A FEW years back, some barking-mad conspiracy theorists were whispering that the Fabian Society, a front for everything from Satanism to Stalinism, was running Australia. As a lifelong member of this tiny group, I knew the truth: that the Fabian Society is not a sinister secret society - it would love to be better known - but an amiable bunch of Labor supporters who would find it hard to raffle the proverbial duck in a pub.
It would be far more likely that the Salvation Army is a terrorist organisation possessing tambourines of mass destruction that are, at this moment, marching on Canberra to execute a military coup. Thousands of Salvo jackboots hammering up the Hume Highway to the tune of Onward, Christian Soldiers.
With E.G. Whitlam a Fabian and a classicist, I phoned him to ask about Fabius Cunctator, for whom the society is named. But Gough was officiating at a fundraising duck raffle.
My independent research revealed the society's inspiration to be a Roman general whose patience and cunning tactics, and his reluctance to take part in pitched battles, often secured ultimate victory. A similar strategy was favoured by the Fabians who, way back in 1883, put their faith in evolutionary socialism rather than revolution. Not for Fabians the coup or insurrection. We leave that sort of thing to the Salvation Army.
Of course I had heard of the Fabian society, but the 'Classical' connection never occurred to me before ... another one to look into to see what early Classicist involvement (which there surely must have been, given the political leanings of most of the Classicists I know) ...