Courtesy of Wolfgang Will, another Thucydides quotation from Peter Handke’s journals, that I missed during the research for my paper on the subject (Classical Receptions Journal 4.2, 2012…). From Spuren der Verirrten (2006), pp.24-5:
“Hieβ nicht schon im Altertum Winterende Jahr um Jahr: neuer Krieg, oder weiter im Krieg, und Sommer hieβ: Zeit der groβen Schlachten? ‘Das waren die Ereignisse des Sommers’, so schreibt, Kapitel für Kapitel, der Geschichtsschreiber, und Ereignisse für einen solchen, das sind – wie gesagt… Schon werden die versteckten, nicht abgelieferten Waffen geölt. Schon erwachen die tausendjährigen Todfeindschaften in alter Frische…”
“Already in antiquity, didn’t the end of winter mean, year after year, new war, or on with the war, and summer meant, time of the great battle? ‘Those were the events of the summer’, so the history writer writes, chapter after chapter, and ‘events’ for someone like that are – as previously noted… Already the hidden, not handed over weapons are oiled. Already the thousand-year enmities awaken as fresh as ever…”
The good news, from my point of view, is that this doesn’t represent any dramatic shift from Handke’s other references to Thucydides; there’s the same focus on the seasonal organisation of the narrative (“Those were the events of the summer; in the following winter…”), the same sense that history focuses all too often on violence (‘events’ for a historian, or certainly for a historian like Thucydides, mean battles and slaughter) and the same conviction, doubtless fueled by the historian’s own claims, that his account reveals something timeless about human society.
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Discussions of the relationship between London and the rest of the UK (as in John Harris’ Grauniad article this morning) always take me back to my doctoral research. A couple of years into the project – good grief, have twenty years passed since then? – it slowly dawned on me how far far my study of the impact of ancient Rome on the rest of Italy was clearly being shaped by the experience of growing up in a small town in the shadow of London, having most of the life sucked out of it by the metropolis. The thesis eventually offered a slightly more subtle and nuanced account of the different facets of the impact of Rome on its hinterland (or, as I would be inclined to put it today, the ways in which the Italian countryside was transformed by the same processes of economic and social change that were driving the expansion of Rome), not least because the prevailing theoretical discourse of wonderfully dynamic and progressive Producer Cities versus nasty parasitical Consumer Cities was so absurdly simplistic – but underlying it all was still my basic loathing of Surrey and my sense that this was pretty well all bound up with the looming presence of London. (more…)
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A very short post indeed, as I’m off to the European Social Science History Conference in Glasgow at the crack of dawn tomorrow, and haven’t finished writing my paper yet. But I couldn’t let this one pass; from an entertaining review of Tyler Cowen’s An Economist Gets Lunch (a book that, going by the review, I’m likely to be reading only for masochistic reasons) in the New York Times:
Mr. Cowen presents the wisdom of the ages as if it were a series of dispatches from the gastronomic front lines. To find good food and not get fleeced, he recommends, leave the city centers and seek marginal areas. Mr. Trillin has been saying this for at least 40 years. I suspect Thucydides preferred the little joint on a side street to the place with the fountains where the waiters peeled customers’ grapes.
Like, wow. I think the bit about grape-peeling has wandered in from the decadence of the later Roman Empire, creating a generic ‘ancient’ context – James Davidson’s arguments about opson would probably have been a distraction. But why Thucydides, not hitherto noted for his gastronomic preferences or restaurant reviews? My guess is that he’s once again being trotted out as the sort of authority figure whose views even (or especially) right-leaning economists might be expected to respect – and the earliest such authority figure, so the idea is perfectly sound but entirely unoriginal. Still, it does reinforce the impression that the list of classical Greeks besides Thucydides featuring in contemporary discourse gets ever smaller (and to think that once upon a time Plutarch was cited 176 times in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to Thucydides’ zero…)
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Over this past term, Bristol’s Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition has been supporting some new outreach activities in local state schools. These have taken the form of a series of ‘Taster Classes’ in Classics, and have been made possible by a generous grant from the new charity Classics for All. Two students from the Department of Classics, Matthew Ball and Madeleine Fforde, have been given the task of introducing the ancient world to classes of 11-13 year olds. Judging from the feedback on surveys distributed to the school pupils last week, the children have been loving their first taste of Classics. “It was fun and thank you for teaching me and I want more lessons” wrote one student from Merchants’ Academy. “Very interesting and fun. Shame I can’t learn more. (I want to for GCSE)” wrote another from Redland Green School.
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