Why do we remember Greek victories but Roman defeats?

5 Possible Explanations

Not everyone knows their Greek and Roman history. To help, I’ve made a list of the 10 most famous Greek and Roman battles, not including any from a civil war or battle between Greek city states. I suspect that most history nerds would agree with about 80% of these lists. Feel free to make your own list and see if the pattern still holds up. The lists are in chronological order rather than how famous they are.

Famous Greek Battles (VictoriesDefeats)

  1. Siege of Troy – The Mycenaeans sack the Hittite city of Troy.
  2. Battle of Thermopylae – 300 Spartans make a last stand to halt a Persian invasion.
  3. Battle of Marathon – The Greeks defeat the Persian army at Marathon, halting an invasion.
  4. Battle of Salamis – The Greek fleet destroys the Persian fleet, halting another invasion.
  5. Battle of Plataea – The Greeks defeat the Persian army, halting the second Persian invasion.
  6. Battle of Issus – Alexander the Great defeats the Persian king Darius, securing Asia Minor.
  7. Siege of Tyre – Alexander the Great connects the island to the mainland to take the city
  8. Battle of Gaugamela – Alexander the Great again defeats Darius against improbable odds and conquers the Persian Empire.
  9. Battle of the Hydaspes River – Alexander the Great defeats the Indian king Porus in the last major battle of his campaign.
  10. Battle of Pydna – The Macedonian Greeks lose to Rome and are added to the expanding republic.

Famous Roman Battles (VictoriesDefeats)

  1. Battle of Heraclea – The Greek general Pyrrhus defeats the invading Roman army at a serious cost, giving birth to the term “Pyrrhic victory.”
  2. Siege of Syracuse – The Romans take the Sicilian city from Carthage after a struggle against Archimedes and his anti-siege inventions.
  3. Battle of the Trebia – The Carthaginian general Hannibal crosses the Alps and defeats the Romans in the first major battle of the Second Punic War.
  4. Battle of Cannae – Hannibal again obliterates a Roman army in his march across the Italian peninsula.
  5. Battle of Zama – Rome defeats Hannibal, ending the Second Punic War
  6. Battle of Carrhae – The Roman consul Crassus attempts to invade the Parthian Empire and is crushed.
  7. Battle of Alesia – Roman consul Julius Caesar defeats the Gauls
  8. Battle of Teutoburg Forest – Germanic tribes ambush a Roman army, destroying it and halting Roman expansion at the Rhine.
  9. Battle of Adrianople – An Eastern Roman army is defeated by the Goths, marking the beginning of the end for the empire.
  10. Sack of Rome – The Goths, under Alaric, capture Rome and loot it.

Continue reading “Why do we remember Greek victories but Roman defeats?”


The 6 Greatest Ideas Ever Proposed by Young Earth Creationists

This article needs no introduction.

T. Rex was a vegetarian



For reals.

The idea of sharp-toothed vegetarian dinosaurs is actually a remarkably common belief in the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) community and has fairly sound creationist logic behind it. If you take a literal interpretation of the Bible then it’s the only thing to conclude after reading Genesis 1:29-30:

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Before the fall, all creatures were vegetarians. Only after Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden did things become corrupted and animals began eating each other. So, if you believe that man and dinosaur lived side-by-side, as many YECs do, then T. Rex would have to have been a vegetarian. The laughability of this conclusion appears completely lost on some, who write, “With those massive teeth, it’s still a mystery as to exactly what type of vegetation T. rex ate.”

God is just fucking with us

Not all YECs believe that man and dinosaur lived at the same time. Some believe dinosaurs never existed at all. This explanation also makes sense if you look at that T. Rex skull and think “that would definitely eat me,” so there’s no way humans and dinosaurs could have co-existed. And if humans and dinosaurs didn’t live together on a young Earth, then dinosaurs never existed at all.

Continue reading “The 6 Greatest Ideas Ever Proposed by Young Earth Creationists”

Yoda Speak: Orig Trig vs. Prequels

Something always bothered me about how Yoda speaks in the prequels and I couldn’t put my finger on it until now.

Yoda Speak, for those unawares, is a term to describe the Jedi master’s speech patterns in Star Wars. Like this, it sounds. It’s where instead of using the standard Subject, Verb, Object pattern typical of English (i.e. “I like turtles”), it uses the Object, Subject, Verb pattern (i.e. “Turtles, I like”). But is this really how Yoda spoke? I’ve taken the time to do an analysis, and the results will shock you!

I re-watched all of Yoda’s scenes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi from the original trilogy and all the Yoda scenes from The Phantom Menace of the prequels. I did not watch Yoda scenes from the other two prequels as YouTube was not as accommodating and there’s no way I’m expending extra effort to be tortured by those disasters. I counted how many times Yoda uses the normal Subject, Verb, Object (SVO) pattern, the “Yoda Speak” Object, Subject, Verb (OSV) pattern, and the irregular Object, Verb, Subject (OVS) which sounds odd (i.e. “Luminous beings are we”) but not as clearly differentiable from regular English as Yoda Speak.

It should also be noted that these three types don’t account for the entirety of Yoda’s dialogue. Sometimes he says things that are grammatically incorrect (“Yoda not far.”), one-word interrogatives or exclamations (“Looking?” “Patience”), or only uses a subject-pair and leaves out any object (“I know”). Yoda also prefers to use “not” in replace of “doesn’t” as in “size matters not,” or “wars not make one great.” I’m not counting those here, even if they might fall into one of the categories, simply because I’m more focused on SVO representing normal speech and OSV representing Yoda Speak. When referring to percentages, these refer to the three-category total, not the entire dialogue.

After counting the three types of sentence structure, I then calculated their percentages to see how representative Yoda Speak really is. Turns out, it depends entirely on which movie and trilogy you’re watching.

Yoda - Empire

This is the first time the audience is introduced to Yoda. At first, we don’t realize that this crazy swamp hermit is a Jedi master, but he eventually reveals himself to Luke. He then trains him for a brief period before Luke leaves to give a hand in Cloud City.

Continue reading “Yoda Speak: Orig Trig vs. Prequels”

How to Really Win an Argument with a Creationist

The internet loves debates, and perhaps none more than the evolution – creationism debate which usually devolves into calling people morons or saying they’re going to hell. There is without a doubt more people on the Darwinian evolution side on the internet, yet polls in the US show a different picture amongst the general population. For instance, Gallup’s regular poll on evolution shows that only 15% hold a Darwinian view of evolution while 46% believe in young earth creationism. So within the general populace evolutionists are greatly outnumbered. This is further marred by the fact that many self-professed Darwinian supporters do not even understand the theory correctly. It’s clear that in the public discussion, Darwinists are at a loss despite their monopoly on the science.

There’s also plenty of advice on youtube and other places on how best to win arguments against Creationists or Climate Change deniers, or other hot-button culture war issues. The problem is that almost all of them rely on pointing to evidence to counter the other person’s views. This will almost never work. We no longer live in a world (and never really did) where wit and argumentation can settle controversies like it was some 17th century theological dialogue. People can only change their beliefs voluntarily and, (to paraphrase the famed hypnotist Emile Coue) the only type of persuasion is self-persuasion. Continue reading “How to Really Win an Argument with a Creationist”

Evolutionary Ideas and What It Means for Politics

There appears to be a broad consensus that ideas evolve.  Ideas and beliefs emerge, die off, replicate, and mutate within our society, yet whether they are part of a grand evolutionary scheme is still hotly debated.  It mostly comes down to how literally we want to talk about evolution in the biological sense and how we want to describe mechanisms that contribute to evolution.  We’ll first have to figure out what we actually mean by evolution, then look at how various scholars have described the evolution of ideas under a rational system like science, and then look at how it might work under an irrational system like politics.

What is Evolution?

The problem with defining evolution is that the word was used in the lexicon far before Darwin’s theory.  Just as Copernicus more accurately described the orbit of the Earth around the sun by building on the previously-conceived notion of orbits, Darwin merely gave a better explanation for an already established notion of evolution.   Continue reading “Evolutionary Ideas and What It Means for Politics”

Is AMC’s The Walking Dead Racist?

This article covers the first half of season 3. Looking for a season 4 version? Click here.

I’m going to take a break from politics this week to address something that must be addressed about the hit show, The Walking Dead.   The show on AMC is based on the comic by Robert Kirkman yet only loosely follows the original plot.  SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE SHOW AND COMIC will follow below.

The series first tackled the issue of race in the second episode, painting a redneck character as blatantly racist and thus being dealt swift justice by the show’s protagonist, Rick.  Hooray for people overcoming prejudice in the apocalypse, unfortunately the writers and producers haven’t come nearly as far.  In the opening of the second season we first started to glimpse that the show was unable to unshackle itself from traditional stereotypes.  The female characters provided all the source of conflict, being panicked, incompetent, stubborn, and leading some to label the show as sexist.  For instance, one of the first scenes of the second season involves the group encountering a zombie horde.  Andrea, at first oblivious to the danger, immediately starts panicking and only barely manages to fend off an attacking zombie, Carol begins exhibiting signs of hysteria and must be physically restrained, and Carol’s daughter Sophia runs off for no reason twice.  The first half of the second season was based entirely around Sophia’s disappearance and the drama between Lori, Rick, and Shane with Lori’s most notable contributions being her patented “deer-in-the-headlights” look and her inability to drive a car.  However perhaps I am being too harsh, for all the sexist fall-traps of the second season, by the third, the female characters have become strong and capable.  Furthermore, we are introduced to Michonne who is pitched as a badass zombie-slayer that completely reverses any instilled notion about gender and the ability to dispatch zombies.

However, the appearance of Michonne carries with it the realization that the writers and producers can’t handle black characters.  “Showrunner” Glenn Mazzara has already made it abundantly clear in interviews that he  values the show’s marketability much more than the show’s source material.  Given this consideration perhaps the writers are merely  reflecting a deeper consciousness about race that prevails in society rather than their own personal projections.  Nonetheless, this third season has been the most problematic in terms of race and like the sexism, would not necessarily be racist in itself, yet when compared to the comic, production and character decisions become much clearer and quite frankly, much more racist.  Let’s start with T-Dog.

First, the name T-Dog is problematic from the start having already successfully been mocked for its connotation in the 2005 film Waiting… where a young wigger called Theodore insists on being called “T-Dog, yo.”  Then there’s the whole T-Dog/Tyrese controversy.  Tyrese was a character from the comics whom Rick’s group meets early on in the series.  He’s a big black guy that quickly becomes Rick’s good friend and essentially (and perhaps more literally) his right-hand, if not the group’s leader altogether.  Tyrese has a relationship with Carol and his daughter is also in an interracial relationship yet both are absent from the show.  Tyrese is the one who goes on a zombie-killing rampage out of rage instead of Rick and plays the foil to Rick’s poor leadership at times.  In other words, Tyrese is a huge character in the comics.

Meanwhile, the show has insisted that T-Dog is a completely different character, yet the fact that Tyrese is absent, T-Dog is there, and both their names start with “T” is enough to raise some eyebrows.  In some sense Tyrese’s spot is also filled by Shane and Daryl, both appearing in the show when they are absent in the comics.  So there’s the first decision, a positive black character is replaced by either meek T-Dog with hardly any dialogue or two white characters.  When T-Dog inevitably passed, there were two main threads of comments on his character, one that you knew it was coming because T-Dog had an unusually large amount of dialogue that episode, and two, that as soon as he was killed, he was immediately replaced by another black character.  This has led to speculation that the “T” actually stood for “Token.”

And then there’s Michonne, a character far too big to exclude, yet quite possibly the biggest letdown of the entire series.  On last night’s Talking Dead, AMC’s never-negative self-review, black actress Yvette Nicole Brown compared Michonne to the Terminator, calculating and deadly, yet this is perhaps the most forgiving interpretation out there.  In the show Michonne is always angry, confrontational, and paranoid.  She is a killing machine no doubt, but her humanity is non-existent.  Even her implied friendship with Andrea never gets past the implied part.  Every discussion they have together Michonne is cold and stubborn, which might be a side effect from a zombie apocalypse, but a horrible trait when dealing with other survivors.  She lacks any sort of cunning or saavy, or any ability to hide her feelings.  Instead Michonne becomes the stereotype of a Zulu warrior – brutal, aggressive, and distrustful of others, certainly good traits for surviving zombies, but also pretty racist, especially compared to her character in the comics.  Michonne enters the comics as a lone survivor approaching the prison where all of Rick’s group is, including Andrea.  She came there for refuge, preferring to be in a community then left alone on the outside – the exact opposite of the show.


Once inside the prison they take her weapon but she doesn’t seem to mind and treats everyone in a fairly congenial way (especially Tyrese), again the opposite reaction from the show.  As the story continues we learn that Michonne used to be a lawyer and will often hallucinate and talk to her dead boyfriend, something she and Rick bond over.  Later we even see Michonne feign interest at a dinner party, at least for a little while.  The Michonne of the show exhibits none of these traits and therefore her character comes off as racist.  Perhaps over time she will become more coy and trustful, but then we still encounter the racist narrative of the civilizing of the African savage and so at this point her character is too far gone to be saved from racial undertones.

Commercially successful shows must be based on familiar archetypes in society and therefore I don’t blame the show’s creators fully.  There is a serious problem with black characters in shows diverging from more positive portrayals in the source material.  Game of Thrones and Harry Potter both changed the race of characters out of convenience.  Shows not based on earlier works have a much harder time being labeled racist because they create their own characters.  Even if all the black characters in an original series have negative traits you could still explain it away as there being plenty of bad blacks in the world, the same way there are many bad whites and simply chalk it up as a coincidence of personalities that makes the show work.  Even while that is stretching to apologize for some shows, it takes an even farther leap to justify the choices surrounding the black characters in The Walking Dead.  When you take from source material you are forced to make very conscious decisions about the characters and the show’s creators were completely unable to provide any distance from the formulaic black character types.

The Two Emerging Post-Election Narratives

Well another election cycle is over and done; Obama got re-elected and the Democrats picked up meager gains in the Senate and House.  Now that the smoke is starting to clear and people are returning to their less partisan lifestyles there appear to be two election narratives emerging, not surprisingly dictated from the left and the right.  The left has pitched the election as a victory for truth, science, and math, painting the GOP and their supporters as stuck in a bubble or alternate universe while the right has portrayed the election as heralding a changed America with demographics shifting to a much more diverse and secular country.  Before tackling these two narratives let’s take a look at one other that will most likely be washed from history.

Before the election several, hell, damn near all, Republican pundits were predicting a Romney win, possibly with a landslide.  Now that that clearly didn’t happen they have had to find an excuse and most often they turn to Sandy, the “October surprise.”  Dick Morris, the now-hated scapegoat of false hopes, said that he was essentially right about his Romney landslide prediction as he made it before the hurricane hit.  Others have expressed similar views about the hurricane yet if you were following the polling data Sandy did not do too much.  Obama steadily built back his lead after the first debate and pretty much ended the election where they kicked it off.  When Dick Morris made his prediction Obama was leading in the polls, especially in the swing states, so he would have still been wrong.

Instead of following Morris’ lead and blaming the weather, most GOP talking heads have seen the election as being decided by urban and minority voters representing a demographic shift that the party must respond to in order to stay alive.  Within a couple days Sean Hannity came out in support of immigration reform to allow for amnesty, believing that this is the main issue for Hispanics.  Other Republicans have followed suit and only more time will tell if this will create a genuine (perhaps unbreachable) schism or whether it will truly become the party’s future.  Despite this seemingly shallow outreach, the pundits are correct, the GOP’s base is dwindling while the Dem base is growing.  They’re flat wrong however when they say that this is the culmination of changing demographics, instead it’s the changing policy of the GOP.  That’s where the left-wing narrative takes over.

Liberal pundits, and some conservatives, have for a long time put forward the idea that the right wing lives in an alternative universe.  In this bubble everything is seen through the lens of far-right mythology with perhaps the most obvious example being conservapedia, the right-wing alternative to wikipedia which they claim has a liberal bias.  Even the limits of conservapedia were tested however when Sarah Palin claimed that Paul Revere was riding to warn the British.  They chose to whitewash her statement rather than re-write history.  The bubble and reality however, did manage to converge on election night.  Pollsters like Nate Silver and Drew Linzer, doing basic statistical analyses of all the polls coming in pretty much nailed the outcome.  In the run-up however, conservatives insisted that their polling models were inaccurate by oversampling Democrats based on the 2008 turnout model as opposed to the 2004.  They insisted on a different reality instead based on a sort of soft conspiracy by the liberal media.  We learned that while the media may lean left, so does reality.

These two narratives are by no means mutually exclusive; in many ways they support each other.  The fact that Republican pollsters were insisting on the 2004 voter turnout model for more accuracy shows that they were out of touch with a larger demographic shift.  Furthermore, while the ethnic make-up of the country is changing, the Republicans have also radicalized to form their own world which is often quite exclusionary and lionizes an era of greater cultural and racial homogeneity.  By diverging from reality into the strictest ideals of their base they have lost track of what it actually takes to win an election in a two-party system.

Of course these narratives hardly explain the entire election.  There were a whole series of gaffes and triumphs from both sides that undoubtedly had some cumulative effect nor should the personalities and running mates of the candidates be completely tossed aside.  Of course the most important point here is how HBO will portray the election.  Recently they gave us “Recount” as the story of 2000 and “Game Change” for 2008 with Sarah Palin as the main focus.  What will be the focus of the movie for this election?  If you had asked me a year ago I might have said the super PACs but now I think it will be when universes collide.