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".

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.

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.

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

WEDNESDAY'S book

Fringe: The Story of the Fallen Hero In Guandaline

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All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf