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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

1 posted on 05/04/2004 8:33:08 PM PDT by quidnunc
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To: Tolik
FYI
2 posted on 05/04/2004 8:34:03 PM PDT by quidnunc (Omnis Gaul delenda est)
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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.)
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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
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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
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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
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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.)
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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
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To: vbmoneyspender
We have a winner!

9 posted on 05/04/2004 9:09:57 PM PDT by epigone73
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To: vbmoneyspender
Voila! That is the fundamental insight of conservative philosophy.
10 posted on 05/04/2004 9:43:33 PM PDT by SedVictaCatoni
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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
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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.)
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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?)
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To: rmh47
bump
14 posted on 05/04/2004 11:52:18 PM PDT by Keltik
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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
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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)
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To: SunkenCiv

August 2204 GGG bump.


17 posted on 08/12/2004 9:04:07 AM PDT by blam
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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
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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...)
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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
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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.)
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To: quidnunc
Hard to believe that Cause and Effect was not fully understood until starting with the Presocratic Heraclitus.

The Discovery of the Mind

by Bruno Snell

ISBN: 0486242641

Dover Publications Price: $12.95

German classicist’s monumental study of the origins of European thought in Greek literature and philosophy. Brilliant, widely influential

. Table of Contents for The Discovery of the Mind

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Translator's Note

Introduction

I Homer's View of Man

2 The Olympian Gods

3 The Rise of the Individual in the Early Greek Lyric

4 Pindar's Hymn to Zeus

5 Myth and Reality in Greek Tragedy

6 Aristophanes and Aesthetic Criticism

7 Human Knowledge and Divine Knowledge Amoung the Early Greeks 8 The Call to Virtue: A Brief Chapter from Greek Ethics

9 From Myth to Logic: The Role of the Comparison

10 The Origin of Scientific Thought

11 "The Discovery of Humanitas, and Our Attitude Toward the Greeks" 12 Art and Play in Callimachus

13 Arcadia: The Discovery of a Spiritual Landscape

NOTES

INDEX

INTRODUCTION EUROPEAN thinking begins with the Greeks. They have made it what it is: our only way of thinking; its authority, in the Western world, is undisputed. When we concern ourselves with the sciences and philosophy, we use this thought quite independently of its historical ties, to focus upon that which is constant and unconditioned: upon truth; and with its help we hope to grasp the unchanging principles of this life. On the other hand, this type of thinking was a historical growth, perhaps more so than is ordinarily implied by that term. Because we are accustomed to regard the Greek way of thinking as obligatory, we instinctively --or should we say naively?--project it also into thought processes of another order. Since the turn of the eighteenth century our growing awareness of evolutionary patterns may have contributed to the elimination of such rationalist concepts as the ageless, unchanging 'spirit'. Yet a proper understanding of the origins of Greek thought remains difficult because all too frequently we measure the products of early Greece by the fixed standards of our own age. The Iliad and the Odyssey, which stand at the source of the Greek tradition, speak to us with a strong emotional appeal; and as a result we are quick to forget how radically the experience of Homer differs from our own.

To trace the course along which, in the unfolding of early Greek culture, European thought comes into its own, we must first of all understand that the rise of thinking among the Greeks was nothing less than a revolution. They did not, by means of a mental equipment already at their disposal, merely map out new subjects for discussion, such as the sciences and philosophy. They discovered the human mind. This drama, man's gradual understanding of himself, is revealed to us in the career of Greek poetry and philosophy. The stages of the journey which saw a rational view of the nature of man establish itself are to be traced in the creations of epic and lyric poetry, and in the plays.

The discovery of the intellect cannot be compared with the discovery of, let us say, a new continent. America had existed long before Columbus discovered the New World,

21 posted on 08/12/2004 9:58:01 AM PDT by Helms ( And the Sand - Monkeys saw that the sand had become glass and the light shown as from Two Suns)
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To: vbmoneyspender
Somehow I suspect that human nature has not changed much in 2,500 years.

Make that 25,000, or even 250,000 years, and you see why archeology and anthropology are so unsatisfactory.

There is no good explanation why people who are genetically modern do not behave as we do.

22 posted on 08/12/2004 10:08:16 AM PDT by eno_ (Freedom Lite, it's almost worth defending.)
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To: vbmoneyspender
A lot of academic liberals don't believe in human nature, which is why the emphasize the differences (to prove that human nature doesn't exist) rather than the similarities (which might prove it does).
23 posted on 08/12/2004 11:40:22 AM PDT by Question_Assumptions
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To: quidnunc

"Historians of gender more recently have sought to show that the Greeks were without real sexual identity..."

"...sex was instead “constructed” and thus explicable only through understanding of Foucauldian power relationships of submission and dominance."

What a bunch of tripe. Wishing and hoping, the Foucauldians attempt to confine human nature into power relationships contrived by the power structure of the society...

Much as conservatives today, Greeks believed that logic and reason must control the irrational. Subjection to passion and appetite was a form of slavery.

The Greeks understood that women possess a power that provoked the irrational in men. Ultimately that which men saw as a failing in women was their reflected selves. Women were not powerless victims of a male patriarchy but female erotic power was dangerous.


24 posted on 08/12/2004 5:09:00 PM PDT by eleni121 (Thank God fo John Ashcroft: Four more years!)
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To: SunkenCiv

I heard this guy on art bell a couple of nights ago i found it interesting till he tried replacing God with greek pictorial painting and carvings or should i say portraying God as greek mythology ?!


25 posted on 08/12/2004 8:08:47 PM PDT by ATOMIC_PUNK (Sharing the world has never been Humanity's Defining Attribute)
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To: ATOMIC_PUNK
One of the things people don't necessarily keep in mind is that there is a great big unknown here -- how much did NOT survive. Herodotus' work survived, while Hecaetaeus' slightly earlier (and somewhat similar) history did not. The prolific and erudite and extremely old Michael Grant claims that the works that didn't survive were not much good, and were not preserved for that reason. His claim is entirely without foundation, for obvious reasons (we can't read the stuff and find out). There are works which people wish we had simply by virtue of fragments which have survived as quotes in other ancient works.

Fascinating history of the library. Notes that the library was *not* burned by Julius Caesar, and in fact was around during Roman times, and was finally consigned to the flames by the Moslems:

The Vanished Library The Vanished Library
by Luciano Canfora
tr by Martin Ryle


26 posted on 08/12/2004 9:53:44 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Unlike some people, I have a profile. Okay, maybe it's a little large...)
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To: DestroytheDemocrats

The King must Die, great read, I saw it while wndering in the stacks at my college library, had to pick it up, finished it in one sitting.


27 posted on 08/14/2004 8:25:37 PM PDT by Redcoat LI (You Can Trust Me , I'm Not Like The Others.....)
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To: spetznaz

Homosexualityand paedophiliaawere pretty common in ancient Greece at least if you go by the paintings on their jars etc


28 posted on 08/15/2004 4:56:40 AM PDT by Cronos (W2K4!)
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To: quidnunc

NAMBLA will have a hissiefit


29 posted on 08/15/2004 9:26:47 PM PDT by Henchman (I Hench, therefore I am!)
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Just updating the GGG information, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
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30 posted on 07/30/2006 8:16:13 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (updated my FR profile on Thursday, July 27, 2006. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: NaughtiusMaximus

Classicists UASED to say thatr the value of studying the old Greeks and Romans was that we got to study them in the round, since their story is done and already told in their literature. So much has been loss, of course, that the picture is incomplete, a magnificant ruin rather than a living organism but at least we know how the story ended.


31 posted on 07/30/2006 8:26:22 AM PDT by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: SunkenCiv

From what I have read the last thirty years I gather the Greeks were Celtic on down to Alexander and later. The bunch that are there now came from Babylonia and Calderia and brought there customs with them. They also drove the older group into north west Euroupe and beyond. If Scriptural writers are correct, the early Greeks were from Hebrew tribes and lost most of their early ways but were fine builders and good politicians. Democracy was one person one vote. Bleeding hearts did not stand a chance.


32 posted on 07/30/2006 8:28:56 AM PDT by Lewite (Praise YAHWEH and Proclaim His Wonderful Name! Islam, the end time Beast-the harlot of Babylon.)
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To: Lewite
From what I have read the last thirty years I gather the Greeks were Celtic on down to Alexander and later. The bunch that are there now came from Babylonia and Calderia and brought there customs with them. They also drove the older group into north west Euroupe and beyond.
The Greeks were not Celtic. The Celts entered Europe down the steppe from Central Asia. By "Calderia" I'll guess you mean Chaldea, but the Greeks didn't come from Babylonia and Chaldea either. The Achaean Greeks (Trojan War era) are referenced in the Boghazkoy archive, and the place name Achaia persists in Greece today. Somewhat later, the Celts crossed over from Europe into Anatolia, giving their name to Galatia.
33 posted on 07/30/2006 8:40:35 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (updated my FR profile on Thursday, July 27, 2006. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: SedVictaCatoni; vbmoneyspender

"Somehow I suspect that human nature has not changed much in 2,500 years."




"Voila! That is the fundamental insight of conservative philosophy."





Absolutely true - for without that premise, history would be rendered meaningless - which is precisely the intellectual program of the Left.


34 posted on 07/30/2006 8:53:48 AM PDT by headsonpikes (Genocide is the highest sacrament of socialism.)
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35 posted on 06/23/2008 10:35:19 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_________________________Profile updated Friday, May 30, 2008)
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36 posted on 03/25/2014 4:38:36 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: DestroytheDemocrats

I’m2/3 through Thucydides and I find nothing in common except politicians. They had a tendency to make overblown speeches.

About a half hour at bed time is all I can take


37 posted on 03/25/2014 4:51:21 PM PDT by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... History is a process, not an event)
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