Ancient History

What Is Wisdom?

Giambattista Vico— Wisdom is the faculty that commands all the disciplines; by these, all the sciences and arts that complete our humanity are apprehended. Plato defines wisdom as that which is the perfecter of man. Man, in the being proper to him as a man, is nothing other than mind and

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Muhammad

Tim Mackintosh-Smith— Before sunrise on a winter’s day early in the year 630, a captive in the Arabian town of Yathrib looked on as the men of the place gathered in the courtyard outside his cell. He could make out little between the few splashes of lamplight. But when their

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Finding the Bible

Brent Nongbri— Late in 1907, it was publicly revealed that the American businessman Charles Lang Freer (1854–1919) had acquired a group of four early Christian books from an antiquities dealer in Egypt. Freer, who made a fortune from the production of railcars in Detroit during the 1890s, had established himself

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Western Ambivalence toward Iran

By Abbas Amanat — The Persians, and before them the Medes, were among the first people known to the ancient Greeks outside their own geographic sphere. As early as the sixth century BCE, when Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550 BCE–330 BCE), conquered Asia Minor,

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The State of Democracy

Thomas N. Mitchell— Democracy is at a particularly critical and fascinating point in its history. The collapse of communism in 1989 brought a wave of euphoria among proponents of democracy, and extravagant references to the end of history and of mankind’s journey towards a universally acceptable political order. To many,

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Josephus and Jesus: The Early Christian Movement

Paula Fredriksen— Priest, Pharisee, prophet, military leader, war captive, historian: Josephus. Josephus aids us, in crucial ways, in our quest for the assembly of Jesus’ earliest followers in Jerusalem. Indeed, for almost three decades, in this holy city, he and they would have been neighbors. Yosef ben Mattityahu was born

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Political Obligation: An Ancient Illustration

Judith N. Shklar— Obligation may lead to conflict. It implies, on one hand, the duty to obey the law, to keep promises, to follow social rules generally, because society depends upon our doing so and because it is inherently right and the condition of justice. On the other hand, the

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Sparta and Athens: From Peace to War

Paul A. Rahe— In his now neglected masterpiece Marlborough: His Life and Times, Winston Churchill once hazarded the following observation: Battles are the principal milestones in secular history. Modern opinion resents this uninspiring truth, and historians often treat the decisions in the field as incidents in the dramas of politics

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The Gospel of Matthew: Within and Without Judaism

John Kampen— Matthew is usually regarded as the “most Jewish gospel” since it bears evidence of more direct and more informed interaction with texts, concepts, and institutions usually identified with Jewish life at the conclusion of the first century CE. While the noted connections have not always been well-informed by

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Why We Read

Azar Nafisi— Reading is like Alice running after that white rabbit, because she is curious; she wants to know more about a talking rabbit. She is prepared to take the risk and jump down that hole without knowing what she will find at the bottom of the well. This is

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