The following tale appeared in an old volume of forgotten maritime lore. Its author, the indefatigable historian Edward R. Snow, relates that he first heard in as a young man in Bristol, England. He frankly notes the difficulty of substantiating its details, but suggests that, like many sea-yarns, it may contain the seeds of actual events. The story remains, in any case, a powerful allegory of love, loss, and commitment. The setting is the Isle of Wight. The time is the end of the seventeenth century.Continue reading
In August 2021, a new and original translation of the full text of Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations will be published by Fortress of the Mind Publications. Nearly two years in the making, this is the first complete translation of Tusculan Disputations to appear in English since the 1920s, and the only one that is fully annotated and illustrated. It is ideal for the student, general reader, and scholar who needs a clear, cogent, and modern edition of this timeless classic.Continue reading
In January of 1841 the twenty-two-year-old Herman Melville shipped aboard the whaler Acushnet for a multi-year cruise. He had many motivations for doing this. There was, in the first place, a desire to see the world and test himself against its challenges; then there was a need to escape the stultifying confines and restrictions of a nineteenth-century “proper” American household; and finally, a longing to cleanse himself of his father’s failures, disgrace, and early death.Continue reading
There are no “forgotten wars.” We may choose to talk about them, to write about them, or to learn from them. Or we may not. It is a question of what value we place on the lessons. Some eras, forged in strife and hardship, embrace history’s lessons, and consume narratives of past conflict with an eager inquisitiveness; other epochs, softened by luxury and lassitude, are largely immune to the lessons of the past. In the end, it is always a matter of choice.
In the past I’ve resisted the idea of making lists of recommended books. One gets the sense that the instant something is committed to a list, many will assume that the list is exclusive, and that other options should not be considered. There is also a personal feeling of distaste I have towards the “listicle” writing format: it seems trite, simplistic, and geared towards the lowest attention span reader.
Great enterprises require a sustained effort over a long period of time. They cannot be pursued in fits and starts with intermittent bursts of energy; and they demand a confluence of factors that only coalesce on rare occasions. There must exist the ability and talent to conceive the project; there must be intense initiative and endurance to carry it through to completion; and, as a practical matter, the creator must have the leisure and financial ability to sponsor his labors. If any of these requirements are wanting, there will be no progress.
Below are listed my favorite films of the past twenty years. These are the movies that have most influenced me, or have left the most enduring impression on my mind. They are presented in no rigid order of hierarchy, except for the first title, The Lives of Others, which for me towers over every other film as a cherished work of cinematic art.
Pliny’s Natural History (XXV.47) contains a passage that discusses hellebore, a medicinal plant that in ancient times was used to treat insanity. One variety of hellebore, he says, is called melampodion, a name acquired from a shepherd named Melampus, who noticed that the plant had a purgative effect on his female goats (capras purgari pasto illo animadvertentem) once they had eaten it. This milk, we are told, cured “the daughters of Proetus of madness.” Pliny even describes a detailed ritual supposedly used to collect the plant. But who were the daughters of Proetus? What story is being referenced?
The writer and scholar Yamut Ibn Al-Muzarra’ (يموت ابن المزرع) was a native of Basra, Iraq. In the words of his biographer Ibn Khallikan, he was known as “an accomplished literary scholar, and well-versed in history.” His name (Yamut) was a source of some consternation for him as a young man, for it is the third-person active form of the Arabic verb “to die” (مات). He apparently never fulfilled his obligation of visiting the sick in hospitals, for fear that his name would bring misfortune upon patients confined to bed. “The name,” he said, “which l received from my father has been a great annoyance to me. So when I go to visit the sick and am asked my name, I answer, ‘The son of Al-Muzarra,’ and suppress my real name.”