Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gotta love VDH

An analogy to make you go . . . "huh?" and start reaching for the dictionary.

It is sort of like the retiarius throwing his net every which way while stabbing with trident—only to cry foul and “how dare you!” when nicked back by the sica of the Thracian.

-Victor Davis Hanson, from a recent political commentary article.

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retiarius (plural retiari or retiarii)

  1. A type of gladiator, who uses a casting net (a rete or iaculum) as a weapon.

sīca
(genitive sīcae); f, first declension
  1. a poniard, a curved dagger

Thracian

  1. an inhabitant of Thrace, regardless of ethnicity (plural Thracians).

Thrace
  1. A region in northeastern Greece, much of southern Bulgaria, and parts of northwestern Turkey.

1 comment:

Greg said...

I had a professor, one of my favorites (I took five courses from him), who could grab Aristotle off the shelf, in GREEK, or Thomas Aquinas, in LATIN, find the passage he wanted, and read it to me, in ENGLISH. I'm fairly sure Vic Hansen can do the same. But I don't think he's pretentious about it, it's just part of his expertise.
What I really admire about Hansen, as I'm sure you discovered reading his book on the Peloponesian war, is that his background as a farmer gives him a real world perspective that so many academics completely lack. He can drive a tractor, plant a fence post, and haul irrigation pipe as well as any day laborer. When describing the tactics of the Spartans against the Athenians, trying to trash their farms to hit their economic base for making war, he asks "Have you ever tried to cut down an olive tree? How about 350,000 of them?" Realizing that in those pre-mechanized days, it took ten people farming to support eleven, he also notes how their tactics for warfare were so seasonally dependent--you can't burn a field of grain except in a very narrow window of time.
And therein lies the reason I rank Hansen alongside Thomas Sowell as my most admired columnists today: they know what the real world is about, and what it takes to get along in it. They have no illusions about "hope and change", that human nature now is no different than it was in ancient Greece, and that we can learn much from history about what works and what won't.