Category Archives: History

The soul of the Roman Empire

According to tradition, in the early days of ancient Rome, King Numa Pompilius established a religious institution: the Vestal Virgins.  The Vestal Virgins were chaste priestesses of Vesta, the goddess of home and hearth.  Their duty was to maintain the … Continue reading

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Breakthroughs in imagination

When thinking about human history, it’s tempting to see some developments as inevitable.  Some certainly were, but the sheer amount of time before some of them took place seem to make them remarkable. The human species, narrowly defined as Homo … Continue reading

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America’s long path to universal voting rights

My memory of what I learned in early grade school about the history of American voting rights went something like this.  Prior to 1776, we were ruled by the king of Great Britain.  He was a tyrant who oppressed us … Continue reading

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Why the US two party system is so entrenched

The other day, I came across this Big Think explanation by historian Sean Wilentz on why the US always seems to gravitate to a two party system. Unfortunately, while I think Wilentz touches on the main points, his explanation doesn’t … Continue reading

Posted in History, Society | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Is there a moral arc to history?

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. As someone who isn’t able to find an objective basis for morality, I’ve often wondered what that means for the above statement from Martin Luther King.  It certainly … Continue reading

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When did the Roman Empire actually fall?

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, for which apparently there is now a Muslim debate about whether it fulfilled Muhammad’s charge for Muslims to conquer that city.  I can’t say I have any opinion in … Continue reading

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When were the earliest parts of the Bible written?

The NY Times has an interesting article about a study which purports to show that literacy may have been far more prevalent in pre-Babylonian exile Judah than many had thought.  The implication, it’s believed, is that Biblical minimalist scholars who thought … Continue reading

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