The Bad Acts Of Others Do Not Excuse Our Own

The adventures of the Armenian king Papa, who lived from A.D. 353 to about 375, are described by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (XXX.1).  Gibbon gives the king’s name as Para; other sources variously spell his name as Pap or Papa.  We nod at all these spelling variations, and suggest the reader choose the one he favors most.

Continue reading

The Tripod’s Prophecy And The Death Of The Emperor Valens

On the subject of prophecies, men are accustomed to take differing viewpoints.  Some say that the predictions of oracles and diviners mean nothing at all, and should be counted as so much nonsense:  any “true” predictions they make are solely the result of blind coincidence.  Others say that they have independent value as evidence of our imaginative capacity; and that prophecies are, more or less, records of our psychological projections and subconscious desires.  Still others believe that they should be seen more as predictions of what might happen, rather than statements of what will happen.  As in so many other things, it will be the responsibility of each reader to decide for himself.  But it seems to me that we should at least acknowledge that such practices have been around for millennia, and that they are found across the globe within nearly every society and culture.

Continue reading

Disaster At Hadrianople


The worst military defeat that Roman forces suffered after the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest in 9 A.D. was the disaster at Hadrianople in 378.  Both of these crushing defeats occurred at the hands of Germanic tribes.  In the former battle, the emperor Augustus was haunted by the loss of three entire legions in the swampy German forests.  He could never really bring himself to accept it.

Continue reading