Journalism and Commentary

What Scotland and England share

The Tarbat Peninsula, a spit of land sticking out from the northernmost Scottish Highlands, seems an unlikely spot for a revolution. At its tip stands a lighthouse, built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s uncle back in 1830 after a deadly storm in the adjacent Moray Firth; a few miles south lies the tiny fishing village of […]

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The Christian roots of secularism

As the first decade of the third Christian millennium draws to an increasingly troubled close, the verdict of historians on its significance can already be anticipated. Two themes will predominate. The first, exemplified by the present carnage in the financial markets, will be the quickening of the west’s decline relative to China and India; the […]

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The World of the Vikings

To the Byzantines, the lands of the distant north were self-evidently hellish. So terrible were the winters that even wolves, when they crossed the frozen seas, were reported to go blind with the cold. Unsurprisingly, then, there was nothing much for its inhabitants to do all winter except rut and procreate. In the sixth century, […]

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Roman Britain: Victories and/or Beneficiaries

‘Roman Britain,’ I asked a friend of mine, a committed pacifist and the veteran of endless marches against the war in Iraq, ‘a Good or Bad Thing?’ ‘Oh, good,’ my friend answered, not even deigning to ponder the question. Startled by the knee-jerk speed of her response, I asked her to explain. ‘Well, the roads, […]

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Where did Islam come from?

It is a curious feature of the Qur’an that it should give a notably starry role to an episode fundamental, not to Muslim, but to Christian faith: the visitation by an angel to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Annunciation is retold in the Holy Book of Islam not once, but twice. Mary […]

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The Roman and American republics

Over the past few years, the image of George Bush as a Roman emperor, dressed in toga and laurel wreath, has been a hard one for his opponents to resist. But even after the bombing of the UN building in Baghdad, things have not gone as badly for him in Iraq as they did for […]

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The Egyptian Book of the Dead

“Placed next to a mummy, like a tourist guide in a suitcase, Books of the Dead were intended to help people on their journey through the afterlife. The British Museum’s new exhibition relishes the horrors of ancient Egypt, discovers Tom Holland” Read the full article on the Guardian website

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Review: The Parthenon by Mary Beard

In the aftermath of 11 September, the Cambridge don Mary Beard became notorious for comments published in the London Review of Books. “When the shock had faded,” she wrote, “more hard-headed reaction set in. This wasn’t just the feeling that, however tactfully you dress it up, the United States had it coming . . . […]

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Xerxes and Darius III

In 1891, George Nathaniel Curzon, ‘the very superior person’ of the mocking Balliol rhyme, and future viceroy of India, arrived at Persepolis. Torched in 330 BC by Alexander the Great, it had once been the nerve-centre of an empire that stretched from the Aegean to the Hindu Kush. For Curzon, whose tour of Iran had […]

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Alexander The Great

‘All those who write about Alexander,” grumbled the Roman geographer Strabo, “prefer the marvelous to the true.” Such a criticism was not entirely accurate even when he made it 2,000 years ago, and it is certainly not fair now. We live in an age of groundbreaking classical scholar ship, when historians of the ancient world […]

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