classical civilization (antiquity)

The Sri Lanka Terrorists: Martyrs or Murderers?

More than 290 are dead and 500 wounded in an Easter Sunday jihad massacre in Sri Lanka. The terrorists targeted three Catholic Churches and three luxury hotels frequented by foreigners. Government officials blame the attack on “religious extremists,” though no group has claimed responsibility. The term “religious extremists” implies that the vast majority of Muslim [...]

The Divine Tragedy of Achilles

As the heroes of The Iliad are slain in blood, Homer gives each of them an epitaph in poetry, that they may die not as expendable masses, but as men with names. Even as they fall, death swirling round them, the blind poet looks for the monument of man, decrying its absence while railing at [...]

Professors Don’t Teach If Students Don’t Learn the Truth

Discussing St. Thomas Aquinas’s love of teaching, Josef Pieper writes: Teaching does not consist in a man’s making public talks on the results of his meditations, even if he does so ex cathedra before a large audience. Teaching in the real sense takes place only when the hearer is reached—not by dint of some personal [...]

Caesar’s Enduring Influence on Western Civilization

“Beware the Ides of March!” So heard Gaius Julius Caesar, Rome’s just-declared Dictator for Life, as he walked to meet the Senate on this day in 44 BC. Hours later, Caesar lay dead, murdered by a group of senators conspiring to rid Rome of his tyranny. In death Caesar became larger than life; declared a [...]

Modern Blindness: Failure to See What Is Real and True

Aristotle says that sight is the most philosophical sense. Of the five senses, it most resembles our capacity to know. We naturally desire both to see and to know. Indeed, knowing is an intellectual seeing. Of course, “I see” can mean “I understand.” Plato calls the highest kind of knowing noesis, typically translated into English [...]

On Willing and Unwilling Leaders

Early in Plato’s Republic, Socrates debates a sophist, a teacher of rhetoric named Thrasymachus, about the nature and worth of justice. Thrasymachus’s position, no more unknown to us today than it was in Socrates’s and Plato’s day, is that justice is the advantage of the stronger. Based on this view, justice simply names the rules [...]

Unlike Moderns, Our Ancestors Understood Love

“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.” The opening words to Homer’s Odyssey are among the most famous and recognizable in Western literature. That beginning stanza captures so much of the human condition and [...]

The Dilemma of Genre in Xenophon’s The Persian Expedition

It is always good to get your bearings—to take stock of where you are and what you are doing, to orient yourself (from the Latin for ‘East’). While this principle is beneficial to life on a grand scale, it can also be applied to the civilized reader whenever he takes up a new book. The [...]

Christianity and the Radical Transformation of Culture

Man is not a body of mass in motion with the aim of peaceable consumption as modern anthropology suggests. Man does not live on bread alone; man is, as the ancients knew, a social animal. However, the great revelation of Christian anthropology is that man is also a cultural animal. Culture, rooted in the Latin [...]

Herodotus and the Gospel of History

Almost twenty-five hundred years ago, a Greek decided that his era was so unique and exciting that he was going to learn as much as he could about it by any means that he could. He would travel to where the great events of the age had occurred, learn about the cultures of all the [...]

Traditional Architecture: An Expression of the Divine

Naming Prince Charles as one’s favorite Royal is rather like choosing Ringo as one’s favorite Beatle: there are no wrong answers … except that one. The Left still hold him personally responsible for Diana’s death. (It was, of course, his fault that she ran off with Dodi Fayed. And he probably got Henri Paul drunk, [...]

By Rejecting God, Modern Man Rejects His Humanity

Modern man is at a precipice. We all know it. The yearning for something more than empty selves, fleeting friendships, the “joyless quest for joy,” and a desire for the sublime are all indicative of the dimly lit flame St. Augustine says remains in us even after the Fall. Like Aristophanes’s separated man we are [...]

I’ll See Your World and Raise You a Kosmos

Hubris is a theme that preoccupied the minds of the ancient Greeks. Man’s fate was unpredictable in a world governed by capricious deities, therefore one ought to temper one’s aspirations and avoid displeasing them in any way. Calamities could befall whole cities because of hubris in one man, as Sophocles dramatized in Oedipus Rex. In [...]

A Defense of Beauty and Excellence from the Classical Tradition

There are many serious problems facing moderns, but one of the most troubling—and worrying—is the loss and degradation of beauty, not just in the arts, but in society as a whole. Classical Greek philosophy, to which Catholic philosophy largely inherited and preserved, maintained that beauty and morality were intertwined with one another. When Christianity began [...]

Catholic Education at a Crossroads

My friend and former colleague Dr. Jared Staudt recently penned an article “How to Save the Soul of Our Catholic Schools” for Crisis Magazine. Dr. Staudt (as I’ll call him here) made a number of sober and valid points about the need to return to a truly Catholic education. Affirming his belief that “[t]he Catholic [...]

What Can a Noble Pagan Teach Us?

In a post-Christian world, ancient wisdom is all the more impressive. It isn’t difficult to see why Dante referred to the ancients as “noble pagans.” Today the noble pagans have been supplanted by militant technocrats. Perhaps our touchscreen techno-culture atrophies our imaginative faculty, which C.S. Lewis believed was the seedbed of faith. We have little [...]

Putting the “Roman” Back in “Roman Catholic”

O, the glories of a classical education! I spent part of this past summer attempting to supplement my classical deficiencies (what I received in college was partial and patchy) by perusing Cicero's philosophical essays in English and plodding through parts of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy in the original Latin, dictionary in hand. In doing so, [...]

The Resurrection Difference

At the Yorktown surrender in 1781, the British band played a tune traditional to the ballad “The World Turned Upside Down.” In the 1640s the ballad had been written as a broadside against the suppression of Christmas festivities by the Puritan parliament. In some ways, the world had indeed been turned upside down, at least [...]

The Sacredness of Marriage: A Lesson from the Pagans

When the press falsely quoted Cardinal Raymond Burke last May as stating that the Irish were “worse” than the pagans for having passed a referendum recognizing same-sex “marriage,” they missed an opportunity to offer a valuable lesson in history. What His Eminence actually said—namely, that while the “pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviors, they never [...]

The Effrontery of Hope

It seems to me that we take “hope” for granted. Of course, as good Catholics we know that we are not to presume the mercy of God, or his blessings. So we might protest that we do no such thing; we know that God is in no way obliged to give us anything, that everything—including [...]

Homer’s Odyssey: A Reflection of Womanhood

Homer’s great epic about the family as the center of civilization portrays two different types of woman: women who are pro-marriage and pro-family and women who are anti-marriage and anti-family. Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus who waited twenty years for her husband’s return from war and exile, defends her home from the suitors who [...]

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