If we are to understand the mind of early medieval man, we must attempt to place ourselves in his situation and circumstances. It is difficult for us, having been reared in an age of relative peace and prosperity, to grasp the degree to which Western Europe had succumbed to chaos, warfare, and barbarism after Roman civil authority collapsed in the fourth and fifth centuries.Continue reading
In 1917 there was published in Germany a book entitled Deductions from the World War (Folgerungen aus dem Weltkriege). It was an analysis of lessons learned from the previous four years of intense fighting, and its author was a man named Baron Hugo Von Freytag-Loringhoven. At the time he was a lieutenant-general, and he was working as the deputy chief of the German Imperial Staff. An English translation of his book appeared in 1918.Continue reading
The Swiss orientalist and explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt crossed the cataracts of the Nile in 1813 and was intending to penetrate into the heart of unknown Nubia. Near a place called Jebel Lamoule, his Arab guide dismounted from his camel and approached the intrepid European; his intention was to practice on him a time-honored extortion ritual much observed in that region when escorting foreigners. The ritual was called “preparing the grave for the traveler.”Continue reading
The ancient Greek statesman and general Alcibiades once likened his career to the lives of the mythical half-brothers Castor and Pollux. These two figures are together called the Dioscuri, and they are attended by many stories and fables, some of which are contradictory or ambiguous. According to myth, the Dioscuri are alive and dead on alternate days. Homer says:Continue reading
The Roman writer Aelian, in his Varia Historia (X.5) credits the following parable to Aesop the Phrygian, although I have never heard it mentioned in collections of his stories. He said that a pig squeals when it is touched by man for a good reason: it does not produce fur or milk for human use, as a goat or sheep, and has nothing to offer except its own meat.Continue reading
The Roman writer Aelian, in his Varia Historia (III.44), conveys the following anecdote. Three young friends, he says, were traveling to Delphi in order to consult the oracle. Along the way, they lucklessly encountered some bandits. In the melee that followed, some of the robbers were killed.Continue reading
As we become older, we are more conscious of the limitations of knowledge. Nothing is so frustratingly difficult as its attainment. It is like trying to look up at a star or planet in the night sky. Every time we look directly at one of these points of light, it seems to disappear; only by shifting away our eyes can we perceive it.Continue reading
There is a scene near the beginning of the film The Departed (2006) in which the character played by Martin Sheen, a police captain, asks Leonardo DiCaprio, a potential recruit for undercover work, a pointed question. The question is this: “Do you want to be cop, or do you just want to appear to be a cop? It’s a legitimate question. Some guys just want to appear to be cops.”Continue reading
By what means can the imagination be activated? By what artifice may its secrets be coaxed to the surface of our consciousness, and made capable of articulation, as an enterprising fisherman might lure a rare specimen from deep waters to the surface? Are there tried techniques, or is it simply a matter of random inspiration? These are questions worthy of consideration.
There has been a big surge in online scammery and con artistry in the past two years. Economic hardship and desperation have been contributing causes, but this kind of activity has been with us since the dawn of time. And con games will always be with us, because they are rooted in the timeless and predictable ingredients of human nature.