Episode 513 – Peter Stothard

Virtual Memories Show 513:
Peter Stothard

“There’s more of Crassus in modern politics than there is Caesar or Pompey.”

Classicist, editor, and writer Peter Stothard joins the show to celebrate the publication of his amazing new book, CRASSUS: The First Tycoon, the first in Yale University Press’ Ancient Lives series. We get into what drew him to Crassus, how Crassus’ understanding of finance and money revealed new ways to exert power beyond military strength in ancient Rome, how he tried to balance the strengths of Pompey & Julius Caesar as part of the “three-headed monster” that ruled Rome, whether Crassus deserves to be lost to history because of his brutal actions putting down the Spartacus slave revolution, and why writing about the ancients is like walking along a wall and looking down to see the familiar and the alien. We talk about Peter’s journey from council estate to studying classics at Oxford to editing the Times of London and then the Times Literary Supplement, the lessons antiquity has for modernity, what he learned in writing a book about Tony Blair and the buildup to the Iraq War, and his upcoming work on the development of the bureaucratic class. We also discuss how he survived a catastrophic form of cancer, rediscovered himself as a classicist-memoirist, and learned how much one gains in life by overcoming a fear of death, and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go read Crassus: The First Tycoon!

“I’m interested in how people should behave under an unjust government. . . . People have to ask, ‘How bad does something have to be before I have to take action to stop it?'”

“When it came to the Iraq War, Tony Blair thought it was the right thing to do something, because it was right. It was almost a Kantian position. There was no consequentialist argument about it.”


“You can judge a man by the space that he fills as well as what he does.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Peter Stothard is an author, journalist, and critic. He is a former editor of The Times of London and of the Times Literary Supplement. His latest book is Crassus: The First Tycoon.

Follow Peter on Twitter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Peter’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Riverside photo & candids of Peter & Ruth Scurr by me. Fancier pic by … someone else. It’s on my instagram.

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