I recently attended a three day history conference. Now I know that sounds like torture to a lot of people but I loved it. One of the highlights was a professor of ancient history giving a lecture comparing democracy in ancient Greece and modern Europe. In particular he drew parallels between the Brexit Referendum in 2016 and the Sicilian Expedition during the Peloponnesian War (431-404BC). Whatever your views of the referendum, it was an exercise in democracy on an very large scale. Over 33,000,000 people voted – 72% of registered voters and 65% of the voting age population. In Athens, the people’s assembly (demos) voted on all government business; it was a direct rather than a representative democracy. In 415BC, the demos voted enthusiastically in favour of a plan to conquer Sicily. The expedition was a disaster and the Athenians lost 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. Whether the Brexit vote turns into a disaster on the scale of Sicily is anyone’s guess (personally, I doubt it). The point I am trying to make is that studying Classical History helps us to understand the workings of democracy. People are people, demagogues are demagogues – although I would hesitate to compare Boris Johnson to Alcibiades because he would like it too much. Upper-class playboy with a penchant for rabble-rousing and swapping sides? Sounds familiar?Classical History gives us so much. It’s not just the people and the stories but our whole civilisation. I cannot be the only person who is irritated when the West described as having been built on ‘Judeo-Christian’ values. It was not. It was built on Classical values – the values of Athens and Rome not Jerusalem. Yes, there are some cracking stories in the Bible but the myths of the Olympians are just as compelling. And if you want characters, Classical History is awash with them – Caligula and his horse, Nero and his mother, Justinian and his stripper wife. Look it up!
I definitely think the people of Greece and Rome had a better attitude to sex than any ‘Judeo-Christian.’ I will be the first to acknowledge that the Greeks and Romans were tolerant of what we might call paedophilia, although it might be more accurately described as pederasty (yes, I am aware that I am splitting hairs). But the attitudes of Jews, Christians and Muslims towards sex is far, far worse than anything the Ancients could imagine. The followers of the three Abrahamic delusions (three religions that are in fact one) are obsessed with sex, have an unhealthy fixation on female virginity, are always angry and demand RESPECT for their anti-human ideas.
I have recently become aware of the Roman poet Catullus. This is one of the great joys of History, there is always more to discover. Catullus was a poet of the late Roman Republic who preferred to write about his friends and about sex than great Homeric heroes. His most famous – or notorious – poem is Carmen 16. I have included it here in Latin with an English translation and a modern prose version. Please DO NOT scroll down if you are easily offended. My point is that the Greek and Roman attitude to most things, but especially sex, is far better than any of the modern twerps who cloak their misogyny and homophobia in religious garb.
Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,
Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi,
qui me ex versiculis meis putastis,
quod sunt molliculi, parum pudicum.
Nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necessest;
qui tum denique habent salem ac leporem,
si sunt molliculi ac parum pudici
et quod pruriat incitare possunt,
non dico pueris, sed his pilosis
qui duros nequeunt movere lumbos.
Vos, quod milia multa basiorum
legistis, male me marem putatis?
Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.
I will sodomise you and face-fuck you,
Cocksucking Aurelius and anus-busting Furius,
You who think, from my verses
Because they are delicate, that I have no shame.
For it is right for the devoted poet
To be chaste himself, but it’s not
Necessary for his verses to be so.
[Verses] which then indeed have taste and charm,
If they are delicate and have no shame,
And because they can incite an itch,
And I don’t mean in boys, but in
Those hairy old men who can’t get it up.
You, because you have read my many thousands of kisses,
You think me less of a man?
I will sodomise you and face-fuck you.
And in modern English prose…
Fuck you, boys, up the butt and in the mouth, you queer Aurelius and you fag Furius! You size me up, on the basis of my poems, because they’re a little sexy, as not really decent. A poet has to live clean – but not his poems. They only have spice and charm, if somewhat sexy and really not for children – if, in fact, they cause body talk (I’m not talking in teenagers, but in hairy old men who can barely move their stiff bums). But you, because you happen to read about “many thousands of kisses,” you think I’m not a man? Fuck you, boys, up the butt and in the mouth!