The Dream of Rome

Boris Dream of Rome3.jpg

A two part series made by Tiger Aspect for BBC Two

29th January and 5th February 2006 at 8.00pm

BBC Commissioning Editor – Peter Horrocks
Executive Producer/BBC – Lucy Hetherington
Executive Producer/Tiger Aspect – Charles Brand

Produced and Directed by – David Jeffcock and Francis Hanly

For tape requests, picture requests or further information please contact Iain McCallum at Tiger Aspect on 0207 434 6700/07771 636612 or

In this two-part series, journalist, former Editor of The Spectator and M.P. Boris Johnson asks,

How did the Romans run a united Europe and why does the European Union seem to find the same task so difficult?

The Romans ran an empire of up to 100 million people; we can’t even agree on a plug for our toasters.

PROGRAMME ONE Sunday 29 January 8.00pm BBC2

In the first programme, Johnson talks to leading historians and archaeologists, in Rome, France and Germany, to find out how the Romans actually ruled.

It wasn’t all at the point of a sword. Roman government was surprisingly light.

· So, how did the Emperor rule?

· Where did he get his money?

· What sort of bureaucracy was in place?

· How did he keep the million strong populace of Rome happy and content?

The answers to these questions are by turns shocking and depraved.

The Romans ran a vast empire, covering what was then half the known world.

· How did they control their conquered territories, containing vast numbers of people, of many ethnic groups, so well that the locals happily threw off their trousers and donned a toga?

· How did the Roman Empire make these people safer, and better off?

· How much were they taxed?

· What can we modern Europeans learn from what Boris Johnson calls “the fish paste technique”?

(And what about the barbarians – the Euro-sceptics of their day?)

Boris Johnson’s journey takes in Rome itself, the ancient harbour city of Ostia, Provence and the Rhineland.

PROGRAMME TWO Sunday 5 February 8.00pm BBC2

In this second and final part of the series Boris Johnson travels to Ephesus, Istanbul, Rome, France and Germany to discover how the Roman Empire fostered a sense of common identity amongst its many different peoples. He tries to discover how the Romans made people want to be Roman, in a way that we just don’t seem to want to be European.

With the help of our leading historians and archaeologists, he examines the ‘Romanising’ process – the baths, the games, and the Cult of The Emperor. We also find out the vital part played by bears and honey in keeping the people entertained.

The Roman Empire lasted for over 400 years in Western Europe.

· What can we in modern Europe learn from its decline and fall?

· Is the European Union itself getting too big?

Boris Johnson also traces the rise of Christianity, which some at the time blamed for the fall of Rome. He also considers the role of Romano-sceptic barbarians and the rise of nationalism, which makes the task of the European Union so difficult today.

‘The Dream of Rome’ by Boris Johnson is published by HarperPress on 6th February

166 thoughts on “The Dream of Rome”

  1. Interesting. I wonder if he ends up concluding that the Italians should be in charge.

    In unrelated news, it looks like my beloved Canada is stuck with Tories for the next several years. I don’t suppose we can work out some kind of Tory Swap, like a student exchange? Boris is much less likely than Harper to give patronage appointments to the Grand Wizard.

  2. I look forward to two programmes filled with informative facts; facts presented in a highly entertaining manner.

    Boris asks:
    How did the Romans manage to run a successful European
    It was I suppose , a rhetorical question , but I’ll try to answer it anyway.

    By disciplined force of arms to start off with, is the short answer to that one. Similar, in fact, to that which was being achieved by the Germans in the 30s and 40s, under the beady, anything but benign, eyes of Adolf and Co. and which so nearly totally succeeded.
    The difference was in the aftermath of the original upheaval following the invasion and the subsequent subjugation of the native tribes. The Romans did contribute greatly, and in a positive way, to the quality of life in Britain. Theirs, in the main, was a rule, which gave much benefit to a lot of Britons. This is unlike the present proposals from Brussels, for even more subjugation of a sovereign state to a cabal of unelected egomaniacs.

    We now have the President of Austria, the birthplace of said Adolf, telling us that, “ Ordnung muss sein”, in true Teutonic manner. He is obviously hoping that the total Anschluss to a European Superstate, which Hitler did not bring, (quite), to fruition by militaristic means, will now be realised, bloodlessly, under their present time-limited leadership, aber mit “Teutunischem Genauigkeit”.

    It took a long time for the Romans to form what must be recognised as a successful Empire, and they held on to it for centuries. One is forced to draw the conclusion that their success was with the blessing of its inhabitants, even the ones which were conquered.
    Today’s Europe is a different kettle of fish however, and as long as there is the achingly ingrained distrust of the Anglo Saxon Europeans by the Gallic tribes, we will not have a totally united Europe,. Gott sei dank!

    The majority of what are now relatively large countries, at the time of the Roman imperial expansion, were fragmented tribal Fiefdoms; Dukedoms and small Kingdoms, as indeed, again, were they and Britain , long after the Romans had left. Just one other example will suffice to show the trend: Germany only became united under The Iron Chancellor, in 1871. (Bavaria is still styled “ Freistaat Bayern”: (Bavarian Free State).

    The Romans sold us short.

  3. There is perhaps another point to be raised… The Romans may have successfully ruled the same land mass as the EU is attempting to, but that does not mean they ruled the same people. I’m sure anyone here could point to a hundred differences between ourselves and our society as compared to that of Europeans 2 millenia ago, and so I won’t bother. I suspect that the ancient Romans would have a fair bit of trouble uniting modern society, even if granted the advantages in arms and coordination which they had at the time.

  4. In this second and final part of the series Boris Johnson travels to Ephesus, Istanbul, Rome, France and Germany to discover how the Roman Empire fostered a sense of common identity amongst its many different peoples.

    Germany was never part of the Roman empire. The Varian disaster, in which 3 Roman legions were annihilated, was the end of the attempt to incorporate Germany into the empire.

  5. One is forced to draw the conclusion that their success was with the blessing of its inhabitants, even the ones which were conquered. (Macarnie)

    Which ones weren’t conquered?

    The Roman empire started out with the Roman conquest of Italy, city by city. The Punic wars, which ended in the destruction of Carthage, gave Rome North Africa and Spain. Then they marched into Macedonia and Greece. And then Gaul. And so on. I don’t remember any state that volunteered to join the Roman empire, after an EU-style referendum.

    And I seem to remember somebody called Boudicca, who didn’t quite bestow that blessing on the Romans. And the barbaric Caledonians totally refused.

    And when the whole thing finally fell apart, the subject peoples appear to have made little effort to retain the civilisation the Romans had bestowed on them: the villas became derelict, the towns dwindled, and even the roads fell into disuse.

  6. That could be put down to lack of expertise rather than lack of interest Idlex, or else lack of opportunity. The romans could bring in materials from all over the empire for the rich, whereas the resulting peoples would be restricted to their own land and those with whom they could trade. In addition they may have had better things to spend their money on!

    They did retain certain things of course, like the roman battle tactics! For a number of centuries after this the ‘spear wall’ was the central component of most western armies, be they Saxon, Viking, Celt, or almost anything else. Also I believe that a number of soldiers maintained for as long as they were able the roman style of armour, as well as a number of their names. Not to mention the religion!

    I suspect that the roads and villas that you correctly mention were due more to lack of opportunity than lack of interest or desire. After all, who would rather live in a mud-hut when you can have a heated stone villa?

  7. Maybe my fevered brain is making things up, but didn’t I read something about tribesmen killing people who used the Roman roads as a sort of political thing?

    Actually, thinking strategically, when there’s a complete breakdown of civil authority such as after the Fall of Rome (and don’t give me the “it was a smooth handover” thing; it was like Somalia!) the roads tend to be dangerous places. Robbers would naturally target the roads, and with no-one to stop them, the roads would become an undesirable place to be. This would put people off using wagons, as they are very inferior off-road vehicles. That would kill trade and spike isolationism. Gee, can we blame that one factor for the whole of the Dark Ages? Maybe after we’ve had some more Tylenol Flu Formula we can…

  8. Idlex – as I understand it, the post-Roman British did their best to stay Roman for quite a while after the collapse of the Empire. Trouble is, no infrastructure. Plus a legacy of tribal bickering that rose to the surface as soon as the unifying conquerors were out of the way. Think of 6th century Britain as a bit like Yugoslavia after Tito’s death. Doomed to self-destruct, and ripe pickings for the next wave (the Saxons).

    The Britons probably did keep using the villas for a while, too. But there came a time when they had to move back into their legacy of hill forts. When you’re not sure of your neighbour, it’s better to be on top of a fortified hill somewhere than waiting unprotected in a valley.

  9. OK Idlex : So I formulated my remark carelessly: sorry ! I should have said, ” Even those conquered
    Peoples who suffered worst under the initial Roman invasions”.

    You are however mistaken in saying that Germany was never under Roman rule. All lands west of the Rhine and south of the Danube were occupied by Rome. Historically, Germany was settled by six major German-speaking ethnic groups prior to the time of the Roman occupation, source ,Enc. Brit.

    After Caesar’s defeat of the Suebi,( who mainly dwelt by the River Elbe),again IN Germany, the Germans were confined to the region east of the Rhine. Between 12 and 9 BC the Romans penetrated as far east as the Elbe River, but the victory of the German leader Arminius over a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburger Wald in AD 9 halted Roman colonial expansion in north-central Europe and freed the greater part of Germany from Roman domination. There is a giant statue of the hero of this Battle, known as Hermann’s Denkmal, at this place . A sight to see.
    About 370 AD Hun horsemen began to move westward, driving the Germanic peoples into the remaining Roman Empire , West of the Rhine.

  10. You are however mistaken in saying that Germany was never under Roman rule. All lands west of the Rhine and south of the Danube were occupied by Rome. Historically, Germany was settled by six major German-speaking ethnic groups prior to the time of the Roman occupation, source ,Enc. Brit.

    I agree about the west of the Rhine and south of the Danube bit. But east and north is another story. It’s true that Roman armies campaigned over what is now Germany for decades, if not centuries, and this might be counted as ‘occupation’. But Germany never became a settled colony like most of the rest of empire.

    I don’t know the reason for this. It may be that the Romans did a cost-benefit analysis on Germany, and decided it wasn’t worth it (and maybe the same with Caledonia). Or it may be because the Germanic tribes fought a guerrilla war against the Roman invaders, so were never defeated in the kind of pitched battles that featured in most other Roman conquests.

    the Battle of the Teutoburger Wald in AD 9 halted Roman colonial expansion in north-central Europe and freed the greater part of Germany from Roman domination. There is a giant statue of the hero of this Battle, known as Hermann’s Denkmal, at this place

    This defeat – also known as the Varian disaster, after the Roman commander, Varus – came when a Roman army, marching in almost single file through the forests and bogs of the north German plain, were ambushed along their flank, and unable to form into fighting formation, were cut to pieces.

    There is indeed a giant statue of Arminius, but I believe it is some miles away from the site of the battle – because Hermann didn’t actually know where that was. It was only discovered in the 1970s or so when a British officer out with his metal detector discovered a number of Roman coins. Subsequent archaeological digs unearthed the trail of carnage, including the ramparts from behind which the Germans attacked, and the grave pits dug by subsequent Roman investigators.

    There was an excellent TV documentary about this a few years ago.

  11. They did retain certain things of course, like the roman battle tactics! For a number of centuries after this the ‘spear wall’ was the central component of most western armies,..

    Battle tactics evolve continuously. But for a long time Roman soldiers were equipped with a shield (scutum), a Roman short sword (gladius) and bolt (pilum). Advancing in line, with very high discipline, a Roman army was a mincing machine. By the time of the late Roman empire, things had doubtless moved on.

  12. The nice picture at the top of this thread puts me in mind of a banknote. Is this to be the new 200 Euro note, to be introduced in honour of Boris being elected President of Europe?

  13. Idlex: prepare for boredom.

    According to the latest historical understanding, the battle of the Teutoburger Wald took place further West from where the statue stands, near Bad Rothenfelde. It is suspected that a heavy thunderstorm gave the Germans a huge advantage. The Romans heavy leather panoply was simply slowly saturated, and the extra weight made it difficult, if not impossible, for the Romans to carry on and fight. The Germans, well adjusted to the extremely wet weather (it’s no better today), routed the Romans. 3 legions were largely lost.
    You mentioned that a stash if Roman coins was found by an amateur archaeologist, and this was taken as a sign that the battle took place near where they were found . That place was Kalkreise, and the discovery , in 1987, of Roman artefacts was a welcome addition to a still incomplete understanding of exactly where the battle had taken place.

    It has been said that even this discovery may not be absolutely exact. Between 14 and 16 AD , the Roman General, Germanicus, led an even bigger army of Roman troops into Germania , to attempt to make good the previous mistakes made. In the year 15 A.D., he looked for, and decided he had found, the site of the Varus Battle and there he buried the remains of the fallen Romans. Since today’s forest is thought to be only a fraction of the size of the forest at the time. It would have been difficult for the Romans to pinpoint an exact spot, particularly in view of its reported impenetrability at the time, and taking into account the large numbers of wild animals , amongst them wolves and wild boar, which might have transported the bodies away from where they fell.

  14. I eagerly await this series. From the short extract I read in the Telegraph from the book I found it intruiging and as always with Boris highly entertaining. It’s good to see programmes that combine high calibre information and good entertainment for a change.

  15. Not a bit bored, Mac.

    You mentioned that a stash if Roman coins was found by an amateur archaeologist, and this was taken as a sign that the battle took place near where they were found . That place was Kalkreise, and the discovery , in 1987, of Roman artefacts was a welcome addition to a still incomplete understanding of exactly where the battle had taken place.

    According to Wikipedia, Kalkreise is definitely the site of the battle:

      The museum houses a large number of artifacts found at the site, which include fragments of studded sandals legionaries lost in flight, spearheads, a Roman eqestrian’s ceremonial silver face-mask. Coins minted with the legend VAR, distributed by Varus, clinch the identification of the site. Excavations have revealed battle debris along a corridor almost 15 miles from east to west and little more than a mile wide.

    One would expect, wild animals or not, the unburied remains of some 20,000 Roman soldiers to stay more or less in situ. And if three legions had passed through the ‘impenetrable’ forest, one would have expected Germanicus to have managed as well.

  16. Nothing against Germans, but in my experience the European idea of “impenetrable forest” means “no paved roads”.

    What other coins were found? The Varian coins only prove that the losses took place after Varus had been minting for awhile; they don’t rule out that it could have been some time later.

  17. Idlex :As an afterthought , albeit almost too late to catch the train, might I say that Hermann,( Armenius) , was, until this battle, a trusted ally of Varus.( Varus committed suicide after the battle).
    One might say that the Germanic auxiliaries under Hermann’s command were regarded as almost Roman. This ultimately misplaced trust made his preparation for the ambush and subsequent completion of the 3 day long destruction of the Roman legions so much easier.

    Some saw in Hermann a vengeful Germanic Prince , eager to rid his land of the Romans: others saw his apparent revolt against the occupying forces merely as an opportunistic move to further his own personal powerbase and field of influence.. Whatever the real reasons will probably remain a mystery, since I am told that there were no contemporary reports written.

  18. , albeit almost too late to catch the train,
    It’s never too late to catch this particular train. And I agree that the reasons remain shrouded in mystery. We have no records because few or no literate Romans survived this catastrophe, and because the ‘barbarian’ tribes that surrounded the Roman empire were largely illiterate.
    The result is that we have only the faded records of a literate empire, and the silence of all the rest. ‘Arminius’ is the Roman name for the victor in the Teuteburg forest. ‘Hermann’ is just what Germans think he might have been called.
    It’s a little strange that we have arrived at the Teuteburg forest so quickly. It’s a Roman defeat that rivals both Cannae and Carrhae.
    And it might be argued that we still live with the consequences of that battle. It drew a line in the sand, along the Rhine and the Danube, that marked the northern (and most heavily defended) border of the empire. The result was a north-south division of Europe which is arguably far older and deeeper than the east-west Christian-Muslim divide in Europe. The latter is a mere 500 years old, the former 2000 years.

  19. Idlex:
    My interest in this particular subject is unashamedly political. The beginning of the Particular chapter in which we find ourselves, The Treaty of Rome , in my opinion was the first mortar laid between the brickwork of a Europe suffering from megalomania, with anti- American, ( Read Anglo-saxon) tendencies. The Romans at least fought for their conquests.

    The concept of a United Europe ,( surely the ultimate step in this slide to Gallic domination), almost echoes the dubious gifts borne by Greeks , those countless years ago. We were conned into joining a free trade area , and , without so much as ‘by your leave’ , we are led up the garden path to possible perpetual purgatory as a no account minority.

    The difference is , the Greeks succeeded in breaching the Trojan citadel. I would hate to be , even peripherally , caught in a jerry-built ersatz empire, run by unelected B– Eurocrats, who, (if our contributions are to go by), are discarded as not being even good enough to be in government at home. It was once mooted ” Three strikes and you are out” . Now the word is , ” Three strikes and you’re on the gravy train”
    BTW , They are pretty sure that Hermann was the Germanised version of the hero’s name in that
    Arminia Bielefeld , ( quite close to the battlefield),keeps the original name alive in form of the football club.

  20. You’re quite right, Mac, that Europe was presented as a free trade area. And you’re also quite right about unelected Eurocrats.

    But the European dream was explained to me, a couple of decades ago in Paris, as being primarily concerned with preventing another European war. The wars, my French hosts told me, had to stop. We had, they said, to emphasise our similarities, not our differences. We had to unite, and put an end to our ancient feuds. Their idea of Europe was much more than just a free trade area.

    I support that European ideal. My principal worry is that it’s a bit of idealism, and as such will fail.

    But with an America increasingly controlled by Christian fundamentalists, and a Middle East increasingly controlled by Islamic fundamentalists, these days I increasingly find myself looking to Europe for a pragmatic secular rationality. I may look in vain, of course.

  21. But the European dream was explained to me, a couple of decades ago in Paris, as being primarily concerned with preventing another European war.

    If the prime intention of the EU is to prevent another European War, why was this not postulated at the time of the conception of a FREE MARKET AREA ?

    I was living and working in Germany at the time of Britain’s referendum re : ECC membership. I supported the idea hugely. Later it became clear that the idea was not to make an area for free trade, but to widen and strengthen the waning influence of France in particular. Those historical arch enemies, Germany and France, after Willi Brandt and Helmut Schmitt had gone, cosied up to each other, via various means , which mainly benefitted the French, in order that the then unwelcome overtures from the Brits were not heeded. Our possible influence in developing a fair Europe was feared, not least by France, and latterly by others. BTW : hopw far can Europe possibly credibly stretch.

    As far as France was concerned , the UK was considered , alongside Germany, as a mere milch kuh. Today , things have not altered .As in so many other walks of life , the Peter / Paul Syndrome is at work. Where Peter is robbed to pay Paul , there will never be a contra voice from Paul. Paul = Gaul

    I am all for peace in Europe , but, at the risk of becoming a social pariah , I must ask, what , for example , has France ever done in the field of keeping the peace , apart from not continuing to fight? Unfair ? I don’t write 20th Century history.

  22. If the prime intention of the EU is to prevent another European War, why was this not postulated at the time of the conception of a FREE MARKET AREA ?

    As best I understand, in Europe, many people have always seen the EU as a political bulwark against another European conflagration. I believe my French hosts were being perfectly sincere. And since then I’ve heard European politicians say exactly the same thing again and again.

    But it never gets said by UK politicians. In the UK, the EU has always been presented as a glorified free trade area, and any greater aspiration than that has been greeted with howls of anguish. And yet the issue of European political stability is clearly of greater importance than trading considerations, because economic growth and trade are dependent upon political stability.

    hopw far can Europe possibly credibly stretch.

    Russia? Only joking.

  23. If a poor Frog/Canuck such as myself can voice an opinion here, I would have to say that Mac nailed it. France has never recovered from having French dropped as the international language of diplomacy, and has never forgiven the English for the fact that it was English everyone adopted when they dumped French.

    I anticipate that NAFTA and the EU will at some point hook up, and if we haven’t engaged in a world war against a united Muslim East then it will make strides in Asia as well. Nobody will take Africa, because nobody thinks they can make any money there.

  24. Raincoaster : You obviously have not been pestered by the untold thousands of African E mails , each one more bizarre than the last, promising you huge amounts of money.

    This money has supposedly been left in banks somewhere in Nigeria , or wherever, and your share is waiting for you to pick it up; if only you are prepared to let them have details of your bank account.

    There are still some dumbos out there who tell these people their bank details , only to find that their accounts have been hoovered dry. There IS still money to be made in Africa !

  25. O, untrue! I’ve posted many a Nigerian scam to my blog, but I haven’t included them in this coversation because it’s obvious to me that the money to be made is not in Africa, but off-continent. Incontinent money-leakers have no sympathy from me!

  26. Idlex : If the unthinkable did happen, and the UK were suddenly invaded by some marauding non EU forces , do you suppose the French would mobilise in our defence?
    Mon cul!

  27. I have no idea.

    And I have no animosity towards the French. They have some great food, great art, and great literature. And they are, in my view, generally rather more intelligent than the English.

  28. the prime intention of the EU is to prevent another European War

    Which is why they want to harmonise all rates of VAT. It must have been a VAT dispute that lead to Napolean’s attempts to conquer the continent.

  29. I can’t help but feel that Idlex and Macarnie have somewhat stolen Boris’ thunder. The poor chap spends weeks in hostile territory and then you go and blow the plotline.

    My view is that the reason that the Roman empire enjoyed such great success is that it began with a dominant power to which other nations paid tribute and supplied troops. Over time, peace brought prosperity which combined with an apeing of Roman governance and customs to bring a coalescence of these individual states into a relatively large western core (Italy, Spain, Southern Gaul, North Africa) tied to an eastern bloc with satellite states and buffer zones around its borders.

    The key element being time, and the early dominance of Italy being the function by which the other partners were forced to co-operate long enough.

    The modern European experiment is constantly torn by the fears of weaker states of the dominance of the big 3-and-a-half (sorry, I’ve relegated Italy to a fraction). For Europe to succeed, we need to adopt German education, French medicine, and British trade, labour and capital market practices, while the Italians teach our men how to dress and our ladies how to pout. We won’t, because all of the states who never made it to the high table of world politics are allowed to tell the big three that they don’t know what they’re doing. And the big three can stalemate one another to preserve the worst parts of their infrastructure while sacrificing the best. We’re taking agriculture instructions from the French, while they have to listen to our views on public transport. Not the way round that I would have picked.

    At the same time, the EU hasn’t caused peace. The USA, China, Russia and Japan have managed not to fight for 50 years, under the Pax Nucleara. I don’t see any of them rushing to form a super-state.

  30. Yeah baby, getting soaked at the uni, way out. Beats getting a pie shoved in ya face though? BTW – it’s your round! Gertcha

  31. Animosity , especially that which has been generated and cultivated by one against another , has a habit of being returned , with interest.

    Starting with De Gaulle who brought it to the boil with several heated ” Non a Grande-Bretagne” votes, and kept simmering by a variety of so called forward looking politicians, including Delors, and so on,up until the present day’s Giscard and Chirac.

    The French have lost none of their dislike of the Anglo Saxon. Even from the so called obscurity of the retirement benches , Delors at a reportedly vigorous 80, still spits out his venom against allowing any British objections to greater integration to be given credence.
    This he now does,naturally at the taxpayers expense,( like many other failed politicians , not only of Gallic disposition), 10 years after he left his position of power in Europe, in the guise of an advisor to a quango-like body, which still seeks to foist an unwanted and unworkable constitution on the EU.
    (A nation not even able to control their own farmers, wishes to rule over Europe. Ironic, innit ? ).

    For myself , I believe that oil amd water will never mix beyond the fine dispersion stage, an emulsion can not be an amalgam , and it’s a waste of time and money to try.

    Parallel wishes to see a Europe in a workable form, without the will for such different ideas to be made less rigid, will remain parallel, and therefore there can be no convergence, excepting in perspective, but even that is a ‘trompe l’oeil’.

    If this were a marriage , no judge would argue against a plea for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
    Bon weekend, mes amis..

  32. I can’t help but feel that Idlex and Macarnie have somewhat stolen Boris’ thunder. The poor chap spends weeks in hostile territory and then you go and blow the plotline. (cum granis salis)

    Have we? I haven’t even seen the documentary yet, and so have no idea what Bozza has in store for us. However, if the opening scene sees him standing beneath the statue of Arminius, recounting the story of the Varian disaster, I will agree.

    For Europe to succeed, we need to adopt German education, French medicine, and British trade, labour and capital market practices, while the Italians teach our men how to dress and our ladies how to pout.

    That certainly sounds like the way forward.

  33. Starting with De Gaulle…

    Anglo-French relations extend back at least 2000 years before that. Except we Celts weren’t Anglish back then, and the Gauls probably weren’t French.

    As for De Gaulle, his principle act was not to say “Non” to Britain, but rather to kick American bases out of France, and develop a French nuclear weapon. This show of independence from the American imperium (now there’s an empire!) has always rankled in Washington, and boiled over during the recent Iraq war.

    Britain, by contrast, hitched herself to the coattails of the American empire, perhaps to compensate for the loss of her own. The result is that we now have British troops being shot and blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan, largely in aid of an American empire with which we fondly think we enjoy a “special relationship”.

    The underlying conflict is not between French and Anglo-saxons, but between Europe and America. And, in this respect, it might even be suggested that De Gaulle is Europe’s Arminius.

  34. He, (De Gaulle) began his seemingly bitter anti Anglo -Saxon phase during the German occupation of France, whilst he was here in the UK, so his antipathy cannot have been because there were any American bases in France.

    He apparently threw down his toys in a tantrum, because the Allied command would not agree to his demands about the order of precedence of the Allies’ eventual re-entry into Paris; even though there was a certain amount of French face saving allowed.

    At the time some newspapers were scathing at his lack of grace; his arrogance; and lack of common courtesy in not thanking his hosts properly for their hospitality.

    He was an immensely proud man , whose pride would not let him acknowledge the French debt to the Anglos. This , I believe caused him an error of judgement in persistently vetoing the British entry into the EEC.

    On the other hand, I agree that the UK is now seen, more or less, as a satellite of the Americans. We bask in the reflected limelight of the so-called special relationship, which is mooted every time the Americans want someone to do something unpleasant. I can’t get used to our being asked to do things, by a guy who has to be told ; even in the throes of delivering an important speech; who he is , and what he must say.

    BTW: I also disagree that the French, as a nation, are more intelligent.
    Intelligence is the ability to learn from., and to deal with, trying situations. Is flouting EU Law an intelligent reaction to not getting ones own way? Was the obstruction and even Vandal–like destruction of the legal imports of British Sheep; Spanish vegetables intelligent? Was the wholesale destruction of catches , and the blockade of ports to normal traffic, all in the of rejection of legal fish quotas, amongst other things,intelligent ? I hardly think so! On this point Idlex,old lad , we must I fear , agree to disagree.

    As for De Gaulle and Varus being compared : De Gaulle never led three legions, did he?

  35. <

    >”At the same time, the EU hasn’t caused peace. The USA, China, Russia and Japan have managed not to fight for 50 years, under the Pax Nucleara. I don’t see any of them rushing to form a super-state.”

    Really Cum Granis Salis? Me thinks you need to read-up somewhat on international relations!

    Russia is an empire held together by the iron fist of the Kremlin in Moscow, and China too is still, in reality, an old-fashioned multi-ethnic, multi-nationalist, empire, held together by tyranny and force. In these societies peace lacks completely. The Chinese regime has killed tens of millions, and Russia is hardly a bastion of democracy. As for Japan, it’s neither a superstate or a nuclear power.

    America, on the other hand, is certainly a superstate. The very fact that it is a superstate provides it with its vast power. It also provides it with a unified internal order, of the magnitude which might be created in Europe one day. Ask not what Europe is, but rather, what it can be…

    You need to ask yourself what ‘peace’ is. If it is merely an absence of war, then yes, indeed, nuclear weapons may have kept ‘peace’. Some might argue that ‘peace’ should be considered more than just an absence of war though. It should also mean an absence of human rights abuses, both domestically and globally, too. In this area, the European Union has fostered a peace like no other. Quite remarkable, some might say, given that only 60 years ago, Europe was a smoking ruin, having just witnessed some of the worst horrors in world history… If the EU can stop this from happening again, and expand its peace wider still and wider, then this alone sanctions its continuation!

  36. Ask not what Europe is, but rather, what it can be

    Europe is , and in all probability will remain, a potpourri of contrarily minded, mainly self centred Nations.

    Although many politicians might fervently wish, ( for whatever reasons, private or public), to coalesce this agglomeration of assorted egos into a viable, single minded, conglomeration of outward looking league of “Europeans”, I fear this aimed-for outcome will always fail.

    The reason? As with religion; too much vested interest on the part of one or more nations wishing its / their brand(s) of the truth to be the only accepted truth.
    This country has ceded power , in many ways , including partial fiscal responsibility,to Europe , without receiving much of value in return. Other Nations flout so called European laws, without harm to themselves or their citizens, whereas the UK slavishly follows their legal path without benefit.

    Hardly a basis for trust in a Europe proposing future ,more draconian measures, inherent in the newly resurrected Constitution eh?.

  37. Vive le Québec libre!

    And for the record, I don’t hate the English. I loathe Americans as a species, though not as individuals; it’s my patriotic duty as a 13th-generation Canadian. My ancestors looted and burned the White House. Is that good for a couple of drinks if I get over to your side of the pond?

  38. to coalesce this agglomeration of assorted egos into a viable, single minded, conglomeration

    England is an agglomeration of assorted egos. And I think the English agglomerate rather well. And who wants ‘single-mindedness’ anyway. Vive la difference!

    And I was comparing De Gaulle to Arminius, not to Varus, in driving the Americans out of France.

  39. M. Cote de Pluie:
    Bienvenu; mille fois.
    Come and have a drink with me , on the strength of your ancestors acuity, anytime you are on this side of the pond.

  40. Sorry about the misreading of the comparison: varius / Armimius Idlex.
    I should have read the piece more carefully. The question now becomes:- when did De Gaulle ever win such a decisive battle on the field? He won one skirmish with the Germans, for which he was promoted directly from Lieutenant Colonel to acting brigadier General, whence he was made Minister for Defence. This post seemed to have been beyond his, ( as well as others),abilities. Not very Arminius like , I think.

    Elsewhere,I meant the whole of the pan European spread of nations as having incipient egomanic desires ,not just the English ,( that should read British ), although you do have a point there, particularly in regard to certain New Labour politicians; even more specifically of late,( and not just internationally either). Try,” J’y suis et j’y reste”, as the BLiar’s motto.

  41. Well, are we all stocked up for 8 pm?

    I bought some Genoa Cake in anticipation of the event. It sounded suitably European. Although the Darjeeling tea with which I propose to wash it down doesn’t.

  42. I have my home made wine and a bottle of geneva, which I shall breach when the occasion warrants a snifter. Let’s hope I survive in a sober mode.( Not too exciting then Boris “!)

  43. While I enjoyed Boris in Rome why is he so anti EU?We are at the transition stage and certainly here in Ireland we have done well out of Europe;this is only the start and if we had a figure like JFK we could achieve UNITY over night….

  44. While I enjoyed Boris in Rome why is he so anti EU?We are at the transition stage and certainly here in Ireland we have done well out of Europe;this is only the start and if we had a figure like JFK we could achieve UNITY over night….

  45. While I enjoyed Boris in Rome why is he so anti EU?We are at the transition stage and certainly here in Ireland we have done well out of Europe;this is only the start and if we had a figure like JFK we could achieve UNITY over night….

  46. “here in Ireland we have done well out of Europe…”

    Here in Britain we have not.

    Britain now pays £12-£13 billion into the EU coffers directly, and that which is returned is spent mainly on farming subsidies under the CAP which hardly any Briton or British MP defends. In addition, the taxes the EU levies on goods imported into the EU and the quotas it imposes push up the price of such goods for us all (witness the ludicrous Mandelson/Chinese underwear farago as one of thousands of such cases). So Britain has lost the ability to set its own foreign trade and agriculture policies.

    The Common Fisheries Policy has decimated our fishing industry and fish stocks that 35 years ago were one of Europe’s largest. We have lost control over much employment law, health and safety and environmental legislation, increasing amounts of intellectual property legislation, product safety legislation and all the rest.

    We are turning into a one party state where whichever government is in charge, the EU-derived laws cannot be changed. In little over a generation we have lost much of our independence that we’ve cherished for centuries (in fact, since Henry VIII broke from Rome in 1536).

    It was interesting in Boris’s film that even the French paysans want to reverse the years of the CAP and go back to the previous system. Well, don’t we all! And the amazing thing is that the CAP was designed by de Gaulle for France!

    Clearly, the sooner we’re out, the better. And this is coming from someone who supported Blair for 10 years!

    I am repenting at leisure.

  47. Boris the show was great! Full of wonderful little bits of knowledge and interesting facts, I look forward to the second part!

  48. Boris , no less entertaining than I , for one , fully expected: roll on next week!.
    It looks like someone, should be apologising to Idlex at least ,possibly even with a grain of salt: there has been no thunder stolen, as far as I could see.

    Gerry Kilduff : Yoou quote another Paul example of the Peter / Paul syndrome , as mentioned earlier in the thread.Of course you are satisfied.
    However , when French farmers themselves are at the point of wishing the CAP to Hell; Burgundy and all; that shows , without doubt , that the UK has been right in its reluctance to accept the CAP status quo without a great deal of alteration.
    Bravo JT : well said.

  49. Nice programme, Boris. Very watchable. I’m looking forward to next week’s.

    By the way, while you’re on the continent, you wouldn’t drop in on the kommissars at Berlaymont for me would you, and slit their throats. There’s a good chap.

    I’d be awfully grateful.


  50. Boris,
    My compliments for making such a very good program about comparing the Roman empire and the Europe of our time.
    A very interesting program about what living was in those days and a parallel to modern politics as well. I enjoyed it very much and I am looking forward to the second part.
    The 10-15% tax of the Romans was nothing compared to the 40% of these days so the Romans could have been much more richer!

  51. I’ll have to reserve judgment for now. When the tea and Genoa Cake hit, my eyelids briefly fluttered and then closed.

    What I did see, in my brief moments of lucidity, slightly troubled me. It’s true that the legions were strung out along the borders of the empire, and that subject peoples were not driven at sword-point. But the same could be said of the Nazi occupation of Holland and Belgium and France. It doesn’t mean that the defeated peoples embraced either Roman or Nazi rule.

    Again, it was said that goods were manufactured in the provinces and sold in Rome, rather than vice versa, because prices were higher in Rome. Why were prices higher in Rome? Most likely because that was where the tax revenues ended up, driving up prices.

    And not all gladiators were captives or slaves. Quite often freeborn Romans would take up the trade, to win wealth and fame (or not). And the purpose of the spectacle, according to some, was to remind the increasingly flabby Roman people that it was by warfare that they had gained all that they possessed.

  52. Very good Bozza! Get Agrippa. I chuckled, anyway. Bet your Latin teacher let that one go. Very good programme, waiting impatiently for the next installment. As I’m here I’d like to take the opportunity of asking a question about the EU – Gerry, the feller from Ireland said they had done very well out of Europe, being a sink for a lot of the money flooding out of England (and not Britain I imagine, despite what the robber Brown says). Ah! The question. Is there supposed to come a time when the countries benefitting from this monetary aid actually reach a position when they too can become net contributors to this slush fund? Thank you and goodnight.

  53. Although Europeans don’t have a single person they can pay homage to they do have a collective identity in in the tacit understanding of certain ideas. Europe is an Empire of ideas more than it is a single political unit. The rationalist ideas born of the Enlightenment are embedded in the European psyche more deeply than can be found in any other part of the world. Where else can I go in the world without being bombarded with in your face religions and anti-rationalist doctrines? We’ve learned to cast off the shackles of religion and to be peaceful without having a strong man looking over us, something the Romans never achieved, and a far more worthy measure of civilization.

  54. Boris, you where in Rome and I did not see your mane! Next time let me know, so that I can introduce you to some professors and good restaurants that are affordable. Idlex, the problem of high prices in Rome was that it was cheaper to produce things in the provinces that had a larger number of slaves that worked. There were few slaves in Italy, at least not in big farms that opened workshops. So, the local production in Rome died out (sounds familiar?). One point of Rome’s power, and the difference of the Nazis and the EU, is that the Roman empire appreciated people that were ready to adopt the Roman imperial way. Greeks were amazed how easy it was for a slave to be freed and how the libertus (freed slave) could work and his children became automatically Roman citizens. In this way the best made a career, and even ended up in the senate or as emperors (Trajan and Hadrian had Spanish origins, Septimius Severus was from north Africa, his was Syrian). Similar to the Roman ideology is the USA, at least in principal. The EU is instead a place were there are too many cooks, looking for a communal point that cannot be found. There is so much history in Europe, and to create an united Europe we must encourage the young to travel and mix, to know each other. No laws can force an union that feels wrong. As for peace in Europe for 60 years, we must thank the iron curtain and NATO, not the EU. Will there be a war in the future? Depends on how the political life of the member countries goes, remember, 70 years ago, there were 5 dictators in Europe, and most of the population did not mind, these 5 countries have had democracy for 60 years, and that makes them different from older states that have a stronger democratic history. This is what makes an united Europe difficult.

  55. I completely agree, John Small! Much of modern science has been a European project: Copernicus was Polish. Kepler was German. Galileo was Italian. Newton was English. Together they put together the laws of motion. (Anyone know the origin of our electric amps, volts, and ohms?) Wherever you turn, you find ideas which have been mulled over in Europe, exchanged, dissected, amplified, and elaborated from country to country.

    And it is also from within Europe’s long history comes so much shapes our thinking. The Roman empire which we here discuss. Ancient Greece. So many philosophers and writers and artists and architects. Such a treasury!

    I read last week an American academic remark that the Enlightenment had never reached America. And, boy, doesn’t it just show!

  56. Idlex

    I seem to recall that one of the great glories of the last century in Europe was the rise of mass fascist parties of the left and right, possibly as a result of some of the more crazy ways out of the Enlightenment. Still today there is a mass fascist party in France, it is perfectly respectable to belong to the communist party without having to account for Stalin and we remember such great philosophers as Sartre and Heidegger with their admiration of strong leaders and contempt for we petit bourgeois types. Peirce, Dewey, Putnam and others may not have been or be as exciting but I think they follow a better line from the real Enlightenment and real philosphers and humanists like Kant.

    I also recall that French secularism consists of bullying Muslim girls into not wearing headscarves rather than the more pragmatic forms pursued in the UK and USA.

    Still chacun a son goat!

  57. Idlex,

    “I read last week an American academic remark that the Enlightenment had never reached America.”
    Yes, America has no shortage of self-haters too. Pretty much all of them Democrats. Or yoghurt-knitter types. Same thing probably. Thank God for George W Bush.

    The fact your American specimen is an academic is hardly surprising. Academe is full dross like that, especially so in the humanities. I bet he is a sociologist, anthroplogist or one of those half-wit postmodernist lit crit cretins.

    “And, boy, doesn’t it just show!”
    I wouldn’t say that at all. It does, however, show me that it hasn’t reached you. Not in full anyway. I don’t think you are properly plugged in old boy.

    But as for your support of John Small: bravo! Quite right.

    No other civilisation comes close. The hindu mathematics books were full of errors. A lot of guesswork, some of it inspired. No notion of proof. Nothing much to report really. There’s a lot of adulatory fuss these days about their invention (or discovery, if you prefer) of zero. But it’s just a lot of hype. It didn’t happen all at once and it’s not even certain it started in India. The Greeks developed positional notations of various sorts and even had a symbol for the empty place (i.e. zero), a dot, and some others. A lot of Greek works reached India. Unfortunately, though, Greek mathematicians had no time for mere mensuration – they we real mathematicians interested loftier things. In any case, a decimal/positional system is inherent in the abacus. All it takes is for a bright merchant to decide he wants to record a result from his abacus. Being bright, he might then figure he could get the same results by manipulating his symbols instead. Bingo! Seen in that light, it’s a little surprising the idea took so long to take off. By the way, although the Greeks had their numerical notation, they expressed numbers in geometrical form when they wanted to do any serious work. They’d had their fingers burnt, so to speak, by their discovery of incommensurables (root 2 and such). It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that the so-called real numbers were put on a firm foundation. So with hindsight, their reluctance to faff around in perfecting number systems was very understandable, if not exactly prescient. But what they did do is more than sufficient to ensure their immortality.

    And the Moslems? Not much to report there either I’m afraid, except for their enlightened custodianship and preservation (mostly by translation) of ancient Greek texts. Their ‘algebra’ was pretty much all done with words. Algebraic notation was a European invention. So I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising that they obtained no new results worth speaking about. The Greeks solved the quadratic yonks before (but expressed it all in geometrical terms). So nothing new there. Next up was the cubic. But we had to wait for the Italians (no not the Romans, Boris) in the 16th century or thereabouts for that. Therafter it’s all Western.

    Alas the Romans were thoroughgoing primitives in mathematics. Don’t tell Boris though – it might upset him.

    I understand there are some people here who would like to shut me up. What? Like Hans Martin Tillack?

    So kind.

    Toodle pip.

    P.S. Boris,
    I don’t suppose you could do piece on the benefits our fifth-column Islamic ‘community’ brings to us? I’m rather at a loss and would love be properly informed. The press, tv and politicians keep going on about them in general terms. They appear to assume everyone knows exactly what they are. I must have been on holiday at the time the specifics were discussed so I’d very much appreciate a recap.

  58. The fact your American specimen is an academic is hardly surprising. Academe is full dross like that, especially so in the humanities. I bet he is a sociologist, anthroplogist or one of those half-wit postmodernist lit crit cretins. (Mumbler)

    I don’t think he was any of those. I’m fairly sure he was some sort of biologist or evolutionary theorist.

    The context was the rise of Christian fundamentalism, and biblical creationism, and the retreat of science, in the USA. It was in the course of surveying the dismal scene that he remarked that the Enlightenment had never reached America.

    Peirce, Dewey, Putnam and others may not have been or be as exciting but I think they follow a better line from the real Enlightenment (Jack Ramsey)

    Actually I agree. There is, or rather was, a fine tradition of level-headed American pragmatism. Where did it get lost?

  59. “I don’t think he was any of those. I’m fairly sure he was some sort of biologist or evolutionary theorist.” (idlex)

    Oh. I hope he doesn’t employ that standard of logic professionally. Perhaps his own ‘religious’ convictions got in the way and induced the solecism. My bet now is that he’s a simple lefty. (What are the odds? VG, I’d say.) Lefties do tend to suffer in that regard, being no less religious than one of their favourite betes noires, the Christian fundamentalist, the difference being that the Christian fundamentalist doesn’t in general regard himelf as a prophet.

    “Actually I agree. There is, or rather was, a fine tradition of level-headed American pragmatism. Where did it get lost?” (idlex)

    🙂 Good. Though you’re overdoing it again, idlex. But I do appreciate the olive branch. Please accept one in return.

    But back to business. The Americans never lost it, although I’d say it is at a low ebb these days: Dubya’s re-election was not a foregone conclusion, for heavens sake!


  60. “Are you certain he WAS re-elected?” (raincoat)

    I gather you’re not. But to answer your question, given the amount of electoral fraud perpetrated by the Dimocrats alone, yes.

    You didn’t mention plastic turkeys or GWB’s military service record (as faked and ‘exposed’ via the pinko media — and what fun that ensuing Rathergate affair was).

    How sweet.

    Lady Antonia and the other guardianistas did their bit in getting GBW back with their hilarious letters-to-US-voters stunt. They increased the GOP’s vote. Oh joy. What a bunch of preening lefty prats. Very, very entertaining.

    By the way, say hello to Michael Moore for me. I gather he’s not dead yet. Tell him to get a move on.

  61. Idlex

    I trust you are not looking for level headed pragmatism amongst the more excitable Democrats. There seems to be an unhealthy dose of postmodernism, relativism and deconstructionism there. American Christian fundamentalism may bring on one of my migraine’s but they state honestly like good men and women what they believe. As far as I can see the American left has erected a novel new religion based on Bush hatred (high priest MM) which swirls around in the swamps of the aforesaid postmodernism, relativism and deconstructionism.

    Scholarship question.

    “Overwhelming hatred of a single mortal is a better basis for humanism than ovewhelming love of a single supernatural being is for theistic religions. Discuss”

    Hi Mumbler

    Welcome to the puzzle factory!

  62. Jack: It works for polytheistic as well as monotheistic religions, so why specify?

    Mumbles: You’ve mistaken me for an American democrat. I’m neither; I’m a Canadian socialist. And I certainly wouldn’t have voted for Kerry. But when I have detailed accounts of votes being driven away from polling places in trucks with Bush/Cheney stickers on them, and those accounts come from more than one independant source, I do have to wonder whether the reported results were in fact the elected results. Past experience leads one to doubt; see for details.

    Still, as I’ve said before, post away! Nothing like a good right-wing rant to set up the socialist agenda as a reasonable alternative to extremist views.

  63. Raincoaster

    I was going to be picky and point out my use of the word single but that clause is cosnistent with love of a single supernatural being and there being others which you don’t love so point taken!

    I’m sure there are fiddles at most elections – not a good thing. But I suspect the Democrats do the same. That doesn’t make it right but whther it makes an imperfect system just a little more imperfect or a compete fraud is a matter for discussion.

    By the way that well known feline friend of the people George Galloway won the Bethnal Green seat in our general election almost certainly because his supporters put round the claim that Onna King, his opponent and a first rate constituency MP whatever your political colour (she is actually quite a left leaning socialist), was going to ban the production of Halal meat through ritual killing. (It might seem odd that a governement that bans fox hunting doesn’t feel so bad about the poor old sheep). Oona King was going to do no such thing.

  64. Sorry to be mean, but the translation of the interviews in French (subtitles in English) is not only poor, but actually a large chunk is wrong – I mean howlers galore! Who did it? It really is appalling.
    Everything else is spot on, of course. Love Ruth

  65. “Hi Mumbler Welcome to the puzzle factory!” (Jack Ramsey)

    Thank you, Jack. 🙂

    Good post.

  66. I see some mentions of mathematics above. What intrigued me was how the Romans, and others, kept accounts. Although their ‘paper’ representation scheme has some logic it is rather a Heath Robinson digital system. As far as I can see they used good digital hardware in the dear old abacus thus effectively using a base 10 but seemed to have to translate the inputs and outputs. Have I got this wrong?

  67. Jack,

    FWIW I believe you’re correct but it’s a question I’d rather leave for the historians.

    By the way, such logistic has about as much to do with mathematics as the writing on a cornflakes packet has to do with literature. But you’d never know that if you listened only to politicians* and other ‘worthies’, such as the Today programme’s overweening incompetents.

    Talking of incompetents, wotsername, Blunkett’s successor at education, the one who also resigned: you’d think they’d have appointed someone who actually knew something, or at least could blink a little faster.

    * That’s not a go at you, Boris. I’ve never heard you put your foot in it. On that count anyway. 🙂

  68. Back on the subject at hand, there is one crystalline moment in the Dream of Rome, where Boris stands above a hole in the ground of the Roman forum, squinting at a reconstruction of Romulus’ palace, and utters the immortal words: “It looks rather like Surrey Golf Club.”

    And there it is, in a flash: the Roman empire as a golf club, with Romulus’ palace as the clubhouse at its centre. A royal and ancient Roman golf club whose fairways and greens extended all the way round the Mediterranean, with an admission fee of a trifling 10 or 15% of one’s income, and where slavery was only a brief apprenticeship as unpaid caddy before promotion to greenkeeper.

  69. Mumbler

    I suppose that strictly place value arithmetic is computation rather than maths, and quaint place value with extra bits, as in the case of Roman numerals is badly hacked computation. Number theory doesn’t require numerals. So I guess you’re right.

    And what’s off topic about Roman information technology young idlex!

  70. I don’t know if that was a question Idlex, “Genoa cake” ? Or even indeed if the cake you mention was formed from some other , rather more potent substance than flour and eggs. Did you eat it or smoke it?

  71. Genoa Cake, according to my analysis, consists of a dense aggregate of raisins and cherries cemented together by a minute amount of cake. I don’t believe it contains anything else. And I am generally accustomed to eating cake rather than smoking it.

    The effect of its consumption, along with a few mugs of tea, is to cause me to gently nod off in the early hours of the evening.

    But I quite often do that anyway, Genoa cake or not.

  72. Jack,

    “I suppose that strictly place value arithmetic is computation…” (Jack Ramsey)

    To be sure, my related aside on this subject was most certainly not directed at you but at those types specifically mentioned. Your comment was only a trigger in that respect. I’d hate for there to be any misunderstanding on this. ‘Friendly fire’ incidents are things one should strive to avoid, if possible. 🙂

    Fore! (Slightly delayed)

  73. Mumbler

    Don’t worry dear fellow! As it happens the pause it gave me for thought actually forced me to think something through. I use the word force in its non-perjorative sense.

    OK I know I should try and keep up but what is Genoa cake and what is its significance. But if the explanation would make the ladies blush I don’t want to know either!

  74. I described Genoa cake fairly accurately yesterday. Its significance lay in the fact that I ate a large slice of the aforesaid cake shortly before Boris’ Dream of Rome last Sunday, and proceeded to doze off midway through (and consequently had my own personal dream of Rome).

    With luck, I’ll be wide awake this Sunday for the final denouement. If that is the right word…

  75. idlex,

    With luck, I’ll be wide awake this Sunday for the final denouement. If that is the right word…
    ” (idlex)

    It sounds right to me. Hopwever, the word ‘final’ is redundant –unless you have more (ominous things) in mind than just the programme.


    As enjoyable as your programme is (and that is very enjoyable indeed), when it was first brought to my attention last week I entertained an awful suspicion. The problem was that the cretinously europhilic BBC were responsible for the production — the very people who recently broadcast that infantile “How euro are you?” programme hosted by that excitable lefty Andrew Marr — you know, the one with the porno-queen businesswoman sticking (it?) up for the EU. Need I say any more?

  76. Successful warriors and more-
    than-competent adminstrators
    they may have been but, as is
    incontrovertibly chronicled,
    they were as brutally barbaric in crushing resistance to their rule as
    were the Bolsheviks and the Nazis. Of course everyone wanted to be Romans – they were terrified of being anything else – Fool!

  77. Noel.A.Shaw: Of course everyone wanted to be Romans – they were terrified of being anything else – Fool!

    Your point proves that the “Paulus’s” of this world never complained that the “Petrus’s” were getting a raw deal.
    “Ex Roma semper aliquid novi”(?)

  78. Well, well, what a lot of schluck we have on our noticeboards these days! Boris, I have thoroughly enjoyed your programmes, your presentation and your conclusions, although I don’t know whether or not they are absolutely accurate: nevertheless, they made sense to me and repeated conclusions I and my friends have voiced many times over many years regarding the rapid and large unsustainable influx of alien cultures resulting in the swamping of a civilisation. There has to be a lesson here for us all.
    I could never understand why all the very advanced, civilising practices of the Romans in our country were suddently lost when they departed. Surely the building, sanitation, heating skills were learnt by the indigenous population who surely would have retained them and passed them on to their kith and kin. Not so, it would appear, and it would be centuries before it was all relearned.
    What a remarkable people they were.
    What an enjoyable programme.

  79. I have read many comments where some have said that they were mislead into Europe ? But they seem to have wrongly placed that blame on the continent rather than their own government , The Uk after all was part of a free trade zone only isntitution the EFTA why did the UK pulled out of it ?.

    The project from the start was meant to unify Europe wheter it was comments by jean monnet or other founders .

    As jean monnet said in 1943 “There will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty… The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation…” .

    As for the question of trust i think that all sides wheter they are British or French or Eastern European are begining slowly to realize the need for the EU in some form or the other given the current world order and competition.

    I am a Dane living in Brussels
    my prosperity and security is linked to that of the British just as yours are linked to France or Germany’s just as theirs is now linked with others .

    Besides after 1500 years weve never come this close to uniting Europe as we can today , We are all living in an important period of history why not live in interesting times i look forward to some future Boris Johnson in 2000 years talking about the EU as a model for a future Europe divided by conflicts or dark ages .

  80. A lesson for the Europhiles , I think. Too many aliens spoil the soup.

    Everything in moderation is the answer: the heavy socialistic style hand brought down the neo Roman structure . Let us not fall into the same trap.

    j.b.pedler: You ask about the plumbing skills the Romans had in such abundance . They came,and after starting the job; they left; saying, as all plumbers do ,” We’ll be back soon”.

    We are still waiting .. Things don’t change much , do they?

    Genoa cake satisfactory. Idlex?

  81. An excellent programme. A rare combination of being informative, educational and entertaining. Very well presented. Well done.

  82. Didn’t you think the bit with Boris in a market in Istanbul was funny? He accepted a nut or something from one of these persistent stallholders who was then bewildered with Boris’s response of “Vote Tory”….

    I loved it.

  83. Alas, BitTorrent has never heard of Boris. I’ll have to see if I have any Inet friends at the BBC…somehow I never have them anywhere useful. On that note, if anyone needs a good yak trekking guide in the Himalayas, I’ve got somebody you should meet…

  84. The documentary about Rome was very good. I agree that the last 1,000 years of the Byzantine Empire has been underplayed, especially the Greek part and the very interesting effect of absorbing the many invasions of Slavs Goths, Vandals ETC and converting them into Christianity and making them defend the Empire. I agree so much that people don’t see the difference of Islam and secular. As the turkish say” we are different, not like the Arabs.” Sad to say, we could need a real threat to fundamentalists to remind ourselves that we have had 50 years of peace…AND that’s very rare in the world. Turkey must come in and we must educate ourselves.Gibbon was incorrect by blaming Christianity by the downfall of Rome . He was a neo-pagan. The pagan Roman Empire lasted 400 years. the Eastern Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire lasted twelve thousand and and is deftly interwoven with very old beliefs of classical philosophy, Judaisim and healing. It is the glue. It does not matter if you believe in god or not, it’s a good guide. Well done Boris!

  85. Boris,
    Thank you. Another very enjoyable programme. By the way, I think your apparent advocacy of Turkish entry is badly mistaken. The two ladies you interviewed, however, would make superb EUers – their anti-Americanism and socialist views would fit in very well on the continent.

    I have read many comments where some have said that they were mislead into Europe ? But they seem to have wrongly placed that blame on the continent rather than their own government…” (Arvor)

    Oh really. Where did you read those? You surprise me. No matter. While the continentals are complicit in going along with the lies, it is well known in the UK that the responsibilty lies at home. Ted Heath lied us that the “Common Market” (as it was called then) was not a political project. Same lies from labour at the 1975 referendum. Tony Bliar and his chums did similar with the euro, saying it was all about economic benefits and transactional ease (yak yak yak…) when in fact it was a thoroughly dishonest attempt to entangle Britain completely into a political union. There were at pains to deny its political purpose. But finally the truth came out and rather than aoplogise and resign they did a 180 degree turn and started talking as if they had said all along that it was political too (“Of course it’s political” one of them said. I don’t recall who now.) Liars with no shame. (Ultimately a single currency will only work with a single goverment. Big subject. I’ll stop at that, except to say that it will blow up at some point and cause misery.)

    The project from the start was meant to unify Europe wheter it was comments by jean monnet or other founders.” (Arvor)

    Indeed. Gramsci stuff this. The idea is to hollow out the national political establishments, turning them into shells through which the EU would issue its diktats, all the while the people thinking that they had an elected government answerable only to them when in fact the government was nothing but a mouthpiece for the EU. BTW, the EU cannot be democratic. There is no European demos. So any talk about democracy from the europhiles is lies and junk think.

    As for the question of trust i think that all sides wheter they are British or French or Eastern European are begining slowly to realize the need for the EU in some form or the other given the current world order and competition.” (Arvor)

    Speak for yourself, and not the British. The EU with it unsustainable socialist social model, it’s virulent anti-Americanism, it’s corruption, its hyper over-regulation, it’s yooman rights, CAP, budgetary shenanigans, overpaid lackeys, gravy train for failed national politicians and windbags…. is not needed by us. You continentals can do what you like but I and many Britons want nothing to do with you politically. We don’t need you. On the contrary, you need us, at least for our taxes (and our market). We do NOT need YOU.

    “Current world order”? Worried about those nasty imperial Americans? We have far more in common with the Yanks than we will ever have with you. I would never side with Europeans against Americans. The EU is making every effort to drive a wedge between the UK and the USA. (Our recent EU-inspired defence procurement planning is a superb example of that as well as being very bad value for money.) Or perhaps you are worried about external miltary threats? The EU couldn’t punch it’s way out of a wet paper bag and it never will. Or perhaps it’s the growing economies of China and India you’re thinking about since you mention competition. The EU is not the answer to them. The EU is moribund as far as competition is concerned – it’s far too socialist. It’s only response will be protectionism. In the long term that’s a killer.

    “Besides after 1500 years weve never come this close to uniting Europe as we can today” (Arvor)

    You’re right. The situation is getting really serious again – Napoleon, Hitler and now the EUSSR. Time for Britain to turn around and stay well away.

    Tell me Arvor, given that all our politicians have lied to us about the Common Market and the EU, will you support us in having a British referendum on our continued membership of the EU, about which we have never had a say since all our political parties have conspired to avoid one? Or are you going to spew out some guff about us electing governments to decide the issue for stupid little old us?

    The EU is for unthinking dreamers and utopianists. Dangerous people.

    I used to think you Danes were all very sensible. 😉

  86. Surely the obvious place for the EU to expand is, in fact, east through India and China. And communitarian meta-governments like this are genetically programmed to do nothing BUT grow. Russia is, frankly, not valuable and won’t be until the natural resource/criminality ratio is more advantageous, something nobody would anticipate happening quickly. The truly paranoid would say, “gee, it can’t expand through India and China until it gets through…Iraq and Afghanistan. Hmmmmm.

  87. What a brilliant presenter Boris is. Why can’t all History/Politics/Current Affairs teachers be like this?
    The programmes were fascinating,informative,amusing,challenging ..and much more.
    I look forward to further similar series. I also feel compelled to vist Rome when I can – my only previous visit being on a school trip many moons ago. There is so much more I must see,explore and investigate.

  88. It has to be asked , the question which Boris last night left, (just) unuttered .

    If the EU is to emulate the Roman Empire , it needs a figurehead as powerful as the Emperor in order to form the glue, as it were.

    Who would this demi-godlike paragon be, behind whom the vast majority of this “Neo-empire” population would stand ,shoulder to shoulder?
    Honest Tony Bliar?
    “I’m alright” Jacqes Chirac ?
    Buffo Berlucsconi?
    Angela Merckel?
    Any offers?

  89. Funny you should mention that:

    Four Horsemen Ask Directions to Rome.
    PARIS – A funny thing happened on the way to Doomsday – the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse got lost and had to ask for directions! That is the wild story of a French police officer who claims that one of the fearsome riders trotted up to him on the roadside and sheepishly asked, “Do you know the way to Rome?”

    “It was the one on a red horse, holding a broad-sword. I guess that must be the Second Horseman, the War guy,” highway patrolman Michel Clenard told a Paris newspaper.

    Well, if they never DO find the way, I don’t think it really matters who is put in charge. People have an almost infinite capacity to take orders; if you look at the Ceasars, they weren’t all compelling individuals. It was the hierarchy, reinforced with pomp, that was compelling. Once Bush was declared the winner, even while serious doubts swirled and major accusations of fraud were being thrown around, people just accepted it. They even accepted the possibility that he didn’t win, yet still accepted his presidency because he’d been proclaimed; to me, that’s the lowest point to which a so-called democracy can sink.

    You could put any milquetoast in the position of Emperor; as long as the trappings are there, people will kneel.

  90. Did anyone else notice a certain amount of rabbit / Laplander confusion when Boris was discussing the EU constitution with a French Priest? My French isn’t that good and I don’t think it was in the subtitles – but I am pretty sure that there was something in that direction.

  91. I found myself agreeing with most of what Boris had to say and found his blustering syle endearing.Where I thought the whole thing fell to bits last night, was with the attempt to include Turkey with the European idea. From what I know(precious little maybe)-the taking of Constantinople by the Ottomans merely allowed the Muslim Turks to use the hollowed-out shell of the Eastern Roman Empire-essentially Christian-and replace it with Islam.It was done,I believe very often,in a violent manner, contrary to Boris’s assertion.Subject peoples were coerced by threat to convert from Christianity…and the attempt by the Ottomans to take Vienna was only narrowly averted by Prince Esterhazy.Therefore,whilst occupying a similar area to that of the Eastern Roman Empire, the fundament underlying it was Islam-NOT Christianity-so no match with the Western Empire-quite the reverse.The Sultan was also Caliph,an office of the Muslim religion which I believe was a sort of Pope(Supreme Head of Religious Affairs).Therefore Turkey is not the heir to the Eastern Roman Empire.It erased and conquered it, and then gobbled it up.The argument that Turkey should be part of Europe from this point of view is,I believe, unsustainable.

  92. Gareth : the Lap(se) of a possible misunderstanding between ‘lapin’ and ‘lapon’ was indeed in the subtitles. Sit and pay attention that boy!

  93. Ancestral Healing

    I have just watched Boris Johnson’s programme on The Dream of Rome, which makes some interesting points. Nonetheless, I was surprised that he repeated ALL of the Roman racism against the Celts! Again, we hear that we are dirty and hairy and uncivilized and Barbarian and unwashed (repeated several times) and unlettered and without benefit to the world and best off massacred and destroyed and sold into slavery etc. I am disappointed though. Wouldn’t you be?

    Boris would say that he is politically correct, I assume. He wants to be elected, doesn’t he? He would say that he agrees with a multicultural model where everybody is respected, wouldn’t he? I actually quite like Boris Johnson because he speaks his mind and he is radical and original, but to see someone like him misunderstand the issues – well he is not a healer and he is not a psychologist, is he? Poor man is just a politician and like all politicians, he cannot understand why his nice dreams for political unity and economic rationalization don’t work.

    Boris was ‘disappointed’ that France put up a statue to Vercingetorix, and that Germany put up a statue to Arminius and that Britain put Boudicca opposite the Houses of Parliament. He says this is nationalist, obviously disgusting. But look at it another way Boris. These ancestors died defending us and they were the last people who actually loved us! Think about it, please!

    Ever since Rome conquered us we have been subject to the most vicious racism and character assassination. It is still continuing today. This is a very deep wound and until it is healed, we will not play into the game of European integration, especially as Europe is our ancestral home and we made it before Rome built the first hut on the Palatine Hill.

    I am sorry that you believe that peoples without writing are Barbarians, with all the implicit racism that implies. Do you think the same about the American Indians, about the Australian Aboriginals? This is typical Imperial prejudice, the same prejudice that has led to the near extinction of the Bushmen in Africa, who carry the traditions of the stone age through to the modern world with all the benefits that may yet still accrue to us, if we can learn it before we kill the last one! Africa itself has suffered terribly because they left us no writing, so they are ignorant too? This same prejudice is leading to the eradication of the Rainforest peoples with all their knowledge from before time out of mind. How stupid of them not to write it down for us. Or is it the simple fact that we are too stupid to understand the benefit of cultures who do not write things down because we are so infatuated with the few civilisations that do?

    How do you think you can unite people into this dangerous equation? Why do you think nationalism rears its head? Can you go through your ancestral line and exterminate the ancestors you don’t fancy? Can you really cherry pick your way through all the ancestors who created you? Do you think this will lead to your psychological health in the 21st century? Do you think this is politically correct? Is it going to work? Can you create a truly healthy multicultural modern European Union where only some of us have acceptable ancestors?

    You think laterally. Of course with the current populations, everyone must be equally valued and made welcome. We are citizens of the World, all of us. But think historically too. If it is not acceptable to racially insult current populations, then it is not acceptable to insult people’s ancestors. This is not politically correct, is it? You cannot pick the biggest bully boys in history and then try and get everyone to model themselves on people who exterminated their ancestors. Rome was magnificent, but it also created a lot of the ills of modern society, not least the exclusion of any part of society who didn’t measure up to their idea of civilization, a prejudice you are still repeating today. This same prejudice, tracked back though history, leaves a bloody trail we are still trying to heal today. Until you realise this and help us to heal it, your little dreams of Europe are doomed.

  94. Isn’t Boris a Norman, though? So his attitude to the Celts makes perfect sense to me. And I’m relatively certain he wouldn’t describe himself as politically correct.

    For the record, “rainforest” isn’t capitalized, except I think in German. I’m writing from a rainforest, so I know what I’m talking about. I am one of those rainforest people.

  95. Genoa cake satisfactory. Idlex?

    Yes. And it had the usual effect: about 20 minutes into the programme, I dozed off. But fortunately I had taken the precaution of recording the thing.

    I was pleased to see Arminius and the Teuteburg forest finally appear. But I don’t think any thunder was stolen.

    I thought the section on Turkey was a very interesting take, and interesting to know that Boris is a bit of a Young Turk. I thought the view back from Turkey was illuminating: Darwinism, they said. Quite so. Darwinism is essentially a vision of endless war (of the sort US neocons advocate and generate). We could do without Darwinism, but not a rational theory of evolution freed from Darwin.

    And in general, Islam respected most religions, and didn’t force conversion. How else could Coptic Christianity have survived in Islamic Egypt for well over a thousand years? But Islam made non-Muslims pay taxes, which was quite a strong incentive to convert.

    And I thought Boris said that a Roman emperor was something we didn’t want.

    All in all, I enjoyed it greatly. Boris is a rather good presenter. But I felt that, in the end, it was all his dream of Rome.

  96. I really enjoyed both programs.

    I’m not sure whether this has already been mentioned, but one of the main assumptions of Boris’s theory on Romanisation was that it affected every strata of urbanised society across the Empire, leading to a coherent sense of ‘Romanness’. In contrast, it would seem that very few societies were urbanised to the same extent as those in Italy. This would have meant that the usual agents of Roman influence (coinage, administration, buildings, religion etc.) would have had little contact with the majority of the provincial, agrarian population. The local aristocracy (a tiny minority) would have been the only people with any need to adapt to certain Roman customs.

    This lack of Romanisation of the rural majority can even be found within Italy itself. Material records from as late as the 1st Century BC show that graves outside of the town of Paestum have very little in the way of Roman artefacts, but rather local cultural or Greek-influenced items. Rome was hugely successful in its relative tolerance of local cultural practice; but other than the provincial elite, I do not think that many people under the Roman Empire had much of a sense of being ‘Roman’ any more than many feel ‘European’ today.

  97. I hugely enjoyed Boris Johnsons two part series on the Roman Empire. It is a relief to watch an intelligent man and an intelligent programme. Nonetheless, may I make one comment and give one suggestion?

    The comment refers to Mr Johnson’s comparing Christian martyrs to Islamic suicide bombers. I felt this was a problematic statement since the only similarity between the two groups is that they were/are prepared to die for their faith. But surely that is where the similarity ends? Early Christian martyrs were pacifists and had no intention of taking the lives of those who did not believe their faith. This sort of throw away comment reflects a general disrespect for our historic connection with Christianity. It is disheartening the way mainstream media seem totally unperturbed in how they lump the christian faith, history and thought together quite different islamic traditions

    The second is to suggest a follow-up series, looking more broadly at the citizen/non citizen divide. Might it be interesting to compare western civilisation with roman civilisation, particularly with regard to questions concerning self belief, ability to absorb large numbers of newcomers and the growth of bureaucracy? These questions are not just pertinent to the EU, but to the west in general.

  98. One thing that comes to mind is that, although Boris mentions the fall of Constantinople to the Moors in 1453, and cites this as lying at the roots of the great divide of Turkey from Europe, I don’t remember any mention of an older and arguably equally deep divide that arose almost exactly 400 years earlier: the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western churches in 1054.

    Constantinople became deeply estranged from Rome back then. I’m not sure about the history of the Eastern church, but it might be argued that the Western church was the more fissile partner, which was to in turn divide later into Catholics and Protestants, and Protestants to divide thereafter into innumerable further fissile variants.

  99. idlex, I don’t suppose there’s any chance you got it on DVD and might be persuaded to loan it to a poor, benighted Canuck who is BBC-less? Happy to send postage in advance.

  100. I found Boris staggeringly naive with regard to the Turks. Ataturk’s oh-so-wonderful secular state was built onthe violation of the post-WW1 peace stellement and the physical destruction of Christian peoples (Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians) and the cultural destruction of non-Turkish Islamic peoples (Kurds) within the chunk of the Eastern Roman Empire currently occupied by modern Turkey. Yes, Constantinople is a European city – under Asian occupation.

    Where were the entire histories of the Balkan peoples in Boris’ program, the centuries of bloody struggle to preserve national and religious identities and to regain independence from the Turkish yoke? Not to mention the Western Great Powers’ shameful efforts to keep the Ottoman Empire alive for geopolitical reasons during its decline, against the wishes of the peoples enslaved by the Caliphate?

    And where were the most urgent contemporary issues WRT the Turkish question? What about Northern Cyprus? The Kurds? Denial of the Armenian Genocide?

    19th century British turkophilia was a degrading and shameful indulgence in the most cold-blooded and cynical (if not willfully blind) realpolitik (driven at the time by fear of the Russians). The 20th century variety is equally unedifying.

  101. I saw the second part of the show, where Mr. Johnson has clearly stated that Ottoman empire was a natural evolution of the Eastern Roman empire (Byzantine empire), and as such the Ottoman empire has preserved the European civilization and ideas throughtout Europe’s dark ages. Although he mentioned several times the year 1453, he hasn’t explained us what exactly has happened then, and went on to suggest that Ottoman empire was an open to ifferent religions society, and the proof of it is the Church of Agia Sophia that has been left intact.

    The year of 1453 Constantinople (known as Istanbul since 1930s) has fallen under the Ottomans. The Eastern Roman empire fell under the hordes of Turks coming from the far east. Important schools, churches and libraries of the middle ages has been burnt down. Several ‘brainies’ managed to flea to Italy and contribute a lot to Europe’s renaissance. The dark ages started for this part of europe while the rest of Europe was starting to flourish. So it seems to me as a violent stop to Roman Eastern empire rather than evolution. Needless to mention that Agia Sophia has been converted to a Mosque and remained so till 20th century.

    I do agree with Mr. Johnson that Turkey should be part of EU, but for many other reasons, not on the grounds of misintepretation of history

  102. I don’t suppose there’s any chance you got it on DVD

    Sorry, rain, but it’s on VHS videotape. And furthermore, the second episode overwrote the first.

    Perhaps it’s about time I invested in a DVD recorder/player. I recorded the excellent documentary about the Varian disaster that I mentioned upthread, and now regret that it has been overwritten as well.

  103. absolutely brilliant. a freiend said Boris waers his eruditeness lightly. I learnt so much: being a euro sceptic – but a lover of many aspects of other cultures – and I live in Amsterdam – and with a big belief that we need to recover more of the Celtic Tradition – he shed a lot of light, especially re the lack of bureaucracy (for a long times), the value of the emperor (I’m a great believer in monarchy, QE2 stil carries some of that quality for many in Britland) and the role of Constantinople and today’s Turkey. Thanks a lot Boris – now, Boris for PM…

  104. Ah, it’s about time I scraped my pennies together and emailed that address at the end of the post for some info.

    I haven’t got a DVD player either, but I’m pretty sure your VHS tapes won’t play here, and I can always borrow a DVD player. Apparently, the cheaper they are the more zones they play. Important once you start sharing with your Inet friends.

  105. Like Rome, is Britain (forget Europe) about to decline and fall under the weight of a religious movement that politicians can not deal with and which undermines the existing culture. What can Rome tell us about how Westminster and Britain can deal with it?

  106. Never mind lessons from Rome.

    The politicians, having brought us to this sorry state with their utterly stupid multi-culti asylum and immigration policies (both parties), now haven’t even a clue what to do. The police are useless (preferring to beat up the hunt protestors and other soft targets), Straw is tranfixed like a rabbit in the headlights (as usual), and their fairyland world is falling apart in front of their eyes. They’re running scared. So cowardly are they that they’ll probably just leave it to the ordinary people of the country to deal with the mess when things break down completely.

    Moderate muslims? There aren’t any. Islam dictates subjugation of the whole world. Those that call themselves muslims and who appear to be moderate are nothing of the sort. Their fundamental beliefs and doctrines are decidely immoderate.

    For those of you who would disagree: go on, continue to believe in the fairy tales you’ve been told — that Islam is religion of peace and that muslims are just a slightly different brand of ordinary church-goer. Don’t forget to take your teddy to bed with you, too.

  107. OT –

    I’m going to keep going Off Topic on this I’m afraid. This site is avoiding addressing the great issue of the day – the attack on our free speech rights. Some of us, while still being amused by Boris’s antics no doubt, won’t ever be taking him as seriously again as a man for our times.

    Everyone who supports free speech should be rallying to the flag of liberty – defending the Danes, buying Lurpak, and undermining the attacks being launched by the promoters of Sharia law.

    Coded stuff about Romans and barbarians isn’t required now. This is a Rhineland moment and we need someone of the Churchill spirit to stop this turning into a full scale victory for appeasement.

  108. It’s not just our rights of free speech that are under attack, field: all our rights are under attack.

    As I’ve pointed out earlier, the UK government is set to ban smoking in all public places later this month. As a non-smoker, and non-pub-goer, you may not mind at all. In fact you may even be pleased that the government is using inconclusive research to bolster what is essentially a moral crusade against smoking. A lot of people don’t like smoking, so they’re going to ban it. Just like a lot of people didn’t like hunting, so they banned that.

    You may think that smoking is a minor issue, and that free speech is a far more serious concern. I agree. But if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves.

  109. Field and Idlex

    This current issue may be a pivotal one, the culmination of a host of other PC acts. PCism is based on the wrong exit from the Enlightenment, that of Rousseau and a bunch of others. The problem is a belief in perfectability of the human species. If God exists then he didn’t make us perfect and if you subscribe to Darwinism, as do I, then there is no reason why evolution is going anywhere special least of all perfectability. Kant recognised this. We can do things to make things better, but it takes time and many mistakes. One of the key features of any real progress is rational scepticism. Your PCer has a blueprint which should work and then the contradictions turn up. In the name of freedom and liberty the PCer turns on free speech and finds ever more involved reasons for why calling for beheadings is to be understood as a cry for liberty. For their part the Muslime fanatics have the blueprint which admits of no argument. I read in the paper that one of these guys told a lady Muslim on TV that she had no right to speak because she was a woman. I am no feminist but this made my blood boil. These people will not respond in any way that we like to appeasement. If your worry so much about alienating people that you make yourself an object of derision then you have lost. We need a rather more robust engagement defending the values of real liberty because liberty and an open society is the practical basis for real humanism.

    That is not to say like our new friend Mumbler (and, dear Mumbler, you are!) that we cannot work and live with our Muslim compatriots. The majority of people I have spoken to today have been Muslim, without exception decent and pleasant human beings.

    We can defend our free speech robustly. In fact we should because if we lose respect for what we have achieved and are, then we can’t expect anyone else to respect us.

    As I’ve mentioned before the scumbags I abhor more than the beheader enthusiasts are the so-brave BBC satirists who boldly upset Christian spinsters reading the Daily Mail, but come up with a catalogue of reasons why they can’t do the same for other faiths. Personally I would rather everyone would use their freedom as courteously as possible so I am not looking at cartoons or going to see the da Vinci code but retain my right to do either. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do and on the other hand just because soemone has a belief system that might be offended doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s called free will either given by God or arising from the nature of the universe.

  110. The first , and may I say , long overdue , blow, for the rights of the people of this country, has been struck.

    That evil s”t-stirring handiman and librarian of the terrorist minority has been sentenced.
    Albeit, let me add, what I , and many others believe,is a derisorily short sentence.

    However , that leaves something for the Americans to put right, which will be less expensive on our taxpayers.

    SMOKING: I gave it up after a very long time of enjoyment of the slavery into which it put me .

    Anyone else still smoking should be given room to continue.It’s their life.

    Some may survive, and some not . Just as long as they don’t do it directly in other people’s faces, it might offend: manners maketh the man.

    I note , with some disgust , that the recent openly inhuman threats to non-Moslem lives went unpunished. If the BNP had voiced a mere one per cent of what was being openly encouraged at that last; honour- guard of police escorted demonstration against the freedom of the Press, (and not even our own), there would have been arrests on a grand scale..New labour double standards once again.

    What I find odd: apparently not a word on the subject from Golden Boy himself.
    Speak up Dave , we at the back can’t hear.

  111. Yet another example of how legislating against freedom of expression is a slippery slope. Either take the fascist position from the start or leave it alone entirely.

    Surely we can all accept people’s right to protest without accepting the right to destroy property and assault people. They are quite different.

  112. Moderate muslims? There aren’t any. Islam dictates subjugation of the whole world. Those that call themselves muslims and who appear to be moderate are nothing of the sort. Their fundamental beliefs and doctrines are decidely immoderate.

    That may be true of Islamic Fundamentalism, but it’s not historically true of mainstream Islam. Non-muslims in conquered lands were not forced to embrace Islam. As I have asked elsewhere, how come Coptic Christianity survived for over 1000 years in Islamic Egypt otherwise?

    No, the problem is Fundamentalism of every sort. Not just Islamic fundamentalism, but also the Christian fundamentalism which has been on the rise in the USA for decades. These Christian Fundamentalists not only wish to have Intelligent Design taught in schools in place of the theory of evolution, but are now setting about the Big Bang:

      The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose résumé says he was an intern in the “war room” of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen’s public statements.

      In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word “theory” needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

      The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

      It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.” NYT

    Before we set about the fundamentalists elesewhere, we ought to take note of the fundamentalists in our own back yard.

  113. Mac

    Very good to hear your views

    I agree that our leader DC does appear to have been rather quiet of late – I shall stir his acolytes.

    I am also sure it must be time to hear one of your masterpiece poems soon: Shrove Tuesday when all is tossed into the air?

    Apologies from the Boris Johnson Office if we have not been as attentive as usual – we have been totally inundated and snowed under but enjoying every minute of it!!

    Am away skiing next week and hope this website will hold up well without many nasties.

    Cheers to all!!


  114. idlex, there’s an update on Bush’s NASA toady. A journalist has revealed that he lied about having a degree (he’s a dropout) and he’s resigned. I’m sure he’ll pop up again somewhere, perhaps FEMA; the family are such loyal Bush supporters, through both administrations.

  115. Idlex

    Christian fundamentalists want intelligent design taught in schools and don’t like abortion. Muslim fundamentalists want Sharia law across the whole planet and have pretty robust literary critcism traditions. I don’t want either in charge but I think I know which I would prefer.

    Since we are talking about our backyard – although I am a simple country boy and don’t get to the big city often, London is only 80 miles away. Or was it London, Syria that those chaps calling for oever enthusiastic haircuts were demonstrating in?

    Equivalences is a fun game but don’t try and build anything sensible on it.

  116. Idlex: I’m afraid you’ve overestimated the boundary of your own back yard; it would take more than a mighty six to go all the way over the pond. It’s a sticky wicket anyway.

    Jack R. If push really came to shove , and the choice between the different forms of fundamentalism here abovementioned had to be voted upon : I’d be with you .

  117. Thanks for the update on Bush’s NASA toady, raincoaster. He will probably be promoted, as you say.

    I don’t want either in charge but I think I know which I would prefer. (Jack Ramsey)

    The devil you know, I presume.

    Idlex: I’m afraid you’ve overestimated the boundary of your own back yard; (Mac)

    Much as I would like to think that the pond is very large, it isn’t, and things that start life in America have a habit of ending up here. Much of it I like, but equally much of it I don’t like. Political Correctness started life in America. As did political ‘spin doctors’. American Christian fundamentalism hasn’t managed the return journey of the Pilgrim Fathers, but it’s trying very hard.

    And American influence on British life is, quite simply, gargantuan by comparison with European influence, never mind trivial Islamic influence. Which European countries have military air bases in the UK? Answer: none. But America has half a dozen, perhaps more. America is an elephant plumb in my back yard. You ignore the elephant in the room at your peril.

  118. If you accept the Elephant Idlex, you must also accept the resultant manure.

    The PC thought police might very well have NYPD badges, but they speak New Labourese , and it still is not( quite) their back yard .

    Finally , why on Earth would a European country want to have bases here? They , at least some of them,already train with our troops ,( Panzer Divisions for example). They could , at a pinch , commute.

  119. idlex

    wrt. lack of European influence on GB. Would that be the same Europe whose major countries all had mass fascist and communist parties in living memory, and in the case of France still have a mass fascist party? Where were the Europeans, apart from, ironically perhaps the much maligned scandiwegians, when GB and USA were stopping slavery?

    And wrt. any devils I may or may not know which would you least dislike living under? The Christian Fundamentalist or the Muslim Fundamentalist? I guess to be fair to the latter, as a liberal democrat you wouldn’t live very long, so it might not be so painful in the long run.

  120. And another thing..

    Political correctness orginated from the democratic centralism of the revolutionary communist parties, Stalinist or Trotskyist. Statements were judged to be politically correct according to the party line. There may not be as many communists in the US as in Europe but the ones they do have are very enthusiastic. As they infiltrated and influenced democratic socialist and liberal organisations I get the impression both the political correctness and the enthusiasm rubbed off. Of course many of these organisations were fertile ground for it because of the effects of the utopian thinkers of the European enlightenment such as Rousseau. The great US tradition of pragmatism has been mentioned. This is very different from utopianism. And as we can see in the EU, utopianism and political correctness flourish in their original soil.

  121. wrt. lack of European influence on GB (Jack Ramsey)

    I’d agree that historically Europe has been far more influential than America. After all, America used not to even exist, so to speak.

    What I am asserting is, that post WWII, America has been the primary influence upon Britain. It was only after European post-war reconstruction that Europe began to re-emerge as a growing influence. And has continued to grow, in the form of the EU.

    I don’t wish to assert that these influences are particularly good or particularly bad, but merely that they exist. And at present, US influence remains considerably stronger than European influence. We remain a part of America’s sphere of influence. Which may explain why we’re in the Iraq war alongside them (but doesn’t explain why we weren’t in Vietnam).

    For all the chorus of complaints against Europe and Islamic fundamentalists, the elephant in the room is America. Whether that is good thing or a bad thing is a separate and interesting question.

    As for the fundies, I prefer neither.

    And I first heard of Political Correctness in the 1970s or 80s, being used to describe the then doctrines of the US new left. I have no doubt that you are right to say that it has a far older usage than that.

  122. To stir the pot, perhaps, in several above contexts:

    I have heard a theory that the whole Danish cartoon shambles, followed by the extreme Muslim anger, has all been a psyops operation by the Pentagon — with the express purpose of stirring up anti-Muslim feeling in Europe. By way, obviously, of preparing the ground for harsh measures against Iran.

    The USA is looking to have plenty of European support this time, for their preemtive actions. (Someone in the Telegraph quite rightly asked how so many Danish flags were sitting in Gaza for burning at such short notice.)

    Ring any bells? Doesn’t the latest scenario remind anyone of the lead up to the invasion of Iraq?

  123. No, this is more plausible.

    Actually, given what happened in Lebanon, with thousands of people busing in for the demonstrations, it seems far likelier to me that radical Islam has been developing a “demonstration scenario” for some time, and just waiting for a trigger. After all, weren’t the cartoons first run in September of last year? It takes awhile to arrange for the busing of 30,000 people. Strike the match, apply it to the pile, and see what happens…

    Didn’t work this time, but came too close for comfort.

    On another note entirely:

    Political correctness orginated from the democratic centralism of the revolutionary communist parties, Stalinist or Trotskyist.

    Quite possibly, but political correctness as we currently understand it is really an inevitable outcome of relativism, which is itself an outcome of secular humanism. All of which are wrong, dammit. Bet you never thought you’d hear that from a lefty.

  124. I have it on good authority that Jack Kennedy, Elvis Presley and Princess Diana were all involved in the Pentagon plot.

  125. raincoster

    You are showing us Brits up in the honesty and courtesy departments! I call on my compatriots to keep up!

    At the risk of being picky – I see relativism as something to be politically correct about rather than its origin. The utopian campaign for communism is also something to be politically correct about but I don’t think there was much room for relativism there!

    Political correctness is opposed to critical rationalism. There is a line, a set of sociologcal or psychological axioms and rules by which we arrive at correct statements or feelings, as in logic we arrive at theorems from a set of axioms, premises and inference rules. The latter works fine in logic but the former does not do so for the world of human affairs.


    My point was that we have managed to avoid many of the great negative influences of Europe. Oswald Moseley and the CPGB were evil enough but of minute influence in comparision with their continental counterparts. I can’t think of the former without recalling Roderick Spode and the blackshorts, and the CPGB always puts me in mind of Bingo Little’s waitress girlfriend and her family.

    Obviously it’s always best not to have to choose between two things, neither of which you want. I find the BBC politically correct and intellectually dishonest in much of its output. I would much rather have a news service with genuinely open, critically rational debate. I am not familiar with the English radio servce of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or whatever that American SWP chap wanted me to call it, but I suspect it is far worse than the BBC and so I would chose the BBC if offered a compulsory choice.

  126. Thank you; I can only humbly assert that I am upholding the proud Canadian tradition of Peacekeeping, a confession which is guaranteed to bewilder those who know me too well.

    But do you really not believe PC to be an outcome of relativism? Seems obvious to me: the belief that all beliefs are equal leads inexorably to the belief that all beliefs are equally worthy of respect. That people got all legislative and litigious about it is just the natural expression of the human impulse to nail the rules down and then try to beat you over the head with them so everybody knows what’s expected.

    I don’t think anybody at Antioch College ever got laid. But then, it might have been the Birkenstocks.

  127. In Re. The origins of Political Correctness, wherever they might have been , seem to be attracting much attention.

    Does it matter who the originator(s) was /were? The fact that adjectival phrases, long in use, were found, arbitrarily it seems to me, to be inappropriate to the object of the description. Who thought up ” vertically challenged ” as a better , more acceptable description of ” short” ?

    In the multi sized; multi coloured; multi ethnic mixture which is mankind; who was it that decided, for example, that being tall / white / Christian, was preferable to being short; black and atheistic. Some megalomaniac on an ego trip ?

    Each person is a one off example, blessed with the differences which make that person an individual, and not a mere cipher, to be catalogued by a Government with nothing better to do.

    People in the mainstream of affairs, particularly in societies which claim to have a social conscience, would be better occupied in correcting the many real ills of society than in interfering with the relatively minor points of PC.

    Communism tried, (with very heavy hand when thought necessary), to iron out all the bumps which comprised the many differences between human beings. It took a long time before the experiment failed; but fail it did.

    In the real world,Society is in permanent flux, two totally different media; scum and cream,will always rise to the top when left to swim for themselves, but the underlying parent liquid is what is really important: that fact is , I fear , too often forgotten.

    The eating of a sticky Pud,
    Proves if it’s bad or if it’s good.
    The cooks who run the kitchens here;
    Are Egotistic: all; I fear
    Each will claim his pudding best,
    But here’s the gastronomic test.
    Whose pudding tastes the best of all?
    Did I detect a taste of gall?

  128. Jack Ramsey: “I have it on good authority that Jack Kennedy, Elvis Presley and Princess Diana were all involved in the Pentagon plot.”

    How very funny! So either you don’t know or don’t care that the US government has been paying US journalists to plant stories in the US media? (well documented, just use Google) and that the American military has been paying to have pro-US stories running in the Iraqi press (well-documented, just use Google)? That’s democracy for you.

    And you presumably don’t care either that the Pentagon has been throwing around ideas as to how much dis/mis-information to disseminate — EVEN to its allies, and even at the risk of the “info” getting into its own media at home.

    It all sits well with chats about bombing Al Jazeera.

    Do you ever use the sources that are out there, Jack, or just swallow what Rupert Murdoch and Co tell you?

    Maybe you don’t believe in psyops at all, it’s just a thing for Hollywood, isn’t it … and silly people with conspiracy theories. The British military didn’t use them in Northern Ireland and weren’t using them in Basra either — despite being caught in Arab clothing and black wigs. Sure, sure.

    Scott Ritter thinks Iran will be attacked, very soon. He says he’s been chatting with Bolton’s speechwriter. But Jack undoubtedly knows better. And he doesn’t believe for one minute that the US wants better support from Europe this time round, financially and militarily.

  129. “What secrecy grants in the short run — public support for government policies — in the long run it takes away, as official secrecy gives rise to fantasies that corrode belief in the possibilities of democratic government. All because of secrets locked away foolishly and in the end, it would seem, needlessly. Secrecy is a losing proposition. It is, as Senator Moynihan has told us, for losers.”

    — Richard Gid Powers, in his introduction to Secrecy, by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 1998

  130. That is, in its way, a highly accurate map, fiddlesticks. I’m not sure that many of the curiously inward-looking Americans would be able to draw something like that.

    A week or two back, I heard that American travel agents are regularly asked by Americans whether it is cheaper to fly to Hawaii, or to take the train.

  131. Never mind that. I know a family of Swedes who were expected in Vancouver on a certain day. They decided it would be nice to see a bit of Canada first, so they arranged to fly in to Halifax and drive over. Too bad they only left one day to do it. Got a phonecall, “Sorry, your country is much larger than expected.”

    I used to work in retail down in the touristy area of Vancouver, and we were regularly asked why all our prices were listed in Canadian dollars. I had to explain that when they got on the big silver bird, they left the US of A and came to my country. At that point I would begin speaking in French. Strangely, they still bought stuff from me, even while their wives laughed at them.

  132. Dear Mr Johnson,

    First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your program ‘The Dream of Rome’.

    It was very interesting to see the Roman political views and discover that they still play a huge role in this day and age.

    Originally from Istanbul and living in England, this was the first honest and genuine comment I heard about Turkish people protrayed as part of the programme.

    I think we are the most misunderstood nation in Europe: I guess it is partly our fault and partly not being accepted.

    I sincerely thank you for your accurate reporting and presenting it extremely well.
    We know that we have a long way to go to be accepted to the EU, but having support from you was very encouraging.

    Yours sincerely,

    Mrs. Ipek TUGEN

  133. Good afternoon, Mrs Tugen. I noted that bit of the programme too, with great interest.

    And there’s always a slight problem, raincoaster, about how big Canada in particular actually is. Normal maps (I forget the correct term for them) always show Canada and Russia as being stretched along the top, when they are in fact curled around the pole. Perhaps your Swedish friends took a look at the map, and decided that Canada, rather like Sweden, had to be a lot smaller than it appeared to be.

  134. Mercator projections. True enough.

    Want to hear something spooky? A friend of mine was lucky enough to get a tour of NASA. She reported that in one of the central operations rooms was a map of the world; along the 49th parallel was “the longest, straightest beach you ever saw, and near the top of the map, the island of Alaska.”

    This was NASA.

  135. fiddlesticks

    That cartoon upset me so much that I’m off to Yussef’s corner shop to buy up, if I can’t shoplift, all his stock of Michael Moore books to burn.

    All right I lied about Princess Diana.

  136. fiddlesticks

    Happy Monday!

    As it was done in the vain but noble attempt to educate me I shall withdraw the fatwah and return the books to Yussuf.

  137. Hang on, just to clarify that stuff earlier in the thread, as far as I know, convicted fraudster and fellow Etonian Darius Guppy asked Boris Johnson to supply the address of a journalist investigating Darius as he wished to either beat him up or have him beaten up. The story continues that Boris was unable to find the address and he DID NOT SUPPLY IT; nonetheless a rather unsavoury incident that arguably reflects on the way some public-schoolboys operate.

  138. Tomato367,

    Were you squashed in childhood — to go with the family beef and that big chip you have?

    Mumsie-wumsie & Pops couldn’t afford the fees then?

  139. Tom8o, without going into details your story as reported is false. It is also libelous (working with lawyers has done so much for my naturally confrontational nature). So please stop boring us here by re-posting it under different names every three days. If you can’t even get the story right, you should certainly stop repeating it. And don’t you know that IPs can be traced?

    If your story were factual, wouldn’t you be a little more worried than you appear to be?

  140. The Tom80, has already been reported to the temporary webmaster, who is , as it happens a whizz with the programming.

  141. I’m all for public exposure, but if you can’t even get your facts straight and insist on being a troll and posting them everywhere, you should get smacked with a rolled-up newspaper…or an IP tracer. Whichever.

  142. I watched both episodes of The Dream of Rome on BBC TV and thought Boris was magnificent in the presentation of his story. Craig Brown’s comments on his Review page in The Mail on Sunday (Feb 5 – Hail Boris!) were a joy to read, and I agree with his enthusiasm when he says that “Boris writes like an excited schoolboy – but that’s what makes Johnson’s history of Rome so spiffing…”. This was a hugely enjoyable history lesson – well done Boris.

  143. Have just purchased and read my copy from cover to cover – why, other than Piers Plowman, were the history books of my youth so arid and uninspiring? Yours is a joy to read, irreverent, full of palatable facts and utterly absorbing. Strangely enough I now feel slightly better disposed towards the European vision – but not the present set up….

  144. I have not kept up with these Boris blogs or books.
    However it sounds as if Boris is trying to learn from Rome and apply this to multi-cultural Britain.

    Generally as far as I am aware multi-racialisms benifits include increased security and greater wealth due to the amount of united people and the extent of the trading block.

    However, one of the most fundamental keys to prosperity is honesty and a civil society. Corrupt countries never sustain wealth. It may be that a country benifits from a very tiny proportion of dishonesty but this is the exception rather than the rule.

    Given that multi-culturalism brings together people from places where varied levels of curruption are the norm will multi-culturalism lead to greater corruption and diminished prosperity over time? Or will people become acculturated to a more restrained fashion of living (and if so how).
    Finally, will a more corrupt society outweigh the benifits to prosperity of a larger trading block?

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