Friday, 30 December 2011

St Mercurios Killing Julian the Apostate

I can't top the excellent blog post about this painting, so I'll just add a link.

If you want to follow my extended review of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from the beginning (and who wouldn't?) it starts with Augustus founding the empire.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

When Magic Still Made Sense: The History Books Review Guide to Neoplatonism

Imagine some people who had grown up and lived their entire lives chained to the wall of a cave. Their only view of the world comes from shadows cast into the cave. They would have some idea of what the world was like, but would be unable to fully experience and appreciate the full depth of the colours, the sounds and the smells of the world outside. They would have only the haziest notions of the motivations and passions of the people living there.

Read more at the blog's new location

Friday, 16 December 2011

Tribute to Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens showed great stoicism in his last year as the cancer in his throat slowly killed him.  He continued to live as he had lived before with no hint of self pity or even much sign of inconvenience.  As he pointed out, we are all dying, he was just doing it a bit more quickly.  

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Julian and the Christians

Athanasius - nemesis of the apostate

Alexandria was one of the major cities of the Roman empire, and one that would have appealed to Julian.  It was founded by Alexander the Great, who was one of Julian's heroes.   It was also the centre of a major pagan cult, that of Serapis.  (If you are wondering who Serapis was, he was created by the Greek founders of Alexandria as an amalgam of Greek and Egyptian elements so as to appeal to both ethnic groups.  Cynical manipulation of religion for political purposes has a long history.)  And the intellectual achievements of the Alexandrians rivaled those of Athens.  Basically it was his kind of place, or rather it would have been had it not also been an important centre of Christian thought as well.