If he had been just a kindly chap, nobody outside his family would have noticed

Travel: On the Richter scale of urban angst, Gotland scores a neat zero

I'M ON A small Swedish island in the middle of the Baltic. It's called Gotland and it is nothing to do with escapism. But I'll tell you this: you wouldn't mind living here. I've walked round the main town, Visby, in search of litter and haven't yet found any. All I found were cobbled streets and grassy meadow-like verges. The immaculate houses looked like they had been painted and re-roofed yesterday. On the Richter scale of urban angst, this place scored a zero.

Obituary: Lord Craigmyle

AN AMERICAN who created a name for himself at the post-war Oxford Union thus began his maiden speech: "After a term and a half, Mr President Sir, I feel I have made it. I am on first-name terms with the Editor of the Isis and the Lord Craigmyle."

Letter: Modern Latin

HENRY WICKENS (letter, 11 March) rather overstates his case in arguing that the Greeks and other Orthodox nations would object to the idea of Latin becoming the lingua franca of the European Union.

Books: What's your poison?

Decadent luxury, steamy sex and a strong whiff of sordid imperialism - try a Roman blockbuster, says Mary Beard

Letter: Beardless Jesus?

Sir: Bearded myself, I applaud Nicholas Schoon's cogent defence of the facial follicle (11 November). However, honesty compels me to point out that Jesus may not have been bearded. No portrait of the Lord exists, but some scholars point to pictures of near-contemporary Jews which show them clean-shaven, like most males in the Roman Empire in the early first century. The bearded Jesus derives from a much later tradition of iconography.

New look, still Independent

In keeping with The Independent's track record as a design innovator, the newspaper will be using two new typefaces.

Earthly powers

Pie in the sky - or lavish parties now? Diarmaid MacCulloch asks why Europeans chose Christianity; The Conversion of Europe: from paganism to Christianity 371-1386 by Richard Fletcher, HarperCollins, pounds 25


Historical crime mysteries must be good fiction with the added pleasures of time travel. In reality of course, the crime of the past was the same dreary catalogue of drunken quarrels and banal nastiness as that of the present - but art has many advantages over fact. However, a convincing historical background is sometimes difficult for a novelist to create because of the reader's preconceptions about the past. I was surprised by unrestrained sexual discussions among young women in Laurie King's A Monstrous Regiment of Women (HarperCollins, pounds 15.99) which is set in 1920, until I read Frances Spalding's biography of Duncan Grant, to find Vanessa Bell writing to Maynard Keynes that in his company "one can talk of fucking and sodomy and sucking and bushes and all without turning a hair". The date of this frank extract from the real world? 1914.

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Rees-Mogg and Roy Strong: my neighbours from hell

The dread gogglebox? I barely watch it, busy man of letters that I am. To be frank, I find there is little space in one's busy schedule for it, particularly when one is forced to spend so much time getting to grips with all those new faces on Channel 5.

Stone coffin holds Roman remains

A stone coffin thought to contain the remains of a high-ranking Roman official has been unearthed on the site of a housing development in the West Country.

Christian amulet may be hoax

An early Christian silver cross hailed by archaeologists as the find of the century could be a hoax, it emerged last night.

words; Candidate

Candidates for office in ancient Rome were expected to show up in pure white togas and were therefore called candidati, the Latin for "clothed in white". Such gear, dignified though it must have been, would make sad fools of some of our parliamentary candidates in the impending general election. Others might carry it off well enough but would object on ideological grounds. They would insist on their party colours, thus missing the whole point, which was that by wearing white those senatorial candidates were showing they were beyond reproach and free from corruption and sleaze.

Toga-ripping yarns

Mary Beard thrills to an account of romance among the Romans

CD-ROM review: Romans Anglia Multimedia, pounds 14.99

The subtitle says this is "an interactive role playing adventure in a stunning second century virtual 3D town". It is "educational", and supports the national curriculum, which often adds up to a euphemism for unimaginative and plodding. Most users will indeed be pushed to find this exciting. You find yourself wandering through the ancient Roman town of Sapientum, talking to locals who, to judge from their accents, come from midway between the West Country and East Anglia (except the upper-class ones, who come from Rada). They each tell you about aspects of Roman life and invite you to ask more questions if you want more information.


Visitors strolling down the Champs Elysees this summer found it transformed into a giant sculpture park, with works by Duchamp, Miro and Dali erupting from the pavement. But the public passed them by with barely a glance, to stand transfixed before the figure of a Roman emperor whose chest appeared to rise and fall as if he were breathing and a Statue of Liberty which winked at startled bystanders.
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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

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Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
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Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

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Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

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US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

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Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
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Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

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Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

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Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

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