things my impossibly young looking Roman history lecturer has said
‘listen to your seminar tutors over the booklet, but only for seminars – in lectures i am king. unless you have me as a seminar tutor as well, in which case i am your king and god.’
‘has anybody played Rome: Total War? no?’
‘Cataline tried to burn the city and everyone he hated but he failed because, in short, nobody liked him.’
‘the mediterranean diet didn’t include tomatoes in the ancient world. i know. oh my god. i know.’
‘so of course when Hannibal turns up, the senate goes ‘sod it, lets kick his arse’.’
‘one man’s optimates is another man’s silver-spoon bearing prick.’
‘we don’t have much information about the 70s BC, largely because Plutarch doesn’t care.’
‘i’m not saying Rome: Total War is entirely accurate, but its battle campaigns are surprisingly historically informed.’
[hand drawing a map in chalk because the projector is broken] ‘i’ll give it a go, this is why i hate technology, and oh. well. that’s not italy.’
‘every army needs bakers and prostitutes, this is just a fact of life.’
‘Sulla. He’s a bit of a badass, but also a bit of a prick.’
‘yes, that is a slide from Spartacus. The film, not the series, which is more accurate and less like soft porn.’
‘the Romans liked Campania because its very fertile. they didn’t know this was because of its proximity to a volcano – poor buggers found THAT out later.’
‘Crassus gets given command of Syria and high fives everyone in the senate.’
‘Catullus was very pithy, very hellenistic in style. unlike the Iliad, which is 24 books of tedium.’
‘An Afternoon at Carrhae: the Romans being shot at repeatedly by Parthian cavalry because if there’s one thing the Romans aren’t good at, it’s having a cavalry.’
‘It’s good to have fast legs in war. Caesar moves very fast, not unlike Napoleon. The Usain Bolt of ancient warfare. I’m not sure why I said that, it’s an atrocious analogy.’
‘Athens is the Edinburgh of the ancient world; it has nothing to offer but education and pretty buildings.’
‘Shout out to those of you who spent your teenage years playing Rome: Total War.Which is what I did.’
‘The senate go into a panic and they decide to flee Rome at dawn, but some idiot forgets the treasury. I know. Ridiculous.’
‘Again: don’t use elephants during warfare. They’re not as cool as they look. And given they’re now endangered, it’d just be mean.’
‘I had to use this meme, I’m sorry. You’re all aware of the one does not simply walk into mordor meme right? I’m sorry, we’ll move on.’
‘I put this photo in for dramatic effect but I realise that it’s just a field. I don’t know why people bother going to see battle sites, they’re all really boring. I saw bones once, they were quite interesting. But most battle sites: boring.’
‘Caesar doesn’t tell Rome anything while he’s away in Egypt for a year, so they have no idea Pompey’s dead. All they know is that Antony is being a pain in the ass, which is, in all honesty, not unusual for Antony.’
‘Caesar is very good at one liners. You always draft a pithy one liner before a battle so you have something to say when you win. You don’t want to win and then just be like ‘whoo, thank god for that.’’
This, incidentally, is the methodology I used when I tutored people in history. And D students would end up getting A’s on the subject materials I helped them with. I suspect this is why Shakespeare was considered a fantastic writer too. People pay attention when you’re willing to put something on their level instead of being so caught up in sounding fancy and academia. (Yes, Shakespeare, for his day, was considered quite accessible to the regular people to come to the theater as opposed to only being a high-class affair.) People identify with something when you identify with them. And everyone should identify with history because it’s all human beings who screwed up, some who did some really heroic awesome stuff, and some who got handed a bad hand and turned it around. Sure, it happened in different places and people had ‘strange’ names and fancy titles, but in the end, we see those same people doing the same sort of things today. We spread posts about them, get discouraged at our society’s apparent lack of caring, and wonder how we’ll ever make a difference. Whether we’ll leave our mark. The answer is, we will.
It’s just not history yet.
It will be.
So don’t give up on history. You’re a part of it.