Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Aeneas and the Moral of the Trojan War

 

"Aeneas Fleeing from Troy" by Pompeo Batoni (ca. 1750)Few stories have resonated through human protohistory quite like the Fall of Troy. Epic poems have been written about it. Historians believe that some of the story is based in fact. To this day, most people are at least familiar with the Greeks’ winning stratagem. Even now, some people know the names of the major players. However, very few might be able to tell you the moral of the story. In the ancient world, myth often filled the role of fable. One would think that a story as tragic, as bloody, and as enduring as Troy would have a moral.

Of course, some would point to the old, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” — but temporal, tribal hatreds are not the basis of a moral. A bit closer to the point, while still missing it, is a line from the BBC sitcom “Red Dwarf” — “Beware of Trojans, they’re complete [idiots]” — but snark does not a moral make either. Despite these misses, there is a moral to the story of Troy, one that is best understood in the context of the Trojan hero Aeneas, and one that is relevant to anyone who cherishes liberty. However, to understand the moral, one must first know what the moral warns against.

A Pretense of Knowledge

The events which led to the Trojan War began when Zeus snubbed Eris, the goddess of chaos. Eris responded to that snub by inciting an argument between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite – an argument over who was the most beautiful. The three goddesses soon went to Zeus to settle their dispute. Zeus, who wanted a war to depopulate the Earth of his bastard children, declined to pass judgment. Instead, he directed the three to a mortal, Paris of Troy. And Paris, like an idiot, obliged. Regardless of the fact that any choice of one would invite the wrath of the other two, Paris believed himself capable enough to meddle in unknowable consequences. Paris suffered from Hayek’s pretense of knowledge — the same pretense of knowledge that our meddling ruling class suffers from each time they pontificate on the superiority of command and control economies or scaremonger on anthropogenic global warming.

A Disregard for Law

Tyndarius, King of Sparta, was father to Helen, the most desired woman in all of Greece. Helen was so beautiful that Tyndarius avoided choosing her suitor for fear of the retaliation of the powerful men whom he did not choose. But, unlike Paris, Tyndarius understood that he was dealing with unintended consequences — and he was merely dealing with men, not gods. Tyndarius solved his conundrum by requiring all of Helen’s potential suitors to swear to honor his choice. Once their honor was secured, Tyndarius chose Menelaus, soon to be himself the King of Sparta.

Years later, Paris judged three goddesses. Each of them tried to sway his judgment with bribes. Paris chose Aphrodite’s bribe above those of the others — Paris chose Helen of Sparta. So, using the excuse of a diplomatic mission, Paris went to Sparta to collect her. He knew that Helen was married to the king of one of the most powerful nations in Greece. As such, he would have also known of King Tyndarius’ rule regarding her, and he would have known that all the other powerful men in Greece honored that rule. But, despite all that, Paris seduced Helen and secreted her away to Troy. Paris believed that he was special, different, chosen. Paris believed that he was above the law — the same belief that our chosen ruling class holds as it exempts itself from laws on Obamacare and laws on the handling of classified documents.

A Criminally Incompetent Foreign Policy

If seducing and eloping with the married queen of a powerful foreign nation isn’t bad enough, consider this: From before birth, Paris was foretold to be the ruin of Troy, and his father King Priam knew it. From the moment that Paris returned to Troy with Helen, Priam could have sent her back to Sparta with apologies and promises that Paris would be punished. But Priam did not do this. He believed that Troy was so powerful and so well protected that no army could ever stand as a threat. In fact, before they waged war on Troy, Menelaus and Odysseus, King of Ithaca, went to Troy to peacefully petition for the return of Helen — and they were refused. Troy had a foreign policy so contemptuous of reason that it could be considered criminally incompetent — the same type of foreign policy which insists that Libya was secure, Benghazi happened because of a YouTube video, Iran can be trusted with nukes, and that ISIS is a JV team of terrorism.

Misplaced Loyalty

The Greeks laid siege to Troy for 10 years — a decade of Troy’s ruling class digging in their heels that Helen would not be returned, and so peace would not be restored. After all this time, one would think that the Trojan citizen would have tired of the obviously skewed propaganda, and of their countrymen dying for it. The Trojan people misplaced their loyalty in their ruling class — and if we as American citizens still naïvely entertain the notion that we are actually represented by ours, then we have done the same.

Know-betterism

At last, we come to the Trojan Horse, a ploy so transparent that it is surprising that anyone at all was fooled. The prophetess Cassandra wasn’t fooled, but nobody believed her. The high priest Laocoön wasn’t fooled, but the gods immediately smote him. So, despite protests and obvious signs that the war of the gods was still raging, the horse was brought into the walls of Troy. Someone, someone who had authority, “knew better” than the hoi polloi and welcomed doom to Troy — the same know-betterism which welcomes Marxism into the United States with flowery bromides of justice as our economy collapses, cities burn, and people shoot police officers in the street. The same know-betterism which tells us that the same unchecked immigration that has flooded Europe with jihadi sleeper cells is done here for “love” as innocents in nightclubs are mowed down.

Aeneas and the Moral of the Story

Virgil’s Aeneas was a hero of the Trojan War. He was not so much a hero in battle, like Hector or Achilles, but rather he was a hero because of his actions after the battle was lost. As Troy fell, Aeneas gathered his wife, son, father, and remaining countrymen and led them away from the slaughter. He eventually led those who survived to safe harbor and then founded the city of Alba Longa. The descendants of Aeneas later founded the city of Rome.

So, the moral of the story: Be Aeneas. Some people claim the United States is now a modern Rome. I disagree: we are now a modern Troy. When you see that your country is controlled by a ruling class as corrupt, incompetent, and delusional as Troy’s, fight the right battles while you can, and if it all collapses as it must, gather those closest to you and flee – or fall to flames and barbarism.

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  1. Valiuth Inactive
    ValiuthJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    An interesting interpretation. My literary quibble with it I think is that the Ancient pagan world was one ruled by fate and prophecy. As we see in numerous Greek stories prophecies can not be escaped. This is because the fate of men is not in their own hands but those of the gods. Don’t forget Cassandra was not believed because she was cursed, and as you pointed out the priest was struck dead by the gods. The whole affair between Helen and Paris was also a consequence of the actions of the Gods.

    Now Tolkien had an interesting take on the whole idea of predestination and fate. In his mythology of Middle Earth the whole history of the world is in fact predestined, in a manner very analogs to one finds in classical myths (which were his inspiration of course). His view though was that what is predestined is the out comes (if you die, your kingdom falls, etc.) but not the way one handles their fate. So while the protagonist can not escape the inevitable fate how he bares it makes all the difference in character. In such a rubric the fall of Troy need not have been the consequence of arrogance, even if nothing they could do would allow them to escape it.

    Sorry if this drags the discussion away from your metaphor, but I love talking mythology just in and of itself.

    • #1
    • July 8, 2016, at 12:07 PM PDT
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  2. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy WeivodaJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Valiuth: This is because the fate of men is not in their own hands but those of the gods.

    Yeah, that’s what I recall. Whatever the humans did, there was always a god around the corner to tilt the scales in favor of that god’s desired outcome. Nevertheless, Rick is right that Priam should have kicked Paris’ ass and sent Helen on the first ship back to her husband.

    • #2
    • July 8, 2016, at 12:18 PM PDT
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  3. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Valiuth: Sorry if this drags the discussion away from your metaphor, but I love talking mythology just in and of itself.

    Just because the gods ordained it, doesn’t mean that it didn’t come to pass because of arrogance. Arrogance in man was their tool as well. Regardless, the moral still stands: when your government is corrupt beyond reform and welcomes in doom as a trophy – flee.

    I also like discussing mythology – obviously.

    • #3
    • July 8, 2016, at 12:21 PM PDT
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  4. Belt Member

    I like this analysis. It’s kind of a category error to try to apply our contemporary ideas onto an ancient myth, but I still think this has value. After all, the legend of Troy endures because it’s so human, and we’re human too, trying to muddle our way through slow-motion disaster.

    • #4
    • July 8, 2016, at 12:40 PM PDT
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  5. Titus Techera Contributor

    Rick Poach: Zeus, who wanted a war to depopulate the Earth of his bastard children

    This is the only statement that seems to me to engage with any of the stories about the Trojan war with which I am familiar. I’d say, this is far more important than everything else & worth considering. Heroes have to die.

    As for the rest, this is probably the best evidence on Ricochet that nobody who nods along to Hayek should ever be allowed to read Homer. A man cannot do it all & it’s better to just specialize–not to make too much fun of you, but you suffer from your own version of the fatal conceit & the false claim to have knowledge! I’m surprised you’re not complaining about the lack of a free market in Troy & everywhere else! That would at least make sense!

    An example: Paris has to answer the question, What is noblest? All human beings have to do that. Talking about the story in terms of bribes is childish. You cannot moralize with a story unless you first pay attention to what the story is trying to tell you! I’m not in principle opposed to people screaming at the screens on which they watch their spectacles, but naivety needs instruction, which Homer provides.

    As to Troy, the question is whether it is the holy city–Zeus seems to incline to this opinion–or the unholy city, where marriage laws & hospitality can be trampled like nobody’s business.

    • #5
    • July 8, 2016, at 12:46 PM PDT
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  6. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Titus Techera: Talking about the story in terms of bribes is childish.

    Yet Paris was bribed.

    • #6
    • July 8, 2016, at 12:50 PM PDT
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  7. Titus Techera Contributor

    No, he was not. This is not a serious way to talk about the story. He was not offered Helen, he had to rape her. Previous to that, he had a choice of ways of life, so to speak. He had to say what is noblest, by his lights. What life is worth living for a man who can choose, as opposed to a man impelled by necessity? He chose, you might say, as any erotic man would. One would expect just about every modern man to agree–Paris is all about a certain kind of freedom now taken for granted.

    The image of Helen, which attracts Paris, is supposed to suggest the complexity of the relation of beauty & eros. Of course, Helen is married to Menelaus: Beauty should be tied up somehow with boldness, manliness, martial virtues–it is a prize to be won & enjoyed. Well, that’s not quite law either, if you think about it. But Paris is alive to a different kind of lawlessness, because he divorces beauty from nobility. He has no intention of deserving or earning that which he desires. Again, that’s a far more democratic understanding of desire.

    One way to understand him is to think about his exchanges with Helen & with his brother Hector & his duel with Menelaus.

    • #7
    • July 8, 2016, at 12:58 PM PDT
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  8. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Titus Techera: No, he was not.

    Then we disagree.

    • #8
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:01 PM PDT
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  9. Mr Nick Member

    Rick Poach: So, the moral of the story: be Aeneas.

    Ahem, Aeneas’ treatment of Dido? If you’re going to accept the Aeneas founding myth, arguably just Julius Caesar’s and Augustus’ later propaganda, then you would have to accept the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage were ‘doomed’ to happen too, and he was the cause.

    ‘Pious Aeneas’ had many faults and few of the counter balancing features found in Odysseus.

    Is not the US closer to second century (BC) republican Rome than Troy? Oligarchy rather than an entrenched monarchy?

    Great post by the way.

    • #9
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:03 PM PDT
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  10. Titus Techera Contributor

    Mr Nick:

    Rick Poach: So, the moral of the story: be Aeneas.

    Ahem, Aeneas’ treatment of Dido? If you’re going to accept the Aeneas founding myth, arguably just Julius Caesar’s and Augustus’ later propaganda, then you would have to accept the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage were ‘doomed’ to happen too, and he was the cause.

    ‘Pious Aeneas’ had many faults and few of the counter balancing features found in Odysseus.

    Is not the US closer to second century (BC) republican Rome than Troy? Oligarchy rather than an entrenched monarchy?

    Great post by the way.

    Let’s not forget the end of the Aeneid. Anyone remember Turnus?

    • #10
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:05 PM PDT
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  11. Titus Techera Contributor

    Rick Poach:

    Titus Techera: No, he was not.

    Then we disagree.

    ‘I only discuss with people who agree with me.’

    • #11
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:05 PM PDT
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  12. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Titus Techera:

    Rick Poach:

    Titus Techera: No, he was not.

    Then we disagree.

    ‘I only discuss with people who agree with me.’

    I have no problem discussing with people who disagree with me. However, people who ignore the larger analogy for finer points of one epic in the cycle as opposed to another – while claiming on the one hand childishness and on the other a wish not to belittle – leave me a bit confused.

    • #12
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:13 PM PDT
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  13. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Mr Nick: Ahem, Aeneas’ treatment of Dido?

    How you treat other people, of course, is up to you. However, I would suggest that when you see your country crumbling from its own corruption, you make like Aeneas and save you and yours. This, of course, is also up to you.

    • #13
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:14 PM PDT
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  14. Titus Techera Contributor

    Rick Poach:

    Mr Nick: Ahem, Aeneas’ treatment of Dido?

    How you treat other people, of course, is up to you. However, I would suggest that when you see your country crumbling from its own corruption, you make like Aeneas and save you and yours. This, of course, is also up to you.

    Who in the Iliad or anywhere else thinks of Troy as corrupt leaders doing propaganda? It’s no problem to you that neither Aeneas nor his father nor anyone else thinks of the rule as illegitimate or the policy as fundamentally corrupt? Does it occur to you that any of the characters in the story might have anything to teach you? Is this all you got out of the story of Troy?

    Rick Poach:

    Titus Techera:

    Rick Poach:

    Titus Techera: No, he was not.

    Then we disagree.

    ‘I only discuss with people who agree with me.’

    I have no problem discussing with people who disagree with me. However, people who ignore the larger analogy for finer points of one epic in the cycle as opposed to another while on the one hand claiming childishness and the wish not to belittle – leave me a bit confused.

    You seem to feel no need to argue that the judgment of Paris was about bribes. You state it & restate it. That’s not a discussion by any stretch of the imagination.

    • #14
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:31 PM PDT
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  15. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Titus Techera: Who in the Iliad or anywhere else thinks of Troy as corrupt leaders doing propaganda?

    No one. And that’s the point. A point I posed as a question.

    Titus Techera: It’s no problem to you that neither Aeneas nor his father nor anyone else thinks of the rule as illegitimate or the policy as fundamentally corrupt?

    None at all. Aeneas stayed and fought until it was obvious that the battle was lost. Would you suggest that we do the same, or rather consider that our government is leading us toward doom?

    Titus Techera: You seem to feel no need to argue that the judgment of Paris was about bribes. You state it & restate it. That’s not a discussion by any stretch of the imagination.

    You are correct, because I’m not sure how to argue a point so fundamental.

    At the end of the day though, this piece is not about Troy. It is about the United States. I use Troy as an analogy. If my analogy offends you, so be it.

    • #15
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:44 PM PDT
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  16. Titus Techera Contributor

    The analogy does not offend me–butchering stories for novelty, however, annoys me.

    • #16
    • July 8, 2016, at 1:52 PM PDT
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  17. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Titus Techera:The analogy does not offend me–butchering stories for novelty, however, annoys me.

    “Butchering,” nice. First childishness, now butchery.

    So you will tell me now, that the myth of Paris being offered rewards by the three goddesses in return for his choice does not exist? I’m not talking about existing in any specific epic which you choose to cite, I’m talking about the popular myth upon which those epics are based? This myth does not exist?

    • #17
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:00 PM PDT
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  18. Titus Techera Contributor

    The myth can only be said to exist in a few old books. Whether it was once a story–myth means story or tale–that Greeks told is no longer a concern after a few millennia.

    The myth is, to some extent, self-standing. Whether you make any effort to understand it or not is, of course, up to you. I have not seen any effort & have tried to point that out…

    But then there is the matter that there are other people here. If you were talking about Washington & the cherry-tree, I’d just bet most Americans around here know their way around any such story. The story of Troy–most parts of it, too–are not the common possession of all Americans or most people on Ricochet, I bet. I dislike it being butchered, especially because it is very important.

    • #18
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:07 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Titus Techera: The myth can only be said to exist in a few old books. Whether it was once a story–myth means story or tale–that Greeks told is no longer a concern after a few millennia.

    Yet it exists. Not only does it exist, but, like any myth, it is popularly believed. I am writing an opinion piece here, Titus, not a scholarly treatise.

    • #19
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:14 PM PDT
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  20. Dr. Steve Turley Inactive

    Hear, hear! Nice piece, Rick!

    • #20
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:20 PM PDT
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  21. Titus Techera Contributor

    Mr. Poach, Ricochet is a free-speech space, but that’s not quite the same as a fact-free space. Let me give you an example. My friend Larry is a sworn enemy of Einstein. I disagree with him, but I think what he’s got on his mind about space & time is very important to consider. But I do not think he is free from facing the criticism of Mr. anonymous, the resident expert on physics.

    Unfortunately for you, Ricochet is full not only of respectable, productive, & learned American citizens, but there are also a few people here who, against respectable opinion & common practice, take the classics seriously. Your opinion about ‘the moral of the Trojan war’ would be grounds for failing in any class from junior-high onward, to say nothing of scholarly treatises.

    I guess you can call this my opinion about your opinion. That’s part of the problem with free speech–it’s tough when you get criticized. Most people don’t know Paris from Adam–but I do.

    • #21
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:21 PM PDT
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  22. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy WeivodaJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus, I think at this point your objections to this post have been adequately expressed. Perhaps it’s time to back off?

    • #22
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:31 PM PDT
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  23. Titus Techera Contributor

    Sure.

    • #23
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:33 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Dr. Steve Turley:Hear, hear! Nice piece, Rick!

    Thank you, Dr. Steve.

    • #24
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:36 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Mr Nick: Great post by the way.

    Thank you, Mr. Nick.

    • #25
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:37 PM PDT
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  26. Mr Nick Member

    Rick Poach:

    Titus Techera: The myth can only be said to exist in a few old books. Whether it was once a story–myth means story or tale–that Greeks told is no longer a concern after a few millennia.

    Yet it exists. Not only does it exist, but, like any myth, it is popularly believed. I am writing an opinion piece here, Titus, not a scholarly treatise.

    Indeed and perhaps we are getting hung up on a history that really can’t be verified. It is mythology and will mean different things to different people, that we can still argue two millenia after Virgil penned it shows the inherent quality that caused it to survive. I still think it is propaganda

    Rick Poach: At the end of the day though, this piece is not about Troy. It is about the United States. I use Troy as an analogy.

    But Troy was a weaker power threatened by Agamemnon’s empire, what external threat does the US face analogous to the Mycenae?

    Sorry Rick, perhaps what I’m simply trying to argue is that it surely can’t be as bad as that?

    • #26
    • July 8, 2016, at 2:48 PM PDT
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  27. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Mr Nick:But Troy was a weaker power threatened by Agamemnon’s empire, what external threat does the US face analogous to the Mycenae?

    Sorry Rick, perhaps what I’m simply trying to argue is that it surely can’t be as bad as that?

    The twin threats we are letting in our gates: Marxism and Jihadism.

    No argument taken. You’re right, we are talking about myth – myth with thousands of years of popular and scholastic interpretation. Versions conflict. As such, my analogy is not a perfect one, nor is it intended to be. It is merely meant as a recognition that things here are bad, epically so.

    • #27
    • July 8, 2016, at 3:14 PM PDT
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  28. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Mr Nick: it surely can’t be as bad as that?

    I’m not so sure. BLM is slaughtering cops. Jihadis are slaughtering gays. And (sorry for the mixed metaphor) Nero fiddles.

    • #28
    • July 8, 2016, at 3:18 PM PDT
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  29. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    Great post Rick. I have read the Iliad and the Odyssey many times over the year. The interpretation of who Paris was and what his motivations were is certainly dependent on which translation you read. Barring a knowledge of ancient Greek, I suspect that one is pretty much free to choose the translation one likes best. I saw nothing wrong with your understanding of what Paris did and why he did it. It agrees with such writers as Robert Graves have written.

    The metaphor itself, if not, perfect, makes a good point, and, ultimately, that is what mythology is all about. I don’t think I would do the Aeneas thing of grabbing my go bag and heading for the mountains. I suppose I am more Trojan in feeling I would rather stand behind my walls and defend my home to the death.

    • #29
    • July 8, 2016, at 4:08 PM PDT
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  30. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus Techera:Mr. Poach, Ricochet is a free-speech space, but that’s not quite the same as a fact-free space. Let me give you an example. My friend Larry is a sworn enemy of Einstein. I disagree with him, but I think what he’s got on his mind about space & time is very important to consider. But I do not think he is free from facing the criticism of Mr. anonymous, the resident expert on physics.

    Unfortunately for you, Ricochet is full not only of respectable, productive, & learned American citizens, but there are also a few people here who, against respectable opinion & common practice, take the classics seriously. Your opinion about ‘the moral of the Trojan war’ would be grounds for failing in any class from junior-high onward, to say nothing of scholarly treatises.

    I guess you can call this my opinion about your opinion. That’s part of the problem with free speech–it’s tough when you get criticized. Most people don’t know Paris from Adam–but I do.

    Arma virumque canon?

    • #30
    • July 8, 2016, at 4:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like

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