Not As Bad As You Think, But Different From What You Think (Podcast)

Our minds often play tricks on us. We come to believe things are much worse than they really are. Once we get through what we’re worried about, we realize that things were not as bad as we thought–and we also realize that things ended in a way that was different from what we expected.

Continue reading

A Consolation Inspired By Cicero: “How To Grieve”

For several years now, Michael Fontaine has dedicated himself to discovering and reanimating the buried treasures of late Latin literature.  This is a mark of the true humanist:  the ability to sift, patiently and deliberately, through the silt of literary time, and locate those true gems that have been consigned to undeserved neglect.  In 2020 he published an adroit translation of John Placentius’s unique satirical poem, The Pig War; that same year he released a wonderful rendition of Vincent Obsopoeus’s guide to controlled inebriation, How To Drink.   

Continue reading

Ibn Gabirol Discusses The Virtues

If we accept the premise that personal sufferings and misfortunes provide excellent grist for philosophy’s mill, then we must concede that Solomon Ibn Gabirol was provided with incomparable ingredients for speculative thought.  He was born to a prosperous family in Malaga, Spain around 1022.  Yet life wasted no time in dealing him cruel cards; his parents died when he was a child, making him an itinerant orphan.  He seems to have been stricken by a degenerative disease as a teenager, and this fact lodged in his breast an enduring sense of alienation and resentment; but like many other thinkers, he would find refuge from his pain by taking up the pen. 

Continue reading

Pythagoras: An Introduction To His Life, School, And Ideas

Only one name in European history unites the realms of religion, mathematics, and philosophy, and that name is Pythagoras.  Yet it is this very achievement that so torments posterity when assessing his legacy.  Centuries of speculative accretions, hagiographic mythologizing, and the dubious testimonia of ancient authors have so obscured his original doctrines that the exasperated scholar must, at last, accept that fact and legend are in him inseparably woven.

Continue reading

The Unrelenting Fires Of Heraclitus

It was in Ionia that the Greek-speaking world of the sixth century B.C. jostled with the ancient kingdoms of Asia’s westernmost region.  Phrygia, Lydia, Caria, and the other principalities of Asia Minor were Greece’s portal to the Asiatic interior.  The empire of Persia, herself irrigated to fertility by various Asiatic streams, retained a power and influence that lapped the shores of the Aegean Sea. 

Continue reading

The Discovery Of Andrea Palladio’s Lost Literary Masterpiece

Andrea Palladio is considered one of the most distinguished names in the history of architecture.  His designs of villas, churches, theaters, and palaces have for centuries been held as exemplars of the High Renaissance genius for adapting classical styles and themes to modern purposes. 

Continue reading

The Object Of One’s Desire Is The Means Of One’s Capture

The Roman writer Aelian, in his treatise On the Nature of Animals (De Natura Animalium), collects many interesting facts related to the habits and behaviors of the creatures of the land, sea, and air. It is unfortunate that he felt compelled to write in Greek instead of Latin, but I suppose this is a decision forgivable for an educated Roman long steeped in Greece’s literary and rhetorical heritage.

Continue reading