“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”— Frank Herbert Beginning. Middle. Ending. In a good book, all three rush by and you turn that final page satisfied, disappointed, or wanting more. Today marks the end of Education & Culture. The beginning was unexpected, Read More
Robert Knapp . . . shows convincingly that the better we understand the thought-worlds of ordinary ancient people, whether Jews, Christians, or pagans/polytheists, the less distinctive do the various categories become. Whatever the labels used to identify them, polytheists, Jews, and Christians inhabited very similar worlds of “gods and miracles,” and any credible account of subsequent religious developments has to be grounded in that fact.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Native leaders were often torn about the best approach to dealing with their white neighbors—sometimes attempting to forge treaties in order to maintain control of their territory (despite the government’s very poor record of honoring such agreements), other times choosing outward defiance in the face of relentless pressure to shrink their power and landbase. But no matter which policy they were pursuing, many Indian leaders concluded it would be useful for their children to be educated in the ways of their neighbors.
Many books have been written in recent years, by scholars, about the need to expand our feelings of kinship. Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene is an example; Timothy Morton’s forthcoming Humankind: Solidarity with Non-Human People is another. Such works are highly theoretical and dense with reference, and while there is a place for all that, I suppose, it is something of a relief to turn from such writers to one whose deep feelings of kinship with the nonhuman arise from the touch of a hawk’s feathers, the meeting of eyes with a mouse, the discovery that what lay next to his boot as he dozed in the shade of a mesa was not a pile of pebbles but a rattlesnake, taking his own calm siesta.
Today’s news features several stories bearing on immigration to the US, international migration, and refugees around the world. How would you describe the present moment? Is there something distinctive about this juncture in time—an immigration crisis—or is that an exaggeration? How should we be responding?
Even when set aside the other border states, Palmyra’s history is distinctive, not least because of its extraordinary economic basis. That power proved both a blessing and a curse. In the 3rd century AD, the city stood at a crest of a wave, leaving it superbly placed to benefit from the near collapse of the Roman Empire between about 240 and 270. Just how appallingly bad those years were is difficult to exaggerate. Upstart emperors came and went with depressing rapidity; at least fourteen reigned between 235 and 270, all of whom died violently, except for two fortunate souls who succumbed to plague. The currency collapsed. In 251, the Emperor Decius died fighting Scythians and Goths, and in 260, his successor Valerian was defeated and captured (at Edessa) by the Persian king, who exhibited his Roman counterpart as a trophy and plaything.
The book is . . . particularly good medicine for the times we find ourselves in, where there exists a burgeoning faction in American Internet Letters wishing to claim the Greek world as a sort of masculine daydream, and one in eminent need of recovery as such. Reading Ladies’ Greek, one immediately stumbles into a momentum that amounts to zeitgeist, into a world peopled by women thinking through their encounter with everything from irregular verbs to Pindar, making alphabet puns, writing doggerel poetry (in Greek of course), being praised as the sex with more skill in translation (so hinted The Athenaeum in 1865). If you didn’t know better, you could wonder how you could have missed it all until now.
Like Thomas Jefferson, Franklin thought that the Bible contained good moral advice even as he rejected the traditional Protestant doctrine that it is the “only rule for faith and practice.” Nevertheless, he knew it “backward and forward,” and was able to use it to great effect in his polemical writings. When he launched a campaign to encourage Pennsylvania’s government to fund a militia in 1747, he reminded his readers that God provided us with the Bible “for our reproof, instruction and warning” and that his Word clearly requires rulers to defend their subjects—by military force if necessary.
The central fact in understanding “Nigerian organized crime” is the extreme inadequacy of the formal state, and the (justifiable) public contempt in which it is held. Persistent misgovernment has resulted in mass poverty and desperation, forcing ordinary people to venture outside the law to achieve simple survival. As a vampiric élite battened upon the nation’s wealth, educated and enterprising younger people were increasingly driven to seek their fortunes overseas, and most did their honest best to advance through legitimate means. For a minority, though, the riches to be won through criminal enterprise proved enormously tempting, and the global nature of the Nigerian Diaspora offered wonderful opportunities for illicit transnational commerce.
War is . . . so interwoven into the fabric of contemporary life that civilians hardly notice it anymore . . . . It hasn’t always been this way. Michael Kazin’s brilliant new book, War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918, lends credence to the old saying, “the past is a foreign country.” It tells the remarkable story of how, one hundred years ago, a diverse coalition of Americans struggled to keep the nation out of the Great War.