The Corner

A Pagan Writes

“Moynihan’s comment is b.s. Read Tacitus on the pagans.

“The northern pagans’ moral standards, particularly in regard to monogamy and marriage, were in fact higher and more worthy of respect than the Romans’ standards. Expecting the empire that gave the world Caligula and the empress Theodora to raise one’s moral standards is like expecting fiscal prudence from the Bush administration.”

“Yours for the Pagan Anti-Defamation League,”

I must say, I am a bit skeptical about attributing cultural continuities across 2,000 years. The Swedes of a mere 1,200 years ago, after all, were the fierce and warlike Vikings — not the least bit like the mild-mannered pacifist Swedes of today.

And yes; having recently re-watched the BBC-TV production of “I, Claudius,”

Roman standards of sexual restraint and modesty did indeed leave something to be desired.

The missing data points here are the pre-welfare-state Scandinavians. My own knowledge is sketchy — vague recollections of Ibsen and Strindberg, and Stubhaug’s biography of Sophus Lie, which I read a few weeks ago; on that basis, though, they seem to have been pretty bourgeois and strait-laced.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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