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  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    Historian Mary Beard gets Twitter bomb threat

    London: The historian Mary Beard has become the latest woman to receive a tweeted bomb threat, sent on the eve of a boycott by many of Twitter in protest at its slow response to dealing with violent and obscene threats.Although many stayed off the site, the hashtags #Twittersilence and #connectwithrespect were trending, with many comments like David Howell’s: “Time spent enjoying @wmarybeard on twitter is time well spend. Time saved by ignoring idiots is time well saved,” and others pointing out that both women and men have been the victims of vitriolic abuse....

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Cambridge prof Mary Beard forces apology from Twitter troll

    Television historian and Cambridge professor Mary Beard has forced a Twitter troll to apologise after publicly naming and shaming him.The male Twitter user had sent an obscene message to Professor Beard that she then retweeted to her 42,000 followers, saying she was "not going to be terrorised."...

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Does Caligula deserve his bad rep?

    Our modern idea of tyranny was born 2,000 years ago. It is with the reign of the Caligula - the third Roman emperor, assassinated in 41 AD, before he had reached the age of 30 - that all the components of mad autocracy come together for the first time.In fact, the ancient Greek word "tyrannos" (from which our term comes) was originally a fairly neutral word for a sole ruler, good or bad.Of course, there had been some very nasty monarchs and despots before Caligula. But, so far as we know, none of his predecessors had ever ticked all the boxes of a fully fledged tyrant, in the modern sense.There was his (Imelda Marcos-style) passion for shoes, his megalomania, sadism and sexual perversion (including incest, it was said, with all three of his sisters), to a decidedly odd relationship with his pets. One of his bright ideas was supposed to have been to make his favourite horse a consul - the chief magistrate of Rome....

  • Originally published 02/16/2013

    Mary Beard stirring up trouble again--and loving it

    JANUARY was a busy month for Mary Beard, a Cambridge academic who is the closest thing, if it exists, to a celebrity classics professor. In just a few weeks, Ms. Beard, who has helped popularize the study of antiquity through television and a lively blog, A Don’s Life, turned 58; finished a draft of her book on Roman laughter; became an officer of the Order of the British Empire; and attended the funeral of a lifelong friend and editor, Peter Carson. But little could have prepared her for the furor she faced after she appeared on a weekly BBC debate show last month and, while discussing immigration, expressed the unpopular view that Britain’s social services would not be overburdened when restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian movement around Europe are lifted next year. Her remarks, made on Jan. 17, unleashed a torrent of vicious, crude and personal online attacks, many targeting her unadorned style and her long, unkempt gray hair. Anonymous attackers also superimposed a picture of her face on a pornographic image. But rather than retire to her fainting couch (it is in her Newnham office, should she need it), or accept what happened as the cost of being a public figure in the Internet age, Ms. Beard decided to fight back....