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Ukraine: Today’s Sparta | The Oligarch Kings

The king with half the east at heel is marched from lands
of morning;
Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight
the air,
And he that stands will die for naught, and home there’s
no returning.
The Spartans on the sea wet rocks sat down and combed
their hair.

A.E. Housman, Last Poems XXV, The Oracles  

As children at school, we met with Greek and Latin stories in our Latin classes.  They were great exciting tales.   Uplifting.  No finer examples of bravery in the face of insurmountable odds were told than that of Sparta’s Leonidas and his 300 hoplites at Thermopylae (the hot gates) a pass that had to be held against seemingly vast odds to stop the barbarism of the expansionist Persian empire.  If they could not hold out, then imperial hegemony would conquer the free city states, free will would be overwhelmed, and authoritarianism would triumph over freedom.  Darkness would descend over the idea of nescient European democracy.

They stood while the rest of the west hung back, frightened and squabbling, temped to appease, change sides or make terms and sell out. 

Sounding familiar?  If Kiev or Kyiv, falls then Ukraine may be lost, and if Ukraine falls, a new darkness will cover half Europe.  It is simply that obvious, simply that important. 

They will hold whilst Biden, ball-less, old foolish Biden, prevaricates and appeases – let the Russians take back their provinces, let them install a puppet as long as we have peace.  They will hold back whilst the members of the spineless European Union look to their gas and oil supplies, (and contracts and profits) whilst Putin turns his demonic attentions next onto Moldova and then north to the Baltic states. (Go on Biden can you even point at where Moldova is?)

Much as Zelensky may pray for peace, he knows that like Leonidas he has to fight.  He knows he is a target but has firmly resisted temptation to leave Kyiv.  He does not want to see himself as a latter day Leonidas but it is the role he is being cast in.  And he will fight all the same. 

Will they all have to die before the West this time finally gets its act in gear and calls Putin’s bluff? 

By the way the poem quoted seems to suggest a forlorn end. But the part in italics is the voice of the discredited oracle, for which I choose to read the frightened Western establishment. The last line was the Spartans answer. To sit on the morning of battle and dress themselves for burial, before turning to face the Persians.

Engage and face him down.


Copyright David Macadam 2022

(With thanks to a conversation with Tamara Andrea)

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