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Oedipus Rex Moral or Murder?

by on March 22, 2017

Oedipus BlindedHe is one of the most tragic heroes ever found in literature; a man so unfortunate in the eyes of the gods, that he eventually blinded himself. He forces the question of fate, of self determination, of questioning society and divinity itself. Some may say this was his fatal flaw, his resistance to the life laid out for him. Others hold this as his most redeemable feature. In today’s world, we praise those who break free of their social ranks, their confined destinies. We look on social structures like the caste system and class determination as an affront to free will. Oedipus had his life prescribed to him from youth, and tried at every opportunity to leave it. Even when all the signs of its truth began to show, he still rebelled against his lot and ignored and resisted it until he could no longer. But is Oedipus Rex moral or a murderer?

Most are familiar with the basics of the story. Oedipus Rex, or King Oedipus, infamously slept with his mother and killed his father. It’s a myth that existed long before Sophocles wrote the play, and has fascinated authors, philosophers, painters, musicians and intellectuals throughout history. Freud, a more contemporary example, is famous for his assessment of the myth with regards to the modern mind. Unfortunately he missed the point, as Oedipus never wanted to have relations with his mother. He did so unknowingly… and when he found out, was horrified to learn of the nature of his deed.

Sophocles’ version, however, is arguably the most famous as well as the most powerful telling of the tale. He knew the story well and wrote repeatedly on the myth, including two other plays, Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus, which rounded out the tragic legend.

Oedipus Rex is the first, chronologically, of these three plays. A good deal of the action, however, happens before the play even begins. Sophocles’ audience would have known the whole Oedipus myth, from start to finish. As a result, Sophocles does not write about the very beginning of the story; he just references key points as reminders.

Sophocles’ play describes Oedipus’ discovery of his origins. Unfortunately for him, the revelation of his not-so-humble beginnings brings to light a history of atrocities that Oedipus had unknowingly committed…acts that uncompromisingly expose some of the most imbedded taboos in western society.
Oedipus mask

But let’s start in the beginning. It all originates with a foreboding oracle. Two regal parents of Thebes receive a note from the gods prophesying that their son will murder one and sleep with the other. Distraught at the news, they hand him over to a servant to bind his feet and leave him to die on a mountain. However, the sight was distasteful to a shepherd who rescued the boy and passed him to a foreigner to be raised in another land. Here the young Oedipus finally had a turn of good luck, as he was given to the childless King and Queen of Corinth and reared as a prince.

Then fate steps in once more. Chided for being adopted, Oedipus consults the oracles to find out if it is true. There he is told of his horrid destiny, that he will kill his father and sleep with his mother. Determined to not let it happen, he leaves town at once. On the way, he fights with a traveller at a crossroad, kills him and thinks of it no more. He enters the town of Thebes and, by luck or intelligence, answers a Sphinx’s riddle and saves the city. The inhabitants are overjoyed and reward this stranger with the late king’s throne and bed. Years later a plague hits the town.

Sophocles begins his tragedy here…

Now Oedipus begins to the learn the truth as it quickly unravels. He appears brash, frantic, and constantly in motion, as if he is trying to keep up with his fate. The audience falls in and out of empathy with him. At one moment he is a great and compassionate king, the next a bully to an old blind man. In turns he switches from tragic to irrational, a sad man fearing what will happen to an overly suspicious monarch enacting unwarranted, unilateral ‘justice’. Once again he flips from a caring and concerned husband to an interrogator, threatening torture and death to an elderly shepherd. It is a rollercoaster of emotion and suspense.

Then the whole sordid story is revealed, that the traveller in the crossroads was his father, that his sore feet are from his childhood bounds, and that the mother of his children is his own flesh and blood. As a result, his wife/mother hangs herself and the wretched Oedipus pierces his eyes before fleeing into exile.

What, then, are we to think of this man? Hero or monster? Menace or martyr? Is Oedipus Rex moral or a murderer?

In each situation, Oedipus is presented with a choice, to let sleeping dogs lie…or find out the real truth. At every juncture, the condemned, but determined man is warned that the truth will be difficult, unpleasant and even harmful. And in each case, Oedipus chooses truth, no matter what may come of it. He chooses the red pill of reality over delusion and the unknown. He remains, until the end, faithful to himself. And when the truth…the full, horrible truth…is revealed, he does not shy away. Oedipus takes full responsibility for his actions even though, at the time, he did not know what he was doing.

No doubt each reader will come to their own conclusion and decide whether they find favor with this extreme individual. In any case, we may well be pressed to find such a noble and honest person nowadays.

Oedipus the King was written by Sophocles around 430 b.c. Produced in Athens, Greece. You can read the full story here: http://classicalwisdom.com/greek_books/oedipus-the-king/

Oedipus Rex Moral or Murderer? was written by Anya Leonard for the inaugural publication of the Classical Wisdom Weekly newsletter. 

Make sure to read the next installment of Sophocle’s trilogy, Oedipus at Colonus , for next week’s essay. You can view the whole text here for free: http://classicalwisdom.com/greek_books/oedipus-at-colonus/

The Most Moral of them All

by on February 21, 2017

Who is the Moral maker? Who writes the tales of what is good or bad? Which wise words, written before Christ, still resonate with our modern times? Surely they were from a Philosopher or a great King? How about a worldly scholar or a famed adventurer? No, the most prevalent of Ancient Greek ethics originated from a slave.

You know the stories. A boy calling wolf. A lion with a thorn. A fast and cocky hare competing with a crawling, but dedicated tortoise. “Slow and steady wins the race” is the distilled lesson taught to impressionable school children. However, most young students do not learn the amazing history of the one behind those clever tales, if anyone was behind them at all.

These anecdotes, filled with animated animals and shrewd lessons, are attributed to Aesop – or Isope – or Esop(e), depending on which spelling you prefer. This man, if he did exist, not only inspired over 600 parables, but also had an inspiring life himself. So much so, that the Ancients romanticised his biography, making the man into a myth. A dwarfish slave who, with his clever tongue, became a free man and then an emissary for the king, all while telling amazing myths himself.

Portrait of Aesop

Aesop as envisioned by Velázquez

According to Aristotle, one of the earliest Greek authors to write about Aesop, the Fable teller hailed from Thrace around 620 BC, in modern day Bulgaria. However, even this is a point of conjecture. Three other writers from Ancient Greece and Rome say he originated from modern day Turkey, in either Phrygia, Sardis, or Lydia. Some historians even believe that he was from Africa. With a name like Aesop, surely he was ‘Aethiopian’ or Ethiopian! Other experts rebut that, saying it is etymologically incorrect. The inclusion of African animals, such as camels, elephants, and apes, suggest he was from Egypt or Libya… or that these stories were added later on. And then there is the point that Bill Cosby played Aesop in the 1971 TV production Aesop’s Fables.

Whether Aesop was from Ethiopia or Sardis, he apparently was born a slave and a really, really ugly one at that. He was described as having multiple deformities, including a debilitating speech defect. According to Aristotle and Herodotus, he worked in Samos and his first master was a man named Xanthus. His next master, Ladmon, eventually freed him when he argued on behalf of a wealthy Samian.

It has been said that Aesop had a penchant for trouble, including irreverence and tomfoolery, but used his gift of discourse and turn of phrase to escape punishment. He also supported those in power or confronted them, pointing out their hypocrisy and using fables to make his point. But there are also many legends on Aesop, such as dining with the Seven sages of Greece, sitting aside the famous Athenian statesman Solon, which have been discredited, due to a misalignment of historical dates.

And then there was the extremely popular The Aesop Romance, an anonymously authored book written in the 1st or 2nd century AD. It began with a vivid description of Aesop’s appearance, saying he was “of loathsome aspect… potbellied, misshapen of head, snub-nosed, swarthy, dwarfish, bandy-legged, short-armed, squint-eyed, liver-lipped—a portentous monstrosity.”

In this fantastic version he was born mute in Samos, and then divinely gifted not only with the ability to speak, but to weave wonderful wisdoms. He was able to confound his Philosopher master in front of his students as well as sleep with his wife. However, this version was highly fictional and illustrates how the ancients were fascinated by the legends of Aesop’s life, hundreds of years after his supposed existence.

Plutarch then told the story of his sad and untimely end. The freed and respected ex-slave was sent to Delphi, Greece on a diplomatic mission from King Croesus of Lydia. According to the narrative, Aesop insulted the Delphians, maybe with an unpopular fable. He was then sentenced to death on a trumped-up charge of temple theft, and then either thrown or forced to jump from a cliff. After which the Delphians suffered pestilence and famine as retribution, or at least as they saw it.

But maybe none of this actually happened. The fact of the matter is that there are no surviving texts written by Aesop. Ancient greek writers like Herodotus and Aristophanes mention ‘reading’ Aesop, suggesting that there was a book existing at some point, but can we be sure? Maybe Aesop just became the symbol for what is unauthored. The collection of morality that can not be assigned to one man. The Fable of the fable creator.

You can read Aesop’s Fables Here.

The King Midas Tempting Touch

by on February 15, 2017

King Midas

“Be careful what you ask for”, goes the old saying. Apparently though, King Midas never heard it. Truth be told, there are a few King Midas’ in ancient history, depending on which reference you like. However, most stories relate that he was the son of Gordias and hailed from the ancient kingdom of Phrygia, somewhere around modern day central Turkey, close to Ankara.

But that’s not why Midas is a household name. No, we aren’t talking about an oil change either. We are instead referring to the Midas Touch. Most people will think about gold when hearing those two words collocated. But does everyone know the supposed story behind it? If not, read on.

The famous Roman poet, Ovid, narrates the whole story in the poem Metamorphoses. Like many tales gone awry, it begins with a god and in this case a divinity known for getting into trouble. However, this time it wasn’t only the god Dionysus, but his foster father and school master, the satyr Silenus. The old fellow had been enjoying more than enough jugs of his favorite grape drink when he wandered away drunk. Then, depending on the version you read, he either passed out in the King’s garden or was taken there by the peasants of Phrygia. Either way he ended up at King Midas’ feet. Fortunately for everyone involved, the intelligent royal recognized the inebriated satyr and recalled his divine connection. As a result he put on his best spread and entertained Dionysus’ father-like friend for 10 days and nights. Finally on the eleventh day, King Midas brought Silenus back to Dionysus in Lydia, also in central Turkey. The God was delighted to see his mate well and offered to give king Midas whatever he wished.

The avaricious monarch requested that whatever he touches turns to gold. At once Dionysus granted his wish and Midas, not surprisingly pleased, worked at once to stockpile his yellow metal reserves. Still enthusiastic, he ordered his peasants to prepare a great feast for him at the table. “So Midas, king of Lydia, swelled at first with pride when he found he could transform everything he touched to gold; but when he beheld his food grow rigid and his drink harden into golden ice then he understood that this gift was a bane and in his loathing for gold, cursed his prayer” (Claudian, In Rufinem).

Now the tables had turned and he abhorred his new talents. He begged Dionysus to restore him to his old self and deliver him from the clutches of starvation. The Wine God took pity and instructed King Midas to go to the river Pactolus. There the abundant stream would wash away any gold turning powers and revert items back to their previous state. King Midas happily obeyed, submerged into the waters and saw his divine gift float into the river and turn the sand bank into gold. This explained both why the river, located near the Aegean coast in Turkey, has such yellow coloring and why the dynasty, claiming Midas as their forefather, was so rich.

There is actually another story concerning Midas and some Asses’ ears – but that is for another day.

Interestingly enough, King Midas probably did exist and his (or his father’s) supposed funeral mound was discovered in the late 50’s. It was a huge burial, with the best Iron age drinking vessels ever recovered. In addition, the body of his majesty measured only 1.59 meters, or 5’2”, and no gold was found at the site.

The Dramatic Greek: One man’s non-tragic life

by on February 5, 2017

Sophocles bust

The good looking fellow himself

Some people have drama follow them wherever they go, while others just write about it. Sophocles, the prolific ancient greek playwright, was definitely the latter.  He enjoyed an ideal existence, all while changing the face of Tragedy and penning some fairly morbid ideas for future psycho-analysts, like Sigmund Freud.

 

Hailing from just outside Athens, Sophocles’ life was a far cry from the tragic situations that characterized his plays. He was born into a wealthy family, provided with an excellent education and received high positions and enviable accolades throughout his life.  As fortune would have it, he was around to witness the magnificent Greek triumph in the Persian War and was afterwards promoted to a high executive official, commanding the armed forces.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, he was also considered beautiful and graceful!

 

Nor did he die an untimely death. In fact, Sophocles did not ‘give up the ghost’ until the ripe age of 91, in the year 405 B.C. Apparently everyone knew what a lucky bloke he was, as is evident by this eulogy, found in The Muses:  “Blessed is Sophocles, who had a long life, was a man both happy and talented, and the writer of many good tragedies; and he ended his life well without suffering any misfortune.”

So what does this man know about Drama and Tragedy? How could such a fellow pen 123 plays, win 24 major competitions, and conceive of such anguished characters like Oedipus and Antigone without the help of a manic-depressive mother or an alcoholic father?

That we can not answer. All we do know is that he started off imitating the celebrated Aeschylus. Eventually, however, the student overtook the master, dominating the religious festivals and eclipsing Aeschylus’ in fame and fortune. We also can be certain that Sophocles’ works, at least those that have remained (a measly 7 of the original 100+) have, throughout history, influenced a plethora of great minds. Aristotle himself used Sophocles’ Oedipus the King in his Poetics (c. 335 BC) as an example of the highest achievement in tragedy. Not quite praise from Ceasar, but close!

But let us allow the man’s work to speak for itself. We begin by reading one of the most famous, poignant and powerful greek tragedies of all time. Classical Wisdom Weekly Readers are invited to discover “Oedipus Rex” for Free HERE: http://classicalwisdom.com/greek_books/oedipus-the-king/ ‎

Emperor Trump?

by on November 18, 2016

NEW YORK- “How’s everything with you post election?” our fearless leader, Anya Leonard, wrote to us on Wednesday morning.

We look out the window. Sun still shining.

We glance over our shoulder. Dog still napping on the couch.

We pick up a piece of paper, drop it, and watch it waft slowly to the floor. Laws of physics still behaving normally.

That’s a start…

All of our well-meaning liberal friends predicted utter chaos should Emperor Trump take the throne.

‘What sort of chaos?’ we wondered.

Would the Spartans tear down our city walls?

Would Rome burn anew while Donald tuned his fiddle?

Would the Visigoths storm the city, desecrate our monuments and make off with our women?

Since none of that has happened (yet) we’d like to think we’re getting off okay. You know…all things considered.

#NotMyCaesar

There may be celebration in “fly over America” where The Donald is heralded as an American hero, but the bicoastal citizens view him as tantamount to the devil.

“What the f*** is wrong with you?” bemoaned Silicon Valley investor, Dave McClure during a web summit in Lisbon last Wednesday. There is now a very real effort to have California secede from the American Republic.

Protests erupted across Manhattan following the election announcement. They congregated in Union Square and clogged up much of 5th avenue. We got caught up in the madness and had to find a different way home.

#NotMyPresident was trending as of Wednesday morning. We stop for a minute and wonder how it is that our forefathers every expressed their outrage without the advent of hash tags. How quickly would Caesar been assassinated if #NotMyEmperor had been trending in ancient Rome? How did the American founders possibly revolt without 140 characters and #NoTaxationWithoutRepresentation @BostonHarbor #TeaParty?

I guess we’ll never know…

But dear reader, you don’t pay us to cheer for the winners or howl alongside the losers. In fact, you don’t pay us at all! Which makes our observations on this matter worth at least what you pay for them.

That being said, we always viewed The Donald with guilty fascination; the way you might view a kid burning ants with a magnifying glass or a flaming garbage truck barreling through a retirement home.

He’s a scoundrel; it’s true. We even wondered, despite backlash from readers, if he might just be a tyrant. The man lacks the eloquence of Pericles or the philosophical mind of Marcus Aurelius, but he’s captured the hearts and minds of the everyman. He promises eternal glory to the empire. In that regard, perhaps Trump’s a Cesar-like leader: bold, brash, beloved. Will the Senators stab him to death?

Time will tell.

But back to the abovementioned anger.

The justification for the outrage, or so we glean, is that HRC seems to have won the popular vote. That is to say more of the unwashed voters pulled the Clinton lever. It was the Electoral College, not the popular vote, which delivered Trump his win.

“The man lacks the eloquence of Pericles or the philosophical mind of Marcus Aurelius, but he’s captured the hearts and minds of the everyman. He promises eternal glory to the empire.”

N.B. Our international readers, as well as any American readers who skipped American Gov 101, might want to brush up on the Electoral College. Try here.

“The Electoral College has outlived its usefulness,” reads a very real petition to abolish the whole shebang, “It is part of the constitution, written when communication was by pony express.”

Has the Electoral College outlived its usefulness?

A lot of our millennial friends seem sure that the answer is ‘yes’.

At Classical Wisdom, we’re never sure or unsure about anything, but always questioning. Like Socrates, we’ve only ever claimed to know nothing, and not once have we failed to live up to that standard.

But since we’re here, let’s get into it.

Tyranny Arises out of Democracy

If you want to see the consequences of a direct democracy, look no further than classical Athens.

marcus aurelius

Athens is heralded as the cradle of democracy. The caveat being that said democracy was very much a work in progress. While democracy was popular with the demos (the people) it was far from perfect. Just for starters- Socrates was executed as a result of a democratic vote. So were numerous generals and treasurers during the Peloponnesian War.

The people of Athens continuously voted for more and more military campaigns against neighboring states following the end of the Greco-Persian Wars in the early 5th century BC.

And why not?

Money was pouring in from plundered states, the citizens had regular work as oarsmen on the military Triremes (warships), and the Generals were being heralded with untold amounts of glory (political capital).

Never mind that such events led to the Peloponnesian War between the Athenian Empire and the Spartan coalition of the Peloponnese. The war would ultimately conclude with the destruction of the Athenian city wall and a brief suspension of democracy itself.

The philosopher Plato so despised democracy that he would later make the bold claim that democracy could lead only to tyranny.

Or, from the man himself…

And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty.

The Republic, Book VIII

 

Elected Despotism

The American framers opted to avoid such an outcome by attempting to create, at least on paper, a democratic republic that would restrain both the conniving tendencies of politics and the winner-take-all demands of, as Madison put it in Federalist 10, “an interested and overbearing majority.”

The American founders took a page from the Roman historian, Polybius and crafted a government of “mixed regime.” Much in the way that the Roman Republic attempted to balance power between the Consuls, Senators and the people, so too did the American framers hope to stabilize the country through the checks and balances of federal branches.

And as for the “over bearing majority”, the Electoral College was created to keep them in check and avoid the mob rule of a direct election.

The obvious kicker being, and some of you might already know this, the original Electoral College system is not used today.

Originally, the Constitution allowed citizens do elect “electors” who could then deliberate and discern the wisest candidate and vote in turn on the citizens behalf.

From Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution…

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

 

These electors were supposed to be impartial, free agents who could discern the true qualifications needed for the office of Presidency and vote for a candidate who exemplified such qualities.

But in the early 1800s this plan was effectively scrapped. The electors became “voluntary party lackeys and intellectual nonentities.” The electors bowed down to the wishes of the party and the state, without the bother of impartial deliberation.

N.B. the above quote is from Chief Justice Robert Jackson, Ray v. Blair, dissent, 1952

This trend continued until the original Electoral College was replaced with the general ticket that we know today. It was not, and this is just between us chickens, the original intention of the classically-minded men who were very aware of the ebbs and flows of history; men who would have been educated in the classical ideas of the ancient world’s most prolific thinkers.

Even still, would reverting to this original system indeed give us the wise and just rulers that we so deserve? More likely it would be a replay of the massive outrage seen during the Democratic primaries when people figured out precisely what a Super Delegate actually was.

To paraphrase Churchill, democracy is the worst system of government… except for all the others.

Democracy is an experiment originating in the classical age. It was, at the start, a work in progress.

Maybe it still is.

Nothing More Demoralizing

by on October 21, 2016

By Ben Potter and Van Bryan

“Money…there’s nothing in the world so demoralizing as money.”

So says the 5th-century Greek playwright, Sophocles.

Now, dear reader, we’re a student of the classics. We believe that an understanding and appreciation for the literature and history of antiquity can lend us perspective. The classics teach us to think critically, ponder more thoughtfully the questions of our humanity.

That being said, we always wished that the ancient Athenian had elaborated on his claim of monetary demoralization.

What about money is demoralizing?

Is it a deficiency of money that demoralizes man?
Or perhaps an excess? Is money the root of all evil? Or is evil the root of all money?

We don’t know. We’re being Socratic and merely asking questions. We’ve only ever claimed to know nothing, and not once have we failed to live up to that standard.

Lucky for us, greater minds than ours have pondered questions of coinage. The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, of the 4th century BC, had one such mind.

Perhaps our ancient forefather can lend perspective on this subject, and answer for us an age-old question: what exactly is money?

What is money?

Ancient Greece was a time of firsts for the Western World.

First democratic government? Yep.

First masterpieces in literature? Check.

First academic university? Double check. Plato AND Aristotle founded schools in the classical age.

It’s unsurprising then that the ancient Greeks were also responsible for minting some of the first coins in the Western world.

Perhaps even more unsurprising is that this was almost immediately followed by the first embezzlement scandal and an ancient version of the military-industrial complex.

See…we really are influenced by the Greeks.

coincoin
Ancient Greek Tetradrachm

Note: New subscribers to our monthly subscription can recieve their own classical gold tetradrachm for free. Learn more here.

The ancient Greek drachma enjoyed popular usage starting in the Archaic Age of Greece (around 600 BC) right up until the Roman Empire. Ancient coins were originally minted from electrum, a naturally occurring alloy, but over time gold and silver became the preferred metals.

The rising economic influence of the Greeks during the 5th century meant that the ancient drachma was widely accepted across the known world. Ancient coins have been found in Egypt, Rome, and Syria. They even reached as far as the western dwelling Celts.

But all of this so far is just nickel and dime stuff. Practice your best chin stroking, now we get philosophical.

Aristotle, a man who is often regarded as one of the most prolific and influential philosophers of the Western world, had a few ideas on money.

Unlike his predecessor and teacher, Plato, Aristotle felt no need to justify the existence of money. Being the practical guy that he was, Aristotle considered the necessity of money to be self-evident.

When the inhabitants of one country became more dependent on those of another, and they imported what they needed, and exported what they had too much of, money necessarily came into use.

 

And not to mention, Aristotle says somewhat patronizingly, …

The various necessaries of life are not easily carried about!

 

Importantly, Aristotle did not claim that money was wealth. Rather, money represented wealth.

How can that be wealth of which a man may have a great abundance and yet perish with hunger, like Midas in the fable, whose insatiable prayer turned everything that was set before him into gold?

 

Money, to Aristotle, represents olives in the orchard, vases from the potter, wine from the vineyard. Money wasn’t wealth, but it could measure wealth.

Fair enough, we’ve talked about what money is not. What, then, is money?

Well, Aristotle says that money should ideally be five things…

    1. Durable – it must survive the trials and tribulations of daily life, i.e. of being carried around in people’s pockets, purses, or even in the mouths of the newly deceased.

 

    1. Portable – a small item should be of a high value.

 

    1. Divisible – breaking a coin, either figuratively or literally, should not affect its relative value.

 

    1. Fungible – mutually exchangeable i.e. it doesn’t matter which particular coin you have as long as you have one.

 

  1. Intrinsically valuable – the coin’s material should be a worthwhile commodity (mint coins from gold not concrete).

Ignoring this 5th principle, history tells us, is what can be particularly disastrous.

The Crisis of the 3rd Century

At the outset of the Roman Empire, starting in 27 BC, the preferred Roman currency was the silver denarius. Rome’s first Emperor, Augustus, minted coins that were 95% silver.

Ah, but what good idea couldn’t be improved with a little monetary manipulation?

coins
Ancient Roman Denarius depicting Titus

The coinage was debased over the centuries; so much so that by 268 AD, there was just under .5% silver in the denarius.When questioned about the devaluation of the currency, Emperor Caracalla (who ruled from 198 to 217 AD) held up his sword and declared…

Not to worry. So long as we have these (gesturing to the sword), we shall not run short of money.

 

How do you like that for a monetary policy?!

Even non-economists can probably guess what happened next. Hyperinflation ran rampant in the Empire. Prices during this period rose as much as 1000%. This is often referred to as “the crisis of the 3rd century”.

Over the next fifty years, 26 different men would claim the seat of power, often through military force. As for Emperor Carcalla-in 217 AD his own soldiers stabbed him to death when the Emperor stopped to take a leak.

History really is fascinating…

Perhaps the madness is best summed up by the 18th century historian Edward Gibbon, when he commented that the great wonder of the Roman Empire was not that it fell, but rather that it lasted as long as it did!

Nothing More Demoralizing?

Aristotle’s ideas have been used throughout the ages in order to justify or denigrate various economic policies and innovations; from fiat printing to the most recent phenomenon of crypto-currencies.

By now we’re feeling Socratic again. Are Aristotle’s ideas on money outdated or, perhaps worse, standing in the way of progress? Or are we, like the Romans, teeing off for our own crisis of the third century?

Over the centuries the great teacher has been proven wrong (he contended that flies had four legs and that women had fewer teeth than men). So, at times, society was only able to progress once it had rejected Aristotle’s assertions. Do his ideas on sound money fall into this category of outdated philosophical fodder?

Again, we have no answers… Perhaps that’s the most demoralizing thought of all.