The Life, Travels, And Literary Works Of Yakut Al-Hamawi

In some recent researches I have discovered one of the more interesting travelers and scholars of the medieval Islamic world.  I have been encouraged to review what sources are available; and the more we learn, the more impressive his story becomes.  His name is Yakut Al-Hamawi, and his career and achievements tell us much about the geographical and social mobility of the age in which he lived.  His career also confirms the truth of the adage that a man of ability will always find a way to rise to the top, regardless of the obstacles placed in his path.

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How Pompey Cleared The Mediterranean Of Pirates

The Mediterranean became infested with pirates as a direct consequence of Rome’s Mithridatic Wars.  Around 88 B.C. Mithridates VI of Pontus went to war against the Romans and moved into the province of Asia Minor.  He took what plunder he could, and apparently decided that an effective way to wage irregular warfare against the Romans would be to encourage pirates to attack Roman shipping lanes.

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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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