Real Kings Are Not Common

We live in times of feeble leadership.  Those who occupy public offices often seem more willing to advance their own interests than those of the citizens they represent; they tremble at the thought of taking any action or initiative that might involve risk on their part.  And so the citizenry suffers to buttress the careerist ambitions of the few.

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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 Plague Of Justinian

During the reign of the eastern Roman emperor Justinian, the Mediterranean world was hit by a pandemic whose virulence was exceeded only by the outbreak of the Black Plague in western Europe many centuries later.  The pandemic–commonly known today as the Plague of Justinian–only lasted from A.D. 541 to 542, but there were residual aftershocks of the disease that occurred periodically for two centuries thereafter.  It is important to history not only for its extremely high death toll, but also for the political and economic changes that followed in its wake.

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Justinian’s Codification Of The Law


Great men make laws, and greater men interpret them.

If a leader wishes to achieve immortality, let him organize, arrange, and codify a body of law for his people.  Many of the greatest leaders (Numa Pompilia, Lycurgus, Solon, etc.) have been lawgivers.  The monuments of stone have crumbled, but the laws remain.

To codify is to bestow immortality.

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