cuckolded and raped: forestalling the fate of Shahzaman & Shahrayar

Shahrqazad tells stories to King Shahrayar

When King Shahzaman unexpectedly returned home to his palace, he discovered his wife in the arms of a kitchen boy. Shahzaman was furious and emotionally devastated. Expressing his personal commitment to gender equality, he not only killed the kitchen boy, but his wife as well. Shahzaman then set out to visit his brother King Shahrayar.

At his brother’s palace, Shahzaman was listless and grief-stricken. He couldn’t get over what his wife had done to him. He imagined that no one else had experienced what he had experienced. Shahzaman grew pale, lost weight, looked ill, and neglected everything.

One morning when his brother was out hunting, Shahzaman sat at a window overlooking a garden in his brother’s palace. He agonized over his misfortune and stared at the heavens. Movement below interrupted his melancholy thoughts:

the private gate of his brother’s palace opened, and there emerged, strutting like a dark-eyed deer, the lady, his brother’s wife, with twenty slave girls, ten white and ten black. While Shahzaman looked at them, without being seen, they continued to walk until they stopped below his window, without looking in his direction, thinking that he had gone to the hunt with his brother. Then they sat down, took off their clothes, and suddenly there were ten white slave girls and ten black slave boys who had been dressed in the same clothes as the girls. Then the ten black slave boys mounted the ten white slave girls, while the lady called, “Mas’ud, Mas’ud!” and a black slave jumped from the tree to the ground, rushed to her, and, raising her legs, went between her thighs and made love to her. Mas’ud had sex with the lady, while the ten slave boys had sex with the ten slave girls. They carried on until noon. When they were done with their activity, they got up and washed themselves. Then the ten slave boys put on the same clothes again, mingled with the girls, and once more there appeared to be twenty slave girls. Mas’ud himself jumped over the garden wall and disappeared, while the slave girls and the lady sauntered to the private gate, went in and, locking the gate behind them, went their way.

King Shahzaman was stunned. His brother King Shahrayar was being cuckolded, not just by his wife, but also by twenty of his slaves. Shahzaman wearily exclaimed:

This is our common lot. Even though my brother is king and master of the whole world, he cannot protect what is his, his wife and his concubines, and suffers misfortunes in his very home. What happened to me is little by comparison. I used to think that I was the only one who has suffered, but from what I have seen, everyone suffers.

Many men are cuckolded. Some are forced to make large monthly financial payments (“child support” payments) to the women who cuckolded them and bore other men’s children. Even in the enormous, powerful, and highly cultured Islamic caliphate of the eighth century, caliphs were subordinate to their slave girls. The reality of the general absurdity of men’s sexual subordination to women buoyed Shahzaman’s spirit. He began to eat and drink with relish and be joyful.

When Shahrayar returned from his hunting expedition, he was astonished at the transformation in Shahzaman’s spirit. Shahrayar insistently inquired about how Shahzaman had recovered from his depression. Eventually, reluctantly, Shahzaman told his brother Shahrayar that he was being cuckolded. Shahrayar refused to believe it. He said that he would believe that he was being cuckolded only if he saw it happening before his own eyes.

Shahzaman arranged for Shahrayar to see the cuckolding spectacle. They rode out on a multi-day hunting expedition, but then secretly sneaked back into the palace. They hid in the room above the garden and waited until morning to see what would happen:

As they watched, the private gate opened, and there emerged as usual the wife of King Shahrayar, walking among the twenty slave girls. They made their way under the trees until they stood below the palace window where the two kings sat. Then they took off their women’s clothes, and suddenly there were ten slave boys, who mounted the ten slave girls and made love to them. As for the lady, she called “Mas’ud, Mas’ud,” and a black slave jumped from the tree to the ground , came to her, and said, “What do you want, you slut? Here is Sa’ad al-Din Mas’ud.” She laughed and fell on her back while the slave mounted her and like the others had sex.

Women tend to find sexually attractive men like Mas’ud — highly self-confident men who aren’t afraid to disparage them. King Shahrayar, like many men today, was stunned at this revelation. He and his brother decided to put aside their kingdoms and roam the world until they found one more misfortunate than them.

Roaming about, the kings Shahrayar and Shahzaman came to a meadow by the seashore. While they were sitting in the meadow, morosely discussing their misfortunes, they heard a tremendous noise coming from the middle of the sea. The sea suddenly parted and up rose a swaying black pillar that got taller and taller until it seemed to touch the clouds. Shaking in terror, Shahzaman and Shahrayar ran. Then the climbed up a tall tree. They hid in its foliage.

The black pillar in the middle of the sea moved toward the shore. When it came closer, Shahzaman and Shahrayar could see that it was a black demon carrying on its head a large glass chest secured with four steel locks. The demon walked out of the sea and into the meadow. It then sat down under the tree in which Shahzaman and Shahrayar were hiding.

The demon put the glass chest on the ground and unlocked it. From the chest he pulled out a full-grown woman. She had a beautiful bosom, large buttocks, a face like a full moon, and a lovely smile. The demon laid her on the ground and said to her:

Mistress of all noble women, you whom I carried away on your wedding night, I would like to sleep a little.

The demon placed his head on the woman’s lap, stretched out his legs to the sea, and began snoring in sleep.

After a little while, the woman noticed Shahzaman and Shahrayar hiding in the tree. She lifted the demon’s head from her lap and put it on the ground. She motioned to the men in the tree to come down to her. They remained frozen in place. Then she called out to them, “You must come down to me.” They begged her and implored her to allow them to remain in the tree, saying “For God’s sake, leave us alone.” But she insisted on having her way:

She replied, “You must come down, and if you don’t, I shall wake the demon and have him kill you.” She kept gesturing and pressing, until they climbed down very slowly and stood before her. Then she lay on her back, raised her legs, and said, “Make love to me and satisfy my need, or else I shall wake the demon, and he will kill you.” They replied, “For God’s sake, mistress, don’t do this to us, for at this moment we feel nothing but dismay and fear of this demon. Please, excuse us.” She replied, “You must,” and insisted, swearing, “By God who created the heavens, if you don’t do it, I shall wake my husband the demon and ask him to kill you and throw you into the sea.” As she persisted, they could no longer resist and they had sex with her, first the older brother, then the younger.

In short, the woman raped both the kings and cuckolded her demon-husband.

The situation was actually even worse than that. The woman demanded that Shahzaman and Shahrayar give her their rings. She pulled out a purse and showed them ninety-eight rings. She explained:

All the owners of these rings slept with me, for whenever one of them made love to me, I took a ring from him. Since you two have slept with me, give me your rings, so that I may add them to the rest, and make a full hundred. A hundred men have known me under the horns of this filthy monstrous cuckold, who has imprisoned me in this chest, locked it with four locks, and kept me in the middle of the raging, roaring sea. He has guarded me and tried to keep me pure and chaste, not realizing that nothing can prevent or alter what is predestined and that when a woman desires something, no one can stop her.

Women have always been far more powerful than men in human societies. That’s why today men lack any reproductive rights, men don’t have equal knowledge of who their biological offspring are, and men vastly outnumber women among persons held in captivity in prisons and jails.

Their stunning realization of women’s power transformed both King Shahzaman and King Shahrayar.  They exclaimed:

O God, O God! There is no power and no strength, save in God the Almighty, the Magnificent. Great is women’s cunning.

They both took off their rings and give them to the woman. She put the rings in her purse, sat down, and put the sleeping demon’s head back onto her lap. Then she sternly ordered Shahzaman and Shahrayar to go away. They did as she ordered. They returned home, knowing that the awesomely powerful demon was even more worse off than them.

Both Shazaman and Shahrayar resolved never to marry again. However, because he continued to find women highly attractive, King Shahrayar engaged in succession of one-night stands. He would have sex with a woman for one night, and then the next morning order her to be killed. The resulting slaughter of women raised women’s violent death rate from a quarter of the violent death rate for men to half the violent death rate for men. The public was outraged about the extent of violence against women. The vizier’s daughter Shahrazad, a world-famous heroine, sprang into action on behalf of gender justice for women.

Men seeking gender equality can learn much from Shahrazad. She had extensive knowledge of literature, poetry, and the wisdom of her forefathers:

Shahrazad had read the books of literature, philosophy, and medicine. She knew poetry by heart, had studied historical reports, and was acquainted with the sayings of men and the maxims of sages and kings. She was intelligent, knowledgeable, wise, and refined.

Using her story-telling acumen, Shahrazad prevented any further violent deaths of women. Compared to women, men read very little fiction. Is it any wonder that men continue to have a violent death rate much higher than that of women?

To achieve gender equality, men must learn to tell stories, as well as cry compellingly. With the possible exception of the ideologically repressive recent decades, world literature throughout history is full of stories highlighting gender injustices against men. Men must draw upon these literary riches. To forestall fates even worse than befell King Shahraman and King Shahrayar, men must learn from Shahrazad.

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The above story is slightly adapted from the Prologue of the Arabian Nights (1001 Nights). The quotations are from the translation of Haddawy (2010) pp. 5-13. I have made a few insubstantial changes to the quotations.

[image] Shahrazad tells stories to King Shahrayar. Oil painting by Ferdinand Keller, 1880. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


Haddawy, Husain, trans., based on Muhsin Mahdi, ed. 2010. The Arabian nights. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

does The Sound of Music echo Christian or Epicurean thought?

The Sound of Music, a Broadway production that opened in 1959 and then became a massively successful movie released in 1965, includes Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song “Something Good.” That song readily prompts grave scholarly thoughts in the mind of the learned. The issue is the nature of creation and a fundamental philosophical divide between Christians and Epicureans.

Maria is a young nun sent on leave from her abbey to serve as a governess to Captain von Trapp. She and the Captain fall in love. That’s mundane normative heterosexuality under the authority of the goddess Venus and her dart-shooting son Cupid. It’s completely uninteresting. But consider a verse that Maria sings to the Captain:

Nothing comes from nothing.
Nothing ever could.
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good. [1]

That reasoning in part echoes the thought of Parmenides of Elea early in the fifth-century BGC. About the time of Cicero, Lucretius described the first axiom of what had become the Epicurean school of thought:

Nothing can come of nothing, not even by will of the gods.
Mortal men are afraid as they look about them and see
the many things that happen on earth and up in the sky,
and they cannot tell why or how and therefore think that gods
must bring them about by fiat. But if our axiom holds
and nothing can come of nothing, then we are obliged to look further,
to learn what we want to know — how each thing was created
and how, without the gods, all things came to be.

{ nullam rem e nilo gigni divinitus umquam.
quippe ita formido mortalis continet omnis,
quod multa in terris fieri caeloque tuentur,
quorum operum causas nulla ratione videre
possunt ac fieri divino numine rentur.
quas ob res ubi viderimus nil posse creari
de nilo, tum quod sequimur iam rectius inde
perspiciemus, et unde queat res quaeque creari
et quo quaeque modo fiant opera sine divom. } [2]

By the time of Tertullian late in the second century GC, Christians strongly opposed the view that nothing comes from nothing. Tertullian declared that Christians believe:

There is but one God, who is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced everything from nothing through his Word, sent forth before all things.

{ Unum omnino Deum esse nec alium praeter mundi conditorem qui uniuersa de nihilo produxerit per uerbum suum primo omnium emissum. } [3]

From Tertullian’s Christian perspective, the nun Maria’s view of creation is Epicurean, not Christian.

Yet in the song “Something Good,” Maria also sings of non-material, moral causation. She believes that she must have done something good in her childhood to merit the good of the Captain loving her. From both Epicurean and Christian perspectives, that’s delusional. Neither atoms nor God the Creator provide present-world rewards based on ongoing judgment about past behavior. In conjunction with adhering to the Epicurean account of creation, the nun Maria apparently also believed in the folk morality “what goes around, comes around.”[4]

Maria inconsistently practiced an Epicurean approach to dealing with pain. Throughout her mundane life, she imitated Epicurus on his deathbed:

When the dog bites, when the bee stings,
when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel so bad. [5]

However, when the Baroness forced her to recognize that she was in love with the Captain, the deeply distraught Maria fled back to her abbey to live again as a chaste nun. That action violates the poetic logic of orthodox Epicurean advice to lovesick men:

Your love’s not around, for a change? But still her image
is, and her sweet name echoes in your ears.
Then we ought to flee these shadows and scare off
the food of love, and turn our thoughts to another —
shooting the juice into any available body,
not holding it all in for a single lover,
saving up for ourselves sure pain and sorrow.
If you feed the sore it’ll put down roots and fester
and blister over and drive you made with trouble —
better dull down the old wounds with new interests,
stroll after a street-strolling trollop and cure yourself,
shift your thoughts to another while you still can!

{ nam si abest quod ames, praesto simulacra tamen sunt
illius et nomen dulce obversatur ad auris.
sed fugitare decet simulacra et pabula amoris
absterrere sibi atque alio convertere mentem
et iacere umorem conlectum in corpora quaeque,
nec retinere, semel conversum unius amore,
et servare sibi curam certumque dolorem.
ulcus enim vivescit et inveterascit alendo,
inque dies gliscit furor atque aerumna gravescit,
si non prima novis conturbes volnera plagis
volgivagaque vagus Venere ante recentia cures
aut alio possis animi traducere motus. } [6]

Women can acquire lovers much more easily than men can. If Maria truly believed in Epicureanism, she would have simply found another rich, middle-aged captain for a discreet sexual affair.

Although a good singer and a child-pleasing governess, Maria was an ignorant nun and an incoherent philosopher. One might well question Captain von Trapp’s judgment in marrying her. At least the Nazis of the mid-twentieth-century didn’t persecute that forty-seven-year-old retired naval captain for marrying his twenty-two-year-old domestic helper.[7]

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[1] Stanza 3 from the song “Something Good” in the musical The Sound of Music (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II).

[2] Lucretius, De Rerum Natura {On the Nature of Things} 1.150-8, Latin text from Rouse & Smith (2002) pp. 14, 16 (nearly identical with that in the The Latin Library), English translation from Slavitt (2008) p. 7. Lucretius lived from about 94 to 49 BGC. He was a follower of Epicurus.

The Epicurean view of creation is commonly known as ex nihilo nihil fit {nothing comes from nothing}. The Christian view tends to be expressed as creation ex nihilo {from nothing}. Opportunities for conceptual confusion are obvious. The issue has been discussed in a wide range of intellectual traditions for millennia.

[3] Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum {On the Prescription of Heretics}, from Latin trans. S.L. Greenslade (1956).

[4] Faulty understanding of Galatians 6:7 may have contributed to the popularity of that folk wisdom. Galatians 6:7-8 declares:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

The metaphor “you reap whatever you sow” applies here to trans-worldly judgment, not present-day affairs.

[5] Stanza 4 from the song “My Favorite Things” in the musical The Sound of Music (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II). On Epicurus on his deathbed, see Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 10.22 (quoting Epicurus’s letter to Idomeneus). For related scholarly discussion, including a citation to The Sound of Music, Procopé (1998) p. 185.

[6] De Rerum Natura 4.1061-72, Latin text from Brown (1987) p. 150 (nearly identical that that from the Latin Library), English translation from Esolen (1995) pp. 151-2, with my adaptations. In l. 1063, Esolen translated sed as “but”; the sense seems to me closer to “then.” For l. 1073, Esolen translated “Better write off the old wounds with new business.” That commercial metaphor is jarring. I’ve replaced it above.

Slavitt’s translation is much looser. It includes the advice, “Do mathematics. Or at least shoot your wad elsewhere.” Slavitt (2008) p. 179. I prefer Esolen’s more literal translation.

[7] The Sound of Music is based on the real-life story of the von Trapp family. The forty-seven-year-old widower Captain Georg von Trapp married his twenty-two-year-old domestic helper Maria. She was actually a tutor to one of his children, rather than a governess.

Georg von Trapp was in reality a warm and loving father to his children. He helped them to develop their musical talents long before Maria entered his household. Maria, in contrast, came to the family with a colder personality than that of the father Georg:

It was actually Maria herself (called “Gustl” by the children), with her emotionally stunted upbringing, who needed thawing.

Santopietro (2015) p. 11. The characters of Georg and Maria apparently were adapted to support the dominant gynocentric ideology.

[image] Video of Maria and the Captain singing “Something Good” from the 1965 movie production of The Sound of Music. Via YouTube.


Brown, Robert D. 1987. Lucretius on love and sex: a commentary on De rerum natura IV, 1030-1287, with prolegomena, text, and translation. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Esolen, Anthony M., trans. 1995. Lucretius. On the nature of things: De rerum natura. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Procopé, John. 1998. “Epicureans on Anger.” Pp. 171-196 in Sihvola, Juha, and Troels Engberg-Pedersen, eds. The emotions in Hellenistic philosophy. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Rouse, W. H. D. , and Martin Ferguson Smith, ed. and trans. 2002. Lucretius. De rerum natura. Loeb Classical Library 181. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Santopietro, Tom. 2015. The Sound of music story: how a beguiling young novice, a handsome Austrian captain, and ten singing Von Trapp children inspired the most beloved film of all time. New York: St. Martin’s Press

Slavitt, David R., trans. 2008. Lucretius. De rerum natura: the nature of things. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Orosius on violence: behind every great man is an even greater woman

Everyone has been taught the wisdom, “Behind every great man is an even greater woman.” Yet women, who incite men to violence, receive little credit for the violence that men do. Moreover, women don’t merely stand behind men and push them forward into deadly battle. When necessary, women themselves also directly engage in battle. Orosius and other ancient Roman historians documented that women can be ferocious and brutal fighters ready to kill not just the enemy, but also their own children.

Amazons are celebrated today as strong, independent women-warriors. Orosius, however, described Amazons as Scythian women who became warriors only after the Scythians were driven into exile and many Scythian men were killed:

The wives of this Scythian group, driven hysterical by being exiled and widowed, took up arms and, so that all of them should have the same spirit by being in the same condition, killed the Scythian men who had survived. Having inflamed themselves in this way, they avenged with their own blood their slaughtered husbands by exterminating the neighboring tribes. When they had obtained peace by force of arms, they lay with foreigners. They immediately killed their male offspring, but carefully reared the females, burning off the right-side breasts of these young girls in order that they should not be impeded in shooting arrows. For this reason they were called Amazons.

{ Horum uxores exilio ac uiduitate permotae arma sumunt et, ut omnibus par ex simili condicione animus fieret, uiros qui superfuerant interficiunt atque accensae in hostem sanguine suo ultionem caesorum coniugum finitimorum excidio consequuntur. Tunc pace armis quaesita externos concubitus ineunt, editos mares mox enecant, feminas studiose nutriunt inustis infantium dexterioribus mammillis, ne sagittarum iactus impedirentur; unde Amazones dictae. }[1]

This historical account is plausible. Just as single women attempt to sabotage other women’s relationships with men, single Amazons killed all the Amazon husbands so that all Amazon women would be single like them. Moreover, single mothers can easily become hostile to male children, so the single Amazon mothers killing all their male offspring isn’t surprising. One should also recognize that women support relatively strongly mutilating the genitals of male and female chilren. Amazons mothers had more convincing reason for cutting off their daughters’ breasts than many women today have for allowing their sons’ genitals to be mutilated.

Current public adoration for Amazons shows ignorance of other, more worthy women heroes that Orosius and other ancient Roman historians described. For example, the Assyrian woman leader Semiramis not only assumed leadership of her nation after her husband was killed, but also far outdid her husband in military aggression:

This woman Semiramis was not content to inherit the boundaries which her husband, the only warlike king at that time, had seized in his fifty years of war. She crushed Ethiopia in war, drenched it in blood, and added it to her domains. She also waged war on India, which no one except she and Alexander the Great had invaded. … Semiramis, ablaze with lust and thirsting for blood, lived amid unending fornication and murder. After she had killed all those with whom she had enjoyed pleasures of the flesh — men she had summoned as a queen, but retained as a courtesan — she vilely put out for death by exposure her illicitly conceived son.

{ Non contenta terminis mulier, quos a uiro suo tunc solo bellatore in quinquaginta annis adquisitos susceperat, Aethiopiam bello pressam, sanguine interlitam, imperio adiecit. Indis quoque bellum intulit, quo praeter illam et Alexandrum Magnum nullus intrauit. … Haec, libidine ardens, sanguinem sitiens, inter incessabilia et stupra et homicidia, cum omnes quos regie arcessitos, meretricie habitos concubitu oblectasset occideret, tandem filio flagitiose concepto, impie exposito }[2]

Her illicit son apparently survived being exposed. Like Oedipus and Jocasta, the son and mother unknowingly had sex. Dwelling upon the injustices that she faced in those circumstances, Semiramis acted to liberate all from punishment for such acts:

When she learned she had committed incest, she covered up her personal disgrace by making her crime a public practice. She decreed that between parents and their children no natural shyness should prevent seeking a marital partner and that everyone should be free to act according to her pleasure.

{ inceste cognito priuatam ignominiam publico scelere obtexit. Praecepit enim, ut inter parentes ac filios nulla delata reuerentia naturae de coniugiis adpetendis ut cuique libitum esset liberum fieret. }[3]

Like Empress Theodora, Semiramis had strong, independent sexuality. Semiramis also had a keen sense for social justice. In today’s circumstances, she deserves to be honored as a greater hero than Oedipus the King.

Women use their children in violent battle in ways that most men lack the courage to do. Consider German women battling against Roman soldiers. When the German women lacked weapons and couldn’t retreat, they used their children to strike against the enemy:

When their weapons ran out, the German women bashed their own children against the ground and hurled them into the faces of the opposing soldiers.

{ quae deficientibus telis infantes suos adflictos humi in ora militum adversa miserunt. }[4]

Gallic women fighting against the Romans were more ingenious in killing their children:

They made a sort of fort by drawing their wagons into a circle and drove off the Romans for a long time, fighting themselves from the top of its ramparts. But then the Romans terrified them by a new way of dealing out death — stripping the skin and hair from their heads and leaving them disgraced by this dishonorable sort of wound. After that, the swords that they had taken up against the enemy the women turned on themselves and their children. Some cut each others’ throats, others throttled one another. Yet others tied ropes around their horses’ legs and, after tying those same ropes around their own necks, urged the horses on and so were dragged to their deaths. Others pushed up the yoke-poles of their wagons and hanged themselves from them. They found one woman who had placed a noose around the necks of her two sons and attached it to her feet, so that when she flung herself down to be hanged, she dragged her children to their doom with her.

{ Mulieres grauiorem paene excitauere pugnam, quae plaustris in modum castrorum circumstructis, ipsae autem desuper propugnantes, diu repulere Romanos. sed cum ab his nouo caedis genere terrerentur — abscisis enim cum crine uerticibus inhonesto satis uulnere turpes relinquebantur — ferrum, quod in hostes sumpserant, in se suosque uerterunt. Namque aliae concursu mutuo iugulatae, aliae apprehensis inuicem faucibus strangulatae, aliae funibus per equorum crura consertis ipsisque continuo equis exstimulatis, postquam suas isdem funibus, quibus equorum crura nexuerant, indidere ceruices, protractae atque exanimatae sunt, aliae laqueo de subrectis plaustrorum temonibus pependerunt. Inuenta est etiam quaedam, quae duos filios traiectis per colla eorum laqueis ad suos pedes uinxerit et, cum se ipsam suspendio morituram dimisisset, secum traxerit occidendos. }[5]

Whether it’s wives fighting against their husbands in divorce proceedings or women leaders contemplating using the quintessential feminine weapon (nuclear bombs), women can wreak destruction that few men can even imagine. Women are the ultimate weapon.

Men deserve blame for not recognizing women’s violence. The great Persian leader King Cyrus learned this lesson in blood. Queen Thamyris arranged to kill 200,000 Persian men along with their King Cyrus. That wasn’t enough revenge for her:

The queen ordered Cyrus’ head to be cut off and thrust into a wineskin filled with human blood, adding these words of rebuke for his ruthlessness: “Glut yourself with blood — you always had a thirst for it and could never get enough.”

{ Caput Cyri amputatum in utrem humano sanguine repletum coici regina iubet cum hac exprobratione crudelitatis : “Satia te, inquit, sanguine, quem sitisti cuiusque insatiabilis semper fuisti”. }[6]

King Arthur’s neighbor King Gorlagon served his ex-wife with a similar punishment. Yet, as always, the person beheaded was a man. Men justifiably fear castration culture. A man should also fear that a woman will cut off his head and thrust it into a wineskin filled with blood.

Behind every great man is an even greater woman. Honored generals and warriors currently are almost exclusively men. That reflects sexism like sexist Selective Service registration. Just as women are superior to men in “web thinking” and the skills needed in today’s economy, women are also superior to men in today’s key forms of aggression and violence. As Orosius and other ancient Roman historians subtly suggested, women deserve to be recognized as more violent and vicious fighters than men.

women fighting

women MMA fighters

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[1] Orosius, Historiae Adversus Paganos {History Against the Pagans} 1.15.2-3, Latin text from that of C. Zangemeister, ed., via Attalus; English translation from Fear (2010) p. 64. Fear’s translation is based on the Budé text established by Arnaud-Linder, but that Latin text appears to be consistent with the Zangemeister text for the quotes above. In this and subsequent quotes, I have made some insubstantial changes to the translations to make them more easily readable. Any substantial changes are described in the associated note.

Orosius was probably a Christian church official from Spain. He interacted with both Augustine and Jerome. Orosius’s Historiae Adversus Paganos is a history from the beginning of the world to 410 GC. It was probably written about 416 GC. According to Orosius, historians writing from a non-Christian perspective failed to recognize God acting in history. Orosius argued strongly that the Gauls’ sack of non-Christian Rome in 390 GC was far more devastating than the Goths’ sack of Rome in 410 GC. Orosius also argued that, with the benefits of the grace of God, human welfare had improved since Rome became Christian.

Orosius only recently has been appreciated for his sophisticated rhetoric. Van Nuffelen observed:

Subtlety and literary skill are qualities rarely ascribed to Orosius, whose intelligence and culture have generally been derided in scholarship for the past half century. This judgment contrasts with the views of his late antique readers who emphasized his eloquence and rhetorical talent.

Van Nuffelen (2012) p. 25. Id. convincingly documents the merits of the late antique view of Orosius. Not surprisingly, Orosius presents a far more sophisticated and rhetorically impressive view of women than most scholars do today.

Orosius’s Historiae Adversus Paganos provided an influential pattern for historical writing. It circulated widely and was extensively studied in medieval Europe:

Some fifty manuscripts {of Historiae Adversus Paganos} survive from the period before 1100, and a further two hundred from the period up to 1500. It was clearly well known and much used in Anglo-Saxon England in the centuries immediately following the conversion to Christianity at the end of the sixth century.

Godden (2016) p. x. Popular, progressive history — history as a narrative of improving human condition over time — is fundamentally based on the model of Orosius’s history.

The Old English Orosius recognized more clearly than Orosius men’s subordination to women. According to the Old English Orosius, the Scythian men returned home when:

their wives sent messengers after them, saying that they must return home or else the wives would choose new husbands.

1.10.2, from Old English trans. Godden (2010) pp. 77, 79. The Old English Orosius also recognized that women can make men’s lives particularly miserable:

What sort of peace do you think men had before Christianity, when their women were doing such terrible things in this world?

1.10.8, trans. id. p. 83 (emphasis on men in source). The Old English Orosius was written by a West Saxon, probably a cleric, perhaps sometime between 862 and 930. Id. p. xi.

On current scholarly panegyrics for the Amazons, see note [1] in my post on the Amazons in the Alexandreis.

[2] Orosius, Historiae Adversus Paganos 1.4.5,7, trans. Fear (2010) pp. 51-2. The Old English Orosius elaborated on the relationship between Queen Semiramis and her husband King Ninus:

she {Semiramus} went on with the fighting that she had previously seduced him {Ninus} into by various wicked pleasures.

2.2.2, trans. Godden (2016) p. 59. Id. also forthrightly recognized the problem of “womanly malice” in Semiramis. Warner in Rouen early in the eleventh century depicted Semiramis as more wanton than any courtesan. See note [18] and associated text in my post on Warner’s cosmopolitan literary ambition.

[3] Orosius, Historiae Adversus Paganos 1.4.7-8, my translation. Fear’s translation:

when she learnt that she had indulged in incest with him, she covered her personal disgrace by inflicting this crime on all her people. For she decreed that there should be none of the natural reverence between parents and children when it came to seeking a spouse and that everyone should be free to act as he pleased.

Fear (2010) pp. 51-2. My translation attempts to follow the Latin more closely and allows gender play in the final pronoun, which is implicit in the Latin.

[4] Florus, Epitome of Roman History {Epitomae Historiae Romanae} 2.22, trans. E. S. Forster (1929) for the Loeb Classical Library. Similarly, Orosius, Historiae Adversus Paganos 6.21.17, trans. Fear (2010) p. 313.

Women killing their children and using the dead bodies as weapons is different from the traditional Roman exemplum of women committing suicide with their children. Orosius records that after the Romans had slaughtered 200,000 Gallic men, the Gallic women demanded from the Romans the privilege to become chaste priestesses. When the Romans refused to extend that female privilege, Gallic women killed their children and themselves:

they battered their children to death on the rocks and took their own lives by the sword or by the noose.

{ itaque cum petita non impetrauissent, paruulis suis ad saxa conlisis cunctae sese ferro ac suspendio peremerunt. }

Orosius, Historiae Adversus Paganos 5.16.13, trans. Fear (2010) p. 236. Such action was a well-known exemplum, e.g. Valerius Maximus 6.1.ext. 3, Jerome, Epistula 123.7 (cited in Van Nuffelen (2012) p. 127, n. 57).

[5] Orosius, Historiae Adversus Paganos 5.16.17-19, trans. Fear (2010) p. 237. With this original description, Orosius added much enargeia to a traditional Roman exemplum. Van Nuffelen (2012) p. 128.

[6] Justin, Epitome of the Philippic Histories {Epitoma Historiarum Philippicarum} 1.8.13, Latin text from the edition of Arnaud-Lindet (2003) via Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum; English trans. Yardley (1994) p. 21. This vignette goes back at least to Herodotus 1.214, where Thamyris is called in Greek Tomyris. It also occurs in Orosius, Historiae Adversus Paganos 2.7.6, trans. Fear (2010) p. 86; and the Old English Orosius 2.4.10, trans. Godden (2016) p. 121.

[image] (1) Two women fighting in the street (detail). English etching, probably from the nineteenth century. Wellcome Library no. 31649i. Available from Wellcome Collection under Creative Commons CC-BY license. (2) Women mixed-martial-arts fighters Megumi Fujii (left) fighting Cody Welchlin (right). Image thanks to Matthew Walsh and Wikimedia Commons.


Fear, A. T., trans. 2010. Paulus Orosius. Seven Books of History Against the Pagans. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Godden, Malcolm, ed. and trans. 2016. Paulus Orosius. The Old English history of the world: an Anglo-Saxon rewriting of Orosius. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 44. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Van Nuffelen, Peter. 2012. Orosius and the rhetoric of history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Yardley, John C., trans. 1994. Justin. Epitome of the Philippic history of Pompeius Trogus. Atlanta (Ga.): Scholars Press.

the Great Society has been demolished along with monuments to Johnson

Great Society of Lyndon Johnson

The Great Society that Lyndon Johnson began to build has been demolished. Johnson was a towering leader in the U.S. Senate and then President of the U.S. He was proud of the size of his penis, which he nicknamed “Jumbo.” Johnson would manipulate his genitals during meetings and urinate in front of female and male subordinates in the parking lot of the U.S. Capitol. Holding his penis and turning to a male colleague in the bathroom, Johnson said, “Have you ever seen anything as big as this?” That colleague never complained of Johnson sexually harassing him. Women and men will never again see a Johnson like that Johnson.

Power is the problem. “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac,” Henry Kissinger knowingly explained. When President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky engaged in non-heteronormative sex in the Oval Office complex, the power imbalance between the two undoubtedly helped to make the cigar more thrilling. The powers that rule have ruled that a power imbalance makes sex illicit. Ordinary persons can do nothing against that powerful ruling. Men are now impotent; women, distraught.

Hollywood and other fantasy producers no longer offer an escape. Long ago, a young actress from Algeria went to study in Paris:

She got to know a French producer as old as her father. Very rich and very influential. Married and with children older than she was. He fell in love with her. Her skin was brown and smooth and she was passionate. He went crazy over her. She drove him insane. He promised he would produce a blockbuster with her as the heroine, and he kept his word. You know what this generation’s like, everything all in a hurry. She wanted to be a famous actress, and he was obsessed with her youth. He would follow her to Tunis whenever she went there to visit her family.

Their relationship ended, not like some prominent men’s careers have ended recently, but in a more humane way:

He died. They were together. He was making love to her. He died on top of her. Someone asked if he’d died before he’d come or after. No one knew the answer.

Natural death is no longer a fitting end. Survivor women who suffered sex with men must be made into heroines. Their lovers must be public flayed. Then they must be killed in ritual sacrifice to the idol of gender power equality and the structural injustice of top and bottom. Men must be wary to remain alive and sane.

The Thinker has been exiled from respected public discourse. Some still longingly remember his presence:

I was confident that the Thinker would appear before me one day at a sudden turning, and he would say, like the first time, “It grabs me by the throat.” He would ask me about my honey, as though he had left me the day before, and I would reply that he should look for the answer for himself; that it was up to him to stretch out his hand and put it between my thighs and taste. “The proof of the sweetness of the honey is the honey itself,” says Ibn Arabi. I used to say it in front of him, and then he became the one who would repeat it, to teach me what I already knew.

Now anyone who says that some women might want certain men to reach out and grab the honey between their thighs is publicly classed as a sexual predator in authoritative news reports. Honey has turned to sorrel.

The Great Society has been demolished. Yet few dare speak or write of what’s happening. American society isn’t headed toward being made great again.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


On Johnson calling his penis “Jumbo,” urinating in the Capitol Hill parking lot, manipulating his genitals, and proudly displaying the size of his penis, Caro (2003) p. 121.

Henry Kissinger stated with respect to his sexual affairs, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Quoted in the The New York Times, 28 October 1973.

The most authoritative source for documentation on Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton’s relationship is the Starr Report. Here’s a review of reporting on the Lewinsky / Clinton story.

The account of the actress’s affair is from Nu’aymī (2009) p. 66. On the woman encouraging a man to reach out and put his hand onto her vagina, id. p. 140. Ibn Arabi was a twelfth-century Islamic scholar, Sufi mystic, philosopher, and poet. Ibn Arabi was educated in Seville. He traveled and lived throughout the Islamic world of the twelfth century.

[image] Photo (slightly cropped) of President Lyndon B. Johnson socializing with Abe Fortas a day after nominating him to the Supreme Court. Photo made on July 29, 1965. Johnson’s body language shows his capabilities for providing the “Johnson treatment.” LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto. Photo serial number A966-16. Thanks to the LBJ Library for preserving this photo in the public domain.


Caro, Robert A. 2003. Master of the Senate: the years of Lyndon Johnson. New York: Vintage Books.

Nu’aymī, Salwá (Salwa al Neimi), from Arabic trans. Carol Perkins. 2009. The proof of the honey. New York: Europa Editions.