The Alexandrian Library: Dissipation Through Neglect And Apathy

Nearly every scholar of classical antiquity seems to have an opinion about the destruction of the Great Library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria in Egypt.  It has become something of a symbol of the triumph of ignorance and superstition over knowledge.  There is much merit to this view; but the picture is a complex one, and it deserves serious consideration.  The ruin of the library–and of others like it in the ancient and medieval worlds–was not a discrete, single event.  It was the gradual outcome of a process that took place over generations.  And when I say “process,” I am referring to neglect, apathy, and negligence.

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What Did A Roman Triumph Actually Look Like?

Like the ceremony of deification, the Roman triumph (triumphus) is one of those rituals about which few readers may have a clear picture.  This is unfortunate, for the ceremonial triumph provides a very revealing window on certain aspects of Roman society.  Ancient writers mention it frequently, but almost always in passing; we are seldom offered a description of the event itself.  Fortunately, the Greek historian Appian has done just this in his writings (VIII.9.66), and it will be useful for us to relate the specifics here.

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Scipio Puts Down A Mutiny In His Army

There are times in life for calm reflection, and there are also times for ruthless and decisive action.  When a man is faced with external danger and is being pressed by a crisis, he must act with speed and decision.  The following anecdote, described in Appian’s Spanish Wars (VI.7), demonstrates why Scipio Africanus is eminently deserving of the accolades that historians have accorded him.  For he was not only a commander of prudence and wise judgment; he knew how to draw the sword when the situation called for it.

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Age Of Spectacle: Chariot Races, The Hippodrome, And The Four Factions

To understand fully the social environment in which the eastern Roman empire operated, we must have some grasp of the unique culture surrounding Constantinople’s Hippodrome in the centuries that followed the disappearance of the Roman empire in the west.  In Byzantium, sport and politics achieved a strange admixture that has no exact historical parallel anywhere else; sport influenced politics, and politics guided sport.  It was a peculiar world, but one that makes sense once we understand the conditions that existed at the time.  We begin with the arena itself.

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The Villa Of The Papyri: A Glimpse At A Roman Book Collection

Sometimes an accident of history can preserve records of great value.  As is well-known, Mount Vesuvius in Italy erupted in 79 A.D. entombing the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash and ejecta.  In the eighteenth century, these sites began to be explored in a random and haphazard manner; one of the villas so discovered turned out to be the residence of a dedicated scholar.

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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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