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Lecture 13

CLA230 Lecture 13 Notes

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University of Toronto St. George
Dimitri Nakassis

CLA230 Lecture 13 Notes “Hellenic Identity” - idea of Greek identity - Simon Hornblower quote – modern historian - quote: “Persia gave the Greeks their identity, or the means for recognizing it” - Aeschylus – play The Persians is written about 800 years after the battle of Salamis, written around 472 B.C. - Herodotus – historian of the Persian Wars but written after – in the third quarter of the 5 century B.C. - Hippocrates – Airs, Waters, Places is attributed to him but it is just as likely that it was written by a member of a Hippocratic school – but just th scientifically based, but also theoretical – written in the late 5 century B.C. The Persians - written by Aeschylus about eight years after the Athenian-Persian battle - interesting the way the Persians themselves are represented - very large differences between the Persians and the Greeks – ideology and character - mentions of a Queen in the play – about prostrating in front of her - chorus: “We prostrate ourselves, and must all address her with words of salutation.” - prostrating in front of others – not common in Greek society, nor in the Greek world - image in the Persian relief – prostrating himself in front of the king - Herodotus also mentions prostrating – called proskynesis - proskynesis – the act of prostrating on front of one’s betters – not just done with the king but to those with much greater rank - quote by Herodotus: “When they meet one another in the street, there is a sign by which one may know if those who encounter are equals, and the sign is this: instead of greeting, they kiss one another on the mouth. If one of the two is a little humbler, they kiss on the cheek. If one of them is very much inferior in birth, he falls down and does obeisance to the other.” - proskynesis becomes a problem in the time of Alexander the Great when he takes over Persia – the Persians prostrated in front of him but the Macedonians did not – the Macedonians began to see him not as only their leader, but as a king who was immersing himself in too much foreign culture - contrast between Eastern and Western spirit – East vs. West idea – Greek vs. Persian spirit - dream of Atossa – two women, one Persian, the other Doric - quote: Xerxes “harnessed them both beneath his chariot and put a yoke- strap beneath their necks. One of them towered proudly in this gear, taking the reins submissively in her mouth, but the other struggled, tore the harness from the chariot with her hands… and smashed the yoke in the middle. My son fell out.” - Persian woman represents the West and the Doric woman represents Greece - struggling – Greece is fighting back – symbolism of the war - signifies the basic way that people act – Persians as submissive and Greeks as unruly and independent - king and community – shown through Atossa’s speech - quote by Atossa: “For you are well aware that if my son were to succeed he would be a man to excite great admiration, but that if he fails – he is not accountable to the community.” - even Spartan kings are accountable to the community - lack of accountability is therefore strange to the Greeks – the Persian kings can do as they please because they are not accountable – therefore if they lose, it does not matter except to him as an individual - shows the contrast between Greek and Persian ways of thinking - Xerxes at Salamis – the way Xerxes is said to have acted – unkingly – without dignity or honour – even appears womanly - quote: “Xerxes wailed aloud as he saw the depth of the disaster. For he had a seat with a clear view of the whole militia, a high bank close to the sea. He tore his robes and shrilly screamed, and straightaway gave an order to his infantry, rushing away in disorderly flight. You have to lament this disaster in addition to the former one.” - Athenian audience would have associated his actions with those of a woman in mourning – always were supposed to show the emotion for the family, while the men had to appear stoic – Xerxes is tearing out his hair and ripping off his robes – not fitting of a king, or even fitting actions for a man - Xerxes flees – very un-Greek way to act – Greek ideal to stand his ground until death - not just ethnical – also mapped onto gender - females are the emotional ones who appear distraught – Greek men stay calm and stand their ground - idea that Persian females are more manly - Xerxes mentions – “my men are like women and my women are like men” – positive and negative values of gender - chorus quote: “Not for long now will the inhabitants of Asia abide under Persian rule, nor pay further tribute under compulsion to the King, nor shall they be his subjects, prostrating themselves on the ground; for the kingly power is destroyed. Men will no longer curb their tongues; for people are released to talk freely when a strong yoke has been removed.” - much focus of proskynesis - very Athenian and generally Greek ideas - Greek point of view on freedom, that the “strong yoke will be removed” – semblance of freedom - free speech is associated with democratic and Greek ways of life – Greek ideal - Greek idea of extreme monarchy of the Persian Empire is that there is no freedom of speech - idea that the Persian Empire has no free speech – therefore the destruction of the empire will mean free speech will be possible - characteristics are mostly reflected on Xerxes however – Darius as the “good guy” - quote by Darius on Xerxes: “And this was achieved by my son, uncomprehending in his youthful audacity, the man who thought he could constrain with fetters, like a slave, the sacred flowing Hellespont, the divine stream of the Bosporos… although only a mortal, he foolishly thought that he could overcome all the gods, including Poseidon. Surely this must have been some disease affecting my son’s mind?” - idea that Darius knows better than to engage in such actions – Xerxes thinking he is better than the gods, especially Poseidon – shown by his whipping of the Hellespont - hubristic and arrogant qualities presented are not just with Persian kings, but on Xerxes himself Herodotus on Greekness - reasons are given as to why the Athenians do not go over to the Persian side - quote: “there is the matter of Greekness: that is, our common blood, common tongue, common cult places and sacrifices and similar customs...” - Greekness - Hellenikon - definition of Greekness – blood relationship, language, and religious customs - mentality of “them vs. us” - further shown in Herodotus’ accounts of other non-Greek peoples – Herodotus on Egypt - quote: “Among them the women run the market and shops, while the men, indoors, weave… The men carry burdens on their heads; the women carry theirs on their shoulders. The women piss standing upright, but the men do it squatting.” - opposing gender relationships - everything in Egypt is backwards – idea that Egypt is a distorted mirror of Greece - uses the gender relationship opposition as a marker of their strangeness and difference from the cultured Greek way of life – despite Herodotus’ praise or respect on certain aspects of their culture or way of life, on a whole they are backwards simply because they are not like the Greeks - later Greeks however, accuse Herodotus of being a barbarian lover – because he does not just speak of the barbarians but also praises their achievements at times - quote: “the Egyptians were the first of mankind to invent the year and to make 12 divisions of the seasons for it… Their reckoning, in my opinion, is much cleverer than that of the Greeks; for the Greeks must insert one intercalary month every other year” but the Egyptians do not - philobarbaros – “barbarian-lover” - praise of Egyptian intuitiveness – shown in the example of the better Egyptian calendar - quote by Herodotus on the Persians: “Before [a child] is five years old, the boy does not come into his father’s presence… That is one of their customs that I praise; and here is another: no one, not even the Great King himself, may kill anyone on charge of a single crime… Only if, on consideration, he finds the wrongdoings more in number and greater than the good deeds may he use his pleasure.” - Herodotus praises the Persian customs – cultured legal and moral customs that he considers to be better – general Persian custom that even the king is not immune to it - despite the general cultural chauvinism that is shown by Herodotus and the Greeks – Herodotus is not just insulting of everything Persia does, which is somewhat unexpected – there is also a fair amount of cultural appreciation - much Greek interest in what others are doing - in terms of science, philosophy, medicine - reason of their winning the Persian War - relationships not as straightforward as one might expect - propaganda of modern states is not present in ancient times and therefore there is no generalized bias against a previously hostile culture – more directed toward feuding poleis - Hippocratic Airs, Waters, Places - quote: “Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly, should proceed thus: in the first place to consider the seasons of the year, and what effects each of them produces for they are not at all alike, but differ much from themselves in regard to their changes. Then the winds, the hot and the cold, especially such as are common to all countries, and then such as are peculiar to each locality.” - interest in medicine must encompass climate, etc. - quote: “I say, then, that Asia differs very much from Europe as to the nature of all things… for everything is produced much more beautiful and large in Asia; the country is milder, and the dispositions of the inhabitants also are more gentle and affectionate. The cause of this is the temperature of the seasons… for nothing tends to growth and mildness so much as when the climate has no predominant quality, but a general equality of temperature prevails.” - goes on to explain the difference s between Europe and Asia – mainly based on climate - proposal – mild climates create mild people - quote: “Manly courage, endurance of suffering, laborious enterprise, and high spirit, could not be produced in such a state of things either among the native inhabitants or those of a different country, for there pleasure necessarily reigns. For this reason, also, the forms of wild beasts there are much varied. Thus it is, as I think, with the Egyptians and Libyans.” - mild climate – no courage, manliness, etc. - fertile land is equated to producing stupid, lazy people – people do not have to work hard to make a living because the land basically gives them everything they need - conclusion that harsh land produces strong, hardy, opinionated, and smart people - idea of environmental determinism – very extreme version in that climate basically is the only factor in determining character and personality - the ideas are still somewhat prevalent to a certain extend – new world vs. old world way of thinking – present ideas that harsh winters and southern arid climates in North America inspire a hardy, tough people with a warrior-like mentality toward the land - thinking on ethnographic terms in determining a model for human nature - fertile land as producing poor characteristics – laziness, stupidity, indolence - harsh land as producing good
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