Epictetus

 

Epictetus (50-120AD)
Epictetus (50-120AD)

“Difficulties are things that show people who they really are!”
A slave born in Hierapolis that was to become a saint-like figure for the Greeks and the Romans. Poor, homeless he struggled with super-human energy and dedication to ease the pain of the sufferings of humanity through his teachings. One of his gratest fans was Marcus Aurelius himself!

Centuries later, the US Navy Admiral James Stockdale was able to retain his sanity during capture in a Viet Cong POW camp by relying on the philosophy of Epictetus…

On Propaganda

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” –Winston Churchill

A comprehension on a satisfactory level of the function and mechanisms of propaganda makes you a better citizen. I always believed that propaganda should be taught in high-schools. My definition of this term is simply to disseminate a message to people through specific mediums. For many there’s no negative sign before this noun. It’s the use of it that can be characterized as positive or negative. Propaganda evolved into a science during the 20th century. Two names easily stand out: the great Vladimir Lenin and his most successful “disciple”, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Most propaganda techniques and methods still used today were created or perfected by those two masterminds.

Goebbels in his office
Goebbels in his office
Lenin in his office
Lenin in his office

Britain vs. Japan

paper britain japan

Check out how Britain declared war on Japan. It’s the official text as dictated by W.Churchill himself. So classy! As Winston later stated:

“Some people did not like this ceremonial style. But after all when you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.”

I repeat, this is the original text and nothing was added or altered…

Sir,

On the evening of December 7th His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom learned that Japanese forces without previous warning either in the form of a declaration of war or of an ultimatum with a conditional declaration of war had attempted a landing on the coast of Malaya and bombed Singapore and Hong Kong.

Poster issued by the Ministry of Information during WWII
Poster issued by the Ministry of Information during WWII

In view of these wanton acts of unprovoked aggression committed in flagrant violation of International Law and particularly of Article I of the Third Hague Convention relative to the opening of hostilities, to which both Japan and the United Kingdom are parties, His Majesty’s Ambassador at Tokyo has been instructed to inform the Imperial Japanese Government in the name of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom that a state of war exists between our two countries.

I have the honour to be, with high consideration,

Sir,

Your obedient servant,

Winston S. Churchill

boss

Gallileo vs. The Holly Office

Galileo before the Holy Office (detail from a painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury)
Galileo before the Holy Office (detail from a painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury)

Scholars tend to forget the reason why Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church. His book on heliocentricism wasn’t a purely scientific one but touched matters of religion too. This is precisely why his “Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo” entered the list of the banned books of the Catholic Church; the harrowing –for scientists up until the 1960s (!) – “Index Librorum Prohibitorum”.Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632)

 

Only books that linked scientific discoveries with the Bible were banned.

And this is exactly why other books that could be indicated as even more subversive (like “On the origin of species” or Newton’s “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica”) were never banned…

Yes. Believe it or not, Darwin himself -although his ideas were disliked by individual priests- was never accused by the Roman Inquisition!

Galileo Galilei  (1564-1642)
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Spartan army in retreat because of women? [The Telesilla incident]

Detail of a Painting of Hestia  by Howard David Johnson
Hestia (detail) Howard David Johnson

Back in the summer of 495 B.C a victorious Spartan army marches against the defenseless city of Argos. A few hours earlier that army annihilated the army of Argos. Now, the Spartan king Kleomenes leads his hoplites against the city which is empty of troops. They think it’s all over. It was. The army of Argos was wiped out. The Spartans; they just have to walk into the city.

Spartan phalanx
Spartan phalanx

The women of Argos think differently. Led by the poetess Telesilla they gather all arms they could find in the city and take up battle positions on the walls!

Telesilla manages to raise the moral of the women of Argos and now the wives and daughters of the soldiers of Argos decide that the war is not over yet…

Telesilla was one of the most famous poetesses of the Peloponnesus. As a young girl she always looked thin and weak. Definitely not the hero type. This didn’t stop her from grabbing shield & sword, putting a helmet on and facing the war machine of the ancient times: the mighty Spartans!

When Kleomenes reached the walls of Argos he noticed that all battle stations were manned. By women…

The king -after hesitating for a bit- decided to walk away.

  • If the Spartans were victorious this wouldn’t exactly be a celebration of their military honor.
  • If they failed to take the city then the shame would be too much to bare.The only solution was to retreat.
View of Argos from the top of the theatre
View of Argos from the top of the theatre

And thus Argos was miraculously saved!

Gathering Almond Blossoms John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)
Gathering Almond Blossoms
John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

The point of no return

G.J.Caesar on the north side of the river Rubicon
G.J.Caesar on the north side of the river Rubicon

No general exercising imperium could cross the Rubicon without the concession of the Senate. Sometimes the Senate would ‘humiliate a general by letting him wait there infinitely. Imperium was power vested by the Senate. Period.

Everyone knew: the eagle of Rome seen on top of the standards of Legions is based upon four letters: S P Q R legion standard

That was the might of the Roman Republic: the Senate was governing. And the Senate was under the rule of the law.

Everyone was under the rule of the law!

  • Everybody knew that: dura lex, sed lex

January, 49 BC:

In my eyes the Republic’s death sentence was signed when J.Caesar crossed the Rubicon, courtesy of Legio XIII Gemina. (The Thirteenth Legion was fanatically loyal to Julius).

Caesar, after hesitating for a few hours, waited no more for the rest of his army. One legion was enough. He made his decision and shouted out to his officers two Greek words: “Ανερρίφθω κύβος” (Let the die be cast). He was marching to Rome and there was no turning back.

Gaius Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar

leg13

The famous Thirteen Legion, LEGIO TERTIA DECIMA GEMINA, (waiting at that time in Ravenna) was the only one available to Julius. 5000 foot-soldiers, 300 cavalry-men. They were all battle-hardened veterans that went through thick and thin together with their general during the campaigns in Gaul. They were now more than ready to follow Caesar to Rome herself!  

Diogenes: Politically incorrect

John William Waterhouse: Diogenes [1905]
John William Waterhouse: Diogenes [1905]
An anecdote that involves the cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope (404-323 B.C.):

” When some strangers (visiting Athens) expressed a wish to see Demosthenes, he (Diogenes the cynic) stretched out his middle finger and said, “There goes the demagogue of Athens.”

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Book VI. Chapter 2. [34] 

So, there you go… The first recorded use of the middle finger!

From Solon to Jefferson