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Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem

“Remedies are more tardy in their operations than diseases… it is easier to crush men’s spirits and their enthusiasm than to revive them”*…

 

 

It is time to bring Tacitus and the vibrant intellectual tradition that he inspired out of the shadows. Indeed, in an era in which the recrudescence of great-power rivalry has increasingly taken on ideological undertones, the Roman statesman’s rich commentary on the grim and stultifying nature of autocratic rule is more timely now than ever. Indeed, amid an intensifying battle over competing systems of government, the raw accusatory power that quietly ripples through Tacitus’ oeuvre constitutes a formidable force in liberal democracy’s intellectual arsenal.

Having served under several emperors, eventually reaching the rank of consul under Nerva, the Roman scholar-practitioner’s reflections serve not only as a lugubrious reminder of the gloom of a life shorn of genuine freedom but also as a warning against succumbing to complacency in the face of democratic corrosion within our own societies.

Of all the Roman historians, Tacitus offers the clearest understanding of how moral resignation forms the dank loam within which tyranny takes root…

Despite Tacitus’ towering moral and intellectual influence over the centuries, his works are only rarely consulted by contemporary students of authoritarianism; we should look again: “Thrones Wreathed in Shadow: Tacitus and the Psychology of Authoritarianism.”

* “Remedies are more tardy in their operations than diseases, and as bodies slowly increase, but quickly perish, so it is easier to crush men’s spirits and their enthusiasm than to revive them; indeed there comes over us an attachment to the very enforced inactivity, and the idleness hated at first is finally loved.”   — Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Life of Cnaeus Julius Agricola

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As we learn from history, we might that it was on this date in 587 BCE that king Nebuchadnezzar II‘s  siege of Jerusalem ended in his victory, with the destruction of the Temple of Solomon (and much of the rest of the city).

Following an earlier siege (1597 BCE), the Neo-Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar had installed Zedekiah as vassal king of Judah.  But Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, the king of Egypt… to which Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah again.

220px-Nebuchadnezzar_camp_outside_Jerusalem._Famine_in_the_city

Nebuchadnezzar camps outside Jerusalem. The citizens starve and are reduced to cannibalism. (Petrus Comestor‘s “Bible Historiale”), 1372

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Through Ancient Eyes…

 

In February 1862 the eldest son of Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII, embarked on a four-and-a-half month journey through the Middle East. The royal party followed what was on the face of it a conventional itinerary, sailing from Venice down the Dalmatian coast on the royal yacht Osborne to Alexandria, cruising up the Nile to Aswan to view the sites of ancient Egypt, crossing to Jaffa for a tour of the Holy Land, then returning to England via the Ionian islands and Constantinople.

Among the party—included at the last moment—was the photographer Francis Bedford, who in over 190 prints produced one of the earliest photographic records of the region. These sepia studies, soft-lit yet rich in detail, were achieved with a cumbrous caravan of lenses, tripods, chemicals, plates, and a portable darkroom. His subjects were mostly but not all the sites of ancient or biblical significance that Western visitors already favored: the ruined survivors of a stupendous past that they could half claim for themselves…

The full story– and more photos– at “When the Ruins Were New.”

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As we trek down memory lane, we might recall that it was on this date in 1099, after seven weeks of siege, that Christian forces of the First Crusade breached the walls of Jerusalem and began their massacre of the city’s Muslim and Jewish population.  The troubles began earlier in the 11th century, when Christians in Jerusalem came under increasing pressure from the city’s Islamic rulers– pressure that intensified when control of the holy city passed from the relatively tolerant Egyptians to the Seljuk Turks in 1071.  The troubles continue to this day.

Late medieval (14th or 15th century?) illustration of the capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade

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Written by LW

July 14, 2013 at 1:01 am

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