News A statue of Alexander the Great in the northern Greek city of Salonica. Scientists believe they may have solved the 2000 year old mystery of how the ruler died

A leading toxicologist has said that Alexander the Great may have died after drinking wine made from a poisonous plant that would have cause a slow and painful death

Stabs in the back for an old feminist

SO WHAT do you think about Germaine Greer's new book? It's no good protesting that you haven't read it. Neither have I, and it hasn't stopped journalists ringing to ask what I make of it. Other people have been getting calls about it too, including my friend Maureen Freely, who is a feminist author as well as a colleague of Ms Greer's at Warwick University. The conversation moves swiftly from the book itself - not a very fruitful topic since it isn't due to be published until March next year - to questions about whether Ms Greer has anything to say to younger women.

Words: Cynical

The "Real IRA's" apology for the Omagh atrocity was taken by everyone with natural pinch of salt. The London Evening Standard thought it had the mot juste for it: "We have heard terrorists talk cynically of regret and of ceasefires before", said its leader, and its front-page story had the word twice in one sentence. (The "cynically timed" announcement "cynically did not say its ceasefire would be permanent"). This use of it would have puzzled Diogenes in his tub, and would have upset Antisthenes, the first cynic of all. He was a pupil of Socrates and his values were the opposite of the terrorists', since he believed only in virtue, despising ambition and the things of this world.

Naked cheek and the other Diana

This wasn't Princess Diana at all. This was Diana the huntress ...

Classical & Opera: Sing like an Egyptian

The Royal Opera's enforced exile from its home in Covent Garden is throwing up the opportunity to experience a number of interesting operatic rarities in concert format which, perhaps, wouldn't ever receive a full-blown staging in the normal course of events. One such rarity, which has been absent, at least from the British opera house, virtually since it was composed some 70 years ago, is Richard Strauss's Die agyptische Helena.

Letter: Healing the mind

Sir: I have great respect for Andreas Whittam Smith, so I was pleased to see him addressing the subject of "care in the community" (20 January). However, although the scientific basis of psychiatry may remain relatively weak, I fail to see how there has been no progress in understanding the relationship between the mind and brain since ancient Greece.

Letter: Aesop's horrors

Sir: You report (15 January) that Aesop's fables emerge in a new translation as "not pretty purveyors of Victorian morals [but] savage, coarse, brutal".

Making an ass of Aesop's moral maze

We think of `Aesop's Fables' as gentle little moral tales for children. But what about `The Camel who Shat in the River' and `The Beaver who Bit off his Private Parts'? These are not the Fables we grew up with. As David Lister explains, these are what the man actually wrote. A new book will show history's most famous fable maker to have a coarse and violent kink.

Not Aesoppy at all - his fables were filthy

Aesop's Fables, far from being children's stories, were coarse, violent and cruel. David Lister, Arts News Editor, reports on a new book that discovers 100 missing fables and causes us to revise our judgement on one of history's greatest story-tellers.

Europe: Thief strikes at the Louvre

Someone with deep pockets and a taste for ancient Greece walked out of the Louvre with a 32-cm (12-inch) stone fragment from around 400BC, museum officials said. The piece, originally found near Athens, is a fragment of a wish-list dedicated to Zeus, asking the god to protect the country from all kinds of illnesses. "It's not really a work of art like a sculpture ... it has more of an historic, documentary and scientific value," said a Louvre spokesman.

Weather: The heart-uplifting physics of rainbows

Scarcely anything in nature has excited both scientists and poets as much as rainbows. Yet the physics behind these apparitions has been properly understood only comparatively recently.

Weather: Flashy theories of ancient Greeks

The causes of thunder and lightning have been a matter of scientific debate for at least 2,500 years. We still do not completely understand the pattern of electrical activity within clouds.

Dig the pumps Herc!

Disney's 'Hercules' strains every sinew to make Greek mythology accessible to a Nineties audience. Which means more product placements than you can shake a divine rod at.

Letter: Archimedes' principle

Sir: That the editor of a broadsheet newspaper such as The Independent feels it necessary to print a letter (29 September) explaining Archimedes' principle says more about the state of education in the UK than any number of Ofsted reports.

The Chaplet of Pearls by Harriet Waugh


Fringe: The Story of the Fallen Hero In Guandaline

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Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform