on paris and persia

I’ve always sympathised with the Persians more than the Greeks in the Greco-Persian Wars, a titanic showdown that started around 490 BC and lasted for half a century. From the Persian point of view you have a large, sophisticated and wealthy imperial power, struck by an unprovoked(ish) Greek attack; it responds with a retaliatory invasion, gets mired in the ensuing faraway war, and finally pulls out in ignominy. It all smacks of high tragedy, there are lessons in hubris, triumph and fall; that side of the story appeals much more to me than the Greek story, that of the scruffy underdogs who took on the bad guys and won through sheer gutsiness. That’s probably also why I’m an Empire man and not Rebel Alliance. And don’t even get me started on films like 300 (fun though they may be). Continue reading “on paris and persia”

sacrifice pt 2: …and a hand

Porsena’s men never did take our city, but they did surround her. After the stand at the Sublician Bridge, the bronze-clad ogres decided to surround us with siege works.

Now as you remember a siege camp is a dreadful place. Men sit around, waiting for the enemy to starve, while themselves starving in boredom. On the other side of the camp, in Rome herself, the men were also bored and not a little desperate. So one young man, Gaius Mucius, hatched a daring plan: to steal into the Clusian camp alone and murder dread Porsena. But fearing that the City Fathers would charge him with desertion were he found beyond the Roman lines, he informed them of the plan. With the City Fathers’ blessing he tucked a knife inside his robe and sneaked into the Clusian camp. Continue reading “sacrifice pt 2: …and a hand”

sacrifice pt 1: a buttock for Rome…

[This is the first of four parts in the penultimate chapter, titled Sacrifice.]

Now laws and oaths, as I have said, are hungry. Some gave their lives to uphold them, others gave slightly less. But laws and oaths are hungry.

Tarquin’s shadow came to Rome for the third and final time just one year after Brutus was slain. After his defeat at the forest of Arsia the old tyrant fled to Clusium. There he begged King Porsena to help him retake the seven hills. Now in your day King Porsena’s name is but a memory, but at that time it was a fearful name. King Porsena’s wisdom and military power were the stuff of legend. So you can imagine the fear which gripped our city! Finally Tarquin, through much effort, persuaded Porsena to march on Rome. The fearful Clusian army marched out, thousands in their gleaming armour, rumbling toward our city. Continue reading “sacrifice pt 1: a buttock for Rome…”

law pt 3: the oath of Brutus

Now this Brutus who had accompanied Collatinus to his house was a strange one. He became a great man, yet his early life had been one of trouble. His real name was Lucius Junius, and not many remember that he was King Tarquin’s nephew.

Now the proud King had a vicious streak in him, and among the many people he murdered was a brother of young Lucius. So Lucius, not wanting to draw unwanted attention, pretended from then on to be a harmless idiot – so gaining the nickname Brutus. Continue reading “law pt 3: the oath of Brutus”

law pt 1: the wolves’ law

[This is the beginning of the next chapter, called Law, containing three parts]

In the rocky land of Greece, men loved to quarrel: farmers, heroes, kings, cities. No two cities hated each other more than Argos and Sparta.

Proud Argos bred farmers and traders. The land was rough, but food came in from beyond the sea and from the sweat of good men working the soil. They ruled the plains of southern Greece. Continue reading “law pt 1: the wolves’ law”

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