Munich Villa Stuck

Nearly forgotten today, Franz von Stuck (1863–1928) was a popular and highly acclaimed artist in his time. Stuck designed his Munich villa (built 1897–98) as a rich homage to European art, from antiquity to contemporary styles. Like most late 19th century attempts to revive historical aesthetics in the industrial era its splendor borders on kitsch, … Continue reading “Munich Villa Stuck”

Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies

The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press 1988; paperback 1990, 250 pages, ISBN 978-0-521-38673-9) is Joseph A. Tainter’s magnum opus and deservedly considered a classic. Tainter packs an overview of explanations of collapse, analyses of historical cases, and his own overarching theory into one slim book, soberly argued from quantifiable data yet quite readable. … Continue reading “Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies”

Etruscans & Greeks

Munich’s museums lower their ticket prices to €1 on Sundays, a great opportunity to check out interesting special exhibitions. Last Sunday the Staatliche Antikensammlungen opposite the Glyptothek featured a large number of remarkable Etruscan pieces. I took a couple of pictures with the iPhone 5s, and also some from the regular Greek exhibition in the … Continue reading “Etruscans & Greeks”

King Ludwig’s Walhalla

King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786–1868) was the grandfather of Ludwig II (1845–1886) who eclipsed him in popular memory as the “Märchenkönig:” patron of Richard Wagner, Neuschwanstein castle, mysterious early death. Ludwig I was rather more mundane but left a much greater cultural legacy, simultaneously industrializing Bavaria – site of the first German railway in … Continue reading “King Ludwig’s Walhalla”

Tales from the Roman Republic

Rome’s messy transition from republic to principate has been well-documented by ancient authors and often revisited by modern ones. Since 1990 there has been a veritable explosion of historical fiction set in this era. I’ve devoured a good part of it, so here are some recommendations for your reading pleasure. The authors generally keep to … Continue reading “Tales from the Roman Republic”

How Great Was Alexander?

Following his observations on Napoleon, sociologist Randall Collins has posted another insightful article on one of history’s greatest warlords: What Made Alexander Great? Once again, I recommend you take an hour or two to read the whole thing. Below follows a summary with noteworthy excerpts. Philip’s Groundwork Alexander’s father Philip laid the groundwork to his … Continue reading “How Great Was Alexander?”

Napoleon’s Unlikely Career

Sociologist Randall Collins has published another fascinating essay-length post, this time on the illustrious career of Napoleon Bonaparte and the old question of talent versus luck. The single worst thing about the article is the title, Napoleon as CEO: A Career of Emotional Energy, which sounds like something written by robots to fill the space … Continue reading “Napoleon’s Unlikely Career”

Stephansdom & Lightroom

After some experiments with raw digital images, I now decided to rectify the one notable omission in this summer’s Passau gallery. That’s the famous Stephansdom, or St. Stephen’s cathedral. It had been undergoing renovation which is now finished. I also switched to Adobe Lightroom for post-processing, as described in the next section. Scroll down to … Continue reading “Stephansdom & Lightroom”

Luttwak’s Grand Strategy of Rome

Edward N. Luttwak’s The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire (John Hopkins University Press 1976) is a compact (255 pages) and brilliant classic on military and diplomatic strategies from the principate to the tetrarchy. Recently Luttwak published his long-awaited companion piece, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire (Harvard University Press 2009), much delayed and … Continue reading “Luttwak’s Grand Strategy of Rome”