Magazine article The Spectator

A Death without Honour

Magazine article The Spectator

A Death without Honour

Article excerpt

Romans would have been disgusted by the death of bin Laden. They expected better of their enemies, even if mass murderers, than to be supinely dispatched, cowering behind his wife, without a fight or heroic gesture.

Mithradates, king of Pontus in Asia Minor (northern Turkey), plotted against Rome for nearly 30 years. In 89 BC he launched his first assault against the Romans there, engineering the slaughter of 80,000 Roman residents on one night of the 'Asiatic Vespers'. He was finally betrayed by his son in 63 BC while planning an assault on Italy. Having inoculated himself against poison, he ordered a slave to run him through, commenting that he had not guarded against the most treacherous of all poisons - domestic treachery. Rome's Pompey hailed him as the greatest king of his day. Hannibal, too, tracked down to Pontus (northern Turkey) after a chance remark, took poison, 'not wanting to put his life at anyone else's disposal'. He became a key, and not unadmired, figure in Rome's historical memory.

Those who were taken alive after battle were paraded in the general's triumph. …

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