Alexander the Great’s incursions into the Indian subcontinent brought him into conflict with local rulers unwilling to submit to Macedonian rule. One of these rulers is known to history by the name Porus. The sources are vague and contradictory, but he apparently controlled the Punjabi region bordered by the Jhelum and Chenab rivers.Continue reading
Ancient Greek Athleticism And The Idea Of Virtue
This morning my friend Dr. Michael Fontaine sent me an email that contained the following quote by the French Enlightenment thinker Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle. When Fontenelle, at the age of 85, met Rousseau in 1742, he counseled him, “You must courageously offer your brow to laurel wreaths, and your nose to blows.”Continue reading
All Opportunity For The Good, Yet None For The Unworthy
Philo of Alexandria wrote a relatively obscure essay entitled On the Prayers And Curses Uttered by Noah When He Became Sober. His translator has fortunately shortened this unwieldy title to the compact De Sobrietate, or On Sobriety. It contains the following passage of importance:Continue reading
Virtue Is Not Exacting In Her Admittance
There is an interesting passage in the writings of Valerius Maximus (III.3) that is open to different interpretations. It reads as follows:
Sooner Or Later, Everyone Must Take A Side
The Athenian statesman and lawgiver Solon is said to have enacted an unusual law in 594 B.C. The essence of the law was that, in times of civil conflict or crisis, every citizen had to take one side or another. Neutrality was not an option; one could not “sit on the sidelines” and wait things out. Anyone doing so would run the risk of being declared an outlaw (atimos), and might have his property confiscated.
The World’s Smallness, And The Permanence Of Noble Actions
The world is a much smaller place than we are aware. Things we do, actions we take, can have far-reaching effects that come back to us in ways we can never imagine. While events, places, and the flowing rush of time are shifting and transitory, the power of virtue is such that it transcends time and place. I was reminded of this recently after reading the Second World War memoirs of Col. Hans von Luck, a German commander who fought in all the major theaters of the European war.
Be A Horseman, Not A Rider
Philo of Alexandria, in his essay on agriculture (De Agricultura), points out that there is a difference between an ordinary tiller of the ground, and an actual farmer; and that there is also a clear difference between a shepherd and someone who just tends to sheep. In the same way, he tells us, there is a great difference between a rider of a horse and a true horseman.
The Armor Of Virtue
The Hellenistic philosopher Philo of Alexandria made this compelling analogy in his essay, Every Good Man is Free (Quod Omnis Probus Liber Sit V.26):
Hercules On Oeta: Immortality Through Virtue
As I have gotten older I find that reading plays brings more enjoyment than it did in earlier years. Tragedies especially: the unformed mind has not yet been sufficiently battered by the winds and waves of fortune against the rocks, and is equipped with a merciful immunity to the pathos of existence. And yet, as the years roll on, beards and barnacles begin to replace the smooth, supple surfaces of youth; scars and aches accumulate; and the omnipresence of tragedy dawns on the maturing mind with a startling rapidity. The mind then calls for a tonic: it requires the writer to make sense of all this chaos, all this pain, and all this suffering. The struggle must be dignified with a sense of universal justice, and an ethic of enduring goodness. So the tragedian steps forward, and with his stylus attempts to perform this task.
Virtue Is A Sentinel (Podcast)
The virtues have been a force promoting social cohesion and stability for thousands of years. As a society becomes more wealthy, it tends to neglect these virtues. The consequences are deeply destructive: loss of social cohesion, indiscipline, greed and moral corruption. History suggests that such societies become ripe for disorder, even collapse.
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