Maxentius’ head, an update, and Billy Budd–my gosh, Billy Budd

So wonderful friend David Levinson forwarded my query about Maxentius’s head to an actual classicist, who had an answer:

Most likely North Africa was nominally under Maxentius’s control up to Milvian Bridge.  The deterrant of seeing his head would discourage any partisan and any usurper from trying to break Africa away from Constantine.   It does not matter if Constantine does not know the person’s name yet – it is any potential usurper.  Also the head proves Maxentius is dead as long as it is partly recognizable.  A boat trip might take only 4 days to get to the biggest port city where the word spreads.   One need not bring the head everywhere.

I’m very glad of that.

Guys, Melville. What the hell? I really hated Hawthorne in high school, and thus I chalked up all early American writers as “bleh” for years and years, and I had so many people tell me that Moby Dick was an awful reading experience that I just didn’t do it. Last year, I loaded Moby up on the iPad, and spent a month reading it in absolute bliss. What a glorious book. I even loved the technical details about whaling.

As usual with an author whom I love at first read, I looked at the rest of Melville’s corpus with a raised eyebrow. When I have had such a wonderful reading experience, it is very likely that the author’s other work will disappoint in some way. There is, thus, a push-pull: you love the author, so you seek him out, but you don’t want that first taste spoiled, and thus you also procrastinate.

I finally got around to reading Billy Budd this past week. I am just as devastated as I was at the end of Moby Dick, with Ishmael holding onto Queequig’s coffin. Billy! Vere! Oh my heavens.

I think I am going to use the novella in my justice class next time out.