Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Victor Davis Hanson: The Ancient Greeks Were they like us at all?
The New Criterion ^ | May 2004 | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 05/04/2004 8:33:07 PM PDT by quidnunc

The classical Greeks were really nothing like us — at least that now seems the prevailing dogma of classical scholars of the last half-century. Perhaps due to the rise of cultural anthropology or, more recently, to a variety of postmodern schools of social construction, it is now often accepted that the lives of Socrates, Euripides, and Pericles were not similar to our own, but so far different as to be almost unfathomable. Shelley’s truism that “We are all Greeks” has now become, as we say, “inoperative.”

M. I. Finley, the great historian of the ancient economy, spent a lifetime to prove his questionable thesis that the Greeks — who imported grain from southern Russia, calibrated the cost of the Parthenon to the drachma, and left us a plethora of mortgage stones, financial inventories, and complicated estate exchanges — were to be understood as economically unsophisticated and irrational, more as tribal barterers than calculating capitalists without much abstract appreciation of interest, supply, demand, or any of the other practices associated with the complex market. Historians of gender more recently have sought to show that the Greeks were without real sexual identity, their sexual mores not understandable through innate natural proclivities, much less fathomable by analogy to common social customs across time and space. With whom and how one had sex was instead “constructed” and thus explicable only through understanding of Foucauldian power relationships of submission and dominance.

By the same manner, ancient Hellenic childhood is supposedly equally enigmatic to us. Art historians have pointed out that Greek kids were not customarily sculpted and painted as real children, but most often portrayed through convention (or is it due to artistic incapacity?) as veritable shrunken adults — mature frowns and puzzled expressions slapped on tiny faces. The proverbially rich Greek language, we are often reminded further, lacks the variety of English’s clearly defined and evolving hierarchy of childhood nomenclature: “baby,” “toddler,” “kid,” “teenager,” “adolescent,” “young adult.” The chronological inexactness of Greek’s numerous generic terms for youth — pais, kouros, neanias — is offered as further proof of the great divide that separates attitudes toward coming of age in both ancient Greece and modern America.

-snip-

(Excerpt) Read more at newcriterion.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
KEYWORDS: ancienthistory; archaeology; countrymen; finley; friends; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; greeks; hanson; history; romans; trojanwar; victordavishanson
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-37 next last

1 posted on 05/04/2004 8:33:08 PM PDT by quidnunc
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Tolik
FYI
2 posted on 05/04/2004 8:34:03 PM PDT by quidnunc (Omnis Gaul delenda est)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: quidnunc
Homosexual expression was more prevalent in ancient Greece than anywhere today (including San Francisco). However the Greeks were lovers of knowledge, and quite a number of their literally works are to put it simply amazing.

As for the comparison between the US and ancient Greece, I'd personally say a better allusion would be with the Roman empire. Far closer than with the Greeks.

3 posted on 05/04/2004 8:39:08 PM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear missiles: The ultimate Phallic symbol.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: quidnunc
Interesting.

Funny, I was just now reading about the ancient Greek hero Theseus. I have also just finished reading The King Must Die today. So I guess there's at least two of us interested in Greek history tonight.

4 posted on 05/04/2004 8:46:27 PM PDT by DestroytheDemocrats
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: quidnunc
VDH bump. Of course the ancient Greeks were nothing like us. They were vain, bossy, stubborn, opinionated, occasionally volatile, arrogant, aggressive, in short, not one bit like...uh...wait a minute...
5 posted on 05/04/2004 8:52:27 PM PDT by Billthedrill
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: quidnunc
Somehow I suspect that human nature has not changed much in 2,500 years.
6 posted on 05/04/2004 8:55:55 PM PDT by vbmoneyspender
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Billthedrill
And Achilles cried like a baby when his slave woman Brisius was taken away from him.---But he had other slave women to take her place for him and Patrokus.
7 posted on 05/04/2004 9:00:59 PM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar (DEMS STILL LIE like yellow dogs.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: quidnunc
There is nothing so poor that something more wanting can't be imputed to modern time.
8 posted on 05/04/2004 9:07:48 PM PDT by Old Professer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: vbmoneyspender
We have a winner!

9 posted on 05/04/2004 9:09:57 PM PDT by epigone73
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: vbmoneyspender
Voila! That is the fundamental insight of conservative philosophy.
10 posted on 05/04/2004 9:43:33 PM PDT by SedVictaCatoni
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: quidnunc
The classical Greeks were really nothing like us

Perhaps it only seems that way because we know the Greeks better than we know ourselves.

11 posted on 05/04/2004 9:46:06 PM PDT by Age of Reason
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: quidnunc
The ancient Greeks had a healthy suspicion of authoritative government and valued individual worth at a time when their contemporaries were licking the toes of god-kings. The "stories" of their high culture still resonate for us. A century ago English youths set out to rule a worldwide empire with little more preparation than a grounding in Greek and Roman languages and literature, and they succeeded. Conservatives wisely respect them. Academic liberal "hubris" does not. The liberals say that the Greeks have nothing to teach them. "Those whom the gods would destroy they first make proud." There will come a day of reckoning and we will see who was the wiser.
12 posted on 05/04/2004 10:46:57 PM PDT by NaughtiusMaximus (This fatwah direct to you from the holy city of Skokie.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: quidnunc
How could we possibly learn anything from these barbarous Greeks? They oppressed women and owned slaves!

(/sarcasm)

13 posted on 05/04/2004 11:42:24 PM PDT by rmh47 (Go Kats! - Got Seven?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rmh47
bump
14 posted on 05/04/2004 11:52:18 PM PDT by Keltik
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: DestroytheDemocrats
Three of us....

Although, I'm not so much interested in the history, I am reading all the Plato dialogues right now.

While I read several in my early 20s, I'm finding them much more interesting in my mid-30s.

Interesting and applicable.

It's fascinating how many more argumentative devices I'm recognizing...and how much more frequently I'm finding myself thinking "How'd I ever get worked up about that?  They were arguing about the same stupid sh!t in Plato's day."

"Same sh!t, different time"

15 posted on 05/05/2004 12:00:22 AM PDT by Psycho_Bunny
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: NaughtiusMaximus
The ancient Greeks had a healthy suspicion of authoritative government and valued individual worth at a time when their contemporaries were licking the toes of god-kings. The "stories" of their high culture still resonate for us. A century ago English youths set out to rule a worldwide empire with little more preparation than a grounding in Greek and Roman languages and literature, and they succeeded. Conservatives wisely respect them. Academic liberal "hubris" does not. The liberals say that the Greeks have nothing to teach them. "Those whom the gods would destroy they first make proud." There will come a day of reckoning and we will see who was the wiser.

Excellent post, NM.

16 posted on 05/05/2004 5:16:23 AM PDT by an amused spectator (The SeeBS of 2004 would have revealed the precise date and location of the Normandy Invasion)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

August 2204 GGG bump.


17 posted on 08/12/2004 9:04:07 AM PDT by blam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: 24Karet; A.J.Armitage; abner; adam_az; AdmSmith; afraidfortherepublic; Alas Babylon!; ...
Thanks Blam. Apropos of nothing, here's a Google search that shows (apparently) all your FR posts. 's cool. You may want to save the link to your favorites, works nicely, opens in new window.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest
-- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

18 posted on 08/12/2004 9:34:31 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Unlike some people, I have a profile. Okay, maybe it's a little large...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: spetznaz

"Historians of gender more recently have sought to show that the Greeks were without real sexual identity, their sexual mores not understandable through innate natural proclivities, much less fathomable by analogy to common social customs across time and space."

would this mean that Socates was possibly a woman then? howcome we never heard of woman scholars in Greece? if they werent sexualy defined, then their society should have more women scholars, yes?


19 posted on 08/12/2004 9:38:24 AM PDT by MacDorcha
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: MacDorcha

Pericles' lady friend was something of an intellectual but she was an exception.


20 posted on 08/12/2004 9:43:48 AM PDT by justshutupandtakeit (My Father was 10x the hero John Fraud Kerry is.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-37 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson