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Missive #171

The second volume of Will Durant’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series, The Life of Greece: The Story of Civilization, Volume 2 chronicles the history of ancient Greek civilization. Here Durant tells the whole story of Greece, from the days of Crete’s vast Aegean empire to the final extirpation of the last remnants of Greek liberty, crushed under the heel of an implacably forward-marching Rome. This is another tome (768 pages with 154 devoted to bibliography, notes and index) which as a PDF has taken me a long time to read. It is interesting but would have been just as good without including quotes from old Greek poems. There are a lot more books to be read in this series which I’ll get to in time, but not tomorrow. The dry minutiae of battles and sieges, of tortuous statecraft of tyrant and king, get the minor emphasis in what is preeminently a vivid recreation of Greek culture, brought to the reader through the medium of supple, vigorous prose. In this masterful work, readers will learn about: – the siege of Troy- the great city-states of Athens and Sparta- the heroes of Homer’s epics- the gods and lesser deities of Mount Olympus- the teachings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle- the life of Alexander the Great. — Book promo @ Amazon

Just a few quotes.

Anacharsis, the whimsical Scythian sage, laughed at the new constitution, saying that now the wise would plead and the fools would decide. Besides, added Anacharsis, no lasting justice can be established for men, since the strong or clever will twist to their advantage any laws that are made; the law is a spider’s web that catches the little flies and lets the big bugs escape.

Old age is feared and mourned beyond wont … respect for years goes with a religious and conservative society like Sparta’s, while democracy, loosening all bonds with freedom, puts the accent on youth, and favors the new against the old.

Politics in America has degenerated to the nadir of the rhetoric of sophistry. It was not truth that kindled the spark that brought Socrates to the fore in Athens. It was the sophists of antiquity with their multitude of empty phrases and vacant words designed for persuasion. The “gadfly of Greece” was convinced that sophism was a clear and present danger to the very survival of civilization, and that made him willing to drink the bitter dregs of hemlock to sound his protest. — The Politization of Truth: The New Sophism by R.C. Sproul

The introduction of a new kind of music must be shunned as imperiling the whole state, for styles of music are never disturbed without affecting the most important political institutions .… The new style, gradually gaining a lodgment, quietly insinuates itself into manners and customs, and from these it … goes on to attack laws and constitutions, displaying the utmost impudence, until it ends by overturning everything. — Plato’s Republic

Socrates: In such a state the anarchy grows and finds a way into private houses, and ends by getting among the animals and infecting them … The father gets accustomed to descend to the level of his sons … and the son to be on a level with his father, having no fear of his parents, and no shame. … The master fears and flatters his scholars, and the scholars despise their masters and tutors. … Young and old are alike, and the young man is on a level with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word or deed; and old men … imitate the young. Nor must I forget to tell of the liberty and equality of the two sexes in relation to each other .… Truly, the horses and asses come to have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen … all things are just ready to burst with liberty .…
Adeimantus: But what is the next step?
Socrates: The excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction .… The excess of liberty, whether in states or individuals, seems only to pass into slavery … and the most aggravated form of tyranny arises out of the most extreme form of liberty.'” — Plato’s Republic

No great nation is ever conquered until it has destroyed itself. Deforestation and the abuse of the soil, the depletion of precious metals, the migration of trade routes, the disturbance of economic life by political disorder, the corruption of democracy and the degeneration of dynasties, the decay of morals and patriotism, the decline or deterioration of the population, the replacement of citizen armies by mercenary troops, the human and physical wastage of fratricidal war, the guillotining of ability by murderous revolutions and counterrevolutions-all these had exhausted the resources of Hellas at the very time when the little state on the Tiber, ruled by a ruthless and farseeing aristocracy, was training hardy legions of landowners, conquering its neighbors and competitors, capturing the food and minerals of the western Mediterranean, and advancing year by year upon the Greek settlements in Italy. These ancient communities, once proud of their wealth, their sages, and their arts, had been impoverished by war, by the depredations of Dionysius I, and by the growth of Rome as a rival center of trade. The native tribes that, centuries before, had been enslaved by the Greeks or pushed back into the hinterland, increased and multiplied while their masters cultivated comfort through infanticide and abortion. Soon the native stocks were contesting the control of southern Italy. The Greek cities turned to Rome for help; they were helped, and absorbed.

Greece went through a lot of revolts until their final collapse. A few of them were instigated by the plebs but most of them were lead by the ‘elites’ at the time trying to protect the status quo. I think the Second Civil War in the United States will be like that with the elite hiring mercenaries to fight for them against the ‘deplorable’ plebes.

“Since the first ziggurats rose in ancient Babylonia, the so-called forces of order, stability, and tradition have feared a revolt from below. Beginning with Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre after the French Revolution, a whole genre of political writings—some classical liberal, some conservative, some reactionary—has propounded this theme. The title of Ortega y Gasset’s most famous work, The Revolt of the Masses, tells us something about the mental atmosphere of this literature.
But in globalized postmodern America, what if this whole vision about where order, stability, and a tolerable framework for governance come from, and who threatens those values, is inverted? What if Christopher Lasch came closer to the truth in The Revolt of the Elites, wherein he wrote, “In our time, the chief threat seems to come from those at the top of the social hierarchy, not the masses”? Lasch held that the elites—by which he meant not just the super-wealthy but also their managerial coat holders and professional apologists—were undermining the country’s promise as a constitutional republic with their prehensile greed, their asocial cultural values, and their absence of civic responsibility.
Lasch wrote that in 1995. Now, almost two decades later, the super-rich have achieved escape velocity from the gravitational pull of the very society they rule over. They have seceded from America.” — Revolt of the Rich by Mike Lofgren

Two different ‘diplomatic’ approaches.

1)The United States has delivered 100 units of 2,000-pound BLU-109 bunker buster bombs among thousands of other ammunition and weapons systems to Israel in the war against the Palestinian movement Hamas.
2)Russian President Vladimir Putin said last July that his country will send 200,000 tons of free grain to Africa by the end of the year. On Thursday [30 November 2023], Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, welcomed the arrival of the first cargo ship carrying free grain. This timely delivery, comprising a substantial 25,000-ton shipment, aims to alleviate the impact of the recent devastating floods in the region.

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