New Gladiators

In Spartacus’s day, gladiators advertised by parading through town, displaying their fierce physiques and touting their records of wins and losses. Nowadays, states advertise by testing missiles and nuclear bombs and then peddling the results to a global audience. So, Iran and North Korea in the past week. Their weapons make them winners; the implied loser is the United States, …

MemorialDay, 2009

A spring afternoon several years ago found me in Volterra, Italy. I was following in giant footsteps by coming to this town. Located in the hills of western Tuscany, Volterra sits on a steep rise that commands the route between Pisa and Florence. The town’s strategic location and wealth, derived from alabaster and iron ore, have attracted conquerors ranging from …

Core Values

When I took up a rowing some years ago, I learned that things were not as they seemed. People speak of “pulling an oar,” but in fact, rowing is more about pressing than pulling. By pressing against the foot-stretcher, a rower’s legs do more to move the boat than his arms do by pulling the oars. If that seems counter-intuitive, …

Friends

When American President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Washington, D.C. next week, the ghost of Rome will stalk the room. Although the Founders modeled themselves on the Roman Republic, Americans have long had an identity crisis: are they homebodies like Cincinnatus, who prefer the plow to politics, or tyrant-slayers like Brutus, who seek to strike …

Terrorists and Gladiators

Attorney General Eric Holder testified in the Senate Thursday that no terrorists would be released from Guantanamo Bay Prison into the United States – or anywhere else. Presumably, those Guantanamo prisoners whom he has earlier said would be released are not terrorists.

How to Succeed in a Recession

Even in a recession, someone always makes money. You’ve just got to have the right product to sell. Today’s newspaper carried a report that antiques are doing well, especially at the high end. The rich, it seems, need someplace to put their money, and many distrust the stock market these days. So why not buy a Louis XV chair? Or …

Vote for Spartacus

He’s running for office. Of all the details in various media reports about boxing champ, Manny Pacquiao, that’s the one that strikes me. Pacquiao will face Ricky Hatton in a sold-out fight in Las Vegas on Saturday. The bout is highly touted, and for good reason, since Hatton holds a world title (140-pounds) and Pacquiao is often thought to be …

Giant Steps

“Pitiful, helpless giant,” anyone? Richard Nixon’s salty description of American impotence comes to mind at this week’s news. The Wall Street Journal reported that hackers broke into the Pentagon’s most expensive and confidential program – the Joint Strike Fighter – and made off with a treasure trove of data. So much for the security system of the F-35 Lightning, the …

Roman Holiday

Today’s post is a guest blog for The Historical Society.

Did Spartacus Torture?

The question of whether the Bush Administration engaged in torture is in the news again. While others consider the matter, I found myself wondering whether Spartacus engaged in torture. Certainly, he tried to protect civilians. On an autumn day in 73 B.C., his troops fell on a farming town in an upland valley of southern Italy. The Thracian ordered his …