Robert Leckie’s “Helmet For My Pillow” (Review)

I very much enjoy reading war memoirs.  I think it’s because I recognize that the authors have tapped into special knowledge that the rest of us cannot access.  They have seen beyond, somehow.  Their experiences have stamped on them an indelible impression that neither time nor distance can erase.  I will be honest:  I am envious of the special knowledge they have, and which I do not have.  Having been in the military is one thing, but having been in real combat is something very different.  Deep down, I regret that I never was given the opportunity to experience what they experienced.

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Catching Birds In Anzio, Italy

The Italian humanist Biondo Flavio of Forli (1392-1463) was one of the great names of Renaissance humanism.  His extensive Description of Italy (Italia Illustrata) collected anecdota and geographical information about every region of the country from ancient times until his own day.  It was first published in 1451, but saw frequent additions and revisions until Flavio’s death.  Book II, section 7 of his treatise provides some details on how the natives of Nettuno (a town in the region of Lazio, south of Rome) go about netting birds.  The passage attracted my attention for some reason, and I thought it might be worth relating; it may even be of interest to modern hunters.  Flavio himself can provide the specific details:

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The Wisdom Of Ibn Al-Sammak

The biographical encyclopedia of Ibn Khallikan–that deep well of collective anecdotal wisdom–has an interesting entry for one Abu Al-Abbas Muhammad Ibn Sabih.  His surname was Al Mazkur, but like many famous figures it is his nickname that posterity recalls best.  This nickname is Ibn Al-Sammak, which literally means “son of a fish-monger” in Arabic (the word for fish is samak, سمك).  It is not clear where this name came from; perhaps he had a fish-merchant as an ancestor.

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A Video Review Of My Translation Of Sallust

Literary critic and reviewer Andrew Vittoria today released a video review of my latest book (published in June), a new translation of the works of the historian Sallust, The Conspiracy Of Catiline and The War Of Jugurtha.  I very much appreciate the time he took to put together this quite detailed review:

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Bequeath Your Problems To Those Who Deserve Them

There is an amusing anecdote related in Chapter 60 of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall.  The author is describing an encounter between Fulk of Neuilly (d. 1201), a mendicant preacher trying to win support for a Fourth Crusade, and Richard I Plantagenet of England.  Fulk had been shopping his plans to various European monarchs, most of which were not interested in proving financial or material assistance to the project.  Fulk was reduced to beating his fist on the doors of one country after another, only to be rebuffed.  As Gibbon relates:

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When Embarked On A Great Enterprise, Do Not Look Back

When you have begun a great project, press forward until it is completed.  Do not look back; do not be distracted by the ambient noise of life, the doubting whispers of others, or the gnawing doubts that will inevitably bore their way into your consciousness.  Nothing great was ever accomplished by half-measures; and the failure of grand ambition is still more inspiring than the cautious steps of the timid man.  In a 1368 letter to Pope Urban V, the humanist Petrarch wrote the following words that I happened to read this morning:

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