Saturday, February 11, 2006


I've just started Boris Johnson's The Dream of Rome, and I thought you might like a taster.

He tells the story of one of greatest military disasters in Roman history, the battle known as the Teutoburg Forest, in which Publius Quinctilius Varus lost three entire legions to the German tribes under Arminius. Evidently, the German women would hang around just behind the lines ready to move in and strip the bodies of the fallen enemy of anything that could be used or swapped. However, they had another function.

If a barbarian retreated or was beaten back, it was standard for the wives to bare their breasts in a kind of Sun Page Three exhortation to the troops. 'This is what you are fighting for!' they would cry, and the barbarian would pick up his sword or axe, wipe the blood from his nose, thank the girl for reminding him and run back to battle.
Typical Boris Johnson, as is his explanation for not addressing himself before now to the great question of how Rome unified Europe (and, presumably, why it can't be done now).
Much of my university career was spent, alas, in dissolution of one kind or another.

There are sure to be more treats in store.

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