Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Ground Is Rising! The Ground Is Rising!

As I mentioned in my last post, I am a student of history. I love reading history books. (Someone once called me a snob because of my disdain for fiction, but that's simply a matter of personal taste.) My current read is an oldie -- The Rise of the Roman Empire by Polybius. The book is primarily concerned with the Roman conquest of Greece as well as the Punic Wars that pitted Rome against Carthage in the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C.

Polybius was an opinionated rascal. Throughout the book, he digresses from his narrative in order to castigate rival historians who, in his mind, misrepresented the facts, whether deliberately or through ignorance. He'd fit right in with the academics of today. At times, it's hard to determine his focus. He spends a lengthy passage detailing Hannibal's campaign that took him from Spain, across what is now southern France, over the Alps, and into Italy, where he recruited or devastated everyone in his way. Polybius began the passage by stating that Hannibal was not the brilliant strategical tactician that the other historians claimed he was. Then he goes on and on for some sixty pages describing how Hannibal's march was an unqualified success. Finally, just as Hannibal is bearing down on the Eternal City and the citizens are terrified that Roman civilization is about to come to an end, Polybius suddenly switches gears and suggests that it's time to talk about...Spain. And Greece. I'm sure that there are missing fragments that complete the Hannibal passage, but he sure seems to wrap it up deliberately and in a hurry. He'd better come back to this later or I'm going to be upset with him.

In addition to being a critic and getting easily off track, he has something else in common with today's academics -- blind devotion to idiotic theories about the environment. The ancients would not have used that word, but that's pretty much what it amounts to. Whereas our contemporaries have the global warming theory, Polybius preaches about a different sort of ecological shift. He was convinced that the Black Sea (then called the Pontus), due to the flow of silt, was well on its way to being filled up. And soon, too:

But when, as in this case, the influx is by no means infinitesimal, but in fact large quantities of soil are being washed down, it becomes clear that the transformation I have forecast will come to pass not at some remote date, but in the near future. And in fact it is even now visibly taking place.
Yes, we all know how the Black Sea filled up with dirt, dried out, and had cities built on it back in 100 B.C. This is same kind of wrong-headed arrogance displayed by today's environmental cases. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I may have more to post on this later. Right now, I have to get back to the part where some Greek king says that he'd rather have male prostitutes and singing girls than horses.

3 comments:

Doug said...

I've never heard the Black Sea called the Pontus before. In the Roman World they called it the Euxine. Pontus was a kingdom bordering The Euxine. Translation error?

Nicko McDave said...

Apparently Pontus was a Greek name for the Euxine:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontus

Honnistaibe said...

I may have to read this one some day.
I've always been fascinated with the report that after the last defeat of Carthage the Romans "salted" that North African City..