Cosmic Crunch asks:

Should Hannibal have gone for Rome?

Well… to my mind, he did.  I mean, that’s what he was doing in Italy.  It’s just that the Romans’ strategy after Cannae was to ensure that a direct assault on the city would always be prohibitively difficult and dangerous.  I’m not a military historian or an expert on the Middle Republic, and maybe I’d have stronger opinions about this if I were, but I just don’t think our sources for the Second Punic War give us a good enough picture of the overall strategic situation for there to be any profit in second-guessing the moves of a general who was there on the ground.  Like, clearly he thought attacking the city wouldn’t have worked, and he knew a lot more about the capabilities of both the Roman and Carthaginian armies than anyone alive today.  Jim the Editor thinks Hannibal probably saw attacking Rome as too big a gamble, risking his entire army and his foothold in Italy when he could just keep wearing the Romans down and demoralising them until they eventually capitulated.  That’s not actually what happened, of course, but it’s very difficult to know whether the alternative strategy would have produced better results.

Herald of Opera asks:

It just occurred to me… with a name like “Great Thinker” and our primary source being the Atlantis guy talking him up, how sure are we that Socrates actually existed?

So… we’re pretty sure he existed, because Plato is our main source but not the only one who talks about him.  After his death,  we also have philosophical texts written about him by Xenophon, another of his students.  More importantly, while he was alive and long before Plato started writing philosophy (possibly even before Plato was born), Socrates was parodied by Aristophanes in his comedy, the Clouds, so it’s pretty definite that he wasn’t just completely made up in hindsight by Plato.  There are comments in some of Plato’s dialogues suggesting that he was trying to undo the play’s effect on Socrates’ reputation.  Also, although the events of the dialogues are fictionalised (with the exception of the Apology and maybe parts of the Phaedo), almost all the characters in them are real people, attested in other historical texts like Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War or Xenophon’s Hellenica, whose positions in the philosophical debates reflect their real reputations and life stories.  It would be… weird, put it that way, for Plato to construct such an elaborate fiction of a guy who never existed, tie it into the lives of so many other people, many of whom were Plato’s own friends, acquaintances and relatives (several of them dead by the time Plato started writing, most of them not peacefully), and give him a backstory deeply woven into the traumatic events of the Peloponnesian War.  If nothing else, I suspect it would have been in very bad taste.

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jeffthelinguist asks:

So, as an archaeologist, can you answer the age old question of how much time needs to pass before grave robbing becomes archaeology? What’s the appropriate time period for looting the dead to become acceptable?

I’m assuming you’ve seen the screenshot of an archaeologist commenting, in answer to this question, that this is actually a super awkward and uncomfortable question?  I’m fortunate enough to work in an area where it doesn’t really come up much – we’re all pretty sure that two thousand years is comfortably in the safe zone.  Even then, though… it would be a mistake to think that archaeology can be a pure science, that our study of the past can remain detached from the present. It’s all grave robbing, in a way. The only difference is in how pure your motives are… which is a matter of perspective.

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VikingBoyBilly asks:

Something’s been on my mind for a long time since I stopped lurking, but I need to say how I feel.

In our long argument about Odysseus, you ended it with “i know what I’m talking about; so there.”

No, you didn’t, because if you did, you wouldn’t have been a misanthrope. Reading mythology is what made me fall in love with humans, and it’s unsettling that you never acknowledged the irony of being a misanthropic archaeologist. The lessons the Oddessey taught me is that life is a journey full challenges and misery, but by keeping your wits and the strength to continue, you can reach your goals. Oddysseus’s goal was to reunite with the wife an son that he loved, and it’s so cynical to think he enjoyed having sex with women that kept him stranded on those islands, and it doesn’t mesh thematically when these are supposed to be a series of hardships. The optimist in me believes this was something to be overcome, either as a temptation like the lotus fruits and sirens, or a situation to get out of like the cyclops. His devotion and loyalty to his crew, his homeland, and family are values I live by, and I don’t like that being tarnished by accusations that he’s a scummy womanizer. I could just be satisfied with my own opinions and not be bothered by what anyone else thinks, but you know what the internet does to us.

I also was put off by your use of the vague buzz-word “western civilization.” It’s nonsensical to anyone with an understanding of geography, and condescending, as if any other civilization doesn’t count (and because I think an archaeologist/anthropologist would only use such a simplification of jargon when talking to a layman). Funny how people angry with the state of the world will defend “western civilization” as the best thing that ever happened.

I hope your outlook of your own species has changed since then, and if you want to reply non-publicly, my email is [REDACTED]

[This is what Billy is referring to – linking to the Tumblr version of the original question-and-answer post rather than the WordPress version because that’s where the relevant comment thread is, but I might actually move it over here for posterity’s sake]

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Blog Status: Good???

According to my WordPress stats, February has been my best month since moving here, and in part that’s probably down to the last week, which… well, it’s been a hell of a week. Sword and Shield were announced, ramping up the urgency of finishing my work on generation VII, and I blended the worlds of classics and cake decorating into possibly my greatest real-world achievement ever, the acropolis cake (if you’re someone who’s been drawn in by that – hello! Neither classics nor baking is what this blog is usually about, but I hope you stay anyway!). So thanks to everyone for reading and growing Pokémaniacal’s following, and an extra special thanks to my Patreon supporters, whose donations maintain the WordPress site. If you enjoy my writing and would like more opportunities to offer opinions about this blog’s direction (more extreme baking? stranger Pokémon theories? just want a say on what order I do my reviews in?), consider setting aside a dollar a month for the cause – with enough support, I can upgrade the site to make it more interesting and easier to navigate. Onwards, my minions, and we shall cover this world in darkness like it has never known!

Adventures in Baking the Entire Athenian Acropolis, part 4

okay this part was insane and took literally a whole day and is really kind of a succinct illustration of why I can never have a normal life, but here it goes

So, last time I left off with this:

Three big slabs of chocolate cake, and all these piles of gingerbread that will turn into buildings.

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Adventures in Baking the Entire Athenian Acropolis, part 2

Well, I promised updates, and here’s a short one on the first stage of this ludicrous project. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll already have some inkling of how my style of baking works – you lurch from one disaster to another until enough of them cancel each other out and produce something wondrous. But here’s the more detailed report:

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Adventures in baking the entire Athenian Acropolis

Regular readers of this blog may know that, although from New Zealand, I am currently living in the United States, where I am studying for a PhD in classical archaeology. Long-time regular readers may further be aware that I have something of a penchant for baking. And, of course, even the most cursory of readers will be perfectly cognisant of the fact that I am completely insane.

Once a year, these three facets of my life come into glorious conjunction.

Continue reading “Adventures in baking the entire Athenian Acropolis”