Remedies, Detriments, And Moral Factors

The jurist, poet, and scholar Baha Al-Din Ibn Shaddad (بهاء الدين ابن شداد) was born in the city of Mosul, Iraq in 1145.  He was a close friend of the famed commander and statesman Saladin, and wrote a highly valued biography of that eminent conqueror.  He served for a time as the qadi (judge) of Aleppo, and in this capacity had much opportunity to acquaint himself to the realities of human behavior; it seems that, no matter the country or culture, career lawyers and judges make remarkably astute observers.  Ibn Shaddad’s biographer Ibn Khallikan says that the judge often liked to quote this line of verse from the poet Ibn Al-Fadl (known as Surr-Durr):

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The Ship Of Aeneas: A Unique And Mysterious Vessel


In life and in history, there are a great many things we do not know, and will never know.  Corporeal images recede slowly into the mist:  some to return, some to glimmer faintly without revealing tangible form, and some never to be seen again.  It is the way with things.

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“Vanity Of Vanities, All Is Vanity”


Gelimer lived from about 480 to 550 A.D. and was the ruler of the Vandal kingdom in North Africa for four years from 530 to 534.  The emperor Justinian aspired to restore Roman control over the region, and to this end sent his general Belisarius to expel the barbarian trespassers.  This he did.  Gelimer was also captured for good measure, and transported back to Byzantium as a prize of war.

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A Homeland Is Precious


The outlines of the following story appear in Procopius’s Wars (II.12.8).

The Assyrian king Abgar V governed a region that had its capital at the city of Edessa.  The exact dates of his birth and death are not known, but he apparently ruled from around 4 B.C. to 7 A.D. and again from about 15 A.D. to 30 A.D.  He was an ally and friend of the Roman Empire; the emperor Augustus knew him well and valued his counsel on Near Eastern affairs.

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The Courage Of Andreas


In the year 530 the Eastern Roman (i.e., Byzantine) Empire was engaged in a limited frontier war with its traditional enemy, the Sassanid Persians.  The two great empires had a long history of border clashes, as each constantly was testing the resolution of the other.  One of the engagements that took place in this year was the Battle of Dara, and it was fought in what is now eastern Georgia in the Caucasus mountains.

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The Pearl Of Peroz


Peroz I (or Pirouz) was a Persian king who wore the royal diadem from about A.D. 459 to 484.  The Greek historian Procopius (I.4.18) relates a great fable about him and his pearl, which we will reproduce here.  As is often the case with these enchanting old tales, the reader will be asked to suspend his credulity as to the fable’s literal truth, while being mindful of its deeper purpose as a moral exemplar.

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The Fall Of Queen Amalasuntha


Here is a good story of palace intrigue and conspiracy.  We turn our attention to late antiquity, to the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy.

Amalasuntha (c. 495-535) was the daughter of Ostrogothic King Theoderic the Great.  When Theoderic died, his grandson Athalaric nominally became king.  But being a child, the real power lay with his mother Amalasuntha, who ruled as regent.

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