Even in Morocco and Libya?
My good friend, Victor, has reconciled himself to, or anaesthetized himself to, or adjusted to the inexorable epidemic of societal dementia by treating it as theater of the absurd, as something to chuckle at.
It’s a good strategy. I can stick to it most of the time. But sometimes I do get riled up. Never more so than a week or so ago, when I dove into Retica’s review.
When we think of Rome and its history, particularly its ancient history, we tend to imagine the city projecting its power out into the world, over an astonishing geographical range. There are Roman ruins in Scotland, in Hungary, in Syria — even in Morocco and Libya.
It was the last straw. Oh well, a last straw. I sent the following letter to the Book Review.
Aaron Retica opens his review of Matthew Kneale’s “Rome – A History in Seven Sackings” by calling attention to the “astonishing geographical range” of the Roman Empire. “There are Roman ruins in Scotland, in Hungary, in Syria – even in Morocco and Libya,” he writes.
Even in Morocco and Libya? While Roman ruins in Hungary and Scotland point to an extensive empire, how can Retica think it even more astonishing that there are Roman ruins in Morocco, in Libya, or anywhere in the Mediterranean Basin?
Yes, I’m nit-picking, but this one-sentence nit reveals an ignorance of geography, history and culture which is endemic among people who are thought of – by themselves and others – as educated.
Even someone who knew nothing of Hannibal, Carthage or the Punic Wars, someone whose only knowledge of the world came from television news, if thinking clearly would be able to reason that if hordes of migrants can sail from Libya to Italy in small, leaky boats, Libya must have been equally accessible to the ancient Romans.
Just to show you how crazy this made me – Even in Morocco and Libya (!!) – I appended a not-for-publication post-script.
Retica’s remark is so damned ignorant that it makes me want to tear my hair out. What was Retica (and whoever edited his piece) thinking – if anything? That since Scotland and Hungary, like Italy, are in Europe, they would be more likely to be Roman destinations than the more exotic Northern Africa?
Even if you don’t publish this letter or a similar one, please let me know in a quick reply whether you received other letters from readers upset by this idiotic remark. If mine was the only one, then we truly have truly entered a new Dark Ages.