English Language and History

The brief stories below are taken from history, myth or fiction. Each one is accompanied by games and exercises in essential grammar and free composition, based on old school textbooks.

A to Z Index

Judicial Iniquity
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
John Stuart Mill reminds us that governments and the courts must never be allowed to criminalise matters of belief or opinion.
By John Stuart Mill
(1806-1873)

BORN in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man [Socrates] has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious utilitarianism of Aristotle, the two headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy.

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Six Posts
The Battle of Ynys Mon
Suetonius Paulinus, Governor of Britain, hoped to enhance his reputation.
Based on an account by Cornelius Tacitus
(AD 56-117)

IN Suetonius’s opinion, the chief threat to Roman rule in Britain came from the Welsh tribes and the Druids. He would discover that this was a mistake, but in the meantime, he bent his attention on the Island of Mona, just off the Welsh coast, which had become their stronghold.

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Hannibal’s Passage of the Alps
Music: George Frideric Handel
Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with nearly 50,000 men and 38 elephants is the stuff of legend.

WHEN Hannibal, aged twenty-six, inherited command of the Carthaginian army in Spain, he at once began harassing the town of Saguntum, which was friendly to Rome. Carthage ordered Hannibal to hold off, but his hatred of Rome burned so hot that he disobeyed the order.

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The Golden Age of Carausius
Music: Henry Purcell
A Roman commander facing court martial took refuge in politics, and for ten years London was an imperial capital.

IN 286, Carausius was appointed to command the ‘Britannic Fleet’, patrolling the English Channel to keep Franks and Saxons from raiding Britain’s southern coasts. Rumour had it, however, that he let some raiders through so he could pocket their plunder for himself, and Emperor Maximian summoned him for a court martial.

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The Rewards of Treachery
Music: Richard Jones
Cicero warns those who seek power through civic unrest that they will never be the beneficiaries of it.
By Marcus Tullius Cicero
(106-43 BC)

MEN of another class, though crushed by debt, still expect to rule, still covet political power, nursing a hope that public unrest might bring honours they could never dream of in untroubled times.

Let it be clear to one and all, right now, that their quest is hopeless.

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Keep away from the Games!
The wise old philosopher had learnt that popular entertainments rot the soul.
From ‘Letters to Lucilius’ by Seneca the Younger
(?4BC-?AD65)

I HAPPENED to drop in at the midday games, expecting a bit of fun and wit and something relaxing for eyes that needed a break from human cruelty. What I got was the opposite.

The fighting that went before was miserable enough; now they dropped all sporting pretence, and it was straightforward murder.

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A Man called ‘Beta’
For a perennial ‘runner-up’, Eratosthenes had a peculiar knack of being first.

BY day, Eratosthenes was responsible for the world-famous library in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. He tutored the Pharaoh’s sons, and - no mean poet himself - amassed a superb collection of the epic poetry, plays and philosophical writings of ancient Greece.

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All Posts
Tagged Classical History (25 posts)
page 1
1 Judicial Iniquity
By John Stuart Mill
(1806-1873)
John Stuart Mill reminds us that governments and the courts must never be allowed to criminalise matters of belief or opinion.
2 The Golden Age of Carausius
A Roman commander facing court martial took refuge in politics, and for ten years London was an imperial capital.
3 A Pyrrhic Victory
By Plutarch
(AD 46-120)
The ancient Greek King knew victory had cost his army more than it could afford to lose.
4 The Rewards of Treachery
By Marcus Tullius Cicero
(106-43 BC)
Cicero warns those who seek power through civic unrest that they will never be the beneficiaries of it.
5 St Helen Finds the True Cross
Based on ‘Elene’ by Cynewulf
(8th century)
The mother of the Roman Emperor goes to Jerusalem on a quest close to her heart.
6 Xerxes Scourges the Hellespont
By Herodotus
(?484-?425 BC)
The Persian King felt that a lord of his majesty should not have to take any nonsense from an overgrown river.
page 2
7 Boudica
British sympathy for Roman imperial progress evaporated when officials began asset-stripping the country.
8 St George the Triumphant Martyr
One of the Emperor Galerius’s most trusted generals openly defied him.
9 ‘Stand out of my Sunshine!’
By Plutarch
(AD 45-120)
Alexander the Great dropped a hint to his sycophantic entourage.
10 Alcibiades
In the populist democracy of 5th-century BC Athens, heroes fell as quickly as they rose.
11 Pericles and the Fickle Public of Athens
The leader of 5th-century BC Athens lavished public money on the city and its adoring citizens.
12 The Battle of Marathon
Remembered as the inspiration of the famous Olympic road race, but much more important than that.
page 3
13 The Last Days of Socrates
Socrates was placed on death row while Athens celebrated a religious festival.
14 First Contact
Julius Caesar came over from France expecting to silence the noisy neighbours, but things did not go according to plan.
15 The Season of ‘Goodwill’
‘Goodwill’ was on everyone’s lips, but the Roman Emperor and the God of Israel had very different ideas about it.
16 A Man called ‘Beta’
For a perennial ‘runner-up’, Eratosthenes had a peculiar knack of being first.
17 A Battle of Wills
Based on ‘A Book of Golden Deeds’ by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
Two strong and determined men refused to back down.
18 Hannibal’s Passage of the Alps
Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with nearly 50,000 men and 38 elephants is the stuff of legend.
page 4
19 Horatius at the Bridge
Based on a story by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
Horatius Cocles was the last man standing between Rome’s republic and the return of totalitarian government in 509 BC.
20 The Speech of King Caratacus
By Cornelius Tacitus
(AD 56-117)
A proud British king, taken to Rome as a trophy of Empire, refused to plead for his life.
21 The Battle of Ynys Mon
Based on an account by Cornelius Tacitus
(AD 56-117)
Suetonius Paulinus, Governor of Britain, hoped to enhance his reputation.
22 The Battle of Salamis
Defeat for the Greeks would have changed the course of Western civilization.
23 Keep away from the Games!
From ‘Letters to Lucilius’ by Seneca the Younger
(?4BC-?AD65)
The wise old philosopher had learnt that popular entertainments rot the soul.
24 The Last Gladiator
The people of Rome suddenly turned their back on centuries of ‘sport’ - all because of one harmless old man.
page 5
25 A Bird in the Hand is Worth...
From ‘History of the Wars’ by Procopius of Caesarea
(c.500—c.560)
The Roman Emperor Honorius, so the story goes, had more on his mind than the impending sack of one of Europe’s iconic cities.
Authors
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
1 post
Herodotus (?484-?425 BC)
1 post
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
1 post
Plutarch (AD 46-120)
2 posts
Procopius of Caesarea (c.500—c.560)
1 post
Seneca the Younger (?4BC-?AD65)
1 post
Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56-117)
1 post
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Active or Passive?

Use each of the verbs below in either the active or the passive form. Can you use both forms?

Sing. Appear. Coast.

The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Wheel’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with TOWN and finish with CITY.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with CHIP and finish with PUTT.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with NOTE and finish with BOOK.
Do you know ‘brainy fellow’ (7 letters), and ‘drink’ (3 letters)?
Try writing complete sentences using these adjectives in the attributive position.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
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letters game

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