Decline and Fall of the EOTWQ

Yes, I know it’s a bit early, but I have a piece of work that I’m supposed to be finishing, and so wanted to get this distraction out of the way. Many apologies also for the shameless self-publicity; in my defence, this is the first time that one of my books has made it into the window of a proper bookshop (even if I did have to drop a note to the proprietor to mention that I’m a local author who recently gave a reasonably well-attended talk to the Gardening Society), and, perhaps more relevantly, the acknowledgements do include the first, but surely not the last, reference to the ‘Spill in print… Anyway, in honour of this event, some more or less historical – and, of course, utterly pretentious – Roman-themed EOTWQs.

1. “My favourite subject at school: invasion of the hot Italians” (Amy Pond in Doctor Who, on the Roman conquest of Britain). Which is the sexiest ancient civilisation, and why?

2. Toga or woad? Or chiton?

3. According to one recent commentator, “modern hi-tech terrorists are the new barbarians”. What’s the crassest and/or most unhelpful historical analogy you’ve ever heard?

4. The Romans ate honeyed dormice while sleeping with their sisters and smothering their enemies with rose petals (allegedly). What’s the most obvious indication of the decadence of modern society?

5. The empire has fallen, the oil is running out, capitalism has run its course: how do you plan to make a living in the new Dark Ages?

69 thoughts on “Decline and Fall of the EOTWQ

  1. Blimey! These must be the most highbrow EOTWQs ever.

    I’ll have to think about it and reply tonight.

    Cheers, ‘Hach.

  2. 1 “Black wigs and Kohl, a dark pigment, were used by both men and women to outline the eyes….The exposure of the female breasts was relatively common among the ancient Egyptians as it was with Cretan women of the Minoan civilization”
    so they’d either look like cool ’60s chicks or goths (you know Cure fans… not…..) …. with their tits out… Let’s all visit the Bat Cave.

    2 Can I have a painted maiden in woad please.. (There’s a good place in Norfolk to find such things) – (that’d be the Blue Woman group then – I now can’t get Arrested Development out of my head, so the moment has gone)

    3 ‘But long experience has taught me that the ungoverned wildness of the Goths will never submit to laws, and that without law, a state is not a state’… Athaulf, King of the Visigoths…what does he know about Robert Smith? ( I know this isn’t the question.. but I have no answers – I’m trying my hardest okay – this is why they sent me to the art block at skool.

    4 the comment after Tiffanys youtube.. mentioned last week: “back when teenagers actually wore clothes”

    5 The copies of Theories, Models and Concepts in Ancient History (Approaching the Ancient World) that were accidentally placed in the Dollar bin – that I snapped up – are now going for 57 quid – come the revolution they’ll be double that… and I’m sorted.

  3. These questions are SO over my head…..please don’t take my answerd as disrespecful Abahachi; I’d have answered them seriously if I could.

    1. sexiest ancient civilisation
    Some of those Cleopatra pictures in my wife’s ann Summers catalogue are hot

    2. Toga, woad, chiton?
    Woads since they lead to Rome and I’ve never been.

    3. most unhelpful historical analogy?
    Like, what we’re doing now?

    4. most obvious indication of decadence?
    Pete Doherty

    5. make a living in the new Dark Ages?
    Eat honeyed dormice, sleep with my sister and smother my enemies with rose petals

  4. Large Man with Dead Body: Who’s that then?

    The Dead Collector: I dunno, must be a king.

    Large Man with Dead Body: Why?

    The Dead Collector: He hasn’t got shit all over him.

  5. 1. the Etruscans, because they divined future events from lightning strikes, and for the way they painted groovy scenes on the insides of their tombs- really the forerunners of today’s sexy vampires, I guess.
    2. Haven’t the knees for a Toga. I’d have to go for Polynesian dress, all those birds feathers and woven grass, bark, cloth, freaky tattoos etc.
    3. Holding the Athenians to be beacons of freedom and liberty, I remember a BBC production of (possibly) Pericles’ oratory goading the Athenians into war against Sparta, which was TV broadcast around the time of the first Gulf war and made explicit the connection between Pericles/Bush Sr’s “I thought he was going to hit me so I hit him first” tactics.
    4. An increasing incidence of the failure of public figures to take responsibility for their own actions.
    5. er- conflict management?

  6. First off – congrats on your book! Must be a good feeling. And thanks for saving me from doing an EOTWQ this week. So i guess i have to find a few brain cells for this quiz.

    1. China. Why? always been attracted to the culture, art, literature, etc. Civilized and barbaric both at the same time. Judge Dee books detailed perversions of the time nicely.

    2. Toga Toga Toga!!

    3. Probably the current blithe use of the terms “fascist” and “nazi”.

    4. Wal -Mart.

    5. Internet businesses (which i currently do), at least it samples from the worldwide market as opposed to localized. But i don’t consume much either, i’m already used to living cheaply.

  7. 1. Are the Vikings ancient enough? All that raiding, pillage and swiving. Plus, let’s not forget all those longboat widows left pining away in the fjords, wayhey!* If those Brits had been able to navigate their way back across the North Sea, who knows what shenenigans they’d have got up to…

    *Williamsbach, your grasp of Viking history seems to be based on romance and Hollywood. D-minus. See me after class for extra homework. Mr Brown, ex-History teacher

    2. Dunno. Which is best for pulling?

    3. Football players as gladiators.

    4. TV/film on your mobile phone.

    5. Selling honeyed dormice, rose petals and other people’s sisters. Roll up, Tincanman, they’re going fast!

  8. 1) As one myself I would have to say the Celts.
    2) Sung to the tune of ‘Men of Harlech’:
    “Romans coming up the channel
    All dressed up in tin and flannel
    Half a pint of woad a man will
    Cover more than these.
    Romans keep your armour!
    Saxons your pyjamas!
    Hairy coats were made for goats
    Gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas.
    Climb up Snowdon with your woad on
    Never mind if you get rained or snowed on
    Never need a button sewed on
    Woad’s the thing for me!’
    3) George Bush repeatedly referring to ‘Crusades’
    4) Simon Cowell
    5) Bespoke teepee designer.

  9. Wow, Aba, you have ratcheted things up! Time to release the inner pseud….
    1. The Khmer civilization took its aesthetics from Hindu mythologoly and celebrated the apsara, a very sexy, yet spiritual, dancing female. With elephants, elaborate rituals and processions, everyone must have been permanently in a heightened state of arousal. (Well, apart from those suffering terribly. But that’s a caveat for every sexy civilization, isn’t it?)
    2. In the right climate, woad, I think. (I looked up ‘chiton’. I’m not being clothed in ‘small to large, primitive marine molluscs’ for anyone, thank you…)
    3. The authoritarian ‘nazi’ comparison has been devalued somewhat in the last 60 years. Glenn Beck et al seem to be making it completely meaningless.
    4. The fact that communication is now achieved primarily with very expensive plastic tablets instead of people.
    5. I have been practising not making a living for a while now. It doesn’t seem to be too difficult.

      • I was trying for high-end esoteric, there, amy. But you’re right about India: Every old stone-carving of a female I’ve seen there has exaggerated features, all hand-polished!

      • You got the esoteric, it just triggered a more base impression in my own brain. Then there were those Tantric orgies, a bit more refined than the Roman version.

      • DsD said “Blimey! These must be the most highbrow EOTWQs ever”

        the thinking seems to have slipped a bit lower than the highbrows! ACE.

  10. 1. Has to be the Mongol Empire. Close to 0.5% of the world population have Genghis genes.

    2. Toga!

    3. Pass

    4. Poverty, disease & destruction of natural environments?

    5. Pillaging

  11. 1. Polynesia – Tahiti or Moorea will do.

    2. Toga – ’cause how many woads must a man walk down?

    3. Can’t remember who the twit was that claimed history is over but I’ll bet he’s rethinking it.


    5. Can’t go wrong making beer.

  12. And once they go to the clearing we’ll tell them we were joust kidding and they’ve been pranked.

    * giggles like schoolboy

  13. 5. Cat-farmer. With conventional western morals out of the way, I think cat farming would be the way to go.

    As much as I adore my moggy Mewsli, I can’t help thinking he’d make a lovely pair of gloves…

  14. Well, children, take a look at this. Any civilisation that worships a god that can look like that has to be thoroughly sexy, doesn’t it?

    • ‘her/his hand’, tin. That’s Ardhanarisvara, a form of Shiva that’s half-and-half: something for everyone.

      • Ah, not that you can tell a ton by someone’s noms, but and I have always thought Shivasidecar a bit on the ‘sensitive guy’ side. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. huzzzzzzzzzzz

  15. great banter one and all!

    Congrats on the book Aba and ace (if somewhat difficult) questions:

    1. As the above answers show, it seems like they are all sexy! I’ll go with a totally biased Heian Japan; all those silhouettes against paper screens, off the shoulder kimonos and sneaking out of lovers houses in the early dawn.

    2. I always wanted to go to an American Frat-style Toga party like in “Animal House” and do the “Toga! Toga! Toga! chant thing that Amy did above whilst “tapping a keg”!

    3. there are so many and I always get wound up by them, but I’ve gone blank all of a sudden!

    4. Dog grooming salons

    5. selling those surgical face masks, or bottles of alcohol hand wash or whatever else everyone goes mad buying when the next media-propelled scare hits

  16. Great questions Aba – excellent work avoidance material!

    1. I’m struggling to get beyond images of Amy Pond in a toga – most fanciable Dr Who sidekick ever – no contest. Erm … what was the question again? I suppose you can’t really beat the Greeks for downright decadence and for being the absolute antithesis of Daily Mail morality.

    2. Woad – definitely.

    3. Not sure that I’ve ever head a particularly crass and/or unhelpful historical analogy so I’ll make one up. “David Cameron’s just like that Adolph Hitler bloke” – how am I doing?

    4. At least the Romans finished up their honeyed dormice while sleeping with their sisters and (allegedly) smothering their enemies with rose petals. We’re so decadent we leave half the dormouse on the side of the plate, buy far too many petals and chuck the rest away. The disposable society at its worst …

    5. I know what I won’t be doing – going back to being a Civil Servant.

  17. 1. The Byzantines. Love the art, love the intrigue and the glorious civilisation, love the fact that it was Rome until 1453. I think the period when Basil II Boulgaroktonos was basileus would suit me fine.

    2. Tunica and stola, I think. In brightly coloured silk and brocade.

    3. I think that trying to portray the EU as the Roman Empire is pretty crass.

    4. The most decadent aspect of our culture is the idea that we can all become wealthy through fame, rather than by our intelligence, skills, hard work and drive.

    5. I shall cynically found a religious order.

    BTW, congrats on the book! I may have to add it to my list. I still have Chris Wickham’s The Inheritance Of Rome and Peter Heather’s Empires and Barbarians to read first!

  18. Excellent Q’s and congrats on the book!

    1. Never thought of civilisations per se as sexy, so I’m a bit stumped here. Not a great one for paraphernalia or ritual either so, not really being able to choose, I’ll go with the Celts as it obviously worked for my forebears.
    2. Some nice, loose Druid’s robes or if it’s not too cold – nothing.
    3. The offensive use of Crusade. Also the constant referral to political head honchos as the Drug Czar or the Whatever Czar – don’t they remember what happened to the Czars?
    4. Shopping centres replacing cathedrals as places of pilgrimage and devotion. Not that the cathedral thing was OK – it’s just that now we’ve truly surrendered to the cult of Mammon. Also cathedrals are nicer buildings.
    5. I’ll try to persuade fintan to take me on in his brewery. Would be happy to do quality control!

  19. Congratulations on the book Abahachi. Like ToffeeBoy says, the mention of Amy Pond is a bit distracting, but I’ll try and think of some answers. They won’t be as good as shane’s though.

    1) It’s hard to pick just one from those Etruscans, Egyptians, Indians / Hindus…. I wonder why we let people like St Paul put a stop to all that sort of thing ?

    2) Donds to Exodus; but a toga does give one a certain sense of freedom.

    3) I always think that King Canute / Cnut gets a raw deal, often referred to as trying to order back the tide, when he was demonstrating to his court the limits of earthly power.

    4) Donds to ToffeeBoy. And the way that we can’t stop making our working lives stressful for each other, the more technology we have, the worse it gets !

    5) Hmmm. Sourcing a supply of insulin is going to be difficult. I’ll think of something when the time comes.

  20. I’d love it if that was your bike helmet Abahachi 😉

    1. Which is the sexiest ancient civilisation, and why?

    I think I’d go with the Minoans, like saneshane; yeah the tits are obvious but it seems to have been a society with an unusual measure of equality between the sexes a relatively equitable distribution of wealth, good food and a pleasant climate. For Eros, anima and animus to frolic freely, these seem like prime conditions.

    2. Toga or woad? Or chiton?

    I’ve grown woad … so woad (factor 15), with a toga for those cooler evenings. Isn’t packing for holidays difficult?

    3. According to one recent commentator, “modern hi-tech terrorists are the new barbarians”. What’s the crassest and/or most unhelpful historical analogy you’ve ever heard?

    They said the bone flute with five finger holes, found at Hohle Fels Cave in the hills west of Ulm, was “by far the most complete of the musical instruments so far recovered from the caves and at 35,000 years, nearly as old as Jethro Tull”

    4. The Romans ate honeyed dormice while sleeping with their sisters and smothering their enemies with rose petals (allegedly). What’s the most obvious indication of the decadence of modern society?

    The Beckhams

    5. The empire has fallen, the oil is running out, capitalism has run its course: how do you plan to make a living in the new Dark Ages?

    Signing up for Shaman School as soon as I hit this full stop.

  21. Blimey, the level of this thread crashed and burned whilst I was at work, didn’t it?!

    I’m afraid I’m with tinny, and am far too ignorant to treat the questions too seriously, so . . .

    1. The Rebel Alliance, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Any civilisation led by a princess who can carry off that daft haircut, and still look that sexy in a metal bikini gets my vote.

    2. Toga, definitely. With a slave in tow to carry all of those personal items my lack of pockets stops me from keeping about my person.

    3. Almost anything that came out of Dubya‘s gob.

    4. Premiership footballers and their obscene lifestyles.

    5. Sod making a living! Just enlist Harold Pirrie, load his entire shop stock into an armoured 4×4, and head for the Custance family farm in Westmoreland with some breeding pigs, quick!!

  22. Wonderful stuff from everyone, making it even more difficult for me to get on with the wretched article I’m supposed to be writing – not least because I’ve been desperately trying to think of half-decent answers to my own questions…

    1. A case in point, partly because I’m not sure what I meant by sexy in the first place, partly because I’m worried about it all being far too psychologically revealing (my initial thought, I’m disturbed to confess, was the Aztecs; not sure why) and partly because ToffeeBoy’s comment set me off on extensive research into past Doctor Who assistants instead (and it’s currently down to a three-horse race between Amy, Leela and Sarah Jane Smith). Anyway, I think I’m with Carol on Byzantium, though for me it’s the very early centuries – fantastic costumes (see the Ravenna mosaics), power struggles, poison, assassinations, incomprehensible religious disputes, dubious goings-on with snakes…

    2. Chiton for me, as it covers a multitude of sins and unsightly bulges, and the toga is way too complicated to put on.

    3. I still get infuriated thinking about the whole ‘not invading Iraq is just like appeasement of Hitler’ thing, and indeed marched through the streets of London with the banner ‘Historical analogies are the last refuge of those who have lost the argument’.

    4. More or less everything that has already been suggested, especially rampant consumerism, celebrity culture and the obscenity of international finance, plus the mere idea of paying actual money for a mobile phone ‘app’ that imitates a pint of beer.

    5. I’ll either be in partnership or competition with Fintan on the brewing – plus cidermaking, of course. We’re already more or less self-sufficient in garlic, chillis, eggs and blackcurrants, so will just have to expand the garden a bit more.

    @Chris: “Time to release the inner pseud.” You mean there’s a way of locking him up occasionally? I must try that some time…

    • Abahachi – Done! if we can recruit someone on the east coast & (I think Amy Lee will be looking for a new occupation after the Fall) with Maki already in place on the continent I a see great future in the apocalypse.

      • I think Amy Lee will be looking for a new occupation after the Fall

        Why? Do you know something i don’t? (I’m a paranoic). Better idea – how about if williamsbach and i take over the wine division?

      • Long as we get to join in the quality control for both divisions amylee, I’m your man.

      • No worries, williamsbach. In fact, you can even be the tester for my share of the beer too. Maybe tfd and TY can head up the single malt division.

      • That’ll be a hard task, Amy, as no-one ever agrees about single malts.

        Still, if someone’s got to do it…

  23. I still get infuriated thinking about the whole ‘not invading Iraq is just like appeasement of Hitler’ thing, and indeed marched through the streets of London with the banner ‘Historical analogies are the last refuge of those who have lost the argument’.

    Hey I remember that one. I was stuck between you and the English Collective of Prostitutes.

  24. Not quite a historical analogy, nor the worst sign of decadence; but the way that “blitz” now means to whizz food up with an electric gadget, is, in foodie parlance, tasteless.

    Aba, Sarah-Jane is my favourite and is still looking good into middle-age. She has her own show on CBBC (children’s BBC).

  25. I know; why can’t they do repeats at a reasonable hour for people who don’t get off work in time for CBBC..?

  26. @ Aba – I meant to add my congratulations on having the book published and express my immense admiration at the downright gutsiness of the title. Wow!

    • Apparently Aba’s publishers vetoed the original title

      “The Roman Empire: Fuck Yeah!”


      (congrats by the way Aba – and a great photo!)

  27. Firstly – congratulations!!

    Secondly – late again, so hope someone is still reading …

    1. Which is the sexiest ancient civilisation, and why? I’ll go with the Greeks, all that hot sun, togas and grapes …

    2. Woad, t goes with my hair (shaggy)

    3. In times of stress “it’s like a war zone / bomb site” etc. No, it really isn’t.

    4. Pre-prepared baked potatoes, complete meals in packaging and the appalling waste of food generally.

    5. We were discussing this at work earlier as we are very likely to be victims of the Picklesian cuts very shortly. So far we have come up with a knitter (assuming there are sheep), and a plasterer (wattle and daub, obviously) – now we need someone to light fires and brew beer.

  28. What wonderful questions and answers! I feel too late to attempt a response myself, but it’s been a very good read.

    And congratulations, Abahachi.

  29. So true. What I do is completely dfnefreit from what I went to school for, but once I found what I should be doing, it was impossible to ignore. I only wish I’d found it sooner, bet better late than never.

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