The Wise Sayings Of Al Muhallab

The Arab military commander Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra (المهلّب بن أبي صفرة الأزدي) was born around A.D. 632, but not much is known of his early life beyond anecdotes.  His biographer Ibn Khallikan tells us on good authority that “His surnames al-Azdi, al-Ataki, [and] al-Basri indicate that he descended from al-Atik, member of the tribe of al-Azd, and that he was a native of Basra.”  We are also told that he was distinguished for his generosity and graciousness.  His military prowess was beyond question; he defended the city of Basra so effectively from its enemies that some took to calling the city “The Basra of Al Muhallab.”

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How Were Ancient Books Made And Stored?

There has been surprisingly little information published on how books were made, edited, distributed, and stored in ancient times.  Yet the subject holds real interest for many of us today.  My goal in this short essay will be to summarize how books were made and stored during the Greco-Roman period.  I am confident that readers will quickly appreciate just how much more convenient our access to written information is in comparison to what our remote ancestors had to contend with.

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Washington Crosses The Delaware And Attacks

Anyone who thinks the American Revolutionary War was a gentleman’s affair has been seriously misinformed.  We are sometimes given the impression that genteel types in powdered wigs maneuvered this way and that, and at the end of the day, everything was neatly wrapped up as almost a foregone conclusion.  This, however, was not the case, as D.H. Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing makes very clear.  War is war, and there is no way to sugar-coat its effects and costs.

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Dr. Johnson Makes An Eloquent Petition For Clemency

It is a noble thing to intercede on behalf of another’s worthy cause.  But the cause should be a worthy one; we must work to manage expectations; and, when every effort has been exerted, we must know when to let matters take their own course.  Advocating on behalf of another in this way could almost be viewed as a form of public service.  One of the law’s fundamental rules is the principle of proportionality:  a punishment should be reasonably proportional to the crime committed.  The reader examining the following anecdote should ask himself whether the punishment was, in fact, proportional to the committed offense.

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Legends Related To The Conquest Of Spain

Musa Ibn Nusair (موسى بن نصير) lived from 640 to 716 A.D. and served as the Umayyad governor-general of the province of Afriqiyya (North Africa).  It was he who planned and directed the Arab conquest of the Gothic kingdom of Spain.  The biographer Ibn Khallikan, writing in Baghdad in 1274, sketched the outline of his career and notable deeds.  Ibn Nusair’s full name was Abd al-Rahman Musa Ibn Nusair, and he was noted throughout his life, we are told, “for prudence, generosity, bravery, and piety.”  No army under his command was ever defeated.

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Xenophon’s Dream, And The Power Of Character

When a man is under the duress of extreme events, he sometimes finds himself wracked by indecision.  He will mull over various courses of action in his head; he will script out different scenarios in his imagination; and he will ponder his predicament from multiple perspectives.  And yet, when he has finished with these troublesome cogitations, he may find a course of action still eludes him; but at some point, a moment of inspiration will arrive to pierce the gloom, and confer on him the guidance he has desperately been seeking.  When this happens, he must unhesitatingly seize the present hour for action, and proceed with his rendezvous with Fate.

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Seeing The Platonic Academy

I walked to the ruins of the Platonic Academy in Athens this morning.  Founded by Plato himself around 387 B.C., it persisted through many generations under a variety of scholarchs (i.e., heads).  It finally came to an official end during the reign of the emperor Justinian in 529 A.D., who ordered the closure of all the pagan institutions of higher learning.

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