Open Questions

This are questions, large or small, that have crossed my mind. Maybe I could find the answer myself with 5-50 minutes of googling… or maybe not.

  1. What is Veyne’s Le Pain et le cirque about? It’s an immensely long book and from the introduction and leafing through it, it seems practically like a comprehensive history of the ancient world. In theory, the organizing theme is evergitism; Elster cites it as though it were a manual on rational choice theory; I think I’ve read Foucault or Hacking or someone describe Veyne’s approach as “historical ontology”…
  2. I read a claim that Homer switches to Ionic/Attic/Aeolian Greek dialects haphazardly, simply to make the meter work. But in general Homer is our oldest source for Greek and is used to determine the historical roots of those dialects. So how can you distinguish between “Homer cheating by using slang from different dialects” and “Homer demonstrating that at one point a word was considered good general Greek”?
  3. (I had a similar thought about the accusation that Homer lengthens and shortens vowels to squeeze them into the meter. Here I assume we have the word frequently attested in Homer with its normal value; but still, how would you know the difference between strained meter and simply letting a foot drop once in a while, as modern poets do?)
  4. How was Sputnik possible? The more I learn about the bizarre failures of Soviet administration, the more confused I am that they managed to accomplish anything at all.
  5. How the hell did the Byzantines think it would be a good idea to outsource their navy to Venice and then have an anti-Venetian pogrom? The answer surely lies in principal-agent problems but the 1182 purge surely made a sack of Byzantium inevitable.