Print Story What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators?
Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Aug 29, 2016 at 11:43:44 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Watching, Me (all tags)
Reading: "Rage", "SPRQ". Me. Links.


What I'm Reading
Rage by Zygmunt Miloszewski. Polish thriller about a prosecutor who has moved from Warsaw to the provincial town of Olsztyn investigating a bizarre murder.

Got this a while ago as one of Amazon's free monthly Prime promotions. Wish they'd mentioned it was the third and final volume in a trilogy: though you don't need to have read anything previously to follow things, it would have been nice to follow in order.

Very good book, with grotesque but plausible characters, an interesting plot, lots of good murdery details, and an unfamiliar backdrop. Plot does get a bit implausible, which might not be so noticeable if it hadn't started out on the gritty side. Gets a bit self-consciously philosophical at times, which I liked but some might think pretentious. Has a bit of fairly witty satire. "Even you people must sometimes have to breathe in something other than curtain dust and the smell of British vomit" one of the provincials tells the protagonist.

I'll definitely be looking out for others by this author.

Doesn't exactly inspire you to visit Poland though: "On average, uglier than any other country in Europe".

What I'm Reading
SPQR by Mary Beard. History of Rome from its founding to around 200AD. Beard also did a TV series "Mary Beard's Ultimate Rome" which explores some of its ideas in less depth.

Read this book via an android app called "3M" advertised in the local library as letting you borrow books electronically. Works reasonably well, though the UI is a bit clunkier than Kindle or Kobo, and the colours of the images have been bizarrely changed almost like colour negatives, as well as being tiny.

It's not easy for a book with such a broad scope to give new angles and new information, but Beard manages it. She starts off with the origin stories of Romulus and Remus, the rape of the Sabine women, and the migration of Aeneas; and what it tells us about the Romans that they accepted these as their origin myths.

Right from the start, the Romans seem to have been more accepting of outsiders than other cities in the ancient world. Their mythology has Romulus accepting in criminals and vagabonds to populate his new city, then kidnapping foreign women to provide them wives. Their early history has them incorporating the residents of the Estruscan city of Veii as citizens, and after the Social War giving the Italians who rebelled Roman citizenship as well. Mary Beard sees this as a trend that culminated in 212 when the Emperor Caracalla gave all free men in the Roman Empire citizenship.

Beard makes a good case that it's this habit of incorporating former enemies into Rome that was the key to their expansion. Throughout its rise Rome was surrounded by Hellenistic city states with highly sophisticated militaries and economies. But their rivals were never willing to let former enemies share in wealth and privilege and so were not able to expand the same way. Rome was therefore able to raise more manpower for its armies than anyone else.

In extending citizenship to people who had no direct territorial connections with the city of Rome, they broke the link, which most people in the classical world took for granted, between citizenship and a single city. In a systematic way that was then unparalleled, they made it possible not just to become Roman but also to be a citizen of two places at once: one's home town and Rome. And in creating new Latin colonies all over the world, they redefined the word "Latin" so that it was no longer an ethnic identity but a political status unrelated to race or geography. This set the stage for a model of citizenship and "belonging" that had enormous significance for Roman ideas of government, political rights, ethnicity and "nationhood". This model was shortly extended overseas and eventually underpinned the Roman Empire.
(Some people tend to have a false image propagated from the superb propaganda of Julius Caesar's commentaries of Rome has being surrounded by barbarians with a greatly inferior armies that they were able to effortlessly overpower. That's not really characteristic of Rome's actual rise to power. The Roman legions were more like the Red Army than the US Marine Corps, feared for their enormous numbers and willingness to fight long wars of attrition and take huge casualties).

Around this theme Mary Beard builds a solid history. She provides lots of little details from minor figures, and also thoughtfully provides various different interpretations. Generally you know you're not reading an accurate history of the ancient world if it doesn't mention a few contradictory interpretations of the same evidence.

She is also good at pointing out Romans' own mythmaking. Cato the Elder for instance criticised his generation for adopting the degenerate Greek habit of sitting rather than standing at the theatre, but actual evidence is that the Romans always sat too. "Cato's version of old-fashioned, no-nonsem se Roman values was as much an invention of his own day as a defence of long-standing Roman tradition."

Roman historians tended to project back the present day into their past, believing that institutions had been founded in their current form in the distant past. That gives a false impression of a static society rather than one that was constantly adapting to change.

Overall, a great history, well worth reading however much or little you know about the subject.

Me
Took the toddler up to see my parents and brother for a few days. My sister also brought up her four boys (1,3,10ish,13). Was great to have a bit of a reunion. Gets a bit manic and crowded with that many in the house though.

Managed to get half a day just to rest while I parked him at nursery, but had to clean and take junk to the dump too. Pretty much as exhausted as when I left, but hopefully differently-exhausted enough to start cranking code again.

Links
Socioeconomics. The bitter, political fight to create a new macroeconomics. Free-market ideology: a reply to some replies. The War on Cash. We need to challenge the myth that the rich are specially-talented wealth creators. Study: black people simply saying they’re multiracial makes others think they’re better-looking. Immigration and the "left behind".

Local. "Lager" tagger sentenced.

Politics. #NotAllMen should make zero sense to a responsible firearm user. The Twin Insurgency: plutocrats and criminals. How badly is Jeremy Corbyn doing? The "lunatic" incident showed us the real Owen Smith.

Sci/Tech. Otto Lilienthal's ultimate sacrifice - what really brought down the Glider King. U.S. government agency sues publisher, charging it with deceiving researchers. Is the Ballmer Peak real? The Dinosaurs of Crystal Palace: Among the Most Accurate Renditions of Prehistoric Life Ever Made. Microsoft Excel blamed for gene study errors. Lonnie Johnson: The father of the Super Soaker.

Pics. Battle of Blair Mountain. Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir colourised.

Articles. How Twitter Got Angry. Syria's Paradox: Why the War Only Ever Seems to Get Worse. Scenes From the Terrifying, Already Forgotten JFK Airport Shooting That Wasn't.

Video. Mercator projection. 15th century armour mobility.

Random. A way to read 19th-century novels serially. The first book of fashion, via. Etymology of "taking the piss".

< Some people are just messed up. | Wibble >
What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators? | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Militaries by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Aug 29, 2016 at 12:41:46 PM EST
Some people tend to have a false image propagated from the superb propaganda of Julius Caesar's commentaries of Rome has being surrounded by barbarians with a greatly inferior armies that they were able to effortlessly overpower

Caesar was also writing about the Gauls and the Germans, not the Latins, Greeks and Phoenicians who were the actual targets of the rise of Rome.  By the time Caesar got around to his propaganda war in the North, Rome was already master of the mediterranean.

---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

My first history professor by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed Aug 31, 2016 at 01:12:29 AM EST
never gave, in the pre-Internet era, a particularly satisfactory answer to my question of what really happened to the Etruscans. Anyone care to field this one?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

I reckon by Herring (4.00 / 6) #4 Wed Aug 31, 2016 at 03:59:37 PM EST
they're all dead by now

Herring - Official HuSi diarist of the 2016 European Korfball Championship (October 22nd, Dordrecht, Netherlands)
[ Parent ]
Basically conquered/absorbed by the Romans [nt] by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #5 Wed Aug 31, 2016 at 11:50:31 PM EST

--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
That's basically how he explained it to us. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #6 Thu Sep 01, 2016 at 01:58:02 AM EST
I have a hard time believing that the Romans completely obliterated the Etruscan society. We slaughtered the Indians wholesale, but still managed to adopt and preserve some of their cuisine. It just seems so unlikely.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
They were probably influenced by the Etruscans by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Sep 01, 2016 at 03:09:32 AM EST
But there's so little evidence from the early history of Rome (though there's masses from late Rome) that it's hard to say how exactly. Late Roman historians would probably have regarded any Etruscan stuff as being pure Roman from time immemorial.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
According to the History of English podcast... by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #11 Thu Sep 01, 2016 at 10:53:04 PM EST
The Romans borrowed the alphabet from the Etruscans (who in turn got it from the Greeks.)  That's obviously a fairly significant indicator of cultural transferance.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
More than cuisine by wumpus (4.00 / 2) #8 Thu Sep 01, 2016 at 10:26:00 AM EST
The Constitution looks more like the construction of the Iroquois league than anything European. Basically the culture went:
Indian->Mountain Man->Early Settler->Late Settler->City Dweller
Without the later steps ever knowing that the mountain men pretty much copied the Indians completely. Some differences between America and Europe can be seen as obviously geographical, but plenty are simply "more Indian". Also for values of settling the East Coast, the early villagers were even more dependent on any surviving Indians, and laid the foundation for later America.

Wumpus

And yes, the Romans always seemed to see their past as "just like us, only much better". Which is odd considering their founding myths describe the start of Rome as a bandit hideout.

[ Parent ]
On rome by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Aug 31, 2016 at 10:00:25 AM EST
(Some people tend to have a false image propagated from the superb propaganda of Julius Caesar's commentaries of Rome has being surrounded by barbarians with a greatly inferior armies that they were able to effortlessly overpower. That's not really characteristic of Rome's actual rise to power. The Roman legions were more like the Red Army than the US Marine Corps, feared for their enormous numbers and willingness to fight long wars of attrition and take huge casualties).

I was sick that day, but the notes I got from the other guy in the dorm (not the best student, but I knew him and he was in the class) was that Rome gained an empire (mainly Italy and nearby areas anyway) by having its ass kicked over and over in many battles and finally getting a decisive victory. While I've expected that Julius Caesar had the advantage of finely tuned weapons and tactics, I wouldn't be surprised if numbers and what not helped (they certainly needed the Red Army strategy to get there, they might not once dominating the Mediterranean). The Roman slaughter of Bodacia seems to fit the "propaganda" much better than your analogy.

Wumpus

So Cato... by Metatone (4.00 / 2) #9 Thu Sep 01, 2016 at 04:09:55 PM EST
was basically the Daily Express?

Anyone wanting to break Linear A by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Sep 01, 2016 at 06:47:43 PM EST
or better yet Etruscan writing is to take such editorials and assume that at least a few of the old tablets is exactly the same ("today's youth" is another classic re-written every year since Adam).

Wumpus

[ Parent ]
What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators? | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback