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  • Cato’s Sword February 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Cato's Sword

    Beachcombing usually plans about two days ahead with his posts. But every so often something emerges from out of the depths of the subconscious and will just not leave him in peace. This morning it was the death of Cato the Younger that tapped like a woodpecker on his inner skull. It had already been […]

    Beachcombing’s Invisible Library February 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Beachcombing's Invisible Library

      Beachcombing has had a lot of fun over the last year and a half cataloging invisible libraries, libraries that only exist in the imagination of authors and connoisseurs. Today, Beach thought he would take stock of the achievement to date and also, in a fit of utter self-indulgence, introduce readers to Mrs B’s contribution […]

    Ancient Laughter, Modern Bewilderment January 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ancient Laughter, Modern Bewilderment

    Humour, it is sometimes said, is the most socially dependent aspect of literature. The gags that set William Shakespeare’s audience laughing now, very often, leave us shivering cold. Sometimes the generational shift is there under our eyes: the jokes in 1930s movies, Will Hay for example, appear fabulous to Beach but leave his students giving […]

    Ecdicius and the Eighteen January 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ecdicius and the Eighteen

    Beachcombing’s recent description of the Roman end times – the grinding to dust of Roman civilisation in the fifth century – got him musing on one of his favourite decline and fall scenes. The following is a letter from Sidonius Apollinaris (obit 489) to his brother-in-law Ecdicius.  He is remembering the moment some months or […]

    2012 and All That January 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    2012 and All That

    The Beachcombings’ last aupair but one wanted to go back to school and get a degree as a midwife (which in itself begs all kinds of questions) but was holding off till 2013: ‘I don’t want to waste my time if the world is about to end’ she usefully explained. Beach should add that she […]

    What Religion did Fairies Follow? January 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    What Religion did Fairies Follow?

    Beach’s endless reading in the literature of fairies has led him to a couple of unusual passages. He honestly doesn’t know that to make of them. In truth, they frighten him. The first is from a south-western fairy tale where a man is reunited with his ‘dead’ fiancé who is actually trapped in fairy land. […]

    Medieval and Ancient Rats January 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Medieval and Ancient Rats

    One of the mysteries of the Black Death in the Middle Ages is how the victims never – with one curious Scandinavian exception – cottoned on to the fact that rodents, particularly rats were disease bearers. In some cases there were infestations of rats before the disease struck and many rats also died, which should […]

    Vintages Past January 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Vintages Past

    There is a beautiful scene in the junky teen fantasy Highlander (1986) where Connor (the decapitator) opens a bottle of eighteenth-century brandy in late twentieth century New York. ‘1783’  states our hero ‘was a very good year. Mozart wrote his Great Mass. The Montgolfier brothers went up in the first hot-air balloon. And England recognized […]

    Jesus Lived to 114 in Japan! January 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Jesus Lived to 114 in Japan!

    Beach has long been hearing rumours that Jesus Christ was actually buried in an obscure Japanese village of Shingo. But it was only this morning that he finally decided to climb up this particular mountain of madness and see what was really happening up in the mists. According to local ‘tradition’ (always a slippery word) […]

    Plotinus Meets a God January 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Plotinus Meets a God

    A WIBT (Wish I’d been there) moment from later antiquity, brought to mind, in part by stories at the end of 2011 about Socrate’s daemon. The subject is Plotinus, a follower of Plato and the thinker who offered the ancient Mediterranean a ‘sensible’ alternative to Christianity: neo-platonism. Plotinus, as all Platonists, had mixed feelings about […]

    The Earliest Roman Ghost in Britain January 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Earliest Roman Ghost in Britain

    Owen Davies in his fascinating The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts notes the way that strangely (or obviously if you are a sceptic like Beachcombing) ghosts follow the fashions and interests of their times. Take OD’s thoughts, for example, on Roman ghosts in the UK. The most recent addition to the corpus of heritage […]

    Socrates, Sneezing and Daemons December 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Socrates, Sneezing and Daemons

    Socrates is the bedrock on which the western philosophical tradition has been built. You can polish him like Plotinus. You can take your geological hammer and tap gently at his sides in the style of Aristotle (poor dolt). Or you can start smashing bottles of nitric acid on his stone-work as Nietzsche did. The fact […]

    Death by Laughter December 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Death by Laughter

    Beachcombing had hoped to give some extra time to this blog now the holidays are here. But, instead, Mrs B and younger daughter have fallen ill, elder daughter is doing unspeakable things to a rabbit, while Beachcombing has, just in time for Christmas, lost his sense of taste – honey tastes like margarine. He thought […]

    White Horses, Sex and Sovereignty December 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    White Horses, Sex and Sovereignty

    Inspired by Southern Man’s comment on yesterday’s post Beach thought he would today quote from some of the passages relating to Irish sovereignty. There was in pre-Norman Ireland the idea that the land is a woman, Sovereignty, who must be courted and seduced by the successful king. Take, for example, this rather tame passage relating […]

    From Vienna to the Baltic in Roman Times November 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient

      A couple of rarely examined sentences in Pliny’s Natural History (37,45) give the outline of a grand old Roman adventure in the times of the Emperor Nero (54 AD 68 AD). There are about 600 miles from Carnuntum [Roman camp close to Vienna] in Pannonia to the shores of Germany from which amber is […]

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