Tuesday 28 January 2020

special person.

Hello, I am Flaxen Saxon's grandaughter. I am nine years old. I'm going to go see my new school tomorrow.

Okay, it seems my impish grandchild has posted on my blog. I should be more vigilant but I'm an indulgent grandfather. My daughter and her two kids are staying with us for a while in order to sort out the complex phenomenon called life. It allows me to dote on my grand fruits. This affords great pleasure in my impending dotage. Anyway, I thought it appropriate to leave Kayley's comment unsullied. The simplest sentiments are often the best. 

Sunday 26 January 2020

Flagella Dei

Welcome to your new lodger

Parasites are unsettling, nay unnerving. There is a bewildering variety of organisms that live by exploiting other organisms to their host’s detriment. Tis a great life being an endo-parasite all tucked up cosy and warm in your host – until the anthelmintic drugs arrive. Anyway, to be a true parasite the organism needs to be totally dependent on the host organism, or organisms. I say organisms because many parasites exploit several host species during different stages of their life cycle.
Many years ago I was engaged in research involving the snail vector harbouring the worm responsible for the parasitic disease, schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia. This lovely God endorsed condition is estimated to blight about 225 million people resulting in 100,000s of deaths worldwide. Eggs from the adult worm find their way into lakes and static water in regions where this disease is endemic (Africa, SE Asia). There the egg hatches forming the larval stage. The free-swimming parasite eventually becomes incorporated into an aquatic fresh-water snail. Within the snail the parasite undergoes further development before being released into the aquatic medium as a free-swimming entity; mayhap doing the parasite stroke. On contact with human skin, the organism bores into flesh. Once inside the primary host, the worm migrates to the liver’s hepatic portal vein. Here it hunkers down with its brethren and matures. And, as is the nature of things, male and female worms fall in love and as lovers, they embrace and travel as if on honeymoon to the gut and bladder. There, the eggs from their romantic endevours are excreted into the host’s faeces and urine and eventually arrive in the village water supply. The newly hatched larvae seek out a new dormitory in an unsuspecting snail, and thus the great circle of life begins anew (how quaint). There have been many expensive/expansive programmes throughout the years designed to treat infected individuals and eradicate or at least control the snail population. Although to date, the disease is still a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the affected/infected regions. If only the locals would refrain from urinating and defaecating in the water from which they drink and bathe. In fact, the simplest, and most cost-effective control, involves education. If villagers could/would halt from using their precious waterways as a toilet, then the parasite's life-cycle would be interrupted/disrupted saving many millions of dollars in expensive and largely useless schemes. It seems a sensible suggestion, don't ya think? Sadly cultural cycles are more difficult to break than the parasitical (is this a real word?) kind.
My personal parasite story: twenty years ago, I had a thorough medical. One of the procedures involved an examination of my ocular acuity. And so, it transpired that I was diagnosed with a vivid/livid scar on my choroid. At some stage, as a toddler, I was allowed to wallow in dirt infested with a parasite deposited in cat faeces. Children are naturally curious about environmental issues and to show I was a young champion of environmental causes I stuffed some dirt into my gaping maw, unbeknownst to my never vigilant parents. The rest was smeared in a cosmetic splurge upon a child contemplating how to burn down the garden shed: from little acorns, mighty oaks shall grow. Therefore I acquired a parasitic load which destroyed a good proportion of the vision in my left eye.
Let me introduce you to an endearing parasitic critter, called Onchocerca Volvulus. This parasite, a resident of West Africa, is passed on by the native, black fly. After a human is bitten by an infected fly the parasite migrates to the skin where it develops into the adult worm. Thereafter it releases myriads of microfilaria. The worms themselves can cause severe skin problems in the infected individual resulting in widespread skin damage. But it is the microfilaria which migrates freely throughout the victim's eye that can result in permanent blindness in children and adults. This parasite can only fully develop in a human host. This rather unpalatable fact introduces the vexed and contentious, leastways for theists: the 'Problem of Evil'.
Parasites pose a real moral dilemma for theists who believe in the conventional God of Christianity. How can an all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing deity provide stewardship for parasites, let alone create them? Even the most well-adapted parasite causes some harm; tis in the definition. In my opinion, these inconvenient facts have not been adequately addressed or resolved by theists in spite of the verbal contortions and semantic contrivances performed by those devoted to absolve their beloved deity of any wrongdoing. Indeed, a whole branch of theology has grown up to tackle the ‘Problem of Evil’, called theodicy. If you would like to see my personal take on theodicy, you can view it here. To my mind, it is impossible to square the Christian concept of God with the evil done by parasitic organisms. Of course, you could argue that God is limited in capabilities allowing a ‘good God’ to be compatible with evil due to impotence. This has never been a popular view with theists as it implies a limitation of God’s power and a fall from perfection. Although some Christians, historically and currently, find this an acceptable solution to the problem of evil, it has never been a mainstream viewpoint for rather obvious reasons. Therefore, if you accept a God, as conventionality envisaged, you have to face the rather unsettling and concerning conclusion that the existence of parasites is part of God’s grand scheme. This introduces a paradox and a contradiction: adherents to Christian dogma must accept that God can do no evil but are faced with the inconvenient reality that God has created creatures whose sole purpose, or so it appears, is to inflict pain and misery on God’s beloved creation. Some Christians appear happy with the explanation that God’s plan and its implementation are beyond the feeble intellect of man. To anyone with an ounce of intellectual integrity, this is not a particularly satisfying solution to a rather intractable problem. Therefore, to remain a good Christian it is necessary to accept a ‘double standard’ of innate morality. Personally, I find this stance morally repugnant, repellant and indefensible by anyone with a modicum of intellectual rectitude: god has been rightly indited, found wanting and condemned accordingly- discuss.

Tuesday 21 January 2020

OCD Revisited

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (definition): An anxiety disorder in which people have recurring unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).

I wrote about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) a couple of years ago, of course, with a humorous slant. About 2% of the population is burdened with this condition- this refers to the proportion of the population exhibiting frank pathology. OCD generally manifests in childhood and the symptoms are progressive in nature with most folk diagnosed by about 19 years of age. The percentage of the population with sub-clinical OCD is much higher. Whether we count cracks in the pavement or touch lamp posts as we pass by, tis but a minor distraction and most sensible folk thus afflicted realise the malady as such and keep the silly aspects to themselves, or perhaps share with serious close friends, if we have them.

In my previous post I documented my rather tame experience with OCD. My OCD consists of a mild disquiet of things left undone. Did I turn off the stove? Did I remember to add a critical reagent to an in vitro culture at a crucial time? The answer is always an unequivocal YES. However, this is where the irrational aspect kicks in: can I be absolutely certain that the action has been undertaken? The answer is an unequivocal NO. No one can be absolutely certain of anything unless they are irredeemably stupid. In my instance its a relatively benign behavioural phenomenon and inconvenience. But when it strikes it invariably strikes at 4 o’clock at night when I’m tucked up cosy and warm in bed. The alien thought intrudes initially as a small germ within my mind. At this stage, I usually ignore the small but nagging doubt. This is always a mistake. The longer I ignore the uninvited intrusion the more it grows. The germ begins as a single cell but starts to divide and grow in proportion to the time ignored, exponentially. Inevitably I have to get my sorry arse out of bed and go to investigate the cause of my irritation. The oven is off and cool to the touch. But this does not stop me from checking that all the knobs are in the 'off' position at least three times. Of course, as always, the rational portion of my brain is vindicated and the irrational part is satiated, for now. 

My boss and friend is an individual possessed of a most rational persona. He is measured, logical and very smart. A more sensible man it would be hard to find. And yet he has a compulsion to clean. Actually, it is not so much cleanliness that assails his psyche but more a sense of tidiness and order. His house is tidy to the extent of sterility. You would think his wife would be overjoyed, but this is not the case. He will often clean around her while she is still eating- pisses her off, no end. 

OCD is a classic spectrum condition. I refrain from using the word ‘disorder’ as this implies pathology and for most folk, this is not the case. At the extreme end of the spectrum, OCD can be a catastrophic life-changing condition. For many, such as myself, it may involve a simple routine, oft-repeated. It never impinges on normal life and should be considered as a mere quirk. I’m full of quirks and idiosyncrasies. This is not clinical pathology but a simple expression of my frail humanity and complex psychological makeup. For the 2% of the population at the other end of the chain, the condition can become a neurological disability of epic proportions: repetitious behaviour, mundane and stereotypic. The actions, often simple in nature, become overwhelmingly compelling thus interfering with normal life activities. This irrational and often ritualistic behaviour cannot be broken without dire psychological and in some instances, physiological consequences. Those at this extreme edge are relatively rare and few are blighted to this extent.

There appears to be a genetic component although the genetics is poorly understood and a diagnosis is arrived at by clinical criteria alone. Certainly, identical twins show a concordance of the disorder higher than predicted by chance. Thus, OCD can be seen as a classic polygenetic aberration with many genes having a cumulative and adverse effect. It cannot be ruled out that there are environmental factors, such as stress, or bacterial or viral infections acting as an initiating event.

Do any of my readers have OCD, either expressed as pathology or expressed as a minor inconvenience? I would be interested to hear of any experiences my esteemed and loyal readership would like to share. I suspect the non-clinical variety, especially in developed societies, occurs at a relatively high level. This is not surprising as it is extremely easy to hide minor expressions of OCD. Also, folk may rationalise repetitive behaviours to an extent where it feels and appears normal: good for them say I!

OCD is a fascinating topic for analysis and discussion, especially at the ‘low end’ of the behavioural spectrum. I have long become accepting of my OCD and I’m reconciled to my odd behavioural activities. Indeed, my quirks relating to OCD are very much part of my psychological make-up and they hold no terrors for me. For the most part, my ‘rituals’ are not obvious to others, even my close family, as I do not advertise or draw attention to my actions. They are performed in silence and in no way interfere with the expression of my daily activities. 

Anyway, I must go, I have suddenly become overwhelmed with the nagging doubt that I have forgotten to burn down my neighbour’s house. Clearly, this possible oversight, although unlikely, requires my immediate attention.......

Thursday 16 January 2020

Fanny Candles

Apparently, Gwyneth Paltrow has released a new product as part of her ‘Goop’ merchandise range. For a modest US$75 you can buy a candle that smells like her twat. Here, is the marketing blurb that accompanies this rather salubrious and fiery combustible (is there any other type?): funny, gorgeous, sexy and beautifully unexpected. A mix of geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with damask rose and ambrette seed.  I have to say it has been my life’s ambition to find a woman with a ‘nether bit’ that smells of damask rose and ambrette seed.  In my modest experience, most women do not have a fanny exuding citrusy bergamot notes. In general, exuding is never a good thing and in fairness, I would settle for a woman with a twat smelling of Canesten. Although not a gorgeous, sexy and beautifully unexpected scent, at least it has the ‘air’ of practicality about it. There is nothing sexy about having an itchy cock.  


Sunday 5 January 2020

A Man of the Empire

1865-1936. A man who served the Empire. Good man, that Kipling.

Back in 1995, Rudyard Kipling was voted Britain's favourite poet and the favourite poem was Kipling's, 'IF'. No doubt voted for by people who have not read his work, apart from 'IF'. Fast forward to 2015 and the nation's favourite poet morphs into TS Elliot. Quite a change in subjective taste- go figure. 

To be honest, I'm not a fan of  Kiplin's prose or poetry, or for any of his work for that matter. Tis a matter of taste, of course, and much of Kipling's work is anachronistic and has not travelled well. It is interesting to read his work pre-Great War and subsequently. I will have more to say on this matter later on in this post. 

Kipling, in my opinion, was a poor poet prone to pomposity and moralising and yet, all the same, had the knack of juxtaposing platitudes in a pleasing manner. Perhaps I'm being unfair, some of his prose ascends to the sublime although much of his work is simply silly, especially to the modern mind and sense. Read the following and tell me if I'm wrong: "I heard the knives behind me, but I durns't face my man, Nor I don't know where I went to, cause I didn't stop to see, Till I heard a beggar squealing out for quarter as he ran, And I thought I knew the voice and- it was me." Kipling had the annoying habit of dropping haitches and the ending, 'g' when portraying the working class soldiery. Tis a condescending and distracting trait that adds nothing to the composition, so in the quoted version I have erred on the side of correct English usage. It is a rendering of his social class, and of his time and we are apt to forget how dripping in social class, Britain, and especially England, was just two generations ago. Lest us, not us forget that Kipling was a colonial living in India, in what polite English society, of late 19th century, would describe as 'rude and quaintly, barbaric'. Flies, dysentery and the damned heat were never fashionable. And of course, there was the smell. Imagine the crowded Indian bazaar/bizarre of the late 19th century and perhaps you can gain a glimpse of the noisome atrocity that assails the olfactory sense, then and even now. 

It is interesting to note that Kipling has remained 'popular' with non-literary folk and despised by those with literary pretension- quite a legacy. Those on the 'left' hate him for his jingoist imperialism irrespective of any intrinsic poetic merit. The views of Kipling are well portrayed in his verse and reflect a 'Kipling' who was very much a man of his time: A Victorian. Not only a Victorian but also a member of the ascendant race which ruled the world; heady stuff. However, as a wretched colonial, he never had the cultural merits of polite London society. He was always considered a 'rude barbarian' moderately burnished with a societal tan. This may have been part of his underlying problem in polite Victorian society. It was said that his 'tan' was more than skin deep, hinting of past ancestral indiscretions with the local 'duskies'.

Kipling's poetry changed as the world changed. But like the true Victorian he was, he failed to comprehend that change and was left adrift in a Modern World where certainty had perished on Flanders field.  Indeed, his poetry undergoes a modification after the Great War. Before that time, it is bold, sure-footed and on the side of god, king, and country. Kipling's god is a good god and punishes hubris and his king never strays from his queen's bedchamber.  The war changed him. Idealism was lost and he was smart enough to realise that 'right' was no longer enough to prevail, the only thing that really mattered was 'might'. This has always been the case and yet is not always appreciated, especially in times of prolonged peace. After the war, a strain of cynicism and bitterness enters his work. Gone is the certainty of the privileged middle-class man living in an Anglo-centric world. What enters is bewilderment and incomprehension. Although the British Empire had prevailed in the greatest war ever known, it had inexplicably become weakened and superseded by 'lesser breeds'. His earlier work is like the Empire at its Greatest: grandiose, immensely confident and without error. Post-1918: his foot and intellect flounder in the intellectual mud of 1917. I suspect that a great part of his intellectual sinking and demise has, in the main, been attuned to the death of his son on the 1915 Western Front battlefield- his son's body was never recovered. 

Kipling acknowledged the reality of a post-Great War world but could not offer an anodyne or even a ready anecdote. However, the post-Great War World was about to get a lot worse......Ain't da the sad 

 Anyway, here is the poem, 'IF', in its entirety. In my opinion, it is cloying and 'preachy' although some of the couplets are very seductive at the emotional level. Please judge and let me know what you think.


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Saturday 4 January 2020

The Great Filter

According to the Drake equation (formulated in 1961) there should be at least 50,000,000 intelligent technological civilisations in our Milky Way galaxy. More recent calculations, based on modern cosmological observations, give a more conservative estimate of 15,600,000 civilisations. Regardless, the theory and the mathematics predict substantial numbers of planets, within our own galaxy, supporting advanced technological life. Through the SETI program, vast resources have been spent in trying to identify intelligent life in the universe but so far to no avail. I have discussed this topic before in a post titled: ‘Where are the Little Green Men’. You might want to acquaint yourselves with the discussion engendered there before continuing with this post. In this post, I would like to concentrate on one specific issue: ‘The Great Filter’.

The ‘Great Filter’ idea was first proposed, not by a scientist, but the economist, Robin Hanson, in 1996. His thesis is an attempt to address the Fermi paradox. The Fermi paradox deals with the apparent contradiction regarding the high probability of advanced life in the universe and the total lack of evidence for said life. Hanson's proposal states that developing life, simple and intelligent, is subject to a series of sequential barriers that need to be overcome for future development. Failure to pass through these ‘barriers’ is likely to lead to extinction. A series of barriers, or filters, would be expected to decrease the number of potential civilisations present in the universe. Could it be that these filters have removed all advanced life forms except, one, that is us? Perhaps our civilisation hasn’t reached the critical event yet and the potential for extinction is still to come. Hanson proposes nine possibilities that must be fulfilled for intelligent life to evolve and advance to the ultimate attainment of interstellar travel:

The right star system

Formation of RNA and DNA molecules

Evolution of simple single cells (prokaryotes)

Evolution of complex single cells (eukaryotes)

Evolution of sexual reproduction

Complex, multi-cellular organisms

Tool using intelligent organisms

The technological stage that exists now

Colonisation of the galaxy/universe

This list should not be considered exhaustive and there may be other important and salient factors influencing the developmental process. The big question: has our civilisation passed the block or is the catastrophe still to come? Hanson thinks that the filter lies ahead. Thus, in his opinion, there is a barrier, in the future, that will, or may, prevent further progress. Several candidates are waiting to extinguish our existence: mayhap an asteroid will strike and wipe out all civilisation; there is the possibility that a supervolcano will erupt spreading ash, doom, and destruction upon our upturned and soot begrimed faces. These possibilities are considered rare contenders for our demise. There are more likely candidates: nuclear armageddon. A war between the super-powers could result in nuclear escalation ending in the total annihilation of civilisation; there is a possibility that Earth's resources will become exhausted. This may not necessarily lead to the total destruction of humanity, but it might push us back to a pre-technological status. A status from which it may prove difficult for us to return to our current technological advancement; there is a real possibility of a viral pandemic. Consider the humble flu virus. In 1918 a particularly virulent strain of influenza afflicted half of the human population resulting in a hundred million deaths. Given the rapid mutation rate of viruses, a future pandemic is a virtual certainty. However, it is difficult to gauge the impact this will have on our civilisation; there is a particularly chilling option. Our ability to create machines with artificial intelligence has become a reality and we continue to make vast strides in the arena of artificial intelligence. Perhaps, soon, we will develop machines that will think and act independently of their masters; machines endowed with a self-learning intellect immeasurably superior to our own. If we are unable to control our Frankenstein monster then we may find that the human race is deemed an impediment to our former robotic slaves. What happens when the human race finds itself redundant? These are just a few possible 'filter' scenarios. I'm sure my readers could think of others- let me know in the comments.     

Let us strive for optimism and imagine the following: by some means, somehow, we gather enough wisdom and knowledge to break through the remaining barrier. What awaits humanity on the other side? Assuming that technology continues to increase at the current rate we may expect to see colonisation, in the relatively near future, of our solar system beginning with the moon, and then perhaps, Mars. Obviously, the greatest barrier to interstellar travel is the vast distances entailed. Even travel to the nearest star, travelling at the speed of light, would take over four years. It is worth noting that we are denied the possibility of reaching light speed and even significant sub-light speeds by the fundamental laws of physics and ultimate universal reality. Some physicists believe that we can overcome this limitation by developing the warp drive. In this way, we could travel almost instantaneously between vast cosmic distances. However, warping spacetime comes with a hefty price. Indeed, the energy requirements are truly staggering and are unlikely to be attained by current technology. Therefore, it will be necessary to develop a system with manageable and feasible energy requirements. If mastered, the warp drive would allow for the rapid colonisation of other star systems. 

Hanson is a pessimist (ever met an optimistic economist?) and considers that the forthcoming 'Great Filter' represents a fundamental challenge for our species. If he is right this could explain why we see no evidence for other advanced civilisations, because there are none and we are all alone in a cold, uncaring universe. Could it be that we are special, very special (the snowflakes were right all along), and in the next million years or so we will become the masters of the galaxy?  What will we do if we encounter an emerging civilisation technologically less advanced than our own? Will we nurture that civilisation and provide succour? Or will we crush it underfoot and discard its broken remnants amongst the stars? Personally, I would like to see them burn. But, I would say that, wouldn't I?

There goes the alien neighbourhood


Wednesday 1 January 2020

The Cultural Influence of Greece Upon Rome

Happy New Year and belated Yuletide greetings to all my readers. May this year provide great bounty and may your esteemed countenances be showered with honeyed sweetmeats and stuff.

Now moving on to the topic in hand.

By the beginning of the third century BC, the western Mediterranean was dominated by the city-states of Carthage in north Africa and Syracuse in Sicily. Alexander, The Great (356-323 BC), had concentrated his forces and conquests toward the east, however, once his eastern conquests had been completed it is likely that his war machine would have turned west to tackle Greece's oldest enemy, the Carthaginians. But it was not to be as Alexander died at 33 and left his vast, but fragile empire, to be divided between his quarrelsome generals.

At the time of Alexander’s conquest, Rome was still expanding and consolidating power in the Italian peninsula. By 290 BC Rome was in control of the majority of Italy after the ultimate defeat of an old intractable enemy, the Samnites. The next step for the Romans in their pursuit of Italian domination was to move against the Greek dominion of southern Italy.

The Greeks had carved out a presence in southern Italy in the eighth and seventh centuries  BC. The first city to come under the Roman heel was Neapolis in 327 BC. Others followed during the Samnite and Pyrrhic wars. The Greek city of Tarentum was the last to fall on the mainland in 272 BC and the Greek city of Syracuse, Sicily, was absorbed during the Second Punic war (212 BC). Further contact between the Greek and Roman world would continue as Roman power expanded during the Punic wars and it was inevitable that Rome would come into conflict with Macedonian power. By 148 BC, Macedonian power in Asia and Europe had been broken and only the Macedonian Egyptian monarchy remained unsullied; leastways by Roman power.

After this brief introduction, I would like to consider the cultural interactions between Rome and Greece during this historical period. Firstly, let me deal with the impact of Roman culture on the Greeks: I think it can be said, with confidence, that the cultural impact of Rome upon Greece was virtually nil. The Greeks were notably and rightly proud of their contribution to the arts and philosophy and were loath to assimilate, with minor exceptions, cultural influences from other nations. Haughty Greeks were of the opinion that non-Greek peoples were barbaric and inferior. However, when the Greeks came into contact with the Romans, although they considered them inferior in terms of culture and civilisation, they nevertheless recognised and respected, albeit grudgingly, Roman military might and their inherent political stability; political stability was never a quality that could ever be ascribed to Greeks, then and now.  

The effect of Greek culture on the Romans: When the Romans came into contact with the Greeks it became obviously manifest to them that they were vastly inferior to the Greeks in artistic and intellectual endeavour. Roman culture seemed tawdry in comparison and Greek culture captured/captivated the imagination of the Roman elite, especially the young. Cultivated Romans strained to learn Greek and ape Greek mannerisms and culture. The relationship was essentially parasitic as Rome never developed a new art form or an original philosophic system.  However, the promulgation of Greek ideas and culture did not sit well with conservative and traditionalist Romans. Traditionalist Romans considered the Greeks as effete, decadent and prone to homosexuality; by this time in history, the Greeks were guilty on all accounts. Cato the elder (234-149 BC) was a good representative of the conservative backlash after the second Punic war. He hankered for a return to simple Roman virtues. Of course, simple virtues whatever they represent, are for folk who cannot see and most folk are blind. Although Cato could lead a simple life of dignitas and virtue, few had the iron will to follow him into his unbending and austere landscape and regimen. Cato represented 'old Rome', an ideal that existed prior to the Punic wars. Then, the Romans had been a simple bucolic folk endowed with all the qualities of farmers: austere, brutal, hardworking and stupid. 

The first contact with the Roman war machine came as a shock for the Greeks who perceived the Romans as wantonly brutal. After a few battles, the Greeks maintained a healthy respect for Roman might and the fear of atrocity was ever-present. 

In the end, the stability of 'Pax Romana', over several centuries enabled Greek culture to endure and spread. This was particularly so in the eastern part of the empire centred on the city of  Constantinople. There developed a divergence within the empire. Greek became the language of the eastern empire and Latin was reserved for legal documentation and letters to the emperor, while the western part of the empire, spoke Latin. The barbarian incursions of the fifth century AD destroyed the last of what was Roman civilisation in the West. However, the eastern part of the empire, although beset with numerous enemies, managed to endure for a further thousand years. During the 'Dark Ages,' Greek culture and learning were lost to the West. Rude Germanic barbarians cared little for sophistry and the dialectic. In this case, the sword turned out to be mightier than the pen. In the seventh century AD, the conquering Arabs acquired Roman lands in the east and quickly became acquainted with Greek culture and civilisation. They were suitably impressed and they began to translate and issue commentary on Greek texts thus, what had been lost to the West became preserved. Contact with the Muslims in Spain resulted in learned men of the West becoming reacquainted with Greek ideas, knowledge, and philosophy. This acted as a spur and impetus to Western learning in the eleventh century leading to the rise of Scholastic philosophy. In addition, wise men of the West came to know Arabic numerals, algebra, and alchemy. They quickly realised the importance of the Arabic counting system and its superiority over Roman numerals.  The scene had been set for the European renaissance, the rise of Western science and European world dominance. But that, of course, is another story.  

Cato in repose