More specifically concerning: history
1 May 2001, around 18.39.
Tuesday. A heavy day, with mind weighted, wandering through the hours without leisure and without interest. Reading, too, for my essay, attending lecture, and a seminar (on the 18th century: curious how I had never viewed the 1700s as being ‘wedged’ between the monoliths of early modern and late modern history, but have always thought […]
12 June 2001, around 8.17.
More and still more work in the library, reading about god and trying to comprehend Epidauros, which just leaves me muddled. I find it frightfully confusing that there were at least four different (?) artists called Polykleitos working in the Greek world during the late fifth and early fourth centuries BCE; it just shouldn’t be […]
5 July 2001, around 14.14.
Acrocorinth. One sees the world open out to the horizon, from the span of Attica to the slopes of Parnassus, across the tenuous isthmus, the Peloponnese now broken to an island by the works of man. On the isle of Pelops, taciturn rocks lie uneven as a rumpled blanket, jagged as a broken shield. From […]
16 July 2001, around 14.16.
It’s deeply complex: it’s not what you see. There’s a tension between what you are and what you know. One must read behind the phenomena, the surfaces; one could take hours, days, months to comprehend one column capital, working over the surfaces with a magnifying glass in search of scratches. This is scientific. Then there’s […]
1 August 2001, around 14.20.
Piling pebbles upon the beach, the water laps against the sky, the low sound measuring time’s loss, the imponderable construction of a memory. Set one foot, then, in front of the other, and take no moment to look back, but continue – onward.
14 October 2001, around 16.37.
History – surrounded, immersed, drowning, etc., with regards to it. Be wary of being ahistorical. Yet history has of late become mere voyeurism, people sitting in their homes before some flickering screen, or engaged in a voluntary deafness to all but the radio. Even the sound of newsprint has learnt hysteria – and this is […]
29.11.01 – Thursday
29 November 2001, around 16.03.
The library. Dusty concrete steps to metal stacks and weak green-blue light. Reciprocity – sincerity – altruism. Walking. Cafés. Leading. Following. Chasing. Darkness. How the history crowds around one, pressing in on all sides, heading towards some incontrovertible truth.
30.01.02 – Wednesday
30 January 2002, around 17.25.
Just so you know, this post has been edited. Vergil is a hack.1 Homer (being collective) had it right; I don’t care if Iuno foments mishap for that man so blatantly remarkable for pietas (face it, Aeneas is a square – that’s what having a destiny does to people). I’d rather spend time with some […]
28.04.02 – Sunday
28 April 2002, around 13.59.
History is not a discipline but something that is not yours – which is the main definition of beauty. Hence, the sentiment, for it is not going to love you back. —Joseph Brodsky (‘Homage to Marcus Aurelius’) How tiresome it must be, to reduce the essential story of the world to nothing by a case […]
Pacem supplices petunt
2 November 2002, around 16.11.
Explorers of the past are never quite free. The past is their tyrant. It forbids them to know anything which it has not itself, consciously or otherwise, yielded to them. —Marc Bloch (Apologie pour l’Histoire, ou Métier d’Historien, (194–) From the translation of P. Putnam, p. 59. * Livy II.49.12, of the Veientes in the […]
7 November 2002, around 16.18.
from The Book of the Knight of La Tour-Landry…
27 November 2002, around 16.42.
Within this field, which no single scholar can create but which each scholar receives and in which he then finds a place for himself, the individual researcher makes his contribution. Such contributions, even for the exceptional genius, are strategies of redisposing material within the field. Even the scholar who unearths a once-lost manuscript produces the […]
7 December 2002, around 11.20.
In the year were children born, were wars waged, and markets opened. In the year were ships sunk, were markets falling, were deserts crossed, was oil spilt more freely than wine. In the year were plagues driven through towns and cities, were roads built, were bridges burnt; in that year, too, were pestilences common and […]
Sed Vitae Caesaris
29 January 2003, around 11.09.
Coin depicting the Emperor Augustus1 from A Visual Compendium of Roman Emperors. At last reading Ronald Syme’s famous book, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939), a history of the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the principate. It begins slowly, with a grim overview of the career of C. Julius Caesar Octavianus (later […]
Balance of Power
9 February 2003, around 9.22.
From The Roman Revolution (1939): The official version of the cause of the War of Actium is quite simple, consistent and suspect—a just war, fought in defence of freedom and peace against a foreign enemy: a degenerate Roman was striving to subvert the liberties of the Roman People, to subjugate Italy and the West under […]
13 February 2003, around 9.28.
History should have a sense of proportion—a human touch, if you please. From a biography of Petrarch (2003.8, p. 51): In Verona, and well before the middle of June, he made his greatest find. He discovered in the library of the cathedral a volume containing the sixteen Books of Cicero’s collection of his letters to […]
Writ in water
23 February 2003, around 8.00.
Goethe, ‘Am Flusse’ – Ihr wart ins Wasser eingeschrieben; So fließt denn auch mit ihm davon. You were engraved upon the water; and flow, too, with the water away. Keats’s epitaph, in the Protestant cemetery, at Rome:1 Here lies one whose name was writ in water. Keats died 23 February 1821. Goethe’s son, Julius, who […]
3 March 2003, around 20.13.
As the orchestra is warming up and the actors are completing their pre-show gargling, there is doubtless time for an introduction. Just as every story needs a preface, a truly erudite narrative simply cannot do without an introduction. The introduction gives some pompous literary windbag the chance to rattle on at length about aspects of […]
The Historicity of Peasants
14 March 2003, around 9.01.
Have been reading Michael Rostovtzeff’s A Large Estate in Egypt in the Third Century B.C. A Study in Economic History (Madison, WI: 1922), a short book in which the notorious Russian historian gives the Zenon archive his attention. Of course, in 1922 the Zenon archive, with early Ptolemaic documents numbering in the thousands, was bigger […]
18 March 2003, around 18.34.
raptores orbis, postquam cuncta vastantibus defuere terrae, mare scrutantur: si locuples hostis est, avari, si pauper, ambitiosi, quos non Oriens, non Occidens satiaverit: soli omnium opes atque inopiam pari adfectu concupiscunt. auferre trucidare rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. Ravagers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, […]
26 March 2003, around 7.46.
Something I’ve been thinking about lately, in pictures:1 Frauenkirche, Dresden, early 1945. Frauenkirche, Dresden, February 1945. Frauenkirche, Dresden, 12 September 2002 Amusingly, from the Library of Congress rather than the Sächsische Landesbibliothek. [↩]
17 April 2003, around 16.18.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain Bring round the heart an undescribable feud; So do these wonders a most dizzy pain, That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude Wasting of old Time—with a billowy main— A sun—a shadow of a magnitude. —John Keats (‘On Seeing the Elgin Marbles’) Allow me to sound heartless for a […]
The Diseases and Casualties this Week
23 April 2003, around 8.19.
London 39 · From the 12 of September to the 19 · 1665 Abortive23 Aged57 Bedridden1 Bleeding1 Cancer1 Childbed39 Chrisomes20 Collick1 Consumption129 Convulsion71 Dropsie31 Drowned 3. one at Stepney, one at St. Katharine near the Tower, and one at St. Margaret Westminster(3) Feaver332 Flox and Small-pox8 Found dead in the street at St. Olave Southwark1 […]
19 May 2003, around 7.48.
In a papyrologist’s dream world, every office would have a recent monograph devoted to it; so would every institution, every tax, every contract type, and so on. Many of these monographs, it must be admitted, are not very interesting to read, and most of them are undoubtedly cited far more often than they are read. […]
18 July 2003, around 14.04.
From a review (via A&L Daily) of a biography of Hans-Georg Gadamer (of whom I am as ignorant as a newborn): Was Gadamer really like Socrates? Or did he lack the courage that made the Greek drink poison rather than submit to the mob? Uh, Mr. Reviewer, sir? Socrates drinking the poison? Uh, that was […]
26 August 2003, around 17.42.
‘could it be J— H— herself?’
9 September 2003, around 13.27.
Jane Ellen Harrison, 1850–1928 Independent lecturer in London, later a fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, Jane Harrison was author of (among other things): Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Relgion (1903) and Themis: a Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion (1912). She is also one of the few women mentioned in the who’s […]
10 September 2003, around 8.29.
4 October 2003, around 17.46.
Dickinson is not known to have met with the new and exciting novels by American women that dominated the market in the 1850s, many of them patterned after The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner: perhaps they were secured out by Amherst’s tastemakers. Whatever the explanation, most of the women’s books that crossed Dickinson’s path […]
15 October 2003, around 18.25.
Prisoners in Bangladesh pleading for their lives in a news photograph from the London Daily Express, 20.xii.1971.
the emphasis was helped
21 October 2003, around 7.48.
Menas: These three world-sharers, these competitors, Are in thy vessel: let me cut the cable; And, when we are put off, fall to their throats: All there is thine. Pompey: Ah, this thou shouldst have done, And not have spoke on’t! In me ’tis villany; In thee’t had been good service. Thou must know, ’Tis […]
15 November 2003, around 13.22.
…eritis sicut diis scientes bonum et malum… malum punicum vel punica fides?
grave & weatherworn
23 November 2003, around 6.08.
Scaliger was far from untouched by the religious troubles of his day, but the way they bedevilled the scholarship of the sixteenth century is more starkly illustrated in the case of his friend and younger contemporary Casaubon. Born in Geneva of refugee Protestant parents, obliged to learn his Greek hiding in a cave in the […]
23 November 2003, around 18.04.
… or, an introduction to the history of classical scholarship1 The imminent schollrs of the 6/10 century — including the fatuous Scaliwag who eateded Easelbus, and the imperspicuous Käseböh who collected Athenians and fatted xviii chiliads — are now seldom dead but by kabbalists.The text is believed to be corrupt, the manuscript tradition poor, and […]
1 December 2003, around 9.29.
the character of a historian.
22 December 2003, around 16.19.
‘La Casa Monte’, ca. 1914 Faubion House, ca. 2003
9 January 2004, around 15.33.
Μὴ οὖν προδόται γένησθε ὑμῶν αὐτῶν, γενόμενοι δ’ ὅτι ἐγγύτατα τῇ γνώμῃ τοῦ πάσχειν καὶ ὡς πρὸ παντὸς ἂν ἐτιμήσασθε αὐτοὺς χειρώσασθαι, νῦν ἀνταπόδοτε μὴ μαλακισθέντες πρὸς τὸ παρὸν αὐτίκα μηδὲ τοῦ ἐπικρεμασθέντος ποτὲ δεινοῦ ἀμνημονοῦντες. κολάσατε δὲ ἀξίως τούτους τε καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ξυμμάχοις παράδειγμα σαφὲς καταστήσατε, ὃς ἂν ἀφιστῆται, θανάτῳ ζημιωσόμενον. τόδε γὰρ […]
when in Rome
24 January 2004, around 13.04.
διόπερ οἱ μὲν ἄνδρες τὰ τείχη προκατελάμβανον καὶ τοὺς πρὸ τῆς πόλεως εὐκαίρους τόπους, αἱ δὲ γυναῖκες περιπορευόμεναι τοὺς ναοὺς ἱκέτευον τοὺς θεούς, πλύνουσαι ταῖς κόμαις τὰ τῶν ἱερῶν ἐδάφη· τοῦτο γὰρ αὐταῖς ἔθος ἐστὶ ποιεῖν, ὅταν τις ὁλοσχερὴς τὴν πατρίδα καταλαμβάνῃ κίνδυνος. —Polybius (9.6.3–4) ploratus mulierum non ex priuatis solum domibus exaudiebatur, sed undique […]
splitted in the midst
6 February 2004, around 14.16.
Currently (and actively) reading (in no particular order): François Rabelais. Gargantua and Pantagruel. trans. J. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955.1 J. Innes Miller. The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire, 29 BC to AD 641. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969.2 Michel Foucault. The Archeology of Knowledge. trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. London: Routledge, 1989 (1969).3 Goethe. Die […]
9 February 2004, around 17.37.
History of Sanitary Sewers: quite. WaterHistory.org: ‘Our objective is to explore prehistoric and historic water projects worldwide … without taking ourselves too seriously. We are particularly interested in the effect that water has on the quality of life.’ From Creek to Sewer: Sewerage and Drainage in Philadelphia. Let me remind you once again of our […]
17 February 2004, around 14.57.
the mind diseased
6 March 2004, around 13.14.
Modern Greece, in history and literature, has been viewed as a transitory moment squeezed between two larger and more important entities. Viewed chronologically, modern Greece rests between the glory of the classical Greek past and the hope of a resurrected Greek future, which in many Western minds ought to resemble the democracies of Western Europe […]
17 July 2004, around 9.09.
καὶ μικρὸν μὲν ἀνεκάθισεν, ἀνθρώπων τοσούτων ἐπερχομένων, καὶ διέβλεψεν εἰς τὸν ᾿Αλέξανδρον. ὡς δ’ ἐκεῖνος ἀσπασάμενος καὶ προσειπὼν αὐτὸν ἠρώτησεν, εἴ τινος τυγχάνει δεόμενος, ‘μικρὸν’ εἶπεν· ‘ἀπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου μετάστηθι’. —Plutarch Alexander 14.41 τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀνθρώπους ὄντας παραλόγως περιπεσεῖν τινι τῶν δεινῶν οὐ τῶν παθόντων, τῆς τύχης δὲ καὶ τῶν πραξάντων ἐστὶν ἔγκλημα, τὸ […]
notes on reading: social
13 February 2006, around 12.44.
19th century London & medieval Iceland
3 April 2006, around 11.23.
springtime and Cyprus
1 September 2006, around 12.21.
Cataloguing one’s home library has its good points. Entering in ISBNs and publication information is a wonderful way to devour time. One also gets a chance really to look at one’s books; one so seldom has the opportunity. One buys the book, sometimes one even reads it,1 and then it goes on the shelf, jumbled […]
31 December 2007, around 21.58.
The memory of cranes flying in rain-heavy sky, lit in low-slanting sunlight; tall grasses and the bounce and hum of a bus; gold-leaved crowns, and painted walls, dank scent of earth, and the brightness of the cranes, flying. Don’t know what direction they flew, nor what direction I went, but away from the past and […]
15 April 2008, around 6.18.
27 April 2008, around 6.00.
Strabo considers ancient stories about the Armenians…
27 December 2009, around 4.59.
the dangers of logic…
Setting the East Ablaze
2 January 2010, around 8.20.
The main problem – and the reason why The Great Game is a superior book – is that the material does not seem fully digested. The tone changes from chapter to chapter depending on whose memoirs Hopkirk draws on…
15 January 2011, around 19.48.
Thomas Goltz. Azerbaijan Diary. London: M.E. Sharpe, 1999. You cannot persuade a party of frenzied nationalists that two blacks do not make a white; consequently, no day went by without a catalogue of complaints from both sides, Armenians and Tartars, of unprovoked attacks, murders, village burnings and the like… —C.E. Bechhofer (1920) (qtd. in De […]
hope against hope (2)
6 August 2012, around 10.48.
on Mirrlees and extravagant biographies; briefly.
19 October 2013, around 11.32.
Your novel has been read by several of us, and we are very sorry that we have had to conclude that we cannot make an offer of publication. It is quite readable and has vitality, but, in general, it is our impression that you have not yet sufficiently mastered the technique which is necessary to […]
Life Story of a Technology
25 December 2013, around 6.04.
By Nicole Howard, Johns Hopkins UP, 2005.
24 November 2014, around 12.00.
Neither this nor any of the mines we own in Yugoslavia is being worked for the first time. First the Greeks worked them, and then the Romans; then in the Middle Ages the Serbs brought in the Saxons to work them. Then under the Turks the work stopped, stopped dead, for five centuries, until we […]
A view (43)
25 April 2015, around 5.45.
against the grain
15 October 2017, around 15.59.
One doesn’t quite know what to expect from In the American Grain – not if one comes to it expecting anything at all, because it upsets those expectations from the first page. I was expecting something about Emily Dickinson, because the only reason I picked up the book was because it was mentioned in Susan […]
19 February 2019, around 7.20.
Hegel endures history…
7 August 2020, around 5.53.
Illustration to ‘The Rose-bush’ from Fairy Tales for Workers Children The rose bush did not know where it had been born and where it had passed its early days: it is well known that flowers have a bad memory. —Hermynia zur Mühlen (‘The Rose Bush’ in The Castle of Truths and Other Revolutionary Tales) The […]
21 January 2021, around 5.24.
A passage from Homo Ludens, chapter VIII. The small points when reading for a project (arbitrary or intentional), when discrete facts from disparate sources align to form, in another text, a constellation, the resonances of which exceed the harmonics intended by the author. So in reading Johann Huizinga’s Homo Ludens as part of a broader […]
stalking horses and other specters
2 April 2021, around 5.31.
Paul Nash, Stalking Horse (black and white negative, 1941), presented by the Paul Nash Trust to the Tate in 1970 CC-BY-NC-ND. The experience in which we meet specters or let them come visit us remains indestructible and undeniable. The most cultivated, the most reasonable, the most nonbelieving people easily reconcile a certain spiritualism with reason. […]
bridging the gap
22 June 2021, around 10.56.
This a juxtaposition of two quotations about the philosophical necessity for cognitive leaps, from Claude Lévi-Strauss and Henri Bergson.
bettered novels (55)
12 October 2021, around 14.44.
Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers (1844).