MISSING PERSON ALERT.

Officer Chad Welladay of the Missing Persons Department has not shown up for work since Thursday. Anyone with information as to his whereabouts is requested to call the Parking Enforcement Division, since the phone at Missing Persons is just going to voice mail and the inbox is full.

A PRINCIPLE OF HISTORY.

Here is one of those articles where Dr. Boli makes a bald statement and pretends it is a universal principle, as if he knew what he was talking about. Today’s universal principle is this:

Historians seldom lie.

That does not mean that the things they write are always or even usually true. It means that the historians think they are true.

This is an important distinction because, for the last few decades, much academic writing about ancient and medieval historians has been based on the assumption that they usually lie. The assumption is understandable, because so often two histories contradict each other, and our natural human reaction is to say that at least one of them is lying. But that reaction is usually wrong.

Curiously, we do not usually react that way to current works. We know, for example, that there are people who deny that the moon landing ever happened. They write long volumes of half-digested incorrect history to prove their pet hypotheses about what actually happened, citing mounds of misunderstood evidence. But they are not lying. They are simply fools. We understand that instinctively.

What Dr. Boli is suggesting is that we ought to treat historians of former ages the same way. A few lie, mostly the ones who were themselves participants in the events they describe. But those are very few; and furthermore, if, like Caesar, they are competent writers, they usually get away with it. Many others give us wrong information, but that is because they were misinformed.

From a practical point of view, what this principle means is that, when we detect a false statement in an ancient historian, our work doesn’t end with calling him a liar. Deliberate deception is so rare that we should dismiss it as exceedingly unlikely until we have exhausted every other possibility. Instead, we have to ask why our historian believed that statement was true, and find where he might have got his false information. In doing so, we may find some pathways through history we had missed. We may discover that Nero the tyrant was also Nero the populist, for example, or that Heliogabalus the hedonist was also Heliogabalus the religious devotee and feminist.

The delightful thing about having one’s own Magazine is that one can make these statements with no editor to say that they won’t fly, and no peer reviewer to demand that one show one’s work to the fifth decimal place. But there is a comment section, which might be described as ex post facto peer review. Commenters are welcome, as always, to disagree as vigorously as they like. They may even call Dr. Boli a liar, but he will deny it. The most he will admit to is being misinformed.

From DR. BOLI’S UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY.

Dark Ages (proper noun).—In Western European history, a time of barbarous ignorance, superstition, and brutality that succeeded the civilized ignorance, superstition, and brutality of the Roman Empire.

NEW TWITTER PRICING TIERS.

Twitter announced yesterday that, in order to improve the sustainability of the infrastructure of the product experience going forward, a new five-tier membership system would be implemented, in which the price users pay is reflected in the content they see in their feed.

HOW AMERICANS READ THE BIBLE.

American Christians read the Bible as an encyclopedia of discrete verses, each one complete unto itself, containing an indivisible nugget of doctrinal or scientific knowledge, with no connection to the text before or after.

You probably think Dr. Boli is being too harsh on his fellow American Christians. But consider the case of Ezekiel 4:9.

If you walk into any large supermarket in the United States, you will find something called “Ezekiel Bread” in the bakery section. It is a very popular brand, and it has been sold for decades. Prominent on the label is a quotation from Ezekiel 4:9, which we quote here in the Authorized Version:

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beanes, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessell, and make thee bread thereof…

Look! It’s a divinely inspired recipe! We can make bread like that and sell it to eager consumers!

But would American consumers be quite so eager if they read Ezekiel as a book rather than as a directory of isolated atomic verses?

In the fourth chapter of Ezekiel, the eponymous prophet is commanded to perform the sort of practical prophetic demonstration that prophets often had to act out. (It was not easy being a prophet of the Lord, which is why the lazier prophets all worked for Baal.) He must lie on his left side for three hundred ninety days and demonstrate the kind of privation that will come on Israel when it is conquered. (Then he will have a similar message for Judah.) And in that context, the Lord tells him,

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beanes, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessell, and make thee bread thereof according to the number of the dayes that thou shalt lie upon thy side; three hundreth and ninetie dayes shalt thou eate thereof. And thy meate which thou shalt eat, shalbe by weight twentie shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it. Thou shalt drinke also water by measure, the sixt part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drinke. And thou shalt eate it as barley cakes, & thou shalt bake it with doung that commeth out of man in their sight. And the Lord said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them. (Ezekiel 4:9–13.)

So now you know the point of the divinely inspired bread recipe given to Ezekiel. It is a demonstration of how bad things will be when Israel is destroyed. You will be driven far away, says the Lord, and you will be so wretched that you will have nothing to eat but this filthy horrible bread, and nothing to bake it on but human dung, and even then you will have so little of it that you will have to measure it carefully in tiny portions.

If Ezekiel were a book, then no one would walk into the supermarket and ask, “Hey, have you got some of that bread like the stuff the Israelites had to bake on human dung when they were starving to death?”

But since Americans read nothing but the individual verses out of context, Ezekiel 4:9 is the foundation of a legendarily successful marketing campaign.

By the way, we should point out that Ezekiel’s own story has a happy ending. After Ezekiel complained that this stuff was really gross (Ezekiel 4:14), the Lord permitted him to bake his bread over cow’s dung instead of human dung.

IN BUSINESS NEWS.

Scandal rocked the world of carbonated beverages yesterday when, only days after the announcement of the special limited-edition “Fruit Quake” flavor of Mountain Dew, a discontented employee at PepsiCo leaked a list of limited-edition flavors planned for future promotions:

Guavalanche

Figferno

Currycane

Chickensoupnami

Buckthornado

Advertisement.

The Procrastinators’ Club is raising funds for charity with a Great Calendar Sale. Calendars for the years 2019, 2018, 2017, and 1992 will be available. All proceeds will go to buy vending-machine snacks for people who missed the Capitol Limited to Chicago and are hanging around the station waiting for tomorrow’s train.

COMMUNITY BULLETIN BOARD.

There are still six unclaimed veterans from the Veterans’ Day Raffle. The Blandville Veterans’ Lodge reminds you to check your ticket against the numbers posted on the door.

Pittsburgh Regional Transit has asked us to remind passengers on the Red Line to board only authorized trolleys. Pittsburgh Regional Transit will not be responsible for damage or loss incurred on unauthorized trolley runs.

This year’s Blandville Lite-Up Nite parade will feature an appearance by the Royal Canadian Mounted Sanitation Engineers, who are touring the States to raise awareness for something or other.

Horace Hinckel’s Penny Candy Emporium has agreed to sponsor this year’s Bland Street Christmas wreaths, which have been obtained from the Edwards Street Wreath Rental Corporation of Beltzhoover. Mr. Edwards said that it was the first time he had ever seen $15,000 in pennies.

City Councilwoman Stacey Whatsername has opened a satellite office on Bland Street next door to her regular Bland Street office. Stop in and welcome her to the neighborhood!

IN BUSINESS NEWS.

The De Fitte Motors Corporation has announced a “December to Remember Sales Event,” which its marketing department hopes will spur enthusiasm and lead to higher figures in what has been a disappointing quarter for the company in comparison to its competitors. Analysts are optimistic that the campaign may have more success than last month’s “October to Get Ober Blowout.”

CHARLES ANTHON.

Charles Anthon by Mathew Brady
Charles Anthon as seen by Mathew Brady.
Charles Anthon by one of his students
Charles Anthon as depicted by one of his students in the end papers of one of his textbooks.

The first American classicist to develop an international reputation, Charles Anthon, finally has his own page in our Eclectic Library.

Professor Anthon had much to do with the high standards of learning in nineteenth-century American universities. Much of Anthon’s work was devoted to bringing the best products of English and German scholarship to America in editions that he improved and expanded. His textbooks on the ancient languages were widely admired, and the proof of their utility may be found in the fact that many professors resented them for making the students’ work too easy. The same was often said of his editions of the classics for students: “The editor…has been charged with overloading the authors, whom he has from time to time edited, with cumbersome commentaries; he has been accused of making the path of classical learning too easy for the student, and of imparting light where the individual should have been allowed to kindle his own torch and to find his own way.” (Preface to Anthon’s edition of Horace.) “His minute and copious annotations at first encountered some opposition,” says his obituary in Harper’s Weekly, “but so little effectual has been the force of prejudice, and so generally acceptable, both at home and abroad, have the Professor’s comments approved themselves that many, even of those who at first were loudest in their denunciations of the system thus introduced, have been compelled, by the positive advantages and rich results of this same system, to adopt as far as possible a similar fulness of annotation in their own publications.”

Professor Anthon’s editions were also usefully expurgated, so that a Victorian schoolmaster could confidently expect nothing shocking or embarrassing to mar the perfect decorum in the classroom. As Anthon wrote in the preface to his edition of Xenophon’s Memorabilia of Socrates, “The great merit of the present text, however, consists in its being an expurgated one. Every passage has either been rejected or essentially modified that in any way conflicted with our better and purer ideas of propriety and decorum, for even in the ethical treatises of the Greeks expressions and allusions will sometimes occur which it is our happier privilege to have been taught unsparingly to condemn.”

Professor Anthon is also famous in Mormon lore as the Columbia professor who was shown a transcribed “Egyptian” inscription from the Golden Plates and pronounced it a hoax, which has been interpreted in Mormon history as “authenticating” it. Dr. Boli is not sure what it would have meant for the supposedly Egyptian characters to be authenticated by Professor Anthon. You might take your diamond ring to be authenticated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and he would reasonably tell you, “I am not a jeweler.” “But you are a famous person with a brain,” you might object. “Just authenticate it and stop beating around the bush.” At that point Dr. Tyson might begin to nod his head, make some indistinguishable affirmative noises, and back away toward the nearest exit, and you would have as much authentication as you were going to get. That is how we imagine Professor Anthon authenticating the inscription brought to him.

At any rate, to wander through Charles Anthon’s prodigious output is to enter a lost world, where a well-annotated edition of Horace could make a man’s name a household word on two continents. It is also to wander back to those heady days when the young American republic was just beginning to earn a place in the republic of letters, and to see an American name on the title page of a European textbook filled his patriotic countrymen with justifiable pride. Now that the cultures of other nations are simply gross parodies of the grossest American popular culture, it is pleasant to spend a few nostalgic hours in a world where it seemed as though the future of American culture might be determined by one American’s remarkable facility with Latin and Greek.