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Sticking with the Pagans

Christopher Kelly, 4 November 1993

Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire 
by Peter Brown.
Wisconsin, 192 pp., £36, December 1992, 0 299 13340 0
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... In AD 362 – only fifty years after Constantine’s conversion to Christianity – the pagan Emperor Julian, hoping to undermine the privileged position of this new religion, banned Christian rhetoricians from teaching the pagan Classics. In a spectacular act of literary futility, the Syrian poet Apollinaris and his son, determined to retain a Classical gloss to Christian education, at once translated nearly the whole of the Bible into Greek epic verse ...

Glorious and Most Glorious City of the Oxyrhinchites

Christopher Kelly: Roman Egypt, 21 February 2008

City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt 
by Peter Parsons.
Phoenix, 312 pp., £9.99, December 2007, 978 0 7538 2233 3
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... Between 1896 and 1907, the Oxford Egyptologists Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt spent six seasons digging the low, sandy mounds surrounding the village of el-Behnesa, a hundred miles south of Cairo and ten miles west of the Nile. In concentrating on the ancient town of Oxyrhynchos (literally, ‘city of the sharp-nosed fish’), they were not aiming to uncover another set of impressive ruins that could rival those of Leptis Magna, Ephesus or Pompeii ...

One Stock and Nation

Christopher Kelly: Roman Britain, 11 February 2010

The Recovery of Roman Britain 1586-1906: A Colony so Fertile 
by Richard Hingley.
Oxford, 389 pp., £83, June 2008, 978 0 19 923702 9
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... divided on how to interpret the contribution of Romans and Britons to these cities. In London, Christopher Wren (whose survey of the Roman city remained unpublished until 1750) suggested that burials found during the construction of St Paul’s Cathedral belonged ‘to the Colony where Romans and Britains lived and died together’. In his History of ...

Silks and Bright Scarlet

Christopher Kelly: Wealth and the Romans, 3 December 2015

Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD 
by Peter Brown.
Princeton, 759 pp., £16.95, March 2014, 978 0 691 16177 8
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The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity 
by Peter Brown.
Harvard, 262 pp., £18.95, April 2015, 978 0 674 96758 8
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... Sometime​ in the late 430s, the pious nun Melania recalled a vision she and her husband had shared thirty years before in Rome when they were young and very rich: One night we went to sleep, greatly upset, and we saw ourselves, both of us, passing through a very narrow crack in the wall. We were gripped with panic by the cramped space, so that it seemed as if we were about to die ...

A Shocking Story

Christopher Kelly: Julian the Apostate, 21 February 2019

The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian the Apostate and the War against Christianity 
by H.C. Teitler.
Oxford, 271 pp., £22.99, April 2017, 978 0 19 062650 1
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... In November​ 361, after the sudden death of the emperor Constantius II, his cousin Flavius Claudius Iulianus became the undisputed ruler of the Roman world. Twenty months later, Julian himself lay dying. In early April 363, 100,000 Roman troops had crossed the frontier and marched eastwards through Mesopotamia. The campaign was a disaster, dogged by bad luck, incompetence and a failure to appreciate either the difficulties of the terrain or the strength of the enemy ...

A Waistcoat soaked in Tears

Douglas Johnson, 27 June 1991

The Noble Savage: Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1754-1762 
by Maurice Cranston.
Allen Lane, 399 pp., £20, February 1991, 0 7139 9051 1
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Writings of Rousseau. Vol I: Rousseau: Judge of Jean-Jacques. Dialogues. 
translated by Judith Bush, edited and translated by Christopher Kelly and Roger Masters.
University Press of New England, 277 pp., $40, March 1990, 0 87451 495 9
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... he thought about these people. It is suggested here (and one of the editors of this translation, Christopher Kelly, has suggested elsewhere) that the conspiracy against Rousseau was deeper than a mere attempt to show that he was a monster and to cast discredit by attributing to him works he had never written or opinions he had never held. His ...

Bed-Hopping and Coup-Plotting

Michael Kulikowski: Attila and the Princess, 12 February 2009

Attila the Hun: Barbarian Terror and the Fall of the Roman Empire 
by Christopher Kelly.
Bodley Head, 290 pp., £17.99, September 2008, 978 0 224 07676 0
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... Long fragments of his work survive and his tale has often been retold, but rarely as well as by Christopher Kelly here. Full of intrigue and local colour, Priscus reveals among much else the sedentary character of the fifth-century Huns, their distance from their nomadic roots, and the extent to which they had developed a sub-Roman court culture in the ...

The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties, 3 December 2009

Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... a special class of civil servant. The chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Christopher Kelly, has recommended that no MP whose seat is within an hour’s train journey of London should be entitled to claim for a second home; that MPs will no longer be allowed to employ family members as secretaries and researchers; and that there ...

Rules of Battle

Glen Bowersock: The Byzantine Army, 11 February 2010

The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire 
by Edward Luttwak.
Harvard, 498 pp., £25.95, November 2009, 978 0 674 03519 5
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... the subject of major books in Italian (Giuseppe Zecchini), French (Michel Rouche) and English (Christopher Kelly). The shadow of contemporary foreign affairs looms over all these narratives, even if Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are manifestly not Attila. Luttwak’s insistence that avoidance of battle and cash up front is ...

Simply too exhausted

Christopher Hitchens, 25 July 1991

Edwina Mountbatten: A Life of Her Own 
by Janet Morgan.
HarperCollins, 509 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 00 217597 5
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... in India. But even when the war begins, it is only as a pretext for bathos on a grander scale. HMS Kelly is dive-bombed and sunk off Crete, with ‘Dickie’ on the bridge. This episode, which has aroused controversy over his seamanship in its time, is given the Evangeline Pembury strong, silent treatment: ‘Dickie’s men had served with him willingly; if ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter, 7 March 1996

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... Stanton.) Most of the novel’s reviewers have acknowledged its excellence. In the New Yorker, Christopher Buckley (himself a suspect) called Primary Colors ‘an absolutely dazzling book, the best political novel in many years’. In Newsweek, Walter Shapiro found it ‘the best aide’s-eye view of politics since Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s ...


Christopher Harvie: Cars and Cuckoo Clocks, 26 January 1995

... Great-Aunt Jean, Cousin Jean, two small Canadian girls, their father and their mother, in a Grace Kelly hat, who broke the champagne bottle and sent the ship – splash! – into the River Carron. Then Uncle Alex took us round the miniaturised industrial world of the shipyard: the pattern-lofts, where the templates of ribs and plates were cut in plywood; the ...

At Kettle’s Yard

Eleanor Birne: The Reopening, 22 March 2018

... the yellow oval in the Miró painting that hangs nearby, and the yellow of the flowers in the Christopher Wood picture opposite. On a low table in Jim’s bedroom there’s a spiral of grey and white pebbles in a perfect grading of colour and size. Everything demands to be touched, and can’t be: visiting is excruciating, in the best way. Against one ...

A Little Bit of Showing Off

Adam Phillips: Isherwood’s 1960s, 6 January 2011

The Sixties: Diaries 1960-69 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 756 pp., £30, November 2010, 978 0 7011 6940 4
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... sustained his rather dutiful-sounding devotion to his swami – in a shrewd preface to the diaries Christopher Hitchens speaks of Isherwood’s ‘amazing willingness to put up with the swami’ – which seems to have replicated something of his irritated devotion to his family, while the relationship with Bachardy became his true ‘means of ...

Damaged Beasts

James Wood: Peter Carey’s ‘Theft’, 8 June 2006

Theft: A Love Story 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 269 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 571 23147 0
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... a private language, a customised slang: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and True History of the Kelly Gang are examples of that Joycean urge, the latter stupendously so. In Theft, proper names are always losing their integrity, and being privatised by the narrator. Michael’s father’s shop, Boones Butchers, was once vandalised into ‘Bones ...

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