Historical Impressions

The Persian Wars

“He asked, ‘Croesus, who told you to attack my land and meet me as an enemy instead of a friend?’

The King replied, ‘It was caused by your good fate and my bad fate. It was the fault of the Greek gods, who with their arrogance, encouraged me to march onto your lands. Nobody is mad enough to choose war whilst there is peace. During times of peace, the sons bury their fathers, but in war it is the fathers who send their sons to the grave.”

Herodotus, in his Histories, written nearly 2,500 years ago, made me get up from my warm seat on the roof, and walk around, pacing, thinking about my baby downstairs, how I’m ignoring him just to read a book written nearly 2,500 years ago.

The Persian Wars engulfed the Greek world, almost overwhelmed it. If the Greeks had lost, would their culture have died out, been consumed by the Persian behemoth, changing the course of Western civilisation forever?

I’m not much interested in alternative histories. And yet, when I think about my son’s future, I can see the path of his life branching out into a million possibilities and the root of it all are me and my actions.

What if the Ionians had never revolted against Persian rule? What if I enroll my son in a government school instead of a private school? What if Xerxes had not won the Battle of Thermopylae and not torched Athens? What if I read my son an age-appropriate storybook like The Selfish Giant instead of the Odyssey at night? What if the Greeks had lost the Battle of Salamis? What if we move out and raise our son in Valletta or Ta’ Xbiex instead of Hamrun?

During times of peace, the sons bury their fathers, but in war it is the fathers who send their sons to the grave. But why overthink things? What I read into this is the creeping notion that we are less in control of our Fate than we realise. The branches of my son’s tree of life are rooted in the soil of destiny, not ancestry. The Greeks won the war against the Persians and it can’t be any other way because that’s what happened. So my son can’t grow up in any other way than he’ll grow up because that’s how he will grow up.

It feels almost liberating, to be a slave to the tides of Fate.

The Lion Hunt and Machismo

What a man Ashurbanipal was! Look at him, like a demi-god throttling a lion with his bare hands, trampling an entire pride with his chariot and spearing a male lion in the mouth from horseback. This Assyrian matador and gladiator, also one of ancient Mesopotamia’s greatest rulers, puts me and my manhood to absolute shame. Yesterday I posted a photo of a pint glistening in the spring sun on Instagram. Aren’t I the pinnacle of machismo! Look at me, world, I am man enough to drink a pint in the sun, give me your likes, your follows, worship me.

            I really did drink that pint. Ashurbanipal is unlikely to have killed an entire pride of lions. Certainly not with his bare hands. But if you’re going to lie about your machismo, that’s the way to go!

            I lie on Instagram all the time. It’s so easy. Take a photo and post it. But to lie about yourself on relief, covering the walls of an entire palace, in such artistic, tragic detail, to place yourself in the centre of such a powerful, vivid mise-en-scene – that’s how you lie about your manhood!

The Ides of March

The cold skin of the knife tickling the flesh, leaving goosebumps, like a lover’s tongue caressing secret parts of the bodies.

            Caesar’s voice begins its droll, this perpetual tyrant, corsair of Rome’s noble Republic, glory-hog, slut to the masses; the knife is eager for its destined thrust, to suck up the tyrant’s blood with its vampiric fang – fuck you and your Rubicon.

            By the gods, I can feel something in the air. March, March and the first breath of spring caresses my skin like the silken Mediterranean.

            No, today, there is only one season, the season of knives. And after? And after! Oh gods.

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