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Zeno, Paradox, and Contemporary Confusion

by on March 22, 2019

Zeno of Elea constructed several arguments that result in absurdity. They are paradoxical, contradicting, and just plain-strange. Oh, and did I mention that they are logically consistent, too?

One such paradox, perhaps the most well-known, is called the Achilles Paradox. Achilles was thought to be the fastest runner in Ancient Greece, and as such he should have no problem running down a tortoise, right? Zeno thinks not, and has a really good argument for why not.

Zeno of Elea

Alright, imagine Achilles and the tortoise, and let’s refer to the tortoise as Tom, because, well, a tortoise that races Achilles should probably have a name. Okay, so it is Achilles and Tom the tortoise at the starting line for this historical race. Since Achilles is the fastest man in Greece, he decides that it would only be fair to give Tom a head start.
Tom starts his crawl while Achilles poses and flexes for the crowd! What a showman! After a few moments Achilles takes off after Tom. According to Zeno, Achilles will never catch up to Tom because there is an infinite number of points between Achilles and Tom. Therefore Achilles can never reach Tom, because he cannot traverse an infinite number of points!

Pompey Needs a Buddy

by on March 20, 2019

by Cam Rea, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Rome was expecting the Parthian invasion, but it never came. Instead, in the west, the Great Roman Civil War exploded, in the years 49 – 45 BC. It was a politico-military conflict which pitted Pompey against Caesar, each vying for leadership of the Roman state. It was during this time, that Pompey may have sought Parthian assistance, though one would think that Pompey would have wanted to avoid any type of assistance from Rome’s nemesis in the east, which recently had decimated Crassus’ army.
However, Pompey had no choice in the matter for he didn’t have the armies he once possessed. Instead, Pompey had the “senatorial and the equestrian order and from the regularly enrolled troops, and had gathered vast numbers from the subject and allied peoples and kings.” Essentially, Pompey had a quagmire of experienced and inexperienced forces all of which swayed in loyalty. Caesar, on the other hand, had the legions of the state, a battle harden and well armed professional fighting force of uniformity.
The odds were very much against Pompey.

Location of Julius Caesar’s Assassination to be Open to the Public!

by on March 15, 2019

Move Aside Feral Cats! The ruins in the Largo di Torre Argentina are about to get a fashion make-over.
The location of the murder of Julius Caesar will soon be renovated, it has been recently announced. It was over 2,000 years ago on this day, The Ides of March, also known as March 15th, that famous Roman politician, General and historian was assassinated in the Theater of Pompey. Caesar was brutally stabbed to death 23 times by 60 members of the senate as a consequence of his growing power and influence. It was thought that he was a threat to the Republic itself, and yet, it was only after his death that the empire took hold.
Death of Caesar

Assassination of Caesar by William Holmes Sullivan, c. 1888, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Now, the very interesting thing is that the location of this assassination is not where you might automatically think. Indeed, it was very ironic that Caesar died on the portico of a public work done by Pompey. (You may remember that Pompey, once Rome’s most accomplished general had, notably, been defeated by Caesar in a civil war and then murdered in Egypt by Caesar’s allies.)
You see, the Roman senate did not usually meet at Pompey’s Theater. Instead they had for centuries congregated at the Curia, or meeting house on the Comitium. Despite numerous fires, restorations and rebrandings, this was always Rome’s primary open air meeting location.

Marcus Aurelius, Stoicism and Pain

by on March 15, 2019

By Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, discusses strategies for coping with pain derived from the ancient wisdom of Stoicism.

The physical frailty of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was notorious, and of great concern to his subjects.  Around 174-175 AD, he was in such poor health that false rumours that he was dying, or already dead, actually spread throughout the empire. These were taken seriously enough for his most senior general in the eastern provinces, Avidius Cassius, to have himself acclaimed emperor, leading to a short-lived civil war in which Marcus and his loyalist army were victorious.

We know that Marcus suffered from chronic chest and stomach pains, problems sleeping, and poor appetite, among other symptoms. While it’s not clear what illness he suffered from, modern scholars have speculated he may have been describing the symptoms of stomach ulcers, among other things. Curiously, the historian Cassius Dio praises Marcus Aurelius for the remarkable physical resilience that he showed despite being “extremely frail in body”.

 

It’s Pi Time!

by on March 14, 2019

The history of pie is both storied and interesting in and of itself. Did you know, for instance, that the Ancient Greeks are thought to have originated the pie pastry, as can be seen in Aristophanes’ plays (5th century BC), where there are mentions of sweetmeats including small pastries filled with fruit? Neither did I until today.
But that’s not what we are talking about, delicious as it sounds.
Instead, we are delving into a different pi, though it also shares some of its origins in Ancient Greece.
Yes, dear reader, we are investigating the captivating phenomena of a mathematical constant, the algorithm of which was devised by the brilliant (and perhaps evil) Archimedes around 250 BC.