March 05, 2002
A Roman Anecdote

On a more serious note, Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat might want to think about this story from the Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius (Book I, Chapter 19). There is a scholarly translation at Diotima (University of Kentucky) and a Latin text at the homepage of the Later Latin Society in Tasmania. Here is an abridged summary:

An old woman visits Tarquinius Superbus, seventh and last king of Rome, and offers to sell him nine books of oracles for a very high price. He laughs at her, thinking her senile. She has brought along a small stove (a hibachi, I guess) and burns three of them in front of him, then offers the other six at the same price. Tarquinius laughs even more, she calmly burns three more, and Tarquinius panics and buys the last three for the same price she had named for all nine. The woman is never seen again. The books are later known as the Sibylline books, and are consulted by the appropriate religious authorities in emergencies.

If the Israelis can figure out how to get a similar message across, maybe the Palestinians will start negotiating in good faith. I don't see how their present methods can possibly improve the best previous Israeli offer.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 05, 2002 10:20 PM