!

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
    , @El Dato
    , @Lot
  52. David says:
    @Verymuchalive

    Also in Vitruvius are many little hints at what Roman life was like. He mentions the pounded volcanic ash floors in the dining room that let the wine poured out with the lees by the diners soak in, preventing the servants’ feet from getting stained. He expresses dismay and disapproval at the sumptuous interiors becoming the fad under Augustus, that it now costs as much to decorate a nice house as it does to build it. True to this day: the more expensive a house, the more expensive its contents relative to its value.

  53. @Colin Wright

    It was a commonplace that they were painted forty years ago. I imagine the realization dates back a lot further than that.

    Common among whom? It certainly wasn’t presented to the public that way until fairly recently.

    “To us, classical antiquity means white marble,” writes Smithsonian magazine’s Matthew Gurewitsch. “Not so to the Greeks, who thought of their gods in living color and portrayed them that way too. The temples that housed them were in color, also, like mighty stage sets. Time and weather have stripped most of the hues away. And for centuries people who should have known better pretended that color scarcely mattered.” But today, the right mix of inspection with ultraviolet light and infrared and x-ray spectroscopy has made it possible to figure out the very colors with which these apparently colorless statues once called out to the eye.

    The larger point is that the evidence was around for centuries but was dismissed. Intellectuals pushed the white marble view for centuries and were wrong. UV light settled the matter.

    https://www.openculture.com/2016/09/how-ancient-greek-statues-really-looked.html

  54. David says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    One can write on papyrus a few times faster than on parchment, with less skill. And papyrus was cheaper. When the Empire fell in the West, its connection to the source of papyrus was cut, and the art of making parchment didn’t yet exist. So the loss of papyrus was the loss of the most advanced writing system, and civilization regressed accordingly.

    Printing would have been almost useless in Rome, since it didn’t have a mass produced surface to print on.

  55. I think all the Loeb Classics, which contain almost all the Greek and Roman texts we have, could fit on a small, three-shelf bookcase.

    I am reading a modern retelling of the Alexander The Great story, by Philip Freeman, and there is a big puzzle at its heart. Everything we know about armies on campaign before the 20th Century tells us that the attrition rate from disease was enormous over even moderate lengths of time and distance. Yet Alexander is supposed to have conducted his decade-long, three-continent campaign over many thousands of miles with only any occasional modest reinforcement from Macedonia.

  56. Anon[427] • Disclaimer says:

    OT

    Yet Israel did not just offer more money to get to the front of the queue. It also offered pharmaceutical companies anonymised real-time data on vaccine distribution, side effects, and efficacy — in effect turning its population into Phase IV trial. Data on this scale goes far beyond anything drug companies could obtain in even the largest clinical trials.

    https://unherd.com/2021/02/how-israel-won-the-vaccine-wars/

  57. Anon[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @Richard of Melbourne

    The consul lists I’ve seen have blanks.

    But on the subject of consuls, it dawned on me recently that the U.S. Is following in Rome’s footsteps.

    Consuls were immune from prosecution and lawsuits while in office, but not after. So they had to arrange to leave town before their term was over to avoid harassment. Typically they appointed themselves governor of a suitably far away province, went there for a couple of years, skimmed the taxes, and only returned when they had enough money to bribe people or raise an army.

    Trump is basically in this situation: They are not going to leave him alone.

  58. Luttwak’s part II, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire is a complete disaster. This is despite the Byzantine producing copious amounts of military tactical manuals; although, their strategy has to be implied. He cannot read Greek properly so his handling of the primary sources is comical. On that basis, I did not bother with his part I on Rome.

    https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674062078&content=reviews

  59. Anonymous[264] • Disclaimer says:

    The doyen of late 20th century classicists was the Englishman, Michael Grant, the prolific author of many a popular, readings and accessible work about everything Rome and Roman, from the highest to the lowest of Roman citizens.
    As an excellent primer, I particularly recommend the Penguin Books translation of Suetonius’s “The Twelve Caesars”, by Robert Graves, which Michael Grant ably introduced, cooperated and added footnotes.
    This is exactly how the best translation should be like – one can almost *smell* the essence of ancient Rome.

    As to the manifold talents of Robert Graves, author, poet, classicists, forty years later I am still haunted by his lurid description of the complaint called ‘Herod’s Evil’, which according to Josephus, afflicted King Herod Agrippina:

    “A putrescent stomach, corpse-like breath, a constant watery flow from the bowels and maggots breeding in the privy member”.

  60. @Dieter Kief

    Yesterday, I was explaining to my daughter that the modern Greek word for family, oikogeneia is the same as the ancient Greek word and is a composite word (oiko and geneia) meaning “people born in the household”.

    Regarding Aristotle’s Oikonomikos, he has a very good section called On a Good Wife:

    https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/ancient/greek-wives.asp

    Some choice sections:

    A good wife should be the mistress of her home, having under her care all that is within it, according to the rules we have laid down. She should allow none to enter without her husband’s knowledge, dreading above all things the gossip of gadding women, which tends to poison the soul.

    But in all other matters, let it be her aim to obey her husband; giving no heed to public affairs, nor having any part in arranging the marriages of her children. Rather, when the time shall come to give or receive in marriage sons or daughters, let her then hearken to her husband in all respects, and agreeing with him obey his wishes.

    It is fitting that a woman of a well-ordered life should consider that her husband’s wishes are as laws appointed for her by divine will, along with the marriage state and the fortune she shares. If she endures them with patience and gentleness, she will rule her home with ease; otherwise, not so easily.

    If only we still listened to him…

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  61. Twinkie says:
    @Anon

    Raoul McLaughlin

    When you read his works, you realize just how crucial Egypt was for the imperial treasury. Not only did it (along with the province of Africa/old Carthage) provide much of the grain for the rest of the empire, the taxation on the enormously lucrative Arabian/Indian Ocean trade was vital and accounted for a huge fraction of the imperial budget.

    Rome levied a tiny amount of taxation on internal trade (1/20th or 1/40th, I forget) but encouraged and then heavily taxed the importation of luxuries such as frankincense and myrrh (1/4th). Romans absolutely went bonkers for these goods and bled a massive amount of silver to Arabia and India.

    By the way, decades ago, I read a translated petition sent to the Rome by a retired centurion. It was pretty eye-opening. He introduces himself in the petition (his lineage, martial service history, etc.) and even says that his brother gave him a daughter (his niece) as a wife! He was cashiered out after his service and settled in some colony to farm. He was petitioning Rome for some kind of aid. It was fascinating reading and gave an insight into what we might call a middle class person of the time.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @nebulafox
    , @Reg Cæsar
  62. @nebulafox

    There were the cases of foreigners like Jugurtha of Nemedia buying Senators to influence Roman foreign policy.

    • Replies: @nebulafox
  63. MEH 0910 says:
    @JMcG

    • Thanks: JMcG
    • Replies: @Voltarde
  64. Papinian says:

    @Steve_Sailer

    If you want to know about Gibbon’s sources, you need an unabridged copy of The Decline—I’d recommend the Womersley edition. Gibbon’s footnotes are comprehensive. It’s my impression that there is really an enormous amount of source material, and that Gibbon’s real achievement (apart from his style, and his hilarious attack on Christianity in chapter 15) was that he managed to ingest so much of it. There are historians you’ve never heard of, like Dion Cassius, who wrote an 80-book of history of Rome, in Greek. But Gibbon relies on multiple sources whenever possible, and by striving to calculate exact dates of events from the mess of contradictions, manages to get a sense of the reliability of each source.

    Gibbon also gives very detailed estimates of population, production of economies, etc. Quite a lot of detailed information is contained in, or can be inferred from, the legal codes and proceedings, which are well known.

    It’s not that we have too few sources to know what went on. It’s that we have too many, and we’re too rich, lazy, and preoccupied to learn ourselves what our ancestors once learned, even when they’ve pre-chewed it for us.

    • Agree: Cortes
  65. Ian Smith says:

    According to this historian, Nero was not the ogre of legend:

    https://www.strategypage.com/bookreviews/1889

  66. Marquis says:
    @Henry Canaday

    His troops did revolt at the thought of going farther into India. And he himself likely succumbed to disease. But it seems practical that he did as the Romans did to conquered tribes and assumed foreign auxiliaries as he went.

    That’s just a guess on my part though.

  67. Twinkie says:

    Edward Luttwak’s Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire

    That’s a very clever book, but it does bolt on – anachronistically – modern strategic thinking on the ancient Romans. That book was savaged by most experts on the topic and set off a minor academic kerfuffle when it was first published. The best rebuttal was probably Susan Mattern’s “ Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate.”

    I still find Luttwak a brilliant writer on strategy (along with Martin van Creveld) and have read most of his works.

  68. Ian Smith says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    We have bits and pieces of the Satyricon by Petronius. It was apparently a very long work. The scene of Trimalchio the nouveau riche ex-gladiator throwing a dinner party is a hoot.

  69. A good source of information about the Roman Empire for beginners is the Roman Emperors podcast.

    We are currently up to episode CLIX.

    https://podbay.fm/p/emperors-of-rome

    • Replies: @Marquis
    , @Bill Jones
  70. It is said that we know more about the day to day life of Egyptians that lived 1000 years before the Romans, than we do about the Romans themselves. The Egyptians wrote everything down on stone which survived longer that the papyrus the Romans used. John Romer, in his TV shows on ancient Egypt, was even able to find the spot where an Egyptian, who worked on a pyramid, lived because it was written on stone.

  71. @glib

    But that didn’t happen to the Gracchi.

  72. Anonymous[285] • Disclaimer says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    See:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Ass

    and

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyricon

    Both were from Imperial times. I’ve never seen any Roman novels from the time of the Republic.

  73. @Polistra

    Agreed, such as in Trier, Germany, one of Rome’s capitals.

    Any time there’s a headline like this it makes me think the author hasn’t spent the time to let it sink in that as early as the 3rd century Trier was serving as a capital of the Roman Empire. Not to be outdone, there was a lot going on nearby in Cologne too. 3rd century we’re talking about, the 200s.

    There was a mint in Trier.

    There are really a lot -lot-lot-lot-lot , lot-lot-lot, of surviving artefacts from Rome – obviously in Italy (brimming) but barely less obviously in Spain and the Balkans, but if that fails to leave an impression on the subconscious then it’s a good idea to shift attention north and imbibe that two-hundred-twenty-five years of Roman presence transpired, before, the Ostrogothic ascendancy in Ravenna to the south.

    A key facet of history is mutual attestation. We don’t look for monuments that kindly date themselves for us, or dated documents that kindly preserve in the original manuscript that we still possess in the basement of some museum. What we look for is that monuments, and artifacts (like coins, and kitchenware), and texts – refer to one another, and when they do so, they collectively form a coherent account. That’s how history is constructed.

    Rome is more or less the benchmark of historical-construction that all other history-constructions are measured against.

    There were factories in Roman North Africa that made kitchenware and the components of ceilings. “Nice things”. We find, in layers bespeaking centuries, that the products of these were widespread throughout the Mediterranean. Until they weren’t – and then we find evidence of wood kitchenware and primitive housing. We find that the evidence of kitchenware, good housing and Roman North African factories happens to be consistent with – high levels of atmospheric carbon – that drop off about the same time the factories were lost, and which don’t rise again until the 1300-1400s.

    There is a library found under a villa buried by Vesuvius, the Villa of the Papyri – some 1800 scrolls have been recovered from it. Multi-spectral imaging and CT scans are being brought to bear to decipher them without damaging them.

  74. @ES

    But the account of Tiberius seems suspect to me. He was an effective if boring emperor and soldier for most of his adult life. Would such a person suddenly morph into a pervert in old age?

    Tacitus: Annals

    And so died Tiberius, in the seventy eighth year of his age. Nero was his father, and he was on both sides descended from the Claudian house, though his mother passed by adoption, first into the Livian, then into the Julian family. From earliest infancy, perilous vicissitudes were his lot. Himself an exile, he was the companion of a proscribed father, and on being admitted as a stepson into the house of Augustus, he had to struggle with many rivals, so long as Marcellus and Agrippa and, subsequently, Caius and Lucius Caesar were in their glory. Again his brother Drusus enjoyed in a greater degree the affection of the citizens. But he was more than ever on dangerous ground after his marriage with Julia, whether he tolerated or escaped from his wife’s profligacy. On his return from Rhodes he ruled the emperor’s now heirless house for twelve years, and the Roman world, with absolute sway, for about twenty-three. His character too had its distinct periods. It was a bright time in his life and reputation, while under Augustus he was a private citizen or held high offices; a time of reserve and crafty assumption of virtue, as long as Germanicus and Drusus were alive. Again, while his mother lived, he was a compound of good and evil; he was infamous for his cruelty, though he veiled his debaucheries, while he loved or feared Sejanus. Finally, he plunged into every wickedness and disgrace, when fear and shame being cast off, he simply indulged his own inclinations.

  75. Thea says:
    @Neoconned

    Tha I you for sharing that I tereting at to do But…… it says the height of Europeans dropped 2,5 inches not 12 and that is happened after the medieval warm period ended in a mini-ice age.

  76. It depends what one expects. I think we have enough about Rome re family life, foods, military strategy, superstitions, science, geopolitics, …. and not enough about economy.

    For ancient Greece until Roman period we don’t have much.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  77. Huisache says: • Website
    @Redneck farmer

    My Russian history prof at UT-Austin told us in 1969 that it was ending soon. So did some NR authors even earlier

    • Replies: @Jack D
  78. @Anon

    It’s also worth remembering that the ancient Romans did not have a background of Christian morality to get in their way.

    They did have have morality to get in their way, it just wasn’t Christian morality. Arguably it was more of an ur-Nietzschean morality.

    Not that it matters that much because …

    Any culture that came up with the concept of proscription- state-sponsored mass murder-is not a nice one.

    … proscription has continued after the advent of Christianity in a variety of ways: the common law concept of “outlaw”, the explicit Proscriptions in the English Civil War and French Revolution (though you could argue that the latter was theologically anti-Christian), right up to the ongoing Anti-White Codes of today.

    Ironically, the promulgation and implementation of Anti-Whitism by the current elites was enabled by the Christian morality of the prior elites, so this Christian-morality-as-public-policy thing seems to engender its own demise.

  79. Separation of church and state makes it unlikely that Trump will achieve deification, at least not in his own lifetime.

    One of his signal failures during his time in office, where he might have learned from the Roman emperors he used as role models, was not getting his face on the coinage.

  80. @Redneck farmer

    Samuelson’s “Economics” which was required reading for just about any undergrad, portrayed in its 1988/9? Edition the USSR as a viable economic system to that of the West.

    • Replies: @mike99588
  81. @Dieter Kief

    Mais oui, monsieur… bien sûr

    To be is to do — Kant

    To do is to be — Nietzsche

    Do be do be do — Sinatra

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  82. @ES

    He was an effective if boring emperor and soldier for most of his adult life. Would such a person suddenly morph into a pervert in old age?

    Joe Biden has been a boring seatwarmer for most of his life.

    • LOL: Rob McX
  83. It’s quite clear there were hidden figures in the Roman history.

    For instance it was cross-dressing Roman women, who actually reinforced the legions during the many wars of Rome.

    Refugees from Parthia brought the much needed diversity and played a crucial role in the conflicts against racist Germanic tribes.

    Aquaducts were actually designed by Nubian women engineers from occupied Egypt.

    Roman legions were victorious when the average legionaire was raised gender-neutral, it changed when Christian bigots became influential within the higher echelons of Roman society.

    But enough of the Romans, did you know that the Tokugawa clan actually won the 16th century civil war and gained the Shogunate due the largely unkown Bantu mercenaries?

    • LOL: kaganovitch
    • Replies: @kaganovitch
  84. @Colin Wright

    Apropos of your comment: as i write this, there is an article on NYT web page, ‘What violence against Asians tells us about America”. I didn’t bother to read it, but I’ll bet $100 sight unseen that it says nothing about the intractable criminality of a Very Special & Sainted Demographic, when we all know that is 90% of the problem.

  85. Arclight says:
    @Verymuchalive

    The Roman talent for engineering was something my dad told me about when I was young and when I first visited Italy (at 21) it made my trip all the more remarkable as I wandered through the country then and on future visits. In our current age and the mania for erasing history, it’s worth remembering that most of the human societies that have ever existed never achieved what the Romans and a handful of other civilizations did thousands of years ago.

    • Agree: HammerJack
    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason
  86. @Hypnotoad666

    We do have some Roman plays, “comedies” by Plautus for example. But even my Latin teacher had to admit Roman literature was pretty blah compared to the Greeks. The few we read were not exactly gripping.

  87. @JMcG

    Roman Legions pretty much invented the concept of the Company Store.

  88. Didn’t the sudden volcanic finale at Pompeii leave clues on daily life and commerce — preserved in lava — for experts to sift through?

    BTW there was a ’70s German rock group apparently obsessed with Roman history, named Triumvirat appropriately enough. They did ELP- style concept albums on Spartacus and Pompeii.

  89. @Dieter Kief

    My eyes agree, my fingers didn’t care

    Nice line.
    I’ll be stealing that.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  90. @Arclight

    Indeed, and all the more remarkable that the Romans achieved so much without electricity or power tools, or even steam engines.

    I went to a museum exhibition of Roman technology a few years ago, and was pretty impressed by their Archimedes screw water pumps.

    On the other hand they compensated a lot with slave labor. You really didn’t need a ship’s engine, when you had a few score slaves to operate the oars. And a windmill was nice for grinding the corn, but if there was no wind slaves could grind the corn, tread the grapes, and extract the olive oil.

    But probably the cheap availability of slaves hindered some technological advances.

    In fact the lack of cheap labor in the United States was probably a motivator for the development of machines like laundry washing machines and carpet vacuum cleaners.

    • Replies: @Anon7
    , @The Alarmist
    , @Arclight
  91. El Dato says:
    @Dieter Kief

    He a) says we all are constantly prone to hold practical things (insights) for granted for rather formal (=insufficient) reasons and thus make mistakes. b) This can’t be changed by theoretical means (a more rational philosophy or some such.) –

    A slight correction: This can be changed by theoretical means, it is just that these means are entirely inaccessible to any realizable computational agent in this universe. See: AIXI and perfect inductive learning.

    More on coping within hard limits and meager amounts of resources in space, time and energy in this particular oubliette of an universe: Gerd Gigerenzer

    OT: The Phantom Menace. Literally!

    It seems the new transnational enemy has been officially identified by THE WORLD and it is MALCONTENT WHITEY.

    White supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are a ‘transnational threat’ which grows more dangerous by the day, says UN chief

    The UN secretary general called on people from around the world to help deliver “coordinated action” to overcome this threat which Guterres claims is “growing by the day.”

    Guterres stated that the UN needs to play a central role in defeating this “growing danger” and prevent “ethnically motivated terrorism.”

    Better change to “religously motiviated terrorism” because that’s evidently quite acceptable. Riding around as Arab and burning down saharan villages is fine too.

  92. @PhysicistDave

    lol. And our resident anti-Catholic bigot, PhysicistDave, is ignorant about how ancient Roman armies were paid. Even though this subject is absolutely clear in the historical record:

    1. Roman armies of Caesar’s time were paid a salary by the state, and up until the civil war Caesar had an army paid by the state.

    2. Roman armies (like most armies in history) also were paid in the bonus looting if they won a battle. And Caesar was pretty successful general who won a lot of big battles, you might want to look that up. So Caesar’s legions grew rich of their many, many conquests.

    How one can express confusion on this — something that can be answered with a two minute Google search — is beyond me. Then again, I have a an IQ above room temperature.

    Anything else you’re ignorant of that’s completely obvious and stated in the historical record in many places, you bigoted idiot?

  93. Ganderson says:
    @wren

    I liked Baldrick’s time machine in “Blackadder Back and Forth”. Also Bill and Ted’s phone booth.

  94. @Neoconned

    Other objective markers of Rome’s fall:

    • The Romans routinely built massive stone structures all around the empire, but for centuries after Rome’s fall, about the only stone building that survives is the crappy Baptistry at Poitiers. And even that is an exception that proves the rule. Compared to earlier stone construction, the Baptistry is hilariously bad: inept architecture full of mispurposed elements. (Kenneth Clark mentions this in his Civilisation series.)

    Pollution residues from Roman mining in the 1st and 2nd century was not equaled again until the 9th century: a 700 year production gap.

    • A basic measure of state capacity is how many fighting men it can concentrate at a given point. At the Battle of Adrianople in 324 (the decisive battle of the civil war that enthroned Constantine I) there were several hundred thousand men on this single battlefield. European power could not field this many men again until the Napoleonic Wars, almost a millennium and half later.

  95. Anon[725] • Disclaimer says:

    I wish a wealthy white man would purchase a piece of land with a hill on it, dig a large entranced cave in it, and pay a stonemason to carve (at least an inch deep) the real news of each passing year in about a thousand or so words. For instance this year’s would let all posterity know that the American Deep State rigged an election, larped a weaponless insurrection, placed a guy with alzheimers in the presidency, chronicle all his executive orders etc. Future court historians would have a harder time lying about it claiming his moves were popular.

    Want it saved forever like those Peruvian megalithic walls and the pyramids? Write it in stone yearly.

  96. Just on a modern pop culture level it’s worth noting that the T in Captain James T. Kirk stands for Tiberius — someone had to reach in pretty deep for that one, clearly viewing the emperor as both a heroic and multi-faceted historical character worth referencing.

    Question: We have the written record of the Latin language but are there any clues as to what “a Roman accent” from that age might sound like? How did they talk? Does anyone else notice how movies and TV shows always depict upper-crust Romans (such as politicians or military commanders) as having haughty British accents e.g. George Sanders. How might you realistically coach the actors to sound?

  97. Anon[802] • Disclaimer says:
    @Twinkie

    Rome usually collected that 25 percent tax in goods, because the traders usually blew all their coinage on buying trade goods. So Rome had giant warehouses full of silk and spices and incense and the like, and had a lot of power you set prices.

    The government rented space in these warehouses to upper class Romans. The physician Galen stored his huge library and all his collected medicinal substances in one of these warehouses in Rome. What could go wrong? It was guarded by imperial guards … until it burned to the ground. Galen went into a deep funk, managed to pull out of it, wrote a self-help book about how he did it, and in 2005 a grad student poking around in a monastery library found a copy of it. The title was known, but the book was thought to be lost.

  98. You might like a book from the 70s, Steve, by Jerome Carcopino: Daily life in Ancient Rome. It’s a fascinating tale of what life was like in the first century. A lot of grifting. Shaving was very difficult.

  99. @Hypnotoad666

    IMHO, The printing press and the feedback loop between literacy levels and book production (kickstarted by the Protestant reformation), was probably what caused Western Europe to reach the “escape velocity” that Rome and every other previous civilization failed to reach.

    I would think it’s more Guttenberg that kick-started the Reformation than the reverse though.

  100. @Lot

    there are tons more sources and detail about the Western Empire than 500-1200 AD

    Do you have a source for this? I ask because as a young undergrad I had assumed this was true, but was then told by senior historians that this is not true: that our sources increase more or less logarithmically with proximity to the present day. They allowed that medieval—especially early medieval—sources tended to concentrate on religion, theology, saints’ lives and such, and so political history gets a little thin for a while. But I’ve always kind of doubted this. There are famously zero written sources for Anglo-Saxon Britain for several hundred years, for example. To be fair though, a lot of our Classical history was not written contemporaneously either, but at least we have something close, or something written by someone who was supposed to be working from sources contemporaneous to his subject. Dark Age Europe has huge multi-century gaps filled only by myth and legend. Anyhow, since those undergrad days I’ve desultorily looked for some kind of hard quantification of primary historical sources, but never found one.

    As for economics, there are Roman census records, medical and agriculture handbooks, and tax records.

    I thought that while we knew that the Romans did censuses (censi?) , none of them had survived to the present day. Likewise with tax records. We know a little about Roman taxes from the law codes and various parties’ attempting to get out of paying them, but as for the Roman equivalent of 1040s, they’re all gone (a comforting thought for the upcoming tax “season”).

    • Replies: @Lot
    , @Jack D
    , @German_reader
  101. nebulafox says:
    @Almost Missouri

    The Eastern Roman empire continued to build great classical architecture as the West collapsed: the Theodosian walls, the Hagia Sophia, etc. It was only when the collapse of the 7th Century came that the state lost the wealth needed for that.

    The Dark Ages were… well, kind of dark. But you could make the case that this breakdown in centralized authority in Western Europe was what lay the seeds for what was distinctive about Western culture: namely, the tension between temporal and spiritual power that would be epitomized in the Papal Reform movement. The notion that there could be a division at all was pretty groundbreaking: and distinctive. It’s certainly ironic, but on a very faint level, Voltaire probably owed his existence to Gregory VII, who embodied the church he despised.

    You don’t even need to leave Christianity to see a counterpoint. In the east, where the empire survived, the emperor basically had a free hand with church matters provided he didn’t press too hard on matters of fundamental doctrine, as Nikephoros Phokas attempted in the 10th Century. When Constantinople finally fell, Russia inherited that tradition, with the Tsar having far more power than his Western counterparts and unity of church and state (symphonia) being the ideal.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  102. Anonymous[141] • Disclaimer says:

    Kind of off topic, but something I’ve been getting into lately is the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis.

    https://twitter.com/Ayjchan/with_replies

    https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/coronavirus-lab-escape-theory.html

    As per usual (Lance Armstrong, John Edwards), the Wikipedia fucktards are hiding behind Wikifuck policies to stop content on even mentioning the hypotheses (as well as labeling the idea itself a conspiracy theory).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Miscellany_for_deletion/Draft:COVID-19_lab_leak_hypothesis

  103. @Almost Missouri

    • A basic measure of state capacity is how many fighting men it can concentrate at a given point. At the Battle of Adrianople in 324 (the decisive battle of the civil war that enthroned Constantine I) there were several hundred thousand men on this single battlefield. European power could not field this many men again until the Napoleonic Wars, almost a millennium and half later

    Many modern Marxist historians have poo-pooed the claims about numbers and experiences that centuries-old sources claim.

    For example, when the Spaniards conquered Mexico, they told lurid tales of mass sacrifices and hundreds of skulls of the murdered; Marxists claimed this was all lies to justify conquest, and when evidence of sacrifice was found, they then changed to that the numbers were exaggerated. Then just a few years ago under the main Catholic Cathedral in Mexico City they found hundreds of human skulls from the sacrifices, fully justifying the Conquistadors’ tales.

    Since then I’ve thought that the huge numbers given in the Bible for various armies/civilizations aren’t exaggerated or nonexistent as many of the same Marxists claim, but merely are inconvenient for the Marxists’ narrative.

    • Replies: @anon
  104. nebulafox says:
    @Twinkie

    What are your top recommendations for classical military history? If this is too broad of a question, my apologies.

  105. Wonderful, fascinating comments but just watch Steve’s post send the NYT off on a big “B.C. 619 Project” — Black Slaves Build Rome, Women and Minorities Hardest Hit etc etc

  106. Zimriel says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    There are plenty of Roman-era novels but most were written in the language of literacy, which was Greek. There’s even a Jewish picaresque: “The Island of the Rechabites”. There were so many in this genre alone being scribbled that Lucian of Samosata wrote “True Story” as a parody, this one taking place on the Moon(!). Lucian didn’t know it at the time but he’d invented science fiction . . .

    Apuleius’ “Metamorphoses” is the only Latin novelist to survive fully, perhaps because Augustine liked it. Petronius’ “Satyricon” survives in fragments.

  107. GeraldB says:

    It’s like trying to find a Medieval bread recipe. It’s hard, because how to bake bread was such common knowledge that it wasn’t written down.

    I doubt that there was ever a written document on how to run a business in ancient Rome. Such knowledge would have been passed on from master to apprentice, and kept within the guilds.

  108. Marquis says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    Mike Duncan’s A History of Rome Podcast is a good primer. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History had some entertaining episodes on the Punic wars and Cesar’s Gaul campaign.

    • Agree: ic1000, Captain Tripps
  109. Anon7 says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    Ben Hur is a terrific movie, but inaccurate. From Wikipedia:

    “Contrary to the popular image of rowers chained to the oars, conveyed by movies such as Ben Hur, there is no evidence that ancient navies ever made use of condemned criminals or slaves as oarsmen, with the possible exception of Ptolemaic Egypt.[168] Literary evidence indicates that Greek and Roman navies relied on paid labor or ordinary soldiers to man their galleys…

    It was only in the early 16th century that the modern idea of the galley slave became commonplace. The Ottoman navy and its North African corsair allies often put Christian prisoners to the oars, but also mixed volunteers. Spain relied on mostly servile rowers, in great part because its organizational structure was geared toward employing slaves and convicts.[174] Venice was one of few major naval powers that used almost only free rowers, a result of their reliance on alla sensile rowing which required skilled professional rowers. The Knights of Saint John used slaves extensively, as did the Papal States, Florence, and Genoa. North African ghazi corsairs relied almost entirely on Christian slaves for rowers.”

  110. nebulafox says:
    @Twinkie

    There’s so much focus on urban life that people tend to forget that pre-modern societies were heavily agrarian, and that this was the default for most of human history. We’re really pressing into unchartered territory with the degree of urbanization around the world in the last century.

    One of the reasons Constantinople’s population plummeted during the 7th Century, in addition to the bubonic plague, was the cancellation of the Gracchian bread dole that Constantine brought with him when he built his new city. Why? Because breadbasket Egypt was no longer in Roman hands. Anatolian farmers would eventually come up with some pretty inventive cultivation techniques that would allow the city to recover and become a (on medieval standards) giant again, but that took centuries to work out. And the general impoverishment of the empire was not a little tied into the fact that the caliphate was now where the Silk Road traders went.

    >It was fascinating reading and gave an insight into what we might call a middle class person of the time.

    It’s fascinating to realize that these people-classical, medieval, whatever-had the same human desires and drives that moderns do. A lot has changed, from our understanding of the universe to what we worry about to our systems of ethics, but not our underlying impulses. Maybe our expression of them.

    • Replies: @Wency
    , @Twinkie
    , @Templar
  111. nsa says:

    The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius describes the morphing of the republic into an autocratic empire and is filled with humor and many interesting details. The daughter of Augustus like to pull trains, Nero was the rock star (lyre) of his day, Claudius stuttered and was referred to in the senate as Cl-Cl-Claudius, Tiberius was a paedo who filled his Isle of Capri pool with kiddies and referred to it as “swimming with the minnows”, Vespasian made a fortune off the effluent of public urinals, both Nero and Claudius evicted jews from Rome to put a stop to their constant troublemaking, etc. And yes, life could be exceedingly unpleasant for the lower castes……epidemics of smallpox and VD, very primitive medical and dental treatment, food poisoning, slavery, usury, conscription, filth, degradation, etc. Try the comedic novel Satyricon by Petronius wherein the plight of the lower classes is satirized.

  112. @Jonathan Mason

    Indeed, and all the more remarkable that the Romans achieved so much without electricity or power tools, or even steam engines.

    Not to mention the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter.

    Wow, I bet Roman Twitter would have been fun: Poisoned or forced to literally fall on your sword when cancelled.

  113. Wency says:
    @nebulafox

    Indeed, when it comes to archaeology we have a tendency to marvel at these wonderful, generally unproductive population sinks we call cities, without contemplating the agrarian economy that invariably sustained them. There is a legitimate case that cities are more economically productive today, but an analog might be some future generation marveling at the architecture of the US Capitol dome and pitying the unremarkable skylines of cities in the Heartland that paid the taxes to sustain it.

    My pet theory is that in a pre-industrial state, the rural population serves as a sort of economic reserve, a “deep treasury” that can’t be accessed instantly like a treasury measured in gold, but can be squeezed in times of crisis to raise armies or collect taxes. The urban population, by contrast, is basically a liability, a largely unproductive mob that surrounds the government bureaucracy and has to be placated lest it destroy that bureaucracy but otherwise contributes little to state power.

    When you urbanize a pre-industrial economy, you’re actually burning away the rural reserve, both by grinding it to oblivion in Malthusian fashion via taxation that sustains the cities and by encouraging its population to migrate to those cities, ceasing productive economic activity in order to go on the dole, which creates a downward spiral. But along the way you’re also allocating more resources to stuff that future generations will marvel at.

    • Agree: Almost Missouri
  114. It’s curious how a few people in the Renaissance found so many “forgotten” Roman tracts in those monasteries. Often the same person getting lucky, over and over again…and getting wealthy from it.

    Just like some people seem to have all the luck finding ancient statues, antiquities, etc. And get wealthy from that luck.

  115. Jack D says:
    @glib

    History is written by the victors. Most Roman emperors did not die in their beds, especially during certain centuries. Part of murdering your predecessor was murdering his reputation so Emperors would get historians favorable to them (not hard to find toadies) to write scurrilous accounts to the effect that the previous Emperor was given to incest, bestiality, arson, etc. and in many cases these are the only accounts that came down to us.

    It is a lot like modern day Wikipedia in that political considerations overrode the concept of “neutral POV” so history was not supposed to be a literal account of the truth but rather a bunch of invented anecdotes that would reveal the “true character” of the figure – literal truth was not important so long as the figure’s “bad character” was illustrated by it. There was also an element of tabloid sensationalism – if you wanted your book to sell you had to make it juicy and not boring.

    • Replies: @fafqw
    , @Paperback Writer
  116. peterike says:

    As a side note, for those fans of Rome who might be interested in a fictional rendition, I highly recommend Augustus by John Williams (one of our best modern novelists even though he wrote only three books — each perfect in its way).

    Augustus works as a sort of epistolary novel — it uses fake-but-accurate extracts from journals, letters, government documents, etc. to piece together a brilliant take on the age of Augustus. Like all Williams’ works, it is sad and elegiac. It’s astounding how he crafts very unique personalities of different Romans by using a plethora of different first-person voices. A terrific book and a fictional tour de force.

    PS – If you want to feel sad, read Williams’ “Stoner,” the saddest book in the world.

  117. Twinkie says:
    @Almost Missouri

    At the Battle of Adrianople in 324 (the decisive battle of the civil war that enthroned Constantine I) there were several hundred thousand men on this single battlefield. European power could not field this many men again until the Napoleonic Wars, almost a millennium and half later.

    It’s held traditionally that about 150,000 fought on each side, but I suspect the real number was probably a fifth or even a tenth as large. Prior to modern inventions such as canning (food preservation) and rail roads as well as hygienic practices (esp. regarding water and waste management), it was impossible to sustain that many men in one area without mass starvation and rampant disease. What was impressive about the ancient Roman state was its ability to arm, equip, and train many tens of thousands of men and operate several armies across vast distances simultaneously, a feat unmatched by any until the Mongols in the early 13th century.

    Hans Delbrück demolished much of the ancient myths of vast hordes of warriors in 1920 (not only did he do extensive geographical and population research, he also carried out experiments to test such numbers).

    • Thanks: Abe
  118. Bubba says:
    @El Dato

    Couldn’t help but think of this famous scene…

    • Replies: @Rob McX
  119. Steve,
    If you make a post on Star Wars next, your last three posts will have hit the trifecta of my youth enthusiasms…

  120. Andy says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    A few library catalogs from the Roman era have survived, so we have some idea of the books (or rather scrolls) produced during that time. We know only a relatively small number of them have reached our age due to a lot of invasions (Germans, Huns, Vikings, Arabs, and so forth) and the passage of time (scrolls degrade with time and medieval monks were very selective in what books they felt needed to be copied)

  121. He makes the point that we have little in the way of written documentation come down to us about Roman strategy in particular or its military in general.”

    “The only publications that have come down to us and can still be read, are his fascinating commentaries on his wars (e.g., De bello Gallico on the wars in Gaul and De bello civili on the civil war). The first text was written in Gaul, and contains seven books, each covering a single year from 58 to 52. An eighth book carries the story to the outbreak of the Civil War (i.e., it deals with the years 51 and 50) but is written by his lieutenant Hirtius. Caesar’s literary aims are discussed here.

    The three books on the civil war are comparable; they describe the events of the years 49 and 48 but are unfinished. In these books, Caesar is his own herald: in a simple and compressed style, he shows himself involuntarily fighting necessary wars.”–livius.org, vici.org

    Documentaries have made extensive use of Ceasar’s written works regarding the Gallic Wars and the strategies he employed with his army. Self-serving, perhaps. But invaluable as surviving primary sources.

  122. Twinkie says:
    @nebulafox

    What are your top recommendations for classical military history?

    Though not specifically “classical,” I always recommend Keegan’s “A History of Warfare.”

    breadbasket Egypt

    Egypt and Africa fed the empire. When Egypt was lost, the East was doomed and when Africa fell, the West was finished. Egypt though was far more important – the quarter tax on the Arabian/Indian imports accounted for something like 25-50% of the imperial budget and made it possible to fund all the legions on the Rhine-Danubian frontiers. Most of the Roman European border provinces were huge net consumers of imperial resources – Britain and Germany were particularly poor and yielded huge deficits.

    It’s fascinating to realize that these people-classical, medieval, whatever-had the same human desires and drives that moderns do.

    The ancients – at least those of certain stations – seem to have harbored a much greater impulse toward glory than the moderns with our comparatively greater obsession with finances.

  123. Anon[199] • Disclaimer says:
    @Henry Canaday

    He very likely recruited mercenaries along the way, or, more importantly, he learned the value of keeping a clean camp from military tradition (or even his father) in preventing disease. Typhus and cholera would have been the two main scourges of armies, and you can prevent them both by a habit of cleanliness.

  124. What do we know?

    My money is on Sam Cooke: [We] don’t know nothing bout no rise and fall.

  125. Mr. Anon says:
    @ES

    I, Claudius was indeed quite good. There was another BBC teleplay, aired in 1968 and in black and white, based (ultimately) on the same source material as I, Claudius, but with a different interpretation than that of Robert Graves. It featured Freddie Jones as Claudius and Andre Morel as Tiberius, who both portray those characters quite differently than in I, Claudius. It’s well worth a watch.

    • Agree: dfordoom
  126. Jack D says:
    @Almost Missouri

    There are famously zero written sources for Anglo-Saxon Britain for several hundred years, for example.

    Yes, correct so that the sources for Roman times, though also not abundant, are comparatively greater – ANY sources are better than none at all. It’s not a smooth progression where the further back you go the less records we have. The Anglo-Saxons didn’t have any written sources because they couldn’t write.

    A lot of the ancient Roman and Greek stuff ended up being preserved because it was widely disseminated in more than one area. For example some stuff was preserved in Byzantium and in Arab world, both because they were more interested in keeping this knowledge around (at least that part of it that was useful to them and not contrary to Islamic doctrine) and because the drier climate was more conducive to preservation and only later rediscovered when the West became interested in ancient history again. Some sources only survived in a single copy. Whereas the only place you would have found records concerning Anglo-Saxon Britain were in Britain so the chances of any of it surviving were much lower.

    • Replies: @J1234
  127. Mr. Anon says:

    He makes the point that we have little in the way of written documentation come down to us about Roman strategy in particular or its military in general.

    Robert Graves Count Belesarius (which by the way is every bit as good as I, Claudius) has some interesting descriptions of 6th century siege warfare. I don’t know if he got those from contemporaneous accounts or his own imagination. A little of both, I would imagine.

  128. @nebulafox

    The Eastern Roman empire continued to build great classical architecture as the West collapsed

    True, I was using “Rome’s fall” in the sense that most English-speakers mean it: the fall of the Western Roman Empire. But I think everyone knows that the collapse was earlier and harder in the West than the East. Also, even the East suffered from West’s collapse of primary production, and neither Eastern nor Western Rome was ever again able to muster the military force they could before Constantine.

    you could make the case that this breakdown in centralized authority in Western Europe was what lay the seeds for what was distinctive about Western culture: namely, the tension between temporal and spiritual power that would be epitomized in the Papal Reform movement. The notion that there could be a division at all was pretty groundbreaking

    Good point.

    Voltaire probably owed his existence to Gregory VII, who embodied the church he despised.

    I like those sorts of ironies.

  129. AKAHorace says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    It’s also a real shame that nothing resembling a “Roman novel” ever survived to give a sense of what the ancients thought and felt about their society. Was such a work ever done in the first place? I guess there is no way to know.

    See
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Ass
    Although it is described as the only Roman novel to survive in full.

  130. @Colin Wright

    We are getting more and more like the old USSR. Our Progressives read and believe every word of our mainstream Pravda, while some of us seek the truth in samizdat such as appears on unz.com. An old Soviet-era joke applies to us now:

    A man walks into the hospital and tells the desk nurse that he wants to see the eye/ear doctor. “There is no such doctor” she tells him. “We have doctors for the eyes, and doctors for the ear, nose, and throat, but no eye/ear doctor.”

    He repeats, “I need to see the eye/ear doctor.”

    The nurse says: “Comrade, if there were such a doctor, why would you want to one?”

    “Because,” he replies, “I keep hearing one thing and seeing another.”

    There’s a longer version of the joke in which the man finally gets to see a general practitioner who tells him, “I’m sorry, comrade, I cannot help you. There is no cure for communism.”

    • Thanks: Colin Wright
  131. Mr. Anon says:
    @Lurker

    One thing that becomes apparent from studying history is that the wealthy and powerful were usually vicious bastards, or at least callous bastards, and had no problem in using people and even whole countries any which way they saw fit for their own benefit, amusement, and aggrandizement.

    And yet, in the present day, people assume that it’s all different now.

    • Agree: HammerJack
    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  132. What about the lead – in – drinking vessels causing excess pathological violence in Ancient Rome ? A myth possibly — though we do know that’s been used to excuse “urban “ violence in this day and age .

  133. gcochran says:
    @Neoconned

    Average height went UP with the fall of the Roman empire.

    • Agree: Intelligent Dasein
    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  134. Cortes says:
    @Henry Canaday

    Deaths from illness may have been primarily from typhus, known as “camp fever” – Hans Zinsser produced a very readable “biography” of the disease in “Rats, Lice and History” of 1935.

    Alexander didn’t hang about too long in any one place, as I recall, and that might explain why only occasional troop replacements were needed.

  135. Lot says:
    @Dieter Kief

    “ the french adverb (would it be understood in the US?”

    About half of Americans took high school Spanish and forgot nearly all of it, but remember this from the first week:

    ¿Como estas?
    Bien. ¿Y tu?

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  136. @JMcG

    his expenses equaled his pay

    Funny how that works out, lol.

    To be fair to the Roman magistrates though, the “Roman soldier” MEH 0910 refers to was really just an auxiliary who served less time and with lesser burdens than the 25 years of frontline service a full Legionary bore. From the Roman magistrate’s point of view, it was probably slightly preferable to employ local riffraff as Army “auxiliaries”, paying their keep while they are in their most querulous years and directing their energy into road construction or scouting the frontier, rather than to have them running about the streets making trouble, requiring more real Legionaries to control. Employing auxiliaries may not win wars for Rome, but it could reduce the number of battles Rome fought.

    While proper Legionaries were better paid, their real bounty was their praemia for serving out a full quarter century, which could be a pile of silver or good farmland (though maybe not in the safest location). They also were increasingly paid out of the loot from the conquered, and as Imperial accession-by-coup hotted up, they got larger and larger donatives from the winner of the latest civil war.

    • Agree: Lot
  137. @Jonathan Mason

    Thanks.
    One of the wonders, and banes of Unz; about once a week someone spins you off to another month’s worth of reading/listening/watching.

    • Agree: Voltarde
  138. Arclight says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    Yep – I was in middle school when we visited the UK for the first time and my family went to a Roman archaeological site in the north where they had uncovered the foundation of some mid-level guy’s house and they had indoor plumbing and flues for central heat. The imprint they left all over Europe and North Africa is truly remarkable.

    That said, they unfortunately are also a prime example of how a civilization can lose all that it worked to build as well, and in relatively short order. The view of the future in the US in the 1980s looked a hell of a lot different than it does today, and it was completely self-inflicted.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason
    , @anon
  139. Beckow says:
    @Almost Missouri

    …there were several hundred thousand men on this single battlefield. European power could not field this many men again until the Napoleonic Wars, almost a millennium and half later.

    My idle curiosity: how many men could we field on a battlefield today? How many Americans, French, Germans, Russians would line up to fight and die? Not that long ago in WWI-II millions did. (In today’s Rome, we probably couldn’t find two dozen young men willing to go and die.)

    Building huge stone edifices – mostly for yourself – and slaughtering thousands of young men is not that great. Maybe Dark Ages were a more pleasant – although dangerous – respite from all that civilization. Or should we live to please the midwit children of the elite who have nothing to do otherwise?

    Today we have massive bloodlust among the elites with minimal willingness to die. They will try more creative methods, the midwits always must have something to do.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  140. OT: A new caravan is forming, this time Haitians and Africans, entering Peru from Brazil and going (you guessed it) North.
    https://www.laprensalatina.com/migrants-authorities-clash-on-peru-brazil-border/

  141. @gcochran

    Was that because the average Roman peasant became better fed or was it because shorter Romans were getting replaced by taller Franks and Goths?

    (Can we call this the “pot [bellies], not people” question?)

  142. David says:
    @Henry Canaday

    A full set of the Loeb Classics covers 45 shelf-feet. That’s two large cases. Of course, you can halve that since they’re bilingual.

  143. Jack D says:
    @Almost Missouri

    It’s also possible because there were a lot few people so there was more food per person. The population of the city of Rome crashed from around 1.5 million to a few thousand and didn’t reach its ancient level again until the 20th century.

    • Replies: @Wency
    , @Anon
  144. Anon[130] • Disclaimer says:
    @PhysicistDave

    how did Julius Caesar, for example, get the money to pay his army

    I can’t answer the question from specific knowledge, but he was consul in 59 BC and then, as consuls tended to do, got himself appointed a governorship … actually three or four governorships. This got him control of the armies in those provinces. Also, governors could tax their provinces and take a cut of that before sending the rest back to Rome (or not, perhaps, in his case).

    After empty land ran out in Italy proper, retiring legionnaires were given land in the places they were stationed. This accounts for Romania, and the Latin-derived language that developed there. I don’t know if Julius Caesar was granting lands in Gaul or not to legionnaires, but they speak Spanish and Portuguese in Transalpine Gaul now.

    And as someone else hinted at, in addiiton to normal camp followers (prostitutes and merchants) the Roman armies were followed by slave traders. Caesar would sometimes enslave an entire city if they did not surrender. The entire population, men, women, and children, was sold to slavers, with the money going to Caesar to distribute. I seem to remember a movie that depicted this, Gladiator or the like.

  145. OT

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/feb/22/people-with-extremist-views-less-able-to-do-complex-mental-tasks-research-suggests

    It’s SCIENCE!

    I wonder if we can define any other groups who may be less able to do complex mental tasks, and those who may be more able?

    • LOL: Kyle
    • Replies: @El Dato
  146. Anon[298] • Disclaimer says:

    Remember this from Reddit nine years ago?:

    Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?

    Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU? from AskReddit

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome,_Sweet_Rome

    A guy wrote a speculative alternative history about Rome in Reddit, and ended up with an agent and relocation to Los Angeles to develop the idea … but was never heard from again.

    Several years later, the hosts of the National Public Radio program Endless Thread call the short story “one of the most famous creative anachronism ever made by the Internet… an anachronism that was going to be huge, like a Ridley Scott movie huge,… plucked from obscurity, optioned by Hollywood, and then never to be heard from again.”

    Apparently he did get a novel published:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Erwin_(author)

    And he’s done some nonfiction writing also.

  147. German_reader says:
    @Almost Missouri

    There are famously zero written sources for Anglo-Saxon Britain for several hundred years

    That’s only really true for the pagan period, that is 5th and 6th century. For 7th century Anglo-Saxon history you’ve already got Bede’s Ecclesiastical history, and after that different versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Also law codes and charters, plus saint’s lives, poems (some dealing with contemporary issues like The Battle of Maldon about a battle against Vikings) etc. Anglo-Saxon England was actually a fairly literate society by the standards of the time, making extensive use even of the vernacular in documents.
    And Lot’s statement is of course wrong, while some periods are thinly documented (e.g. the 7th century and to some extent also the early to mid-10th century) even the early middle Ages are much richer in surviving sources than the pagan Roman empire.

    • Agree: LondonBob
    • Thanks: Almost Missouri
    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
    , @Lot
  148. German_reader says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    It’s also a real shame that nothing resembling a “Roman novel” ever survived to give a sense of what the ancients thought and felt about their society.

    There’s Petronius and Apuleius, whose works have at least partly survived, so that’s not completely true.

    • Replies: @Anonymouse
  149. To my mind, this is one of the best iSteve posts in a long time. It’s great to see it bring out some of the more erudite Unz commenters, holding forth interesting views.
    I thank you all.

    • Agree: JMcG, Voltarde
    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  150. 3d toys says:
    @PhysicistDave

    In his book ‘Caesar,’ by Adrian Goldsworthy (highly readable), he describes in detail Caesar, after crossing the Rubicon and taking Rome, going to the Temple of Saturn in the Forum and stealing a huge amount of funds, including a 300 yr old fund that had been saved in case of a sack of Rome. “They don’t need this any longer,” was his quip. Sounds like he raided the Fed of it’s day. Who ran the Temple of Saturn?

    • Thanks: PhysicistDave
  151. Kyle says:

    If you can read greek & Latin, there are plenty of manuscripts that have survived. Relatively. I’m sure if it. The Babylonians understood basic trigonometry. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/dont-fall-for-babylonian-trigonometry-hype/
    The Roman apparently understood mathematics & physics judging by the architecture of the pantheon. It’s has a concrete dome with a hole in it, and apparently the concrete isn’t reinforced with steel.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome

  152. A tendentious question. How much is much? Of the 530 volumes of the Loeb Classical Library, over 200 are of Latin writings. The Loeb Classical Library prints the original Greek or Latin text and the English translation on the opposite page. Inscriptions in stone have been collected and published in great folios. Much also may be gleaned from the archaeology of buildings, tombs, roadworks, aquaducs, surviving art work in bronze and other materials. Even Roman agricultural fields have been dug through and sieved for evidence of what they grew to eat. The sequence of historical events is well known thanks to historians like Livy, Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Josephus the Jew, Polybius and others, all but Tacitus and Livy writing in Greek about the Romans. Ingenious scholars have spent lifetimes assembling the evidence so as to make sense of it all. I recommend Theodor Mommsen’s A History of Rome. Another great read is Fustel de Coulange’s La cité antique.

    By the way, James Loeb who funded the Loeb Classical Library was a Jewish banker.

  153. @Henry Canaday

    the attrition rate from disease was enormous over even moderate lengths of time and distance. Yet Alexander is supposed to have conducted his decade-long, three-continent campaign over many thousands of miles with only any occasional modest reinforcement from Macedonia.

    I understood that Alexander recruited defeated enemy formations into his army, particularly the capable Persians. While this was (and is) not an unusual practice, he did it to such an extent as to cause some unrest among his veteran Greeks, as the army became increasingly foreign as it moved east.

  154. Even if we had more ancient texts documenting life in ancient Rome, the majority of us would still not know what life in Rome was like. It is not until we have an abundance of such documents and we are taught regularly for an extended period of time that we begin to understand. The reason is that our world is different from theirs because:
    1. electricity
    2. petroleum and chemistry
    3. physics and engineering
    4. newspapers/media/internet
    .
    How many instances are there where some ancient reference has no meaning, or a different meaning today? Going back a few hundred years we have the expression, “… life, liberty(,) and the pursuit of happiness.” (Not sure if Jefferson used the Oxford comma or not.) Happiness then meant the oportunity to fulfill life through work. Today it means the latest labor saving gadget or a mindless diversion. Going back a hundred years or more, horse theft was a capital offence in the old west. Why? A man stranded without his horse could die. Today it is a minor felony or, in LA, a non-prosecuted misdemeanor.

    So, even if we had ample texts, it is only with a lot of work that we could understand ancient Rome. It is like having to learn an entirely new language, then having to learn entirely new definitions for the words along with learning all their connotations.

    • Agree: Rob McX
  155. Anonymous[244] • Disclaimer says:
    @Verymuchalive

    Architecture has remained a subject of great importance throughout history so the monkish scribes mentioned upthread had strong motive to preserve faithful copies of this book.

    OTOH, Seutonius’s Lives of Famous Whores has not survived, which makes me sad.

  156. El Dato says:
    @YetAnotherAnon

    “Latter-day Liberalism Explained!”

  157. Voltarde says:
    @MEH 0910

    Thanks!

    It seems like the original Twitter link to the article is not working. This one should:

    https://taskandpurpose.com/mandatory-fun/roman-soldier-payslip-green-weenie-immortal/

    • Thanks: MEH 0910
  158. @Twinkie

    yeah, a lot of the ancient numbers are laughable. greeks might as well have said the persian armies they defeated had 17 billion people for all the accuracy they did employ

    • Replies: @Twinkie
  159. JMcG says:
    @Anon

    Thanks, I was wondering what happened to that fellow not three days ago.

  160. @Twinkie

    ‘…That’s a very clever book, but it does bolt on – anachronistically – modern strategic thinking on the ancient Romans…’

    Yeah. We chronically tend to assume that our current conventions, assumptions, etc are objective reality. To at least some extent, though, we’re playing a game with rules that we ourselves have dreamed up — and others don’t necessarily play by those rules.

    In battle, the ancient Aztecs kept trying to take Spaniards alive for sacrifice. The Spaniards just kept killing Aztecs on the spot. That — as much as anything — is why the Spanish won.

    The Spaniards weren’t playing by the rules the Aztecs did. More recently, in Vietnam we were flummoxed by the fact that the North Vietnamese were quite willing to keep losing pieces of ground and would accept massively disproportionate losses. It was only us who thought that would decide the war.

    The highland tribes in in New Guinea wage ‘war’ by assembling on either side of a meadow and flinging spears at each other until someone is killed or seriously hurt.

    They then have a winner. I suspect all warfare tends to evolve into a contest with agreed-upon rules.

    So it would indeed be an anachronism to assume that what we would be seeking to accomplish in a given situation is what the Romans would have been seeking to accomplish.

    • Replies: @Macumazahn
    , @Anonymous
  161. @German_reader

    I thought Bede was 8th century. And Maldon is 10th century, so there is still something of a significant gap. I referred to the saints’ lives upthread, but I think a lot of historians put them in the “myths and legends” category. I am less automatically dismissive of ecclesiastical sources, but either way, they don’t tell so much about the kind of standard political history that conveniently interested the Romans as much as us moderns.

    Can you be more specific about law codes and charters? The Lex salica is well known, but that was from the continental side of the Channel and was Frankish (though of course the Franks and Anglo-Saxons were cousin tribes, their fighting each other notwithstanding.)

    Anyhow, if I can repeat my query of Lot to you, do you know of any hard quantification of primary source documents for European history? David says there’s about 23 shelf-feet of Loeb Classics primary source documents for Classical history. Even stretching the geographic boundaries of Europe to the utmost, it is hard for me to imagine that there is as much from the Dark Ages.

    • Replies: @German_reader
  162. @Verymuchalive

    There are a number of works on Roman agriculture too: Cato’s De Agricultura, Varro’s De Re Rustica, Columella’s work, also entitled De Re Rustica. Plenty of information there.

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
  163. @Arclight

    Interesting. I worked on the excavation of the chief centurion’s house in Chester around 1973, and it sounds very similar to what you are describing.

  164. German_reader says:
    @Almost Missouri

    I thought Bede was 8th century.

    Yes, early 8th century, but he wrote about the process of Christianization starting with the mission sent to Kent by Gregory the Great in the late 6th century, and while his focus is on the progress of the Christian religion that entails dealing with the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (conversion was a top-down affair after all, so there’s an obvious emphasis on the role of various kings).
    Anyway, imo for Anglo-Saxon history Frank Stenton’s Anglo-Saxon England (originally published in 1943, there’s a revised edition from the 1960s) from the old Oxford history of England series is still pretty good. There are also interesting essays by James Campbell who argued that the late Anglo-Saxon state was quite advanced by the standards of the time.
    Also nice is the Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England which contains many detailed articles on all the different aspects of Anglo-Saxon England (like the law codes and charters you asked about below).

    Can you be more specific about law codes and charters?

    There are early ones already from the 7th and early 8th century (e.g. there are law codes from Aethelbert of Kent and Ine of Wessex). iirc there is then some gap, but in the 10th century almost all English kings issued laws. To some extent they probably followed the model of Carolingian capitularies in this regard (a tradition which had been discontinued on the continent by the 10th century, which was a pretty grim period in many ways).

    it is hard for me to imagine that there is as much from the Dark Ages.

    Depends how you define “Dark ages”…6th century is certainly quite obscure, but even there you’ve got authors like Gregory of Tours or the letters of Cassiodorus. And for the Carolingian age you’ve got many more sources. Of course there are huge gaps in our knowledge, but imo even the more obscure periods are better represented than many periods of antiquity, like the 3rd century from which very few texts of any genre have survived (surviving ancient texts are heavily skewed towards the “classical” periods of 5th/4th century BC Athens and late Republican/early imperial Rome after all).

  165. Rob McX says:
    @Lurker

    To be fair, our ignorance of the Roman era is mostly by accident, i.e. the destruction of records, etc. What’s surprising is how much you can stop people noticing what’s under their noses at the present time. This seems to be the opposite of historical ignorance. Nowadays, people are submerged in a vast avalanche of information coming at them from all directions 24 hours a day. To hide what’s happening, it’s not necessary to lie (although there’s plenty of that), just to distract and confuse people with the sheer volume of irrelevant facts and trivia.

  166. Abe says:

    Edward Luttwak’s Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire over Christmas. He makes the point that we have little in the way of written documentation come down to us about Roman strategy in particular or its military in general. We do have a lot of archaeological evidence about the Roman legions, so from that he tries to reverse engineer what the Roman strategy must have been. Being Luttwak — very smart and very self-confident — he manages to come up with a plausible-sounding tale.

    Good for you, Steve! I read Luttwak’s GRAND STRATEGY over 30 years ago, right before the Internet (technically World Wide Web) exploded into common use. Kids today don’t understand how difficult it was to even find out about a book like that, let alone track down a copy. If I remember correctly first I had to discover that there existed a catalog for esoteric military-themed books, then subscribe to it, then discover someone was selling something as cool-sounding as THE GRAND STRATEGY OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, then order a copy of it (used).

    Luttwak is a real smart-a$$! Most people know him from his trolling of the literati in the early Obama years, where he had the effrontery to point out the awful consequences of believing Obama was both the most luminously Christian of Presidents (“He’s a devout Christian. Full stop!”) AND uniquely able to bridge our differences with the Muslim world through some mushy-headed NEW YORK TIMES notion of Muslim adjacency (Steve used to riff on this repeatedly 10 years ago, saying if he hand’t been groomed for the Presidency Obama would have been the perfect CIA/State Dept. clean room-created “Muslimist”, never taking my suggestion- BTW- that the correct and perfectly-fitting term of art for this is “dragoman”). Basically if Obama was a Christian (full stop!) AND some squishy-headed form of Muslim, wouldn’t that make him an apostate and so worthy of death in the eyes of all true-believing Muslims? The literati went into a tizzy when Luttwak pointed this out to them.

    Luttwak was part of that generation of engineering, physics, and math trained defense analysts so prevalent during the Cold War. Despite their ignominious coda of leading us into the Iraq Attaq fiasco in 2003, they really were a superior class of men to the lickspittle I’m With Her! soi bois now embedded in much of our national security establishment, sweating bullets over whether Afghanistan has too much prepubescent transgenderism or too little and how much assassination drone-delivered “nudge” slay queen Ms. Power-Sunstein expects to be applied to correct the imbalance.

    I remember Luttwak using such very RAND CORP.-esque concepts as potential vs. expended power to analyze the deployment of legions (basically a legionary army in its potential energy “at-rest” state could intimidate, say, 5 client kings or barbarian tribes simultaneously into acquiescence with Rome’s wishes, but once committed to actual hostilities lost the ability to influence anyone but the power it was directly fighting. Luttwak also used an interesting concept of flow rates and resistance to analyze Rome’s defense fortifications (extremely extensive, but because they were earthworks not as famous as Hadrian’s Wall) along the Rhine and Danube River frontiers. These are very interesting thought experiments, even if one feels Luttwak is overplaying his hand and being a bit cute. Yet the Roman military system was run by professionals and very largely successful for over 200 years, so the idea that a bunch of sandal-shod McNamaras were running around 2000 years ago may not be as far-fetched as it first seems. For example, the ruins of the strategic Roman city of Zeugma have been recently analyzed and the city walls are clearly curved to prevent defensive fire dead zones and allow enfilade fire to the Romans. Basically the Romans grok’d the basic concept of star-forts 1500 years before there were star-forts!

  167. Dutch Boy says:
    @Twinkie

    Speaking of the Roman army, I spent some weeks recovering from a surgery and spent some of the time reading the complete works of Tacitus. One strong impression I gained was that the 1st century Roman army was shockingly undisciplined by modern standards. Rebellion against and even the murder of superiors was rampant. Plunder of Roman civilians ditto.

    • Replies: @Twinkie
  168. Cortes says:

    “Top 100” lists are usually contentious and the then Director of the British Museum did get some criticism for his list of important objects topped by

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vindolanda_tablets

    a collection of tablets covering a wide range of ordinary facets of daily life in a frontier camp.

    More information, potentially on a grand scale, may be retrieved from documents recycled into cartonnage/papier mache sculptured objects surviving in the Egyptian climate. I recall seeing a BBC programme on cooperation between various academic groups including a team from Utah engaged in imaging documents for deciphering elsewhere.

    The Digest produced by Tribonian for Justinian was a noble effort to “reset” the Law developed over the previous twelve hundred years of precedent, statutes, opinions by notable jurists, Senate Decisions and Emperors’ Answers which had become a jumble of contradictions. The reduction to make acquaintance with the law more manageable involved ranking the jurists retained so as to try to provide speedy decisions, desirable in a commercially oriented culture.

  169. @Anon

    A classic definition of a dead language: one found mostly on ancient, tombstone inscriptions.

    • Replies: @Anon
  170. @wren

    I wish I had a time machine.

    Get all your shots first.

  171. Anonymous[337] • Disclaimer says:
    @Supply and Demand

    Like Hadrian said about Trump daddys ancestors.

    “Were gonna build a wall. ”

    • LOL: Cortes
  172. @Lot

    but remember this from the first week:

    ¿Como estas?
    Bien. ¿Y tu?

    The faraway light – and where there is light, there is hope too. – I once lost my first wristwatch, I bought when being ten years old in a very poetical context: While helping an Irish lady in her overwhelmingly beautiful garden on the Dingle peninsula to collect strawberries. – I realized that a day later and returned and – did find my watch (an Osco, from Pforzheim in the Black Forest with a black self-made leather-band) in the strawberry field. I told the landlady about my luck and she answered: Hope brings eternity, young man!
    Two days later I met A. – an American true love of mine, who had just discovered some of her Irish roots too – for some quite happy times, as it turned out.

    • LOL: Lot
    • Replies: @JMcG
  173. @Beckow

    how many men could we field on a battlefield today?

    I wonder that too.

    In today’s Rome, we probably couldn’t find two dozen young men willing to go and die

    Sure you could … for Islam (or at least for the booty that pop-Islam promises.)

    Building huge stone edifices – mostly for yourself – and slaughtering thousands of young men is not that great.

    No, but if those young men’s alternative is to grind away on their masters’ latifundia their whole lives while the women are the playthings of the masters’ idle sons, edifices-and-slaughter at least relieves the monotony, and who knows but you might get your own comely captive?

    Similarly: watch your friends overdose as a neoliberal debt slave in Postindustrialburg while gangsters take your women, or impose neoliberalism at gunpoint in Boofistan? The latter pays better and has a certain savoir faire.

    An obvious reason for the popular discontent with the military draft starting the 1960s was that it was the first time most young men could see a bit of the world, have some adventures and score strange tail without having to submit to a sadist’s orders or face the enemy’s wrath. Unsurprisingly, given a choice between that or dying the Mekong marshes, young men began opting out of the Mekong.

    Now the elites have just about closed all that off once again. So when they call for troops to put down the domestic-terrorist-racist-supremacist-insurrection, a lot of young men may weigh the alternatives and think, what’ve I got to lose?

    Today we have massive bloodlust among the elites with minimal willingness to die.

    No worries. They’ve plenty of willingness for the rest of us to die.

    • Replies: @Beckow
  174. @Jack D

    History is written by the writers.

    Who wrote Gone With The Wind?

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @Macumazahn
  175. Lot says:
    @German_reader

    “ even the early middle Ages are much richer in surviving sources than the pagan Roman empire.”

    Lol no.

    Bede and various monkish annals are drastically less informative than something like Plutarch’s lives or the Jewish Wars.

    • Replies: @German_reader
  176. I read Luttwak’s tweets. Every time there’s a flurry of “the US will lose in a war to China” he thinks it’ll be a very short war – and the US will win.

    • Replies: @Abe
    , @Colin Wright
  177. @wren

    I wish I had a time machine.

    If time travel is in our future, why haven’t we seen it in our past?

  178. @Twinkie

    Hold on – Mattern rebutted Luttwak? I thought she agreed with him. But I can’t remember – can you clarify?

    The thing about the Romans was this: they killed and conquered without mercy or guilt. They considered the people they conquered to be inferior although each nation had its good points. But the world was lucky to be under the Roman boot, and if they didn’t like it, they’d be wiped out. After the Romans conquered a place, it was pacified in short order and soon the place was booming.

    • Replies: @Twinkie
  179. @The Alarmist

    I’ve known Kant! —————————– (= the a pronounced like in hand)
    He could do a handstand
    On one hand!

    (Quote from About the People’s Treasures (Über das Volksvermögen) – a book of children’s verses and sayings by Peter Rühmkorf – great book, incredible times, when kids on the streets rhymed about Kant – not that long ago that Rühmkorf (No. 2 of the German poets in the second half of the 20th century) collected these gems! – For all capable of German – go get it, you’ll love it.

  180. prosa123 says:

    Even stretching the geographic boundaries of Europe to the utmost, it is hard for me to imagine that there is as much from the Dark Ages.

    Speaking of the Dark Ages, the historical record from Britain in the first few centuries after the Roman departure around A.D. 400 is so scanty that despite literally centuries of painstaking research, no one has been able to determine definitively whether King Arthur (who would have lived during that time) was an actual person or just legend. What few historical accounts exist are very limited and often interspersed with obvious myth.
    To the extent there’s any consensus, it’s that Arthur likely did exist, but was a local warlord rather than the powerful ruler of a vast realm.

  181. J1234 says:
    @Jack D

    I believe you present an accurate assessment of that period. It’s true that medieval Europe received a significant amount of information about its Greek and Roman roots (though it had other roots, too) from Muslim sources. Also, there were long periods of time during the early Middle Ages when the largest libraries in Europe had no more than several dozen books each.

  182. @Agathoklis

    I read Aristotle’s Oikonomikos and got stuck the first time around. I then talked to my philosophy professor – Friedrich Kambartel – and he said I should read it in an old translation from the eighteenth century – if I remember right made by Friedrich Grawe. And it turned out: Now the book sounded completely natural and – perfectly plausible. – The newer translators – got lost exactly in the passages you mentioned above. They tried to – save (secure…) them – and thus missed out completely on them.
    I loved the book then – not least for its straightforward and down-to-earth style.

  183. @Reg Cæsar

    If time travel is in our future, why haven’t we seen it in our past?

    Perhaps time travel is possible, but backwards and forwards are different technologies which will not arise at the same time. Perhaps one is possible but the other is not. I can’t imagine many intelligent beings would want to travel backwards any significant period of time if they couldn’t return to their own time.

    Theoretically I imagine that unless a visitor from the future returns and announces that he is, in fact, from the future and a significant number of people and/or governments then find this claim credible it wouldn’t matter in our perceptions of things. History would always seem like a continuous thread even if something had been altered. It would simply seem like the way things always were.

    And you might say, “well, why hasn’t someone strangled baby Hitler in his crib?” But maybe someone did already come back and strangle baby Konig in his crib, who was to become a more charismatic, intelligent, and competent Fuhrer than Hitler and therefore more successful in waging Germany’s wars of expansion. Hitler remained a failed artist. Hitler perhaps was the least worst option. Or maybe in the future there is a resurgence of NAZI ideology and Hitler is perceived as a supreme statesman.

    Anyway, I figure that by the time that backwards time travel is possible, you’d have other technologies which would limit or eliminate the potential for altering the past.

    • Replies: @Macumazahn
  184. @Colin Wright

    We’re all getting pissed on and told it’s raining — but we can all smell the urine. It’s a strong smell.

    Urine is sterile, though. What’s raining down is toxic.

  185. @Twinkie

    He introduces himself in the petition (his lineage, martial service history, etc.) and even says that his brother gave him a daughter (his niece) as a wife!

    Is this where the Sephardim got their tradition of avuncular marriage? It survives to this day in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations law.

    It’s unclear whether this now allows Jewish men to marry their nephews. State and religious law may be contradictory in this case.

  186. JMcG says:
    @Dieter Kief

    That’s a lovely anecdote, Dieter. Good luck to you always!

  187. @Bill Jones

    My eyes agree, my fingers didn’t care

    Nice line.
    I’ll be stealing that.

    I heard an echo of A Single Twist of Fate in my head when I wrote these lines so  – I’m glad to share your compliment with Bob Dylan, Bill – Jones****?!

    He woke up; the room was bare.
    He didn’t see her anywhere.
    He told himself he didn’t care; pushed the window open wide;
    Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
    Brought on by a simple twist of fate.

    **** – one more Dylan echo – of – – – – Mr. Jones now – you walk into the room, with a pencil in your hand – you see somebody naked (that’s pretty Freudian stuff here too, isn’t it (pencil/naked/doesn’t know what’s up……circles of circles…these damn things all hang together (Schelling said that once – a true forefather of – – – – Freud…another circle).

    (It is said that at times it was hard to psychoanalyze young ladies in Vienna, because their heads were so full of heart-ache novels of the lesser kind, that what they’d associate in therapy was so stereotypical that the analysts kinda gave up on their task in mild desperation.)

  188. George says:

    From the list below, many Roman Governors of Egypt are not known, or have little surviving information, so no Wikipedia page.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_governors_of_Roman_Egypt

    A stone tablet naming a previously unknown Roman governor of Judea was found.
    https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4887231,00.html

    Fun Roman Biblical Factoid, 666 might have been a code for Ceaser Nero, or might not have been.

    666 Numberphile

  189. Rob McX says:
    @Bubba

    At least it’s better than the hit movie Ass.

  190. How Much Do We Really Know About the Roman Empire?

    Unlike many of guys here, i’m not classically educated. (Appreciate the comments and reading suggestions.) But even i know one thing:

    The Romans were better governed than contemporary America.

    Even the worst emperors were simply screwing up, they weren’t actively seeking to destroy the Roman people and culture.

    • Replies: @Indiana Jack
  191. Rob McX says:
    @Kyle

    It’s has a concrete dome with a hole in it, and apparently the concrete isn’t reinforced with steel.

    The fact that it isn’t thus reinforced seems to be what preserved it. When steel rusts, it expands and cracks the concrete.

  192. Jack D says:
    @Paperback Writer

    Wars often have more than one chapter. WWII was really chapter 2 of WWI. The South lost the Hot War that ending in 1865 but was the victor of the Cold War that began after Reconstruction. As such, they were entitled to promulgate the myth of the Lost Cause. They were only able to do this because the North was willing to go along with it for various reasons.

    For a counter example, there was no Myth of the Lost Cause among Germans because the Nazis lost and had no comeback. Maybe there were a handful of diehard Nazis who still believed this but they had to hide in the shadows. The Americans were not going to allow the Nazis to return to power.

  193. @RichardTaylor

    I don’t know how common this knowledge was or how far back it dates, but I remember my college art history professor telling the class that in the late 1980’s that statues of antiquity were painted. After all, paint is clearly visible on some statues, even after 2,000 years. I don’t think that people realized how gaudy looking the sculptures originally were, however. I still have the textbook that we used (Croix & Tansey, Art Through the Ages, 8th edition, 1986), which states on p 136 (next to a photograph of a Greek statue from the Acropolis Museum in Athens):

    Traces of paint may be seen on parts of the figure; all Greek stone statues were painted, the powder-white of Classical statues being an error of modern interpretation. But the Greeks did not smear their statues garishly with bright colors, indifferent to their place and effect, only the decisive parts, such as the eyes, lips, hair, and edges of drapery, were painted to provide accents and contrast with the color of the soft marble itself…

    • Thanks: RichardTaylor
  194. @Bardon Kaldian

    Aristotle elaborated on economics but nobody seemed to care much. It took hundreds of years before the reception got started (with Boethius’ De Consolatione (6th century after Christ)). Before him, war/ the military and political power/representation were what counted.

    • Thanks: Bardon Kaldian
  195. German_reader says:
    @Lot

    Bede and various monkish annals are drastically less informative than something like Plutarch’s lives or the Jewish Wars.

    But there are vast sections of antiquity for which nothing of the kind exists. Apart from the surving parts of Polybios almost all of Hellenistic historiography has been lost. So has most of late Republican Roman history-writing. Nor does much survive about the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, apart from short summary works or a dubious text like the Historia Augusta.
    Sure, some parts of ancient history, e.g. 44/43 BC are much better illuminated by surviving works than the 6th or 7th centuries AD. But your claim that the entire timespan of 500-1200 (which saw huge changes and wasn’t uniform at all) is less well documented than antiquity just isn’t true.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  196. He makes the point that we have little in the way of written documentation come down to us about Roman strategy in particular or its military in general.

    This is ironic, because in later centuries detailed military information is among the most readily available in great quantities. Survival in battles future concentrates the mind, and pen.

    Purportedly writing changed from right-to-left to left-to-right because the former favored right-handed carvers and the latter right-handed penman. Greek boustrophedon went both ways and likely hastened the change.

    According to stunt driver Ben Collins, left-hand traffic favors the right-handed majority. But the world didn’t roll that way.

  197. @Henry Canaday

    A big part of that puzzle is that the disease burden Alexander faced [and the Romans later] was far less than that faced by medieval and later European armies. One factor is that causative organisms for a number of diseases, smallpox, measles, falciparum malaria, bubonic plague, syphilis, typhus, cholera, were not present.

    Roman style camp sanitation probably mattered too, but I think the lack of what we now think of as common disease-causing organisms mattered more.

    • Thanks: Dieter Kief
  198. @Colin Wright

    In battle, the ancient Aztecs kept trying to take Spaniards alive for sacrifice. The Spaniards just kept killing Aztecs on the spot. That — as much as anything — is why the Spanish won.

    Disagree, but only with your conclusion. The Conquistadors’ swords and metal armor were far superior to the natives’ flint-edged clubs and padded “armor”. Of course killing one’s foe is easier than capturing him, but it’s not that much easier – unless you also have vastly superior weaponry.

    • Replies: @anon
  199. @fafqw

    Southerners wrote a disproportionate amount of Civil War history for the first century after 1865.

  200. @Anon

    A clever twist to his idea would be some percentage of the Marines defecting to the Romans because they were disgusted with current-year American ideology. Then the Romans try to reverse engineer some modern weapons.

    Without supply lines from the future, though, I think the Marines would be toast. Romans would simply avoid them after an initial route, and the Marines wouldn’t be able to pursue far without refueling.

    • Replies: @Lot
    , @Anonymous
  201. @AnotherDad

    At least until the late 4th century, when the emperors began inviting barbarians to settle inside the borders of the empire, assimilate, and become Roman citizens.

    http://voxday.blogspot.com/2021/02/they-never-learn.html

  202. Anonymous[343] • Disclaimer says:

    1. One of the better threads, kudos. Maybe up there with movie best of debates.

    2. Interesting to learn here (or from a link from here) that Zuck was into Civilization. I might even have encountered him in forums and such. Obviously he’s done a lot more than the typical type there. But I still remember a McKinsey colleague talking about “that game that all the smart kids play” (she did not) and being able to name it.

    3. Lest Darkness Fall. (Not sure the connect, but gotta namedrop it.)

    4. My mother (speaker of 7 languages…literally and not how the fucking millenials say literally) always said you should study Latin. I never have. Always felt there were other languages I knew reasonable parts of (German, French, Spanish) and hadn’t mastered. And even Italian and Portuguese would seem to take priority over a dead language. Yet. Seems like there is something about the buttfuckingly hard grammer (vocative case anyone?) that attracts people. Of course then you have Greek studiers to level up and say Latin ain’t good enough. But I’m already barely speaking English. 🙁 Uggh. And don’t get me started on how fuck-fuckingly lame the US intel, State Dept. etc. are in learning languages. Just…I want to smack them. Literally (and not how millenials use it).

  203. @Paperback Writer

    For what it’s worth, I found Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind to be a wonderful read. I’d seen the 1939 film of course, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book was very much worth my time. Epic and immersive, the nearest comparison to it (in my limited experience) might be Clavell’s Shōgun.

    • Replies: @Paperback Writer
  204. @Steve Sailer

    Abolitionists, after their quasi-religious mission to free slaves was complete, basically declared victory and went home. The old WASP Puritans literally shut down many of their anti-slavery newspapers. Could you imagine Jews shutting down their various Jewish newspapers to declare victory? The entire purpose of the SPLC is continually fight a war for profit, not to declare victory once and for all.

    The horrors of the Civil War and subsequent black bad behavior when unleashed put a damper on secular Yankees writing about the South/Civil War as some kind of wonderful thing. Most turned their attention West or to the robber-barons of the era.

    Meanwhile, Southern guerilla action following the war caused the Reconstruction-era abandonment of the South. They were the only ones left, therefore, to tell the tale.

  205. gent says:
    @ES

    Caligula was in all likelihood trying to institute a Persian style cult of the monarch, rather than the one in the style of Julius and Augustus. That would explain why he, in life, conflated himself with Zeus and Apollo.

  206. @Alec Leamas (hard at work)

    When traveling to the past, a new timeline is created, branching off at the instant of your arrival. When traveling to the future, you drop right back into the existing timeline.
    One of my favorite books: David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself

  207. @Anon

    Modern soldiers are too soft compared with ancient Roman superarmies. Once the fuel ran out (and would rather quickly) , the Marines’s only advantage would be the ammunition. Ancient diseases, the inability to hunt, the inability to make supplies with more primitive tools, the lack of experience fighting with swords and bows and arrows, lack of experience riding horses–the Marines would be toast within a year.

  208. @PhysicistDave

    PD, substitute Covid for small pox, there are always articles about bed bugs and once a month an article about crops rotting in the fields. We are on a loop.

    • LOL: wren
  209. @Henry Canaday

    One thing almost never mentioned about Alexander was he must’ve had an extremely magnificent spy/scout/assassin network.

    He got one to murder his father for the crown, and at each stage of his conquest he seemed to know exactly what the lay of the land was despite he and his troops never having been there, even places very far from home, and, as you said, never seemed to want for supplies, despite the distance. Alexander, for all his martial brilliance, simply could not have attained the victories he did without advanced foreknowledge.

    That says to me his advanced scouts must’ve been something unreal in their abilities. They could scout foreign lands secretly and secure food and supplies from people without being known, and get away with assassinating their own king without the plot being exposed even to this day.

    James Bond, Sir Francis Walsingham, the CIA, the KGB, any Indian scout from old West attached to a calvary troop—-none of these guys holds a candle to whomever ran Alexander’s spy/scout/assassin network. The work the latter did was unreal.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @anon
  210. @Jack D

    The South lost the Hot War that ending in 1865 but was the victor of the Cold War that began after Reconstruction.

    Sure, how did they win? The phrase “Was the victor” makes it sound as if this happened by magic.

    Nope. The South produced a bunch of writers, both fiction and non-fiction, who fashioned a narrative. that hooked in a large part of the public, most including the North.

    The “myth of the Lost Cause” had enough truth to stick. Plus they were great writers. Plus they believed. Most are forgotten now, but Thomas Dixon’s influence reigned until right up to WW2. (He’d be cackling in his grave now. There’s a Kamala character in The Clansman.)

    Then there was the enormous influence of the UDC, which ruled the curriculum in Southern classrooms until the 1960s. In Houellebecq’s Submission, he cleverly observes that the Muslims begin with education. I immediately thought of the UDC.

    The political scientist Murray Edelman has written a lot about the influence of novels on the public’s imagination and how they influence politics.

  211. Lot says:
    @Dave Pinsen

    We know how the Aztec and Incas fared against a small but more advanced enemy.

    A magically advanced small army would soon see whole legions defect to it. People like to be on the winning side and one sight of what an automatic rifle and grenade could do would be the end.

    • Agree: JMcG
  212. Daniel H says:

    Related: What do we know about Muhammad and the foundation of Islam? Consider the work of these independent scholars. I am persuaded that virtually everything “known” about the first 2 centuries of Islam is BS. There was likely no Muhammad. There was no Mecca. The early founders of Islam were urban Arabs located close to what is now Bagdhad. They were clearly deeply influenced by heretical Christian sects, and likely considered themselves Christians. Tons of stuff.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/PfanderFilms

  213. @RichardTaylor

    ‘Common among whom? It certainly wasn’t presented to the public that way until fairly recently…’

    I suspect it’s a matter of erecting a straw man so everyone can demonstrate how woke they are.

    I didn’t pay that much attention to the fact — why should I? I just became aware of it around 1980, when I went to college and it was presented as a fact more or less devoid of ideological implications. I imagine others simply never thought about it. Again, why should they?

    But now? We can create this whole fantasy that everyone always assumed they were white on account of their implicit racism, but we’re so enlightened, etc, etc.

    Unfortunately, it’s all nonsense from the start. They found the pigment in the crevices, etc literally decades ago. Of course the statues were painted.

  214. @Almost Missouri

    The Western Roman economy was highly urbanized, relying heavily on trade, specialization, and technological diffusion for its prosperity. This was all enabled by a high capacity state until the late 2nd c. CE or so. The collapse was gradual… then all at once.

    The 5th c. CE wrought a rapid depopulation of the urban areas and an associated improvement in stature because of the subsequent reduction in disease. Per capita income likely fell with reduced trade and specialization (the archeological evidence strongly suggests a decline in the quantity and quality of consumer goods, disappearance of currency from common life, literacy all but disappeared, smaller buildings of lower-quality materials, etc.), but statures *rose* quickly and rapidly as indicated by human remains (less urbanization meant less disease). See Fig. 4: https://delong.typepad.com/rome.pdf

    It is unlikely that the increase in stature was due to the health and vigor of the couple hundred thousand 5th c. CE Germanic arrivals (“New Romans” — ha!), as the incumbent Roman populations were likely in the several millions.

    In much in the same vein (but reversed), as the UK and USA industrialized in the early 19th c., statures *declined* as those economies developed into higher per capita income urbanized ones. Statures don’t rise with improving per capita incomes until the late 19th c. because of urbanization effects.

    • Replies: @Wency
  215. @Mr. Anon

    ‘One thing that becomes apparent from studying history is that the wealthy and powerful were usually vicious bastards, or at least callous bastards, and had no problem in using people and even whole countries any which way they saw fit for their own benefit, amusement, and aggrandizement.’

    Meh. The poor and the weak are no better. They’re just less potent.

    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
  216. Abe says:
    @Paperback Writer

    I read Luttwak’s tweets. Every time there’s a flurry of “the US will lose in a war to China” he thinks it’ll be a very short war – and the US will win.

    Luttwak is a clever man, but not necessarily a wise one. I remember the sour grapes easy he wrote mid-90’s in THE NEW REPUBLIC saying- “don’t believe your lying eyes, the Gulf War was no Cannae!” All because he had predicted attacking Iraq would be a military disaster for the US .

  217. anon[217] • Disclaimer says:
    @R.G. Camara

    For example, when the Spaniards conquered Mexico, they told lurid tales of mass sacrifices and hundreds of skulls of the murdered; Marxists claimed this was all lies to justify conquest, and when evidence of sacrifice was found, they then changed to that the numbers were exaggerated. Then just a few years ago under the main Catholic Cathedral in Mexico City they found hundreds of human skulls from the sacrifices, fully justifying the Conquistadors’ tales.

    The original discovery was made in 2015 but excavation continues to find more. It appears that one array of skulls is configured as a staircase. This tower is one of several. It tends to confirm the Spanish claims made in the 1520’s.

    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-find-brings-skulls-discovered-aztec-tower-over-600-180976543/

    https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/639001/aztec-wall-human-skulls-discovered-mexico-city

    • Thanks: R.G. Camara
    • Replies: @Anon
  218. Wency says:
    @Jack D

    The total population might have declined, but the decline in Rome’s urban population is a non sequitur either way. As I was alluding to upthread, Roman urbanization rates (perhaps 20-30% of the population) seem to have been basically unsustainable. From what we know now of the Malthusian nature of pre-modern societies, I have to think someone somewhere was being squeezed to death in order to make it possible.

    Housing and feeding perhaps a million people in Rome proper was a tremendous accomplishment, yes, but not really a source of economic prosperity or state power. Rather, it was a costly population sink paid for by more productive sectors of the economy. Surely in some cases the chaos of state collapse shattered those productive sectors, but where they held together, we would expect them to be glad for the reprieve.

    If some of these accounts are to be believed, Egypt was footing much of the bill for Roman urbanization. Twinkie was talking about the disaster of the loss of Egypt. I wonder if Egypt’s role in feeding Roman urbanites was somewhat overstated, but if not, I would have to think the end of these exports was an incredible boon either for Egyptians or whatever part of the Muslim world was now eating their produce.

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  219. anon[217] • Disclaimer says:
    @Arclight

    my family went to a Roman archaeological site in the north where they had uncovered the foundation of some mid-level guy’s house and they had indoor plumbing and flues for central heat.

    The hypocaust of mid to upper class Romans was the last form of central heating in England until the mid 19th century.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  220. Cortes says:

    One enjoyable way to learn more about the Roman Empire of the Flavian period is to read the novels of

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindsey_Davis

    She has a couple of stand-alone works but is best known for the “detective” series of Falco and his successor, adopted daughter Flavia Alba. Falco carries out a number of investigations which take him to many locations and the novels are beautifully researched. A bit arch in places but definitely a good read.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Saylor

    is excellent also, covering the late Republic.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @Alden
  221. Abe says:

    As Steve has noted several times with respect to professional historians’ bore-ification of the Conan-brought-to-life world of “battle axe culture” peoples (now called by academic historians the sensible serving-size clay pot-making peoples, or some such soporific), the professors seem to have this weird compulsion to make the past as boring and as grey as possible.

    Yet history often is as strangely weird and amazing as we’d like it to be from those vivid contemporary accounts university folk seem to make entire careers out of poo-poo’ing. For example, only 10 years ago they discovered one of Nero’s pleasure palaces. Turns out the story of the Glutton Emperor constructing a banquet hall to himself with rotating floor (a la the Seattle Space Needle) is real!:

    https://interestingengineering.com/ancient-engineering-marvel-neros-revolving-dining-room

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  222. Anonymous[244] • Disclaimer says:
    @Dave Pinsen

    The most immediate problem such time travelers would encounter would be disease. They would immediately all fall ill.

    The bugs that circulated two millennia ago are not the same as the ones that circulate today, and the immune systems of modern people would be completely unprepared for them.

    Your 2,000 Marines would have to spend several months acquiring immunity to all these unfamiliar bugs, during which time they would be incapacitated and ineffective as a fighting force.

  223. @Macumazahn

    BTW, how do you think this comment thread on Classical history compares with the endowment-backed, Federally-subsidized, MSM-enforced “scholarship” on display in the Woke Classics genre such as Eidelon or whatever that Zuckersister thing was.

    Reading these comments is why I wouldn’t feel the slightest fear of every Humanities department sliding into the ocean and disappearing forever. A handful of autists, aesthetes and gigachads writing in their spare time have more data, insight and verve than all the Woke Classicists combined.

  224. @Cortes

    The first time I saw one of Steven Saylor’s Roman detective novels in a bookstore, the thought flashed in my head that I’d totally forgotten that I had published a novel.

    • Replies: @Cortes
  225. syonredux says:
    @RichardTaylor

    Common among whom?

    I remember going on a museum tour with my third grade class in the ’80s and being told by the guide that Classical statues were brightly painted but the colors had faded over the centuries.

  226. @R.G. Camara

    Greeks had been fighting as mercenaries in Persia at least as early as Xenophon around 400 BC, so Alexander likely had access to the insights into Persia of some experienced mercenaries.

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  227. @Abe

    Thanks for mentioning that – I remembered, or thought I remembered, that stupid prediction. Recently I looked & looked for it and couldn’t find it. It’s been memoryholed.

  228. @Anon

    Dan Carlin did a similar podcast a few years back: Caesar’s Romans vs. William’s Normans.

    https://dchhaddendum.libsyn.com/ep8-caesar-at-hastings

    Re Marines vs. Roman Empire, it would depend entirely on the Marines’ ammo supply.

  229. Anonymous[244] • Disclaimer says:
    @Colin Wright

    In battle, the ancient Aztecs kept trying to take Spaniards alive for sacrifice. The Spaniards just kept killing Aztecs on the spot. That — as much as anything — is why the Spanish won.

    This was a technological not an ethical issue. The weapons the Aztecs used (clubs and edged stones) just were not very good at dealing killing blows. (The human body is surprisingly resistant to blows from sticks and stones.) At the end of a typical Aztec battle, you would have lots of wounded and dazed men, but comparatively few fatalities. The multitude of enemy prisoners would then then sacrificed.

    The Spaniards of course had steel swords and guns and their battles always resulted in large scale slaughter. (They soon discarded their plate armor when fighting the Aztecs because it just wasn’t necessary.)

  230. Cortes says:
    @Steve Sailer

    The lack of royalty payments must be compensated by the unlikelihood of close encounters with an Annie Wilkes.

  231. Wency says:
    @The Ghost of Rev. Malthus

    Thanks, this is all interesting, though I still wonder if there’s a nutritional element going on here and not just a disease one.

    I recall from my undergrad economic history class a rather interesting fact (some might call it a “hatefact”) that the average Antebellum slave had a considerably higher caloric intake than the average Northern white urban laborer. Of course, that slave surely required more calories due to the nature of his labor, but there’s still cause to believe he was going less hungry than that urban laborer.

    I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that rural populations, even if poorer in terms of various consumer niceties that boost GDP per capita measurements, have generally eaten better than urban populations through human history up to the 20th century by simple virtue of the fact that those closer to the heart of the process of food production tend to consume more calories, from fresher and more varied sources, more reliably, than those at the end of a long and somewhat rickety supply chain.

  232. nsa says:

    The war lovers here fail to differentiate between the citizen army of republican Rome and the professional (mercenary) army that followed the civil war and rise of the autocratic Caesars. Republican Romans never admitted defeat and never conceded anything. Hannibal annihilated the Roman army at the Battle of Cannae…..a total rout. Thereafter, for 10 years the Romans followed Hannibal around the Italian countryside, but engaged him only in harassment and minor skirmishes. Hannibal looted the Roman countryside and his troops banged every female they came across…..where do you think all that south Italian frizzy hair came from? Hannibal every rolled up to the gates of Rome and invited the Romans to come out and fight, to no avail. Hannibal tired of the fun after a decade and returned to Carthage. The Romans had never conceded defeat and immediately began planning their revenge……the final sacking of Carthage, killing of its inhabitants, and salting of the earth. There is today almost no sign Carthaginian civilization ever existed.

  233. Muggles says:

    At the risk of repeating the several hundred comments here (above) I will just add that there is a thriving industry of delving into ancient Roman history. Even today.

    True it is widely acknowledged that early accounts (few actually contemporary) are known to be biased based upon the author’s subsequent prejudices or imperial leanings. There were family groups of emperors and when they changed, the prior ones were often depicted unfavorably.

    But archaeologists and scholars keep finding new artifacts and since the Romans lasted for centuries there is a lot of material. They also study the physical items, some of which have drawings, paintings, sculptures, etc. They can also tell a lot from burials and studies of DNA and bones, etc.

    Of course some of it is pretty sketchy, but most has been compared over time to other sources including some non Roman. Compared to other ancient societies a lot is known, since Romans were literate far more than other societies of that time, or even earlier or later ones. What is known about Carthage, Rome’s longtime rival, is known only from Roman sources. Carthaginians didn’t have their own language and wrote nothing down.

  234. S says:

    One thing we know about Rome (albeit from a 1265 copy derived from what’s believed to be a 2000 year old original) is the complete Roman imperial road network, sans Britain and Spain. It’s believed to be derived from an original map made by Caesar Augustus’ friend, Agrippa. It includes Pompeii/Herculaneum and goes as far afield as Ceylon, and indicates China. A temple consecrated to Augustus is shown in India.

    Augustus designed something like a 19th century Pony Express as a courier/information service for the Empire based upon an earlier Persian system. Regular news/letters could travel 30-50 miles a day. Important news, like a rebellion, could be expedited to a hundred miles a day.

    The 19th century harnessing of electricity (ie the telegraph) revolutionized communications.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabula_Peutingeriana

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursus_publicus

    They’ve also got a pretty good grip on the structure of the intricate Roman bureaucracy.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notitia_Dignitatum

  235. @Steve Sailer

    True, but even if they had contact and knowledge, that wouldn’t explain his in depth knowledge. And that doesn’t explain his success in India.

  236. @Wency

    Egypt was a goldmine province for Rome, so much so that it wasn’t even considered a Roman province governed by the Senate, but it was literally the Emperor’s personal province, going all the way back to Alexander.

    Egypt was always known as a place rich with food. In the Bible, the Jews repeatedly fled there during times of famine, as it was always flush with grain.

    It wasn’t just the food Egypt supplied, but also the gold it provided in its mines and, what is forgotten today, it gave the Romans an extremely wealthy trade route with India via the sea, enabling the Romans to get around the Persian Empire and trade directly with the Indians.

    Egypt’s role was not overstated; it was critical. As Sicily had been Rome’s bread basket when it was just the Italian peninsula, Egypt was the Empire’s breadbasket (and gold mine and rich trading port).

    Rome’s urbanization rates were caused by the many, many tenant farmers and small farmers who were impoverished when the nobles replaced their workers with slaves and put the little guys out of business. This caused the poor to flood into big cities, especially Rome. The emperors created the grain dole and the constant free games to keep the masses at bay, while the old patron-client system was expanded to throw shekels at the guys begging at their door.

    • Agree: Alden
    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  237. @R.G. Camara

    e, going all the way back to Alexander.

    *Going all the way back to Augustus, not Alexander. Sorry, my error.

  238. @traducteur

    Very informative indeed. As is Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, the forerunner of modern encyclopedias. And what would Western legal structures be like without the Corpus Iuris Civilis of Justinian.
    But the sense of loss is palpable. Even if we had 2 0r 3% of the written record, our knowledge would be greatly enhanced.

  239. @Macumazahn

    There are many great things in it. Rhett’s takedown of Ashley Wilkes is epic:

    … This isn’t the first time the world’s been upside down and it won’t be the last.

    And when it does happen, everyone loses everything and everyone is equal. And they all start again at taw, with nothing at all. That is, nothing except the cunning of their brains and the strength of their hands. But some people, like Ashley, have neither cunning nor strength or, having them, scruple to use them. And so they go under and they should go under. It’s a natural law and the world is better off without them. … Most of them … [will] wonder all their lives where the lost enchantment has vanished. They’ll simply suffer in proud and incompetent silence. But he understands. He knows he’s winnowed out.

    Margaret Mitchell did not believe in the Lost Cause.

    • Thanks: Macumazahn
  240. Anon[298] • Disclaimer says:
    @Abolish_public_education

    A classic definition of a dead language: one found mostly on ancient, tombstone inscriptions.

    A little known fact is that Latin was a continuously living language until just a few decades ago. There were people who wrote in it and spoke it (although not as their first native language) for scholarly and religious reasons up until the Second Vatican Council killed it off. In many seminaries Catholic priests in training would receive their instruction in Latin and would speak to each other in Latin. A friend of mine is a classics graduate and he told me that he chats in Latin with an elderly priest in his town.

    There are hobbyist living Latin clubs still, but the level of fluency is not there and the numbers are really too small to call it a living language at this point.

    • Replies: @JMcG
    , @Morton's toes
  241. @wren

    Fellas, wren didn’t specify corporeal time traveling. Smart cookies instead do a bit of sensory remote visitation.

    • LOL: wren
  242. @Reg Cæsar

    If time travel is in our future, why haven’t we seen it in our past?

    We have. Explanation in Repo Man:

    • Thanks: wren
  243. Templar says:
    @nebulafox

    “And the general impoverishment of the empire was not a little tied into the fact that the caliphate was now where the Silk Road traders went.”
    Long before the Caliphate was established the Byzantines had discovered/borrowed/stolen the technique of silkworm cultivation

  244. Venona says:
    @BlackFlag

    Diana West’s American Betrayal clears up a lot of it though.

  245. Jack D says:
    @anon

    The Arabs kept the hypocaust for their baths (“Turkish bath”) all along .

    • Replies: @Alden
  246. S says:

    They now believe Kalkriese (Germany) is the location of the Battle of Teutoberg Forest where Varus lost his three legions to the Germanic tribes led by Arminus.

    One of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen is a documentary on the archeology of the battlefield there, which in scope was something like Custers Last Stand (ie the Battle of the Little Big Horn) multiplied by a hundred.

    They found multiple keys and locks and wondered if the Romans had during the battle perhaps buried strong boxes containing treasure (ie legionaires pay) planning to retrieve them later. Coins were found in pristine condition minted no later than 9 AD. Glass eyes were found on the site, apparently belonging to legionaires who had lost an eye in previous combat, which looked pretty much like those used in modern times.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalkriese

  247. Anon[115] • Disclaimer says:
    @anon

    when the Spaniards conquered Mexico, they told lurid tales of mass sacrifices and hundreds of skulls of the murdered; Marxists claimed this was all lies to justify conquest….. Then just a few years ago under the main Catholic Cathedral in Mexico City they found hundreds of human skulls from the sacrifices….

    Increasingly historians are taking a new look at easly reports of explorers that seem preposterous to us moderns. For example, Gaspar de Carvajal’s chronicle of his “accidental” first descent and navigation of the Amazon river from the Andes was ignored because of crazy sounding stuff like his description of female Amazonian tribes.

    For over four centuries, scholars dismissed its reports of large cities, well developed roads, monumental construction, fortified towns, and dense populations…. His writings were largely dismissed as fabrications and propaganda

    The BBC documentary Unnatural Histories presents evidence that Carvajal’s chronicle of Orellana’s expedition, rather than being a hugely exaggerated fantasy as previously thought, was correct in its observations that an advanced civilization was flourishing along the Amazon in the 1540s. It is believed that the civilization was later devastated by the spread of smallpox and other diseases from Europe.[6] The evidence to support this claim comes from the discovery of numerous geoglyphs dating from between 1 and 1250 AD, and terra preta resulting from indigenous activities.

    Obviously, everyone has a frame and a viewpoint and preexisting assumptions and prejudices, but you can work through texts and eliminate these if you put enough effort into it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaspar_de_Carvajal
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_de_Orellana

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  248. Jivinski says:

    Exactly. Paucity and bias of sources renders it impossible to have any coherent view of Rome as republic or empire. BTW as a “war buff” I’ve been interested in the so-called “line relief” system which legions supposedly used to retire front ranks in favor of fresh fighters from the next rank after a suitable interval. George Shipway has a plausible description of this in his book Imperial Governor when Suetorius Paulinus’ force comes to grips with Queen Boudicca’s horde west of leveled Londinium in 61 AD. But it’s anyone’s guess whether this is accurate since no surviving source describes how it was done.

  249. Anonymous[141] • Disclaimer says:

    There’s a massive amount of archeological evidence and research in Roman/Greek history. But try doing archeology with Islamic history from 580-680 AD.

    SA actually destroyed a lot of Mecca recently very deliberately and with the purpose of not allowing archeology of building foundations and the like that would be the norm in Rome or London with a new building. There is zero evidence in documents or archeology of currently located Mecca prior to 700AD (perhaps prior to 800AD).

    • Replies: @Daniel H
  250. JMcG says:
    @Anon

    My son is just finishing his fourth year of high school Latin. I confess that couldn’t understand his interest in it until I met his teacher. She’s a remarkably lovely young blonde lady. If more Latin teachers looked like her, it could once again be the Lingua Franca.

  251. Anon[115] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jack D

    The population of the city of Rome crashed from around 1.5 million

    The population of Rome is another one of those “How much do we really know” questions.

    This is what we know:

    1. In 5 B.C. 320,000 inhabitants of the city received the free monthly grain dole.

    2. In the fourth century A.D. there were 1,785 domus (private homes) and 43,580 insula (apartment buildings).

    3. The Aurelian Wall enclosed 1,375 hectares.

    That’s it. All population estimates are speculative “If-thens” built from these sparse facts. Only citizens got the dole, right, so women, children, and slaves … and soldiers? … and unattached young men from the country? … were not included … right? or wrong? An insula held on average … oh … say 100 residents? Or is that too many?

    Estimates have ranged from as low as 200,000 (not sure how this was arrived at, given the dole numbers) to several million.

    • Agree: Colin Wright
  252. Beckow says:
    @Almost Missouri

    …edifices-and-slaughter at least relieves the monotony, and who knows but you might get your own comely captive?

    That’s one way to look at it, although it doesn’t quite jive with the mentality in the past. The idea of ‘tourism’ would seem completely foreign to almost all people of that era. In the slaughter business, the odds of becoming a captive were about the same as getting one, so again, not much of a lifestyle improvement in aggregate.

    Roman Empire was a miserable place: brutal and mostly very poor. It was also by all accounts getting worse as time went on. Assembling tens of thousands of peons for regular slaughter is not my idea of a civilization. Compared to that Middle Ages were rustic and backward, but in some ways life had to be better for the majority of the people. Of course not for the urban midwit elites – they lost almost everything. But a peasant in Tuscany countryside was probably a lot better off than an urban poor in Rome or a slave (quasi-slave) on a senatorial estate.

    They’ve plenty of willingness for the rest of us to die.

    Interestingly enough that has been a constant in human history: the ones on the top are always eager to slaughter the hoi polloi in one way or another. I wonder what it is: hatred, greed, fear, ambition?

  253. Jack D says:
    @Kyle

    Apparently there was a Roman textbook on the construction of domes that has been lost. Would have saved the Renaissance architects a lot of trouble in reinventing the wheel. The dome of the Pantheon is not a uniform pour the way we would pour a dome today. It was apparently poured in concentric sections and the aggregate in the concrete gets lighter and lighter (like pumice stone) and thinner as you get closer to the top although thin is relative – even at the top it is 6 feet thick and there is a big hole or oculus in the middle. There are also courses of special interlocking bricks (called bipedales – each brick is 2 feet square) embedded in the concrete . You can’t actually see the concrete – the coffers on the inside are done in stucco plaster and the outside is now sheathed in lead, so not everything is understood about how it was all done. (BTW there are steps (a later addition) going up the roof – up until the 1970s it was possible to climb up onto the roof and lie on the edge and peer down from the oculus. ) The whole thing is quite elaborate and they obviously knew what they were doing, although it’s believed that the Romans worked empirically (by observed what worked and especially what failed in the past) rather than by calculation as a modern engineer would.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  254. @Anon

    Makes me wonder what else about the “preposterous” histories are true.

    For example, there was a travelogue by an upper class Spaniard in medieval Ireland that has long been regarded as true in some parts but preposterous in other part because, at one point, he describes a deeply supernatural experience at St. Patrick’s Purgatory (a well/cave in Ireland that has since been filled in but was a pilgrimage cite). But if his experiences in Ireland were accurate, then perhaps his spiritual experience actually happened as well.

    There was also an 18th -Century Frenchman who gave a wild travelogue about meeting Indian tribes in the Old Northwest and Mississippi River area of America. Long regarded as just a tall tale, perhaps it, too is more accurate than we suspect.

    And of course the Biblical history of the Jewish people has long been attacked by modernists as wildly making up a great Davidic Jewish Kingdom while no archeological record has been found and no mentions of it found in other ancient sources. But still….

    • Replies: @Alden
  255. Mr. Anon says:
    @Abe

    All because he had predicted attacking Iraq would be a military disaster for the US.

    In the long run, it kinda was, even if not for the reasons he stated. Not a military disaster, but a disaster none-the-less.

    • Agree: Abe
  256. Mr. Anon says:
    @Colin Wright

    Meh. The poor and the weak are no better. They’re just less potent.

    They may be no angels, but the powerful really are worse. One theory is that a lot of the World’s leaders were (are) psychopaths. They’re just wired different than ordinary people.

    • Replies: @JMcG
    , @Colin Wright
  257. anon[309] • Disclaimer says:
    @Macumazahn

    The Conquistadors’ swords and metal armor were far superior to the natives’ flint-edged clubs and padded “armor”.

    Even that is open to debate. The Aztec’s weapons used pieces of volcanic glass (obsidian) that was extremely sharp. So sharp that some of their warriors were able to decapitate a horse with a single blow. The Spanish steel swords eventually lost their edge, especially during La Noche Triste. One on one or two on one the Aztecs could and did give a serious fight to the Spanish, and the Indian allies were not always helpful since they were armed the same as the Aztecs.

    Reading Bernal Diaz it appears that only when the Spanish began demolishing entire buildings and even blocks of buildings on the island of Tenochticlan were they able to get a clear field of battle. Then they could fight in groups and formations – pike, sword, crossbow, arquebus. Organization on the field was superior to the Aztec warriors.

    • Replies: @nebulafox
    , @Macumazahn
    , @Anon
  258. mike99588 says:
    @Bill Jones

    That says more about Samuelson’s bent towards Keynes, socialism and communism.

    Conservatives and Austrians were really expecting USSR to implode in the 1960s due to economics and oil shortages. The US bailed USSR several times, especially in the 1930s and later WWII-Marshal Plan.

    Then the Soviets discovered large oil fields in the 1960s and bought some time for their disfunctional economics. The geologists that found these giant fields were considered heros to the locals, similar to our finding our giant oilfields in the early 1900s. When I went to Russia in the late 90s I saw industrial technology that my grandfather would have been comfortable in the 1920s.

  259. meh says:
    @RichardTaylor

    Common among whom? It certainly wasn’t presented to the public that way until fairly recently.

    Surely a reader of this blog should be wary by now of trusting things “presented to the public.”

    I think you’re confusing popular media articles mentioning the modern technology used to detect the ancient pigments, with common knowledge as such, as though the modern technology was revealing entirely new information, which it was not, because your average popular media “journalist” has the generalist breadth of knowledge of a gnat.

    I have been reading for the past half century (in non-specialist, i.e., popular, historical literature) that it was common knowledge that ancient statues were painted; this is not new common knowledge except to people who don’t bother to read up on this topic, such as popular media journalists.

    “Oh my God look at this new technology showing ancient statues were painted; we didn’t know this before” — this is confusion born of ignorance. It was common knowledge for anyone who did any basic reading on the topic whatsoever, that the ancient statues were painted; mass media/popular science journalists don’t know much about the topics they are writing about, so naturally they jump to the conclusion that modern technology is revealing previously unknown truths when it was just reconfirming what had already been long understood. And even if the journalist does place the modern findings in proper context, their readers are still liable to miss this.

  260. Anonymous[401] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jack D

    Standard lazy boomer take. Also speaks to the power of semantics — “World War 2 must be the second chapter because World War 1 was the first!”

    In reality…

    World War 1 was the extremely bloody bookend to the nationalistic wars of the 19th century. It is better called The Great Nationalistic War.

    World War 2 was the prequel to a the Cold War — European Nationalism vs Jewish-Bolshevism, which is still ongoing. The motivations for the wars had little to do with each other.

    Hitler correctly identified this. FDR and Churchill failed to grasp this, so we spent the next half-century on a nuclear tripwire facing off against our WW2 “Allies” with many of our educated “countrymen” cheering them on.

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @nebulafox
  261. prosa123 says:

    SA actually destroyed a lot of Mecca recently very deliberately and with the purpose of not allowing archeology of building foundations and the like that would be the norm in Rome or London with a new building.

    From what I’ve heard the Saudis destroyed much of old Mecca because they didn’t care, not as a deliberate means of preventing archeological research. In any event such a totalitarian government could simply prohibit archeological digs.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  262. anon[290] • Disclaimer says:
    @R.G. Camara

    Suspect this is an underdiscussed aspect of all ancient military campaigns.

    In Alexander’s case, it was likely his scout’s ability to play rival tribes off each other, while ingratiating themselves among the various tribes who could help logistically. Guessing there was lots of bartering, much in the same way Manhattan was traded for beads.

    Cortes provides a likely template. His leaders saw the immediate value of La Malinche, who was instrumental in providing the intelligence to bring down the Aztec Empire.

  263. @meh

    I believe I knew by the time I was in college in the late 1970s that classical statues had been painted originally. I’ve certainly known that for a long time.

  264. @meh

    But aren’t you taking the blame off the intellectuals who for centuries argued that the statues were generally unpainted?

    I feel like this is rewriting intellectual history to make them look better than they deserve. It apparently had become undeniable by the 1970s or 1980s that the statues were painted, but there’s no doubt the dominant intellectual view had been they had to be “austere” and unpainted, being close to some Platonic Ideal.

    When was it “common knowledge” and by whom? Apparently not intellectuals in the 17th, 18th, 19th or apparently first half of the 20th century.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=2gQesgryr8oC&pg=PA18#v=onepage&q&f=false

    I have a feeling that 100 years from now, intellectuals will say, “oh yeah, everyone knew the coronavirus was only a problem for the really old and sick. Only the ignorant masses freaked out about it.”

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  265. @RichardTaylor

    Winckelmann, the gay guy who invented art history in the 18th century, was a big believer in the austere purity of classical statues.

  266. @Hypnotoad666

    Those Roman legions were money-making machines. Caesar subsidized his own subduing of the Republic with the gold he accumulated during the years of his conquest of Gaul. In the case of Bythnia, a very wealthy nation covering basically what is now Romania, genocide of its people, along with enslavement of the survivors was the policy. Needles to say, the haul of gold sufficed to pay those Legions for years afterwards. Even more so than present day Israel, Imperial Rome was a predatorial parasite…or was it a parasitical predator?

  267. Twinkie says:
    @Whereismyhandle

    yeah, a lot of the ancient numbers are laughable. greeks might as well have said the persian armies they defeated had 17 billion people for all the accuracy they did employ

    To be fair to the ancient Greeks, though, just about everyone inflated numbers of their enemies by a factor of 5, 10, sometimes even 100 in the ancient and medieval times.

    • Replies: @Cortes
  268. Twinkie says:
    @Dutch Boy

    One strong impression I gained was that the 1st century Roman army was shockingly undisciplined by modern standards.

    Yup. The iron discipline, the marching in steps, coordinated movements by disparate elements of an army, etc. are all modern inventions.

    And imagine tribal levies and other armies of the time, considering that the Roman armies were some of the most disciplined of their time. Most armies were barely armed mobs, appallingly vicious in victory, but also liable to break apart in utter panic and flee when things went badly. Something like 2/3 of all casualties in pre-modern battles occurred in retreat/pursuit, not in the actual battles.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  269. Twinkie says:
    @Paperback Writer

    Hold on – Mattern rebutted Luttwak? I thought she agreed with him. But I can’t remember – can you clarify?

    Mattern’s thesis on the Roman higher strategy in the Principate was that the Roman leaders of the time were highly motivated by glory accrued to them by conquest and also by fierce intra-elite competition for the said glory, rather than by cold, calculating grand strategy for the benefit of their state. Moreover, given the state of Roman (flawed) understanding of geography at the time (which was not so much “bird’s eye” as “navigational” in framework), it wasn’t even possible for them to think in modern strategic terms such as rationalizing the borders for better defensibility. The Romans, much as others of their time were, were also highly affected emotionally by the sense of vengeance as regards their enemies – avenging some defeat or stain on their honor strongly propelled them to military actions.

    Luttwak’s framework in his book on the Romans is quite brilliant and provides much food for thought as regards our modern sense of what makes for a cost-effective means of national defense. And that, I suspect, is what his goal was in writing the book. But scholars largely agree that his portrayal of the Roman elites’ motivation was quite off the mark.

  270. @Twinkie

    We don’t know much about Antoninus Pius, who reigned from 138-161 with peace and prosperity. He was so successful that he was boring.

  271. @Twinkie

    The Roman legions were orderly in their logistics. For instance, soldiers might arrive after a 750 mile march in better shape than when they started, having eaten well and slept soundly in their fortified camps each night.

    The legions job was not to be heroes but to not lose battles, so that Roman might could slowly grind down opposition.

    • Agree: Not Raul
    • Replies: @Twinkie
  272. dfordoom says: • Website
    @Twinkie

    Hans Delbrück demolished much of the ancient myths of vast hordes of warriors in 1920 (not only did he do extensive geographical and population research, he also carried out experiments to test such numbers).

    Yep. Delbrück’s arguments are pretty much unanswerable.

  273. @Anon

    The rolls of razor wire tell you that people know what happened but won’t admit to it.

  274. @Anonymous

    Is it just me, or is this speaker more interesting than the stories about the Roman emperors?

    Not that there is anything wrong with that!

  275. Jack D says:
    @Anonymous

    Hitler correctly identified this.

    Right. Hitler made a pact with Stalin and invaded Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, etc. in order to defeat Jewish-Bolshevism.

    • Replies: @JMcG
  276. Anonymous[122] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jack D

    Greek and Roman mathematics was based on geometry not algebra, unlike modern mathematics.

    People wonder at how the Romans did any complicated math with their clumsy numerals. They don’t realize that such calculations were performed with diagrams and models, not equations, as pretty much all algebraic calculations can be represented geometrically.

  277. Anonymous[122] • Disclaimer says:
    @prosa123

    I believe they destroyed the tombstones of Mohammed and his relatives because they didn’t want them to become the focus of idolatry. Presumably the authorities still know where these people are buried but the ordinary pilgrim doesn’t.

    • Replies: @sayless
  278. Jack D says:
    @Huisache

    When I was at Wharton in the early ’70s I heard a lecture given by someone from Larry Klein’s Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates shop. Larry Klein was the Nobel Prize winning economist/Communist who invented econometric forecasting – this is the idea that you can build a computerized model and forecast future economic performance the same way that you can build a model of the weather and forecast future weather.

    Anyway, the gist of this lecture was that due to their superior planned economy, the GDP of the USSR would soon surpass the GDP of the USA. They showed us a graph with two lines – the GDP of the US was growing at X% and the GDP of the USSR was growing at Y% (a larger # than X). Although the USSR GDP was currently below that of the US, due to their more steeply sloped line it would cross the US line in not too many years. It was all right there on the graph – how could you argue with facts and figures, especially coming from a Nobel Prize winner. Apparently it didn’t occur to them that the #’s coming out of the USSR were fake.

    Aside from the fact that he was a Communist from way back, a planned economy was incredibly tempting to an econometrician like Klein – imagine that instead of just forecasting the weather, your computer could CONTROL the weather. In such an economy, an econometrician would be a god!

    The truth was that even in the USSR, the economists were subordinate to Party control – once or twice the Party listened to its economists and did things like raise meat prices and the result was rioting that had to be brutally suppressed. The Party never made the mistake of listening to its economists again.

    • Thanks: Alden
  279. Anonymous[107] • Disclaimer says:

    For some unknown reason Roman senators are best played, in theatrical productions, TV, film etc, by very stagey upper class English actors. It’s almost if they are born to play these roles.
    Also, any TV reenactment of ancient Rome, must, as a universal law be introduced with rather pompous brass music, and feature rostrum work of mosaics.

    • Replies: @Cortes
  280. @Colin Wright

    It was commonplace much earlier than forty years. The Philadelphia Museum of Art pediment recreated classical statuary in brilliant polychrome colors in 1932.

    • Thanks: Colin Wright
  281. JMcG says:
    @Mr. Anon

    Throughout my life, I’ve had no difficulty with leading a handful of men to complete some job that needed doing. I have an active aversion to leadership roles at any level higher than that. People who seek that level of control are as foreign to me as are homosexuals.
    At some level, I just don’t trust those who seek to be in charge.

    • Agree: Mr. Anon
  282. JMcG says:
    @Jack D

    Hitler, along with the Soviets, invaded Poland. His motive there was to reattach Eastern Prussia and a great deal of ethnic Germans to Germany proper. France, along with Britain, declared war on Germany, but not on the USSR. For some strange reason.
    France invaded Germany on the 7th of September, 1939. They withdrew when Poland collapsed after the Soviets had invaded from the east.
    The Soviets then invaded Finland in November, 1939, again without any serious opposition from the Allied Powers.
    Britain violated Norwegian neutrality in early 1940 with the Altmark Incident and then again later in the year by mining Norwegian waters. This was before the fall of France.
    The rest is all too familiar.
    The Germans well understood the perils of fighting a war on two fronts. They buttoned up France in a few weeks after preempting the British Invasion of Norway, taking Denmark on the way.
    It seems to me that Hitler’s first target was Bolshevism, having seen what it had done to Germany at the end of World War I. He sure didn’t mind humiliating the French either. Why Bolshevism, the cause of more human death and misery than any other ideology, got a pass in the western world, is something I find inexplicable.
    I do think it was a bit rich the way Stalin ceaselessly clamored for a second front after having been Hitler’s military ally from August, 1939 until June of 1941, almost two years.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Jack D
  283. p38ace says:
    @Daniel H

    I remember Patricia Crone had a few books out on this subject in the 80s.

  284. @Lot

    If you look at various illustrations of Roman Legionnaires in action what comes to mind are modern day riot police. Instead of using batons the Romans would use their javelins and short bladed swords. A side by side comparison of a Roman soldier and a modern day policeman in riot gear is striking.

  285. Alden says:
    @Cortes

    I’ve read some Falco novels. Excellent about how a middle class family living in the suburba apartments cooked meals, how laundry was done, traveling, roadside rest stops like we have today in the interstates, roads Etc. Often Falco goes to buy a tool or something. He can see into the workshop and narrate hoe it’s made

    There’s one in which Falco investigates something going on in an aqueduct building project. Amazing research and amazing how the aqueducts were engineered. I forgot about the story and just followed the aqueduct engineering City of Rome’s still using parts of the ancient sewer and water system 2,500 years later.

    All I know about Ancient Rome is the conventional history. The streaming service series Borgia has a few good episodes about late 15th century restoration of the ancient water supply. “ All we have to do is find the channels and start using them”

    The very first British retail store that had a bathroom for customers was Selfridge’s in London. Opened around 1905? 1910? It wasn’t an English innovation. Selfridge was an American and copied the big American department stores with bathrooms and restaurants. One reason women weren’t employed in offices and stores was lack of bathrooms or even chamber pots. Men were expected to step outside and pee in the street or alley. Nothing for women.

    Lots of British older low level homes built before 1920 didn’t get indoor bathrooms till the 1940s and socialism. It wasn’t till the 1920s that the local and national building codes were altered to mandate indoor plumbing. The national government provided subsidies for the expense of indoor plumbing.

    Thanks for all the research and informative comments.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  286. @Hypnotoad666

    What we call a “novel” was not a particularly popular form of literature in Roman times. Still, Apuleius’ “The Golden Ass” comes very close, and indeed it is not only funny reading but also a fascinating insight on Roman society through their own eyes.

  287. Alden says:
    @Jack D

    Turkish not Arab and the Turks just preserved the existing Byzantine Greek Anatolian Balkans old Roman baths as they conquered westward.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  288. Alden says:
    @R.G. Camara

    Several French refugees from the French Revolution went to America and wrote about their experiences living and farming in what was then frontier villages after they returned home 20 years later. It was all new to them so their accounts were very detailed about mundane daily life.

  289. @Colin Wright

    I don’t think this is completely correct, It is certainly true that monks might have been biased, but as a general rule they did copy and re-distributed literally everything they could put their hand on, in a desperate attempt at saving the remains of a collapsing civiliation. Just by way of examples, they did copy Apicius’ “Culinaria” cooking book and Apuleius’ erotic novel, “The Golden Ass” (both of which are hardly in line with monastic life), as well as Rutilius Namatianus’ “De Redito Suo” complete with its violent anti-Christian tirades, and even Symmachus’ attack on the decision by Emperor Thedosius I (on the instigation of Saint Ambrosius) to have the statue of Victory removed from the Curia (the Senate’s meeting hall).

    • Replies: @Cortes
    , @Colin Wright
  290. Cortes says:
    @Twinkie

    Standard operating procedure to this day, I believe.

    What legislative body is going to fund a campaign against the Popular Front of Judea/Britannia &c if their generals admit the enemy consists of 5 or 6 incels armed with slings and with one old mule multitasking as transport, fuel source and love interest? Not a whole lot of glory there.

    • Thanks: Gabe Ruth
  291. Cortes says:
    @Anonymous

    If only the Senators were played by Germans, we could name the Law.

    Lex Luther.

    Try the fish sauce.

  292. @PhysicistDave

    The old Germanic word that gives rise to the English “rich” seems to have meant powerful

    So yes, rich originally meant powerful

    We can imagine how, without paper money, credit cards, and internet transactions, a glorious reputation and many fans or followers can enable wealth

  293. nebulafox says:
    @Skylark Thibedeau

    Jugurtha was a client: the appropriate (rough) analogue would be Israel or Pakistan, not the PRC. This is more like allowing the Parthians unfettered access to state secrets for personal profit.

  294. @Twinkie

    Thanks – very interesting, esp. this:

    given the state of Roman (flawed) understanding of geography at the time (which was not so much “bird’s eye” as “navigational” in framework), it wasn’t even possible for them to think in modern strategic terms such as rationalizing the borders for better defensibility

    Makes total sense.

    WRT the Roman thirst for glory, have you ever read Carlin Barton? She’s an emerita at UMass. I read her book, The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans. It was, frankly, beyond me and written in dense academese, but the gist is that the interior life of the Romans is something that’s quite foreign for us moderns. I haven’t read Roman Honor, her 2nd book, but it sounds like it’s up this alley.

    https://www.umass.edu/history/people/carlin-barton

    • Replies: @Twinkie
  295. @Jack D

    I remember that shit, too, although not on as high a level as a Wharton lecture. I do remember distinctly reading in the NY Times that the economy of the Soviet Union had achieved a high degree of “autarchy” – this was meant in a laudatory way. If you give me 36 more hours of intense concentration I might be able to remember the name of the writer – some upper-level State Dept hack.

    But yeah, it was CW that the Soviet Union would last forever, and it was a huge shock when it fell apart.

  296. nebulafox says:
    @Anonymous

    Operation Barbarossa had a dual character: it was an ideological war against Communism, but it also was an imperialist campaign with the end-goal of allowing Germany to compete with the United States. Hitler’s characteristic absolutist thinking is most clear here: world power Germany or no Germany. Preferably, with Britain as Germany’s main ally, if necessary, without them.

    I’m cautious about drawing too many links between the Second and Third Reichs, but Hitler’s fixation on this goal cannot be explained absent his memories of WWI: the blockade, the very brief imperium in the East from the Treaty of BL, etc. Hitler spent his first voluntary leave in late 1917 with the family of one of his buddies from the war in a working-class district of Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg, the kind of place that would explode a year later. He could not have avoided noticing how tense the situation had become, his belief in the Dolschstoss aside, and was determined both that Germany would not be blockaded again, and that home front morale would be kept afloat by whatever means necessary. And until the final days of WWII, it was.

  297. nebulafox says:
    @anon

    In addition to inferior organization, like the rest of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the Aztecs were hit hard by diseases which were completely alien to them.

    • Agree: Macumazahn
  298. Anonymous[122] • Disclaimer says:
    @JMcG

    Hitler had two options: He could have waged an ‘anti-communist crusade’ against Russia in alliance with Polish/French/British conservatives, or he could have waged a ‘war of revenge’ against Poland/France/Britain in alliance with Russian communists. It was one or the other. He tried to do both and achieved neither.

    • Replies: @JMcG
  299. @Lot

    Cortez’s conquest of Mexico was a close-run thing at times. The Tlaxcalans sided with Cortez because the Aztecs were sacrificing their children and otherwise being terrible.

  300. Cortes says:
    @Ezio Bonsignore

    Thanks.

    The magnificent American sci-fi novel by Walter Miller, “A Canticle For Leibovitz”, captures a sense of what must have been the spirit of the monastic projects of preserving remnants of the grand civilisation Before The Fall. And given that Niebuhr was able in the early XIX Century to rediscover extensive fragments of Gaius’s primer text for first year law students in the Antonine period, it’s not impossible that wonderful fresh discoveries will emerge thanks to the efforts of copyists in some far flung monastery.

    • Thanks: Macumazahn
    • Replies: @Cortes
  301. @Jack D

    Kim Stanley Robinson still thinks planned can be superior, given modern computing power.

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @Mr. Anon
  302. @anon

    Yes, thank you, I stand corrected on the obsidian-edged clubs. It was careless of me to say “flint” and indeed, a fractured edge of obsidian can be far, far sharper than even the finest modern scalpel. Still, the bare neck of a horse aside, it’s difficult to see how an obsidian-edged weapon could endure multiple strikes against metal armor. Considering that I refuse to be lectured by the ignorant, this time I am the ignorant one, and I yield without rancor to your superior knowledge.
    One thing I’ll say for Jared Diamond is that the section of Guns, Germs and Steel where he discusses the arrival of the Conquistadors, really gave me a gut-feeling for how different these invaders were to the natives. They could hardly have been more foreign if they’d been from Mars. When, years later, I watched Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, it just seemed so fitting that the Mayans, depraved by our standards, were about to meet the Sword of God.

  303. JMcG says:
    @Anonymous

    I don’t necessarily disagree. I just don’t understand why French and English conservatives were more willing to deal with Stalin than Hitler pretty much from the moment he got into power. I’m speaking of the years between ‘33 and ‘38 here.

  304. Cortes says:
    @Cortes

    I ought to have added a link:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaius_(jurist)

    NB Great to see Papinian drop by.

  305. Jack D says:
    @Alden

    There were Roman style baths in Arab Spain. This was not just a Turkish thing.

    https://www.rondatoday.com/rondas-arab-baths/

  306. Jack D says:
    @Dave Pinsen

    Communism works! It just hasn’t been tried hard enough.

  307. Jack D says:
    @JMcG

    It seems to me that Hitler’s first target was Bolshevism,

    Corporal Hitler must have had bad aim. Like his buddy von Braun who aimed for the stars but hit London.

    • LOL: JMcG
  308. @Almost Missouri

    I definitely agree with your second paragraph, but I must aver that my knowledge of Classical history is far too shallow to respond meaningfully to your first.

  309. S says:

    Funny you mention this subject.

    I was just reading yesterday that at one of the old British Roman forts they’ve found the earliest example of a wooden toilet seat in the water logged soil there, being nearly two thousand years old.

    The diarist Samuel Pepys described how in 17th century London well off people used their basements as something like a big septic tank and how (disgustingly) he had accidently stepped/slipped/fell into one of those when visiting an acquaintance.

    Lizzie Borden (of hatchet fame) had a skin flint father. Though they had plenty of money and a nice house, they only had a primitive toilet in the basement, ie basically a stone lined hole and IIRC possibly an outhouse too. Families with money could at the time have flush toilets and indoor plumbing so that’s supposed to have been part of what po’ed her towards her father.

    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
  310. @Redneck farmer

    Can’t speak for anybody but myself, but I was already fully expecting the USSR to collapse as early as 1982.

  311. What are the DNA consequences of the Roman army running about here and there? Surely every Roman soldier had a girlfriend.

  312. Mr. Anon says:
    @Dave Pinsen

    Communism hasn’t been tried on Mars yet. Certainly, it will work there. It’s the Red Planet, after all. Once we have built socialism on one planet, we will bring the Revolution back to Mother Earth!

  313. Twinkie says:
    @Paperback Writer

    I haven’t read Barton, but “the interior life of the Romans [being] quite foreign for us moderns” is right on the money. Human culture has changed quite dramatically in many ways (who talks of honor these days?), and not always for the better. 🙂

    That’s why as we – whether historians or consumers of history – all ought to resist the urge to project our own mentality to men who in many ways lived in very alien cultures, without, of course, not forgetting that men, at the very basic level, haven’t changed (seeking safety, nourishment, status, and so on, but also for the transcendental and mysterious).

    • Agree: Colin Wright, dfordoom
    • Replies: @anon
  314. Mr. Anon says:
    @S

    I was just reading yesterday that at one of the old British Roman forts they’ve found the earliest example of a wooden toilet seat in the water logged soil there, being nearly two thousand years old.

    It was made by Centurion Dynamics and cost 10,000 Sesterces.

    • LOL: Macumazahn
  315. @Ezio Bonsignore

    ‘I don’t think this is completely correct…’

    I’ll readily agree I probably oversimplified. My point really is that what they saw as important and what we would see as important would be very different.

  316. Twinkie says:
    @Steve Sailer

    The Roman legions were orderly in their logistics.

    Indeed, their obsession with organization and logistics were nearly unequaled until the modern times. And that’s also why they fanatically built and maintained roads (and ports) and were able to operate multiple armies across vast distances while lesser civilizations were able to muster one or two hosts at most. Only the Carthaginians came close to the Romans in being able to field several armies simultaneously, but their circumstance was more of a case of the Barcid independence (in Spain and Italy) from Carthage, rather than a unitary government being able to control multiple armies by design.

    The legions job was not to be heroes but to not lose battles, so that Roman might could slowly grind down opposition.

    This was a consequence of the experience of the Second Punic War when Rome came the closest to being toppled as a hegemonic power (Hannibal’s goal wasn’t to destroy Rome so much as to detach her allies from her and weaken her).

    Once Rome destroyed Carthage, there was no other power in the Mediterranean that could match its material superiority, and the Romans knew that they could throw manpower at just about any opponent and grind it down. And by the Principate period, it was largely strategically defensive/pro-status quo anyway.

  317. @Mr. Anon

    ‘They may be no angels, but the powerful really are worse. One theory is that a lot of the World’s leaders were (are) psychopaths. They’re just wired different than ordinary people.’

    I dunno. On the one hand, a lot of the powerful really have been fairly decent people. On the other hand, plenty of the poor and weak readily commit the various petty larcenies, deceits, cruelties, and abominations available to them.

    It is one of those matters it would be impossible to prove conclusively one way or the other, but I tend to more often be struck by how ordinary and fallible the great and the powerful are than by their possession of some unique capacity for evil. To take Donald Trump as a random example, I can see him being a mildly irritating neighbor I wouldn’t take investment advice from — but no worse than that.

    …just no better, either.

  318. @German_reader

    ‘…the entire timespan of 500-1200 (which saw huge changes and wasn’t uniform at all)…’

    That’s certainly true. The past perhaps moved somewhat more slowly than the present day, but the difference in the rate of change wasn’t as great between then and now as people tend to assume.

    Put it this way: somebody going back from 1120 to 920 might find the changes more disconcerting than we would if we went back from now to 1920.

    Offhand, in the earlier gap, you’ve got the appearance of the windmill, the development of chivalry and the appearance of the medieval romance, the elaboration of feudalism, an enormous growth in both the pervasiveness and the quality of monastic learning, and the disappearance of ravaging bands of Vikings, Avars, and Saracens. 1920 might be quite a shock to some of us — but 920 would be at least as disconcerting to your average Western European of 1120.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  319. @Daniel H

    ‘Related: What do we know about Muhammad and the foundation of Islam? Consider the work of these independent scholars. I am persuaded that virtually everything “known” about the first 2 centuries of Islam is BS. There was likely no Muhammad. There was no Mecca. The early founders of Islam were urban Arabs located close to what is now Bagdhad. They were clearly deeply influenced by heretical Christian sects, and likely considered themselves Christians. Tons of stuff.’

    I wouldn’t buy into all that, but there is a decided lack of information about the period.

    One of the curious aspects of the Dark Ages is that they seem to have been more or less uniformly Dark. It wasn’t just Western Europe that was afflicted; even the Byzantine Empire has a fit of iconoclasm — destroying something like half their artworks. It really was a downturn across much of the Western half of Eurasia.

    • Replies: @nebulafox
  320. Anonymous[198] • Disclaimer says:
    @Alden

    Actually, health regulations, imposed by local authorities, specified that WCs – had to be built outside, detached from the main body of the house. This was the case, at least, in Lindon, England. These regulations were conterminous with the universal connection of all dwellings to main sewers – which dates from the 1860s – and was the result of cholera epidemics – together with the development of powerful steam operated pumps, which for the first time in history enabled a proper, universal sewerage system to be a practicality.

    The idea of putting WCs outside in an outhouse was connected to the miasma theory Steve highlighted a week ago.
    Sometime in the early 20th century, this regulation was relaxed.

  321. @Abe

    ‘As Steve has noted several times with respect to professional historians’ bore-ification of the Conan-brought-to-life world of “battle axe culture” peoples (now called by academic historians the sensible serving-size clay pot-making peoples, or some such soporific), the professors seem to have this weird compulsion to make the past as boring and as grey as possible…’

    To be fair, if one does the math, not all the young men can possibly be going off on bloody raids and getting killed every year. The situation becomes demographically impossible.

  322. sayless says:
    @Lurker

    Educated people seem to be more resistant to conspiracy theories out of fear. They can’t bear the thought that we are consistently, uniformly lied to by people who are telling us things on TV and in the establishment press. Uneducated people are shrewder than that.

  323. Anon[130] • Disclaimer says:
    @anon

    In one of the books 1491 or 1493, can’t remember which one, the author argues that the East coast American Indians, but for disease, were far more formidable than Europeans. They were taller, stronger, wore clothing appropriate for the environment, had weapons that were deadlier and more accurate from a farther distance and which could be cycled faster, and so on.

    This doesn’t even take into account that the Europeans were “not sending their best” illegal aliens, since the sailers and crew were bottom of the barrel criminals on the run and so forth.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  324. Wielgus says:
    @Colin Wright

    We do depend on monks chronicling events and sometimes the surviving coverage is thin or absent. For example one year of the Anglo-Scottish wars is completely unrecorded – I think it is 1303 or thereabouts. No monks reported events so anything that happened is unknown now.
    Sometimes what happened is obscured in a different way. Robert the Bruce captured a castle in the same conflict and three different monkish sources report it. However, they each tell a different story about the event. So what really happened, other than all agreeing that Bruce took the castle, is now unknown.

  325. sayless says:
    @Anonymous

    Muslims around the world are angry about it, too. Public toilets were put up over the site of Aisha’s tomb. A big luxury hotel with air conditioning and Olympic-sized swimming pools was built. There’s a new clocktower with “the largest clock face in the world.”

    Purportedly the Saudis want to accommodate more pilgrims for the hajj but they don’t seem to have a handle on crowd control anyway so why would they want to do that?

    In Bosnia the Saudis financed a lot of new mosques and the locals think they’re ugly.

    Saudi gazillionaires have bad taste. “How do you like my bathroom fixtures made out of gold?”

    • Replies: @p38ace
  326. anon[381] • Disclaimer says:
    @Twinkie

    “The past is a different country. They do things differently there”.

    Also see the monograph of Sir John Bagot Glubb written in the 1970’s, “The Fate Of Empires”.

  327. nebulafox says:
    @Daniel H

    I think it’s highly unlikely that Muhammad the man, or at the very least a concrete singular person he was based off of, didn’t exist. He looms too large in the minds of the few 7th Century sources we have, Roman as well as Arab. The mundane basics of his biography also check out, such as a trading rather than traditional Bedouin background. Beyond that, though, the traditional story of Islam was one based off oral tradition, and largely retrospectively created generations later to fit the facts on the ground. There’s no evidence to suggest that the initial wave of conquerors had created a fully differentiated religion yet: they seemed to identify far more as Arabs than “Muslims”. Or that the invasions of Sassanid and Roman territory were undertaken with the purpose of taking down those empires, which happened to be in a state of all time demographic collapse.

    One of the few 7th Century sources we have is the Qu’ran itself. When taken at face value, it’s pretty clear about what Muhammad is propagating. “Follow the religion of Abraham the True, our ancestor.” Given that religious identification was a lot blurrier in 7th Century Arabia, it was quite possible to be a Jew or a heterodox Christian and claim you were doing just that: and be welcomed into the new community awaiting the End Days. They came from the same thought world. This is integral to understanding the permanence of Arab conquests: they weren’t looked at as alien by the residents of Palestine, Egypt, or Syria. They were a part of life there.

  328. nebulafox says:
    @Colin Wright

    > It wasn’t just Western Europe that was afflicted; even the Byzantine Empire has a fit of iconoclasm — destroying something like half their artworks.

    The images of icon-breaking monsters is largely a fixture of iconodule propaganda. They completely dominate the histories of the period, in part because they destroyed anything that the iconoclasts produced after 842. Near as we can tell, they invented a cult of icons when none existed prior to the 8th Century. Much like the origins of Islam, it’s important to stress that these people weren’t consciously lying: they were trying to retrospectively create history. They lived in a very different thought world, and didn’t have access to Wikipedia and source notes. The Church was infallible, and they had to find an explanation that synced with that.

    Byzantium underwent the same process of ruralization and declining literacy that Western Europe did. In some ways, the East had to deal with a far more traumatic experience than the West’s suicide-by-a-thousand-cuts (and this was the real story of iconoclasm: note that iconoclast arguments sound suspiciously similar to Islamic ones, and that the guy who started iconoclasm, Leo III-he was the guy who stopped the Arabs in 717-came from Syria, might well have grown up Monophysite, and spoke fluent Arabic), when the Arabs turned the Empire from superpower to beleaguered rump state and took 75% of the wealth in a matter of months. However, the tax system, bureaucracy, and imperial court survived: and got even more centralized, because Constantinople was now the only true center of power in the empire. This meant that the imperial state still had financial options that no Western ruler could dream of. Constantinople’s walls also ensured a relative degree of security for safeguarding education, and because of the imperial bureaucracy, there was more of a demand for it in than in the West.

  329. ltravail says:

    Sounds like Mr Sailer may have taken a sneak-peek or two at Anatoly Fomenko’s tome, History: Fiction or Science, in between chapters of the Luttwak book he read over Christmas – which is not a bad idea at all. Alternatively, he may have come across the critiques of historical antiquity written by someone calling themselves First Millennium Revisionist and published by Unz last year. Not a bad idea either. While he’s at it, I’d recommend Mr Sailer also peruse late 19th century English historian Edwin Johnson’s thesis titled The Rise of English Culture. As Mr Sailer’s short essay suggests, and as the aforementioned authors have so painstakingly exposed, there is a great deal of outright “falsification”, or at best “wild ass guess work”, in the historical canon we’ve all been taught over the past two hundred years or so.

  330. Anonymous[411] • Disclaimer says:

    The Greek East had a long tradition of veneration of statues. Every Greek city had its temple with statue of the local deity. It was ubiquitous and ancient. This became a problem when the Greeks adopted Christianity with its Jewish prohibition on idols.

    The West lacked this ancient tradition of pagan idolatry and so was spared these iconoclastic controversies (at least until the Reformation.) A statue was just a statue. (Even today, Eastern Orthodox worship has a focus on holy images that seems strange even to Catholics.)

    • Replies: @nebulafox
  331. nebulafox says:
    @Anonymous

    As I mentioned above, the veneration of icons was a result of iconoclasm, not a survivor of it. There wasn’t much inherently “Greek” (the Byzantines never called themselves that-they were always Romans, and nothing that Westerners did irritated them more than calling them “Greeks”) about it, and the Western church tended to be sympathetic to the iconodules. The Franks were more on the iconoclast-sympathizer side themselves, but not the extent that this interfered with politics

    Islam was the relevant rival religion with iconoclasm, not Judaism, though Islam’s strong aversion to images of the divine does probably does have some roots Jewish messianism. Even during the lowest ebb of the Persian wars, nobody in Constantinople considered Zoroastrianism a more plausible explanation to how the universe worked. Islam came from the same cultural matrix, though, and therefore their theological arguments couldn’t be dismissed in the same way.

    >(Even today, Eastern Orthodox worship has a focus on holy images that seems strange even to Catholics.)

    Iconoclasm played a huge role in turning “East Rome” into “Byzantium”. One of the big transitions made was Roman identity becoming exclusive rather than universal. The theological purges and controversies in Byzantium like iconoclasm were Byzantine-specific, and did not make sense to outsiders. This began the process of mutual cultural alienation with the former Western Empire.

  332. @Steve Sailer

    Southerners wrote a disproportionate amount of Civil War history for the first century after 1865.

    Most writing on the Spanish Civil War was also written by the losers.

    • Agree: JMcG
    • Replies: @JMcG
    , @nebulafox
  333. Anonymous[437] • Disclaimer says:
    @Almost Missouri

    wouldn’t feel the slightest fear of every Humanities department sliding into the ocean and disappearing forever. A handful of autists, aesthetes and gigachads writing in their spare time have more data, insight and verve than all the Woke Classicists combined.

    I wanted to major in history in college. My father advised me to major in something marketable. “You can learn more history simply by reading books than you’ll ever learn listening to some commie professor”.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  334. JMcG says:
    @William Badwhite

    Except that they’re not losing anymore.

  335. p38ace says:
    @sayless

    The Saudis are Wahabists. Am I the only one who seems to feel that the Wahhabists are not moslems, but a whole new religion?

  336. nebulafox says:
    @William Badwhite

    WWII military history, too, at least in the postwar European generation.

  337. @Paperback Writer

    ‘I read Luttwak’s tweets. Every time there’s a flurry of “the US will lose in a war to China” he thinks it’ll be a very short war – and the US will win.’

    I’ll bet he’s wrong — if only because the Chinese will be less willing to accept defeat.

    They’ll willingly accept a million dead. We’ll start flinching at ten thousand.

    That doesn’t mean we’re bad people. It just means we should proceed thoughtfully.

  338. @Anon

    ‘In one of the books 1491 or 1493, can’t remember which one, the author argues that the East coast American Indians, but for disease, were far more formidable than Europeans. They were taller, stronger, wore clothing appropriate for the environment, had weapons that were deadlier and more accurate from a farther distance and which could be cycled faster, and so on…’

    That’s just the author’s way of telling you you can safely ignore his opinion.

    That’s a lot of glib crap. After all, fast-forward a hundred years. Do you see settlers using bows and arrows or Indians using muskets? Steel knifes or flint ones? Oh, it’s a tough call…

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @dfordoom
  339. @Anonymous

    ‘I wanted to major in history in college. My father advised me to major in something marketable. “You can learn more history simply by reading books than you’ll ever learn listening to some commie professor”.’

    To be pedantic, I’d disagree.

    Ideally, a decent education in history will teach you to approach sources and claims with the right degree of perspective and skepticism.

    I get tired of listening to people who read, say, the otherwise excellent King Leopold’s Ghost and take as proven fact the book’s assertion that ten million blacks were murdered in the course of the Congo Free State’s brief and scantily manned career.

    I don’t want to argue that claim. It’s just that accepting such improbabilities is an example of what comes of reading history without an education, so to speak.

    A decent historical education will allow you to approach history with some sense. It’s kind of like training as an electrician will enable you to safely and correctly figure out why the kitchen light isn’t working.

  340. @Colin Wright

    New World Indians did a little with copper, and just before Cortez the Aztecs were making a bit of bronze, but they never did anything with iron. By 1492, they had 2500+ years of iron research and development behind them: guns, germs, and steel.

  341. dfordoom says: • Website
    @Colin Wright

    That’s a lot of glib crap. After all, fast-forward a hundred years. Do you see settlers using bows and arrows or Indians using muskets?

    It’s more complicated than that. Bows were very effective weapons but they required a lot of training and physical conditioning. You could teach a peasant or an urban slum-dweller to use a smoothbore musket in a couple of weeks.

    Man for man Henry V’s longbowmen at Agincourt in 1415 were a lot more formidable than Wellington’s musket-armed infantry at Waterloo 400 years later, but Wellington could not have taken on Napoleon’s army of 73,000 men with 5,000 longbowmen. And raising a large army of longbowmen was simply not possible. Longbowmen required years of training and physical conditioning.

    You could probably also argue that mediæval knights in full plate armour, riding partly armoured horses and armed with lances, were more effective shock cavalry than the cavalry of the Napoleonic Wars, but again it was not possible to raise a sufficiently large force of armoured knights quickly enough. Being able to use a heavy lance effectively and ride in full plate armour is not something you’re going to be able to learn in a few weeks.

    Military progress from the 16th to the early 19th century was mostly a matter of being able to raise increasingly large armies and maintain them in the field. It was progress in logistics and organisation rather than in weaponry.

    • Disagree: Colin Wright
  342. @Kyle

    [The Pantheon] has a concrete dome with a hole in it, and apparently the concrete isn’t reinforced with steel.

    “Apparently”?

    I guess the Romans saved their steel for the railroads they built.

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