What the Greeks Did for Us 9780300271805

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Table of contents :
CONTENTS
ILLUSTRATIONS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
PROLOGUE what did the greeks do for us?
1 Back to the Greeks
2 Political animals
3 People (un)like us
4 The invention of sex
5 Word of mouth
6 In pursuit of wisdom
7 Facts and alternative facts
8 Poetry matters
9 The gospel truth
10 Greek beauty
11 Perfect buildings?
12 Greeks on screen
13 Sporty Greeks
14 Greeks on stage
Epilogue
NOTES
FURTHER READING
Index
Recommend Papers

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WHAT THE GREEKS DID FOR US

i

ii

WHAT THE GREEKS DID FOR US

tony spawforth

YALE UNIVERSIT Y PRESS NEW HAVEN AND LONDON iii

Copyright © 2023 Tony Spawforth All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press) without written permission from the publishers. All reasonable efforts have been made to provide accurate sources for all images that appear in this book. Any discrepancies or omissions will be rectified in future editions. For information about this and other Yale University Press publications, please contact: U.S. Office: [email protected] yalebooks.com Europe Office: [email protected] yalebooks.co.uk Set in Minion Pro by IDSUK (DataConnection) Ltd Printed in Great Britain by TJ Books, Padstow, Cornwall Library of Congress Control Number: 2023931091 e-ISBN 978-0-300-27180-5 A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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CONTENTS

List of Illustrations vii Acknowledgements ix Prologue What did the Greeks do for us?

1

1

Back to the Greeks

17

2

Political animals

39

3

People (un)like us

60

4

The invention of sex

80

5

Word of mouth

100

6

In pursuit of wisdom

116

7

Facts and alternative facts

140

8

Poetry matters

159

9

The gospel truth

178

10

Greek beauty

197

11

Perfect buildings?

216

12 Greeks on screen

233 v

contents 13

Sporty Greeks

249

14 Greeks on stage

271

Epilogue 291 Notes297 Further reading 321 Index323

vi

ILLUSTRATIONS

1. Replica of the Parthenon in the Window on the World amusement park, Shenzhen, China. © Zheng Xiaoqiao / Dreamstime (17648913). 2. Theseus, from the pediment of the temple of Apollo Sosianus in Rome, c. 425–420 BC. Museo Centrale Montemartini, Rome. © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons. 3. Black-figure painting on fragment of pottery, c. 500 BC. Archaeological Museum of Brauron. © Zde / CC by SA 4.0. 4. Poster of the Funeral Speech of Pericles, by unknown artist, 1915. © TfL from the London Transport Museum collection. 5. The Spartan Mother, by Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée the elder, 1770. © The Picture Art Collection / Alamy. 6. Protesters from the nationalist group Reclaim Australia at their rally in Sydney, 2015. © Jonathon Dallimore. 7. Athenian wine jug, c. 490 BC. Great North Museum, Shefton Collection, UK. 8. Kneeling Persian, Roman copy from an original by the School of Pergamon. Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale. © Getty Images. 9. The Toilet of Lampito, by Aubrey Beardsley, 1896. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. vii

ILLUSTRATIONS

10. Oscar Wilde dressed in Greek costume, April 1877. © Getty Images. 11. Archimedes palimpsest manuscript, twelfth century. © Getty Images. 12. Façade of the roofed dormitory at the shrine of Asclepius, Epidaurus, Greece. © Shutterstock. 13. Fragment of the Hippocratic Oath on papyrus, third century BC. © Wellcome Collection / CC by 4.0. 14. Danae and the shower of gold, side A from a Boeotian red-figure bell-shaped Krater, c. 450–425 BC. Louvre Museum, Paris. © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons. 15. Cover of artist Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze comic book series retelling the story of the Trojan War. © 2019 Courtesy of Eric Shanower. 16. Floor mosaic from the episcopal church of Philippi, Greece. © QEDimages / Alamy Stock Photo. 17. Mosaic in Rome’s church of Santa Pudenziana. © Welleschik / CC by SA 3.0. 18. Portrait of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, by Anton von Maron, 1768. 19. Photograph of Sir Joseph Duveen, by Bain News Service, New York, 1920. © Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC (20540 USA, LC-USZ62–103851). 20. Foro Italico, Rome, Italy. © Antmoose / CC by 2.0. 21. Discobolus Lancellotti, by unknown artist, AD 140. 22. Belsay Hall, Northumberland. Courtesy of Sally Waite. 23. Bronze figure of a running girl, 520–500 BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum. 24. Dress rehearsal of the lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame in Olympia, October 2017. © Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty Images. 25. Sigmund Freud’s study in his north London home. © Freud Museum London. viii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

F

or assistance of varied kinds, I am deeply grateful to Professor Jennifer Abbott, Arline L. Allan, Catherine Ashmore, Lesley Beaumont, Robert Bridges, Paul Cartledge, Richard Catling, Jonathon Dallimore, Professor Sara Drury, the late Serena Fairfax, John Fischer, Lesley Fitton, the late Christian Habicht, Simon Hornblower, Monica Hughes, George Huxley, Peter Jones, Nota Karamaouna, Marie-Christine Keith and Bob Barber, Brady Kiesling, Andrew Lownie, Christopher Mann, Andrew Parkin, Susanna Phillippo, Candace Richards, Zillah Richards, Guy Rogers, Thomas Rutten, the late Ken Saunders, Eric Shanower, Christopher Smallwood, Lee Stannard, Michael Symmonds Roberts, Rania Vasiliadou, Sally Waite, Susan Walker and James Wilberding. As ever, I am particularly indebted to the library of the Institute of Classical Studies in London, not least for its digital resources. I am grateful to Yale’s anonymous readers for their pains and their wisdom; for the end result I am entirely to blame. At Yale, Marika Lysandrou gave valuable help and encouragement in shaping the initial proposal. Katie Urquhart was an expert in-house editor who did much to improve the draft text, as did copy editor Clive Liddiard. I thank Yale’s managing director Heather McCallum for proposing the idea for this ix

acknowledgements

book and suggesting that I write it. Most of the book was written during the coronavirus pandemic. For unstinting support in strange and sometimes difficult times, I thank my partner Lee, to whom this book is dedicated.

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PROLOGUE what did the greeks do for us?

I hate the ancient Greeks . . . No, I don’t hate them: that’s too strong. But what have they got to do with me?

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thens and Sparta may not be uppermost in the minds of most  people going about daily life in the twenty-first century. That said, there are many around the world who may be channelling the ancient Greeks more or less unawares – using words derived from the Ancient Greek language, watching modern Olympic sports, playing a video game set in ‘ancient Greece’ with a name like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and so on. This book seeks to track down the ways in which something as old and seemingly outdated as ancient Greece does, indeed, still have something ‘to do’ with us. For this book, the emphasis on the present day is key. Already in their ancient heyday, the Greeks had created a civilisation that made a big impression on neighbours. The pièce de résistance of a small museum in eastern France is a fancy bronze bowl over five feet high. Archaeologists found it in the burial mound of a high-status Celtic woman who had died around 500 bc. This breathtaking vessel, with its appliqué bronze figures of Greek soldiers and chariots, was made in a smithy in ancient Greece. It had travelled perhaps up to 1,500 miles before finally becoming the deceased’s prize possession. 1

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In the 100s bc the ancient Romans conquered the ancient Greeks. In the process, they too fell under the spell of Greek culture, older and far more advanced and sophisticated than their own. Over the centuries that the vast Roman empire endured, its peoples mixed up the two cultures, Roman and Greek. They became in some ways almost inseparable. From the ad 400s on, a weakened Roman state morphed into a patchwork of regional powers. Of these, at first by far the greatest was based on the city of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul. In the ad 600s, the lands ruled by these ‘eastern’ Romans were threatened by an increasingly mighty Islamic caliphate. This was a new empire, larger even than Rome’s in its second-century ad heyday. Although the ancient Greeks themselves had by then more or less faded into legend, splinters of their civilisation stayed embedded in this post-Roman landscape. This was true not least of Constantinople. Here medieval ‘Roman’ emperors ruled over subjects whose first language was a direct descendant of Ancient Greek. As the Middle Ages closed, Christendom in western Europe experienced the light-bulb moment in world history known as the Italian Renaissance, or ‘rebirth’. It is an extraordinary fact that this momentous cultural movement, seen by many historians as progressive – leading, indeed, to modern thinking – had as one key trigger a reawakening of interest among men (and some women) in the long-dead civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome. For the next four hundred years, the perfume of ancient Greece infused the cultural air of both Europe and its ‘western’ outliers, to an extent hard to grasp today. A walk in a park in central Sydney, Australia, takes you past an elegant cylinder of masonry carved in the ancient Greek style. This is a replica of the Lysicrates Monument, a relic of antiquity in the heart of modern Athens. The Australian copy was made in 1868 for a rich and prominent immigrant who was all too conscious of his humble origins. In many ways, the 1800s saw the climax of the western love affair with ancient Greece. Victorian Britain saw the appearance of the ‘Greek Play Bishop’ – the type of Anglican clergyman who was 2

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supposedly given a bishopric because he knew Ancient Greek so well that he could edit the text of an ancient Athenian play in the original language. It would be easy, as other books do, to wander with the reader through the byways of this and all the earlier centuries in which men and women of the past have drawn knowledge and inspiration from ancient Greece – chapter 1 offers its own overview of this story. The efforts of these earlier enthusiasts for ancient Greece helped form the links in the chain of transmission connecting the ancient Greeks with today. However, the rarefied world of scholars and classicists – people who study the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, especially through their languages – is not the chief concern of this book. To repeat, here we go in search of the ways in which ancient Greece is present in our culture and society now: in the words we speak and write; in how we entertain ourselves; how we do politics, medicine, religion and sport; how we identify ourselves sexually and seek self-fulfilment; and how we imagine ideals of beauty. What this book uncovers adds up to a surprising amount of ancient Greece in today’s world. Bishops promoted for their knowledge of Ancient Greek, rich donors of monuments mimicking the ancient Greek manner: these are ways in which individuals in more recent times have used the cultural prestige of ancient Greece as a source of social capital – a means of getting on in a world that values the achievements of the ancient Greeks and awards kudos to those who can impress with their knowledge of them. I use the present tense here, because old attitudes die hard. In my own life in higher education I have encountered, as others will have, people who insist that studying ancient Greek writings in the original is intellectually superior to doing so in modern translation. Ancient languages can certainly be hard work, and one should not be surprised to find a hint of social one-upmanship among those who do study them. I have just looked at my copy of the line-by-line English translation of the Greek play I studied for my pre-university 3

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Greek exam. Certain pages are full of my pencilled markings – under words, in the margins and so on. By curious coincidence, these markings start and stop abruptly at the first and last of the chunk of lines which, in the original Greek, were prescribed for that exam. Those who labour over Ancient Greek may tout their hard graft, even when they, too, resort to translations. In tracking ancient Greece in modern life, this book does not seek to target a readership with an educational background in the subject. If anything, the reverse is true. For some people, such a background, especially if it involves the study of Ancient Greek, can have negative associations of privilege. At least in Britain, the bastions of Ancient Greek teaching are often schools and universities that are widely regarded – fairly or not – as the preserve of people who benefit from some unusual access (see chapter 5). There are people who carry these negative associations over into cultural pursuits today that feature ancient Greece in one form or another. These might include operas set in ancient Greece, or the restaging of ancient Greek plays (see chapter 14). This book does not allow the concerns of élite culture to dominate content. It homes in on the presence of ancient Greece where this can be found, whether a word like ‘pandemic’, a Freudian state of mind like the ‘Oedipus complex’, or a replica Parthenon in a Chinese theme park. Some people may think that to investigate these kinds of impacts is to risk pursuing the banal or mediocre. Arguably, however, a role in shaping the cultural texture of everyday life and popular taste is a worthwhile measure of the enduring influence of ancient Greece. Ancient Greek civilisation lasted for centuries – for so long, in fact, that ‘Greek civilisations’ (in the plural) might seem to do better justice to its different phases of time and place. For simplicity’s sake, this book sticks to the catch-all notion of a single civilisation. Still, for the purposes of the chapters that follow, there is an issue here of chronology – one that requires us to pause for a moment. Take Homer. To this day, the Greek poet who hymned the Trojan War and its aftermath is an early high point for admirers of Greek 4

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civilisation (see chapter 8). It was probably in the 700s bc that a scribe first wrote down the oral poetry that passes as Homer’s. Taking this poetry as the model of excellence, later Greek poets mimicked the master, down to the same number and pattern of beats per line of verse. One of these later poems in the same ‘metre’ tells a story of human passion less catastrophic in its outcome than the Homeric Paris’s feelings for Helen of Troy, but, in its humbler way, still moving to read. Two young people fall desperately in love. They live on opposite sides of the narrow strait separating European from Asian Turkey. To pay his surreptitious visits to his strictly guarded beloved (‘dazzling was her beauty’), the youth (‘by all men called “the fair” ’) would dive into the sea at night and swim the mile or so to the European side, guided by the maiden’s lamp. This was no mean feat. In 1984, in relatively calm seas, the British travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor did the same with some difficulty. He arrived ‘utterly exhausted’, slept for hours and required a Turkish massage before he revived. Leigh Fermor was sixty-eight at the time of this bravura endeavour. By contrast, such exertions left the ardent Leander – the youth – far from spent. On arrival, the maiden’s ‘girdle he loosened’, and, as the poem in question puts it nicely, the lovers fulfilled the will of Aphrodite, goddess of love. This unbridled passion was their undoing. Once too often, the maiden lit her lamp – the signal – and once too often Leander took the plunge. That night saw a raging winter’s sea. The wind blew out the lamp. The waves overcame an exhausted Leander. At dawn, Hero – the maiden – spotted his corpse on the rocks below. She hurled herself down: ‘There on her true love’s body, maid Hero’s life was done.’ An affecting tale it is, and a good example of the staying power of the storytelling gift of the ancient Greeks. Experts rightly assign this poem to ‘ancient Greek civilisation’. Yet its poet was separated from Homer by a distance in time almost as great as that separating the later poet from us. Musaeus – for that was his name – lived in the ad 400s or 500s, after the last Roman trooper had abandoned Britain 5

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and at a time when invading newcomers had beset his homeland, the Greek-speaking provinces of the old Roman empire. If only out of concern for the reader’s stamina, this book has to take a stand on where to place the chronological limits of ‘ancient Greece’. There are difficult decisions here. In the end, I opted to concentrate the search for the ways in which ancient Greece influences the present day on two hundred years of ancient Greek civilisation, spanning roughly the 400s and the 300s bc; and, wherever possible, to base my conclusions on the ancient writings and ancient artefacts that the Greeks created in those two centuries. This is the age of ‘Classical’ Greece in the strict sense. Extended back a further two generations or so into the early 500s bc and the whole period covers what some modern admirers of ancient Greece have called the Greek ‘miracle’. By that they mean the era of the flowering of the city-state culture of the ancient Greeks – a time of political and military power, as well as cultural achievement. This modern idea of a ‘miracle’ embraces the development among some ancient Greeks of an analytical way of thinking that appears to have been new to their society at the time, based as it was on deliberate inquiry, using reason and argument in a way that strikes us as very modern. When this approach first appeared early in the 500s bc, it took its place alongside what the ancient Greeks had always done as they sought to make sense of their world. They would retell traditional tales – stories that demanded what many today would call faith, or even credulity, if they were to be accepted as true. These imaginative stories – the Greeks called them mythoi or myths – offered answers to questions about the origins of human life and the natural world, couched in terms of the doings of divinities. At the same time, they were often entertaining. Nisyros is a small Aegean island, and a lovely one, with a dormant caldera in the middle. The ancient Greeks told a colourful tale about how Poseidon created Nisyros by breaking off a piece of a neighbouring island. The god then threw this chunk of land on top of an enemy, sinking him. Poseidon was god of the sea and of earthquakes, 6

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and the Greeks linked him to the violence of natural phenomena. Of these, the caldera of Nisyros, the work of a huge eruption in prehistoric times, is an awesome example. Today the naked eye can see without difficulty the kinship between this island’s volcanic geology and that of Kos, the near neighbour in question. The ancient myth in some wise accounted for these observable facts. Nowadays people consider the idea of a ‘Greek miracle’ to be oldfashioned. It shows excessive bias in the way that it judges ancient Greece to have been intellectually superior to such neighbouring civilisations as ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, where no such ‘miracle’ is deemed to have occurred (see chapter 1). That said, a voracious curiosity about humankind and a ‘dialling down’ of the deference to the supernatural that was otherwise typical of pre-modern societies are traits that do appear to have been marked in pockets of ancient Greek society in the 400s and 300s bc. Not only that, but these traits seem to have encouraged inventive minds and hands to innovate in highly creative ways. Democracy, history-writing, medical approaches based on observation and inference, reasoned speculation about ‘God and the universe’, art that achieves the illusion of real life, and buildings that strive for mathematical perfection: all these areas of ancient Greek civilisation blossomed in the 400s and 300s bc, the political heyday of the Greek city states. The achievements of these times mainly – though not entirely – account for the afterlife of ancient Greece today, the subject of this book’s coming chapters. In Greek mythology, Procrustes was an evil brigand who tortured his victims by lengthening them with weights or shortening them by amputation so as to fit a bed. Today the ‘bed of Procrustes’ – where someone or something is obliged to conform – is proverbial, if not quite as widely known as, say, a ‘bed of roses’. Not all the relevant achievements of ancient Greece fit into this book’s focus on the two hundred years between 500 and 300 bc. For instance, there are the Stoics, ancient followers of Greek philosophical precepts traceable back to around 300 bc. Fast-forward to 7

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the present day, and there are many people who profess to take courses and to follow these ancient precepts. But modern knowledge of ancient Stoicism depends on writings from later times. The founder wrote books, but they have not survived. His early followers in Athens also wrote books, but they too are lost. Their teachings were popular enough to continue to attract adherents well into the time of the Roman empire. To cut the story short, it is to the surviving writings of these much later adherents, Romans and ‘Greek Romans’, that we owe the motley quotations, rewordings and reports of what the first Greek Stoics supposedly thought and wrote two or more centuries earlier. This ancient timeline of the written remnants and echoes of the teachings of Stoicism’s ancient founder – one Zeno – falls outside the period from about 500 to 300 bc, on which this book concentrates. But it would be finicky, if not silly, to omit the ancient Stoics. Their modern followers make ancient ‘Stoicism’ too interesting to leave out (see chapter 6). There are other limits to this book – again, to some extent, to be more honoured in the breach than the observance. Replicas of ancient Greece’s most famous monument, the Parthenon (see chapter 11), provide a partial map of ancient Greece’s continuing hold on the modern imagination. In 1842, a Bavarian king built a full-scale replica of the Parthenon north of Munich from 6,000 blocks of marble imported from Italy. At the end of the same century, the city of Nashville, Tennessee, commissioned another full-size replica of the same temple. Repaired by public demand, it survives today as an art museum and as the backdrop for films such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which begins with a meeting between ancient Greek gods atop the Empire State Building. Germany and the United States are countries with strong traditions of admiration for the ancient Greeks. But what about China? As already mentioned, the Chinese recently built a Parthenon replica. It is on the mainland, a few miles from Hong Kong, in a huge amusement park called Window of the World: a two-thirds scale, walk-in Parthenon. The company that it keeps – a Colosseum, a Giza Sphinx 8

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and some 130 other replicas of touristic world-wonders – hardly proves that Chinese popular culture feels any special curiosity about the ancient Greeks. But in China’s powerhouses of the intellect, the case is rather different, as its busy translators from the Ancient Greek attest (see chapter 8). Each of these replica Parthenons of recent times has a very different local history and context. That said, their distribution across three continents might suggest the potential infinitude of a search for ancient Greece in today’s world. China’s toy-Parthenon and its learned translators also hint at how, in a globalised setting, ancient Greece is a universal heritage, irrespective of any modern society’s ancestral claims on the ancient Greeks. This complicates the job of deciding what the geographical limits should be of this book’s investigations – in deciding, in other words, to whom the ‘us’ of the title refers. In the end, I chose to focus on the terrain I know best: namely, the Anglosphere – Britain and North America, especially – but with forays elsewhere so as to present the increasing ‘universalisation’ of ancient Greece across the modern world. To limit the ‘us’ of the title geographically in this way leaves the problem of how to do justice to the obviously diverse impacts of ancient Greece on what are still great swathes of human society – and how, indeed, to find out what those impacts are in the first place. This book is frankly impressionistic. It offers the author’s personal harvesting of the traces of ancient Greece in (mainly) western culture. This harvesting is based in part on my forays into what are formally called ‘reception studies’: that is, the output of academics who specialise in the study of how later times have discovered and responded to (in this case) the ancient Greeks and their works. It is also based on cullings from journalism and other forms of current cultural expression, such as blogs, podcasts and so on. Here the internet provides a near-infinity of possible leads. At best I have done no more than gather a personal sample. Because this book offers what is, in the end, a personal view, rather than an authoritative survey, I have included what I call 9

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‘autobiographical chit-chat’ from time to time. This is meant to leaven the loaf – to lighten the read here and there. It is also a way of signalling that the book is a personal reading of ‘what the Greeks did for us’. It does not claim to be the only possible reading. Some readers – I hope not too many – may object to the autobiographical digressions, as they may to the overall impression created by the selection of stories that I have chosen to tell. This process of selection is bound to be subjective, even if I have tried to deal fairly with the diversity of contemporary ways of thinking about the ancient Greeks which my investigations have uncovered. Today those who sit up and take notice of the ancient Greeks are not always their uncritical admirers. They include people who believe that the so-called Greek miracle needs taking down a peg or two. This book is not an apology for ancient Greece. Its tone seeks to be dispassionate. It acknowledges, and explores, the other side of the coin. The ancient Greeks were not exactly socially ‘progressive’ in the full sense of today’s word. Slavery, violence and what we would call sexism and racism were widespread. Their learned thinkers theorised some of these behaviours. One of the most famous of them in ancient times (and still influential more recently) came from what is now northern Greece. His name was Aristotle. Later chapters will show how his views on slavery as a ‘natural’ condition and on the ‘natural’ inferiority of women have provided ammunition to advocates of these opinions in more recent times. As for violence, like other peoples throughout antiquity, ancient Greek communities relied on force (or the threat of it) to achieve power and to dominate each other or to protect themselves. The militarism of the ancient Greeks seemed like normal human behaviour in its time. Since warring was the prerogative of men, this militarism shaped a certain brand of Greek masculinity and enshrined a certain kind of Greek male heroics. In ancient times, its most feared exponents were the Spartans in their heyday. And whatever the historical realities, in modern times the ancient Spartans have taken on a life of their own as poster-boys for the virtues of militarism, 10

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as deplored in a recent article in the American opinion magazine The New Republic: The Spartan legend trades on our deep-seated sense of inadequacy. It mines our insecurities that we aren’t strong enough, hard enough, disciplined enough: If we want our sports teams to bring home the trophy, if we want to win a fight, if we want the grit and sheer toughness to triumph at life, we would do well to emulate the Spartans.

As chapter 2 will show, not only does this Spartan ‘legend’ live on today, but it has been adopted as a source of inspiration by activists who promote hard-line politics in the USA and elsewhere. So, in a climate in which extreme views are much easier to promote, thanks to modern technology, people today can parade facets of ancient Greece for what some may think are the wrong reasons. Other facets once in the recesses of the closet now bask in the cultural sunlight. One way or another, ancient Greek sex continues to exercise modern minds. Visitors to museum collections of Greek objects are confronted with male and female nudes and scenes of sexual desire that can prompt giggles or nudges (and winks) among people unused to the seemingly casual explicitness of ancient Greek art. After all, this was a world in which householders could put up a pillar of stone carved halfway up with an erect penis to – as a book called Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis explains – ‘bring good luck and ward off bad luck or the evil eye’. The creatives among the ancient Greeks also readily combined images of sex and violence. Greek artists and writers frequently depicted sexual coercion, mainly inflicted by males on females. The most spectacular artwork showing such an episode is out of bounds to the vast majority of people. Visitors to the archaeological museum at Vergina, in northern Greece, which is built over the graves of the ancient Macedonian kings, are unable to view a mural that is still in situ, inside a royal tomb too fragile for the public to enter it. Instead there is a blown-up reproduction, brightly lit and easy to view. The 11

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paintwork is sensationally good. It demonstrates Greek artistic mastery by this date (mid-300s bc) of colour, perspective, shading and the rendering of human emotions. Art historians suggest various possible identities of the unknown artist from among Greece’s famous ‘Old Masters’ – all of them men. The scene sparingly depicts an older bearded man with a shifty expression. He is speeding off in his horse-drawn chariot with a halfnaked young woman tucked under one arm. She gesticulates frantically back towards a second female, who looks on with a gesture and an expression of horror. The subject is a ‘myth’ that all ancient Greeks knew: the god of the underworld, Hades, kidnaps a maiden (also a goddess) under the very nose of her mother (herself a divinity) and makes her his wife. I have witnessed a Greek schoolteacher standing before the reproduction and explaining the myth to her charges. Naturally, she did not spell out that the subject of this gorgeous painting is an act of sexual violence committed by a man against a non-consenting, unmarried girl – a crime in many jurisdictions today, modern Greece included. For some contemporary viewers, the scene could act as a trauma trigger, showing as it does an ancient episode of forced marriage – and, further, sexual assault. What did ancient viewers think? What should we think? As so often with ancient Greek art, the issue is not straightforward. The expressions of anguish on the faces of the daughter and her mother could be read as an empathetic wish by the artist to portray the abduction from the victim’s (or victims’) viewpoint. Nowadays, teacherly responses in tertiary education to such images of sexual assault in Greek art are no longer limited to art-historical comments or technical lingo which serves to remove the scene to a higher sphere. As one art historian teaching at a world-class university has blogged, apropos of that mural from Vergina: Perhaps more uncomfortably, the images were likely so popular because of their ability to titillate and excite the typical ancient 12

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audience for art – namely male viewers. And the consumption of these types of images did not end with the ancients. Rather, the perceived authority and purity associated with the Classical world allowed for their perpetuation throughout the history of Western Art.

However, this same perceived authority has allowed ancient Greek attitudes to sex to provide validation in today’s sexual politics. In a groundbreaking study, a book first published in 1978 spells out what its author regarded as his own rigorous positions regarding his subject: I know of no topic in classical studies on which a scholar’s normal ability to perceive differences and draw inferences is so easily impaired . . . I am fortunate in not experiencing moral shock or disgust at any genital act whatsoever, provided that it is welcome and agreeable to all the participants . . . No act is sanctified, and none is debased, simply by having a genital dimension.

In preparing the first edition of the book in question, the publishers collected the sexually explicit illustrations of ancient Greek vases in the British Museum in person, rather than risk prosecution under the Post Office Act 1953 (United Kingdom) for the distribution of indecent or obscene material. In the most recent reprint (2016), the foreword drily notes that ‘[f ]ew classical monographs have been translated, like this one, into a dozen languages, including Hungarian and Japanese’. The book is Greek Homosexuality, by Kenneth Dover. From the nineteenth century onward, ancient Greek attitudes – or rather, modern interpretations of them – have offered a prestigious model for same-sex relationships. This prestige turned, above all, on the writings of the Greek philosopher Plato. He devoted a treatise to a discussion of male friendship, couched mainly in admiring terms of male desire for males. As chapter 4 shows, however, when you scrutinise the actual wording of the Ancient Greek, Plato’s thinking starts to look less straightforward. 13

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Additionally, and to judge from writings and from art, ancient Greek attitudes pretty much passed over lesbianism. The same-sex focus of the ancient Greeks was overwhelmingly on relations between males. As far as experts can judge, the Greeks found sexual relations between males more or less unproblematic, although they did have their own moral codes – ones to which same-sex relations were subject and which could constrain them (see chapter 4). As signalled earlier, this book will also search for ancient Greece in popular culture. In some ways a comparison can be made with the ancient Romans. After the Greeks passed under Roman rule, ordinary Romans who knew little or nothing of ancient Greece, including people for whom sight and sound mattered more than reading as means of communication, gleaned an acquaintance with Greek culture through popular entertainments in the capital of empire. The arena offered adulterated versions of Greek ‘myths’ and of Greek history as spectacle. Roman leaders introduced the masses to old Greek wars by staging sea battles such as Salamis (Greeks versus Persians, 480 bc) as violent extravaganzas using man-made lakes fed by the River Tiber, full-sized ships and tens of thousands of combatants. In the Colosseum, the Roman emperor put on elaborate executions of criminals, who had to dress up and enact characters from Greek ‘myths’ before being killed grotesquely. Daedalus was a mythical Greek craftsman who escaped from Crete by making wings of wax which flew him to Sicily. A Roman poet described the execution of a ‘Daedalus’ in ad 80: ‘Daedalus, when you are being thus torn by a Lucanian bear, how you wish you now had your wings!’ The Roman leadership also staged versions of Greek-style athletics (competitions for ‘prizes’ or athla in ancient Greek). Part of the thrill for the spectators was the Greek-style nudity of the contestants. By the ad 80s, some thirty thousand spectators could watch these performers from a Greek-style stadium on the site of presentday Rome’s Piazza Navona. Roman-style Greek games may have had more participation by professional female athletes, as well as a more obviously erotic dimension, than the Greek prototype. At one of 14

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these performances, according to a credible ancient report, a Roman senator entered the arena to wrestle naked with a ‘maiden’ from Greece, presumably herself a professional. Today, it is also popular culture that probably does most to maintain an awareness of the ancient Greeks among people all over the world. In normal times, every fifth year (counting inclusively) brings the global spectacle of the Olympic Games. I was once at Olympia when young Greek women clad in ‘Grecian’ garments rehearsed the ceremony of the lighting of the torch. They were surrounded by enthusiastic tourists. Few of these would have thanked me, I suspect, had I started to explain that the whole rigmarole of the torch is a modern invention of unsavoury origin. This book will look into the modern Olympic movement (chapter 13). It will also consider the ancient Greeks as they appear on modern screens, both as moving pictures and – for those who enjoy e-books – in downloaded texts of historical and fantasy novels set in ancient Greece (chapter 12). If Greek gods and goddesses still entertain people today, the ancient religion of which they were once part is long dead and buried. Seventeen centuries ago, the ancient world experienced a huge religious upheaval. Temples of Zeus fell; new-fangled churches arose. Still, in this period of transition, not all that was pre-Christian was lost. This book explores how trace elements from the ancient Greek world hide in plain sight in such things as traditional depictions of Christ and the core Christian dogma of the Trinity (chapter 9). This way of thinking about the nature of the Christian God draws on much older efforts of the ancient Greeks to comprehend the unseen realities of our physical world. This prologue is meant to sketch something of the scope of the chapters that follow. It also aims to give a flavour of the book’s approach. The following chapters seek to capture the negativity that persists among some people about what ancient Greece stands for today. Those people even include some modern Greeks, who find the legacy of the ancient Greek past a ‘burden’. The book also tries to chart what it is about the ancient Greeks that still inspires and moves many others, 15

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for better or worse. To lapse into cliché, the following chapters take the reader on a ‘journey’ through both the light and the dark. Finally, a word about the quotations in this prologue and throughout the book. In all cases, the sources can be found in the notes to each chapter that are gathered at the end of the book (pp. 297–320). I apologise to those readers who may find this arrangement a distraction and an irritation. But the book aspires to be readable by a broad public, and to this end I have avoided footnotes. I have also preferred not to overload the text itself with non-essential proper names, especially ones likely to be unfamiliar or obscure outside specialist circles.

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I

n London’s British Museum you sometimes see guides pausing their groups before an ancient marble bust of a bearded Greek male wearing a helmet. This is pushed back on his head to reveal a face which, although expressionless, somehow gives off an air of calm command. Thanks to the Greek letters of an original caption carved into the marble, the man’s identity is known. This is a purported likeness of the general Pericles, the most famous leader of Athens at the height of her glory. According to the ancients, it was his political vision that inspired the building of a new temple on the Acropolis, the Parthenon, now the most emblematic of all ancient Greek monuments. In a public speech meant to boost civic morale, Pericles is said to have boasted to his fellow Athenians that their city was ‘the education of Hellas’ (the ancient Greeks called themselves ‘Hellenes’ and their homeland ‘Hellas’). What did he mean? Was it the Parthenon – new Athenian achievements in culture, in other words – that offered an improving lesson to Greek neighbours? Modern students have tended to favour this interpretation of the leader’s supposed words. It suits a long-standing modern tendency to rate the ancient Athenians above all for their successes in the arts and human intellectual endeavour. Well, caution is required here before we assume that we know on which of their deeds this political community from long ago might 17

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have prided itself most. Perhaps Pericles meant to please his target audience of mainly citizen-males of fighting age by referencing something quite different: the city’s military prowess. At this time – 431 bc to be precise – the men of Athens were extremely good at winning battles. Their ramming galleys now dominated the seaways around Greece. Athens had evolved into an imperial power, pressuring weaker Greeks to become tribute-paying ‘allies’. At the time of writing, England’s National Trust has been busy uncovering the revenue streams of the long-dead builders of the stately homes in its care. If the Parthenon came under such scrutiny, its building history would likewise reveal connections with ancient imperialists, not to mention slave labour. Still, in the next century (the fourth bc), some prominent Athenians certainly did vaunt their city’s role as Greece’s cultural capital. As one of them, a respected teacher of public speaking, wrote, ‘in education everyone would concede that we stand first’. He went on: ‘And so far has our city distanced the rest of mankind in thinking and in speaking that her pupils have become the teachers of the rest of the world.’ Despite the obvious talking-up of the Athenians by an Athenian, this writer does reference a part of Greek cultural life in which Athens by this time – the mid-300s bc – had indeed won a kind of pre-eminence over other Greek city states, namely education. There have been few, if any, societies in history that have not offered their children some sort of preparation for adult life. Ancient Greece itself was not entirely devoid of the kinds of traditional teaching that modern anthropologists study in indigenous societies, such as the Ju/’hoansi Bushmen, or San, of Namibia. Here the community in the recent past has marked the first occurrence of menstruation with puberty initiation rites. At the first sign of bleeding, a girl would be isolated inside a hut. No one would be allowed to touch or be touched by her. There might be dancing round the hut by elders, mainly old women. ‘They expose bare buttocks . . . the dance includes mock male fighting, followed by the women teaching the girl womanly tasks and responsibilities.’ 18

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In ancient Greece, we hear that ‘Women doing the Bear ritual used to perform the festival for Artemis, dressed in the saffron robe, aged between five and ten.’ Some ancient bookworm made this note on his papyrus copy of the dialogue of a fifth-century bc Athenian play. He did so in order to clarify a reference by the playwright which he found obscure. From such fragments of ancient evidence, modern experts have had an interdisciplinary field day, reconstructing an experience of the kind that is today called a ‘rite of passage’, undergone by Athenian girls at just the time of that speech of Pericles. The participants in these rites for Artemis, called the Brauronia festival, were Athenian girls. There were running races, group dances, special clothes, possibly the deposition of menstrual rags and ritual nudity, as well as – perhaps – instruction from older women or even a scary encounter with a real wild bear. All this was taking place in the Athenian sanctuary of a virgin Greek goddess who concerned herself with children transitioning into young adults. Puzzled but fascinated, scholars wonder if the bear was meant as a symbol of the girlish ‘wildness’ to be left behind by these youngsters on the threshold of puberty: they would re-emerge from the rite as ‘tamed’ teenagers of marriageable age. This form of Athenian education has followers even today. A classics professor in the USA has described taking two of her children, aged twelve and eleven, to a ‘modern version of the Brauronia: a period party’. This was organised by a youth group called Artemis Pack, based in West Philadelphia. It was aimed at girls and nonbinary children aged between seven and fourteen. There was a ceremony consciously modelled on rites of passage and centred on a fire pit. Each young person ‘in turn took a pinch of scented herbs and scattered them into the fire to say goodbye to childhood – a ritual borrowed from the Brauronia’. The Brauronian echoes do not stop there. On the youth group’s website you can read a fantasy aimed at children called the Artemis Story. It features an encounter in a forest between a group of girls and the goddess Artemis herself, a girlish 19

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figure. She is accompanied by her fellow ‘guardians of the forest’ – a wolf, a deer and a female bear. At any rate, if the ancient Brauronia were a form of Athenian education, this was not what our teacher of public speaking had in mind when he flattered the Athenians on their teaching prowess. The ancient Greeks, like their neighbours such as the Egyptians, had no formal schooling system for all children. In Greek cities there grew up, as had happened centuries earlier in pharaonic Egypt, a culture of private instruction for both boys and girls, either at home or in schools, and dependent on a citizen-family’s means. However, our teacher of public speaking did not have this level of education in mind either. Rather, Isocrates (his name) was thinking of a kind of ‘higher’ teaching, peculiar to the ancient Greeks. This was still something of a novelty in his own lifetime. Over time, the top strata of Greek society would come to see it as essential to – indeed the hallmark of – the civilised Greek male. Teachers wandering from city to city could impart it. In Athens in the time of Isocrates, this type of teaching might also become tied to a particular place. A public exercise ground or gymnasium was a favourite venue. Such a setting had sun, shade and drinking water, and – above all – plenty of the young males whom these teachers sought to attract. A successful teacher – usually fees changed hands – might acquire premises, where he could teach and store a library of books (scrolls, strictly speaking). He might even give his ‘school’ an institutional character by bequeathing the building to a designated successor. These teachers offered instruction in two fields that – being the preserve of the better off – disproportionately dominated ancient Greek cultural life. Indeed, they helped to give it its distinctive stamp. One was the pursuit of objective knowledge about life and the universe in a rigorous and disciplined way – the Greeks called this the ‘love of wisdom’ or philosophia. The other was the art of speaking well in public. Like most people who hold the highest degree from an English university, I am technically a ‘doctor of philosophy’ – despite the fact 20

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that I studied for my doctorate in a department of ancient history and archaeology. Essentially, this is because ‘philosophers’ in ancient Greek times opened up many of the fields of research that are still with us today. So, this ‘philosophical’ strand looks like a promising line of inquiry for a book entitled What the Greeks Did for Us. To be fair to the ancient world, it is worth emphasising that the Greeks themselves recognised that they were not the only ‘philosophers’, or even the first: Now the Chaldaeans, belonging as they do to the most ancient inhabitants of Babylonia, have about the same position among the divisions of the state as that occupied by the priests of Egypt; for being assigned to the service of the gods they spend their entire life philosophising, their greatest renown being in the field of astrology.

These ‘Chaldaeans’ formed part of the population of the ancient country and civilisation that the Greeks knew as Babylonia, a region roughly comprising modern Iraq, from Baghdad southwards. It has been suggested that the highly literate Babylonians, with their ‘libraries’ of clay writing tablets, approached knowledge according to rational and logical principles, in the same way as the ancient Greek ‘philosophers’: so as to show ‘how and what humans know’. For the purposes of this book, it is perhaps unnecessary to delve further into Babylonian ‘philosophy’ – not an easy subject. Experts nowadays increasingly recognise that some subjects about which the ancient Greeks ‘philosophised’ – such as how the world came into being, the nature of the heavenly bodies, mathematics, or the causes and treatment of human illness – might have been (and in specific instances demonstrably were) influenced by Greek awareness of the older civilisations of the Near East and their learned traditions. As said, the other main domain of this higher teaching was instruction in the art of public speaking. The ancient Greeks called this art rhētorikē, a word with the root sense of ‘saying’. The 21

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importance that the upper levels of Greek society attached to possession of this skill cannot be overstated. To give an example, the political success of the same Pericles was founded on his powers of persuasion when he addressed the men (not the women) of Athens in their all-male citizen assembly. According to a Greek writer who lived centuries later, Pericles had: a manner of speaking that was high-minded and free from populist and dishonest clowning, but also a facial composure that never gave way to laughter, a gentleness of bearing and manner of dress that suffered no emotion to disturb it while he was speaking, a register of voice that was far from shouty, and many similar characteristics which struck all his hearers with wondering amazement.

Even if these details from a much later time are not entirely authentic (they certainly flatter their subject), they show that the ancient Greeks understood the need for a successful public speaker to master techniques of delivery not so different from those of today’s professional politician; also that different speakers used different styles of speaking to achieve the desired effect, rather like, say, recent presidents of the USA: Obama is a more elevated orator than George W. Bush, whose speaking style was described by one of his speechwriters as ‘blunt’ and ‘staccato’. And his style is less free-form than Bill Clinton, who could display his earthiness and expertise in the same speech.

This world of Greek orators was a man’s world. The women of citizen-families were not only formally excluded from the political life of the city states, but also from an active part in the law courts, the other main arena for speechifying in ancient Greece. The prosecutors and defendants who harangued the jury in Greek courtrooms to our knowledge were always men. 22

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Still, in one of those disruptive surprises that make you question how much we really know about the ancient Greeks, their writings record that ‘many’ Athenian males sought out the partner of Pericles, a clever foreigner living with him as his ‘companion’, for . . . instruction in public speaking. Indeed, a member of the next Athenian generation down claimed that teaching by Aspasia (her name) had ‘turned out many fine orators, and amongst them one who surpassed all other Greeks, Pericles’. Did she really give instruction to Athenian men in how to make a good speech? If she did, was she a one-off, teaching this quintessentially male skill, thanks not just to her education (on which ancient writings comment) and intellect, but also to her unusual social position and connections? As usual with women’s history in ancient Greek times, here we are left in the dark. By the lifetime of Aspasia, the ancient Greeks had already created a civilisation that was rich in intellectual attainments (such as those just touched on) and in aesthetic luxury. Greeks had developed their own brand of perfectionism in the realm of visual beauty, the arts and architecture – a topic taken up in later chapters. A decisive turn in Greek history meant that this civilisation and its achievements so far, hitherto concentrated on mainland Greece and the shores of the Aegean Sea, would vastly extend their geographical reach over the ancient world, as well as entering a new phase of cultural creativity. Encouraging this recasting of Greek civilisation as a kind of ‘superspreader’ was the idea that the present day could learn from older Greek writings and artefacts how to improve speaking, writing, thinking, the design of a building or the execution of an artwork. This was true not only of ancients looking back to an earlier ‘golden age’: as this chapter goes on to show, much the same idea lay at the heart of the search for the ancient Greeks and Romans in more recent times. An ancient mosaic set into the floor of a house in Pompeii sums up the first of these ‘superspreader’ moments. Adapting a famous Greek painting (now lost), the unknown mosaicist depicts a dramatic scene 23

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in the midst of a great battle. A young cavalryman, eyes blazing, aims his spear at a mature man in a retreating chariot, its driver frantically turning the horses to flight.The aggressor is Alexander, the Macedonian Greek king, and the mosaic shows one of his two great victories over Darius, the Persian king, who is fleeing the battlefield and abandoning his men. Darius did this on two separate occasions, both times yielding Alexander a decisive victory. Alexander’s successful invasion of Darius’s lands in 334 bc not only ended by toppling a great empire. It also replaced Persia’s empire with something similar, but different: GraecoMacedonian military rule across the Middle East, as far as what is now Pakistan. From then on, Greek civilisation was no longer a mainly Mediterranean phenomenon. The point is made by a find from an archaeological dig on a Kuwaiti offshore island, nowadays strewn with military hardware from the first Gulf War. Found in 1959, this slab of stone is inscribed with forty-three lines of ancient Greek writing. They include a calendar date equating to 204 bc – some 120 years after Alexander’s death. The writing makes it clear that the island – the Failaka of today – was under Greek military control at the time. We also learn that, for the benefit of the Greek settlers, the occupying power had introduced all-male athletics in the distinctive Greek style: that is, contestants competing in the buff. What the indigenous people of the Persian Gulf – the Araboi (Arabs) of Greek writings – made of this peculiar and alien Greek cult of the male body, the historian is unable to say. As the centuries passed, the history-writings of ancient times came to see human affairs as a serial story of empires rising and falling. From 200 bc, it was the turn of the ‘Macedonian empire’ slowly to give way to newcomers from a part of the ancient world from which the Greeks had so far had little to fear. This new turn of events was to prove decisive for shaping and preserving fragments of Greek civilisation for millennia to come. In London’s British Museum, a great gallery displays two sets of battered sculptures in what the experts think was their original order, 24

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when they filled each of the two end gables of the renowned Parthenon. A visitor to the Centrale Montemartini museum of antiquities in Rome encounters a similar sight: a reconstruction of fragmentary marble figures once filling the gable of – this time – a Roman temple. There is a finely carved torso and head of a young woman, her face as expressionless as the Pericles in the British Museum. Indeed, from the style of the carving, experts are certain that these figures are much older than the Roman temple displaying them – that they are, in fact, Greek workmanship of roughly the same time as Pericles and the Parthenon sculptures (about 450 to 425 bc). They do indeed form a set, but a set originally commissioned as part of the repairs to an existing Greek temple. In a much later time, some powerful person having given the say-so, workmen erected scaffolding at one end of this Greek temple, loosened the marble figures and lowered them to the ground, hauled them to a Greek quayside and loaded them onto a seagoing ship. This conveyed its cargo on a long voyage westward, as far as Italy’s River Tiber and the wharves of first-century bc Rome. After some refreshing by a sculptor’s workshop, craftsmen installed the statues in their new setting, the main gable of a Roman temple near the Circus Maximus. Today there is much condemnation, and rather less approval, of the actions of Lord Elgin, the Scottish peer who, at the start of the nineteenth century, removed from the Parthenon those sculptures that the British Museum now displays: ‘Blush, Caledonia! such thy son could be!’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, no modern chorus of disapproval has come the way of the Romans who despoiled that unknown Greek temple of its gable sculpture for the adornment of their capital city. It happened a long time ago; no name of any individual Roman can be attached for sure to the act; the plundered Greek temple cannot be certainly identified. The legality of Elgin’s actions is disputed; the Romans, conquerors of Greece, could have justified their actions as the right of victors in warfare: seizing booty. Modern debates about the rights and wrongs of ‘cultural appropriation’ were not for them. 25

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The statues in the Centrale Montemartini museum are symbols of the attitude of the Romans to Greek civilisation. The Romans came, they saw, they seized for their own ends. Although they took a certain pride in their own philistinism, the Roman ruling classes recognised that the cultural civilisation created by the ancient Greeks was vastly superior to their own. The Romans may have helped themselves, but they were also seduced by what they took. Around the turn of the first millennium bc, Greek intellectuals, artists and artefacts flooded into Italy and helped to transform the Romans, in a certain sense, into cultural Greeks. What this meant was that Roman imperial rule conferred on the civilisation of the conquered Greeks a ‘protected’ status – even if the Romans were not unconditional admirers. They had their favourites. They were suspicious of the morals of Greek-speaking people raised in the corrupting heat (as they saw it) of Asia, that greater Greek world created by Alexander. They reserved their maximum approval for what they called the ‘true’ Greece, a time long ago on the European mainland when the Spartans flourished thanks to their martial discipline and when Athens was at the height of her cultural power. It was in this distinctly Roman atmosphere that the Athens of the 400s and 300s bc came increasingly to stand for all that was best about Greek civilisation: ‘I have actually made a pilgrimage down to the Bay of Phalerum, where they say Demosthenes used to practise declaiming on the beach . . . Also just now I turned off the road a little way on the right, to visit the tomb of Pericles. Though in fact there is no end to it in this city: wherever we go we tread historic ground.’

These are words put into the mouth of a Roman speaker in a Latin work of literature from the first century bc. The speaker describes his sightseeing in the Athens of his day. This included paying his respects to the tomb of Pericles and a trip to a seaside spot near the port of Piraeus. This Bay of Phalerum was where the Athenian orator of the 26

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300s bc whose orating style was a particular favourite with the Romans – Demosthenes – used to go to practise his speechifying. Athens, now a provincial Roman town, was already anticipating her distant future as a centre for cultural tourists in search of past glories. The centuries went by. In the words of a chronicler from around ad 200, it became the fate of the Romans in turn that ‘our history descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust’. Their empire did not exactly ‘fall’. By the ad 400s it had split into two halves, with two emperors. The western half transitioned into a patchwork of separate, post-Roman states. This resulted from the irresistible impact of migrations of peoples into Roman lands from beyond the Rhine and the Danube: medieval Christendom was taking shape. In ad 632, at the other end of the Mediterranean, the prophet Mohammed died. The Islamic world now came into being. The former mosque in Cordoba, in which the later Catholic cathedral is incongruously embedded, is a breathtaking sight. Row upon row of elegant arches resting on recycled Roman columns separate the eleven naves of what was once a giant prayer hall. This is the work of a great cultural civilisation. In the early medieval centuries there was a shift in the centre of cultural gravity. Christendom lagged behind a Muslim empire which, by ad 732, stretched from the borders of India to Spain. The rulers of this empire enthusiastically sought out the practical wisdom of the ancient Romans and Greeks. Translators in Damascus, Baghdad and Islamic Spain converted learned writings in Latin and Greek into Arabic. In the sixteenth century, European intellectuals looked back on Christendom’s Middle Ages – fairly or not – as a culturally backward time. But they saw that this was not true back then of the ‘Saracens’ (as they called the Muslim Arabs) and their great scholars. These were men such as Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd and Jabir ibn Hayyan, known to the west respectively as Avicenna, Averroes and Geber: 27

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As the learning of the Greekes and Romaines augmented with their power; so did that of the Arabians, or Saracens. And when they were the most mightie of the world, then they became most learned . . . Auicen . . . hath verie well handled . . . the signes and causes of diseases; accommodating unto them many remedies not understood, nor practised, by the Greeks and Italians. Auerrois hath learnedly expounded all Aristotle . . . Gebber a verie expert Mathematician, hath found faults in the demonstrations of Ptolomey his Almagests.

Medieval Christendom did not entirely forget the ancient Greeks. A few miles from the sightseeing hotspot of Mycenae, a remarkable church goes unheeded by today’s tourists. As the medieval Greeks liked to do, its builders incorporated worked blocks rescued from ancient ruins in the vicinity. These include sculptured gravestones in the Greek classical style, an ancient Greek inscription, and one in first-century bc Latin. The overall effect is appealing, both aesthetically and romantically. An expert has argued that the unnamed donor, with his apparent love of classical antiquity, was a learned Catholic churchman. Rarely for his time (the ad 1200s), this William ‘of Moerbeke’ (perhaps Morbecque in northern France) was a westerner who could read Ancient Greek. Not only that, but he took a keen interest in the ancient Greek writings occasionally preserved in western libraries. We know this because he translated some of them into medieval Latin. In this way, he introduced them to other western scholars. The pope sent him to Greece as a Roman Catholic archbishop at a time when Frankish Catholic barons ruled the region. He would have built his church to promote union between Catholic and Orthodox congregations. In this appetite for Greek learning, William was a forerunner. By the 1400s, if not earlier, parts of Italy – especially the city states of the north – were in the throes of a slow-burning cultural revolution. The people in its vanguard were no longer always churchmen, but rather 28

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lay folk. They included teachers, as well as ambitious secular patrons like the Medici family. They saw this movement in which they were caught up as a kind of ‘rebirth’. It was only in the nineteenth century that it acquired the label it still bears: the ‘Renaissance’. One of the drivers of this complicated moment – one thinks of continuing debates today over the causes and legacy of the French Revolution – was a widespread hunger for the culture of ancient Greece and Rome, especially, at first, the writings. Here world events helped out. For some of them I see with beards streaming over their chests, hair thick, rough and unkempt . . . others have beards partly trimmed and heads half shaved and painted eyebrows . . . The greater number are so absurd that no one is solemn or morose enough to restrain his mirth when he sees them.

This bystander, a scholar of Florentine descent who died in 1438, is referring mockingly to the eastern refugees who were becoming a more visible presence in the Italy of his day. The staged conquest by the Ottoman Turks of what was left of Byzantium, a modern name for the Greek-speaking empire of the ‘Romans’, included Constantinople in 1453. The fall of the Byzantine capital created a steady stream from what was already a trickle of learned Greeks migrating to Italy in search of shelter and a livelihood. Sometimes they brought in their baggage manuscripts of ancient Greek writings. At this time, manuscript hunters also ventured back east on behalf of rich patrons based in Italy. The holdings of libraries in centres such as Florence and Venice now accumulated most of what survives of ancient Greek literature of pre-Christian times. The advent of print was another game-changer. In the great trading republic of Venice, a remarkable individual in the late 1400s became the first to exploit the newly invented technology of printing to publish, in print runs extending into thousands, the rare survivals of ancient Greek writings. These had come down from the Middle 29

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Ages in the form of handwriting on leaves of parchment, fastened together to form a kind of pre-print ‘book’. For centuries, tiny numbers of expert scribes had laboured on this painstaking craft. Their recopying of older manuscripts produced often calligraphically beautiful texts, but in such small numbers that, by the 1400s, the fate of the writings of even the most sought-after ancient Greek authors could hang on a single copy in a western library handwritten in this way. Venice at this time has been called the Silicon Valley of printing. One of its pioneer printers – his name was Aldus Manutius – was the first to devise Greek type. He took as his model for this challenging task the Greek handwriting of his own day. I for one find this handwriting hard to read. For instance, the Greek calligraphers made ample use of the so-called ligature, a kind of monogram when two or more letters are joined as one. Converting all this into typeface was the headache of Aldus’s talented punchcutter. To finish for now with book-learning, a second game-changer of the Renaissance was the growing availability of print translations of ancient Greek writings into the spoken languages of western Europe. The hystory writtone by Thucidides the Athenyan of the warre, whiche was betwene the Peloponesians and the Athenyans, translated oute of Frenche into the Englysh language by Thomas Nicholls Citezeine and Goldesmyth of London. Imprinted the xxv. day of July in the yeare of our Lorde God a Thousande, fyue hundredde and fyftye

Thucydides was (another) Athenian general. Chapter 7 in this book weighs the continuing impact today of his masterpiece of ancient Greek history-writing, unfinished at the time of his death in around 400 bc. Above is the wording on the frontispiece of the first translation of his work into English. As the date shows (25 July 1550), by then the cultural ripples of the Italian Renaissance had reached 30

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northern Europe. In Tudor England, at least among the fully literate minority, demand for classical works outstripped supply at that time. As the frontispiece states, the translator did not work from the original Greek. Like all but a few English people of his time, he was unable to read Ancient Greek. Instead he used an earlier French translation by a diplomat in the service of the king of France. This diplomat didn’t know Ancient Greek either: he had teamed up with a talented Greek refugee from Constantinople, who first made a translation from the original into Latin. It was from this that the diplomat worked. St Paul’s School in London, still going strong, is a venerable foundation of the year 1509. When the erudite Queen Elizabeth I visited the school around 1573, the boys and the headmaster gave her a book of complimentary poems, their own compositions (one can imagine the anxious headmaster’s helping hand). Seventeen were in Latin, and four in Greek. Greek by then had a toehold in the curriculum. Even so, for some time to come, the Renaissance vision of the ancient Greek world was overshadowed and filtered, one way or another, by the more readily accessible world of ancient Rome. As already suggested, this pursuit of what was thought most admirable about the works of the ancient Greeks was not targeted solely on the wisdom and the models of best practice offered by their rediscovered writings. In 2019, a London auction house sold for £12,500 a first edition of what, in its day, had been a groundbreaking work. Long in the publishing, it was the fruit of a visit to Athens by two British architects. Their unusual behaviour there attracted the sour scorn of a rival French antiquarian: ‘I would never have traveled to Greece simply to observe the relations of the buildings and their parts with the subdivisions of our foot.’ The Britons – James Stuart and Nicholas Revett – belonged to a small wave of intrepid enthusiasts who braved travel in Greece in the eighteenth century. This was in the face of the roads, the inns, the diseases, the resinated wine – not to mention the people, such 31

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as the bunch of Turks who tried to murder Stuart (more on these rigours in chapter 11). What the pair did from 1750 to 1755 was to draw and measure ancient buildings that were still more or less standing in Ottoman Athens – the first time this had ever been done for Greek, as opposed to Roman, monuments. The express purpose of these two pioneers was practical and educational. They sought to improve current practice in building by turning the eyes of people of taste towards Greece, as well as Rome. A later tome within the multi-volume work – publication was staggered over not years, but decades – claimed that: It was not until the publication of the first volumes of Stuart’s Antiquities of Athens, in 1761 and 1787, that the learned practically became aware that Greece possessed a separate style of her own, more elegant and refined than anything that Rome had ever produced.

The work of Stuart and Revett certainly did its bit to trigger a new fashion for ‘classicising’ buildings with Greek, and not just Roman, detail. Along with the whole western infatuation with ancient Greece, this turn in taste reached its peak in the nineteenth century. Architects not just in Great Britain, but also Germany and the United States, mined nuggets from Stuart and Revett’s work for building details. The record in the Antiquities of Athens of the so-called Monument of Thrasyllus, an architectural façade of the 320s bc fronting a cave on the south face of the Acropolis, ‘has served as a design source for classical buildings throughout the western world’. These include the Capitol in Washington, DC (1829) and the Hermitage in St Petersburg (1851). Chapter 11 will say more about the appeal in its day of this kind of ‘Grecian’ architecture, as well as about its critics. If Stuart and Revett helped to wake up the world of taste and learning, fashion and patronage, to the ‘elegance’ of ancient Greek buildings, the seventh earl of Elgin did something similar for ancient Greek art. Renaissance man’s admiration for the visual arts of the 32

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ancients had little that was genuinely Greek to go on. Even when the European elites of the time did confront ancient Greek artefacts, they didn’t always recognise them. In the 1700s, diggers probing the cemeteries of the ancient Etruscans, a people based in what is now Tuscany, started to find among the grave-goods ancient pots attractively decorated by unknown painters with figures and stories. These included any number with a distinctive colour-scheme of warm orange and shiny black. The initial assumption was that these pots were Etruscan made. Only in the early 1800s did the penny drop: this was crockery that ancient Greece had exported to ancient Italy. The orange and black colour scheme was a speciality of the potteries of Athens. Elgin, like Stuart and Revett, was a nationalist and patriot. He wanted to improve British taste, to educate people, artists and architects in particular, by putting before them the ‘best’ work from ancient Greece. Following the judgements of the ancient Romans, this was to be found in Athens. He and his agents exploited the political mood of deference to Britain at that time among the Ottoman rulers of Greece. The marbles in the British Museum display his eventual haul. There are fragments of Athenian buildings, but the bulk comprises religious sculpture once attached to the outside of the Parthenon – by then a ruin, but with many figures still in their original place. In 1807, the marbles went on public display in London. The success they enjoyed was rapid and huge (why that should be is touched on in chapter 10) – especially as the plaster casts that were made allowed a much larger public to appreciate them. It has been said that ‘by the mid-nineteenth century there was hardly a sizeable town in Europe or North America that did not somewhere possess the cast of at least one of Elgin’s marbles’. I return now to the impact of ancient Greek writings on the thinking of early modern times. To appreciate just how much ancient Greece and Rome saturated the outlook of educated people in Elgin’s lifetime, a glance across the Atlantic at the newly formed United States of America – no more than a generation old – is revealing. 33

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In the second decade of the twenty-first century, one of the Founding Fathers of the USA was the surprising subject of a hit musical on both sides of the Atlantic. In colourful terms, its lyrics pose the question of how a person from a disadvantaged background could have risen to become an erudite figure of national eminence. Born in the Leeward Islands, the illegitimate son of a Scottish laird, Alexander Hamilton had a private education in the American colonies, before attending the college on the island of Manhattan that later became Columbia University. A patriot and a republican, in the mid-1780s he put this education at the service of the fledgling United States. For instance, he cited a moralising story about how the Spartans had broken their own prohibition against a Spartan serving as admiral for more than a one-year stint, in order to gratify a demand from their allies: This instance is selected . . . to confirm the truth . . . Which is, that nations pay little regard to rules and maxims calculated in their very nature to run counter to the necessities of society. Wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed.

This fair point was made in one of nearly eighty papers that Hamilton and two fellow authors placed in American newspapers in 1787 and 1788 to build home-grown support for ratification of the new constitution of the United States. To make a point about the powers needed for the defence of the republic, at a time when attack by the British fleet was a present threat, he took from his knowledge of ancient Greek writings the specific example quoted above from the naval history of the Spartans. Social conditioning and study meant that the world of educated colonists in which Hamilton grew up took for granted the veneration of such ancient wisdom. In doing so, they merely followed the mother country. As seen earlier, Greek joined Latin on the curriculum in a few schools in England as early as the 1500s. Two centuries later, 34

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learning Ancient Greek could be the subject of grim humour: ‘D—n Homer, with all my heart,’ says Northerton: ‘I have the marks of him in my a— yet . . .’. As this character in Tom Jones, an English novel of the mid-1700s, makes plain, strict drilling and exercises in memorising were all too often backed up by beatings in schools of the time. If the ancient languages still dominated the curriculum for another century at least, this was because, above and beyond any perceived intrinsic value, knowledge of Greek and Latin had powerful social currency in an acutely snobbish age. According to The Times newspaper in 1853, it was ‘the possession and the symbol of the educated gentleman’. It would be wrong to suppose, however, that Greek learning was the sole preserve of nineteenth-century toffs – of whatever nationality. For instance, in 1828 better-off African Americans in Philadelphia ‘for the improvement of ourselves and our youth’ founded a reading society for ‘Men of Color’ based on a lending library for members. This included classical literature, praised for its educational benefits: . . . a fund of ideas is acquired on a variety of subjects; the taste is greatly improved by conversing with the best models; the imagination is enriched by the fine scenery with which the classics abound; and an acquaintance is formed with human nature, together with the history, customs, and manners of antiquity.

Already encountered in this chapter, translations were of huge importance in this nineteenth-century broadening of the audience for ancient Greece. I myself inherited my great-great-grandfather’s copy of the eighteenth-century writer Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer. Each of the three pocket-sized volumes is proudly and possessively signed by their owner, who died in 1837. Translations put ancient Greek writings the way of women and the lower social classes, as this story from the vicinity of my former university in north-east England suggests: 35

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. . . a young miner who was a member of the Ashington Debating and Literary Improvement Society in Northumberland, and who was killed by a fall of coal in 1899, died with a translation of Thucydides in his pocket, the page turned down at Pericles’ funeral speech.

Long before this time, another idea had taken hold on both sides of the Atlantic: the idea of ‘European’ or ‘western civilisation’. It had supplanted the older idea of ‘Christendom’ as a way of ascribing a distinctive character to the history and development of a particular part of the world – Europe – and its colonial outliers. We cannot escape . . . from the buildings and sculpture of Periclean Athens, from the writings of Plato and Aristotle, from the museum of Alexandria . . . in a word from Greece.

So wrote the English author of a – now forgotten but once influential – book published in 1917 called A Defence of Classical Education. In truth, even before the nineteenth century was out, the golden age of enthusiasm for the ancient Greeks had started to falter among western nations. As the ‘defensive’ title of the book suggests, above all it was the traditional dominance of the dead languages of Latin and Greek in western schools and universities – and as a necessary prerequisite for entry into certain professions – that had started to crumble. This is a story – not to be detailed here – both of gradual decline in the face of mounting demands to teach more utilitarian subjects and of a lively rearguard action still being fought today. In various western countries there remain bastions of instruction in Ancient Greek and Latin in the conservative curricula of certain elite schools. Nowadays the idea of ‘western civilisation’ is also (some would say) on the defensive. Events on an American campus in 1987 are symptomatic. According to the website of the prestigious American institution in question, one day that year a crowd of some five hundred students and their leaders, including the civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, rallied 36

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down Palm Avenue on the campus of Stanford University. What they chanted was ‘Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go.’ For most people today, this is an overlooked moment in the long story of student protests around the world, hardly up there with, say, the student movements of 1968 or Tiananmen Square (1989). It was, however, a definite ‘moment’ in the shifting sands of the long western love affair with the ancient Greeks. What the students were protesting about was Stanford’s version of a type of survey course on ‘western civilisation’ that was to be found on most undergraduate curricula in the USA in the post-war period. At the time, most American universities offered their undergraduates a full- or part-time course on ‘western civ’, the long version starting with the ancient Greeks. More often than not, this course was a requirement for undergraduates taking ‘liberal arts’ or ‘humanities’ subjects. By 2010, the course had more or less entirely disappeared as a requirement on campuses across the USA. Those student protesters had made an impression, not least on Stanford itself. The next year the university withdrew its ‘Western Culture’ course. The title of its replacement suggests how cultural priorities were changing in important reaches of American society. To quote Stanford’s website once more: ‘Cultures, Ideas, & Values . . . [a] program that included more inclusive works on race, class, and gender’. One thing certain is that, just as Ancient Greek will not be fully ‘dead’ for as long as it has teachers and they have pupils, so the idea of ‘western civilisation’ remains very much in contention at the time of writing: The fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive . . . Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?

Thus spake President Trump in a widely reported foreign policy speech in 2017. In more recent times, many people – not Mr Trump 37

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– have tended to identify as one of the golden nuggets passed down from the ancient Greeks via ‘western civilisation’ the idea and practice of ‘democracy’. This chapter has used stories to follow the thread of ancient Greece, sometimes frayed but never entirely broken, through medieval times and early modernity down to today. A recurrent theme has been the idea that from the ancient Greeks could be learnt a cultural and moral excellence that would improve life in the present day. The next chapter searches for the modern-day resonance of the political ideas of the ancient Greeks, democracy included.

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naking its way southward from Greece’s border with its northern neighbour Bulgaria, a large river ends up in the Aegean Sea some 60 miles east of Thessaloniki. Near its mouth are the impressive ruins of a flourishing ancient city: massive defences of dressed stone, wooden piles from a vanished bridge across the river, a gymnasium where the males trained. Inside the modern museum, the visitor can see something unique in ancient Greek art – the gravestone of a selfconfessed slave trader, himself an ex-slave. This unabashed ‘merchant of bodies’ – the literal wording of the Ancient Greek epitaph – was once depicted reclining on a feasting couch in the upper portion of the slab, now missing. Still preserved is a lower relief. It shows a file of eight male slaves chained at the neck, along with women and children walking beside them. Also broken off is the man leading the procession – probably the deceased. Like the waterways flowing into the Atlantic from western Africa in more recent times, this Greek river would have been the route by which the non-Greek peoples of the interior – Thrakes or Thracians in Ancient Greek parlance – conveyed the undesirables from their own societies down to the coast. Here traders and ships gathered. That flourishing ancient city near the river mouth was an overseas 39

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settlement of the Athenians nearly 400 miles further south. Ancient writings (and most modern ones) forbear to mention that up there in the northern Aegean, the local merchandise for which Athenian citizens hungered included ‘bodies’. Down in Athens, male slaves ‘of Thracian race’, as the Ancient Greek describes them, can be traced in the official documents of the fifth-century bc democracy. Chapter 3 returns to these ‘stolen people’. In ancient Greek society there were also ‘silent people’. On display in the British Museum – almost within touching distance of Pericles (see chapter 1), and made in his lifetime in an Athenian pottery – is a charming circular cosmetic box decorated with figures on a cream background. This household scene shows citizen-women sitting or standing, with baskets of wool on the floor for them to make into homespun cloth. This popular image – the potters of Athens produced many of the same genre – is not exactly ‘daily life’. The potteries were also portraying behaviour that Athenian society considered good or desirable. A respectable woman’s place, as an old-fashioned saying used to go, was in the home. This chapter has started by calling out a couple of key facts about the style of democracy which developed in ancient Athens in the 400s bc, a style to which some modern western democracies say they are indebted. Democratic Athens was a state that formally excluded the wives and daughters of male citizens from almost all political rights. Instead, it idealised their social role as a life of motherhood and housekeeping. More on this later. Then there was slavery. In the age of Pericles, the Athenians owned something like 80,000–100,000 enslaved persons, at a time when the body of adult male citizens perhaps numbered – another guesstimate – about 30,000. In terms of the ratio of slave to free, as the saying goes, ‘do the math’. Obviously, these slaves did not have the vote. Moreover, by doing the hard work, they ‘enabled’ democracy in a more fundamental way, as ancient Greek theorisers came to recognise (and more on both enslaved people and the philosopher Aristotle in coming chapters): 40

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To Aristotle, slaves were the basis of the good life in the [Greek city state], indispensable for enabling Greek citizens to achieve their full humanity, above all because they provided their masters with the requisite leisure for practising politics and philosophy.

Despite such yawning – some would say unbridgeable – differences, visitors to modern Athens from today’s democracies, if they shut out thoughts of the stolen and the silent, can imagine themselves in an ancestral land. You can climb up the hill near the Acropolis that the Athenians used for their citizen assemblies and see the same mountains on the horizon as Pericles did when he delivered his famed oratory on this spot. You can visit a museum displaying artefacts once handled by Athenian citizens going about their democratic business. It is hard not to marvel at the ingenuity of the methods which the inventive Athenians used to ensure that their democracy did indeed deliver its version of equality for all eligible males. One showcase is full of potsherds scratched with proper names. These were ‘votes’ cast when Athenian citizens met to ‘ostracise’ a politician. This was a device with the potential to prevent the abuse of authority by any one politician. Whoever received the most votes had to go into exile for ten years. The visitor does not need to know Ancient Greek to see that many sherds or ostraca feature the same name beginning with the Greek letters ΘEM: Themistocles. Many of them were found in one spot – 190 to be precise, with the name scratched by the same few hands. It is as if this Themistocles was the target of an organised attack. ‘Plus ça change’, you might say with a wry smile, faced with this ancient Athenian version of today’s ‘negative campaigning’. Despite its all-too-obvious limitations, there is a lot to wonder at in the Athenian attainment of this sophisticated democratic interlude. This is especially so, given that for most of their long history (a millennium or so) the ancient Greeks were under the rule of oligarchies of 41

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local bigwigs, not to mention foreign kings and emperors. Such arrangements, not people power, were the political norm in the ancient Mediterranean – for Greek and non-Greek alike. Still, for all that the very word ‘democracy’ derives from the Ancient Greek, political systems displaying ‘democratic’ features have existed elsewhere in the world. For instance, some experts nowadays claim that a ‘traditional democratic order’ existed in Africa in the days before European colonialism on that continent (before around 1885 in other words): . . . there is extensive anthropological evidence of democratic governance in indigenous African states. They were democratic because they exhibited all the common characteristics of consent of the people and a balance between centralized and decentralized power, all intended to prevent the abuse of authority by any one person. Although the systems at times did manifest exclusion, for instance, elitism and male domination, the same can be said about most modern Western democratic political systems.

In 1993, curators mounted a major exhibition in Washington, DC, to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of democracy’s ‘birth’. They traced the ancestry of democracy back to Athens, and indeed to a precise year: 508/7 bc. This exhibition suggested that modern – and not least American – democracy descends in some direct way from that of Athens. In proposing this link, the display included a copy of The Rights of Man, a political pamphlet of 1792. Its English radical writer lodged for a while in a house that still stands in the pretty Sussex town of Lewes, a twenty-minute drive from where I live on England’s south coast. Thomas Paine’s writings in defence of republican ideals were widely read in their day. They defend the French Revolution and also vilify monarchy in language that is still capable of pulling up short a loyal subject of the royal House of Windsor, say. 42

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However, there is nothing in this long screed about the ancients as a model for the new republics of the writer’s time. The one brief mention of Athens, admittedly flattering, suggests why: Though the ancient governments present to us a miserable picture of the condition of man, there is one which above all others exempts itself from the general description. I mean the democracy of the Athenians. We see more to admire, and less to condemn, in that great, extraordinary people, than in anything which history affords.

Still, despite such reservations about the value of ancient examples, belief in this link persists. For instance, the National Geographic Society is a prestigious American organisation with publications that enjoy a global reach. In its online library of classroom resources, it has an article (not entirely accurate) headed ‘Greek Influence on US Democracy’. In fact, prior to the nineteenth century, European and American thinkers mainly knew about Greek, as opposed to specifically Athenian, democracy. This was thanks to ancient Greek writings which we would call ‘theoretical’: that is, they discuss different types of government in the abstract. One was Aristotle’s long treatise entitled Politics. This first became (somewhat) more widely available in medieval times, thanks to a translation in the 1200s from the Greek into Latin by that same William of Moerbeke (see chapter 1). This kind of political analysis was a notable feature of the ruminations of the ancient Greek philosophers. Political thinkers of the Renaissance and after scoured the ancient writings in which it was to be found for their wisdom. However, these ancient writings were penned by upper-class Greeks unsympathetic to democracy. They stressed negatives, such as the vulnerability of the sovereign people to the crowd-pleasing speeches of so-called demagogues. One of these upper-class Greeks could not disguise his disdain when he recalled one particular 43

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assembly meeting: ‘never had there been collected such a pack of factory-workers and manual labourers’. Such writings certainly helped to familiarise the world of the Renaissance with the political terminology of the ancient Greeks. ‘Demagogue’ is a case in point. At his trial in 1649, Charles I would be charged with aiming for ‘tyrannical’ power, and so on. But the writings did little to advance the case for popular sovereignty in an early modern world, which anyway was unsympathetic to the principle, since by and large kings and aristocrats still ruled the states of Europe. For the political elites of those times, the model of ancient Rome, an aristocratic republic and then an absolute monarchy, was more appetising. So it was to the French revolutionaries and the Founding Fathers of the United States. As late as 1786, a Scottish historian reminded his readers how ‘[t]he history of Greece exposes the dangerous turbulence of democracy’. Isolated instances occur before the nineteenth century of learned Europeans delving deeper into Athenian democracy. But the usual view is that the world had to await the researches of an accomplished British scholar born in 1794 for the first positive evaluation of Athenian democracy in a format that reached a large audience. This banker-turned-historian and member of parliament probably owed his love of history to his mother, who home-schooled him in his early years. According to her daughter-in-law, she also ‘grounded him in the rudiments of Latin, having a strong desire to see her son excel in learning’. George Grote’s mighty History of Greece, published in a protracted series of volumes (twelve in all) and editions, started to appear in 1846. Here he is offering a corrective view of the democratic assembly of Athenian citizens in action in 415 bc: . . . the habitual defects of the Athenian character were very different to what historians commonly impute to them . . . instead of a public assembly, wherein, as is commonly depicted, the criminative orators were omnipotent, and could bring to condemnation 44

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any unsuccessful general no matter how meritorious, – we see that even grave and well-founded accusations [against the Athenian general Nicias, then operating in Sicily] make no impression upon the people in opposition to pre-established personal esteem.

In his mind, the author saw the ancient Athenians as having an aptitude for democratic government resulting from inbuilt traits of character reproduced among Englishmen and Americans of his day. Two such, he claimed, were ‘freedom and self-imposed restraint’. Today the notion of national characteristics is out of fashion. In Grote’s time, such claims did nothing to discourage the illusion of a lineage for American and British democracy that reached back to the ancient Athenians. Grote now repositioned the Athenians as ancient paragons of people power. As the nineteenth century progressed, educational reforms in many western countries fostered a wider knowledge of the ancient Greeks. At the same time, electoral reforms made ancient Greek versions of democracy, especially that of Athens, more obviously relevant to a growing pool of male voters. The example of the ancient Greeks in excluding women from the political sphere did not help women’s suffrage to advance, however. In the UK, women did not gain the right to vote until 1918; in the USA, not until 1920. The First World War had helped to change majority attitudes to the entry of women into politics. This was also the time when popular admiration for the ancient Greeks perhaps reached its peak. The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden houses a collection of buses, trains and all sorts of paraphernalia to do with public transport in the capital – a collection fit for the nerdiest of enthusiasts, such as myself. In its depot in west London are stored items that have not made the public display. These include a remarkable poster commissioned in 1915 by London’s recently formed Underground Electric Company. It controlled not just underground trains, but also buses and trams, for the sides of which this rectangular bill was designed. 45

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Instead of a commercial image for soap (or whatever), there are austere lines of dark text on an eye-catching yellowy-orange background: ‘We have more at stake than men who have no such inheritance. If we sing the glories of our country, it was the warriors and their like who have set hand to array her . . . For you now it remains to rival what they have done and, knowing the secret of happiness to be freedom, and the secret of freedom a brave heart, not idly to stand aside from the enemy’s onset.’ – Pericles on the Athenians

I showed the image – on the museum’s website – to an illustrator friend. His immediate reaction was: ‘People actually read that?’ Clearly, they were meant to: this was propaganda intended to boost morale in the second year of an all-out war against the German empire. It targeted almost literally ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ – the old-fashioned expression used in English courts of the time to denote the reasonable ‘everyman’. The assumption that ‘Pericles on the Athenians’ would mean something to ordinary members of the British travelling public seems out of touch today. This poster marks the moment during a world war when England’s infatuation with Athenian democracy and its noble leader reached saturation point. This populist channelling of an idealised Athens on London’s buses had its counterpart in the USA at much the same time, in the rituals of its high schools and colleges. Just before the First World War, a high-minded educator devised a graduation oath that would spread to other institutions. It is still in occasional use today in different parts of the country. Graduating students swear their loyalty to their city – New York, for instance – or to their country. The model was the wording of an ancient Greek oath sworn by eighteen-year-old males in the Athenian democracy, as they entered a form of civic training. We really only hear of this training on the 46

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eve of the Macedonian suppression of the ancient city’s democracy (321 bc). It involved time in barracks in town – featuring training in arms, physical exercises and religious rites – followed by guard duty in the forts that the ancient Athenians built to defend their frontiers. Service in these places, especially lonely ones like Phyle, in the wooded mountains to the north of Athens, was perhaps no more welcome then than are the postings of young conscripts to remote borderlands in today’s Greece. Despite this paramilitary aspect to the civic training of the ancient Athenians, some educators in the USA fondly imagined an equivalence with the high school and university youth of their own country. They understood the Athenian training as helping to achieve the greatness of Athens, especially with its emphasis on bodily development, and more broadly as a support for Athenian democracy. The version of the oath adopted by the prestigious City College of New York – the earliest – is still in use on the college’s Manhattan campus. Its wording was tweaked in 1947, because by then the college was accepting women: We men and women graduating from the City College of New York do this day, after the manner of Athenian youths of old about to enter public life, take this oath of devotion to the City of New York . . . in all these ways we will strive to transmit this city not only not less but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.

In Britain, Pericles lives on. In 2019, British voters elected into office a prime minister who was known for his hero-worship of Pericles: Boris Johnson had a copy of the great man’s bust in his study. He claimed that reading the speeches of Pericles at the age of twelve or thirteen helped to shape his political vision of a government working for the majority, not the few. In other ways, the Athens of Pericles remains on hand in hard times to offer Britons not so much a morale boost, as in 1915, but at least food for thought. 47

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In 2019 and 2020, the country was reeling from the ‘double whammy’ of a painful exit from the European Union followed by the coronavirus pandemic. One way or another, there was no shortage of domestic critics of either the government’s policies or the competence of its leader. Not coincidentally, in those difficult months the BBC broadcast two radio shows which offered the listener improving audio-visits to the ancestral land of democracy. In one, for forty-five minutes a presenter and a small group of talking heads earnestly explored the career and historical significance of Pericles. In the other, the presenter, this time a comedian, asked over five fourteen-minute episodes ‘Could an ancient Athenian fix Britain?’ On the subject of ‘trouble-shooting’ – of how to keep politicians in check – I must admit to an inner guffaw when an eminent professor quietly observed of Athenian democracy: ‘There’s quite a high execution rate of politicians who got things wrong.’ Who listens to these programmes? The BBC states that ‘the average age of the Radio 4 listener is 56 years old and skews towards an older audience . . . The station also continues to have an upmarket bias.’ It is probably not unfair to say that, by and large, Pericles and Athenian democracy are tastes enjoyed these days in Britain by people who have had a better education, who hold down better-paid jobs and whom pollsters would rate as ‘middle class’, rather than ‘working class’. This is a narrower constituency than the ‘everyman’ of the Clapham omnibus, but not a negligible one. Returning to that omnibus, the poster offered the ordinary person in the street a loose extract from what has come down to us as a speech that general Pericles delivered to the Athenians at the onset of their great war with the Spartans. The speech was meant to inspire an Athenian audience to continue to make the sacrifices needed to defend their city’s ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. For the adult male citizens, these included the supreme sacrifice of death in battle. Among the peoples of the ancient Mediterranean, the Greeks seem to have invented both these political ideas of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. To many today, if they think about it at all, ‘freedom’ may well seem 48

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a given. Experts in the history of political thought see this idea as having a beginning, arising in a particular era and place, and for particular reasons. As far as we know, for Athenians at this time (431 bc) the idea of ‘freedom’ meant both the personal freedoms which their democracy conferred and protected, and also the larger freedom of their city as a whole from foreign domination. In the time of Pericles, Athenians understood that these various freedoms were hard won. Personal freedom could be lost: the mirror opposite of a free man was a slave. Athenians remembered a founding father – Solon – who had first released their ancestors from the desperate custom of offering their own persons as security (so-called debt-bondage) should they fall into debt. The democracy of more recent times ensured new freedoms: the freedom for all Athenian citizens to speak in political debates of the assembly, or the freedom of a fair trial by their peers under laws that treated all Athenian citizens as equals. No wonder that some ancient Greeks – Athenians especially – literally worshipped freedom. American archaeologists working in the civic centre of ancient Athens have uncovered what is left of a public shrine (it had been nibbled at by builders of an electric railway a century earlier). Here, Athenians revered the king of the Greek gods as the protector of ‘Freedom’. Just over the northern border of Athens were the rolling farmlands where the Greek allies fought off the last of the Persian invaders in 479 bc. Here the Athenians in the aftermath helped to set up a recurrent festival, in which grateful Greeks came together to honour – once more – ‘Zeus of Freedom’. Athenians in 431 bc were all too aware that over the water, to the east, the Persian empire remained a hostile presence. The linkage of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ by the ancient Athenians remains available for use in the public language of today’s leading western democracy. For instance, American politicians are in the habit of marking modern Greece’s Independence Day (25 March) with expressions of gratitude to the ancient Greeks for having invented democracy. The record of Congress on 29 March 1993 has 49

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a slew of members rising in turn to utter sentiments such as these by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi: ‘As the pioneers of “rule by the people” government, the ancient Greeks provided the foundation upon which our Founders based our declaration of freedom.’ Such views – whether or not historically accurate – extend across the political divide. To mark the same anniversary, the incumbent president holds an annual event at the White House and issues a proclamation with similar sentiments. Likewise, in the president’s name, the State Department issues a statement addressed to Greece which ‘gets printed out on heavy paper by the US Embassy [in Athens] and delivered to the [Greek] Foreign Ministry and released to the [Greek] Press’. In 2020, the statement – in the name of then President Trump – included this passage: Our great American experiment was inspired by the ideas about liberty, self-government, and the rule of law that traced their roots to ancient Greece . . . The great thinkers of ancient Greece stoked the American quest for freedom and a republic founded on the fundamental truth that people have rights that cannot be denied.

What is happening here is above all to do with American domestic politics: well into the twenty-first century, American politicians have used modern Greece’s celebration of Independence Day as a chance to sweeten the Greek-American vote back home. Still, where the life and usefulness of an idea are concerned, arguably what matters is that sentiments like these are still being aired in the public realm; that they still have currency and, it seems, meaning. Back in the 1700s, thinkers probing ancient Greek writings were as likely to admire Sparta as a model of the good state, as they were Athens. Already by the mid-1600s, the adjective ‘Spartan’ had entered the English language. Nowadays it is especially used to mean ‘austere, strictly disciplined’. The common adjective ‘laconic’, from another ancient word for ‘Spartan’, arrived in English even earlier. According 50

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to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, it means ‘[u]sing few words, concise, terse (the Spartans being known for their terse speech)’. A glance at the internet suggests how popular culture remembers the ancient Spartans today. Just in the UK, ‘Sparta’ is a popular name for gyms; manufacturers offer ‘Spartan’ sportswear. Sparta nowadays is indeed a ‘brand’, if only as an ancient name loosely linked to today’s obsession with physical fitness. A product of the eighteenth century’s more informed admiration has ended up hanging in an English country house. It is an elegant classical oil painting. Even so, it would probably not hold the average modern viewer’s attention beyond a first glance. In it, a woman hands a shield to a young man in armour. The French artist has set the scene against what passed at the time (1770) for an antique backdrop (ancient columns, ‘period’ costume, etc.). In the artist’s day, people familiar with the Spartans of ancient Greek writings would have recognised the story behind the image: ‘Another [Spartan woman], as she handed her son his shield, exhorted him, saying, “Either this or upon this.” ’ From an ancient Greek collection of supposed sayings of Spartan women, this ‘laconic’ mother uses just five words in the Ancient Greek. She means: return to Sparta alive and still carrying your shield (that is, having won the battle) or (the probable sense of ‘upon this’) come back on it as a corpse, having fallen in battle. Millennia before the modern film 300 (see chapter 12), ancient writings such as this collection of sayings helped to turn the historical Spartans and their military way of life into a legend. Chilly though this mother’s exhortation may seem to many modern ears, eighteenth-century admirers of Sparta, such as the rich French patrons whom the painter hoped to please, saw the Spartan mother’s attitude as praiseworthy. A Spartan citizen’s service to the state – including the ultimate service – and his loyalty to his family were one and the same. This extreme patriotism of the ancient Spartans – as portrayed in ancient writings – appealed to the French revolutionaries. In France’s nineteenth-century post-mortem on the causes of 51

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the Revolution, the Jacobins – the Terror even – would be traced back to (among other things) eighteenth-century French thinkers and their admiration of Sparta. In the early nineteenth century, a German professor, one Karl Otfried Müller, wrote a book – first published in 1820 – which added a new dimension to western admiration for Sparta. The author argued for the racial superiority of one, in particular, of the genealogical subsets into which the ancient Greek divided themselves – the ‘Dorians’. It was to this sub-division that the Spartans belonged, being ‘Dorian’ in their dialect of Ancient Greek and in some of their customs: . . . the Dorians preserved most rigidly, and represented most truly, the customs of the ancient Greeks . . . the whole race bears generally the stamp and character of the male sex; the desire of assistance and connexion, of novelty and of curiosity, the characteristics of the female sex, being directly opposed to the nature of the Dorians, which bears the mark of independence and subdued strength.

Some of the thinking here about race and gender is rather dated, to put it mildly. Later in the same century, ‘civilised’ Europe birthed pseudoscientific notions of race. ‘Racialist’ writers in northern Europe, prominent among them a Frenchman and the son of a British admiral, reimagined history in terms of naturally unequal human races. In their concocted hierarchy of races, the fair-skinned members (the writers included) of an ‘Aryan’ or ‘Nordic’ branch of the Caucasian ‘race’ naturally came out on top. By 1869, an Englishman theorising – if that’s the right word – the core ingredients of ‘English identity’ could write in this vein: Science has now made visible to everybody the great and pregnant elements of difference which lie in race, and in how a manner they make the genius and history of an Indo-European people vary 52

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from those of a Semitic people. Hellenism is of Indo-European growth, Hebraism is of Semitic growth; and we English, a nation of Indo-European stock, seem to belong naturally to the movement of Hellenism.

Amid continued infatuation with the ancient Greeks, the somewhat older idea that the best Greeks were Dorians, and the best Dorians the Spartans, eventually entered this mix. Ancient writings conveniently claimed that the original Dorians, ancestors of the Spartans, invaded Greece from the north. In the nineteenth century, the pioneer archaeologists digging up ancient Greece had found nothing to cast doubt on this claim (or to prove it). It eventually fed into a racialist ‘theory’ that the ‘Nordic’ Spartans of yesteryear and the ‘Nordic’ Germans of today were actually related. Hitler’s so-called Rassepapst (‘race pope’), a German professor called Hans Günther, was keen on this idea. He went so far as to claim that ‘Our German forefathers were the teachers of the Greeks.’ The Nazis, indeed, took the idea to the extreme. An idealised (not in a good way) Sparta was on the curriculum of the Adolf Hitler Schools. These groomed the next generation of leaders of the ‘Thousand-Year Reich’ with a strong emphasis on group-think, obedience and physical endurance. A pupil at one of these schools wrote for the parents’ newsletter of 1938–39 an account of an imaginary Spartan boy: Alexander’s pipe shrills loudly through the army-camp of Sparta. Swiftly all the Pimpfe [roughly meaning Spartan Hitler Youth Boys] emerge . . . They are all strong and handsome. They are mostly aged about ten. Alexander, their leader, is fourteen . . . Some have bloody red welts on their bodies. Yesterday they learnt a lovely game: each held a stick in his hand, and then battled two others for a cheese. They thrashed each other bloody and, without batting an eyelid, had to bear the blows . . . After lunch . . . they steel themselves in sporting contests . . . Afterwards, they have 53

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some time to themselves. [Soon] . . . two start to fight. Alexander punches one of them directly and knocks a couple of his teeth out. The little one spits them out, without turning a hair.

The emphasis on bloodshed and violence is striking. So is the detail, which originates in authentic Greek writings of the 300s bc describing the training of Spartan boys (the cheese-snatching). Experts argue whether the image of ancient Sparta as a mighty warrior state is more or less the historical truth, or a distortion of what ancient Sparta was really like in the 400s and 300s bc. As a historian, I could happily debate this question until the cows come home, but perhaps not here. Suffice to say that outsiders in ancient times overwhelmingly chose to see the Spartans in this way. For the Romans, ‘the particular glory’ of the Spartans were arma, Latin for ‘weapons of war’, meaning military prowess. It would be nice to end this segment on the much-abused ancient Sparta of recent history by stating that this ‘ “dark” and troubled aspect’ has been firmly laid to rest. But it has not. In 2017, a motley group marched publicly in Berkeley, California. Some of them wore ancient-style helmets. This was not a historical battle re-enactment of the kind undertaken in various countries today and often billed as a great family day out. Rather, these were far-right protesters and the rally was violent. One helmeted participant paraded a black banner featuring a Greek-style helmet and Greek letters meant to spell out (although in fact misspelt) ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ (molōn labe): roughly ‘Come and take’ in Ancient Greek. An ancient Greek writer claimed that this was how King Leonidas, the leader of the three hundred Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae (480 bc), responded to a missive from his Persian foe ordering the Greeks to hand over their arms. In the USA, the gun lobby likes this saying, too, since it sees itself as resisting the state’s alleged urge to rob gun-holders of their constitutional right to bear arms. In 2015, the manufacturer American Legacy Firearms offered for sale a revolver bearing the logo of the 54

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National Rifle Association and ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ engraved on the hilt. In the 2016 US presidential campaign, YouTube videos depicted Mr Trump, the Republican candidate, as a latter-day Leonidas. One of these ‘has been viewed over five million times, with over twelve times more “likes” than “dislikes” ’. Far-right movements in Australia and Greece also invoke ancient Sparta’s military reputation. Some professional historians today wring their hands at what they see as this misguided use of the ancient Spartans by the far right, based on a ‘negative image’ of Spartan militarism built up in modern times. Returning to Thermopylae: despite their defeat that day, Spartan soldiers and their superior training – which included night-fighting – helped to deliver an eventual Greek victory over the Persians, with possibly world-historical consequences (see chapter 3). For the ancients, the glory of this earlier Greek victory over Persia was rivalled – though not eclipsed – by Greek battles fought against another, later, Persian king. In 1961, the Department of Military Art and Engineering at West Point, the premier US military academy, published a spiral-bound atlas with the title ‘Summaries of Selected Military Campaigns’. It currently sells for twenty dollars on Amazon. Though the instructors who compiled it concentrated on more recent battles, they did devote the first few pages to six ‘Great Captains before Napoleon’. Among them was Alexander of Macedon and three of his battles, complete with battlefield maps. The fascination that Alexander holds for military historians stems not only from his military success as the conqueror of the Persian empire, from what is now western Turkey to Afghanistan, in just seven years (334–327 bc). It also reflects the survival of copious ancient writings, mainly in Greek, but also in Latin, which preserve detailed accounts of his campaigning. These offer the (slender) hope that even the course of the individual battles can be reconstructed. As a university teacher, for years I gave classes on Alexander. Despite my best efforts to make students think critically about the source material, I often despaired at the insistent admiration for Alexander that I encountered in essay after undergraduate essay. But 55

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the students were not entirely to blame (nor even was their teacher). The ancient writings tend to present Alexander as a conquering hero – certainly not without flaws, but in the end a figure to admire. It is this fog of ancient admiration that is so hard to penetrate. The ancients admired Alexander not just as an individual, but also because their male-dominated societies had soldiering in the blood. Wars of conquest and subjugation were the norm in antiquity, with little serious questioning of their morality. The ancient writings on Alexander offer no real critique of warring itself. Still, in more recent times Alexander has been looked up to not just as a successful general, with lessons to teach today’s cadets: as modern protesters against the historical record of European ‘colonialism’ might say, he offered a model of a ‘committed imperialist’. Alexander annexed vast tracts of conquered land. He sent in governors and taxed the inhabitants. He created colonies of Greek settlers. One ancient writer claims that he sought to ‘civilise’ the peoples of Asia by introducing them to Greek customs. In the age of European empires, this made Alexander an appealing figure – not least for the British, whose army, like Alexander’s, fought in (and over) India: There is no disputing Alexander’s presence in British India throughout the 19th century. Carried in trunks and saddlebags, shelved in personal libraries and those of Residencies, the ancient sources relating his history were readily available to Britons throughout the subcontinent.

It was not just as an earlier ‘European’ conqueror of the Indians that Alexander attracted admirers. I have wondered what Alexander might have meant to a remote forebear of mine in trade, one William Spawforth. This uncle of a grandfather mysteriously – to me at least – made a small fortune as an employee of the ‘Honourable’ East India Company. This was a powerful London-based corporation that had a monopoly over British trade with the Far East. After plying the 56

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Indian and China seas as an officer on Company vessels in the 1820s, William retired before he was thirty. Marrying the daughter of a colonel in the Company’s Bengal-based private security force, he took up a genteel life in scenic Cornwall. In William’s day, there was already a long tradition of writers, British and French especially, who saw Alexander as the first to open up India to European commerce. They developed this idea mainly from ancient Greek writings describing in detail a westwards voyage of exploration, made on Alexander’s orders by one of his admirals, from the Pakistani coast to the head of the Persian Gulf. A learned Londoner who wrote a commentary (1797) on the ancient account of this voyage claimed it as ‘the first event of general importance to mankind in the history of navigation’. In his view, it conferred on Alexander ‘an immortal glory’. Indeed, Alexander’s voyage was the ultimate reason for the ‘happy success’ of Britain’s present-day ‘establishments’ in India – in other words the powerful East India Company, at that time an ‘empire within an empire’. These same ancient writings also allowed British observers to judge – unfavourably – the progress of civilisation among Indian peoples from the era of Alexander up to the present: From the scattered hints, contained in the writings of the Greeks, the conclusion has been drawn, that the Hindus, at the time of Alexander’s invasion, were in a state of manners, society, and knowledge, exactly the same with that in which they were discovered by the nations of modern Europe; nor is there any reason for differing widely from this opinion.

The ancient Greeks credited Alexander with the intention of bringing Greek civilisation to a ‘benighted Orient’. One strand in British thinking about the Raj seized on this – historically dubious – tradition. It allowed the occupying power to think rather better of itself. Likewise, British rule in India was not just seen as naked imperialism and exploitation: the Raj was heir to the glorious aspirations 57

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of Alexander to civilise Asia. On this view, the Raj brought the added benefits of modern science and technology, like the first passenger railway from Bombay, which the East India Company helped to build in 1847. Today, Alexander still has his political uses. Ironically, given the historical figure’s abandonment of his ancestral kingdom for Asian pastures new, it is in the southern Balkans that rival claims to his legacy are nowadays fought out – with statues as weapons. Incongruously close to a museum in memory of Mother Teresa, a monument supporting a bronze statue of Alexander of Macedon mounted on a prancing horse dominates the central square of Skopje, capital of the Republic of North Macedonia. The statue was erected in 2011, at the height of the tensions with neighbouring Greece over ownership of the Macedonian legacy, with its implications for territorial claims. Not to be outdone, in 2019 the mayor of Athens unveiled a bronze statue of a teenaged Alexander on his horse Bucephalas at a prominent intersection in central Athens. Within a fortnight, protesters had got to work here, daubing graffiti on the base ‘calling Alexander a murderer and making fun of the people who call him a Greek hero’. Meanwhile, relations between the neighbours having improved, the authorities in Skopje now added a conciliatory plaque. This concedes that Alexander belonged to ‘ancient Hellenic [my italics] history and civilisation’. In an action of strange symmetry, unknown protesters promptly smashed the plaque. A foreigner would perhaps do well not to comment on the passionate and complex feelings that Alexander arouses in peoples of the southern Balkans. I merely recall a public lecture I gave in the British Museum (2012) on Alexander. Before the talk, the Greek Embassy in London got in touch with the museum to warn of possible trouble (from Greek nationalists). There wasn’t any, fortunately. My talk (I would have thought) was fairly anodyne in content. It certainly did not touch on Alexander’s sexual orientation, a subject of concern for Greek nationalists. Nonetheless, when the lights went up, the first, loaded question from a gentleman right at the back was: 58

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‘Do you think Alexander was gay?’ I don’t remember when I’d last worded a reply so carefully. There was no equivalent in Ancient Greek to the modern word ‘gay’, with all its connotations. That apart, the ancient Greeks had a lot to say about sexuality (chapter 4). As they also did about what we call race (biological traits, such as skin colour) and what we distinguish as ethnicity (defined more as cultural expression and heritage). The next chapter goes on to explore this in more detail.

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ncient Greeks were fascinated by male genitalia. The artisan who painted a figured scene on a vase made in Athens around 470 bc took pains to show three of the human figures with their robes hitched up so as to expose circumcised penises. These details helped the ancient Greek viewer to identify the image as a story involving Egyptians: among these neighbours of the Greeks, circumcision was an established practice. On the other hand, an uncircumcised penis was a trademark of the ancient Greek male (see chapter 10). The ancient Greeks certainly did not lack curiosity about the other peoples with which they came into contact. Their writings, as well as their art, commented on bodily features that differed from Greek norms. They could do so in racialised language, which many today would consider offensive – as in this description of the Indoi or ‘Indians’ whom Alexander of Macedon and his men encountered in what is now Pakistan: The appearance of the inhabitants is . . . not very different in India and Ethiopia: the southern Indians are rather more like Ethiopians as they are black to look on, and their hair is black; 60

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only they are not flat-nosed or woolly-haired like Ethiopians. The northern Indians are most like the Egyptians physically.

It was not just about bodies that the Greeks were curious. They also wanted to know about the customs of other peoples, such as the same writer’s interest in the different castes among the Indians: All the Indians are divided into generally seven castes . . . To marry out of any caste is unlawful, as, for instance, into the farmer caste from the artisan caste, or the other way.

Later on in this chapter, we touch on just how judgemental the Greeks were in their opinions about what today would be called ‘ethnic distinctions’ – differences in customs, language and so on. But going back to the potters of Athens, they also produced – in some numbers – pitchers for pouring liquids that were moulded in the shape of a human head with a handle attached. The museum in north-east England where I used to be curator has a fine example in its collection. This head is in the instantly recognisable form of a black African man; the skin colour is rendered by means of a clay wash, which turns a lustrous black in the firing process. A modern response to this object is bound to be conditioned by contemporary sensibilities. Many people may think that it obviously does, in a literal sense, objectify people of African heritage. I am put in mind of a pointed reply by the black British supermodel Naomi Campbell, when asked about the different types of job she’d been offered in her modelling career: ‘I’m not a gimmick.’ Back in the far-off 1980s, when my colleagues and I reorganised the display in our museum, we felt no need to offer the viewer more information about this pitcher, beyond a bare description and date (around 490 bc). By contrast, the current website of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which has a similar vase, speculates about the nature of the relations between ancient Athenians and black Africans: 61

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By the time that this vase was made, some Africans are likely to have been living in Athens, either as metics (resident aliens, with some of the privileges and duties of citizenship), or as the property of citizens. Most Athenian households would have had at least one slave, and a small number of Athenian vases show Black Africans in subservient roles. These enslaved individuals were perhaps valued as expensive commodities, and this pitcher incorporates a sought-after server into the form of a serving vessel.

This scholar’s conjectural scenario looks forward to the so-called ‘silver service slavery’ of more recent times. Black ‘servants’ – mainly boys and young men – served in affluent homes in eighteenth-century Europe. Images of black servants in formats that were relatively cheap to produce (such as transfers on ceramics) then percolated down to aspiring households unable to afford such ‘servants’ in real life. The last chapter opened with a rare glimpse of an ancient slave trader. His ‘Thracians’ would have ended up far from home as so-called ‘chattel slaves’. They were as much the property of their owners as their other goods. They had hardly any legal rights. In Athens, they were protected from physical assault, but this was only because property should not be damaged. Unsurprisingly, there is an occasional glimpse of enslaved people clinging to their stolen identities. One of my first publications made a small correction to a strangely poignant inscription in Ancient Greek. This text was originally on show in a public place in a Greek city. It lists civic officials. The letter cutter also included on the list an enslaved person who was the property of the city, not of a private individual. His name was Philodespotos. This means ‘master-lover’ in Ancient Greek, so his Greek captors must have given him a new name. Next the letter cutter gave his ethnicity: Philodespotos was a ‘Syrian’. There followed a further string of Greek letters which had baffled earlier commentators: ‘ΠOTΘHNATAΣ’. Read ‘ΠOT(E) ΘHNATAΣ’ and this enslaved person becomes ‘Philodespotos, a Syrian man, formerly of Thena’. This was the name of an ancient village in what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank. 62

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Presumably Philodespotos himself provided the details of his preslave life for inscription on stone in a public place. Now the property of a Greek city 2,000 miles away, he insisted on his free origins in a remote Syrian village – with what feelings we can only guess at. The ancient Greeks had different types of enslaved person and different words to describe them. Today, one use for ancient Greek slavery is to enrich the English language’s figures of speech. In an elegantly written crime novel, the late P.D. James deploys one such Ancient Greek term as a metaphor. She is describing an interaction between the policeman Adam Dalgliesh, his colleague Kate Miskin and the rich obstetrician Stephen Lampart, a suspect: Dalgliesh turned to Kate: ‘Is there anything you wanted to ask, Inspector?’ Lampart wasn’t quite quick enough to restrain his momentary frown of surprise and discomfiture that a woman he had taken to be no more than Dalgliesh’s helot, whose role was to take unobtrusive notes and sit as a meek and silent witness, was apparently licensed to question him.

Some might think that Kate was not that similar to a so-called helot. I have written elsewhere about these agricultural serfs of the ancient Spartans: ‘Like donkeys worn out with huge burdens, compelled by a terrible necessity, they bring to their masters a half of all the fruits of the earth.’ They were an older population whom the Spartans subjugated when they used superior force to carve out their state in southern Greece. Because fellow Greeks reserved a closer scrutiny for the peculiar Spartans and their customs, we know a few things about Spartan (mal)treatment of the helots. Greeks were less interested in the unfree populations who provided dependent labour elsewhere in the Greek world. Serfdom was not the norm in the Greek city state, but it certainly existed, and not just in Sparta. In the 300s bc, Greeks were arguing among themselves about the rights and wrongs of slavery. The big name here is the Greek 63

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philosopher Aristotle. Nowadays we are used to representations of the past in the media, such as historical films that seek to entertain us by making people of former times think, talk and act just like us. It is as well to be reminded that humans in history sometimes really did seem to have had different mental wiring. What Aristotle wrote about slavery can seem bizarre today – bizarre enough even to make people feel queasy. Still, in some quarters his views made him a hero in the early 1800s. One William J. Grayson (died 1863) was an American plantation owner from South Carolina with a classical education. He wrote poetry extolling the benefits to black slaves of having white masters. He held up the perceived wisdom in these matters of Aristotle, claiming that the Greek philosopher, in words ‘as clear and emphatic as language can furnish, lays down the maxim, that a complete household or community is one composed of freemen and slaves’. In the American South before the Civil War, owners of plantations relied on a workforce of enslaved labourers of African heritage to pick lucrative crops, especially cotton. At that time, a growing chorus of voices in favour of abolition – both in the United States and in Europe – put the slavers on the back foot. What they needed was an intellectually respectable set of arguments in defence of the indefensible. At a time of near-universal admiration for the ancient Greeks in the western world, the pro-slavery activists turned to the writings of Greek philosophers (more on these in chapter 6). They were seen as particularly potent channels of ancient wisdom, because they laid out first principles dispassionately and then reasoned from them. Therefore their thoughts seemed ‘scientific’, based on observation and logic, rather than (mere) prejudice. On slavery, above all the go-to philosopher was Aristotle (died 322 bc) and his claims for the indisputable facts of ‘nature’: Southern academics, politicians, and polemicists who read Aristotle’s work either in Greek or translation . . . claimed him as a notable 64

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progenitor of the slavery cause. Some took evident pleasure in recalling that this venerable Greek philosopher was a ‘warm’, ‘strenuous’, and ‘zealous’ advocate of slavery. Some pronounced his writings ‘man’s best guide’, second only to the Bible.

What exactly did Aristotle say on the subject that made him so useful? Like the thought and writings of many a towering intellectual, his ideas are not always easy to fathom. Still, let’s press on. In his theoretical writings, he considers how a free Greek male can best live a life that is ‘beautiful’ or ‘fine’ (the Ancient Greek term here is one of his difficult buzz-words). Aristotle then defends slavery on the grounds that some humans are slaves by ‘nature’. This is because the slave ‘does not at all possess the deliberative capacity’. (Incidentally, women do have it, but ‘without authority’ – see below.) Aristotle seems to be saying that this impairment of the mental ability to consider things rationally means that slaves cannot aspire to live the best kind of human life: their minds are not fully equipped to identify correct ways of behaving which lead to this end. It would be easy to conclude that Aristotle is saying (or even thinking) that slaves are less intelligent, less human even, than free Greek males. What he limits himself to arguing is that there is something about a ‘servile’ mindset that makes it innately less well-prepared for the all-important business – to a Greek ‘wisdom-lover’ like Aristotle – of cogitating on the wisest way to live a human life. Was this the attitude of Greeks in general to their slaves? It’s hard to generalise about a whole people in history. Aristotle says that he is making his own arguments clear precisely because: others . . . maintain that for one man to be another man’s master is contrary to nature, because it is only society’s custom that makes the one a slave and the other a freeman and there is no difference between them by nature, and that therefore it is unjust, for it is based on force. 65

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So, millennia before the abolitionist movement, among some Greek thinkers of the later 300s bc there was something of a debate about the justness of enslaving fellow humans. One of the ways in which the ancient Greeks were so very different from us is that this debate went nowhere. Certainly none of their lawmakers ever concluded – any more than the Romans did – that ‘what was contrary to nature was wrong and ought to be abolished’. ‘Leave the great man alone’ or ‘Enough of this dead pale male’: if the reader is having such thoughts, I apologise – in advance of ploughing on with Aristotle for a bit longer. It turns out that his views on ‘natural’ slaves still have their uses. An article posted on the Washington Post website in 2018 suggests why. Headlined ‘Aristotle, father of scientific racism’, the author discusses (and deplores) a current revival in the USA of so-called ‘race science’ – of ‘ideas on the heritability of intelligence . . . linked to race and . . . gleefully adopted by overt and covert white supremacists’. Hailing Aristotle as the ‘granddaddy of all racial theorists’, the article sets out its case for the much older ideas of Aristotle ‘connecting’ to ‘today’s “racial science” ’. For Aristotle, the inherently servile nature was not something you could detect from someone’s outward appearance, let alone skin colour. However, it was potentially congenital, something you were born with, in that it depended on where you lived and what the weather was like there: The nations inhabiting the cold places and those of Europe are full of spirit but somewhat deficient in intelligence and skill, so that they continue comparatively free, but lacking in political organization and capacity to rule their neighbours. The peoples of Asia on the other hand are intelligent and skilful in temperament, but lack spirit, so that they are in continuous subjection and slavery. But the Greek race participates in both characters, just as it occupies the middle position geographically, for it is both 66

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spirited and intelligent; hence it continues to be free and to have very good political institutions.

In a rather sideways fashion, Aristotle’s writings identify the outgroups best suited to be the slaves of Greek masters: they were non-Greek and lived to the north (like the Thracians) and to the east (the peoples of Asia). In his writings, Aristotle uses another, related, Greek idea – a powerful one that is still in use today, as will be seen – to characterise these same out-groups. Here he is classifying a type of one-man rule found in his day both in Europe and in Asia: [T]here is another sort of monarchy, examples of which are kingships existing among some of the barbarians [barbaroi]. The power possessed by all of these resembles that of tyrannies, but they govern according to law and are hereditary; for because the barbarians are more servile in their nature than the Greeks, and the Asiatics than the Europeans, they endure despotic rule without any resentment.

What Aristotle is saying in this quotation is that ‘barbarian’ – that is, non-Greek – men can be found among Greece’s neighbours in Europe and in Asia. They are suited to be ruled by an autocrat, such as the ‘great king’ of Persia – Darius and his ilk – because their natures are naturally servile. This, in turn, condemns them to living lives that cannot aspire to the free state of mind indispensable for Greek-style cogitation on wisdom and politicking. So, fairly certain inference No. 1: to Greek eyes, non-Greeks are barbarians and barbarians are an inferior human type. In Aristotle’s day, there was only one European kingship that counted in Greek eyes: the increasingly all-powerful monarchy of the Macedonians in what is now northern Greece. Aristotle’s father had been doctor at the court of the Macedonian royals, and his 67

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own career had included a spell among them: he was hired by the Macedonian ruler to tutor his son, the future king Alexander. West of Thessaloniki you can still visit the site of the royal schoolhouse, planted amid woodland and gurgling waterways. This was the kind of natural setting, with rustic walks, that the ancient Greeks thought was best suited to instructing the youth. Some southern Greeks, especially Athenians, liked to slag off the Macedonians as non-Greek ‘barbarians’ – albeit increasingly behind closed doors, as Macedon’s shadow lengthened. So, possible inference No. 2: was this an older Aristotle, having returned to Athens after his stay up north, taking a discreet pop at the Macedonian monarchy (and his old employer) by stigmatising Macedon as a ‘barbarian’ autocracy (though too nervous to call it out by name)? Going back to the Washington Post article, are the ancient Greeks so useful for today’s racists because they were, in sum, themselves ‘racist’ in the modern sense? To say that the modern idea of racism did not exist in ancient times does not, of course, let the Greeks off the hook. These days, experts are coming round to the idea that the ancient Greeks did indeed have ‘racist’ form. A 563-page examination by an eminent professor of Greek (and Roman) attitudes to other peoples cautiously proposes that: ‘The term proto-racism . . . may be used when Greek . . . sources attribute to groups of people common characteristics considered to be unalterable because they are determined by external factors or heredity.’ Ivory-tower attitudes like Aristotle’s, it might be argued, do not prove that in practice ancient Greeks regularly victimised groups or members of groups that they considered to be their inferiors on ‘protoracist’ grounds, such as not being Greek, or being ‘barbarians’, or living too far north or east, or suffering the rule of an autocrat. Plumping for the short answer, I end up where the last chapter began: with that file of chained men, their women and children walking alongside, being led to a Greek slave-mart: these were rejects from a northern world of non-Greek ‘barbarians’ ruled by kings – the Thracians. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. 68

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Aristotle’s thinking as such about the ‘naturalness’ of slavery is not encountered in what we know of earlier Greek attitudes to nonGreek people. It might have been a dubious first in the ancient world of ideas. What the above quotations show is that Aristotle’s thinking incorporated, riffed on and attempted to make ‘scientifically’ plausible two Greek ideas that we do find from earlier in Greek history. To try to pin these down, I start with another of those Greek pots so potentially revealing of the ancient mindset (with a trigger warning for sexual violence in what follows). This is another pitcher made by Athenian potters around 460 bc. Again, male genitalia come into play. One side shows a bearded male, cloaked but otherwise naked, with his right hand holding his erection and his left outstretched in an ‘arresting gesture’. He strides towards a second bearded male on the other side, who is dressed as a trousered archer in what the Greek viewer would instantly have recognised as non-Greek, Asiatic costume. He stands stock still in an odd pose, bent at the hips, so that his backside is apparently being offered to the figure behind. His face is turned to the viewer, as are the palms of his raised hands, as if in alarm. Between the two men runs an ancient inscription in faded paint, the Greek word for ‘bent over’ partly restored by a modern scholar: ‘I am Eurymedon. I stand bent over.’ Experts rely heavily on parallels to interpret mysterious images in art. This image is unique, and its uniqueness allows room for dissenters from the majority view. It takes its cue from the great victory in the 460s bc of a Greek war fleet over a Persian one at the mouth of a river which the Greeks called the Eurymedon, in what is now south-west Turkey. The majority view sees this depiction of a naked Greek male holding his erect penis as he makes a beeline for a fearful, bent-over Persian male as, in effect, sending out the message: ‘We can bugger the Persians because they are softies and begging for it.’ On this view, for the Greeks, their ‘[v]ictory over the Persians prompted an ugly, jingoistic delight in their defeat’. Of the way the potter chose to imagine this sentiment, another expert points out 69

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that ‘anthropological data indicate that human societies at many times and in many regions have subjected strangers, newcomers and trespassers to homosexual anal violation as a way of reminding them of their subordinate status’. There will be more to say in the next chapter about Greek male attitudes to males who are sexually penetrated (willing ones, especially). For Greek viewers of the vase, its image could also have reminded them of two related stereotypes taking shape at this time in Greek thinking. In the aftermath of their great victories over the might of the Persian empire, Greek writings started to give their hitherto fairly neutral word barbaros for non-Greeks a more pejorative meaning, as if by definition non-Greeks were now inferior to Greeks. These writings also started to present the people of Asia, where the Persian empire was centred, as temperamentally suited to slavery, whereas Greeks were the opposite. A few years before the Eurymedon victory, the Athenian citizenry, seated in their theatre, were entertained to a triumphant play. The playwright Aeschylus, a local man, dramatised the moment when the Persian royal palace in what is now Iran received, like a bolt from the blue, the news of the humiliating defeat (480 bc) of the Persian fleet by the Greeks in the narrows of Salamis, an island just outside Piraeus. Even before the messenger arrived, the Persian queen mother had had forebodings: I dreamed that two women in beautiful clothes, one in Persian garb, the other in Dorian attire, appeared before my eyes . . . As for the lands in which they dwelt, to one had been assigned by lot the land of Greece, to the other the barbarian land. The two, as I imagined it, seemed to provoke each other to a mutual feud, and my son, when he had become aware of this, attempted to restrain and placate them. He yoked them both to his chariot and placed the collar-straps upon their necks. The one bore herself proudly in these trappings and kept her mouth obedient to the rein. The 70

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other struggled and with her hands tore apart the harness of the chariot; then, free of the curb, she dragged it violently along with her and snapped the yoke in two. My son was hurled to the ground.

The playwright’s meaning seems to be that the people of ‘Greece’ and barbary, symbolised by the two women, are opposites in spirit. The one is like an untamed horse; the other like a horse that has been broken. Here is the germ of the Greek prejudice that Aristotle would later channel in his ideas about ‘natural’ slaves. Asian barbarians are ripe for servitude, whereas Greeks will resist with violence any attempt to curb their freedom. Other Greek writings from a few decades after this play’s premiere explicitly imagined the Asiatic subjects of the ‘despotic’ Persian king as his slaves, as in these bold words supposedly spoken in the late 480s bc by a Spartan emissary to a high Persian official: You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes bitter or sweet. If ever you did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too.

A Greek ‘us’ versus a barbarian ‘them’: ‘Greece’ versus ‘Asia’: ‘freedom’ versus ‘slavery’: victory in war played a vital part in developing in Greeks a sense of who they were and what they had in common. By vilifying the enemy as ‘barbarian’ and ‘slavish’, Greeks gave themselves worth and vaunted their virtue. For some experts today, these old battles still matter for the history of ideas: ‘The failure of the Persian invasions of Greece at the beginning of the fifth century bc was indeed a defining moment in the history of the world.’ If so, the Romans must be given their due for their role in keeping warm such ideas from the Greek heyday. The profits from a modern thirst for lager helped to create the wonderful collection of antiquities housed today in Copenhagen’s Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. When I visited in 2012, I was keen to seek out a Roman sculpture of 71

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unusually spectacular aspect. This is a colossal marble male in a posture known today as ‘taking the knee’. Even so, he is nearly five feet high. His costume is carved in an exotic white marble, with dark blue and purple veining that resembles the colours of a peacock – hence its art-historical name, pavonazzetto, from the Italian for ‘peacock’. The outfit features leggings, the tell-tale sign (see above) of a ‘barbarian’ in Greek and Roman image-making. The Roman use of coloured marble had a coded aspect. Quarried in modern Turkey, the marble of this figure sent the ancient viewer the message ‘I’m an (eastern) barbarian’. The monument was a Roman take – brasher, flashier – on an offering which the Greeks set up in thanks to the gods for their victory over an earlier empire of eastern ‘barbarians’ (the Persians). This took the form of a three-legged cauldron, because the Greeks installed their thank-offering in a sanctuary where cauldrons had a special religious meaning, at Delphi. Here Apollo’s prophetess sat in a trance on a three-legged cauldron to utter the god’s oracles. To cut a modern detective story short, there are historians, myself included, who think that this heavily restored piece in Copenhagen, along with two similar figures now in the archaeological museum of Naples, once belonged together to form a kneeling group of three ‘barbarian’ men obediently supporting the weight of a mighty threelegged cauldron. The theory is that the Roman emperor Augustus erected this eyecatching monument in Rome to celebrate what he claimed was his humbling in 21 bc of the powerful empire then ruling the heartlands of the old Persian empire in today’s Iraq and Iran – the Parthian empire. To use another modern word for something that the Romans were rather good at, this was imperial ‘propaganda’, taking over and updating the old Greek idea of the ‘barbarian’ enemy in Asia. Increasingly, the Romans saw all the peoples outside their empire as non-Roman ‘barbarians’. Thus they preserved a Greek way of thinking about ‘us’ and ‘them’ into the Christian era. With the 72

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rediscovery of ancient thought during the Renaissance, Europeans dusted down old ideas about what it meant to be ‘barbarian’ and ‘Oriental’ for new uses. The Romans took over the word, as well as the idea of the ‘barbarian’. It was through Latin, not Ancient Greek, that barbarus entered the English language in the Middle Ages. Today, the word is firmly established in popular usage, where we perhaps should not expect a neat fit with its ancient meanings. For the uninitiated (like myself ), Dungeons and Dragons is a hugely popular role-playing wargame, which you normally sit at a table to play. Each player chooses from a stock of characters; dice are used to determine outcomes; and your character’s death means you’re out of the game. According to a local newspaper, reporting from the Seattle-based makers, in 2017 the game had ‘12 to 15 million [players] in North America alone’. This is how the manufacturer describes the ‘Barbarian’ character: For some, their rage springs from a communion with fierce animal spirits. Others draw from a roiling reservoir of anger at a world full of pain. For every barbarian, rage is a power that fuels not just a battle frenzy but also uncanny reflexes, resilience, and feats of strength.

Still, experts would have to admit, I think, that this description does indeed channel one key idea among the ancient Greeks about nonGreek ‘barbarians’: that (unlike the ideal Greek male) they could not keep their passions in check, including anger. The anglicised word and its relatives (‘barbaric’) have a loftier meaning, also derived in the end from the ancients, to mean people seen as culturally inferior (Thracians, Asiatics . . .). Just as the ancient Greeks and Romans divided the world up as between themselves and everyone else, so ever since the eighteenth century some western thinkers have divided the world into the ‘civilised’ (itself an eighteenthcentury European notion) and the ‘barbarian’. 73

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The casual way in which this concept could seep into educated thinking is seen in the history of international law. This way of regulating the behaviour of states towards each other began to assume its modern form in the 1800s. The writings of an Italian authority on international law who died in 1913 are fairly typical of his time in terms of their views about which countries were suited for membership of the international ‘community’ of ‘lawabiding nations’. This expert saw clear limits to where civilisation could be found globally. Beyond Europe, Asia included ‘somewhat civilized’ societies such as Turkey, but both Asia and Africa featured unstable political societies of ‘less civilized peoples, perhaps barbarians’. Much more recently, a ‘French intellectual’, ‘possessed of that crumpled, open-collar, Gallic appeal’, according to one English newspaper, reflected on the same divide in the magazine of a conservative, New York-based think tank. His language is rather different in tone. It seems to channel early twenty-first-century self-doubt among western countries about their traditional claim to the high ground of ‘civilisation’: Today, being civilized means knowing that we are potentially barbarian . . . It also happens that the bourgeois, in turn, can transform himself into a barbarian under the pretext of defending civilization, as when torture is sanctioned in the fight against terrorism.

As we have seen, the ancient Greeks in the 400s and 300s bc took to denigrating ‘Asia’. There are people today who see here a kind of family tree in the history of ideas. The genealogy starts with this ancient Greek thinking and ends with a supposed clash between today’s ‘western civilisation’ and its values and those of an ‘Islamic world’ centred on the peoples of the Near and Middle East. This way of thinking can also lead back to Greece’s victories over Persia twenty-five centuries ago. These can be seen as somehow responsible 74

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for the fact that western culture today is ‘European or EuroAmerican’, and not Middle Eastern. Some readers might be thinking that this chapter so far has been a litany of accusation, with the ancient Greeks in the dock on multiple charges. Although this will not be the tone of the book as a whole, this chapter’s final job is to flag up one more serious charge – this time brought not against the ancient Greeks, but against some of the scholars who have studied them. In the British Museum, the display of Greek artefacts includes a case in which a damaged Greek statue and an Egyptian statue, both of standing young males, are juxtaposed. Taking groups round, I always stop here to discuss nudity in Greek art (the Egyptian figure is kilted, the Greek naked) and modern views about the debt of the earliest Greek sculpture to Egypt’s much older artistic traditions. The two figures stand in the same frontal pose, with one leg advanced and arms down by their sides. This story in ancient Greek writings shows that the ancient Greeks themselves acknowledged a craft debt: . . . of the ancient sculptors the most renowned sojourned among them [the Egyptians], namely, Telecles and Theodorus . . . who executed for the people of Samos the wooden statue of the Pythian Apollo. For one half of the statue, as the account is given, was worked by Telecles in Samos, and the other half was finished by his brother Theodorus at Ephesus; and when the two parts were brought together they fitted so perfectly that the whole work had the appearance of having been done by one man. This method of working is practised nowhere among the Greeks, but is followed generally among the Egyptians.

Just because the ancient Greeks said so, does not of course make their factual assertions true (see chapter 7). Still, other Greek writings also have quite a bit to say about Egyptian cultural influence on the ancient Greeks in fields such as law-making, mathematics, 75

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philosophy, religion and astrology. They also record traditions about migrants from both Egypt and south-west Asia (the ‘Levant’) who came and settled in Greece: Melampus [a mythical Greek seer], in my view . . . brought into Greece, with little change, a number of things which he had learned in Egypt . . . I may say that it was the daughters of Danaus [a mythical Greek king] who brought [such-and-such a] religious ceremony out of Egypt and instructed the Pelasgian women [mythical inhabitants of Greece] in it . . . Probably Melampus got his knowledge of Dionysus through Cadmus of Tyre and the people who came with him to the land now named Boeotia [in mainland Greece] . . . And Pythagoras learned from Egyptians his teachings about the gods, his geometrical propositions and theory of numbers, as well as the transmigration of the soul into every living thing.

Fast-forward to 1996, when I was lucky enough to spend a year on research leave at a study centre set in leafy parkland in New Jersey. This place was a kind of heaven for academics. Visitors like myself were left to get on with their projects totally undisturbed, apart from the cleaner, who – while on his rounds – would stop to chat late in the day. Once at lunch time, I was joined at the refectory table by one of the permanent faculty. This mild and courteous professor happened to be one of the world’s top experts in reading ancient Greek inscriptions. He wanted to say how taken aback he had been after hearing a radio broadcast, a debate organised by a New York City radio station based on Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue. It concerned a controversial book to do with ancient Greece. What had unsettled him was not so much the subject matter as the tenor of the debate, which included Alice in Wonderland moments such as this exchange: Discussant A: ‘Have you ever been to Africa?’ Discussant B: ‘No.’ 76

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Discussant A: ‘Have you studied it?’ Discussant B: ‘No. I don’t pretend to be a scholar of Africa.’ Discussant A: ‘Have you been to Greece?’ Discussant B: ‘Yes.’ Discussant A: ‘I thought so’ (triumphantly, and to loud audience applause).

Up for debate was a work which had turned its author – Martin Bernal, a British academic then teaching at an Ivy League institution – into an academic celebrity. Two of the discussants, Mary Lefkowitz and Guy Rogers, were American college professors in Greek and Roman studies. They were there to defend their newly published compendium of learned critiques of Bernal’s work by colleagues in their field. Sitting with the author was the fourth discussant, a well-known Afrocentrist academic based in the City University of New York. He made his debating position and style clear at the start. The compendium and its editors were ‘part of a world war against the role of African people in the history of the world’. The work attracted the attention that it did because Bernal wanted to show that ‘the single greatest source of European culture’, as he described ancient Greece, had ‘Afro-Asiatic roots’. These roots lay both in ancient Egypt and among the people whom the Greeks called ‘Phoenicians’ and who lived in what is now Lebanon. These were not just cultural borrowings, but included migrants from these places settling in Bronze Age Greece. Greek myths preserved echoes of these migrations. One upshot was that the later ancient Greeks had an ‘Afro-Asiatic’ ethnic heritage. Not just that, the author also sought to show that European scholars prior to the nineteenth century accepted the ancient evidence – such as the snippets from ancient Greek writings cited above – for these African and Asiatic roots. Only in the nineteenth century did they start to emphasise instead arguments for the northern and ‘European’ ancestry, cultural and biological, of the ancient Greeks. On his view, they did so for essentially ‘racist’ reasons, Europe’s 77

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emerging racial ‘science’ of that time having ranked the ‘races’, with ‘Caucasians’ at the top. The likes of German historian Karl Otfried Müller (see chapter 2), with his Dorians invading from the north, were among Bernal’s culprits. At the end of the debate, the predominantly black American audience, including many ordinary New Yorkers, queued for the microphone in order to ask questions such as ‘Were the ancient Greeks white supremacists?’ It is impossible to watch without feeling a growing awareness of how much these questions might matter to those who asked them, and perhaps to their whole way of life. The furore – for such it was – has died down since the 1990s. A participant in that radio debate told me that ‘the Bernal controversy seems like it happened during a different lifetime’. Bernal himself died in 2013. The issues raised by his work were sensitive and difficult. Difficult because Bernal’s ideas dipped into a double-digit list of disciplines – archaeology and linguistics, to name but two. This cut both ways. Just as few, if any, experts were qualified to range across all of them with authority, neither, claimed his critics, was Bernal (a professor of modern Chinese politics). And sensitive because his work bore on issues of race relations in today’s world – issues that have hardly gone away at the time of writing. In chapter 2, I touched on the uses which the alt-right have made of certain images of the ancient Greeks, such as that of the ‘Nordic’ Spartans. As one young scholar recently asked: ‘Let’s start over with a simple question: which false premise has had more disastrous historical consequences, that Cleopatra was black or that the Greeks were White?’ The question of skin colour will come up again in discussing Greek ideals of beauty (see chapter 10). The ancient evidence suggests that, whatever the realities of pigmentation, Greek society prized gendered stereotypes in this domain. Among Athenians in the 400s and 300s bc, the ideal for citizen-women seems to have been fair or pale skin (‘white’ or leukos in Ancient Greek). This signified their respectable lives as stay-at-home wives and daughters. White-lead make-up could help achieve this ideal. 78

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On the other hand, for males, skin that looked suntanned seems to have been highly prized. This signified engagement with outdoor activities, which Greek society saw as the proper sphere of the male citizen, from farming and hunting to open-air politics, athletics and warring. In a male citizen, pale or white skin could denote effeminacy. As chapter 10 will suggest, the misplaced emphasis of more recent times on whiteness as the standard and natural ancient Greek skin colour is closely linked to the loss of the ancient paintwork applied by ancient sculptors to the white marble of statues. As for the figure of Cleopatra, one expert sees the way in which western culture remembers the famous Egyptian queen as ‘an invitation to scepticism as well as a reminder of pleasure’. This seems as good a thought as any for venturing next onto the territory of the ancient Greeks and sex.

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n octogenarian academic, retired, once regaled a group of us  standing in the British Museum with a true – she said – story. She’d been waiting in line for a self-service lunch while attending a conference for her research. In front of her were two young men, fellow conference-goers, an Italian and a Greek. They were amusing themselves by competitively listing gifts to humanity of their respective ancestral heritages. ‘We invented sex,’ boasted the Greek. I’ll hold back the reply – or punch line – for later in this chapter. Suffice to say for now that the ancient Greeks were not shy about sex. On the fascination which Greek sex has exercised in more straitlaced times, and the uses which artists have made of it, a recent exhibition in London’s Tate Britain museum offered a startling learning curve. The curators chose to segregate in a special side room certain works by the English illustrator on show. This artwork in its day – the mid-1890s – would have been seen as indecent and unpublishable in a normal way. One ink drawing depicts a naked woman during her toilette. She towers above a boy cupid, also naked, who powders her bottom. Both parties masturbate during this mutually pleasurable action. In another drawing, three adult males, their naked bodies parodies of the human shape, sport grotesquely outsize erections. One of the three holds his 80

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to his face. Both drawings display the gift for line, the ingenuity of form and the mood of Decadence which still today make the young artist – Aubrey Beardsley – highly original and highly collectable on both sides of the Atlantic. As the information panels pointed out, Beardsley created these erotic images under the influence of ancient Greece. In the British Museum, he could have seen a fine wine-cooler made by the potters of Athens around 490 bc. On the outside they painted a scene of fantasy figures from Greek mythology – horse-tailed men-satyrs – stark naked, ‘excited’ (to quote the label) and ‘cavorting wildly in a boisterous ballet’. The museum acquired this piece in 1868. Sometime before 1947, curators decided that the erections sported by two of the figures were best painted over. So, it remains uncertain quite what Beardsley would have seen if he’d contemplated this pot in the early 1890s. A scholar of 1905 commented that the detail of the pot ‘would offend our modesty’. He added: ‘Greek art was acquainted with, and dared, everything.’ It was this – as it could seem to later times – sexual daring of the ancient Greeks that attracted Beardsley. Another source on which Beardsley drew – and this time there is no doubt – was the comic theatre of the ancient Greeks. This is clear from the titles of the two drawings just described: respectively, The Toilet of Lampito and The Lacedaemonian [i.e. Spartan] Ambassadors. These images are the artist’s absurdist takes on a bawdy satire by a Greek playwright called Aristophanes (see chapter 14). First performed before an Athenian audience in 411 bc, this play imagines the women of Athens and Sparta going on a successful sexstrike to force their menfolk to cease fighting their Peloponnesian War. Lampito is Beardsley’s vision of one of the Spartan women. The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors are as he imagines their state when these Spartan men arrive in Athens to sue for peace. Their ludicrously engorged organs are symptomatic of their sexual frustration. A Renaissance printer in Florence had been the first to publish the Greek text of this rediscovered ancient play, back in 1515. The 81

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play itself, Lysistrata, inspires modern performances, lending itself to the concerns of today’s feminists and pacifists. There are lines which seem to shed light on the real lives of ancient Greek women: from the availability of dildos and the threat of forced sex at home, to the plight of unmarried women. Still, not only were the original performances a ‘male drag show’ (the actors were always male), but the audience was also quite possibly limited to citizen-men. Experts are by no means sure that the ancient playwright meant his audience to find the heroine – Lysistrata of Athens – the sympathetic character that she might seem today, rather than, say, comically absurd. In general, it seems fair to say that the social constraints on real women in ancient Greece limit their usefulness as modern role models. Cleopatra (mentioned a few pages back – see chapter 3) is a case in point. From the Renaissance into the nineteenth century, a statue misidentified as Cleopatra in the collections of the popes in Rome did much to define her image among the travelling public. This image was one of a woman in history who had taken her own life. She was someone for whom ‘love and pleasure became fused with abandonment and death’. So it was that the Victorian writer George Eliot used these associations to highlight the situation of the heroine of her novel Middlemarch. Dorothea was a ‘breathing blooming girl’. Despite this, her desiccated scholar of a much older husband began his neglect of her on their Roman honeymoon. It is in the papal museum that a future admirer sights Dorothea as a solitary figure standing where ‘the reclining . . . Cleopatra . . . lies in the marble voluptuousness of her beauty’. As for the endlessly interesting historical Cleopatra, her ethnic heritage was a mix of Macedonian Greek and possibly – as some would have it, though pure guesswork – African. Of royal lineage, she became a queen thanks to heredity. Ancient Greek writings present her as (among other things) accomplished, resourceful and sexually attractive. As a dynastic ruler, but also a mother, she was conventionally ambitious for the political future of her sons. 82

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Her quick and clever way of overcoming difficulties is shown by an ancient Greek story. If it can be believed, this is how she got round the problem of being locked out of her own palace by her hostile brother during the visit of an all-powerful Roman general, none other than Julius Caesar: . . . she boarded a small boat and landed near the palace at dusk. Unable to think of any other way to enter unnoticed, she lay down full length in a bed-linen sack, and [a male courtier] tied the sack up with a strap and carried it through the gates to Caesar. Caesar, it is said, was immediately taken with this trick of Cleopatra, and the coquettish impression it made.

She certainly knew what she wanted, and was determined to get it. However, the same story highlights the troubling limitations of her regal power – the same as those of nearly all ancient women rulers who did more than merely ‘reign’. All her political plans depended on successful collaboration with much more powerful men. As far as we know, her prime personal asset in getting her way was her allure. When her latest male protector failed her, she fell into the hands of his sworn enemy – a man. By another ruse, she managed to elude him, only to see no other choice but . . . to kill herself. Cleopatra shows the capacity – given the chance – of a woman in the ancient world to exercise power within the cultural constraints of the time: to be a heroine even. In modern feminist terms, however, she was not only shaped, but ultimately undone by the patriarchy. The attitudes of the ancient Greeks to women are today useful to a kind of mindset that is the mirror opposite of socially progressive. As one single-sentence rant would have it: ‘The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 bc) is hated by feminists for defining the essence of humanity as the capacity of reason, a capacity which he says makes women inferior to men.’ Some readers may sigh at the prospect of being led back into the more dubious corners of Aristotle’s mind. If only on the ‘know your 83

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enemy’ principle, however, it seems worth hearing him out. In his political writings, Aristotle repeatedly saw women as ‘by nature’ subordinate to men: as with ‘natural’ slaves, the all-important (for Aristotle) ‘deliberative faculty’ of women was crucially defective. Not in the same way as that of a ‘natural’ slave: a woman existed, but was ‘without authority’. Here he might have meant that, since women were subject to citizen men, so this subjection impaired their deliberative faculty: this was less than fully autonomous. Or perhaps he thought that women were inherently without authority as a result of their nature, so that their reasoning capacity tended to be overwhelmed by irrational considerations or impulses. In his biological writings, Aristotle digs a hole just as deep. He posits the fundamental inferiority of the female of the species, based on reproductive roles: . . . the male and female are distinguished by a certain capacity and incapacity, for the one who is able to concoct and form and ejaculate semen is the male . . . That which receives but is incapable of both forming and ejaculating [seed] is female.

In Aristotle’s mind, only the male is able – one modern expert’s summary – ‘to fully concoct and to emit semen outside his body’. Since their bodies generate menstrual fluid, females share the capacity to ‘concoct’, but they are naturally weaker and colder. This matters, since it is the male, being warmer, who produces a more complete concoction. For Aristotle, this deficiency was why what he calls ‘natural femaleness’ was, as he dismayingly puts it, ‘like a deformity’. The Greek word he uses here had the sense of ‘maimed’ or ‘crippled’. In fairness to Aristotle, whose father was a physician, he was also a product of his culture. Greek medical writings (see chapter 6) had already achieved a first by seeing female bodies as colder than male. Here is a modern summary of these complex and strange ancient ideas: 84

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It followed from the fact of menstrual fluid that female flesh must be moist, porous, spongy, and cold in contradistinction to male flesh, which is dry, firm, hard, and warm. Evidence of the difference lies in the fact that the flesh of mature females is soft to the touch ‘like wool’, while that of males is firm like ‘woven fabric’. Because of their cold sponginess, women’s bodies absorb more fluids than do men’s. It is due to the ‘excess of fluids’ . . . that women must shed blood regularly.

Today, researchers claim biological differences between male and female unknown to the ancient Greeks. They include a lower skin temperature, caused by oestrogen, and a lower metabolic rate. For the rest, these ancient Greek ideas about human bodies have hardly stood the test of modern medical science. As such, they are ‘cultural constructs’. It seems hard to disagree with a modern philosopher, when she pondered why ancient Greek theories about females could not have gone differently: ‘One could, for example, describe these features of a female body as divinely created life-giving powers that prove women’s bodies to be more perfect than men’s.’ Other aspects of ancient Greek sex and gender might seem to have a more topical ring. The ancient Greeks had lots of stories about people wondrously changing into something else. Often these stories involved the shenanigans of the gods. In modern Sicily’s Syracuse, a favourite haunt of locals and tourists alike is a sunken pool of water edged with Nile-like papyrus plants. Despite being just yards from the sea, the water in the pool is something of a marvel, since it is fresh, being formed by a natural spring. Ancient Greek writings had a story about this spring. It hinged, like many ancient tales and artistic images, on what scholars sometimes call ‘erotic pursuit’. Once upon a time there was a certain huntsman living on the western shores of Greece. To escape his unwelcome attentions, a young local woman fled across the sea to Syracuse. Here she transformed into this very spring. Thereupon the huntsman, not to be outdone, changed into a river, this change 85

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allowing him to flow through the sea and intermingle his waters with hers. The story is a passing reminder of ancient Greek attitudes to the truth (see chapter 7). One well-educated Greek writer of the early Christian era went out of his way to stress that ‘the fact that the river passes through the sea to mingle its water in the water of the spring is something I cannot disbelieve’. As he explains, his grounds for believing the geologically improbable were divine sanction: via an oracle, a god (Apollo in this case) had said so. It might be joked that this is a literal story of gender fluidity. It has not gone unnoticed today that gender fluidity was something to which the culture of the ancient Greeks was at any rate open, even if people were not entirely open-minded about it (see later in this chapter on their attitudes to the kinaidoi). There are the statues for a start. Napoleon Bonaparte is notorious for having looted artworks during his military rampage across Europe at the start of the nineteenth century. But he did occasionally pay for such things. For example, the Louvre now displays an ancient marble statue purchased by Napoleon from the collection of a Roman aristocrat. The statue shows a near-naked sleeping figure. Viewed from the rear, it looks like a young female; but a surprise awaits the viewer on the other side – the genitalia are male. One English milady in the mid-1700s quipped that the subject matter showed ‘the only happy couple she ever saw’. This is a Roman replica of an original bronze made by Greek sculptors, but now lost. The subject of this statue was a Greek divinity no less, with an ancient home in what is now Turkey. Visitors to the Turkish town of Bodrum cannot miss the medieval castle. A few will visit the footprint – all that is left on site – of a wonder of the world when Bodrum was ancient Halicarnassus: namely, the Mausoleum. This was the tomb of a local ruler. Strikingly, given its fame, the ancient citizenry of Halicarnassus omitted ‘their’ Mausoleum from a (recently discovered) stone inscription listing ‘what it is that brings honour’ to their city. Instead, the long text in Ancient Greek rates first as a source 86

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of community pride the birth of the king of the gods, Zeus, at Halicarnassus. Second is the fact that here at Halicarnassus was reared another god: ‘kindly Hermaphroditus the all-excellent, he who invented marriage’. The reference is to the young intersex deity who is the subject of that Louvre statue. The inscribed list vaunting this Halicarnassian claim to ‘ownership’ of Hermaphroditus was once on display for all to read (those that could) in a shrine where the locals worshipped Aphrodite, his mother. Descending earthwards, a famous figure in ancient history who aspired to divinity might also have been a touch fluid. Ancient evidence for Alexander of Macedon’s belief in his divinity took a new twist in 2007, when a tenacious French PhD student managed to track down a forgotten antiquity to the basement of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Although it had ended up there, this ancient granite altar had been found decades earlier in the ruins of an Egyptian temple in a desert oasis some 230 miles away. In a great coup for a young researcher, he got to be the first to publish its inscriptions. Cue learned excitement, because here were ancient Greek letters which read ‘King Alexander [offered this altar] to Ammon his father.’ Dating from Alexander’s lifetime, this new evidence seems vividly to confirm the ancient tradition that the young conqueror came away from his stay in Egypt believing that he was the son no longer of his mother’s husband, King Philip, but of a god – none other than the half-Greek, half-Egyptian Zeus-Ammon. Other Greek writings attach to Alexander of Macedon a rare adjective in Ancient Greek: gynnis. Any readers who are put in mind of ‘gynaecology’ – not to mention ‘misogyny’ – would be on the right track. All three words are formed on gynē, meaning in Ancient Greek ‘woman’ (or, tellingly, ‘wife’). According to these writings, there might have been something of the woman about Alexander. When I take groups round the British Museum, I show them an ancient sculpted head of Alexander – not a very good one. It is posthumous, like nearly all the ancient images of him that survive. The tousled lion-like hair of which ancient writings speak is there; 87

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likewise the leftward tilt of his neck and even the melting eyes. Both of these in a free adult Greek male, ancient Greek writings suggest, denoted effeminacy to fellow Greeks (again, see below, on kinaidoi). What the viewer will also spot is Alexander’s shaven face. This was decidedly unlike the Greek norm for a free adult male of the time, as one only has to glance to the right to see. Displayed nearby are two ancient portrait heads of well-known Athenian citizenpoliticians of Alexander’s day. They sport well-tended, but nonetheless full beards. For Greeks of the time, not to be bearded – like male skin colour that was too pale (see the previous chapter) – was to be womanly. Experts today may well puzzle over the intentions behind the public image, which Alexander is known to have cultivated so carefully. Ancient Greeks themselves were intrigued. As one authority on his ancient portraits has written: ‘Whatever this strange and somewhat uncanny fusion of masculine and feminine may have contributed to his electrifying charisma, it certainly fascinated and perplexed his contemporaries.’ The medical writings of the ancient Greeks also preserve apparently real-life case histories of transitioning women – if not quite in the modern sense. These are wives falling ill and dying after involuntarily assuming a masculine appearance. Their periods would stop; they would grow beards. Doctors were unable to do anything for them: Phaethousa the wife of Pytheas, who kept at home, having borne children in the preceding time, when her husband was exiled stopped menstruating for a long time. Afterwards pains and reddening in the joints. When that happened her body was masculinized and grew hairy all over, she grew a beard, her voice became harsh, and though we did everything we could to bring forth menses they did not come, but she died after surviving a short time. 88

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As an expert has pointed out, Phaethousa is a housewife and a mother, and in death she remains female (the grammatical case endings of the ancient Greek wording make this clear). On the ancient Greek view, her condition was brought on because her husband’s exile deprived her of the regular sexual intercourse which a woman’s body needed for its fluids to stay in healthy balance. Phaethousa is not, then, an instance of ancient ‘sex change’ or even gender fluidity. That said, some people in today’s medical profession recommend ancient Greek stories that present ‘positive models of physical metamorphosis as fluid and empowering’. ‘Within the context of managing sex assignment in individuals’, these stories should be available to clinicians to communicate to families, so as to ‘prepare them for upcoming possibilities’. As one example, the ancient statues of Hermaphroditus offer ‘a positive symbol for the fluidity the figure represents’. To return to the anecdote with which this chapter began, in response to the Greek’s claim that ‘We invented sex,’ the Italian replies, ‘And we extended it to women.’ First told to me as a true story, I was taken aback when a French friend pointed out that this was a well-known joke. A glance at the internet confirms this (‘We have the Parthenon’ – ‘We have the Colosseum’ is how one variant starts). What the joke does seem to reveal is a popular belief that the ancient Greeks enjoyed a special relationship with what is sometimes called ‘Greek love’. The modern use of ‘Greek love’ to present a positive picture of active, male, same-sex relations does not have a long history (see below). The dead hand of religion on majority morality, not to mention criminal law, have until fairly recently inhibited people in western countries from using ancient Greek art and writings openly to explore this picture (see chapter 12 on the ‘humanising’ impact of novelists, such as Mary Renault). It needs emphasising that bigotry based on religious teachings, of the sort that continues to legitimate homophobia in today’s world, simply did not exist in ancient Greece. On the contrary, there were stories about the gods themselves that 89

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seemed to sanction same-sex desire, such as Apollo’s loved one, the youth Hyacinthus (see below). These stories were not confined to ancient Greek writings. One of the sacred buildings at Olympia, the great sanctuary of Zeus, king of the gods (see chapter 13), had the apex of its façade decorated with an eye-catching fired-clay sculpture over three feet high. Now in the local museum, it shows a bearded Zeus carrying under his arm a pretty boy. This is Ganymede, whom the god is abducting to serve as his cupbearer. Depending on place and date, the ancient Greeks themselves had different customs and attitudes regarding what they called ‘child love’ – their word paiderasteia literally meant sexual desire for both boys and girls. Still, their acceptance of sexual love between males, qualified though it might have been, is a fact. It was well known to the Romans, some of whom seem to have found a cover, or a release, in a Greek ambience. In my doctorate, I drew attention to the sojourns in Greece of a high-ranking Roman, an ex-consul of senior years. He used to stay with a rich and learned Greek in his country home, where he liked to play at being the lover of his host’s young son. The British Museum possesses an altogether more remarkable expression of this line in Roman fantasy. It takes the form of a silver drinking cup with two scenes in hammered relief. Delicate but explicit, each shows a male couple enjoying anal intercourse. The youths resemble the idealised statues of Greek men produced four centuries earlier in the age of Pericles – the hairstyles, the expressionless faces . . . Fashioned for a rich Roman with specific tastes from around the time of the birth of Christ, the highly skilled silversmith’s brief seems to have been to create a pederastic wonderland, set in an imaginary ‘ancient’ Greece. The modern word ‘pornography’ may spring to mind. That word derives from Ancient Greek: a pornographos was someone who wrote about pornai, female sex workers, or who painted them – on the walls of Roman houses, for instance, as we know from Pompeii. As an explicit depiction of sexual activity, the silver cup might seem to some to be an ancient equivalent of today’s ‘porn’. Still, it’s hard to find any 90

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ancient concept equivalent to pornography in today’s sense and with its modern burden of controversy – whether it exploits the participants, or adversely affects the consumer, and so on. Despite Roman or modern imaginings, ancient Greece was not exactly a (homo)sexual nirvana. There were constraints. Long before official Christianity, the ancient Greeks had their own standards of decency, which extended to the rights and wrongs (as they saw them) of sexual behaviour. These could vary from region to region. In ancient Athens, the ideal in same-sex relations between males seems to have been that an older male took the active role. He courts and wins a freeborn teenager of the same sex. If the older admirer has his way sexually, the younger partner ideally remains unaroused and unpenetrated during the act: Athenian vase painters depict male-on-male sexual congress as intercrural – between the thighs. Ancient Greek writings highlight the sexual allure of comely thighs in a young male. Kenneth Dover’s book Greek Homosexuality belatedly kick-started the serious study of its subject. Post-Dover, some scholars are seeking to move on from his focus on who did what to whom in ancient Greece, and ‘to restore love to its proper place in the study of the phenomenon’. We should be thinking more in terms of ‘Greek homobesottedness’. A recently discovered inscription in Ancient Greek from a dig in western Turkey sheds more light on ancient attitudes. It shows an ancient city – Tralleis, beneath the modern town of Aydín – engaged in a moral struggle. This was to maintain the city’s ancestral tradition of ‘pure customs’, ‘since due to shamelessness many offensive things are attempted now’. The offenders are described as ‘men who live in kinaideia’. Such males were also known as kinaidoi. Ancient Greek writings stress the distinctive outward appearance of these people in disparaging terms: You see him really flashing and rolling his eyes looking around with furrowed eyes and cheeks; he moves his cheeks and eyebrows too much, with his head tilted to the side [compare Alexander, 91

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above]. His pelvis moves, he often moves his back and limbs, all his parts, as if they were loose, and he trips along with little jumping steps, his knees touching, his palms are turned upward, he looks around him, and his voice is thin, mournful, high-pitched and languorous.

Here is a modern understanding of kinaidoi: Although the sources certainly do not permit the conclusion that all the κίναιδοι [kinaidoi] were willingly passive males, and even to a lesser degree that they all prostituted themselves, their general appearance, lady-like clothes, hair, ornaments, use of perfumes, walk, talk and behavior provoked loathing in some people.

Cross-cultural comparisons are treacherous ground for outsiders. But there is at least a superficial resemblance between these kinaidoi and some of the people in today’s India who identify as kothis: Kothis are generally of lower socioeconomic status and some engage in sex work . . . Kothis are a heterogeneous group that includes same-sex attracted men of all ages whose gender expression is primarily female; male sex workers who may adopt feminine mannerisms to attract male clients; and transgender or transsexual women.

Given the general abhorrence of homosexuality until quite recently, unsurprisingly ancient negativity towards kinaidoi means that they do not feature in the uses made of ancient Greek writings by people in the western tradition seeking to ennoble same-sex relationships in the here and now. Another strand in these writings has proved influential, however, as a famous figure from Britain’s Victorian heyday exemplifies. In far-off student days, I had friends who shared an apartment south of the King’s Road in London’s Chelsea. I used to go round in 92

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the evening and would sometimes stay there. Including the basement, the red-brick building was five storeys high, with large bays overlooking the street. Like its neighbours in the same terrace, it had been built in Victorian times as a large family home, but had since been converted into flats. That of my friends was comfy, but you would have looked in vain for period features. These had been stripped out. Only a blue plaque on the exterior alerted you to the house’s past. Once the building, now Number 16, had been Number 34. In January 1885, newlyweds moved into this earlier Number 34. The husband had ordered redecorations which for their time were avant-garde. The large front door (which survives) was repainted white. Inside, ‘gone were the Morris wallpapers and other vestiges of Pre-Raphaelite décor. In came the new era of white high-gloss enamel, varied by golds, blues, greens’. On the ground floor, later the flat in which I stayed, the husband had his library. In the drawing room on the floor above the couple took to hosting ‘at homes’ on the first and third Thursdays of each month. The young wife might receive guests ‘wearing an exquisite Grecian costume of cowslip yellow and apple leaf green’. In all probability chosen by her husband, such apparel had intimations of which the wife was not yet aware. With ancient Greece providing a covert model for homosexuality, Grecian had now become a ‘byword for gay tastes and homoerotic customs’. It was, above all, her husband’s persona that made these soirées talked about and sought after – his conversation, his wit, his whole manner of being. It was at Tite Street, too, in June 1891, when the husband was thirty-six, that he first met the much younger man, at the time an Oxford undergraduate, who would prove his nemesis. Less than four years later, the husband – the writer Oscar Wilde – was found guilty of committing acts of gross indecency with male persons and sentenced to the fullest rigour of the then UK law – two years’ hard labour. In 2014, Wilde’s identification with the ancient Greeks provided enough material for nine speakers at a one-day colloquium in Oxford, his alma mater. Here, along with earlier university days in 93

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Dublin, his classical education had primed his deep and informed admiration for Greece. As seen in earlier chapters, the Britain in which Wilde lived was a place where educated people repeatedly turned to Greece as an example. When the adult Wilde spoke to artist friends of the ‘intellectual loves or romantic friendships of the Hellenes, which surprise us today’, he was by no means the first Victorian to use coded references to the ancient Greeks as a way of elevating and sanctifying present-day inclinations. The euphemistic ‘Grecian’ was noted just now. In 1891, Wilde published a crypto-homosexual novel called The Picture of Dorian Gray. He called its sexually ambiguous ‘hero’ ‘Dorian’. In deliberately making up this personal name, Wilde meant to evoke the ‘Dorians’ (see chapter 2). The ancient Dorian Greeks were known for their same-sex relationships in nineteenth-century scholarship available to Wilde as an undergraduate. In Wilde’s trials, a letter was read out in court which the accused had written to Lord Alfred Douglas – that young Tite Street visitor of 1891. In it, Wilde had played on this Dorian idea by likening its addressee to a legendary youth worshipped by the Dorian Spartans: ‘I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days.’ Under cross-examination in the dock, a crushed Wilde, as his biographer puts it, ‘suddenly found a voice’, declaring to the courtroom: The ‘Love that dare not speak its name’ in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis for his philosophy.

Plato will be heard again in a courtroom shortly. To finish with the Victorians, other cultural forces were also shaping public attitudes as the nineteenth century progressed. These included changes to the criminal law. The year in which the Wildes moved into Tite Street was the year in which the UK passed the legislation that sent the husband to prison a decade later. 94

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As the century drew to its close, the ‘scientific’ study of sexual behaviour was also on the rise. The clinical approaches based on new disciplines like psychiatry and sexology did not dethrone the ancient Greeks overnight. But they influenced the terms of the debate. The case of the English medical writer and pioneering sexologist Havelock Ellis is perhaps instructive. Ellis had an older collaborator, a prolific Victorian author who, like Wilde, had both a wife and intimate male relationships. He once told Ellis that ‘no survey of Sexual Inversion is worth anything without an impartial consideration of its place in Greek life’. Ellis was less keen on this approach because, unlike his collaborator, he did not see same-sex relations as a matter of personal preference, but as a congenital state. The Greeks got into his big book on the subject (1896), but they were relegated to an appendix. In a moment of high emotion, Wilde in the courtroom had brought in the Athenian philosopher Plato. Plato’s surviving writings were composed in the 300s bc, a generation or so before Aristotle. They had much to say about what their author called ‘love of boys’. This aspect of Plato’s thinking is not easy to explain and summarise. Partly, this is because his views are opaque and scattered through his writings. Partly, it is also because, to many, they are likely to seem so – well . . . odd. Writing about the thinking of his late teacher Socrates, Plato places him in a strongly homoerotic social setting. Plato’s Socrates is constantly in dialogue with young Athenian males for whom the pursuit of beautiful boys was normal. Plato’s Socrates himself feels sexual desire for boys. Plato’s thinking seems to be that ‘the sight of something beautiful affords by far the most powerful and immediate access we have to the world of Being’. However, for a free man to resist consummation of this desire for male beauty is ‘the most direct road to philosophical achievement’. In Wilde’s day, Plato’s apparent disapproval of actual sex between free males was well known among students of the ancient Greek writings. One of Wilde’s own university tutors wrote that ‘the higher classes in . . . Athens would agree in reprobating [these pederastic intimacies], when they exceeded mere sentimental friendships’. 95

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Given that Wilde was found guilty of the charge against him, his courtroom appeal to Plato could be seen as disingenuous. Or perhaps it was a symptom of the Victorian, or maybe just the human, capacity for unreflective doublethink. Still, the force of Plato as a would-be legitimator of same-sex relations between males was by no means spent. At the time of writing, key actors are very much alive from a real-life American courtroom drama. In 1993, a Denver courtroom previously used to film episodes of the TV courtroom series Perry Mason heard a case involving the legal status of homosexuals in the state of Colorado. Sometimes known as the Colorado Gay Rights Case, the court hearing arose because pro-gay plaintiffs sought to overthrow an amendment approved by a narrow majority of voters in a Colorado state referendum. This amendment would have banned Colorado state agencies from giving legal protections to homosexual, lesbian or bisexual ‘orientation, conduct, practices, or relationships’. The plaintiffs argued that the amendment arose from ‘irrational hostility’ and ‘embodies a particular religious view regarding gay, lesbian and bisexual orientation’. Both sides called in academic experts to give their opinion as to whether there was any hostility towards homosexual acts outside the Christian Bible in the ‘western’ traditions of law or philosophy. In all this, Plato was brought into play as evidence for ancient philosophical attitudes to such acts: . . . one certainly should not fail to observe that when male unites with female for procreation the pleasure experienced is held to be due to nature, but contrary to nature when male mates with male or female with female, and those [Greeks] first guilty of such enormities were impelled by their slavery to pleasure.

This passage by Plato when discussing the relationship between same-sex congress and marriage triggered an acrimonious dispute among the experts, which they carried on beyond the courtroom. 96

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Accusations of reliance on out-of-date translations and of perjury, as well as legal threats, hung in the air. The trouble was that a word, then as now, could have more than one meaning. A literal translation of the key words in the Ancient Greek would go something like: ‘. . . and the tolmēma of the first [to mate in this way] seems to be on account of incontinence regarding pleasure’. If the singular noun tolmēma is translated as ‘enormities’, as above, then Plato’s text seems to be in condemnatory mode. This was the position of the defence, based on all the available translations into English. The plaintiff ’s expert sought a more ‘morally neutral’ translation of Plato’s meaning – one less damaging to the gay cause: ‘an adventure, enterprise, deed of daring’. As to the condemnatory sense in Plato, one might add the more recently available inscription just discussed from the city of Tralleis. As we saw above, this complained of immorality in public places. The Ancient Greek states that ‘due to shamelessness many offensive things are attempted now [my italics]’. The verb used here is formed on the same root as Plato’s tolmēma: tetolmētai (infinitive form tolmān, ‘to attempt, to dare’). Enough on the twists and turns of Ancient Greek. This appeal to Plato had turned out controversially. In the end, no one involved could say whether it had ‘made a difference’ – either to the judge in Colorado, or to the final resolution of the case in the Supreme Court nearly three years later (it threw out the amendment). The case shows how some people in 1993 thought that the imprimatur of an ancient Greek philosopher was still worth having. In other people’s eyes, the appeals to ‘Platonic’ homosexuality in the 1990s, as in 1895, didn’t cut much ice in validating homosexual congress in the present day. In 2018, a local travel agent on Lesvos (ancient Lesbos) reckoned that 3,000–4,000 gay women visited the Greek island every summer, homing in on a village called Eresos: The village has only 1,500 full-time residents, but three lesbian bars. Hundreds of tourists attend a women’s festival every 97

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September, where activities range from political discussions to beach parties.

The islanders have got used to the influx, not least for the business that it brings: George, a waiter in the village, says he has no problem with lesbian visitors to the island. ‘How can I mind them?’ he asks, ‘They are our livelihood.’

Modern people who identify as lesbian owe the language they use to describe themselves to the ancient Greeks. Eresos on ancient Lesbos was the island home of Sappho, a Greek woman poet whose verse includes expressions of erotic feelings about, or for, other females: . . . whenever I look at you briefly, then it is no longer in my power to speak. My tongue is fixed [?] in silence, and straightway a subtle fire has run under my skin, and with my eyes I see nothing, and my ears hum, and cold sweat possesses me, and trembling seizes all of me, and I am paler than grass, and I seem to myself within a little of being dead.

Modern authorities agree that the modern sense of the word ‘lesbian’ derives from the fact that the Greek woman poet who expressed these same-sex sentiments came from an island that happened to be called Lesbos. The current state of research suggests that ‘lesbian’ in this almost technical sense is a twentieth-century development: ‘sometime between 1923 and the present’, as a distinguished queer theorist wrote in a book published in 2002. It has also been pointed out that in Ancient Greek, ‘Lesbian’ and a related word had other meanings that might seem to sit somewhat uncomfortably with ‘lesbian’ in this modern sense. This was why the author of the classic Greek Homosexuality (first published in 98

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1978) expressly ‘avoided’ the term. He went on to point out that ancient Greek writings use the verb lesbiazein (no English equivalent: literally ‘to lesbianise’) of women who perform fellatio on men. The Ancient Greek verb seems to have had this meaning because ancient Greeks had come to associate the women of Lesbos – quite why isn’t really known – with a more generally ‘shameless and uninhibited sexuality’. Renaissance scholars came across this meaning in ancient writings and transmitted it to the following centuries. In today’s queering scholarship, this alternative meaning, associating as it does lesbianism with ‘the gratification of men’, has not gone unnoticed: ‘If we want a real neologism for female homosexuality, a word that means “one thing and one thing only”, we could consider abandoning “Lesbian” and creating one.’ One of the great uses still made of the ancient Greeks is precisely to provide us with neologisms – new words. Words, voiced or written, and in a larger sense the presence and absence of voices, are the topic of the next chapter.

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illions of English speakers by the end of 2020 had had enough of one word in particular. It derives from the Ancient Greek for ‘belonging to all the people’. No one seems to know who was the first to coin ‘pandemic’ in English, back in the 1600s, by replacing the old ending of the original Greek word (pandēmia) with a new one which itself ultimately goes back to Ancient Greek. And there we have it, a so-called loan word. With no august committee of scholars to police it, English is free to go its own way where new words are concerned. If the perfect language has no need to invent new words, then English is far from perfect. In 2016, a journalist wrote in a British national daily that ‘English speakers already have over a million words at our disposal – so why are we adding 1,000 new ones a year to the lexicon?’ Well, journalists may have themselves to blame in part: ‘The journalese dialect is most prolific in new words, most of them as ephemeral as mosquitos.’ Recently, for example, it was a British journalist and writer, also a classicist, who coined the word ‘pseudagora’. This he then used to describe the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s expensive new press centre at his official London residence, 10 Downing Street, ‘knocked up for £2.6 million by friendly Russian 100

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contractors’. The resulting ‘pseudagora’ reflects a hostile observer’s view of the truthfulness of what the prime minister and his colleagues tell the nation from this new facility. Combining the Ancient Greek words for ‘lying’ and for ‘market’ or ‘public square’, the new word ‘pseudagora’ means ‘fake marketplace/forum’. In 2020, the old word ‘pandemic’ spawned a new one. Meaning ‘a global epidemic of misinformation’, this was ‘infodemic’. The director of the World Health Organization used it in February of the same year. It lops off the first part of ‘pandemic’ and in its place puts a clipped version of ‘information’ – a word derived not from Greek, but from Latin via Old French. And what if this new word does break old rules by committing the sin of mixing different roots? It’s a long time since the 1950s, when the writer who coined ‘meritocracy’ was warned off seeking to take the credit because his mix of Latin and Greek would ‘subject him to ridicule’. It is thought that Greek is one of the three most common languages from which English borrows words. It’s a regular pool in which to fish for scientific terms – not least medical ones. One example – to which a name and a precise date can be attached – is ‘osteopathy’. The name was chosen in 1893 by the founder of this branch of modern therapeutics, an American hailing from Missouri called Dr A.T. Still. By 1922, a classicist could write mordantly that the meaning of ‘osteopathy’ was now familiar to all ‘as one of the recognized routes to health or the grave’. Greek remains popular among people who generate new words. The editors of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (American English) keep up with current usage by collecting citations from a daily scouring of published material. From this collection, they decide on which new words to admit, based on criteria such as the number and range of citations. On a similar basis, the Oxford English Dictionary’s crop of new words for October 2019 included anchisaur (type of dinosaur), apaugasma (radiance) and nomophobia (aversion to or fear of laws or rules). All are either formed on the so-called portmanteau principle – that is, they combine words themselves 101

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derived from Ancient Greek (anchi + sauros; nomos + phobos) – or else, in one case (apaugasma), directly lift an entire ancient noun. The writers who generate these new words are able to draw on a knowledge of Ancient Greek – either their own or someone else’s. This knowledge remains in circulation because the language may be dead, but people still learn it, albeit in dwindling numbers. Who are these people? Education and educational traditions are a complicated business, and no one country is the same. In one European country, pupils in the first year of high school receive more hours per week of Ancient Greek than they do of their own language. This is modern Greece, where the ancient tongue has a special place in education for reasons to do with national identity. Even here, its usefulness has been a matter of debate. A Greek education minister told Greek national TV in 2016 that: [the] language not spoken by people in their daily lives cannot be the language that determines the linguistic education of children . . . It is unnatural to teach Ancient Greek in school.

In the UK, until well into the nineteenth century, learning Ancient Greek along with Latin was a mark of the best education (see chapter 1), meaning that offered by the handful of old ‘public’ schools (see below). Since education is usually a conservative business, the later decline in the status of Ancient Greek has been a drawn-out affair, with many a rearguard action being fought – still. In 2016, only around ten state schools in the whole UK taught Ancient Greek. And that number has since dwindled further. At the time of writing, Camden School for Girls is the only local authoritymaintained school in London still flying the flag. In 2016, the 250 or so pupils nationally who chose to continue with Ancient Greek up to pre-university level were ‘almost all’ from private schools. Ancient Greece breeds huge enthusiasm among devotees, including teachers ‘working extra hours, often unpaid, to inspire and foster a deep 102

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knowledge and passion for the Greeks’. That said, as a subject taught at school, Ancient Greek in the UK at the time of writing is now ‘niche’. In the UK’s confusing jargon of education, private schools where parents pay school fees include the so-called ‘public’ schools. These embrace a core of the oldest and most expensive boarding secondary schools, famous names among them. These schools still educate the children of a high proportion of the social elite. ‘In Britain, the classics carry the cachet of the posh schools where they have been predominantly taught.’ Since the UK retains a strong class structure, learning Ancient Greek lends itself to the dictates of snobbery. Here we enter the world of ‘Public School Greece’, as the novelist E.M. Forster dubbed it in 1923. Forster wrote about the poet Cavafy (died 1933), a Greek from Alexandria whose poems often celebrate the ancient Greeks who came after Alexander of Macedon. Forster – who knew him personally – observes: . . . how different is his history from an Englishman’s. He even looks back upon a different Greece. Athens and Sparta, so drubbed into us at school, are to him two quarrelsome little slave states . . . He reacts against the tyranny of . . . Pericles and Aspasia and Themistocles and all those bores. Alexandria, his birthplace, came into being just when Public School Greece decayed.

In the 1980s, the then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter, found herself working with more than her fair share of political colleagues from ‘Public School Greece’. Among them, her science background was unusual. A British diplomat of that time put it this way, recalling top-table discussions of climate change: ‘As the only woman and the only scientist, she wasn’t going to be pushed around by people who knew about Thucydides.’ More on Thucydides the historian shortly (chapter 7). Snobbery can be intellectual, as well as social. Ancient Greek is hard to learn. Winston Churchill, who attended one of these public schools, put it like this: 103

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. . . by being so long in the lowest form I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that. But I was taught English. We were considered such dunces that we could learn only English . . . Naturally I am biased in favour of boys learning English. I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. But the only thing I would whip them for is not knowing English.

Enthusiasts for learning Ancient Greek (and Latin) may nowadays say, with reason, that ‘these rigorous, highly grammatical languages teach their students to think straight’ – and a lot more in similar vein. University colleagues in other disciplines, such as modern languages or mathematics, patiently (or crossly, recalling conversations I’ve had over the years) point out that these intellectual benefits are not unique to classics. Unsurprisingly, given my field of study (ancient Greece), some of the cleverest people I’ve ever met are also wizards at Ancient Greek. But mastery of the ancient language, rare gift that it is, does not always equate with an all-round grasp of the facts. I remember once taking a group up to the natural plateau overlooking Syracuse in Sicily. This is a prominent landmark in Public School Greece. Epipolae – the ancient name for the plateau – features heavily in the account by the historian Thucydides (see chapter 7) of an Athenian navy’s attempt to capture ancient Syracuse (415–413 bc). I was braced for difficult questions. One member of the group was a highly distinguished member of his profession and a product of a famous public school, with more teachers of Ancient Greek than many a UK regional university. I’d been warned that this person had been ‘mugging up his Thucydides’. So, there we were, my little talk about Thucydides and the Athenian attack on Syracuse over, standing on ancient Epipolae, surrounded by ancient Epipolae. It was with some dread that I took his question. But it was an unexpected one: ‘Erm, where is Epipolae?’ From then on, I relaxed. 104

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In the USA, ‘Graecomaniacs’, defined in the American lexicon as ‘those who get excited over the decline of Greek studies’, have reason to be ‘excited’. There, too, the heyday of Ancient Greek in education is long over. As early as 1828, pressure to modernise the curriculum at Yale University evoked this revealing response: ‘The models of ancient literature,’ wrote Yale president Jeremiah Day, ‘which are put into the hands of the young student, can hardly fail to imbue his mind with the principles of liberty, to inspire the liveliest patriotism, and to excite [him] to noble and generous action, and are therefore peculiarly adapted to the American youth.’

Nowadays, a top private school like Groton in Massachusetts, with fees for boarders of over $58,000 for the academic year 2020/21, offers a full six years’ worth of Ancient Greek. Within living memory there were still flagship public high schools teaching Ancient Greek, but this is no longer the case. As in the UK, occasionally an enthusiastic teacher might offer Ancient Greek to the very best students. The advanced placement exams taken by millions of high-school students as a qualification for admission to university have never offered Ancient Greek. In higher education, in the USA as in the UK, there is no shortage of students for courses that study the ancient Greeks in translation or pick over their pots and pans – meaning art and archaeology. As in the UK, the picture for students taking the Ancient Greek language is less rosy. Enough, perhaps, to note the view of an American Pulitzer Prize winner who, in 2011, sighed that ‘the classics departments at most American colleges and universities today carry the whiff of nostalgia and chalk dust’. If we stay with the world of words, but branch off somewhat, there is another sense in which the ancient Greeks still linger on in how we speak. Words are what we voice when we communicate with each other. Most people realise that much rides on how we sound to 105

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others when we speak: ‘From spicing up casual conversations with everyday friends to making a good first impression in a job interview, the benefits of mastering the nuances of your voice are virtually limitless.’ I once did some voicing work for the BBC. The director drew me aside. ‘Tony, there’s a problem with your voice.’ The pace wasn’t right, there wasn’t enough emotion or passion, and I couldn’t master when to stress one word over others. He gave – with great tact – key tips, such as: one thing . . . is the correct baud rate – i.e. the speed the information is imparted . . . The baud rate has to be exactly right – if people speak too fast the audience overflows and they switch off – too slow and they quickly become bored and switch off.

As well as how you say it (delivery), there is what you say (content). This matters if you’re trying to make a point in, say, an argument. There is much advice in the public domain on how to win an argument. This advice comes with its own accompanying jargon, such as ‘reframing the issue’. For instance, you might try explaining to a freemarket capitalist who denies global warming that ‘the development of renewable energies could lead to technological breakthroughs and generate economic growth’. The subtitle of the online newspaper article from which the above quote comes talks of how ‘the appliance of science may sway stubborn opinions’. Well, not only did the ancient Greeks get there first, but the power of their example when it comes to public speaking and framing an argument is not yet entirely forgotten. Just as many people old enough at the time remember exactly where they were when they heard the news of 9/11, some of us still remember – I do – being moved by the televised first ceremony of remembrance at Ground Zero a year later. This included New York’s governor reading an older eulogy for the American dead: Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address to the fallen. But Lincoln had in 106

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turn been influenced by an ancient Greek speech over the dead: the speech (mentioned in chapter 1) that ancient Greek writings put in the mouth of – yet again – Pericles. As an accomplished public speaker, as well as a public official, Pericles was chosen to deliver this so-called Funeral Speech at the state funeral for the Athenian war dead in 431 bc. You can still visit the ancient cemetery where this took place. It is now a peaceful oasis of greenery and ruins amid the colourful hubbub of downtown Athens. Here ‘he stood on an elevated platform in order to be heard by as many of the crowd as possible’. You can also visit the site of Lincoln’s eulogy, in what is now a national cemetery, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. As the official website says, you are on hallowed ground. The cemetery is on a battlefield. The ferocious three-day battle at Gettysburg earlier in 1863 marked a turning point in the Civil War in favour of the eventual victors. Nowadays the cemetery’s centrepiece is a towering granite monument honouring the Northern dead. Nearby, a tophatted Lincoln, in the thick of a crowd of some 15,000 people, gave his brief speech at the cemetery’s inauguration. In 1863, educated Americans were full of the ancient Greeks. The crowd had already listened to a famous politician and public orator of the time give the keynote speech, which explicitly invoked ancient Athens. As a former professor of Greek literature, Edward Everett (the speaker) grasped the aptness of the funeral speech that ancient writings ascribed to Pericles: it dignified the Gettysburg moment with just about the most distinguished lineage possible. He started with a description of how the ancient Athenians performed ‘the obsequies of the citizens who fell in battle’. In all, he spoke for two hours without notes. He ended majestically by quoting the speech of Pericles (as we have it, though in fact a composition by an ancient writer – see chapter 7): ‘The whole earth,’ said Pericles, as he stood over the remains of his fellow citizens, who had fallen in the first year of the 107

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Peloponnesian War, ‘the whole earth is the sepulchre of illustrious men.’ All time, he might have added, is the millennium of their glory.

Lincoln’s brief speech which followed lasted less than three minutes. He did not reference the ancient Greeks directly. He himself had no formal education, though he was interested enough in ancient Greek speeches to read a teach-yourself book on the language. A product of his time, he also seems to have soaked up the conventions of such speeches from his ‘practical experience in law and politics’. Scholars scrutinising Lincoln’s words have convincingly detected the sentiments and manner of the ancient speech. Likewise, Lincoln’s references to the fallen are vague – even the battlefield goes unnamed. As Pericles did before an Athenian crowd, Lincoln offered his audience the chance to reflect on their shared identity as Americans. As with the ancient speech, Lincoln sought to inspire the living, not focus on the dead. It remains to say that not all Americans felt that the first commemoration ceremony of 9/11 had got things right in invoking Gettysburg and, beneath the radar, the ancient oration of ‘Pericles’. Not least, the Athenian war dead in 430 bc, like the Northern war dead in 1863, had fallen in battle (albeit in a civil war in Gettysburg’s case). In the case of 9/11, the closest analogy was with earlier acts of terrorism on American soil, when ‘lives were not given in an act of conscious sacrifice for their nation; they were taken in an act of mass murder’. The idea that there is something ‘scientific’ about persuasion (above) – that you can analyse what does and doesn’t work, and identify techniques for winning an argument that a novice can learn – goes back to the ancient Greeks. They lived in a world in which most people – citizens included – at best had only basic skills in reading and writing. As I touched on in chapter 1, their thinkers saw talk and argument, not the written word, as playing the crucial role in building civilisation: 108

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. . . because there has been implanted in us the power to persuade each other and to make clear to each other whatever we desire, not only have we escaped the life of wild beasts, but we have come together and founded cities and made laws and invented arts; and, generally speaking, there is no institution devised by man which the power of speech has not helped us establish.

The business of persuading one’s fellows towards one point of view rather than another was a particular concern in the two areas of public life in which, at least in the democracy of the Athenians, any citizen, in theory, might find himself rising to speak: the sovereign assembly and the law courts. If one citizen wished to bring a private or public lawsuit against another, both parties were required to give a speech in person: the one for the prosecution, the other for the defence. Many ordinary Athenians were not up to the task, and they turned to others who were. A career as a professional speech-writer, let alone a politician, depended on excellence in winning the argument. Well might an ambitious young man (of whom more shortly) burn the midnight oil in the bid to master technique: . . . he built an underground study . . . and into this he would descend every day without exception in order to form his action and cultivate his voice, and he would often remain there even for two or three months together, shaving one side of his head in order that shame might keep him from going abroad even though he greatly wished to do so . . .

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people appeared who claimed that winning the argument was a teachable skill and that they had the secret. They wrote handbooks. The earliest of these to have survived (from the later 300s bc) names its subject as ‘rhetoric’ and defines its field: ‘to be able to discover the means of persuasion in reference to any given subject’. 109

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The handbook then breaks this job down into what the writer sees as its constituent parts – different types of speech for different circumstances; in each type of speech, its different elements. These include the proofs of your argument, the best arrangement of content, your style of speech (long sentences or short, for instance) and delivery. This last includes advice on the manipulative power of gesture, such as: . . . [so-and-so] hissed violently and violently shook his fists. Such gestures produce persuasion because, being known to the hearer, they become tokens of what he does not know.

At least in the law courts, timing was of the essence. In a museum in Athens you can still see one of the water clocks used in ancient Athenian courts to time each speaker. At least there, that besetting sin – the speaker who overruns – was apparently banished. I won’t embarrass them by naming them, but I have friends, academics, whose lecturing style is thrilling to behold. The personal magnetism, the mastery of content, the brilliance of memory, the exuberant diction, the body language, the cadences and tenor of the voice itself – any and all of these contribute to a performance that can be as enjoyably theatrical as an actor’s. In ancient Greece, to hear a trained speaker strut his stuff qualified as highbrow entertainment. Dotted around the ruins of ancient Greek cities are semi-circles of stone benches – theatres in miniature. These are smaller and more intimate than Greek theatres proper, and – unlike those – were originally roofed for use all year round. In that highly oral society, groups of connoisseurs of public speaking would have gathered there for the sheer pleasure of hearing a male professional speechify. The greatest test – which won the maximum acclaim from the audience – was to succeed in speaking off the cuff on a theme proposed by the audience. August Greeks and famous moments from Greek history were favourites. A speaker might really be put 110

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on the spot and be asked to argue both horns of a dilemma: ‘The three hundred Spartans sent against Xerxes, when the contingents from each of the Greek cities had fled, deliberate whether they too should flee.’ Then, as in modern times (see chapter 12 for the film 300), the battle of Thermopylae in 480 bc was popular with audiences. The Romans, in their earlier days as a republic, placed just as high a value on effective public speaking as the Greeks. They had their forum; also their law courts. Cultural latecomers, they turned to their more ‘civilised’ neighbours for models, for teachers and for handbooks. A world of bilingual teaching and learning came into being. Despite the Romans’ professed disdain for Greek windbags, the Brutus of ‘Et tu, Brute?’ fame, the assassin of Julius Caesar, went to Athens for lessons in public speaking with ‘the most eloquent man in Greece’ at that time (the 60s bc). Mark Antony, Cleopatra’s swain, oiled his oratorical skills during stays in Greece by practising with local teachers. So it was that people in Roman times kept the ancient Greek art, or science, of public speaking going, preserving it in a Roman wrapping. Centuries passed, and the learned folk of the Renaissance rediscovered the written wisdom of this art, the manuals and the speeches, when they combed through what survived of the writings of the ancient Greeks. Some saw relevance for their own times here. In 2018, a Boston auction house sold for $5,228 a rare first edition of a book printed in London in 1570. Within an ornamental border as fine as any lace collar of Tudor times, the front page has this title: The three orations of Demosthenes chiefe orator among the Grecians, in fauour of the Olynthians, a people in Thracia, now called Romania with those his fower orations titled expressely & by name against king Philip of Macedonie: most nedefull to be redde in these daungerous dayes, of all them that loue their countries libertie, and desire to take warning for their better auayle, by 111

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example of others. Englished out of the Greeke by Thomas Wylson doctor of the ciuill lawes.

This Thomas Wilson, who was learned enough to ‘Englishe out of the Greeke’, was a counsellor of the ‘heretic’ Queen Elizabeth I. When he referenced ‘these daungerous dayes’ threatening English ‘libertie’, Wilson meant the ultra-Catholic bogeyman King Philip of Spain, who would go on to launch his Armada against his former sister-in-law. The speeches that Wilson translated were written by that young Athenian swot in his underground study: the grown-up Demosthenes played a role akin to that of the 1930s politicians who argued against appeasement of Hitler. For Demosthenes, the threatening foreigner against whom he railed in speeches to the complacent Athenians was an ancient King Philip, the father of Alexander. Wilson’s queen, the learned Elizabeth I, had already made play with Demosthenes. She knew Ancient Greek, a rare accomplishment then, especially for a woman. Her personal book of devotions includes a Christian prayer in that language (‘Lord Christ . . . release me from all the sin that I have committed from my youth’). Very probably she herself was its author. In 1564, the queen descended on Cambridge University to inspect the labours and loyalties of the students and dons, a woman in a sea of men. During the junketing, she gave a speech – in Latin. In this we find her referencing . . . Demosthenes. He once wrote, so she told her hearers, that ‘the example of a prince has the force of law’: not quite a fair rendition of Demosthenes – no friend, as we have seen, to monarchs. For Elizabeth, beset by threats, what mattered was to hitch the prestige of ancient Greece to her political point: the supreme authority of her queenship. The cult of antiquity which the Renaissance birthed gave a new value to ancient Greek speeches by famous orators like Demosthenes. So it did to ancient Greek handbooks on how to speak and argue 112

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well, like Aristotle’s. In the 1700s, the British prime minister Pitt the Elder ‘read Demosthenes to acquire a forcible style’. The extraordinary elevation of the ancients in the minds of so many is captured by this admirer (and admirer of Pitt), writing a half-century after Pitt’s death: If we mistake not, the characteristic of [Pitt] was that elevation of soul, which, though it is everywhere admired, rather strikes men from their knowledge of the rareness of its occurrence among them, than from a full comprehension of its grandeur. Yet what but that gives to the reminiscence of classical antiquity its still powerful influence on the feelings of us all?

In this kind of cultural atmosphere, ‘rhetoric’, as the ancients called the science and theory of public speaking, entered the universities. Edinburgh’s professorship of ‘Rhetoric and Belles Lettres’ was founded in 1760. At Edinburgh there is still a professor ‘of Rhetoric’ – the title survives, but the subject doesn’t. In the USA, the story is different. I once visited an academic friend who taught Ancient Greek on the leafy campus of a liberal arts college in Indiana. Here, as on some other campuses in the USA, there is a rhetoric (formerly speech) department and a rhetoric professor. The website states that ‘Studying rhetoric helps students become effective speakers, listeners, and writers.’ The array of suggested careers open to a rhetoric major includes communication director, attorney and teacher. Every spring the college hosts ‘the oldest continuous public speaking contest west of the Alleghenies’ (meaning the natural mountain barrier between the east coast and the American interior). It was founded a decade or so after Gettysburg. As my friend says, at this college ‘Speech has always been a big thing.’ Teaching has moved on from nineteenth-century times. American textbooks on the subject once highlighted ancient models for formal 113

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speechifying. But from the turn of the twentieth century, they started to promote a more conversational style in public speaking. But the lineage is there. At the time of writing, ‘Rhetoric’ at my friend’s college includes an annual course required for every Rhetoric major on ‘Ancient Greek philosophers and texts’. This includes some of the ‘rich theoretical models from the ancient Greeks’, such as Aristotle’s treatise on the subject. ‘It’s important to us,’ the head of department told me, ‘that they graduate with an understanding of the ancient roots of our discipline.’ On both sides of the Atlantic, a favourite manual of earlier times was a collection of lectures written for some eighteenth-century schoolboys by a Scot steeped in the speechifying of the ancients. Topics included ‘Different Kinds of Public Speaking’ (with extracts from Demosthenes), ‘Pronunciation, or Delivery’ and ‘Means of Improving in Eloquence’. Published in book form in 1783, these lectures by Hugh Blair were repeatedly reprinted in the nineteenth century. A periodpiece they may now seem, but there are still wise words for modern times. From the lecture covering ‘Grecian Eloquence’, ‘fools can persuade none but fools’ sticks in the mind as having a contemporary resonance. Aside from Aspasia and Elizabeth I, this chapter has been a maledominated story. Despite my being a PSM or ‘pale, stale male’, this is not my rigging of the evidence. As we have seen, citizen-women could not speak for themselves in ancient Greek courts and were excluded from politics, both in Athens and in the rest of the Greek city states. For them, there was no speech-making, no contributions to a debate and no need to be taught public speaking. And there was no need for manuals to take account of a woman’s perspective. Where we do encounter the public voices of ‘women’ – on the Greek stage – they turn out to be the voices of male impersonators (chapter 14). At best perhaps, as city priestesses, real women might occasionally be heard in public uttering a prayer or a ritual word or two. It has been said that there is a ‘long line of largely successful attempts . . . to exclude women 114

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from public speech’ in western history (more on this in chapter 8). If so, the ancient Greeks do indeed stand first. As we have seen (chapter 4), ancient Greek writings offered ‘scientific’ explanations of the female state. It is now time to look more closely at what the ancient Greek men of ‘science’ have done for us.

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hile I was writing this book, scientists in different countries were helping the world recover from a deadly pandemic (see chapter 5) by inventing, in double-quick time, various vaccines. Those involved hailed their successes as team efforts and as examples of international collaboration: no individual genius took the credit. This reflects how much of today’s science research is conducted. This is shown, too, from its learned publications in the name of not one, or even two or three, but whole groups of authors. The ancient Greeks, by contrast, had a weakness for celebrity ‘scientists’, as we somewhat misleadingly call their polymathic ‘wisdom-lovers’ or philosophoi. For instance, their writings liked to give names to the creators of new mēchanai or artificial devices, as in this account of Roman mining operations in Spain: At a depth they sometimes break in on rivers flowing beneath the surface . . . Since they are driven by the well-founded anticipation of gain, they carry out their enterprises to the end, and – most incredible of all – they draw off the streams of water with the so-called Egyptian screw [literally ‘snails’] which Archimedes the Syracusan invented when he visited Egypt. 116

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The Greek Archimedes lived in the 200s bc. His invention has lived on in his native Sicily, where more recent versions have helped to manufacture a local gourmet product, which you can buy in giftsized bags in the island’s south-west. For here the coastline is dotted with salt pans. A picturesque windmill would power – or a salter operate by hand – a screw fitted to the inside of a cylindrical pipe. As it was turned, the screw would raise seawater out of a salt pan and, at the angled pipe’s higher end, deposit it in a drainage ditch. The ancient Greek name conveyed the essence of the invention: just like the shell of a snail, a spiral. As well as inventing real-world devices, Archimedes was a mathematical theorist who wrote down his ideas. His writings are still being found. One tale of rediscovery shows once more the frail thread by which can hang the survival of ancient Greek learning. In the Middle Ages writing materials were scarce. In the 1100s, a scribe found some used bits of parchment. From these he produced a so-called palimpsest (‘scraped again’ in Ancient Greek). That is, he scraped off the older writing and, over the traces, copied out – in this case – Christian prayers. In 1998, Christie’s auctioned this medieval prayer book to an anonymous bidder for $2 million. What gave it its value were not the prayers, but the earlier writings they overwrote. The new owner allowed experts to apply the latest high-tech methods to reconstitute seven works of Archimedes from the faint traces left. Of one of these works it has been said that it ‘described a calculus-like procedure that anticipated Newton’s and had it been published in the 16th century . . . might have greatly accelerated the progress of mathematics’. Another expert has commented: ‘The palimpsest is important for Archimedes, especially his Method, where we now know he used actual infinities, and his Stomachion, where we now know he explored combinatories.’ So, there are experts who see in Archimedes a forerunner of the mighty Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century, whose laws of 117

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motion helped found modern physics. What I take from the second comment is this: trying to understand Archimedes is unlikely to be everyone’s cup of tea, mine included. In my asking ‘what Archimedes did for us?’ there is the possibility that the water screw as a method for raising water was invented much earlier – to satisfy the ambitions of the poet Byron’s ‘Assyrian wolf ’, King Sennacherib (died 681 bc). In one of his inscriptions, this Assyrian king vaunts the ‘great cylinders’ by which ‘water was drawn up all day’ to his palace garden at ancient Nineveh, in modern Iraq. Were these water screws? Four centuries later, did Archimedes in Egypt discover a device introduced there after the Assyrian conquest of the Nile valley in the mid-600s bc? The experts aren’t sure about this. Generally speaking, too little is known today about how the ancient Greeks used older thinking and discoveries from the civilisations of the Near East and fed them into their own studies. Then again, for all the keenness of the ancient Greeks on celebrity inventors, in truth advances in ‘science’ tend to stand on the shoulders of others. Ribonucleic acid, or RNA, key to getting human cells to respond in the right way in some of the 2020 vaccines against the coronavirus Covid-19, is not itself a new discovery. But a retired geneticist described RNA to me as ‘very unstable’ and ‘hard to work with’ back in her days in the lab. That was then: building on previous work, today’s designers of coronavirus vaccines have found solutions to this problem. Unpicking what the achievements of the ancient Greeks in science ‘did for us’ is tricky for other reasons too. Take Aristotle. His ideas about slavery (chapter 3) and women (chapter 4) have only recently acquired their power to dismay large numbers of people. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the world of learning by and large accorded great respect to his efforts to acquire knowledge and understanding of the world based on proper and demonstrable principles. This was the essential task of the ancient Greek philosophos or wisdom-lover. It is significant that there had been a demand in the Middle Ages for new copies and for translations of many of the ancient Greek 118

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writings which contained these efforts. This suggests how Aristotle’s teachings retained intellectual currency after antiquity. The learned people who kept these writings alive did so ‘primarily to address their own needs and not out of blind reverence or antiquarianism’. The labours of medieval scribes and translators reflect the practical value of Aristotle for philosophical and scientific activity in Latin, Greek and Arabic – in the overlapping medieval worlds of Christian Europe, Byzantium and Islam, in other words. In the 1500s, the writings of Aristotle received fresh blood. Starting in Italy, professors no longer relied on the older translations of his work into Latin, whether from the original Greek or from Arabic (see chapter 1). Thanks to the arrival of Greek manuscripts from the disintegration of Byzantium, western universities now had access to Aristotle in the original. By no coincidence, these years also saw the first stirrings of what is usually termed the Scientific Revolution. This was stimulated by – among other things – ancient Greek writings. In the atmosphere of freer inquiry which the Renaissance had helped to create, intellectuals also questioned these writings. They ended up by jettisoning much of the ancient Greek view of the world that had come down through the Middle Ages. Among these intellectuals was Galileo, an Italian mathematician and philosopher. In 2009, a venerable telescope toured museums in the USA as part of a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the first demonstration of its use. Do not think Jodrell Bank: normally housed in Florence, the exhibit has been described as a ‘slim brown stick’. It is one of several which Galileo had made, experimenting all the while with stronger lenses to increase magnification. With his telescopes, Galileo made revolutionary discoveries about the heavenly bodies. As well as catapulting him to European fame, these discoveries more or less did for the ancient model of how the cosmos worked. Aristotle had speculated that the moon was a pure sphere and therefore perfectly smooth and made of different matter, which was superior to that of the earth. He also accepted and 119

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developed an older Greek idea that ‘the earth is at rest’ within a spherical universe, while the other heavenly bodies – all spheres, like the moon – rotate around the earth. This idea became the standard ancient picture of the universe. In 1609, Galileo telescopically studied the moon. He concluded that its surface contained mountains and valleys, just like the earth; therefore, it might be made of similar matter. Then he observed three moons close to Jupiter and realised that they were circling not the sun, as the ancient model would have it, but Jupiter itself. His observations of the phases of Venus were based on the variations of solar lighting on the planet’s surface. These variations then led him to argue that Venus rotated around the sun. In a big book of 1632, he set out his discoveries and their implications. He now upset the applecart by using his own findings to support the controversial claims of an earlier astronomer. In the early 1500s, this Copernicus – a Polish-Prussian scholar – had first challenged the ancient Greek view by proposing that it was the sun that was ‘at rest’ and the earth that was circling it. Galileo could not actually prove that Copernicus was right. But he came out in support of him by piling on the circumstantial arguments based on his telescopic findings – if Venus rotated around the sun, the earth probably did, too. Aristotle was done for, you might think. But judging what the Greeks did for us in science is a delicate affair. Aristotle also inquired about how best to use reason and proof in making a point: ‘Salt water when it turns into vapour becomes sweet, and the vapour does not form salt water when it condenses again. This I know by experiment.’ Thus Aristotle did use experiment, although his experiments don’t impress today’s experimental scientists, since they lack the allimportant ‘controls’. He also wrote a great deal about how to make a sound argument – ‘logic’ in other words. I remember once, in the back of a car in Ireland after too much Guinness, arguing with a colleague over that favourite of the pub crawl, the existence of God. He came up with a so-called syllogism 120

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supposedly proving God’s existence, one that he’d heard from his university tutor. It went something like this. Our hunger for food has an object outside ourselves. Our hunger for sex has an object outside ourselves. Therefore, our hunger for religion must also have an object outside ourselves. The idea of the syllogism goes back to Aristotle. One of his works on how to argue begins: We must first state the subject of our inquiry and the faculty to which it belongs: its subject is demonstration and the faculty that carries it out demonstrative science. We must next define a premiss, a term and a syllogism . . .

To finish with Galileo, his writings are kept in an archive in Florence. Back in 1988, experts published an overlooked notebook from his student days at Pisa. It contains the young Galileo’s ‘exhaustive analyses’ of Aristotle’s ‘concept of demonstration and proof ’. These early studies explain why he could write near the end of his life that he owed to Aristotle the manner of logical argument used in his scientific writings. Galileo may have refuted Aristotle, but to do so he used Aristotle’s methods. This powerful quality to Aristotle’s thought helps explain why some Chinese people today take his wisdom so seriously. This is shown by the project of a late Chinese professor at Beijing University. He knew the Ancient Greek language and taught it to a few pupils. Before he died in 2000, he and some of these former pupils translated into Chinese the complete works of Aristotle. This is an impressive labour of scholarship: the first Oxford translation into English ran to twelve volumes. Chinese academics can now compare Aristotle with their own great sage, Confucius, or cite Aristotle’s views to deepen a discussion of Chinese women’s employment rights since Chairman Mao supposedly swept away ‘the feudal systems that fetter women’. I turn now to medicine. For a long time, my main contact with this branch of ancient Greek science was through archaeological 121

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objects. The archaeological museum on the site of ancient Corinth in Greece has a curious room, one which I first visited as a young postgraduate. When last I visited this chamber of surprises in 2019, it was filled with giggling schoolchildren. You could see why. On display is a large and varied collection of body parts, intimate ones included: a lower leg, a foot with its ankle, various eyes, a pair of female breasts, male genitals, a pair of ears, and much more. The archaeologists who excavated these objects found hundreds of them, including at least 125 human hands. They are made of fired clay, and many have holes so that they could be suspended: people in ancient times had hung them as religious offerings in one of ancient Greece’s many healing sanctuaries. Modern excavators retrieved them from its ruins. Those who entered this Corinthian shrine in ancient times would have been confronted with the startling sight of a forest of suspended body parts. An hour or so’s drive from Corinth is another archaeological site, Epidaurus. Modern visitors usually head straight for the ancient Greek theatre, the best preserved on the Greek mainland. Here there is daily entertainment in the form of the tourist who insists on trying out the fabled acoustics, versus the Greek warden, whose job it is to see off such manifestations of disrespect for the cultural sanctity of the place. In general, there is little on the information panels to tell you what really went on at Epidaurus. The behaviours of the ancients here reveal attitudes to disease that serve to refute any idea we might have of ancient Greek medicine as precociously ‘modern’. That said, no fellow human should underestimate the sheer desperation of the ancient sick who flocked here to find a cure. Some modern scholars compare Epidaurus (and the many other ancient places like it) to a hospital. On this view, all sorts could turn up for treatment that drew on the best that ancient Greek medicine had to offer. Yet, if this was indeed a hospital, it was one without a morgue or a maternity ward. This follows from an eye-witness ancient description: 122

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The sacred grove of Asclepius [at Epidaurus] has boundarystones around it in every direction. Inside that enclosure, no men die and no women bear children.

Epidaurus was nothing more or less than a faith-healing sanctuary. Human activity inside the boundary stones was governed by the same archaic rules about purity and pollution as Delphi, Olympia and all the other religious precincts of the ancient Greeks. Epidaurus was presided over by a Greek god, Asclepius, son of Apollo, just as the Virgin Mary presides over today’s Lourdes in France. The senior official at Epidaurus was the god’s priest. Epidaurus must have been, as it still is now, a rather lovely place, set in wooded countryside hemmed in by scenic limestone hills. Back then, the most lavish piece of architecture was not a hospital ward, but a ruined circular structure, which Greek archaeologists today are reconstructing with the help of cranes and freshly cut marble blocks. This round building was erected in the middle decades of the 300s bc. Its remnants include one of the earliest physical examples of a new-fangled type of Greek column-capital, the Corinthian. This was a superbly carved confection, which the nature-loving Greeks based on the acanthus. The deeply cut leaves of this Mediterranean plant lend themselves to ornament. The building also has a mystery feature: a crypt comprising concentric circles of masonry. The latest learned theory at the time of writing is that worshippers gathered inside this beautiful building to honour the god with song and dance. On this view, the peculiar foundations beneath their feet acted as a resonator to amplify and refine the sound. This was in line with another scientific activity of the ancient Greeks: their acoustic investigations. If the theory is right, nothing could make clearer the religious preoccupation of those who frequented Epidaurus with pleasing the god of the place. There is a museum on site, charmingly old fashioned, displaying the finds of the excavators. In the entrance hall, rarely noticed by modern tourists, are tall stone slabs inscribed with line after line of 123

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Ancient Greek. These inscriptions tell us why the god’s goodwill was so important for ancient pilgrims to Epidaurus. Here is an extract: Ambrosia of Athens. Blind in one eye. She came as a suppliant to the god. As she walked around the sanctuary, she laughed at some of the cures as unbelievable and impossible, that the lame and the blind should become well through merely seeing a dream. In her sleep she saw a vision. It seemed to her that the god stood by her and said he would cure her, but that he would ask her in exchange to offer in the sanctuary a silver pig as a memorial of her ignorance. After saying this, he cut her diseased eyeball and poured in some medicine. When day came she walked out healthy.

Greek archaeologists have partly restored the ruins of the special building in which Ambrosia would have slept: a roofed colonnade, closed off by stone parapets between the columns for a measure of privacy; essentially it was a large dormitory. In search of a cure, Ambrosia was paying for the privilege of a specific religious rite, which the ancient Greeks called, in effect, a ‘sleep over’. In this ritual, you overnighted as close as possible to the statue in the god’s temple. You hoped that, while you slept, Asclepius would come over, visit you in your dreams and effect a miraculous cure. The wording of Ambrosia’s testimony works rather like the genre of modern advertisement, which begins with someone talking down a product, which is then revealed to be as meritorious as its makers claim. One senses here the hand of the priesthood, always touting for new business for a religious centre that was also an economic hub. It provided a major market for local products and services. Contemplation of ancient Greek faith-healing may seem to require some of the scepticism sometimes directed at the phenomenon of Lourdes. Scientists today who study the history of alleged cures at this Roman Catholic shrine in France note dubious factors in the records. These include one-time observations only of the supposed 124

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cures, the absence of follow-up, and a failure to differentiate between improvement and a genuine cure. There is also the likelihood that some patients suffered psychosomatic disorders and improved through auto-suggestion. Conclusions from modern research of this kind give further food for thought: ‘Although uncommon, the miraculous cures are evidence of somatic and mental processes we do not know.’ What has been observed for Lourdes could apply equally to Epidaurus. As at Lourdes, so in shrines of Asclepius, patients were also pilgrims. The mindset of the sick at Lourdes has been described as a mixture of ‘anticipation and hope, belief and confidence, fervour and awe, meditation and exaltation’. The same can be imagined for the pilgrims to Epidaurus. Once at the shrine, as at Lourdes, their state of mind could likewise have been ‘compounded by the spiritual atmosphere, ritual gestures, hymns, and prayers’. Another thing: at Lourdes there has been a steady decline in the number of officially claimed cures during the twentieth century. Currently they are just a trickle. By way of explanation, ‘First and foremost is the increasing efficiency of modern medicine.’ In stark contrast, in ancient Greek times, faith-healing was never driven out among people seeking a cure by the decisive victory of any other approach to healing. Asclepius remained a powerful ‘saviour’ god, served by bustling shrines until official Christianity finally shut him down in ad 396. In treating disease, the ancient Greeks did know another way. The evidence comes from the Greek writings left behind by those physicians who practised it. Its (just about) living symbol has long been a gnarled plane tree growing in the old quarter of the capital of Kos, a Greek island in the south-east Aegean. This Methuselah is so ancient that it has to be propped up with metal struts, the arboreal equivalent of a Zimmer frame. Local guides tell their groups that their island’s most renowned ancient son used to give classes beneath the broad leaves of this tree. This man’s name was Hippocrates and he was a native of Kos in ancient times. 125

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With so little known about the historical Hippocrates, the temptation to make it up can be strong. Experts are still debating his dates – a new theory has him practising in the 470s and 460s bc. This puts him in the first half of the fifth century bc, not the second, his usual place. He took paying pupils – the factual basis for the tall story of the plane tree. Ancient Greek traditions show that his fame as a doctor among his fellow Greeks was near-instant, and that it was, and remained, huge. In 1526, a Venetian publisher produced the first-ever printed edition of what had come down from ancient days as a collection of medical writings authored by Hippocrates himself: The Complete Works of Hippocrates, as the frontispiece declares in both Greek and Latin. Probably first assembled by an unknown scholar in the 200s bc, these sixty or so medical writings in Ancient Greek are, in fact, a mixed bag of different dates and different writers. Another Aegean island figures in his story. Today you approach it by a short ferry ride from the mainland of northern Greece. You land in the island’s ancient harbour, and may well eat lunch in a taverna built, like the rest of the island’s pleasant main town, on the ruins of its ancient forerunner. The French have excavated the agora or civic centre. Its contours are hard to make out if strimming has yet to remove the springtime greenery obscuring the ruins. There is a museum full of archaeological interest. Thasos – the island’s name – may have seen Hippocrates himself at work. This island is the setting for some of those ancient writings of ‘Hippocrates’ – perhaps the oldest ones: Criton, in Thasos, while still on foot, and going about, was seized with a violent pain in the great toe; he took to bed the same day, had rigours and nausea, recovered his heat slightly, at night was delirious. On the second, swelling of the whole foot, and about the ankle redness, with distention, and small blisters; acute fever; he became furiously deranged; stools bilious, unmixed, and rather frequent. He died on the second day from the start of the illness. 126

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Reading like notes for fellow medics, the case studies in these writings are the earliest day-to-day observations of real-life patients from anywhere in the world. Plato’s writings in the fourth century bc suggest a revolutionary – for the time – tenet of Hippocrates. Medicine should take account of ‘the nature of the whole’ in understanding the human body and its ailments. The writings themselves suggest a patient-centred approach. Doctors working in this way should get to know the individual patient, because individuals each have their own ‘nature’. If you came to understand this, you had a better chance of predicting the course of a disease, as well as of selecting the best remedies. The (mostly) anonymous physicians who authored these ‘Hippocratic’ writings all seem at home in an atmosphere of rational inquiry. Perhaps for the first time in ancient Mediterranean societies, they pondered on the relationship between illness, health and lifestyle. This thinking ‘joined up’ food, drink and exercise. Here is advice to a wandering physician arriving in a new Greek city, where he hoped to practise: He should consider the regimen of the inhabitants, what their preferences are, whether they enjoy drinking, taking lunch at midday and are inactive, or whether they enjoy exercise and exertion, eat a lot and drink little.

This way of thinking about disease was in stark contrast to the magical body parts offered by the faithful in ancient Corinth. Anatomical depictions such as these appear to say that sickness befalls particular parts of the human body. It is the parts, not the whole, that healing needs to target. Today, approaches claimed as ‘holistic’ – derived from this same ancient Greek word, holos – are a recognised strand in western medical ethics. It is now a medical commonplace that – in theory at least – the feelings and emotions of patients require just as much investigation and attention as the symptoms of their diseases. 127

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No less revolutionary, the Hippocratic writings are clear in rejecting magic and superstition in both the cause and the cure of illness: I do not believe that the so-called ‘Sacred Disease’ is any more divine or sacred than any other disease. It has its own specific nature and cause; but, because it is completely different from the other diseases, men, through their inexperience and wonder at its peculiar symptoms, have believed it to be of divine origin. This theory of divine origin is kept alive by the difficulty of understanding the malady.

Here the ancient writings are discussing what we call epilepsy. The author frees himself from the traditional idea of his time, in all ancient Mediterranean societies, that it was the gods who sent sickness. This was why epilepsy was ‘sacred’. We fall ill, he says, from natural, not divine, causes. The same reasoned tone emerges in these writings where they catalogue the alleged properties of different foodstuffs and drinks. They see a healthy diet as one adapted to human nature. This is because the body has to ‘overcome’ the food it ingests. The sick should be put on diets matching their state of health. For the very weak, this means soups or just liquid. If the tone is also combative (‘I do not believe’), this is because ancient Greek doctors like Hippocrates had to defend and advertise their approach in the face of competition. They weren’t trained professionals who could convince patients by flourishing paper qualifications. Like other ancient craftsmen, such as sculptors, they might wander from town to town. They faced the ‘purifiers’ and ‘magicians’, traditional healers who invoked the gods and offered cures based on spells. Then there was the booming faith-healing business of the shrines. The fact that these alternatives flourished suggests the limits of what the Hippocrates-style physician could do for a patient. As well as dietary prescriptions, these doctors relied heavily on drugs 128

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(pharmaka, whence our ‘pharmacy’, etc.) in treating their patients. Mainly they made up their concoctions from animal and plant products. The writings are specific that some ingredients were imports, such as alum from Egypt, a mineral familiar to me as a styptic for cuts from shaving. This is one of the undisputed ways in which these Greek doctors shared knowledge with older neighbours to the east. This approach was allied to a bigger idea in the writings about the ‘nature’ of humans. This bigger idea outlived the ancient Greeks, and its traces remain in today’s language and everyday beliefs in discussing health. I’m thinking of words – some come down via their Latin rendering – like ‘melancholic’, meaning disposed to being sad; ‘phlegmatic’ or being stolidly calm; ‘sanguine’ or optimistic; ‘choleric’ or irascible; ‘bilious’ or nauseous. These are relics of a once all-pervasive theory of the four so-called ‘humours’. This theory first appears in the debris of ancient Greek thinking about health in one of the ancient writings ascribed to Hippocrates. The theory is remarkable for its time, because it takes on the nature of the body as a whole: The body of man has in itself blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile [melaina cholē]; these make up the nature of his body, and through these he feels pain or enjoys health. He enjoys the most perfect health when these elements are duly proportioned to one another in respect of compounding, quality and quantity, and when they are perfectly mixed. Pain is felt when one of these constituents is in defect or excess, or is isolated in the body without being compounded with all the others.

Hence, as these writings say, ‘The doctor’s business is addition and subtraction: subtraction of what is present in excess and addition of what is deficient.’ There was a big emphasis on laxatives. This idea turned out to have a great future. Fast-forward two millennia to Louis XIV (1638–1715). This French king, renowned for his mistresses and palaces, was also a martyr to medical treatments. 129

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This is known thanks to a surviving journal of his day-to-day state of health, kept by his doctors. It is striking not least for its ceaseless scrutiny of the royal bowel movements: ‘[The king] was purged on the 15th. The first bowel movements were very large and frothy; the ones that followed included fiery humours and oily, hot bile.’ There is a great deal more of this. As the most recent editors of this journal note, ‘applying the principles of Hippocratic medicine, the doctors tried to stamp out the sources of illness by purgative drinks, by clysters [anal syringes] and by bleedings’. Developed over the centuries, this ‘Hippocratic medicine’ went back to that ancient Greek idea that the human body hosts four ‘humours’ – the Latin humor translated cholē in Ancient Greek. The physicians who originated this theory seem to have channelled a prevailing Greek idea about the natural world. Changes in physical matter could be explained by the effects of a few basic properties. Typically, these were hot, cold, wet and dry. The doctors also must have reasoned from observation. The body secretes a range of substances and fluids. Some of these manifestly link to illness (such as pus or catarrh). Diagnosis of ‘humoral imbalance’ resulted in treatments aimed at expelling fluids of the ‘wrong’ kind: hence the inducement of vomiting, evacuation and blood-letting – the practice known as ‘bleeding’. I used to know a distinguished consultant from a major London hospital. He took a well-informed interest in the ancient Greek antecedents of his profession. Once he said in my hearing that the ancient Greeks in their medical thinking took a seriously ‘wrong turn’ with humoral theory. In fairness, and at the risk of oversimplifying the story, this idea did not come to dominate ancient medicine until the end of antiquity. By around ad 700, Christian Greek writings had firmly married it to a newer theory, one of the four temperaments: Those who are composed of pure blood are always joyous, joke and laugh; and they have a flowery complexion and nice skin. 130

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Those who are composed of yellow bile are passionate, courageous, quick-tempered and have hair that changes colour. Those who are composed of black bile are indolent, pusillanimous, sickly, hesitant and cowardly. Those who are composed of phlegm are despondent and also cold, forgetful and with a short memory, sleep a lot and have white skin.

It is this way of thinking about temperament that has left those fading echoes in today’s language and thinking. The original humoral theory had been codified into a pseudo-science. The authority of the ancients ensured the theory a continuing presence in the medical life of the Middle Ages and beyond. As we have seen, France’s royal doctors applied humoral principles in tending the Sun King. New medical discoveries from the sixteenth century on made the theory increasingly obsolete. Yet conservative clinicians clung onto it into the nineteenth century. Although it has now disappeared, for centuries humoral theory was a profound system of thought woven into the very fabric of everyday life. Well, not quite disappeared . . . Vicks VapoRub, which I remember as a child and which is still on sale, is supposed to ‘ “draw out” the cold of a bad chest infection’. In the USA in the 1970s, ‘Feelings about the heightened vulnerability of the body after bathing in warm water are shown in the widespread belief that a dash of cold water at the end of a shower will “close the pores”.’ Experts relate these practices to the residual influence of the developed humoral theory of early modern times. This theory includes the ‘belief that the healthy body is characterized by evenly distributed warmth’, as well as the idea that ‘Illness results when the body is attacked by heat and warmth.’ These ideas still formed part of the scientific medicine of Europe at the time of the Pilgrim Fathers on board the Mayflower (1620). This was all the more true of the Iberian homeland of the conquistadors, who carved out a New Spain in the early 1500s. The last 131

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Muslim ruler of al-Andalus had surrendered in 1492. These rulers belonged to a medieval commonwealth of shared medicine based on the diffusion in Latin, Greek and Arabic writings of the heritage of the ancient world. This became the medicine taught until the late eighteenth century in the new universities that the Spanish crown founded in Lima or Mexico City (1551). Anthropologists have long been aware that humoral theory lingered on until recently in Spanish-American popular medicine. For instance, there is the idea of ‘Hot’ or ‘Cold’ values in substances with no relation to actual thermal temperatures. A study published in 1988 reported findings such as these from interviews in a town in Mexico’s hinterland: Everyone I have asked [how they’d treat a broken arm] has answered without hesitation, ‘a bilma [binding over splints] of turpentine (Hot) mixed with other Hot substances such as cloves, copal incense or rosemary.’ This treatment (Spanish in origin) happens to conform to humoral theory, which specifies keeping some injuries warm until they heal.

Hippocrates still lives in another way. Bethesda, Maryland, hosts the United States National Library of Medicine, a world-class facility. On a blustery day in spring 2014, Greece’s ambassador to the USA wielded a ceremonial shovel at a tree-planting ceremony in the grounds. The sapling in question was cloned from a dead predecessor, in turn a cutting from that elderly plane tree on modern Kos under which Hippocrates supposedly had taught. If the professional world of modern medicine still honours Hippocrates, this is because, not least, it still makes use of an ancient Greek text of which he is popularly seen as the author: After four years of hard work, graduating students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA stand together and recite the Hippocratic Oath before officially beginning their careers as 132

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physicians. The oath upholds timeless ethics and values, but it has changed since Hippocrates first wrote it 2,500 years ago.

This statement is from the school’s website. It is one of numerous examples of the continuing application in ‘western’ scientific medicine of a particular code of professional conduct. This takes the form of an oath handed down to modern times among the medical writings ascribed to Hippocrates. Ancient versions on papyrus show that knowledge of this oath gradually spread. In the fourth century ad, we hear of a medical student in Roman Egypt’s Alexandria refusing to swear it. A reference in the early Middle Ages (ninth or tenth century) to physicians taking the oath – by now translated into Latin – may be no more than ‘a bookish allusion to an ancient practice’. The Renaissance rediscovered the oath in its original Greek. One of the earliest English-language translations appeared in 1597. The David Geffen School’s website says that modern medicine has had to make changes. The original’s ‘I will not give a woman a pessary to procure an abortion’ may be pro-life, but it is not prochoice. Another clause in the original oath champions what nowadays might be called restrictive practices: ‘I will impart precepts, lectures and all other learning to my own sons, to the sons of my teacher and to indentured pupils who have sworn the physician’s oath, but to no one else.’ This commitment does not exactly sound ‘patient-centred’. Other clauses have a more timelessly ethical appeal: I will use treatments for the benefit of the sick to the best of my ability and judgement . . . Into whatsoever house I enter, I will enter for the benefit of the sick . . . I will abstain from all voluntary wrong-doing and harm, and especially from sexual contacts with the bodies of women or of men, whether free or slaves . . . Whatsoever I might see or hear, in the course of my treatment or even in private relations, which ought never to be indulged, I will keep silent, holding such things to be holy secrets. 133

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In the centuries since the Renaissance, this timelessness helps to explain the survival of adapted forms of the oath in a medical profession always beset by the ethical quandaries of the day. In medical colleges, the oath started to come into use more broadly in the nineteenth century. In the USA, versions ‘grew more common in the 1850s and 1860s’. As for today, this quotation comes from a 2016 article in the British Medical Journal: Medical students usually take an oath when they graduate but there is no standard approach across the UK. Some universities – like Aberdeen and Dundee – use a modified version of the original . . . Different variations of the Hippocratic Oath are taken by doctors around the world. A version created in the 1960s is used in the US, for example, while in Pakistan doctors adhere to the original oath.

As often, perhaps, with words uttered in a ritual, what these oaths mean to those who take them seems to vary a lot: ‘Some clinicians see the oath as a rite of passage, others can’t remember taking it, and some think of it as irrelevant.’ At any rate, in his own profession, Hippocrates lives. Apart from the oath’s use in modern medical schools, its greatest moment of renewed value came after the Second World War. In 1947, twenty-three German doctors were tried before USA military courts in Nuremberg for medical atrocities during the war. Charges included performing experiments on prisoners of war and civilians and taking part in the euthanasia programme of the Third Reich. Seven of the accused were hanged. Against the background of these revelations, physicians who had come together to form the World Medical Association that same year wanted to safeguard the ethics of the medical profession for the future. In 1948, at a meeting in Geneva, their assembly approved the text of a personal pledge consciously based on an updating of the Oath of Hippocrates. This was intended for swearing by physicians on their admission to the medical profession. 134

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This so-called Declaration of Geneva remains in use. Since 1948, it has been amended and revised, most recently in 2017. In that year, a working party recognised that its use in the profession as an oath text was ‘limited’. On the other hand, it was ‘frequently incorporated into medical professional codes of conduct’. One of the concerns which this working party addressed was a point on which the Declaration ‘deviates’ from the Hippocratic Oath. This ‘calls for mutual respect between students and teachers of medicine’. A new amendment has brought the one into line with the other – a remarkable sign of the continuing authority of this ancient text. If the legacy of their medicine is nowadays diminished, the ancient Greeks can still influence modern ideas and practices around personal well-being in other ways. A full-page advertisement in my regular newspaper advertises: ‘Life Lessons. Celebrate big ideas for living better. A weekend of conversations and debates in modern wellbeing offering a fresh perspective on how to live a happier, healthier and more inspired life.’ Speakers booked for this forthcoming event in a historic house in west London include TV presenters, a comedian turned mental health campaigner, a psychologist, journalists, a clinical professor, a geneticist and so on. The event highlights a modern craving for these ‘big ideas’, while the curious potpourri of speakers perhaps suggests uncertainty as to where to find them. Professional people of faith – imams, rabbis, priests – are noticeably absent. So are the kind of people whom ancient Greeks would have turned to in these matters. One of these ancient people features in an interactive tourist attraction in the city of Larnaca in Cyprus. The ‘Storytelling Statues’ are selected statues in Larnaca’s public places which you come across while strolling around the town. Each is equipped with a QR code, which you can scan to your smart mobile device. This ‘receives a phone call “from” the statue, which then recounts its own, unique story about its connection to Larnaca . . . as if having a real, live telephone conversation’. 135

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The modern statue in question represents an ancient Greek man in a flowing, rather Buddha-like mantle. Larnaca – Citium in ancient times – was his home town. He is one of the ancient Greeks whose thinking has been memorable enough to become enshrined in English. For example, chapter 4 discussed Plato’s view of a type of relationship that was spiritual, not sexual – so ‘Platonic’. Or another example: the philosopher Epicurus lives on in ‘The Epicurean’ – the name of a craft beer shop in the north-west of England and a brand of scotch whisky – and in ‘Epicure’, a gourmet restaurant in one of Paris’s top hotels. The dictionary defines an ‘epicure’ as a person who ‘cultivates a refined taste, especially for food and drink’. Thanks to our man in Larnaca, English has gained the word ‘stoicism’, meaning ‘patient endurance in adversity’. This man’s name was Zeno. I was working in Athens in 1981, when American colleagues, excavating the civic centre of the ancient city in the downtown of modern Greece’s capital, made one of their most exciting discoveries. Deep below the modern pavement (from which you can today peer down on the find) is one end – a few marble steps and not much more – of what once, in the 400s bc, was a roofed porch. Behind its colonnade, this public building once housed paintings on wooden panels. This was why the ancient Athenians named it the Painted Stoa (meaning ‘porch’ in Ancient Greek). It also explains why the ancient Greeks knew the followers of Zeno as ‘Men of the Porch’ or Stoikoi – because he used to teach in the shade of this very colonnade. All three – Plato, Epicurus and Zeno – were Greek philosophoi, ‘wisdom-lovers’. The teaching of all three gained followers. In each case, these included later teachers, who developed the first teacher’s teaching. As for these first teachers, all their writings are lost – about three hundred scrolls’ worth, in the case of Epicurus. What we have, dating from centuries later, are the writings of Roman-period admirers and disciples. In Zeno’s case, many images survive of his most august ancient follower. A grand glass hall in Rome now houses one of them – an 136

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ancient bronze statue of a man on horseback. This is one of the very few statues in imperial Rome to survive the fall of the western empire more or less intact. The man was a Roman emperor, commander-in-chief of the legions, and in this case a generalissimo who campaigned in person – Marcus Aurelius (died ad 181). His full beard used to be taken as a sign of intellectual leanings. Now he’s thought to have been following Roman military fashions. This Marcus is the only Roman emperor whose jottings to himself have survived. They form an ancient version of a commonplace book. At least some entries were written by Marcus while campaigning – so in his tent, presumably. They confirm other ancient writings which describe – military beard notwithstanding – his private enthusiasm: He took a passionate interest in philosophy even when still a boy: when he had entered his twelfth year he dressed himself in the philosopher’s standard clothing and then began to practise endurance of hardship as philosophers do. He began to do his studies dressed in a Greek cloak and used to sleep on the ground.

The jottings have no title and not much organisation. For the most part, they comprise a series of individual reflections that Marcus addresses to himself. The emphasis is on a kind of spiritual self-help: Do not act as if you were going to live for a thousand years. The inescapable is hanging over your head; while you are alive, while it is still possible, become a good person . . . How have you behaved till now towards gods, parents, brothers, wife, children, teachers, tutors, friends, relations, servants? Consider whether your attitude so far has been this: ‘do no evil, speak no evil’.

For the experts, in all this there are meaty questions to chew over. Some of these questions apply to Zeno’s modern followers, too. How closely was Marcus following – did he know and understand, 137

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even? – the now-lost teachings, still around in his day, of the original Stoics living four centuries or so earlier? Was he leading his life according to the full rigour of Stoic theory about how to be good, with its ‘sharp, striking, and unusual philosophical conclusions about human life’? Or was he merely ‘following some heroic, Stoic-looking, way of living’? Do his actions as emperor reveal decisions based on Stoic principles? He did, after all, inflict on the Roman empire his truly dire son, Commodus – villain of the Hollywood film Gladiator (2000) – as his successor. Today there are those who feel that ancient Stoicism, as it can be retrieved from writings by its admirers in Roman times, can still teach us something. In the armed forces, these ancient writings have a certain following. In the 1970s, an American vice-admiral’s ‘personal embrace of Stoicism helped him to survive seven and a half years of systematic torture and solitary confinement’ as a captive of the North Vietnamese. Then there is Mr Spock, the half-human half-Vulcan from the Star Trek franchise. One fan of the late actor who played him wrote thus: . . . there was something else to Spock, one that spoke to seven- or eight-year-old me the way I’m sure it did to many others . . . the young Spock made a conscious decision to retreat from sentimental entanglements into logic . . . Twenty years later, I’d discover that this was the juvenile . . . version of Stoicism . . . offering the same state of resolute tranquillity.

At the time of writing, Zeno’s modern following is a phenomenon. Popular interest in ancient Stoicism has mushroomed in recent years. In 2020, there were Facebook groups of Stoics numbering tens of thousands of members. You could proclaim your sympathies by buying a T-shirt with ‘#STOIC’ printed on the front. On a more serious note, there are now many who try to follow the spiritual exercises embedded in the writings of Marcus and other ancient Roman 138

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admirers of Zeno. This is Donald Robertson, a psychotherapist and author of several self-help books advocating modern Stoicism: I study Stoic literature pretty much every day . . . [and] I try to live like a Stoic. I take a cold shower every morning; I fast every Sunday; I exercise based on Stoic principles in the mornings. I prepare for setbacks in the morning and review my day before going to sleep . . . I also use the View from Above if I’m ever feeling stressed. But Stoicism is my ethic, so in a sense I’m trying to apply it throughout the day to every situation.

It seems mean-spirited to ask how far modern-day disciples subscribe to and live out ‘the full rigour of Stoic theory’, especially given that the actual teachings of Zeno are so hard to reconstruct anyway. That some version of Zeno still offers any kind of truth for people in the twenty-first century: that is remarkable enough. It was not just the ancient Greek wisdom-lovers who pursued truth. The Greeks pioneered the western tradition of history-writing. Some of their historians claimed to seek the truth about the past. Others found an audience for ancient versions of today’s blurring of the line between truth and fiction: Mr Obama’s ‘truth decay’, Mr Trump’s ‘fake news’. Some of these ancient writings are still influential today, as the next chapter will show.

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n the outside of a clay vase now in the Louvre, an Athens potter of the 400s bc painted a young woman lying expectantly on a couch, legs apart, breasts exposed. What look like coin-sized discs cascade down onto her bare midriff. An ancient Greek poet put the same tale into words: Onto Danae you poured like gold, O Olympian, so that the girl might be persuaded by a gift, and not tremble before the son of Cronus.

This a story about the amours of Zeus, son of Cronus and king of the Greek gods. Coming down from his mountain-top home on Olympus in northern Greece, he takes the guise of a shower of gold, in order to bribe his way into the arms of fair Danae. The ancient Greeks created a huge store of popular tales like this about their earlier times and about their gods. Many people today are acclimatised by their cultural background to a distinction between ‘truth’ and ‘falsehood’. Coming across these ancient Greek stories for the first time, they might place them instinctively in the ‘tall’ class. Many people today also choose to believe real-time stories of the ‘tall’ class as fact – today’s world of so-called conspiracy theories, for 140

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instance. Egged on by the internet, such believers are sometimes said to inhabit ‘alternative universes’, to ‘live in a bubble’, or to be victims of ‘rationality inequality’. Some experts today think that asking whether the ancient Greeks ‘believed’ their fantastic stories about the past doings of their gods is a bit simplistic. If we go back to Danae, impregnated by Zeus, we find that she gives birth to a future hero who turns up in another story: in this story, her son Perseus beheads a female monster who turns to stone anybody who looks at her. Figures like Danae and Perseus, not to mention Zeus, criss-cross constantly between different ancient Greek tales of this type. They create and uphold a larger ‘story world’. Some genres of modern fiction do something similar. The story that gripped me as a boy, when an indulgent schoolmaster read it to the class after exams in my salad days was J.R.R. Tolkien’s imaginary construct of Middle Earth. Of this fantasy genre it has been said: . . . a well-constructed fictional world elicits responses from us that are almost indistinguishable from the ways in which the real world affects us, even if that fictional world has fantastic elements . . . Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it while you are, as it were, ‘inside’.

In the case of the ancient Greeks, this story world of theirs was also the world of the gods. Zeus was not just a figure in tall tales. His publicly sponsored temple at Olympia in southern Greece was one of the holiest places in the ancient Mediterranean. He and his fellow Olympians were ‘characters in whose existence a society encourages its members to believe’. So, this was a story world with all the force behind it of a religious system. It might seem all the more remarkable that the society supporting this story world of gods and monsters also produced people who took extreme pains to get at very different kinds of ‘truth’. 141

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In the previous chapter, we already encountered ancient Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’ bent on this course. The Greeks knew another kind of learned investigator, too, whom it is time now to meet properly. In 429 bc the Athenians were hit by something like a pandemic. It had already infected much of their known world when it arrived in their city. People claimed that in origin this was, to paraphrase former President Trump, an ‘Africa plague’. It reached Athens, they said, thanks to seafarers landing at Piraeus, the city’s port. An eye-witness who survived the disease wrote down a careful description: It began with violent sensations of heat in the head, and redness and burning in the eyes; internally the throat and tongue were blood-red from the start, emitting an abnormal and malodorous breath. These symptoms descended into sneezing and hoarseness, and before long the trouble descended into the chest, attended by violent coughing . . . Most patients suffered an attack of violent retching, inducing violent convulsions . . . Internally the heat was so intense that the victims could not endure the laying-on of even the lightest wraps and linens . . . A plunge into cold water would give the greatest relief. Many who were left unattended actually did this, jumping into wells . . . The majority succumbed to the internal heat before their strength was entirely exhausted, on the seventh or ninth day.

This writer noted other telling facts. People ‘died like sheep’ if they attended one another – an implicit recognition of contagion, the transmission of disease by close contact. Survivors were never attacked a second time, ‘or not with a fatal result’. The writer sounds almost like one of the ancient Greek doctors whose medical writings (see chapter 6) are preserved under the name of Hippocrates. In fact, this writer was an Athenian historian. His tongue-twisting name, met with in earlier chapters, was Thucydides (‘Thoo-sidid-eez’). In describing the plague, his interests went far beyond the clinical. He records how burial decencies were ignored. Households 142

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would, as it were, ‘gatecrash’ each other’s funerals by throwing their own dead onto someone else’s funerary pyre. Athenians were gripped by hedonism. They sought ‘to enjoy themselves while they could, and to think only of pleasure’. He wanted to show how the health crisis loosened the norms of human conduct. Here he is describing another kind of extreme behaviour, this time political: . . . the men of Corcyra [modern Corfu] continued slaughtering those of their fellow-citizens whom they deemed their enemies; they professed to punish them for their designs against the democracy, but in fact some were killed from motives of personal enmity, and some because money was owing to them, by the hands of their debtors. Every form of death was to be seen . . . The father slew the son . . . To such extremes of cruelty did revolution go.

As a description of revolution, this may strike a chord with anyone who is familiar with the inhumanities of, say, the French or Russian revolutions. This particular breakdown of normal politics in a Greek state happened under the pressure of wartime conditions. Thucydides went on to observe: In peace and prosperity both states and individuals are actuated by higher motives, because they do not fall under the dominion of imperious necessities; but war which takes away the comfortable provision of daily life is a violent master, and tends to assimilate men’s characters to their conditions.

In his day – the end of the 400s bc – Thucydides was trying to do something which no Greek had previously attempted. In describing the Athens plague, he is a Sherlock Holmes in his detailed, almost forensic, observation of the facts as he saw them. As for his generalisation (above) about the impact of war, this was part of his larger belief about the value to society of his writings: 143

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. . . if he who desires to have before his eyes a true picture of the events which have happened, and of the like events which may be expected to happen hereafter in the order of human things, shall pronounce what I have written to be useful, then I shall be satisfied. My history is an everlasting possession.

Thucydides claimed that his record of past events was a bit like a forecast for the future. He believed that human behaviour repeats itself. Given this, a work of history written in the proper way offered insights into the likely course of seemingly similar events in the present. He wasn’t the first Greek to write Greek history, but he was the first Greek, and perhaps the first writer in any ancient civilisation, to claim that history can teach us lessons – an idea which today is still discussed and, indeed, challenged. He made other claims about the seriousness of what he was trying to do. He sought to write the truth: ‘I have described nothing but what I either saw myself, or learned from others of whom I made the most careful and particular enquiry.’ In the 1950s, the shortcomings of this kind of evidence were sent up in a popular song in the musical film Gigi: ‘We met at nine, we met at eight, / I was on time, no, you were late / Ah, yes, I remember it well.’ Or, as this highly intelligent Athenian himself observed, ‘eye-witnesses of the same occurrences gave different accounts of them, as they remembered or were interested in the actions of one side or the other’. This quasi-scientific claim to have sought out the truth led him to write up his researches in a particular type of language. Not so unlike learned articles by some academics today, this ancient writer adopted what one authority has described as ‘a complicated, crabbed style, neither pleasant nor easy to read’. In doing so, he created an enduring problem for his translators. Seeming to be truthful meant not sounding like the artful Greek wordsmiths of his time, whose concerns were rather different. By expressing himself in an unvarnished prose, he distanced himself from poets who used verse and song to tell entertaining tales about the gods. Also from professional 144

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speech-writers bent more on pleasing the ear of a speaker’s audience than telling the truth. As he says, the end result might make its reading a ‘less pleasant’ experience. A sign of this writer’s seriousness is the subject matter itself. This was the great war of his own lifetime, one in which he himself fought: as he called it, the Peloponnesian War (431–404 bc). This war, he writes, was ‘a protracted struggle, and attended by calamities such as Greece has never known within a like period of time’. His history is a tightly focused narrative of the war, a year-by-year unfolding of military campaigns and the domestic politics of the belligerents and their allies. It is largely unleavened by colourful anecdotes or digressions. His interest in serious analysis made him distinguish carefully between the various causes of this disaster. Writing when he did, he perhaps should not be blamed for overlooking factors that modernday theorists of war have only recently started to debate. These might include the biological: that is, taking into account the aggressive tendencies supposedly shared by humans with other primates. In another ‘first’, what he did do was to distinguish various ‘publicly alleged reasons’ (such as the grievances of allies) from a ‘truest cause’ not stated publicly at the time: in the case of the Peloponnesian War, he believed this was one side’s fear of the other’s growing power (of which more shortly). Along with this focus on the reasons and consequences of human actions, finally, he downplayed the role of the gods and of religious sentiment in human affairs. Given that the ancient Greeks by and large were a highly god-fearing society, experts have been startled by this indifference. Intellectually, it put him on something of a par with those Greek doctors who turned their backs on the ‘sacredness’ of human diseases (see chapter 6). It has helped some people to build a modern image of Thucydides as a writer who sought more ‘rational’ explanations for human political conduct. By the late 1300s, people in western Europe were rediscovering Thucydides via manuscripts of his work obtained from the Greekspeaking ‘Romans’ of medieval Byzantium. Here his writings had 145

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always continued to circulate. Scholars in Spain, and then in Italy, France and Germany, were particularly taken with the speeches that Thucydides ‘assigned’ to the Greek leaders in the war. They included those of ‘Pericles’, encountered in earlier chapters. With the invention of printing, there was a Renaissance fad for published selections of these speeches on their own. They preserved (as it seemed) the words of famous statesmen and generals from the ancient Greek heyday. They also offered prestigious models of public speaking (see chapter 5) for the present day. As for more recent times and outside the ivory tower, in the USA in particular Thucydides is still revered – mainly as a source of military and strategic wisdom composed by an ancient author who was also an active-serving Athenian general. Like pseudo-MarieAntoinette’s ‘Let them eat cake!’, Thucydides enjoys the dubious accolade in the USA of misquotation. At a Senate hearing in 1990 on the eve of the First Iraq War, the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, contended that ‘a powerful nation has to wield its power with care’. He noted that ‘Thucydides also once said, “Of all elements of power, restraint impresses men most.” ’ Careful detective work has since traced the dazzling career of this misquotation back to a discussion of Thucydides’ style in a learned tome by a Victorian scholar, one Frank Jevons, published in 1886. The USA’s armed forces might be said to have a special relationship with Thucydides. In Hollywood’s 1974 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the palatial mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, stood in for those of the novel’s Long Island – a place by then less easy on the eye than in the time of Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Also on Rhode Island – the Cowes of the USA, famous for its sailing regattas – is the granite HQ of state-of-the-art war-gaming in the USA: the Naval War College. This elite establishment is where the navy sends selected officers to develop their grasp of strategy and international relations. On the curriculum for spring 2020 was a block of lectures, due to be 146

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delivered by four professors, on the Peloponnesian War. Topics included ‘Strategic Leadership’ and ‘Thucydides’ Insights on Man, the State, and War’. Putting Thucydides on the reading list back in 1972 was the idea of the college’s then president, a retired admiral and former head of the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency. This American veneration of the military and strategic Thucydides helps to explain how – at first sight rather surprisingly – it has crept into diplomatic discourse. China’s President Xi Jinping, discussing relations with the USA, has more than once referred to what he called the ‘Thucydides trap’. One such occasion was a meeting in Beijing in 2015, at which members of a high-powered, Chinafriendly think tank based in Los Angeles had come to hear Xi talk about China’s future development. This ‘trap’, the president said, was something he hoped China would avoid. As we have seen, Thucydides thought that the Spartans – at the time the traditionally dominant power in Greece – feared the rising power of Athens: this, he claimed, was the underlying cause of the war between the two. It’s a moot point whether President Xi had read Thucydides. In referencing the ‘Thucydides Trap’, he was deliberately talking the language of the American political scientists who agonise over China’s newfound superpower status. In the analogy made by these Americans thinkers with the Peloponnesian War of Thucydides, the USA as the established power and China as the rising power might likewise ‘push one another into war’. Moving on, in an interview on BBC television in 2020, former President Obama talked about the problem of what he (and others) called ‘truth decay’: the emergence of an online world where ‘facts don’t matter’ and which feeds misinformation to ‘millions of people’. A related phenomenon, some people think, is what has been claimed as a twenty-first-century decline of trust in experts (so-called ‘expert shaming’) and in authority figures more widely. So, it may come as less of a surprise that for some time the ivory towers have included people who cast doubt on the professed aims of history writers – truthfulness, objectivity and so on. History-writing, 147

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these naysayers claim, isn’t so different from writing a novel. What with conscious or unconscious assumptions, plus the writer’s artful way with words, history-writing creates a story which seems to be true. In the nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth, serious readers of Thucydides took at face value his claim to be truthful. His seemingly unadorned prose reinforced this impression. There are a few experts in the world today who know his history inside out, in the original Greek. Renewing scrutiny of his way of writing, they suggest that it is more artful in the effects that it creates than the reader might think. For instance, Thucydides writes in chronological order – except when he doesn’t: that is, except when he deliberately moves an episode backwards or forwards in time. He seems to do this so as to make readers see connections which he deems important, but which the reader might not find obvious otherwise. None of this makes Thucydides a liar. The fact that his writings are full of vivid speeches put into the mouths of leading actors in his history has already been mentioned. He admits that getting at what was actually said could be hard – he might not have been present in person and his informants might not have been able to remember the exact words. He tells his readers that this was what he did: I therefore have put into the mouth of each speaker the sentiments proper to the occasion, expressed as I thought he would be likely to express them, while at the same time I endeavoured, as nearly as I could, to give the general purport of what was actually said.

Imagine if later historians turned out to have made up Abraham Lincoln’s ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’; or Winston Churchill’s ‘we shall fight on the beaches’; or Margaret Thatcher’s ‘the lady’s not for turning’. Perhaps for dramatic effect, 148

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Thucydides only heightened the language, as reported to him, of fully historical ‘attempts at persuasion’ by his speakers. Some may still be left feeling uneasy at this way of writing history. Even so, of all the historical writings of the ancient Greeks to survive, those of Thucydides come closest to history-writing of the higher sort as we know it today. The ancient Greeks knew other kinds of history-writing. I remember in 1996 going to see a film called The English Patient. It opens with a visually stunning segment of a pre-Second World War biplane flying above a desert with two people in its open-air cockpits. The rest of the film slowly reveals what ties this earlier event to a man dying in a makeshift hospital – the patient of the film’s title – during the war. Suffering from dreadful burns and amnesia, he has an old book that was found with his charred body, and it is this that helps his memory start to return. Its owner clearly cherished it greatly, because it is full of personal drawings, poems and notes either pasted or folded inside. These items trigger the flashes of memory which structure the film. They also provide its climax, when his nurse reads to the dying patient the last words of the dead woman with whom he’d been having an affair. A box-office and Oscar-winning success, the film inspired thousands of its fans to go out and buy their own copies of the book in question: the histories of the ancient Greek writer Herodotus. Briefly ‘going viral’, this author enjoyed a new, if short-lived, kind of modern fame. But it was nothing like his ancient renown. For the most startling of compliments to this ancient celebrity, we should imagine ourselves in the Rome of the emperor Augustus (died ad 14). Visitors can still see his ruined mausoleum, a great cylinder of brick in the centre of the modern city. Displayed nearby in ancient times was a long Latin inscription on bronze. Intended for the eyes of literate Romans, this remarkable document offered the emperor’s own first-person summary of his political and military achievements, starting at the age of nineteen. The style is ‘I did this’ 149

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and ‘I built that’. This is the text ‘known to the modern world as the Res Gestae and which Augustus had dated with his own hand during the last year of his long life’. Although the Roman original is lost, Latin copies on stone from elsewhere in the Roman empire preserve this mini-history. They also record its heading. This was composed not by Augustus, but after his death in ad 14 by some back-room writer in the imperial orbit. Whoever it was, he knew his ancient literature. In composing the one-sentence heading, he deliberately used language evoking the words of Herodotus in the opening of his Greek history, written over four hundred years earlier. Highly educated, bilingual Romans of the time had capacious memories for what they’d read. They were alert to the teasing games played by writers who used subtle wording to call to their sophisticated readers’ minds other authors, without mentioning them explicitly. This allusive, rather clever-clever way of writing was one that the top stratum of Romans seems to have relished. It had an elitist aspect: Romans with this level of education formed a tiny minority. That apart, the practice was not so unlike that of film-makers and musical composers today. They tease and entertain their well-informed audiences by embedding in their work allusions to the films and music of others. For instance, the opening words of Herodotus announced that he was writing to commemorate ‘great and marvellous deeds’. His writings went on to offer a literary embrace of most of the world then known to the Greeks. They did so not least by means of detailed descriptions of foreign peoples (see below). Similarly, the heading to Augustus’s mini-history announced that what followed was a record of ‘deeds’. These were the ones by which Augustus, too, had mastered ‘the globe’ or ‘orbis terrarum’, as the Latin heading puts it. In the emperor’s case, however, he had achieved this feat as the all-powerful author of the very deeds he was writing about. Those deeds included important victories of arms and diplomacy, which extended Rome’s influence to Britain and Ethiopia. Channelling Herodotus in this way was not just a Roman gesture of 150

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homage to an admired Greek classic. Roman rivalry, a wish to outdo a Greek competitor, can be detected here as well. This is by the by, the reader might be thinking: what about today? A glance at the internet shows that Herodotus has a certain popular profile in the Anglosphere. Not least, he is a source of classic quotations: ‘No one is fool enough to choose war instead of peace – in peace sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons.’ Such pithy wisdom has a quality of timeless humanity that is all the more striking, some might think, for writings that date from the 400s bc. There is no denying that to explore these writings properly is, in the end, a matter of reading a book, and not a short one – 583 pages of text in my English translation. Western civilisation, or at least the English-speaking part of it, currently exists in a cultural moment when there is no shame in the admission – to quote one twenty-firstcentury celebrity – that ‘I haven’t read a book in my life.’ The appeal of reading Herodotus will not be self-evident to anyone who finds books boring or too time consuming. That said, to judge from a small crop of more recent translations into English, among those who do like to read so-called classics, the stock of Herodotus is rising. His subject matter is a great war – another one! But this ancient war has a more immediately epic quality. It also has more obvious present-day resonance. On the one side are ranged the Greeks in their small, squabbling city states; on the other are the Persians, the greatest land empire in the world at that time, with bottomless resources. As well as this David versus Goliath aspect, there are other fundamental oppositions, geographical and cultural. These might make Herodotus seem, well, more topical than a ripping yarn about long, long ago might at first suggest. The aggressors are an Asian people, the ancient Persians. The people whom they attack, the Greeks, live in Europe. Given that we owe not just the idea of ‘Asia’ and ‘Europe’ as distinct land masses, but the names themselves, to the ancient Greeks, it is perhaps unsurprising that Herodotus should have been aware of this ‘inter-continental’ dimension to his story. It puts some 151

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modern readers in mind of contemporary tensions in the world. These are the ones that some commentators like to frame as the struggle between the ‘west’ and various threats seen as ‘eastern’ – and not just in their geography. So, too, in Herodotus the opposition between Persians and Greeks is also one of values and politics. As he tells his story, these are two different civilisations. These differences, which Herodotus explores in detail, give variety and cultural colour to his story of their clash. Herodotus presents the hereditary king of the Persians as having the executive power more or less of a modern dictator. A rough analogy might be made with the hereditary rulers of some of today’s Gulf states. As well as that, the Persian king showed his absolute power through behaviour which – as Herodotus tells it – was surely meant to strike his readers as cruel and capricious. After a storm destroys the bridge of boats that he’d had laboriously constructed to convey his army across the narrow strait separating Asia from Europe, Herodotus relates as follows: Xerxes [his name] was very angry when he learnt of the disaster, and gave orders that the Hellespont [today’s Dardanelles] should receive three hundred lashes and have a pair of fetters thrown into it . . . In addition to punishing the Hellespont Xerxes gave orders that the men responsible for building the bridges should have their heads cut off.

The Greeks, on the other hand, liken the rule of such a king to that of ‘a master over slaves’. This analogy allowed Herodotus to set up another opposition. In a passage already cited (chapter 3), but worth repeating here, Herodotus has some Greek envoys to the Persian court, who receive a friendly welcome en route from a high-ranking Persian governor, somewhat impolitely tell their host: You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or 152

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bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spear only, but with axes too.

This is almost the language of Winston Churchill in 1940, declaring in the House of Commons that against ‘the menace of tyranny . . . [w]e shall go on to the end . . . we shall fight on the beaches . . .’. Herodotus here may well strike a chord with readers aware that they enjoy the benefits of a free society. Herodotus also tells us that, in his opinion, the true heroes of the Greek resistance to Persia – the Athenians – were a ‘democracy’. The word in its original Greek form – dēmokratia – possibly makes its first-ever known appearance in his work. Not only that, but it is in Herodotus that democracy as a political idea is, for the first time ever and anywhere, given an airing. This is when he has Persian nobles, whom elsewhere he calls ‘slaves’ (see above), debate the best form of rule. In this historically somewhat improbable debate, one of these grandees argues as follows: . . . the rule of the many has, first, the fairest of names – equality under the law . . . All officials are obliged to render accounts for their actions. Finally, all matters of deliberation are decided by the public assembly.

For all its dubiousness as historical fact, this debating-chamber moment which Herodotus stages is an important first in the western tradition. It is the earliest sign ever of a human capacity for abstract political thinking in the ancient Mediterranean. We are eons before Marx or Lenin worked on their revolutionary ‘-isms’ in the reading rooms of the British Museum. As for what these ancient Greek writings have to say about ‘people power’, only this morning I (like many) was gripped by what I heard on the radio. I was listening to Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s powerful first minister, at 9 a.m. sharp, begin a gruelling day of giving evidence to Scottish parliamentarians. They were inquiring into allegations of 153

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governmental misdemeanours on her watch. There is an obvious piquancy in finding this vaunted merit of democracy – the accountability of elected officials – put forward by an ancient Greek writer towards 430 bc. There is a particular reason why reading Herodotus may appeal to those at home with the internet. As he unfolds his central theme, he digresses into related topics, perhaps as oral storytellers once did in ancient times: Pigs are considered unclean. If anyone touches a pig accidentally in passing, he will at once plunge into the river, clothes and all, to wash himself; and swineherds, though of pure Egyptian blood, are the only people in the country who never enter a temple.

At this point, readers are in Egypt: Herodotus has taken them there, because a predecessor of Xerxes on the Persian throne had conquered the Egyptians. For ancient Greeks who had heard of, but never been to, this fabled land of extraordinary monuments, Herodotus next tries to define Egypt geographically (such as detailing what lands it borders). This also means describing the River Nile and prompts some rumination on why the river flooded annually (as it did in those pre-Aswan Dam days) and where all the water came from. The Nile being so central to the Egyptian way of life, Herodotus then launches into Egyptian customs. This leads on to how they worship their gods, including Egyptian attitudes towards pigs – and on it goes. This whole Egyptian digression, with one story segueing into another, fills well over a hundred pages in my translation. What makes this a curiously contemporary reading experience, it has been suggested, is the way in which he ‘pauses to give you information . . . about everything he mentions’. The resemblance is to today’s hyperlinks – those online prompts to further information about something that has come up on the screen – which you can follow by clicking or tapping. Herodotus also shares with today’s online media the accusation of peddling literally fabulous tales – an ancient version of ‘fake history’, 154

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in other words. Such suspicions went right the way back to his readers or listeners in his own time. Take his picture of ancient Persian aristocrats debating the best kind of political constitution, including Greek-style people power: Herodotus himself was aware that fellow Greeks might find these speeches hard to swallow as fact. He felt obliged to address them directly: ‘some of our own countrymen refuse to believe they were actually made at all; nevertheless they were’. Herodotus lived in a largely oral society. As he stated himself, for any information on what he did not personally witness, he relied overwhelmingly on what people told him. Since he doesn’t claim to have been personally present at this debate, to let Herodotus off the hook – that is, to avoid concluding that he was lying – you would have to assume that he had an informant whom he regarded as reliable enough to trump (in his own mind, at least) any Greek doubts. There is no shortage of content in Herodotus with which to try to judge whether he deliberately ‘faked’ history. He tells an entertaining tale about a Greek doctor, at the time a lowly captive of the Persians. King Darius hears of his reputation and has him dragged before him in chains to treat his dislocated foot. This was despite the doctor’s protestations that he wasn’t really a doctor at all. He claimed this from fear that Persian demands for his services would prevent him from ever returning home. He then uses Greek medicine to cure the king. Not only that, but he treats his queen for a ‘growth on her breast’: Shame had induced her to conceal it, and to say nothing about it to anyone, while it was still small, but when it got worse and she became dangerously ill, she sent for Democedes [the Greek doctor] and let him see it . . . He treated the growth, effected a cure, and told the queen what he wished her to do.

This implies that the doctor had first got the queen to agree to undertake a service, in return for his treating her. Guided in what to 155

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say by the doctor, after the treatment she uses pillow talk to persuade her royal husband to invade Greece. In doing so, she says that she has the perfect guide in mind for the necessary prior Persian scouting party – none other than the doctor. Darius agrees, and by this ruse the Greek doctor finally gets to return to his homeland. Experts detect in this story the stuff of a folkloric type of hero found across cultures ‘who has taken over the identity of an historical doctor’. That is, ‘a poor or despised person gains a desired end by knowing the secret of a king’s illness and by curing him’. The wife who persuades her husband while they’re in bed together also has a suspiciously folkloric ring about her, to judge from Scandinavian and Italian folktales of more recent times. An honest Herodotus could simply have been fed misinformation. He certainly could be misled by his sources: this seems to be the reason for his unflattering picture of a Persian king – Cambyses by name – who supposedly goes mad in Egypt, ‘disrespecting’ the Egyptian bull-god. Herodotus sourced this tale from Egyptian priests, who had inherited an old grudge of their caste against the king in question. This caused them to invent falsehoods about the king’s actions in Egypt. As for the tale of the Greek doctor, again, Herodotus perhaps was taken in by his informants. If he wasn’t, then at least he stands accused (as the adage goes) of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story. A graver charge against Herodotus the historian is that he deliberately fabricated the story for his own purposes. He would have done so by stitching together familiar folkloric motifs circulating in his world. This is where the Battle of Salamis may come in. Modern Salamina is a small, rocky island just outside Piraeus, the busy port of Greece’s capital. On its north side, a narrow channel separates the island from the mainland. Here there is another port, as well as dockyards. This is not the most scenic of islands – and certainly not the sort on which a Hollywood celebrity would be likely to build a Greek holiday home. 156

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Still, like almost everywhere in Greece, it has its curiosities. I well remember driving along a stretch of main road on Salamina and finding that the road suddenly divided to make way for a huge tree in its middle: only in Greece, you might think. I also recall the industrial peninsula at the island’s eastern end – not least for the sight of so many merchant ships, fishing boats, caïques and indeed every variety of vessel, so it seemed. This is one of the best points for viewing the setting of the great naval battle that occurred here in the summer of 480 bc. This battle is one of the climaxes of Herodotus’s account of the culminating episode of his work, the invasion of Greece by Xerxes earlier that same year. The allied Greek fleet is stationed in that sheltered channel. Its commanders are divided as to whether to stay or flee as the Persian fleet approaches. The resourceful Athenian admiral – Themistocles – devises a ruse to make them stay and fight. He sends one of his slaves to tell the Persians that the Greek fleet is going to sail off. If the Persians want to bring them to battle, they need to block both ends of the channel. This the Persians do. The Greeks now have no choice but to shelve their differences and fight. Helped by the fact that the Persians, having moved into the narrows, cannot play to their strength (superior numbers), the plucky Greeks rout the enemy. They do so under the nose of Xerxes, who is enthroned on the mainland – somewhere opposite that peninsula. He is expecting to watch his warships romp to victory. Taking this defeat very hard, he promptly returns to Persia with, as we might say, his tail between his legs. There’s no denying that Herodotus tells a terrific story here. It’s also possible – as one scholar has suggested – that he created the earlier story about the Greek doctor precisely so as to foreshadow this moment in the minds of his readers or listeners: The omnipotent and potentially violent eastern despot is outwitted by the cunning and resourceful Greek [the doctor], just as his son Xerxes was destined to be climactically outwitted by the equally resourceful Themistocles at Salamis. 157

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On this view, Herodotus was the consummate shaper of a good story. In today’s ivory towers he has his champions and his detractors. All of them struggle with the difficulty of showing for certain that he was one thing or the other. The internet is awash with sites offering ‘expert tips’ for spotting fake content in online news, such as ‘doublecheck with a source you trust’. This is not an option with Herodotus. He was a lone figure in his time, as far as we know. If he did sometimes make it up, then perhaps we should acknowledge the different cultural milieu that produced him – one that was immersed in that alternative reality of gods and monsters with which this chapter began. It was a society perhaps still on the way to requiring ‘truthfulness’ at all costs in contemplating the human past. Some will say that what Herodotus did for us was to write the earliest work of history in the west. Others may want to qualify this: yes, but ‘certainly not history as we know it’ now. If fake history is also part of his legacy, we can at least reflect ruefully that this tendency, still very much present in the modern world, is also as old as the mountains of Salamina. To understand better the story world from which Herodotus the historian emerged, I turn next to an earlier work of Greek literature. This has a good claim to the centre-ground of any story of what the Greeks did for us: Homer.

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1 Two-thirds scale replica of the Parthenon in the ‘Window of the World’ amusement park, Shenzhen, China.

2 A marble figure belonging to a fifthcentury BC sculptural group looted by the Romans from the pediment of a Greek temple. Shipped to Rome, the figures were recycled to adorn the temple of Apollo Sosianus (late first century BC).

3 Fragmentary pot (about 500 BC) showing Athenian girls dancing or running before an open-air altar in the shrine of Artemis at Brauron. Modern understanding of the girls’ rites here as a marker of puberty has inspired an Artemis ‘revival’ in the USA.

4 Propaganda poster commissioned for display on the sides of London buses and trams (1915). Citing the Funeral Speech of Pericles, it aimed to boost public morale during the First World War.

5 French oil painting of 1770 by Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée the elder. Based on ancient Greek writings, it depicts a Spartan mother handing her son his shield with the exhortation to return with it or (as a dead war-hero) on it.

6 Protesters from the Reclaim Australia nationalist group at their rally in Sydney, 2015. They wear replica Greek helmets and carry shields with the Greek letter lambda for ‘Lakedaimonioi’, or Spartans.

7 With this wine jug made in Athens around 490 BC, the potter has literally objectified the head of a black African man. In real life Athenians might encounter black Africans among the city’s large population of enslaved people.

8 Colossal figure on bended knee of a trousered ‘barbarian’. The coloured marble from a quarry in Asia Minor coded his origin as ‘eastern’. Roman, with modern restorations.

9 Erotic illustration by the Victorian artist Aubrey Beardsley of a naked woman at her toilette. One of eight which Beardsley made for a privately printed edition (1896) of the ancient Athenian comic play Lysistrata.

10 Visiting Greece in 1877 while an Oxford undergraduate, Oscar Wilde had himself photographed in modern Greek costume. Fancifully, he claimed in later life to have been present during this trip when German archaeologists at Olympia uncovered ancient statues of Apollo and Hermes.

11 A page from a Byzantine prayer book (AD 1100s) overwritten on parchment containing earlier writings (the fainter horizontal handwriting in the image) of the ancient Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes. The prayer book sold at auction in 1998 for $2 million.

12 (above) Partly re-erected façade of the roofed dormitory (300s BC) in the shrine of the god Asclepius at Epidaurus, Greece. Here sick pilgrims hoped that the god would visit them in their sleep and miraculously cure them. Faith-healing was always a large part of ancient Greek medicine.

13 (right) Greek papyrus from ancient Oxyrhynchus in Egypt containing a fragment of the Hippocratic Oath, third century BC.

14 (above) This Athenian pot of about 437 BC depicts the legendary Greek princess Danae being seduced (or bribed) into sex with the god Zeus, who descends on her as a shower of gold discs. Part of the huge Greek story world of gods and monsters which co-existed with the questing for truth by the philosophers and (some of ) the historians of ancient Greece. 15 (right) Cover (2019) from artist Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze comic book series retelling the story of the Trojan War.

16 The early fluidity of the frontier between Christian and pagan is suggested by a church in Philippi (northern Greece) which had almost built into it a much older place of pagan worship. The mention of a known local bishop (Porphyrius) in this inscription from a mosaic floor dates the church to the early AD 300s.

17 Dating from the early AD 400s, this much-restored mosaic in Rome’s church of Santa Pudenziana depicts an enthroned and bearded Jesus Christ. Its manner recalls and probably was ultimately inspired by the seated statue of the Greek god Zeus in his temple at Olympia.

18 Portrait (1768) by Anton von Maron of Johann Winckelmann, author of a groundbreaking history of ancient Greek art, who chose to be depicted with an engraving on his desk of Antinous, the Greek boyfriend of the Roman emperor Hadrian.

19 The art-dealer Sir Joseph Duveen. His preference for Hellenic whiteness in Greek sculpture was a factor in the inter-war over-cleaning of the Parthenon marbles prior to their installation in the British Museum’s Duveen Gallery, for which he paid.

20 White marble statues of virile young males from the Mussolini era still tower over the athletic stadium opened in 1932 in the sports complex now called the Foro Italico, Rome.

21 Hitler so admired this Roman copy of a lost Greek statue of a naked discus-thrower that in 1938 his regime bought it from its Italian owners and displayed it in Germany. It was an example, in Hitler’s words, of ‘how splendid man used to be in the beauty of his body’.

22 In 1807 a British landowner, enthused by his visit to the ruins of ancient Athens, rebuilt his family home at Belsay, Northumberland, in an innovative neo-Greek style, based in part on his own observation and measurement of classical Greek buildings.

23 Rare depiction in bronze of a running girl, generally thought to be a Spartan (520–500 BC). An ancient tradition saw Spartan female athletics as eugenic in purpose, as a preparation for birthing healthy offspring.

24 Rehearsal for the ceremony of lighting the Olympic flame, Olympia, Greece (2017). This was a ritual invented by the Nazi regime for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Revived after the war, it remains part of the Olympic programme.

25 Sigmund Freud’s study in his north London home includes cases displaying his antiquities. One of them (far left) houses his Athenian painted pot depicting Oedipus and the Sphinx.

c h a p t er 8

POETRY MATTERS

W

hat do the Spanish footballer Héctor Bellerín, the English actor Penelope Keith, the Italian rapper Achille Lauro and the American politician Eleni Kounalakis all have in common, apart from the fact that they are all alive at the time of writing? Faced with bafflement, the would-be host of the virtual quizzes that boomed in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 could hint that all four have a connection to the animated fictional character Homer Simpson. A player might then write an answer on their quiz paper along these lines: Hector, Penelope, Achilles and Eleni (or Helen) are all Greek-derived names of characters in the two oldest European poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. According to ancient tradition, the poet of both was a blind Greek man called Homer – although some ancients also wondered if such a person as Homer ever existed. True, people who bestow such names do not necessarily have ancient Greece in mind. Defeated at Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte eked out his remaining days a captive on a remote Atlantic island supposedly given its name – Saint Helena – by a European navigator in 1502. Today’s islanders believe that that Christian seafarer was commemorating the sainted mother of the first Christian emperor, Constantine I. She was a Roman namesake of the original Helen. 159

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As for the prototype – the ‘beauteous’ Helen of Europe’s oldest poem, the Iliad – Homer has her foreseeing her own fame (or rather notoriety): The gods have link’d our miserable doom, Our present woe, and infamy to come: Wide shall it spread, and last thro’ ages long, Example sad, and theme of future song. As Homer tells his story, Helen was a young wife who abandoned her husband for a matchingly ‘beauteous’ young man. Both males were princes: the husband a local Greek ruler, the besotted lover a lord of Troy, a great city on the Asian side of the Aegean Sea. Greece’s overlord, brother of the wronged spouse, mustered an armada packed with fighting heroes to right this dishonour. He sailed the Aegean and laid siege to the city behind whose walls Helen now sheltered with her Trojan lover. The gods took sides. The years passed with no resolution in sight. The poem homes in on two months of high drama in the tenth year of the siege. The Greek leaders in their camp now quarrelled over a Trojan woman, a beautiful captive of war. The Greek superhero told to give her up went into a monumental sulk and refused to fight for his side. He only came round when the Trojans in a sortie killed a fellow Greek warrior who was his male best friend. The ancient poet leaves it unclear whether this might have been – in today’s terms – a bromance or a romance. Blinded by his thirst for revenge, the bereaved Greek hero – Achilles – seeks out his friend Patroclus’s killer. This is a fighting hero who is none other than the eldest brother of Helen’s seducer. The Greek kills this Trojan prince – Hector – in single combat. In his grief and rage, he goes on to mutilate the body. The poem ends with the Trojan recovery of the corpse, its honourable burial, and regrets from Helen as she contemplates the tragic havoc spread by uncontainable passion: 160

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Oh had I perish’d, ere that form divine Seduc’d this soft, this easy heart of mine. As for Penelope, wittingly or not, any modern namesake echoes a brand of ancient Greek wifehood that is the polar opposite of Helen’s. The original Penelope is the heroine of the Odyssey, the second of the two poems which the ancients attributed to Homer. Troy has fallen to the Greeks. Job done, the heroes now return to the homes for which they long. The second poem is about one eventual homecoming – itself a protracted affair of ten years, owing to the unforeseen adventures that befall the main character (a Greek lord called Odysseus) as he wanders the Mediterranean. Supernatural encounters abound: with the witch who turns his crew into pigs; with the six-headed monster who issues from a cliff-face to seize passing seafarers; with the oneeyed giant who eats two of the men at a time (and raw); and so on. Meanwhile, Penelope, who is Odysseus’s wife, waits faithfully at home for her husband’s return. In his absence she is vulnerable. Boorish local squires – over a hundred of them – move uninvited into the palace. They live off her husband’s estate and press her to marry one or other of them. Homer has Penelope show great resourcefulness, not to say sheer cunning, in fending them off: Elusive of the bridal day, she gives Fond hopes to all, and all with hopes deceives. One of her ruses is to declare that first she must weave a shroud for her husband’s father, who has died. She manages to spin this task out for three years: The work she ply’d; but studious of delay, By night reversed the labours of the day. Every night, that is, she secretly unpicks the day’s weaving. Eventually, when Odysseus finally makes it home, even then she remains on her 161

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guard. After so long, how can she be sure that this really is her husband? She asks a maid to move the marriage bed for the travelweary stranger to rest on. He remembers that one of its legs is, in fact, the still-rooted stump of an olive tree. So her husband also knows that the bed is immovable – unless, as he now blurts out in anger, his wife in his absence has taken a lover who has cut the stump. Realising now that the traveller is indeed Odysseus, Penelope bursts into tears. Husband and wife are reunited. What these two monumental poems did for the ancients was to provide an education both literary and moral. They also offered inspiration for all sorts of creatives from writers to visual artists, and quotations for everyone. The stories themselves were compelling. Bards heightened the impact by singing the verses while strumming the strings of a lyre. The poetic Greek language would have sounded increasingly antiquated as time passed. This air of ever-greater ancientness was part of the charm of Homer for the later Greeks and Romans. You can compare the great attachment which some people have today to the quaint and stately English of the so-called King James Bible. As for that moral education, the ancients took from the poems crucial lessons about how their world worked, both the seen and the unseen. In the archaeological museum at Olympia in southern Greece, visitors can see finds of clay moulds from an ancient sculptor’s workshop. Artists had used these to shape gold sheets into sections of drapery, with which they then ‘dressed’ colossal statues of Greek divinities. Athena in the Parthenon was draped in more than a ton of gold and towered forty feet above her ancient worshippers. It was Homer, with his tales of Greek gods appearing before his heroes in supernaturally tall and shining form, who taught ancient Greek artists how to imagine the appearance of the divine. Helen and Penelope offered the ancient world enduring and ethically influential images of womanliness and wifehood. A random example of how embedded these images were in ancient Greek thinking dates to the ad 200s. This was getting on for a millennium 162

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after Greeks first wrote down and, as it were, ‘fixed’ these originally oral poems, in the 700s or the 600s bc. Around ad 250, a well-to-do Spartan father chose to set up in a public place a marble portrait of his daughter. In the engraved caption below he could think of no higher tribute than to hail her as a ‘new Penelope’. The curious passer-by who was lettered enough to read would have easily grasped the praise intended by this evocation of Homer’s virtuous heroine. Homer’s warriors provided something very different: a brand of masculinity that was ‘epic’ in the literal sense of being, as the dictionary defines it, ‘grand and heroic’. The most startling instance of the influence of this Homeric template of military virtue on a real person in ancient history is Alexander of Macedon, the youthful Greek conqueror of the Persian empire in the years between 334 and 323 bc. It is thanks to the ancient writers who started to record his deeds before he was even dead that Alexander has come down in history as a passionate imitator of Homeric heroics. One of these writers described Alexander as having felt a ‘rivalry from boyhood’ with Achilles. He was the most ‘epic’ of all Homer’s male heroes. The writings duly highlight Alexander’s respect for friendship. This included his unreasoning grief for Hephaestion, a fellow warrior and best male friend. Such grief obviously recalls that of Achilles for his friend, Patroclus. Then there was his burning ambition for his deeds to win him renown beyond the grave; his willingness to risk his life in battle for the sake of glory; and so on. Some of this construct of ancient writers undoubtedly channelled the mentality of the historical Alexander. The Greek teachers of his childhood had encouraged him to admire the manly virtues of Homer’s heroes. Centuries later, ancient consumers of writings about the legendary conqueror still enjoyed authors who highlighted his allegedly ‘Homeric’ qualities and actions. One of these writers, at work in the ad 100s on what is nowadays regarded as the best of the ancient accounts of Alexander to survive, went so far as to tell his readers: 163

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Alexander, so the story goes, blessed Achilles for having Homer to proclaim his fame to posterity . . . Alexander’s exploits were never celebrated as they deserved . . . That, I declare, is why I myself have embarked on this history, not judging myself unworthy to make Alexander’s deeds known to men.

As one modern scholar of this writer has put it: ‘In essence, Arrian [his name] reveals his aspiration to become Alexander’s Homer.’ Arrian’s writings show the influence of Homer’s heroes on Alexander. They also suggest the continuing pleasure that ancient readers took when writers gave figures from more recent history a Homeric aura. Finally, they reveal the continuing ambitions of ancient writers, such as Arrian in early Christian times, to be measured, somehow or other, against the great Homer. The relative popularity of the two poems in ancient times can be gauged. The vast majority of recognisable fragments of Homer found in the Greek papyri of ancient Egypt – 454 out of 590 in a recent reckoning – contain lines from the Iliad. If the Iliad wins hands down, this might at first sight seem to have to do with the pleasures offered to the ancients from immersion in war, battles, blood, sinews and death, manly virtue and the rest. After all, the war genre is not exactly flagging in popularity today. One modern commentator offers a more profound reason to do with Homer’s extraordinary presentation of the unpredictable Greek gods as interfering figures of great power. However, they lack any ‘moral authority’. They inspire fear, not ‘devotion’. This tale from a time centuries before today’s ethically oriented world religions makes the Iliad a vision of ‘human dignity at its fullest, undiminished by piety or deference to gods or kings’. For Homer’s poetry to do anything for us, first it had to survive the wreck of antiquity. This it did in the medieval east. Here the ‘Romans’ of Greek-speaking Constantinople – the Byzantines as they’re often called – continued to use Homer as a basic schoolbook for teaching the young how to read their literary heritage. This 164

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comprised those writings of the ancient Greeks by then considered ‘classic’. This weaning on Homer helps to explain the omnipresence of his works in the literary output of Byzantium. For instance, in the twelfth century Anna Comnena, the daughter of an emperor of the Romans, wrote a surviving account of her father’s reign. This was a most unusual work for its time, the writer being a woman. Once historians ‘unscramble the erratic sequence of events’, Anna Comnena’s history is important because it reveals the catastrophic state of her father’s empire at the time of the First Crusade. In her book, the author references or quotes Homer no fewer than sixty-six times, always without explanation. She took for granted a widespread familiarity with Homer among educated people in her world. It was as a gift from a Byzantine ambassador in the mid-1300s that a handwritten book containing the Greek text of Homer’s Iliad first re-entered the west in medieval times. The recipient, a learned Italian, bitterly regretted that he did not know enough Greek to read the parchment pages. This ignorance, he told the donor, made ‘your Homer deaf to me, or rather, me deaf to him’. It took another century or so for a knowledge of Greek to spread sufficiently among the scholars of the early Renaissance to create a small Greek-reading public. This justified an edition of Homer in the original Greek, in the new-fangled printed format. The scholars were primed to rediscover the genius of Homer, because the ancient Latin writers whom they rediscovered first were full of praise for his poetry. After the ancient Greeks, it was the ancient Romans who became his greatest fans. This first edition appeared in 1489. The copy now in the possession of the University of Chicago features a full-length portrait of the dedicatee, Piero de’ Medici. It was Piero and Lorenzo, his father, rulers of Florence, whose patronage of the new learning brought to their city a Byzantine scholar who was up to the job of editing Homer. This learned Greek collected as many Greek manuscripts of Homer as he could lay hands on. Then he set about the task of 165

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comparing them to identify and weed out passages that seemed to him corrupt. As was later said, he aimed ‘to form the best Greek text that was in his power’. To bring the poems to a wider public, literate but Greekless, translations were needed. A turning point in England was the eighteenth-century translation from which I have been quoting. I’ve done so partly from sentiment: as I mentioned in chapter 1, I inherited a family set – a survivor of who knows how many moves of house and home since the early 1800s. A bit foxed, even so the pages are noticeably pristine, with no sign of use, such as handwritten notes in the margin. Who knows if my great-great-grandfather actually read the books? They could easily have been a gift. One thing is highly likely: that my ancestor was Greekless. What he owned was a later edition – published in 1801 – of renowned translations of Homer’s two poems by a famous English poet, Alexander Pope. Originally these were published in London between 1715 and 1726, when Pope was in his late twenties and his thirties. They made his reputation and, in the end, a lot of money for him. There had been translations of Homer into European languages within a generation of the first printed Greek text in 1489. Translation is the mainstay of Homer’s survival today. Despite his glaring pagan colouring, there are Arabic translations of the Iliad. Since 1929, Chinese people have been introduced to Homer in translation, despite China ‘being essentially non-mythical in its long tradition’. As for Japan, the historian Edward Luttwak makes a remarkable claim: ‘I have yet to meet a Japanese who couldn’t recite [the] opening line [of the Japanese translation of the Iliad] – “Gionshōja no kane no koe. Shōgyomujō no hibiki ari”.’ As for Pope’s version, it was well received at the time by literary Georgians. It still has its admirers as a literary work in its own right. Ever since Pope, there has been a continuing drip-drip of new translations of Homer into English. This has been encouraged by educational needs. In the USA, not least, in the earlier part of the twentieth 166

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century Homer came to be included in core teaching about ‘western civilisation’ (see chapter 1). Among translators of Homer there are long-running debates about how best to convey in a modern language the sense and the atmosphere of poems in a dead language from such a distant time. A particular problem to tax translators into English is the fact that Homer’s poems were composed for oral delivery, using a pattern of beats per line which suited the natural rhythms of Ancient Greek, but not of the English language. Solutions do not always please. For some, Pope’s sin was to put Homer into rhyming couplets, ‘since rhyming was unknown to Homer’. Among the more recent translations into English, the distinguished American classicist Peter Green stressed his efforts to compose poetic lines in a version adapted to English of Homer’s ‘dah-didi’ beat. He also sought to write in a way that was ‘declaimable’. That is, modern readers could orate the translation out loud, with due feeling and force. This could bring them a bit closer to those ancient bards who ‘performed’ Homer for their listeners. Perhaps they did so outdoors on summer’s evenings, or near the crackling fires of iron-age Greece’s winter halls. Just to give a hint of the flavour, here are the opening lines of the Iliad in Green’s translation: Wrath, goddess, sing of Achilles Peleus’ son’s calamitous wrath, which hit the Achaians with countless ills – As opposed to Pope’s: Achilles’ wrath, to Greece the direful spring, Of woes unnumber’d, heav’nly Goddess sing! In the end, the approach you prefer is a matter of taste – of weighing up factors like authenticity, pleasurability, creating a pleasing sound for the ear, and so on. 167

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As with the Bible, what Homer has done for us, for a start, is to feed a seemingly human fascination with exploring legends and seeking truths in them. Yet Homer is myth, right? From the opening invocation to the goddess of poetry to voice Homer’s poem, listeners or readers enter a dramatic time and place in which humans interact with divinities. Another six lines into the Iliad, and the poet asks which of the gods it was (Apollo, it turns out) who had made Achilles quarrel with the Greek commander-in-chief over that slave-girl. So Homer’s poems, to most of us at least, are obviously legends. We don’t believe any more in the Greek gods of Mount Olympus, and so must doubt the authenticity of ancient stories in which gods, as much as humans, drive the narrative. In Homer’s case this fascination for fingering a ‘kernel of truth’ is alive and well today. I remember standing on an ancient ruin in eastern Sicily featuring huge blocks of cut stone. Its first Italian excavator thought he had found a monument of the Bronze Age. On hearing this, one of my group of cultural tourists, a lawyer, at once wondered if Greeks had come here after the fall of Troy. I couldn’t resist a rejoinder: ‘Ah, so you are a believer?’ Did the Trojan War really happen? Was Odysseus’s homeland of ‘Ithaca’ a real place? And if so, where was it? Great scholars continue to debate the location of a historical Ithaca. Not so long ago I heard a lecture by a well-known Hellenist aimed at refuting the latest theory about the location of Ithaca – but only with more painstaking poring over Homer’s hints about the geography and topography of ‘his’ Ithaca. A member of the audience muttered audibly: ‘But a poem is art!’ Composing poetry is a licence to be creative, to invent. That is what a poet excels at: imaginative brilliance. Homer’s immersive storytelling gifts included scene-setting in great and persuasive detail. Caution seems required when scrutinising the wondrous constructs of Helen’s world or Penelope’s as evidence for what nowadays we call history: ‘The poetic language does not transmit factual information: it creates a world of its own.’ 168

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Still, that doesn’t stop the fun. Not so long ago, the British Museum staged an exhibition with a title that flirted with this fascination: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’. It included finds from the archaeological dig that has done more than any other to suggest a reality behind Homer’s Trojan War. Artfully arranged in what could pass as a dark, earthy excavator’s trench were ancient ceramic pots. The Prussian German businessman-turned-archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found these when he acted on the hunches of earlier scholars. This led him over a period of twenty years (1870–90) to dig up a man-made hill in north-west Turkey. Schliemann was convinced he’d found Homer’s Troy. Deep down, he came across a long-inhabited Bronze Age settlement. It yielded golden treasure, including jewellery. Schliemann, a terrific self-publicist, decked out his Greek wife in these ornaments and photographed her. The settlement had been repeatedly rebuilt (twice it would seem) after violent events that had produced fires. Believers in a Homeric Trojan War naturally focus on these archaeological episodes. Still, a shred of hard evidence has yet to turn up to prove a siege, let alone one by attackers from the Greek mainland, let alone . . . a wooden horse. As for the poems themselves, ‘After 2,700 years on the bestseller list . . . [i]nterest in Homer seems to be stronger than ever.’ So goes one recent survey of Homer’s continuing popularity. Educators may fuel this interest: for instance, recently four pupils at an English primary school produced an Odyssey edition of Monopoly, featuring property names such as ‘Cave of the Cyclopes’ (who’d want to buy that?) and ‘Wandering Rocks’. In the western tradition, Homer’s fantastic stories have a perhaps unsurprising power to capture young imaginations. I heard an entertaining talk by a historical adviser to the Hollywood film Troy. The speaker was an archaeologist and museum curator of distinction. Her first task had been to advise on the most authentic style of lettering on a recreated ancient map. In the film, this map was to be used by the Greek captains to guide their fleet across the 169

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Aegean to Troy. For some film-goers, spotting these kinds of liberties is one of the perverse pleasures of film adaptations of books: mariners’ charts were not a feature of the Greece of Homer. The film’s themes of dangerous desire, a fabled city, men and women behaving badly and battlefield action of the swords-andsandals sort are all well-established crowd-pleasers in the Hollywood tradition (see chapter 12). So were the aforesaid liberties – including big ones, such as omitting Homer’s interfering Greek gods – crucial members of his cast. The aim here was a portrayal of war that was more realistic to modern audiences. Certain stereotypes of ancient Greece were played up. The actor portraying Achilles, Brad Pitt, trained for six months to get his physique into suitably ‘Greek’ shape. He and Helen were both blond, and in fact all the stars had a rather Caucasian look. All this whiteness nowadays looks dated in a world of increasingly ‘colour-blind’ or ‘non-traditional’ casting. It also raises questions of historical accuracy. Here judgement is perhaps best suspended, since the ancient evidence for the details of the physical appearance of Greeks and Trojans is far from clear cut. The film was a box-office success, but the critics were less enthusiastic: too long, lacklustre acting – these were among the complaints. Homer’s Iliad focuses on just one episode in the Trojan War: namely, the refusal of the Greek hero Achilles to fight, and his subsequent re-entry into the fray to avenge the death of his beloved Patroclus. The film departs from the original in various ways, in order to make the subject matter more palatable to a global audience. For the benefit of viewers unfamiliar with Homer, it portrays the whole course of the war, from the elopement of Greek Helen to the ruse of the Wooden Horse, which triggers the Greek capture and sack of Troy after a ten-year siege. To allay fears of a negative impact on box-office receipts, it plays down the homosocial, and possibly homo erotic, quality to the relationship between the Homeric Achilles and Patroclus by turning them into cousins. To suit a secular age and enhance the human heroics, as already mentioned it strips 170

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out the repeated intervention of the gods on one side or the other. These included the god Apollo’s decisive hand in bringing about the death of Patroclus. A measure of Homer’s continuing appeal and global reach is his translation into more recent kinds of popular media, such as the novel in comic-strip format – the so-called graphic novel. The American cartoonist, author and illustrator Eric Shanower has created a work called Age of Bronze. This ‘tells the complete story of the Trojan War in all its dramatic detail’ and is published in many languages, including Indonesian. His series of Homer-inspired comics with their black-and-white artwork – issue 34 came out in 2019 – are now available in collected volumes with titles like A Thousand Ships, Sacrifice and Betrayal. The series has won a prestigious award, as well as favourable reviews in weighty outlets, including praise for the quality of the research – not to mention runaway sales. There are still those who, like me, have never played a video game in their lives. As a friend’s teenage offspring explained to me, playing means that the gamer uses a keyboard or other input device to control images on a screen run by a computer program and sometimes called a ‘video game movie’. In the UK, this electronic genre of popular entertainment soared in popularity during the pandemic of 2020, when researchers ‘found that 62% of adults played some sort of video game’. The cultural impact and significance of gaming in recent decades are suggested by exhibitions celebrating the ‘artistry’ (a contested issue) of the designers in national museums in Washington, DC (2012) and London (2018–19). The titles of games exhibited at Washington’s Smithsonian American Art Museum point to the heavy tilt towards sci-fi and fantasy, from Space Invaders (1980) to Shadow of the Colossus (2005). It is not hard to see how ancient Greece might offer a fertile ground. In 2018, video game called Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was released. As the official website puts it: 171

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Embark on an epic journey that takes you from your humble beginnings as an outcast Spartan mercenary to a legendary Greek hero and uncover the truth about your mysterious past as Alexios or Kassandra. Sail to the farthest reaches of the Aegean Sea, forming alliances and making enemies. Along the way, you’ll encounter historical figures, mythical characters, and a whole cast of others who will impact your journey.

The main echo of Homer, title apart, comes from the fact that gamers, like Odysseus journeying home, are ‘looking for their lost family’ against a background of war. ‘Ithaca’ features, but, it must be said, not centrally. What makes the game more than just a farrago of names and places lifted from Greek history and myth is the extraordinary effort made by the Canadian creators to recreate the monuments and ‘look’ of ancient Greece. This includes its ‘packed gravel roads’ (only the Romans did paving), the booths and stalls of its markets, its potters and marbleworkers, and buildings based on modern excavations in Greece. It is a measure of the social power of gaming these days that the creators were able to access the expertise of a prestigious institution of learning – the American School of Classical Studies at Athens – and one of its leading scholars, a world authority with over fifty years’ experience of digging up ancient Athens. This video game’s title references what is perhaps the most widespread idea bequeathed to the modern world by Homer’s poetic account of the wanderings of Odysseus: that of an ‘odyssey’. Formed on the poem’s ancient title, this anglicised noun (with equivalents in many modern languages) serves today as a figure of speech symbolising something else. It has become a metaphor in other words, in this case for a ‘long adventurous journey’. The internet suggests a wide currency for this metaphor in modern culture, from a famous feature film (2001: A Space Odyssey), to the naming of cinemas, cruise ships or even golf clubs. Then there is human life itself: 172

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As you set out for Ithaka hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery. The modern city of Alexandria, on Egypt’s north coast, is a rundown place these days. Buildings are shabby, thoroughfares smell of sewage, bags of rubbish bob in the seawater. Once these streets were the haunt of ‘a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe’. The description is by an English writer, E.M. Forster, author of Howards End and A Room with a View, among other works. During the First World War he lived for three years in Alexandria. As I touched on earlier, here he met and befriended the much older Greek gentleman in question. There are those who hail this recluse of Alexandrian Greek heritage – his name was Constantine Cavafy and he died in 1933 – as ‘the greatest Greek poet since antiquity’. The same poem – entitled ‘Ithaka’ – goes on: Hope the voyage is a long one . . . Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you are destined for. But do not hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you are old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you have gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. When I last heard this poem read aloud in translation in a fine parish church in north London, I was not alone in being moved to tears. Not for the first time at an English church service in my hearing, the bereaved had chosen to remember the journey through life of a deceased family member who loved modern Greece by means of Cavafy’s touching odyssey to ‘Ithaka’. Here the poet reimagines the 173

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Homeric hero’s search for his homeland as ‘an end in itself ’: a lifelong journey of bitter-sweet self-discovery. Homer’s poems admit us to an archaic world in which we can, if we choose, compare how familiar things today were done way back then. Sometimes this mirror reflects ingrained human behaviours of which there is nothing to be proud, yet which are still far too present today. If I go back to Penelope, her character is nowadays recognised as ‘the Odyssey’s prime example of a confident woman’. Her ‘wiles, wisdom and presence of mind’ make her ‘a worthy . . . match for any husband’. There it is: even Penelope does not escape the age-old limitation of women’s lives to marriage and motherhood. The patriarchy is indeed alive and well in the world of the Odyssey. Too much so for some feminist commentators today: ‘The poem contains foundational moments of misogyny.’ The writer Margaret Atwood responded to this depiction of Penelope with a short novel of her own called The Penelopiad. In this, Penelope’s dissatisfaction with her portrayal in the poem leads her to tell her story in her own words: tarnishing, needless to say, the heroic shine of her Homeric husband. Mary Beard has drawn attention to a particularly striking moment of misogyny early in the poem. A bard in the hall of the absent Odysseus’s palace is singing a lay about the hardships of the return home for the Greek heroes of Troy, her husband among them. When Penelope asks him to choose another subject, her son – now a grownup – tells her, in effect, to shut up, go back to the women’s quarters and leave men’s work – running the palace – to men. Penelope promptly does what she is told: ‘Your widow’d hours, apart, with female toil And various labours of the loom beguile; There rule, from palace-cares remote and free, That care to man belongs, and most to me.’ Mature beyond his years, the Queen admires His sage reply, and with her train retires. 174

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The passage has a more profound significance than it might seem. For Beard, it’s a nice demonstration that right where written evidence for Western culture starts, women’s voices are not being heard in the public sphere . . . as Homer has it, an integral part of growing up, as a man, is learning to take control of public utterance and to silence the female of the species.

This seems like a damning judgement on an aspect of the world of Homer. It is made worse by the fact that, on this matter, his moral authority for later generations of ancient Greeks likely enough reinforced and legitimated the male chauvinism of ancient Greek society. Not a moment too soon, then, for the first translation into English of the Odyssey by a woman scholar, with an avowed aim of ‘shining a clear light on the particular forms of sexism and patriarchy that do exist in the text’. In this modernising version, Odysseus is definitely a warts-andall character, as the opening lines make clear: Tell me about a complicated man. Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy, and where he went, and who he met, the pain he suffered on the sea, and how he worked to save his life and bring his men back home He failed . . . Odysseus here can even be made, sexually, ‘to sound like a bit of a creep’, as when he tells some handmaids to avert their gaze while he takes a bath: . . . I am shy of being naked with you – pretty girls with lovely hair. 175

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The shift of emphasis in this translation shows how Homer really is a poet ‘for all seasons’. In 2020, during the coronavirus crisis, the flagship news programme of Britain’s BBC Radio took to breaking the flow of relentless information with some cultural uplift, by giving a daily poetry slot to a BBC journalist. Each of these guests introduced and then read a poem, telling listeners what it meant to them and why. It is this power of poetic language to offer spiritual comfort by marrying the beauty of words to the gravest of human predicaments that also explains the popularity of poetry readings at modern funerals. Most of us have an ear for poetry, even if we have not gone further into its world than the words of popular songs. In the western tradition, the ancient Greeks have a particular claim on this art form, starting with Homer. As the literary website of ‘Editor Eric’ puts it: ‘For a guy who may not have existed, the Greek poet Homer has had an awesome influence over the past three thousand years.’ How is it that his two poems, the earliest surviving works of literature in the western tradition, maintain their reputation as great poetry, despite the fact that readers today mainly read the ancient Greek in translation? Although there are very obvious differences from how most of us live today, his poetic world seems to display some of the timeless universality of human existence. There is brevity, cruelty, sexism, but also beauty and nobility. Homer’s breadth of appeal today is shown by his popularity in China. Here there have been multiple translations since the early decades of the twentieth century. This is part of a larger Chinese engagement with ancient Greece, a high culture which China sees as the peer of its own ancient past. What the Chinese may like about Homer is the storytelling – if it is true (see earlier in this chapter) that they lack much of a mythological tradition of their own. Likewise the ancient Romans in their early days do not seem to have had the enterprising poets weaving fabulous stories that we call ‘myth’ that their Greek neighbours did – let alone a founding Homer. 176

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These stories, Homer’s above all, were a core part of Greek religion. It is time to ask what else Greek religion as such did for us, apart from bequeathing this treasure of myths. It’s probably safe to say that these myths, while wonderfully entertaining, do not inspire many people today with truly religious feeling.

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here are said to be some two billion Christians in the modern world. Christianity is its largest religion. It might seem unlikely that the ancient, pagan Greeks had anything to do with this dominance of today’s Christian faith. If so, another family volume in my home holds clues to a surprising story. On the day of her marriage in 1905, my father’s mother received as a gift from her eager swain a rather fine Book of Common Prayer ‘according to the Use of the Church of England’. The case cloths are purple silk, the pages are gilt-edged and – as would not happen now – the bindings are ivory. Attached to the front cover, in silver, is the initial of my grandmother’s Christian name. She hung on to this prayer book throughout her life, without exactly living up to its ‘C’ for Constance. In mitigation, neither did her husband of 1905, despite inscribing his gift ‘To my own dear Wifie from her loving and devoted Boy’. Inside the prayer book, my grandmother later folded up and stowed a short poem on a small piece of paper. Handwritten by another man who signed, dated (1918) and composed it, this loving effusion, entitled ‘A wish’, begins: ‘May all thy life with happiness / from day to day be fraught.’ Only relatively late in my own life did I find out from a perusal of divorce records and newspaper reports that in 1910, my paternal 178

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grandmother had deserted for this same versifier the husband whom she’d married only five years earlier and who, in the meantime, had become (so it was alleged in a courtroom) a serial adulterer. More shockingly for those times, my grandmother’s own paramour was her father-in-law, twice her age, by whom she then had my father. This piquant tale was long buried and then forgotten within the family. Once stumbled upon, in my mind’s eye it transformed my paternal grandparents from buttoned-up Edwardians, as they seem in their photographs, to something vastly more interesting. Adventurous by the social norms of their day, they still brought my father up an Anglican, as he then did me. I was permitted to fall away in my early teens. I write all that follows as a detached observer of religions ancient and modern. Going back to the prayer book, it includes a declaration of what it is that Anglican and many other Christians believe about the complicated nature of their God. At a given moment in the church service, the standing congregation speaks, or sings, this statement of belief. For the purposes of this book, the fascinating thing about the statement – or creed, as it is known – is that it goes back to the early fourth century ad. It is not just that Christian thinkers formulated this creed in the Greek-speaking half of the then Roman empire. More than that, these thinkers devised its definition of the Christian God in dialogue with – among other influences – a centuries-old succession of pagan Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’ stretching back to Plato in the fourth century bc or even earlier. Admittedly, words must be weighed carefully when making such a claim. In the first centuries of the Jesus movement, among those believers who started to take up the pen – or more of a calligraphic brush really – to explain the new faith to those who could understand Greek or Latin, there was no shortage of Christian hostility to any input from the speculations of Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’ about the nature of the divine. As one Christian believer put it around ad 200, ‘What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?’ 179

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As a means of ‘knowing’ God, this Christian way of thinking stresses revelation. Outwardly it rejects the reasoning by logic and argument that was the hallmark of the pagan Greek philosopher pursuing his theories. Still, in early Christian times such bearded philosophers, austerely clothed in their coarse woollen garments and proud of their intellectual descent from Plato, Aristotle and the rest, were a common sight in the public places of the Roman empire. For centuries, they and their followers had ruminated, as the early Christians were now doing, on ‘the idea . . . of a divine intelligence which forms and rules the world’ – and wondering exactly how this idea might relate to the real world of humans. Ancient Greek religion as such is not necessarily uppermost in the minds of those people today who enjoy the fantastic stories of Greek mythology or who admire the beautiful things in museums which artists crafted for pagan Greek worshippers to offer their gods. Experts can claim that today there is ‘no “legacy” of Greek religion as it was practised’. Its strange and wonderful rites are nowadays scarcely known outside university classes on ‘Greek religion’. Visitors who climb the Acropolis to view the Parthenon don’t see anything much to tell them that the Greek temple – the architectural embodiment of ancient Greek religion – was a place of worship. They may not be aware that the slippery marble on which, from time to time, they do themselves an injury was in ancient days holy ground. It was once tramped not only by human worshippers, but also by livestock awaiting sacrifice in the name of the goddess. As for the building itself, in origin this marble jewel was an Athenian offering to appease that same goddess whom her devotees imagined as living inside, or at any rate visiting from time to time, her ‘house’. Within, a great statue was available for the faithful to venerate with prayers and adoration. This last potentially encompassed a range of ritual movements ‘including outspread arms, kissing and . . . kneeling to implore the deity’. This same desire to make real-time contact with a godhead who existed beyond everyday experience explains the popularity among 180

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worshippers of placing wreaths on these divine statues housed in the temples – sometimes so many as to bury the image – or of suspending woollen ribbons from them, one attached to the other like paperchains, so as to trail along the ground. These then could become a fire hazard: Also in the same summer [of 423 bc] the temple of Hera at Argos was burnt down through the negligence of the priestess Chrysis, who put a lighted torch near the woollen ribbons and then fell asleep, with the result that they all caught fire and blazed up before she was aware of it.

The point is made. As the ancient world expanded through the conquests of Alexander and then the Romans, the ancient Greeks encountered new peoples and new gods. Athena did not abandon her temple, but religion had become an ever more crowded, as well as a largely unregulated, market. A consumer mentality, where you could pick and choose, is suggested by a story about a Greek-speaking Roman emperor, murdered in ad 222, who hailed from modern Homs in what is now Syria. Summoned to the throne four years earlier, he arrived in Rome along with his local god, a black lump of sacred stone called Heliogabalus: He used to say, furthermore, that the religion of the Jews and Samaritans and the rites of the Christians ought to be transferred there, so that the priesthood of Heliogabalus might include the mysteries of every cult.

As for the Christians, in their first three centuries they, too, were groping for the truth about who and what Jesus Christ was. As presented in the first Christian writings to offer accounts of his life, Jesus was born in a manger to the wife of a carpenter and was crucified as a common criminal. Yet he called on the all-powerful and one and only God of the Jews as his ‘Father’. 181

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Explaining ‘Jesus Christ’ was not an easy nut to crack. Some in the early Jesus movement emphasised more his humanity, others his divinity. At first there was no pressure on Christians to bring together their diverse speculations about the divine nature of Jesus. As one expert has said, until the time of the first Christian emperor, it was a ‘very fluid situation’. A mind’s-eye visit to the farmlands of today’s northern Greece highlights two strands in this fluid but formative era for early Christians. Drive eastward towards the border with Turkey from Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki, and after some two hours of majestic lakes, mountains and coastline you reach a sprawling archaeological site set amid fields and villages on an agricultural plain. The place has a special meaning for Christian tour groups. From far and wide the faithful arrive by coach for a guided visit and hymnsinging amid the ruins. What makes the ancient city of Philippi such a Christian magnet is the visit here around ad 50 of a very early Christian missionary. Not long after, Saint Paul – as Christians know him – wrote a letter to his flock of converts here. Regarded as authentic by experts, this letter in Ancient Greek is striking not least for the God-like reverence which it accords Jesus within a mere two decades or so of his crucifixion. At one point in his letter Paul ‘sings out’ this hymn of praise, and does so as if expecting his Philippian flock to know it already: God raised him to the heights and bestowed on him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – in heaven, on earth, and in the depths – and every tongue confess, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.

How this flock fared over the next two and a half centuries is then a blank until the early ad 300s. In 1975, the excavator’s spade revealed the earliest Christian meeting house to be found in ancient Philippi. As luck would have it, its original floor of decorative mosaic has survived. Set amid its birds and trees is a Greek inscription recording 182

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the name of the floor’s donor: ‘Bishop Porphyrius made the mosaic floor of the basilica [i.e. church] of Paul in Christ’. This provides something very rare: the name of a historical person known from other writings and to whom a date can be assigned. The same Philippian bishop turned up at a meeting of senior churchmen in the ad 340s in what is now Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. The meeting house as such, if not the floor, is thought to have been built earlier on the basis of a second inscription: ‘closer to 313 ce’. The peculiarity of this modest structure is the way in which its builders deliberately placed it right next to a much older place of pagan worship, which was practically built into it. Around the year 400, Philippi’s Christians replaced this earlier church with something much grander and larger on the same site. It was as if their community was now much more numerous, more confident and wealthier. In a more obvious way, this construction too ‘reverently integrated’ the old pagan shrine into the build. On plan, it looks almost like a side-chapel off the westernmost aisle of the new church, assumed also to have been dedicated to Saint Paul. This pagan shrine dated back to the second century bc. It featured a well-built crypt of dressed stone in which the citizens of an earlier Philippi had given a rich burial to one of their number, a young person of rank and station. They then began to worship at the tomb, as if the deceased had been what pagan Greeks called a ‘hero’. This was a type of demi-god who had the power to do harm or good to the community. So you wanted to keep him on side through rites of veneration. I dwell on the archaeological detail, because this apparent blending of old and new religions seems to confirm this idea of a ‘fluid situation’, at any rate in fourth-century Philippi. For one respected archaeologist reflecting on this Christian reuse of a pagan shrine, ‘it seems all but certain that a pagan hero cult was replaced by the cult of Saint Paul’. Was the idea to draw in potential converts from among the local pagans by repurposing a pagan shrine as a reference point for them in a new, Christian setting? Was there also, perhaps, a 183

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desire to trump the old power of the shrine by ‘Christianising’ it? As can happen with archaeological remains, the absence of ancient writings leaves the modern interpreter uncertain as to how to ‘read’ the ruins. These same possibilities also apply to how ancient people might have ‘read’ the early Christian writings that do survive. On the Greek island of Patmos in the eastern Aegean, near the summit of the lofty crag overlooking the port, is a small cave-church. On a day busy with cruise ships this can be choked with an incongruous crush of sightseers in summer clothes, scarcely aware of the sanctity of the place, alongside sober pilgrims from many countries. These last may be seen reverently to caress the smoothed rock as they stand in prayer. They might have paid to light one of the long, thin candles, which the worldly guardians of the place extinguish for reuse as soon as decently possible. As to the object of this veneration, down below in the port, by the shore, a faded sign in Modern Greek optimistically identifies a short stretch of ancient wall enclosed by a railing as a ‘Fragment of the baptistery of the Evangelist John the Theologian, ad 95’. The cave is where this Christian divine is traditionally held to have received his supposed visions of the end of the world. Late in the first century, he then composed these into the text known today as Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. In the first three centuries ad, this work, written in Ancient Greek, was probably introduced to the early Jesus movement mainly by being read out loud at church meetings. These might have included those relatively humble affairs, where ‘teaching took place . . . in kitchens, shops, and tanneries’. It is safe to assume that the audiences for this teaching included not just believers, but also curious and as yet unconverted pagans who were browsing in that Graeco-Roman ‘market’ of religions mentioned earlier. As to how they might have received Patmian John’s visions of the Christian God: ‘Encountering something new, the mind makes use of the known to make sense of the unknown.’ 184

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One of Patmian John’s most striking visions, described in detail, is that of a God-like figure ‘whose appearance was like the gleam of jasper and cornelian’. He sits like a ruler on an elaborately decorated throne from which ‘went out flashes of lightning and peals of thunder’. Stationed on this throne were ‘four living creatures’ including one like a lion and another like ‘an eagle in flight’. Before the throne ‘stretched what seemed a sea of glass, like a sheet of ice’. Classicists reading this description have – with reason – been put in mind of another description, penned by a pagan Greek writer of the second century ad, of what at that time was the most famous statue of a god in the Mediterranean world. This was the colossal gold-and-ivory image of an enthroned Zeus, worked by the Athenian sculptor Phidias for the interior of the god’s temple at Olympia in south-west Greece. By Patmian John’s time, this statue, now five centuries old, was a Wonder of the World for the ancients, up there with the Pyramids of Egypt. Those who marvelled included Romans, as well as Greeks. One Roman emperor even gave orders for this statue to be dismantled and shipped to Rome (he died before making this happen). Well, re-reading both descriptions, as I did just now, the general resemblance is immediate and striking. At Olympia, for instance, in front of the statue, instead of glass, there was a reflective surface of olive oil, supposedly protecting the ivory of the statue. This image also emitted light like a god. Zeus’s vestments were made of shining gold, including his cloak and sandals. More than that, archaeologists point out that the marble roof tiles of the temple were thin enough to be translucent. This created a ‘glowing effect’ around the statue. Zeus’s rich throne featured animals, too, as part of the decoration, including a kingly lion. An eagle – king of avians – also features, perched on Zeus’s staff. At Olympia, to the best of our knowledge, there were no effects of thunder or lightning. Still, as a heavenly sign of Zeus’s approval for his statue, ‘a flash of lightning struck the pavement [of the temple] at the place where the bronze urn was still standing in my time’ – so runs this eye-witness account. 185

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Given the similarities, it is reasonable to imagine that some pagans who were ‘Christ-curious’ (as one expert puts it) – that is, curious to learn more about the Jesus movement, especially in the eastern half of the empire – might also, in reading or listening to John’s description of the ‘one on the throne’, have been put in mind of representations of their king of the gods. Of these representations, the most famous was that at Olympia, a summation of what a god should look like. Some details might even have struck them as casting the ‘one on the throne’ as a superior manifestation of divinity: he gleams in colour, not in golden monochrome; he emanates ‘live’ thunder and lightning continuously; the creatures associated with his throne are animate, not an artist’s renderings. On one expert’s view, the comparison might even have left Zeus himself, not just his statue, looking like ‘a pale imitation of the God above all gods’. Sober scholarship has made a related, larger claim for this same statue. It must be admitted that, in this realm of religious crosscurrents from the first Christian centuries, exactly how and when one idea influenced another can rarely be pinned down. It is just as hard to identify the individuals responsible, even if (for all that the experts know) occasionally they may be known to posterity by name. The formative influences, from family, education and cultural milieu, on the thinking of those whose decisions produced the phenomena touched on in this chapter – Patmian John included – are not spelt out in the early Christian writings. The experts are making arguments of the kind lawyers call ‘circumstantial’: not direct proof of something, but a reasonable inference. Historians, especially of the ancient Mediterranean, know this way of reconstructing the distant past all too well. That larger claim just mentioned requires a mind’s-eye visit to Rome. It’s a church again, but this time not an obscure ruin off the beaten track of mainstream tourism: this is one of the Eternal City’s oldest churches. Nowadays it is the ‘national’ church of Italy’s large Filipino community, most of them women working as domestic servants. 186

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Despite the church’s great age (ad 384–398), the edition of the Blue Guide to Rome that I bought for a visit in the mid-1980s describes the interior as ‘disappointing’. Though it adds that it does contain something ‘precious’. Decorating the domed ceiling of the semi-circular recess or apse at the church’s eastern end, this highlight, nowadays dated to ad 401–417, is ‘the earliest of its kind in Rome’: a glittering mosaic. The wonderfulness of this mosaic is owed partly to the fact that, unlike painted decoration which often fades, mosaic retains all its original brilliance: before the Roman mosaicists set them into concrete, the stone cubes were first coloured – either by tinting or by heating the stone to intensify its shade. For gilded mosaic, the craftsmen placed a bit of gold leaf on glass and topped this with more glass before firing. Here in the church of Saint Pudentiana – Santa Pudenziana, as today’s Romans say – the mosaic has been hacked about over the centuries of the edifice’s long history. Even so, the central subject of the mosaic is not in doubt. A golden-haloed Jesus Christ, paleskinned, with long, curly hair and a full beard, dressed in voluminous, golden robes with wide sleeves, sits on an ornate throne studded with gems, his feet resting on a golden stool. He looks directly at the viewer. As my guide says, ‘the magisterial air of Christ recalls the representations of Jupiter’, Roman equivalent of the Greek Zeus. So it is not a new idea that the unknown creators of this mosaic figure had in mind the way in which their colleagues in pagan employ had long been depicting the ‘alpha gods’ of the Graeco-Roman pantheon. Modern experts have persuasively restated the case. They point to the much-copied Zeus statue of Olympia as the prototype for this ancient look, with its bejewelled throne and its long-haired, bearded god garmented in shimmering gold: People were used to seeing an enthroned and majestic bearded god. [The Zeus of Olympia] had already been used as a model 187

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representing powerful rule . . . When Jesus as the Son of God then came to be depicted, it was natural to portray him as a young version of Zeus or Jupiter.

Here, too, experts nowadays think that those who commissioned this mosaic meant the ancient viewer to recognise not just a blending of pagan with Christian in an age of ‘fluidity’, but a trumping: ‘By adopting the attributes of the ancient gods Christ was effectively supplanting them.’ What this did for us, finally, the experts say, is to help shape: a strong mental image of what Jesus looked like, thanks to a universally agreed tradition of how he should be represented: a European man with long hair and a beard, dressed in long robes with long baggy sleeves.

Some people might say that so far this chapter has discussed how early Christians promoted their new cult to an ancient world dominated by pagans and their deep-rooted ways of venerating, and picturing, their gods. Still, few today would deny the power of words and of optics in getting across a new product. As already touched on, the early Christians also felt that they had to work out a theoretical explanation for how Jesus could be both human (so as to be born and to die) and divine, so as to rise again and ascend as the Son – as he himself claimed to be – to be reunited with his Father in Heaven. Years ago, in pursuit of a pagan Greek idea that conceivably helped the ancient Christians, I spent an interesting night in a rickety hostelry halfway up a mountain – Mount Nemrut – in south-eastern Turkey. I distinctly recall one feature of the plumbing in my quarters: a lavatory that flushed into the shower tray. Still, the gain was something quite spectacular. At the crack of dawn, our van continued on a winding dirt track up the mountain to a vast, ancient mausoleum on the roof of the world. Or so it seemed, given the commanding view over much of south-east Turkey. 188

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Here an ancient, Greek-speaking king probably lies buried under a man-made mound yet to be excavated. In his lifetime, the king erected on either side of this mound a sculptured row of colossal, enthroned deities. Among them he seated a colossus representing himself. In a long Greek inscription in the first person, he repeatedly refers to himself by the word in Ancient Greek for a god – theos. The TV crew I was with had hauled themselves up here to illustrate, in as dramatic a fashion as possible, the ancient Greek practice of worshipping living kings as gods. A respected academic told the programme to camera that, in his view, the idea of Jesus as God did not come from any Jewish tradition – the Messiah, for instance. Rather, it originated with a ‘concept of a man-god’ that was Greek and ‘ultimately derived from Alexander [the Great]’. Some classicists might raise an eyebrow at this idea. Certain Greeks did indeed worship Alexander as a god in the last years of his life. Either this was what he wanted or this was what they thought he wanted – not the same thing. Equally, some Greeks of that time were appalled at such a cult. This was, not least, because they heartily disliked its object. Alexander was a politically and morally divisive figure for Greeks both when he was alive and for centuries after he was dead. By the time of Jesus, there were still one or two god-kings in the mould of the – now chronologically distant – Alexander. They tended to be tin-pot figures, like the king on top of the mountain, one Antiochus I (died around 36 bc). A Greek from nearer the Aegean heartland would label a descendant of this Antiochus dismissively as ‘some Syrian’. It seems questionable whether the early Christians were inspired by such increasingly second-rate antecedents. After all, as Paul reminded the Philippians (above), Jesus was a glorious figure far exceeding humanity: ‘God raised him to the heights and bestowed on him the name above all names.’ Consulted informally, a distinguished professor of Christianity at Oxford University thought that this idea of Greek origins was a 189

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respectable, but minority, view. In the end, the programme introduced the expert interviewee in question as ‘controversial’. On firmer ground with today’s experts is the likely input of pagan thinking from another source, the Greek philosophers: I take it as being generally agreed that Christian thinkers were profoundly influenced in the development of their theology by their growing acquaintance with contemporary Greek philosophy, and in particular with Platonism.

A key point here is that for centuries the Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’, those hair-splitting philosophoi, ‘philosophers’, had been using their techniques of logic and reason to debate and define ‘the ultimate causal principles of the universe’. They did so because conventional Greek religion, the divinities of the poets and the statues in the temples, did not reveal these truths in any sacred writings. The godly dwellers on Mount Olympus were not even the creators of what they looked down upon from the clouds: in the Greek myths, they were born into a world that already existed. The ‘wisdom-lovers’ wrestled with this debate, because they felt that the immoral gods of these colourful and entertaining legends ‘needed correcting’. They also argued for the sake of it: debating this issue was a worthy object of their ‘philosophising’. I have sat through research papers by academic specialists on Greek philosophy and felt completely lost. The way that the ancient Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’ had of chewing over obscure points, the significance of which is often hard to understand; the new meanings, often difficult to grasp, which they put into familiar words in Ancient Greek: all this helps explain why Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’ are a fascinating subject of study – you want to grasp what it was that held ancient Greek culture in thrall to them for so many centuries. What follows is an attempt by a novice (me) to unpick the fiendishly tortuous mesh of ‘wisdom-loving’ thoughts, as they developed and intertwined in the later ancient centuries of Greek civilisation. 190

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As for Plato, the fourth-century bc Athenian philosopher, he was a particularly influential contributor to this Greek debate about ‘first principles’. Since he did not summarise into a neat whole the ideas scattered through his surviving writings, he left his pagan Greek followers to interpret and redevelop his thoughts over the centuries. This was something they were still doing when the early Christian thinkers formulated the Church’s earliest ‘official’ statement of belief about the nature of the Christian God, the so-called Nicene Creed of ad 325. Of this, more shortly. So, at one point in his writings Plato develops his idea of one supreme principle behind the universe. This he calls The Good, a benign force on which all things totally depend for their existence. In another part of his writings, he introduces a Craftsman-figure, whom he calls the Demiourgos. This Greek word means literally ‘one who works for the people’ – such as a sculptor or a doctor. It is this Craftsman who creates the physical world. He does so by following a Paradigm or model. But Plato does not say that this model comes from the Craftsman’s own mind. In this respect, the Craftsman ‘is not so clearly supreme’ as The Good. Here Plato seems to leave open, for his followers over the centuries to try to sort out, the notion of a hierarchy of divine powers. These include The Good – a supreme being – and, below, a somehow and somewhat subordinate Craftsman-creator. These Platonic ideas of divine multiplicity, hierarchy and subordination were to influence and trouble the early Christian thinkers in the Greek half of the Roman empire, as they tried to formulate definitions of God the Father’s relationship to God the Son – not to mention the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. Leaping forward in time to the first century ad, this was when their authors composed in Greek the surviving lives of Jesus, which Christians call the Gospels. What is thought to be the latest of the four books – the Gospel of John – is also the one most obviously influenced by Greek philosophy. This makes its earliest certain appearance here in Christian writings in the opening verses: 191

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When all things began the Word already was . . . The Word . . . was with God at the beginning, and through him [i.e. the Word] all things came to be; no single thing was created without him . . . He was in the world, but the world, though it owed its being to him did not recognize him . . . not born of any human stock, or by the fleshly desire of a human father, but the offspring of God himself. So the Word became flesh: he came to dwell among us.

The Greek word translated here as ‘Word’ is Logos. This was a weighty noun in Ancient Greek: it meant the spoken word, but also thought or reason or rationale. In the fourth century bc, logos had already taken on a special meaning in Greek philosophical writings, denoting a ‘formative principle’. The author of the Book of John seems to have drawn for his identification of Jesus Christ with Logos on speculations in Greek-speaking Jewish circles of the day. These in turn were influenced by Greek philosophising, including Plato’s. The Book of John turns Jesus into the principle by means of which God created the world. But this Christian creator-figure is no longer a vague or indefinite entity like Plato’s Craftsman, but ‘undoubtedly a person, with a personal relationship to the Father – for he is Jesus Christ the Son’. The Gospels’ lives of Jesus also introduce a third emanation of the one God in the form of the ‘Holy Spirit’. The word in Ancient Greek is Pneuma, with a ‘basic meaning of “air in motion”, or “breath” ’. For instance, Jesus at one point reassures his followers that if they find themselves hauled up before the authorities for their beliefs, they need not worry about how to defend themselves: ‘For when the time comes the Holy Spirit will instruct you what to say.’ If experts are to be believed, the ordinary people attracted to the early Jesus movement would have had lively discussions – women arguing at home and so on – about how God the Father, God the Son and this third emanation, the Holy Spirit, fitted with the idea, born out of the movement’s Jewish origins, that there was only one God. This was one of the core beliefs that set their religion firmly 192

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apart from the predominantly pagan world in which they found themselves. This pagan world was one with many gods: it was always ready to make room for yet another newcomer. One option for the literate, and increasingly literary, Christians of the second and third centuries who were taking up the pen to explain their beliefs was to turn to the contemporary Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’, self-identified followers of Plato among them, for a language and for concepts to help them put into words this threefold nature of their one God. These Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’ operated in centres of the Greek culture of the time, notably Alexandria in Egypt and Rome itself. This turning of Christian thinkers to Greek philosophers is more of an inference from what they went on to write. The cross-contact that it presupposes is hard to demonstrate – although it is clear that occasionally there was some form of interaction, such as with an important Christian writer who died around ad 255. Origen – his name – is known to have studied under a pagan philosopher. Frustratingly, however, nothing is known of the philosopher’s teachings. The key fact here is how the ‘wisdom-lovers’ of these times came increasingly to understand the ‘first principles’ governing the formation and running of the universe as a Platonic hierarchy no longer of two, but now of three divine entities. Today’s experts piece together the emergence of this thinking by gleaning what is available from their complete writings. Sometimes these survive; but as often as not, experts reconstruct this thinking from lost works known today only from citations in later ancient writings. The writings include those of the Christian thinkers themselves. For instance, Origen – the same – seems to betray the influence of this hierarchical, ‘threesome’ way of thinking: The God and Father, who holds the universe together, is superior to every being that exists, for he imparts to each one from his own existence that which each one is; the Son, being less than the 193

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Father, is superior to rational creatures alone (for he is second to the Father); the Holy Spirit is still less, and dwells within the saints alone. So that in this way the power of the Father is greater than that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that of the Son is more than that of the Holy Spirit.

Well, this was one Christian way of conceptualising the Christian God. Other Christian thinkers had other ideas. That is why some experts talk of the existence of multiple ‘Christianities’ on the eve of the great transformation in the position of Christians within the Roman empire. This happened with the coming to power of the first Christian emperor: a vision convinced Constantine ‘the Great’ that he had triumphed over his rivals for the throne thanks to support from the Christian God. Constantine now wanted all Christians to pray to their God for the safety of his empire. For these prayers to work, he felt that Christians needed to be united in defining what they believed. As emperor, he had the authority to knock heads together. He did so by summoning Christian representatives from all over the empire to a great council, the first of its kind (ad 325). This he convened at a town in today’s north-western Turkey. Iznik is a two-hour drive from Istanbul. The place is famous for its glazed tiles and pottery, much prized by international collectors. In Roman times, this was Nicaea. In coming together here and hammering out an agreed statement of what Christians believed about God, the representatives had to weigh up the different ‘Christianities’ of those doctrinally fluid times. One teacher of the time in particular, a Greek of course, from the intellectual hotbed of Alexandria, had his Christianity targeted. This man – Arius by name – believed (rather in the way that Origen had done) that Jesus Christ came ‘after’ God, as their Father–Son relationship seemed naturally to imply. According to this view, there was a time when God existed, but Jesus Christ did not. If Jesus came after God, was he a lesser power? 194

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For Christians who believed that Jesus was their saviour and the door to everlasting life, everything rode on the answer. The Jesus of the Gospels worked miracles, raised the dead, forgave sins and, as seen just now, created the world. Despite his human nature, could he have done such ‘God-like’ things if he was less ‘God-like’, if he had less divine power, than his Father? Opponents of this way of thinking persuaded the representatives present to snuff it out. They did so by issuing an official ‘creed’ approved by the emperor. This was a lengthy statement of belief about the nature of the Christian God. He was one God, made up indeed of three parts, but – the crucial point – these were strictly equal: somehow three in one. The Greek uses a word homoousios, usually translated as ‘consubstantial’, to express this identical nature of God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit, the third part, shared in this identical nature, being said to ‘proceed’ from the Father. The original Nicene Creed of ad 325 did not scotch the debate. Later emperors felt obliged to summon further councils and the original wording was tweaked. In the post-Roman west, where Christians used a Latin version of the creed, an addition crept in, perhaps in the sixth century. To reinforce yet further that key idea of an equal threesome, the definition of the Holy Spirit was expanded: the Spirit proceeded both from the Father ‘and from the Son’ (filioque). Eastern Christians stuck to the original, Nicene, wording. This created a point of theological contention for ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ Christians that lasts to this day. In the end, the pagan Greek ‘wisdom-lovers’ descended from Plato and other Greek philosophical heavyweights of much earlier times had helped Christian thinkers to define their God. But they’d done so by pushing them into a realisation of what their God was not. He was not at the top of a hierarchy. The Son was not lesser than the Father, and nor was the Holy Spirit. This was ‘a denial of the pagan assumption that there can be degrees of divinity’. Put differently, the end contribution of the Greek philosophers was to allow Christian thinkers to identify, and exclude, what was 195

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unacceptable Christian belief. ‘Fluidity’ or ‘diversity’ was on the way out. ‘Heresy’ – literally a choice, meaning belief defined by newly vigilant Christian authorities as going against the correct and generally accepted teaching of what was now becoming a united orthodox Church with a capital ‘C’ – was on the way in, with all its bloody consequences. As for today, most Christians still celebrate this doctrine on a special day in their calendar of services called Trinity Sunday. Priests can find taking the sermon on the subject a challenge: ‘three in one’ remains hard to explain. Picked at random from endless, worldwide possibilities, the blog of a Welsh Anglican – an academic and a vicar – offers this move. Yes, it is a mystery, so impossible truly to fathom; but it is still relevant. This mystery of a God who is a threesome tells you this: it ‘discloses something very simple about God. It reveals that God, to the very depths of his being, is relationship; God is love’. Some readers who have got this far may be feeling a bit wrung out by so much Christianity. The next chapter explores the enduring influence of a pagan Greek obsession that long appalled the Christians. This was to commission artists to depict the human body, male and female, stark naked, as a sensory fulfilment of a peculiarly Greek idea of beauty.

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o call someone a ‘Greek god’ is to see them as ‘a paragon of male beauty’, or, more specifically, as having ‘a very well-built, athletic body’. Annually since 2001, French rugby stars have posed artfully naked in a Pirelli-style calendar (but male) calling itself ‘Les Dieux du Stade’ (‘The Gods of the Stadium’). The title’s underlying reference was made explicit in the 2019 calendar (cost: 24.90 euros). This themed the calendar boys as the Greek gods of Mount Olympus: the canonical twelve Olympians reimagined with a certain licence so as to admit Eros, god of erotic desire and, erm, Priapus. The muscled young originals of ancient Greek art are not always what we might expect. If you are a tourist on the little ferry boat which chugs across the shallow lagoon separating the island of Mozia from the mainland of south-west Sicily, you may not know of the surprise which awaits you in this archaeological site’s museum. Once admitted, you enter a darkened room where, to your left, unseen until this point, up rears an antique statue of stupendous Greek workmanship from maybe the 470s bc. It looks like nothing else the spectator will have seen in this line of ancient Greek artistry. Guiding on cultural tours here, I have heard a range of reactions to this marble statue, from ‘I don’t like it: it’s effeminate’ to ‘A dead ringer for Freddie Mercury’, the late pop singer, who had an 197

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extravagantly strutting stage persona. Personally, I’m reminded of an exhibition at London’s Tate Gallery of so-called ‘swagger portraits’ by the likes of Van Dyck, portraitist to England’s Charles I: ‘The paintings . . . do not, strictly speaking, depict those who sat for them. What they depict is, rather, those people’s fantasies of themselves.’ This Mozia figure, a now-mutilated youth without arms, feet or nose, stands with one hand on hip, one foot forward, the body in a ‘[s]winging S-curve’, the pose an ‘exaggerated swagger’ on one critic’s view. Almost as unusual is the youth’s costume: an ankle-length number in the crinkliest of fabrics, resembling the dresses, with their hundreds of small pleats, created by the fashion designer Mariano Fortuny in the early twentieth century. With one big difference: the costume given this fantasy of a Greek male is skin-tight, a wet look, clinging to the body, revealing rather than concealing the powerful musculature and prominent genitalia beneath. He could almost be a ‘dieu du stade’. Experts hardly know what to make of this figure, a relatively recent find by archaeologists digging at Mozia (1979). The figure is stunningly off the message of days gone by, to judge from a book I have to hand, Greek Sculpture, published with a hundred illustrations by an Edinburgh publisher in 1913. This offers its black-and-white photographs as ‘an art to be enjoyed’. Its introduction gives a typical flavour of the ideological pinnacle on which Europeans and their colonial cousins once placed antique statues of male and female nudes (of which more shortly): On those marble brows, fronting the ages with the candour and modesty of a resolute race, on those eyes which look forth sure, and glad, and unafraid, there seems to fall the shining of some far-off celestial splendour . . . Greek sculpture is the story, in bronze or in marble, of the victorious progress of the race. It is the exalting song of a glorious national destiny – the paean of the triumph of Greek culture over the crumbling civilisations of the East. But the supremacy of Greece was the supremacy not merely 198

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of a land, not merely even of a race; it was above all the supremacy of the Hellenic ideals.

It would be easy to poke fun at this purplish passage, were its ‘ancient Greek supremacism’ not these days an understandable hackle-raiser for many people. Looking back over the decades to when I was taught Greek sculpture as a university undergraduate, I’m not sure that I could claim with certainty that this utopian way of thinking about Greece had left no mark on my teachers, nor, come to that, on me, at least back then. Going back to that Mozia figure, it singularly fails to emit the ‘Hellenic ideals’, at least as this passage imagines them. To a modern eye the statue may seem to ‘exalt’, but what? The eroticised fitness of a cocky young man, some might say. It recalls those portraits of sixteenth-century European dandies vaunting their codpieces as symbols of male virility and power. As for ‘candour and modesty’: I think not. I start with this figure – depicting a victorious charioteer, most experts think – because it unsettles the traditional values which western culture has projected onto Greek sculptures of athletic males. Not that these values, a century on from the Edinburgh book, have withstood the buffeting of more recent cultural shifts. In the nineteenth and earlier twentieth century, collections of plaster casts from the Greek and Roman antique were a familiar teaching aid in western universities and art schools (see below). Less so now. In Australia, Sydney University’s stupendous collection, running into the hundreds, was put together in the late 1800s and the start of the twentieth century. It ‘fell out of academic favour in the mid-Sixties’. The university ended up giving much of it away to high schools, although the story that casts were ‘broken up and put in as roadbase around the campus’ is no more than an ‘urban legend’. At the university in north-east England where I taught, a few such casts survived the iconoclastic 1960s, to be subjected to periodic indignities by students, or else purloined, in the face of a general indifference, to adorn the studies of members of staff. 199

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What did the ancient Greeks themselves think about male beauty, and how did they imagine its perfect embodiment? Modern experts are less sure than once they were that the ‘gym bunny’, as might be said today – the man who works out at a gym to improve his physique – was ever the Greek ideal. Ancient writings that shed light on how the ancient Greeks viewed the male body do not emphasise firm and fit muscles, whether in the gymnasium or in a statue. Instead ancient viewers seem to have noticed whether a body did or didn’t glisten, whether it looked firm or floppy, and whether or not its joints were visible and obvious: ‘They saw flesh that was soft or hard, more like the flesh they associated with women or more like that they associated with men.’ What there is no denying is that the ancient Greeks early on in their civilisation turned the naked male form, embodied in a ‘fit’ youth or young man, into a cultural icon. This sharply differentiated Greeks from more ‘conservative’ neighbouring societies. In the sixth century bc, their sculptors adapted a traditional genre of male statue created centuries earlier by the Egyptians: a block-like standing figure, arms rigidly to the side, one foot in front of the other. Greek sculptors dropped the Egyptian kilt in favour of full nudity. They used this statue type to represent gods or athletes, and to symbolise dead youths on their graves. The ‘unnaturalness’ of this archaic type to the modern eye has something in common with the moai, the stylised stone images of ancestral chiefs which the ‘medieval’ Polynesians dotted around the landscape of Easter Island. This was essentially religious art: these Polynesian statues possessed supernatural power. Back to Greece: a timeless, magical quality, a principle of order: these are possible ways of understanding what the sculptors were trying to embody in the unbending, motionless, young males of early Greek art. To a modern mind, it’s as if the aristocratic patrons of this art, like the chieftains of Easter Island, wanted something that looked literally out of this world. In Greece, too, this was religious art in essence. 200

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However, the Greeks were wedded to novelty in a hard-wired way that the culturally more static Egyptians were not. By the early 400s bc, their artists had learnt to do something new and remarkable. It caught the eye of a playwright in Athens, as we know from a fragment on an ancient Greek papyrus of one of his plays. Here a chorus reacts in astonishment to the lifelike appearance of some painted images, as if they’d never seen anything like it before: I bring this offering to the god as decoration, the beautifully-painted votive image. – It would give my mother a bad time! For if she could see it clearly she’d run off wailing, thinking it was me, the son she brought up. So like me is this fellow. Greek artists had a limited understanding of how the body worked – Greeks of this time did not dissect human cadavers. Even so, the interest of these artists in the human body revolutionised not only how they were able, but also it seems, how they wanted to depict it. They started to create for the marvelling ancient viewer the illusion of a real figure – a figure that looked as if it was animate, could speak even. We don’t know why the artists started doing this. It could have been for completely artistic reasons: because they could. It hardly matters that to us today surviving examples of this revolutionary turn around 490 bc do not look especially ‘real’ when compared with what our own artists are capable of. This is not to mention photography, now the dominant ‘go-to’ medium for visual realism in western culture. To imagine the impact of this Greek turn towards realism on contemporaries, we can safely assume that their creators meant these images to be powerful – arguably that’s what art is all about. As I write, this power of public art is felt in the so-called culture wars of our time. Confederate statues, statues of slave traders, statues of 201

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‘imperialists’: they have the power to inflame people sufficiently to take to the streets, whether to attack them – pull them down even – or to defend them. Bloodshed in these confrontations is not unknown. The ancient Greeks filled their public places with images – statues, paintings – on a scale dwarfing anything in our civic culture of more recent times. This was a civilisational quirk of theirs. After that dabbling with naturalism in the 480s and 470s bc, their artists seem to have retreated back into creating a more other-worldly, more timeless, type of figure when seeking to satisfy the social demand for powerful statues for public settings. We don’t know why: it may have been what the Greek public, used to the magical air of those archaic statues, preferred. How the sculptors seem to have responded is embodied in a statue created in the last decades of the century by one Polyclitus. The original does not survive, but it was such an ancient hit that it is known from many antique copies, as well as mentions in ancient writings, which call the statue the Doryphoros or Spear-Bearer. Experts think the best-preserved copy is the one in the archaeological museum in Naples. You can see a photograph of a cast of this statue on the website of Cambridge University’s Museum of Classical Archaeology. Here is a young marble man who stands, his athletic body stark naked, holding in his outstretched left hand the missing ‘spear’. The earlier turn to realism could not be undone: the genie was out of the bottle where the public was concerned. Rowing back, however, the sculptor here goes for a facial expression that is vacant, blank, expressionless. This restores the seemingly desired air of the remote and other-worldly. The pose, too, looks backward to archaic times, because it is unreal: ‘not strictly natural for either walking or repose’. There is a ‘conspicuous pattern of tensed and relaxed muscles’. One expert sees here a figure put together like a building: it has a ‘palpable sense of order’. Put another way, this body is an ‘artificial construct . . . what mattered to [the sculptor Polyclitus] was getting the parts right, enabling individual observations to be checked off by viewers against their general experience’. 202

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Individual parts can seem exaggerated, unreal even, to the modern eye. The Spear-Bearer has conspicuous lower-abdomen muscles in the form of fleshy, horizontal furrows flanking the navel. They have a basis in real-life male anatomy – behind this so-called iliac crest are the upper curves of the hip bone. But Greek sculptors seem to have exaggerated the frontal view of this crest and to have continued it unrealistically so as ‘to wrap around the back’. Possibly the sculptors wanted the proportions of the torso’s front and back to match, as it were: ‘Rather than reflect what is “real”, [these proportions] create symmetry.’ As for what it all meant to the ancient Greeks, the high-minded notions of earlier commentators about the embodiment of ‘Hellenic ideals’ (see above and below) in these idealised male figures may be so much wishful thinking. The sculptors were not trying to embody the spirit of the age, whatever that might have been. They sought to please a public used to depictions of the human form evoking not the everyday world of real appearances, but something more escapist – something powerful enough to take contemporary viewers out of themselves. That said, we do know that Greeks of this time found beauty in these depictions of the youthful male nude. Polyclitus himself wrote that his quest in sculpting was to kallos, ‘the beautiful’. There’s no doubt either that the ancient Greeks found beauty in images of athletes, which the so-called Spear-Bearer might have been, if, in fact (a modern suggestion), his so-called spear was originally a javelin. Did fifth-century bc Greeks, male or female, find such images erotic? Did their sculptors knowingly make them sensual? It cannot be doubted that in ancient Greek society athletes were the object of sexual desire. The Greek exercise ground or gymnasium – a word formed from gymnos, Ancient Greek for ‘naked’ – attracted boylovers. In post-Alexander times, one gymnasium in a city in northern Greece – an inscription tells us this – had rules segregating the young men from the boys, who evidently needed protection. This gymnasium also felt obliged to ban male prostitutes from coming in, stripping naked, oiling up and taking exercise. 203

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Intentionally or not, athletic statues might be said to have pandered to the sexual fantasies of ancient Greece’s boy-lovers. For instance, experts draw attention to the way sculptors such as Polyclitus depicted male genitals, drawing different conclusions. The uncircumcised penis is small. What did the Greek viewer make of this downsizing? Of a standing marble youth now in the British Museum, thought to be an ancient copy of another lost statue made by the same Polyclitus, a museum curator recently wrote: ‘The youth’s sexual parts are understated to reduce the erotic charge and heighten the moral imperative.’ Other experts point to the ample evidence from Greek writings for the ancient (male) ‘pleasure to be had simply in looking at a boy’s genitalia . . . As for the ideal Greek penis, it is funnel-shaped, uncircumcised – and small.’ This may or may not have had something to do with how older Greek males who were attracted to boys seem to have idealised the boys’ ‘modesty and self-control’. In today’s sexual slang, these older males were not ‘size queens’, that is, attracted by a partner with a large penis. Later ancient times did tell of one naked statue with the power to inflame the viewer with sexual desire. As the storyteller told the tale, one day some people who had come to admire this statue ‘noticed a mark on one thigh like a stain on a dress; the unsightliness of this was shown up by the brightness of the marble everywhere else’. A local woman told them – they were tourists – that a young man had fallen in love with the image and contrived to spend the night in its company. She went on: ‘But why do I chatter on and tell you in every detail the reckless deed of that unmentionable night? The marks of his amorous embraces were seen after day came.’ This saucy yarn may be a tall tale, but it reveals how ancient Greek writers could imagine the power of a sexy statue to arouse desire. This story isn’t about the image of an athletic male. (Interestingly, no ancient writings that survive fantasise about coupling with one of those.) The object of this young man’s lust was a famous statue which – unlike its young admirer, perhaps – actually existed. Housed in a special building on a windswept headland jutting westward into the 204

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Aegean from south-west Turkey, it was once the pride of its ancient Greek host city, a place called Cnidus. What it depicted – to judge from ancient replicas, the original being lost – was a young, naked woman. She stood with one hand masking her genitalia, the other only half-concealing her left breast. This was the ancient world’s most renowned representation of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of sexuality. The ancient Greeks conceived Aphrodite as a heavenly beauty. So there can be no doubt that the sculptor of the Cnidus statue intended to offer the viewer an ideal of the female form, with the usual blank facial expression to distance the figure from human reality. The creation of an Athenian sculptor around 360 bc, the ideal seems to have broadly conformed to what we know about Athenian notions of female beauty, as can be gleaned from Athenian writings and imagery: ‘The ideal woman is “blooming” or “youthful” . . . she has small, pert, breasts and is slender, with firm flesh and . . . no pubic hair.’ Since the original statue could be viewed from all angles, it also put the female buttocks firmly on display. This could have reflected ‘the predominance of rear-entry vaginal sex in Athenian sexual culture’ of the time. What ancient viewers made of this image is a moot point. Aphrodite was a lovely, but also – like all these divinities in the eyes of their worshippers – a terrible force, in her case of sexual power. If the sculptor meant to turn the ancient viewer into a voyeur, it needs pointing out that the goddess’s devotees were chiefly female. Her beauty, her erotic allure: these were also what made her dangerous. In the story, after doing the deed, the young man ‘hurled himself over a cliff or down into the waves of the sea’. Was this the goddess’s punishment? On reflection, it is not so simple to turn this ancient statue into a direct ancestor of the ogled female nude in western art of more recent times. With the triumph of official Christianity in the fourth century ad, the accumulated statuary of the ancient world’s public places, much of it openly referencing paganism, faced an uncertain future. In 205

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the archaeological museum on the Aegean island of Kalymnos a whole room is devoted to a cache of ten to fifteen marble statues of different dates. These were found deliberately buried on what is now private land near the site of the island’s chief pagan sanctuary, dedicated to Apollo. They include an archaic youth in the stiff pose favoured by sixthcentury bc sculptors; naked youths in languid, almost girlish, poses, no earlier than the 300s bc; a huge marble Asclepius with his snake from the second century bc; and so on. Why the ancient devotees – who clearly treasured this historic assemblage of offerings – felt obliged to bury them is unknown. But a perceived threat from Christians, locals or unwelcome zealots from the mainland, is certainly a possible explanation. Some statues survived because people in late antiquity saw them as ‘Old Masters’ – heirloom pieces. In the ad 400s, the great statue of Zeus enthroned, decommissioned from his temple at Olympia, turned up in a private collection put together by an important eunuch at the imperial court of Constantinople. At least this is what much later Greek writings from medieval times claim. Experts sound a note of caution: ‘It is no longer possible to judge whether these statues were original in the modern sense, though contemporary viewers clearly thought so.’ Since the collection was destroyed by fire in the year 475, we shall never know for sure if this really was the statue that helped launch the artistic image of Christ (see chapter 9). A millennium later, in the Italy of the Renaissance, enthusiasts for the rediscovered virtues of ancient art initiated a new, intensive era of collecting. Popes, cardinals, Medici princes, followed by French kings, European aristocrats and, as we shall see below, twentiethcentury dictators, fell over themselves to obtain genuinely antique works. A few of these had remained visible in Italy, where antiquity had left them – like the pair of naked marble men, over eighteen feet high, each accompanied by a horse. This group was still standing on Rome’s Quirinal Hill in the 1500s. Building works and what passed 206

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then for excavations uncovered huge numbers more of such ancient statues and reliefs, in and around Rome at first, then on archaeological sites further and further afield. The cultural impact of these statues could be profound. In early modern times they were a visual means whereby the educated elites could connect with the virtues and values that they admired in the ancient Greeks. More than that, viewers appreciated these statues for the beauty of the bodies. They touched as well as looked. Marble was confused with flesh, just as had happened in ancient times (as seen earlier in this chapter). The statues gave rise to a voyeurism which satirical prints targeted. London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has one such, dating from around 1822: an admiring wife smiles appreciatively at the bare bottom of a plaster Hercules, while her husband stares at her in astonishment. These ancient figures, found in Italy but overwhelmingly of Greek inspiration, ended up by shaping expectations of how the male physique ideally should look. In the eighteenth century, tailors tightened the fit of menswear, so as ‘to echo the classical male form’. Men’s white silk stockings deliberately recalled the look of white marble. Artists measured ancient statues to learn the secrets of their seemingly perfect proportions. Beau Brummell – a famous London dandy of the early nineteenth century – wore body-hugging outfits that emphasised a physique which people at the time compared to the Apollo Belvedere (a particularly famous creation of Roman times, though based on a Greek original, which achieved early renown thanks to casts and prints). The tailors of Georgian England modelled the standard-sized base pattern of their made-to-measure menswear on that Apollo, while life-drawing classes juxtaposed live male models with casts of classical male figures. Male and female students were being invited to compare the real thing with the Greek ideal. As for how the thinkers of the more recent past processed all this ancient art in the abstract, one name stands out amid the dusty writings of long-dead scholars, because his influence lingers on 207

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today – even if the name itself is hardly known outside specialist circles. A portrait in oils painted in the year of his murder (on 8 June 1768) shows a middle-aged man fancily outfitted in a lavish (and ‘on-trend’ for those times) nightgown in a crimson fabric with fur trim, which its wearer pairs with a Turkey-inspired turban. The total effect exudes ‘the air of agreeable negligence which the eighteenth century found so attractive’. The subject is depicted as a man of learning. He is seated at a desk with, on its top, pen and paper, along with an engraving of an ancient relief. This depicted an actual relief in a private collection in Rome, much admired at the time. Its subject was a skimpily clad Antinous, the youth whose beauty overwhelmed the Roman emperor Hadrian, before the young man drowned in the Nile (ad 130). Going back to the sitter, his cheeks have a rosy tinge: perhaps rouge, as fashionable for men as for women at this time. Or might this be – as has been suggested – a tell-tale flush brought on by the subject’s ‘eroticised appreciation’ of the image before him? Was the flush, then, a – rather daring – intimation of his sexual preferences, for the sophisticated viewer of those times to spot? As to rouge, the sitter – one Johann Winckelmann – was the academic son of a Prussian shoemaker. His education and talent had allowed him to find employment with aristocratic employers as a librarian and personal secretary, in Germany and then in Rome. These social circles seem to have inspired a man evidently alert to the dictates of appearances to adopt a gentlemanly elegance in his dress. As for sexual preferences, the prose of the sitter’s writings is suggestive: Ask those who know all that is most beautiful in the nature of mortals, whether they have seen a side to be compared with the side of this torso . . . What a conception we gather from those thighs, whose solidity clearly shows that the hero has never flinched, has never been forced to bend. 208

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This comes from Winckelmann’s detailed description of an accomplished statue of the Greek hero Heracles, now in the Vatican museums. What survives is a muscular marble torso, much admired by the cognoscenti of the eighteenth century. Of this description, one modern expert writes that ‘Heroic labours are here transformed into a physical form that we can both admire and desire’ (my italics). In today’s world of more open sexual identities, this is almost the most arresting aspect of Winckelmann. In his day and long after, however, what made him a giant of learned writings about the ancient Greeks was something else. Using his education and his access to the great collections of ancient sculpture in Italy, he wrote a groundbreaking history of ancient art. His writings for the first time foregrounded the Greeks as the greatest artistic creatives not just of the ancient world, but of all time. To do this, he ordered ancient statuary for the first time into a chronological series and into a succession of artistic styles. He matched these styles to his detailed knowledge of ancient history. For the ancient Greeks he identified a ‘best’ period – the fifth century bc. There was also an ‘archaic’ period that preceded it. Last came the Romans, whose art he saw as derivative and decadent. As influential as his masterly ordering of ancient sculpture into periods and styles were his ideas – equally original at the time – about why Greek art flourished as and when it did. Translations of his writings spread these ideas far beyond the German-speaking world. Drawing on his knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin texts, he ‘theorised’ the ‘best’ period of Greek art as the product of certain conditions. These included a ‘free’ society, meaning democratic Athens – slavery is not dwelt on, let alone the patriarchy. It mattered that the Greek climate was of the right kind, meaning neither too hot nor too cold and lending itself to an outdoors existence. Another condition was an admirable Greek cult of the male body, manifesting itself in athletic competitions and the gymnasium. In the ‘enlightened’ cultural atmosphere of western Europe at this time, shading into the Romantic era of the early nineteenth century, 209

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these ideas found ready followers. They were influential and even dominant in western thinking about the ancient Greeks for much of the nineteenth century. The lingering echo of Winckelmann’s ideal of Greece can be heard in the purplish passage from the 1913 book of photographs of Greek sculpture quoted earlier in this chapter. His ideas helped to shape an enduring image of the ancient Greeks as a people having a unique essence from which stemmed their cultural genius. Old and outdated – and perhaps just as well, as they are even dangerous: thus one might call out these ideas from a twenty-firstcentury vantage point. One hare that Winckelmann more or less single-handedly set running had to do with the colour of ancient statues, or rather its supposed absence: For the essence of beauty consists not in colour but in shape . . . As white is the colour which reflects the greatest number of rays of light, and so strikes one the most noticeably, so a beautiful body will be all the more beautiful for being white.

Winckelmann could elevate white marble in this way out of ignorance. As we have already seen, the ancient sculptures in Italian collections which he knew best and which inspired his ideas were mainly Roman-period adaptations of earlier Greek statuary, now lost. If ever the ancients had painted these adaptations, the paintwork had vanished. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that archaeologists began to find original Greek sculpture in excavations in Greece proper. Evidence now began to mount that Greek sculptors habitually added details of dress and facial features in paint and gilding. Not that the evidence of their own eyes made classicists of the time necessarily budge. A French history of art which appeared in the first decades of the twentieth century sought to marginalise the traces of paint on an ancient cache of Athenian ‘maiden-statues’ in the archaic style found on the Acropolis in the 1880s. The author 210

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described them as ‘creatures barbarously lit up, dazzling and bizarre like tropical birds’. They had the ‘savour of Oriental women, made up, dressed up, perhaps rather common, fascinating however, distant, beings of fable, child-like creatures, spoilt slaves’. The writer concluded that ‘colour does not come without louche and violent morals’. He – for the author was indeed male – manages to distance the paintwork of ancient Greek sculpture as something female and not European, but ‘eastern’. As the reader will hardly fail to spot, what we nowadays regard as misogyny, Orientalism and racism can all be detected in this prose period-piece from a French pen. As for the racism, this channelled a widely prevalent view birthed in the nineteenth century by the new and wildly Eurocentric discipline of the life sciences. So, in the midcentury a French count wrote an influential ‘Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races’, the English translation still in print today. In it, he asserted that the ancient Greeks were white and blonde, having ‘vigorously developed muscles’, ‘harmony in their anatomical proportions’ and ‘regularity in their facial features’. I remember witnessing the distant aftershocks of this way of thinking when I attended a conference which the British Museum courageously organised to discuss openly among experts and journalists the museum’s botched cleaning of the Elgin marbles in the interwar years. The ideal of Hellenic whiteness seems to have been a factor in what this cleaning had been meant to achieve. One of its instigators was a flamboyant, mega-rich art dealer called Joseph Duveen. He was paying for a new gallery, in which the cleaned-up marbles were to be redisplayed. Duveen was an enthusiastic ‘restorer’ of artworks passing through his hands, as an anecdote suggests: ‘To those that suggested that a Dürer that Duveen sold . . . had very little of Dürer left in it, Duveen answered wistfully that anyway it had been by Dürer.’ Urged on by Duveen, workers at the museum, some of them Duveen’s own masons, set to with metal tools to whiten the marbles. Eventually they were stopped by the keeper of the Greek and Roman 211

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collection. He had belatedly got wind of their ministrations. By then they had already stripped away the original surfaces of most of what had essentially been ‘warm brown’ marbles. This veneer preserved ancient weathering and perhaps also man-made coatings, which a modern laboratory would have been able to analyse. In Duveen’s lifetime, this added allure that racial ways of thinking imparted to white marble statues of virile Greek males chimed with a major political turn of that era. The briefest description in my (rather outdated) guide to Rome hardly does justice to the extraordinary sight that awaits visitors in search of Mussolini-era monuments. If you head north-west from the city centre to suburban Monte Mario, there is a huge sporting complex once known as Foro Mussolini and now the nocturnal haunt of sex workers. Its most spectacular element, dating back to the time of Il Duce, intact and still in use, is the so-called Stadio dei Marmi. This is a 20,000-seater athletic stadium which opened in 1932. Still towering over the banks of seating are no fewer than sixty giant nude statues of athletes in white marble, all male and over twice life size. The work of Italian sculptors of the time, they depict modern sports – one holds a football, for instance. But the model is clearly antique. Ultimately, these figures hark back to ancient Greek statues by the likes of Polyclitus – or rather, to be strictly correct, their surviving Roman versions. Under Mussolini, this stadium was the main training ground for the fascist youth movement. His regime aspired to refashion the Italian male body in the image of the ancient Greeks. Here ‘the myth of white Greece found its acme and triumphed’. So it did in one other place at this time, too. In August 1920, a thirty-one-year-old political unknown called Adolf Hitler gave a speech in the German city of Munich which shows how the future Führer’s ideas about German and ancient Greek racial kinship were there from the very start of his political career: The race we now call Aryan [i.e. Nordic] was in fact the creator of those great later civilizations whose history we still find traces 212

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of today. We know that Egypt was brought to its cultural heights by Aryan immigrants, as were Persia and Greece; these immigrants were blond, blue-eyed Aryans, and we know that, apart from these states, there have never been any other civilized countries on earth.

Touched on in chapter 2 for its fascination with ancient Greek Dorians and Spartans, Nazi ideology as it developed in the 1930s heavily committed as well to the ideal of the ancient Greek body beautiful as a model for the perfect German – especially the male. The visually aware Hitler himself, a lifelong amateur painter, was an enthusiastic fan of a particular ancient statue. In 1894, an English admirer of the same had written somewhat revealingly that, for him, this marble figure expressed ‘all one had ever fancied or seen in old Greece or on Thames’ side, of the unspoilt body of youth’. This statue was one of a number of replicas from ancient Roman times of a work from fifth-century bc Greece, now lost. It depicted a naked male athlete stooping to throw a discus. In 1937, Hitler opened negotiations with Mussolini’s government to obtain the most renowned of these ancient replicas. It was sometimes known as the ‘Lancellotti Discus Thrower’ from the Rome palazzo in which at that time it was housed. Sold by the Lancellotti family to Nazi Germany for the large sum of five million lire, in 1938 Hitler put the statue on display in Germany’s Glyptothek museum, in a city (Munich) and region (Bavaria) which the Nazi leader loved. We have in his own words, in a speech of welcome on the statue’s arrival in Germany, what he felt about this statue: May none of you fail to visit the Glyptothek, for there you will see how splendid man used to be in the beauty of his body . . . and you will realise that we can speak of progress only when we have not only attained such beauty but even, if possible, when we have surpassed it. 213

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If nowhere else today, ‘white Greece’ still flourishes in the redoubts of the alt-right and their white supremacist interpretations of ancient history. In 2016, a white supremacist group styling itself ‘Identity Europa’ launched a poster campaign on college campuses across the USA. The idea was to hymn and exalt a white European identity. Images on the posters paired antique and Renaissance statuary with exhortations such as ‘Protect Your Heritage’, ‘Our Future Belongs to Us’ and ‘Let’s Become Great Again’. The idea of the posters was to exploit the cultural prestige of famous and venerable museum pieces ‘as an overt appeal to a supposedly “white” classical tradition linked to a white European heritage’. Purely on the facts, this is no longer a tenable position. Scientific techniques to detect traces of pigment on ancient marble, and a new zeal on the part of experts to explore and reconstruct the original paintwork of Greek statues: these developments have prompted a rash of scientific reconstitutions of this ancient Greek taste for vivid colour. None is more striking than the cast with reconstructed paint of a marble archer, based on an original Greek statue from a temple gable of about 490–480 bc. As reconstituted from the traces of paintwork on the original, the figure wears ‘tight pants with a harlequin pattern that is as boldly coloured as Missoni leggings’. Cloth patterned blue, red, green and yellow; oxblood hair, brown-tinted flesh and red lips: I saw this German reconstruction (by a research team from the Munich Glyptothek) in an exhibition at the British Museum. The visual impact is, well, stunning. No wonder some complain of such reconstructions that ‘the colors are jarring because their tones seem too gaudy or opaque’. Such science-based reconstructions consign ‘white Greece’ definitively to the bin of art-historical wrong turns. There remain the ancient Greek bodies. Despite their use and abuse by ideologues of the past, these familiar images of a certain kind of physical perfection retain their visual hold on the popular imagination. In England’s weekend papers as I write, there is a comment piece by a (male) journalist on ‘my poster boys of summer’. 214

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It includes 2021 British Olympians Tom Daley and Adam Peaty: ‘there’s just something about my smooth, slender, splishy-splashy boys that sets them apart. Maybe it’s their Greek vase physiques.’ What the Greeks also did for us was to create a legacy of graceful architecture. Like their sculpture, this legacy has enjoyed a bumpy ride into modernity. The next chapter explores the descent to us of the columns, the entablatures and the rest of this other most influential facet of ancient Greek beauty.

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rom the late 1700s, a radical style of architecture emerged in England and further afield. I first became aware of it after arriving to teach in a university in north-east England. I was lucky to have a generous landlady who enthusiastically showed off the glories of the region on weekend jaunts. One day she drove me out a few miles into Northumberland to view a country house built by an ancient local family in the pursuit of beauty. Then as now, the result remains startling. The house is a severe square block of sandstone masonry. It sits on a stepped platform like a Greek temple. The façades below the lowpitched roof are crowned with an entablature, also like a Greek – specifically a Doric Greek – temple. The plain entrance front has a portico. This, instead of projecting outward, as was the Italianate norm in English architecture of the time, is inset into the façade. This inside-out porch is entered through two towering columns flush with the façade. They are of the same height and positioning, as if part of a Greek temple’s outer colonnade. These columns are also in the Doric style. That is, they are stout, fluted, resting directly on the platform with no base, and crowned with a circular, cushionlike capital. This the ancient Greeks likened in shape to the upturned shell of a sea urchin. 216

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The most famous Greek temple in this Doric style remains the Parthenon. But the columns at Belsay Hall – this Northumbrian house – reproduce those of another (much better preserved) temple in old Athens, once dedicated to Hephaestus, Greek god of the forge. The overall effect at Belsay is ‘wholly plain . . . the emphasis is simply on proportion, line and surface’. The landowner who built this innovative home – Sir Charles Monck – was an enthusiast for ancient Greece and its architecture to a degree that is hard to comprehend today (although see further below). With his wife, he had honeymooned in the Greece of his day, then a run-down province of the Ottoman empire. He spent his days visiting ancient monuments and recording close observations of them in his diaries: [Thursday 19 September 1805] The 2 leaves of the door at the west end of the Parthenon appear each to have been about six feet broad, by the marks which they have made in the pavement when open and shut . . . This makes the door way 12 feet.

On his return home, in 1807, aged twenty-eight, he began to build his new house, based on inspiration from the architecture of ancient Greece. Although he took expert advice, he was also very much his own man in imposing his preferences in the house’s design. He drew partly on architectural measurements he’d taken on his honeymoon, and partly on another source (of which more shortly). He obsessively sought to recreate – as he saw it – the geometry of classical Greek buildings: The house is exactly one hundred feet square. Exactly – Monck insisted that the proportional ratios of the design were calculated to three decimal places, forcing masons to abandon their conventional measurements in eighths of an inch.

What had permitted this new awareness of ancient Greek architecture was partly the legacy of Johann Winckelmann’s ‘rediscovery’ of 217

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ancient Greek art (chapter 10). This was now enjoying a new cultural prestige among Europe’s elites. Partly, too, it was a matter of practicalities. In the course of the eighteenth century, as the Ottoman empire weakened, western travellers gradually felt emboldened enough to explore Ottoman-occupied Greece. At first these travellers were few. The experience was not for the faint-hearted, or for those without means. I once read as much as I could lay hands on about the Greek mission in 1728–30 of a French scholar called Michel Fourmont. Sent in the king of France’s name and at royal expense, Fourmont set out in the hope (vain as it turned out) of gaining access to the Ottoman sultan’s palace library and its reputed treasures of classical literature. Thwarted, he took to travelling around Greece, copying ancient inscriptions instead. Fourmont’s colourful letters back to his masters in France give a vivid – if somewhat exaggerated – portrait of hardships incurred in the royal service. He claimed to be beset by money worries, not least because travel was expensive. On his expeditions around Greece, typically he might be in a party of seven, including a guide, an armed guard, grooms accompanying the five or six hired horses, and an interpreter. The weather included extreme heat, as well as torrential rain and, in places, ‘excessive snow’. Fourmont also complains of bandits, corsairs, plague-hit towns requiring detours by sea, sunstroke, fevers brought on by the brackish drinking water, fierce dogs, precipices like the one his horse fell down with him on it, and Greek wine ‘which they poison by adding plaster [sic] and resin’. Braving such hardships, in 1750 two other travellers arrived in Ottoman Athens, this time from England. Chapter 1 has already hailed the achievements of James Stuart and Nicholas Revett. It was they who pioneered the measuring and drawing of the town’s classical ruins during a protracted stay there. Back home, their labours were published in four landmark volumes. These provided, for the first time ever, accurate models of ancient Greek monuments for western architects to copy and adapt. If we 218

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return to Belsay, the catalogue survives of Monck’s library. It shows that he owned a copy of the Antiquities of Athens, as the great work of Stuart and Revett was titled. He seems to have already owned this before he started to plan his new house. From it, he would have been able to glean the exact measurements of, for instance, the temple of Hephaestus. In building ‘his’ Belsay, in some ways Monck and other neo-Greek enthusiasts of his time anticipated the modernist architecture of the twentieth century. What they admired about ancient Greek temples was ‘discipline and severity, a purging of architecture from the impurities which had encrusted it’. In this, Monck and his kind were handed the godsend of the Doric style – a novelty when antiquarians and scholars ‘rediscovered’ it in the later eighteenth century. The ancient Romans whose architecture the Renaissance seized on for inspiration did not use this style. They preferred the more ornate Ionic and Corinthian. The new champions of Doric at the turn of the eighteenth century were not so unlike today’s purist advocates of Brutalist architecture. As in these words of praise published in 1794, they saw a ‘masculine boldness and dignity in the Grecian Doric’, and in the form of the capital ‘a style at once bold, massive, and simple’. The ancient Athenians did not build just in the Doric style, however. The ruins of ancient Athens included – then, as now – textbook examples of the other two styles as well. These included the Erechtheum, an Ionic temple on the Acropolis, and the Lysicrates Monument, a graceful rotunda sporting examples of the Corinthian capital. These two monuments also helped to inspire the so-called Greek Revival in architecture. This became an international movement in the nineteenth century. The fine sight of a mid-nineteenth century replica of the Lysicrates Monument in a park in downtown Sydney, Australia, was noted in the prologue. As a visiting academic in Princeton, New Jersey, I used to drive past a colonnade of Ionic columns set in a leafy park. On enquiry, I learnt that this was a memorial to soldiers from 219

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both sides during the American War of Independence who fell in a battle here, won by an army led by George Washington against British forces. On closer inspection, this colonnade turned out to be inspired by the Erechtheum – by the ornate Ionic porch on that Athenian temple’s north side, to be exact. It was also much travelled. The colonnade originated as the portico of a private mansion in Philadelphia (1835). When this was demolished, the portico was salvaged and relocated to adorn another mansion, this time in Princeton. After this home in turn burnt down, the portico made a short journey to its final site, where it was dedicated in 1959. The eventful back-story to this memorial suggests the continuing popularity in the USA of architecture inspired by ancient Greece. This enthusiasm peaked in the nineteenth century, when Americans saw the style as, among other things, suitably democratic for their republic. The Greek style became so widespread that it could be satirised, as with the character in a popular American novel of 1838 who comments sarcastically: . . . public sentiment just now runs almost exclusively and popularly into the Grecian school. We build little besides temples for our churches, our banks, our taverns, our court-houses, and our dwellings.

If the style reflected the culture of the educated elites, a trickledown effect meant that the tastes of these mansion-dwelling classes went on to be taken up by the nation at large: Even the private homes of middle-class Americans were often adorned with classical objects . . . as badges of taste and culture. Tables, mantels, teapots, pitchers, ewers, urns, candelabra, and even stoves were richly ornamented with caryatids, cupids, griffins, scrolls, columns, cornucopias, garlands, satyr masks, lyres, grapevines, and other classical motifs. 220

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The USA was not alone: . . . you cannot walk through a great town without passing Greek buildings; you can hardly walk into a well-furnished room without seeing Greek statues and ornaments, even Greek patterns of furniture and paper.

On the other side of the pond, this was a writer in mid-Victorian England (1855). Regarding the ancient models themselves, these were coming into sharper focus, as the scholars and archaeologists deepened their investigations in the lands of the ancient Greeks. In doing so, they turned up surprises. One of these surprises awaits the lucky visitor who manages to penetrate, as I did once, a little building – as much a storeroom as a museum, and often locked – on a pine-scented archaeological site a day trip by boat from Athens. Inside, I was startled to see bright paintwork. Green, red and blue pigments picked out the different elements in the masonry of a so-called Doric frieze. This was the feature of Greek temples in the Doric style which Monck copied at Belsay. It comprised a band of architectural decoration running just below the guttering of the roof. Monck’s Belsay reproduced this feature in the same sandstone as the rest of the exterior. The little museum in question – on the Greek island of Aegina, just outside Piraeus – is perhaps the best place nowadays to appreciate the very different aesthetics of the ancient Greeks. The Greeks picked out their architecture in strong primary colours, against a contrasting mass of white or cream reserved for the body of the building. This might show off the natural marble, whiter when first quarried. If a lesser building stone has been used, it could be coated with white stucco. You often see the traces today of this ancient stucco at sites such as this one on Aegina. Here a later temple of an ancient Greek goddess called Aphaia still stands. Its brightly coloured predecessor had burnt down in the later 500s bc, and some of its masonry got buried on site while the paintwork was still fresh 221

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– hence those brightly coloured architectural fragments in that little local museum. Traditional whitewashed houses in modern Greece have their woodwork – doors and window frames – picked out similarly in bright colours. These seem to echo the ancient aesthetics, by accident rather than design. It perhaps comes naturally when the backdrop is the strong blue of a Mediterranean sky. To exploit the potential of this skyscape, the ancient Greeks even coloured the roofs of their temples. Marble rooftiles painted pink, white and blue once adorned a temple in a settlement in Greek Sicily called Acragas, today’s Agrigento. Modern archaeologists who carried out tests on those painted architectural members from Aegina identified such pigments as malachite (used for green) and so-called Egyptian blue, a man-made compound. Use of these relatively expensive pigments suggests a culture that valued, and was prepared to pay for, architecture that was pleasing to the eye of the beholder. There are other indications that the ancient Greeks pursued their ideals of beauty in the creation of public buildings. It’s not unusual on the Athenian Acropolis to find visitors crouching so as to run the eye the length of the stepped masonry platform on which its builders proceeded to raise the Parthenon. These visitors are looking for a feature visible to the naked eye – the fact that the platform visibly curves upward midway, before gently sinking at either end. Archaeologists who first noticed this upward curvature – detectable in other Greek temples, too – wondered if it was accidental. The building might have settled over time. If deliberate, could it have been done for utility, so as to drain off rainwater? In the case of the Parthenon, restorers working on the building in the 1920s noticed for the first time that the masonry above the temple colonnade was cut on the oblique. That is, the ancient masons had the skills needed to carry the platform’s upward curvature through the superstructure that it supported. 222

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Since the Parthenon’s curvature was implemented on all four sides of the temple platform, its top surface ‘would consequently be a vault’. There is no agreed opinion among the experts about the construction techniques that were used to achieve this remarkable effect wherever it has been found in a Greek building. On one view, it could have been implemented relatively simply with a length of string. Others speculate as to what level of mathematical knowledge might have been required, and whether the Greeks had reached this level at the time of the Parthenon. As to the no less interesting question of the purpose of this ‘rather elaborate practice’, ancient Greek writings on the subject are sparse. The possibilities include a purely religious meaning. If so, this meaning is likely to elude us for ever. That said, centuries after the Parthenon was built, a Greek mathematician and inventor who wrote technical treatises offered this possible insight: The final goal of the architect is to make the work wellproportioned for the perception and, as far as possible, to find counter-devices against the deceptions of the eye, aiming at equal relations and harmonic interrelations not in truth but for the appearance to the eye.

If this ancient writer reflects the thinking of architects in the much earlier, ‘golden’ age of Greek architecture, the 400s bc, then the aim of upward curvature, as of other such ‘refinements’ – such as the outward bulging of Doric columns – was to benefit the eye of the ancient beholder. It did so by correcting what architects anticipated would be tricks played by the human eye. For instance, the temple platform might seem to sag, even if in fact it didn’t. On this view, the architect sought to present his building in the most optically harmonious way possible to its human audience. In that case, there would have been something almost ‘populist’ about this obsessive concern for the viewer experience. Here we are reminded of the ‘intense scrutiny’ which their builders expected temples to come 223

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under. Above all, this meant the appraising gaze of the citizens who funded the project. It was over their daily lives, so often, that these temples visibly towered from their perches on rocky outcrops high above. If the refinements of the Parthenon are best understood as aimed at improving the viewing experience of the mass of ancient viewers, another building type which the ancient Greeks invented most certainly shares this combination of beauty and ingenuity with popular appeal. Like many, I have sat in the Greek theatre in the archaeological site of Epidaurus in the Peloponnese in sheer wonder. There is the graceful arc of its unusually well-preserved auditorium, as well as the perfect fit between the seating and, at its feet, the circular performance space for the singers and dancers of ancient Greek theatre (see chapter 14). Only recently has an expert pointed out just how ‘revolutionary’ the design of these masonry theatres was when they first began to appear in the later 300s bc. As the new medium of theatre became all the rage among the ancient Greeks, this design took over from earlier generations of improvised auditoria. These either were simply cut into bedrock or were temporary structures of timber. One of the cleverest features of the new stone theatres of the fourth century bc is the one most likely to be taken for granted by the modern visitor: the design of the benches. We just don’t know where this design made its first appearance, or the identity of the architect who should take the credit. Epidaurus features what became the standard design for theatre seating in ancient Greek times. If you look more closely, each row of curved seats comprises a flat surface for sitting, with a concave face into which you could partly tuck your legs. Behind this flat surface is another, in the form of a shallow recess or channel in the stone. This is for the feet of the spectator behind you. This recess also served to help channel rainwater towards the vertical gangways. These in turn sent the water down to the drain which edges the circular performance space. 224

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The curve of the auditorium meant spectators in each row were all at the same distance from the centre of this performance space, also the centre of their field of vision. The continuous masonry of the seating, finally, was like a protective cladding: it helped to seal the mixture of natural hillside and man-made fill on which the masonry rested. This sealing function is one explanation for the outstanding state of preservation of Epidaurus today. Unlike many Greek theatres, Epidaurus also escaped ending up as a quarry in more recent times. As for the acoustics of these theatres, Epidaurus, the best preserved on the Greek mainland, bears a particular burden of modern expectation. This is clear from the regular sight of tour guides – and visitors – standing in the centre of the performance circle to demonstrate how the smallest sound can be heard even from the cheapest seat in the ‘gods’. One learned theory sought to explain this alleged phenomenon by arguing that the stone used by the masons had a special acoustic property. The ancient Greeks certainly were interested in how sound works. Their ‘wisdom-lovers’ pondered the mechanics of hearing, sometimes with particular reference to theatre acoustics. In the 300s bc, Aristotle asked: ‘Why are choruses harder to hear when the orchestra [see chapter 14] is covered with straw?’ As for practical application of these inquiries, Roman writings state that some Greek theatres used resonators. Supposedly these were in the shape of large bronze jars, their mouths facing the performance space. They were ‘formed so as, when struck, to have sounds whose intervals are a fourth, fifth, and so on’. The actor’s voice, ‘striking against the cavity of each vase, will sound with increased clearness and harmony, from its unison with one or other of them’. Fascinating stuff, although no archaeologist has yet found evidence in an actual Greek theatre for the installation of an amplifying system, let alone one of this sophistication. As for Epidaurus, the latest research downplays the mystique of its theatre’s alleged acoustics. Academic researchers used twenty 225

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microphones to wire up the auditorium for sound and reported their results. Sound did indeed travel across the whole theatre. But the nature of the sound, such as that of a coin dropping, was only recognisable halfway up the seating. As for a whisper, only those in the front seats would make out what was said. If you were in the seats furthest from the performance area, ‘only when actors spoke up loudly would their words be intelligible’. Even if the legend of the acoustical magic of Epidaurus turns out to be just that, it is perhaps enough to note the many visitors today who seem to share the wonder of ancient Greek writings, which praise the structure’s ‘harmony and beauty’. The admiration for ancient Greek architecture which prompted Belsay and a generation or so of Greek Revival buildings across the western world in the early nineteenth century also attracted dissident voices. These swelled as the century wore on. An American attack of the mid-century questioned the fitness of the style for the functions which Greek Revival buildings were required to perform. This critic also asked whether the association of a style with the ancient Greeks in itself made the style beautiful today. The attack targeted country houses not least: It may appear singular to one not accustomed to dwell on the subject, that it should be necessary to insist upon the value of so obvious a truth as that a dwelling-house should look like a dwelling-house . . . We recall a dwelling-house on the banks of the Hudson, built in the form of a Doric temple, all the chimneys of which were studiously collected together in the middle of the roof . . . One might be well puzzled to know what sort of edifice was intended.

In the early twentieth century, Greek architecture helped to inspire Nazi architecture, or so Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect, claimed in his ‘memoirs, essays, and interviews [which] emphasized again and again his admiration for Greek architecture, especially that of 226

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the Doric order’. How this translated into actual architecture is less clear, partly because the research field is in its infancy, and partly because destruction has taken its toll of Nazi-era buildings. The use of colonnades in a building like Berlin’s New Chancellery (1938, destroyed in 1945), or of a pediment supported by columns for the façade of Germany’s temporary pavilion at the Paris World Fair (1937), references the classical – by then an international style – only in a general way. But a specifically Greek influence, at least in what is known of Speer’s Nazi buildings so far, is not obviously discernible. One expert has put it this way: ‘Insofar as Speer’s buildings were concerned, I suggested that their distant relationship to neoclassicism expressed a strain in Nazi theory that saw the Greeks as the first Aryans [see chapter 10].’ The fascist regimes of the earlier twentieth century tarred modern architecture that channels ancient Greek (and Roman) buildings with a new association – one that architecture has not entirely shaken off to this day. For instance, in the centre of Berlin, the decision was made by a reunited Germany to rebuild a demolished palace of Baroque times – the former seat of Prussian kings and German emperors, damaged by bombs in the Second World War and finally destroyed by the old East Germany. One façade of this reconstruction, completed in 2020, is built not in the fake Baroque of the other façades, but in the modernist style of a different age. This design of an Italian architect has been likened by commentators to so-called razionalismo. This Italian term describes ‘the architectural style closely associated with Italian fascism’. It is a style ‘offering . . . a bare grid that . . . suggests the proportions of classical architecture’. As for its appearance in central Berlin, this ‘can hardly fail to recall Speer and Hitler’s design for a new world capital’. At the time of writing, two recent controversies about architectural style on either side of the Atlantic have more specifically involved, or invoked, the ancient Greeks. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a memorial to Bomber Command. These were the airmen who flew 227

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the British bombers during the Second World War. The memorial is sited in a prestigious location on London’s Hyde Park Corner. A balustraded central building features Doric columns supporting a Doric frieze, as at Belsay. The website of the Artworkers’ Guild, to which the architect belongs, describes him as having ‘earned a strong reputation for his commitment to the evolution of a contemporary, relevant and modern classicism’. Critics have not been kind, however, to this war memorial. After describing it as a ‘lump of Croesus bling’ – Croesus being a fabulously rich king of ancient Lydia – one of them mocks it in these terms: ‘very approximately classical – the word is synonymous with class obviously; and it is just the sort of “feature” that dignifies a plutocratic stratum of Home Counties gardens’. This implicit denigration of the style as ‘pastiche’ is a matter of opinion and taste. As for the association of the style with the British Isles’ moneyed classes, this seems justified. Since the 1960s, some of the rich and (sometimes) famous have reacted against the architectural modernism of the post-Second World War era by housing themselves in new buildings that look like old ones. Here a classical style is a favourite. This channels a rich architectural tradition that includes Rome, as well as Greece, along with more recent styles in a classical idiom such as the Palladian. In Britain, doyen of the architects who work in this idiom is Quinlan Terry, described in one British newspaper article as believing that the ‘classical orders were handed down by God’. An engaging public speaker on his passion (as I know myself from having heard him), in 2001 he and his son designed a country house in Ireland’s County Tipperary. This takes the form of a ‘pedimented, Doriccolumned, stone-and-slate mansion’. It was commissioned by the family of the founder of Ryanair, a successful Dublin-based ultrabudget airline. As Terry claimed in an interview in 2021, the taste in architecture of the traditionalist Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, has helped to rehabilitate the classical style that he loves: 228

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In terms of planning, it used to be very difficult to get anything approved that was remotely classical back in the 1960s and 1970s . . . Nowadays, however, it’s not so odd to be a Classicist. Classical architecture has become something you can do and is taken seriously, probably helped by the influence of the Prince of Wales . . . As a result, there are far more Classical architects around and the numbers are growing.

As to the second controversy, this erupted in the USA when, early in 2020, a draft executive order was leaked from the White House of the then president, Donald Trump. This appeared to be about to mandate that ‘US government buildings with budgets greater than $50 million be designed in classical and other traditional styles’. As a result, opponents, who included much of the architectural establishment in the US, feared that: ‘All federal courthouses and federal buildings in and around Washington DC, would have to follow the work of Greek and Roman architects and their emulators in subsequent centuries.’ These naysayers were objecting not so much to the apparent plan to mandate classicism as the required style for federal office buildings, as to the mandating of any style at all. Official policy since the Kennedy era had been to permit architectural diversity, so long as the outcome provided ‘visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor and stability of the American Government’. For many the leaked order smacked of totalitarianism in architecture. For some, the style which Mr Trump appeared to be advocating had this same negative association, as claimed in Chicago’s second most-read daily newspaper: It doesn’t go unnoticed here that Mussolini, Franco, and a particular failed German art student [i.e. Adolf Hitler, in fact an Austrian by birth] all pushed for a singular, classically inspired state architecture intended to project tradition, order, and the superiority of the state. 229

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These associations of modern classical architecture with regimes of the recent past branded as totalitarian, or racist, or both, have also been picked up by so-called ‘white supremacist’ groups, whether on their websites or at their rallies. In 2018, one of these held its first national conference in the USA. Afterwards, some fifty members unfurled a banner reading ‘European Roots/American Greatness’ in front of what, for them and their beliefs, was an emblematic building: the Parthenon – or, rather, the extraordinary full-scale replica in Nashville, Tennessee, mentioned in the prologue. This had been built in 1897 for a state fair; then in 1931, by popular demand, it was rebuilt to last – in concrete. In its declining weeks, the Trump administration finally published its executive order. This included ‘Greek Revival’ among the list of traditional styles mandated for new federal buildings constructed in Washington, DC. Mr Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden, promptly rescinded the order in early 2021. What this episode highlighted is how polarised opinions about the classical styles in architecture have become in the USA. This is a matter not only of aesthetics (see earlier in this chapter) but also, nowadays, of political ideology. In terms of its meanings, the style has travelled a long way since Monck’s ‘radical’ Belsay of the early 1800s. The extreme right in the west may claim ancient Greek buildings as a uniquely white, or European, heritage. However, this claim might seem muddied by the appetite for classical architecture in the Far East. In Japan, this can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. The so-called ‘father of modern Japanese architecture’ was an English architect called Josiah Conder, who was sent to advise the Japanese government in 1877. The work of pupils of his in Taiwan, then a Japanese colony, has recently been documented: They adapted the decorations and proportions of the Greek architectural styles, such as the pediment and the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian capitals . . . [They] designed public and governmental buildings, serving as train stations, post offices, museums, markets, hospitals, schools, courts and banks. 230

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For some, this enthusiasm of the old Japanese empire for western classical architecture is a reminder that ‘as in the rest of the world, in East Asia, too, classicism may have potentially unpleasant associations with colonialism, militarism, and oppression’. Not so nowadays, however. Since 2000, the Taiwanese have rediscovered a taste for Classical architecture, especially at the luxury end of the market (smart hotels and apartment blocks). Partly these classicising buildings serve as ‘symbols of wealth and fine taste in art’. They also reflect ‘the openness of [Taiwanese] society’, especially since the 1990s, when travel and study abroad became more common. In today’s Far East, ancient Greek architecture is also a presence in theme parks and themed environments. These reflect a growing popular fascination in the region for ancient Greece. This has been fanned by the aforementioned growth of overseas travel and also by celebrations of the Olympic Games in both Beijing and Tokyo. For instance, the Japanese have created a theme park in a hotspring resort some two hours by train from Tokyo. The Greeks in this so-called Tobu World Square do not get a zone of their own (unlike the ancient Egyptians), but are shunted into the ‘Europe’ zone in the form of a miniature version of the Parthenon. This is one twenty-fifth of the size of the original and is remarkably accurate. It includes, for instance, the sculpture decorating the exterior. The Parthenon crops up again in another theme park called Window of the World, this time on China’s mainland, just next to Hong Kong. This is a ‘human-sized’ replica, to be enjoyed by the customer base of predominantly Chinese families with young children. Here, as elsewhere in the Far East, it acts almost like a pictorial symbol or stereotype for a civilisation that has no place in local cultural memory and therefore a low recognition factor for East Asian people. In the case of the Chinese, as mentioned earlier they see ancient Greece as the cradle of western civilisation ‘in parallel to China’. Specifically, they place ancient Greece ‘on a level with the Chinese society bce’ – what is meant is the formative era of Chinese culture, from Confucius (born around 551 bc) to the First Emperor (died 210 bc). 231

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There are other reasons, too, for the popularity of ancient Greece in the Far East. One of these will be explored more in the next chapter, which looks at the presence of ancient Greece ‘on screen’. This means nowadays a gamut of media from film through books, video games (see chapter 9) to comics – in theory, to come clean, anything viewable on a handheld device. Given this range of media, selectivity in what follows will be – perhaps more than in any other chapter of this book – the ‘name of the game’.

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he meaning of ‘fiction’ these days is expanding. Wikipedia has an article on ‘Fiction set in ancient Greece’. It starts with books, to be sure, but goes on to include seven other media, including films, television (see below for these), comics and video games (see chapter 8). As the old-style book competes with more high-tech reading formats, this redefining of the style of delivery of what we call ‘fiction’ is perhaps unsurprising. The e-book read on a screen may not have meant Armageddon for old-style print, as early doomsters predicted, but it still sells in the millions. So do audiobooks. At the time of writing, a world-famous novelist has joined other authors who ‘write serialised fiction delivered straight to the inboxes of subscribers’. He will do so not by means of a traditional print format popped through your letterbox, but digitally, on an online platform. As for fiction set in ancient Greece, a story told by the ancient Greeks themselves about a sunken civilisation beneath the Atlantic has fascinated people for centuries: For it is related in our records how once upon a time your state stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot . . . for in front of the 233

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mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, ‘the pillars of Heracles’, there lay an island which was larger than Libya [i.e. Africa] and Asia together . . . But at a later time there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods . . . and the island of Atlantis . . . was swallowed up by the sea and vanished.

Ancient Greek writings of about 355 bc put this story of a drowned land called Atlantis into the mouth of a priest of ancient Egypt. He is telling a visitor from Athens how a much earlier Athens had prevented an attempted invasion of Mediterranean lands by a ‘mighty host’ from this same island. The author of these writings, none other than the wisdom-loving Plato, presents the story as true. Such has been the authority of Plato and the trust placed in him by later ages that, to this day, there are serious people who accept the authenticity of ‘Atlantis’ and speculate about its location. One popular hare, set running by an eminent classicist in the 1960s, identified Plato’s Atlantis with the Aegean island of Santorini. Here archaeologists revealed a Bronze Age society destroyed when the island’s volcano blew up (perhaps around 1628 bc). The eruption buried the prehistoric habitations under ash and submerged most of the island beneath the sea. Understandably, Atlantis has become as catnip to lovers of ancient mysteries, up there with the supposed secrets of Stonehenge, the Pyramids and so on. The Santorini angle has proved irresistible for documentary film-makers, with its combination of Greece’s Bronze Age, Plato’s Athens and a cataclysmic natural disaster. At the risk of being a spoilsport, I feel bound to point out that others shake their heads in principle at this ‘kernel of truth’ mindset. As for Santorini specifically, Plato clearly locates his sunken world not to the east of Athens out in the Aegean, but way to the west. Somewhere in the vast Atlantic, in other words, beyond the rocky ‘pillars of Heracles’ as the ancients called the promontories – Gibraltar being the best known – flanking the oceanic entrance to the Mediterranean. Then there is the possibility that Plato was fantasising. Perhaps he introduced the tale of ‘Atlantis’ as a kind of parable. On such a 234

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view, Atlantis is a myth. Plato might have spun the yarn to suit a political agenda, such as wanting to contrast the Athens of more recent times unfavourably with the nobler, primeval Athens that saw off the host from Atlantis. For the purposes of this book, more interesting is one expert’s suggestion that Plato hereby anticipated one of today’s most popular genres of fiction, that he ‘laid the foundations for the historical novel, that is to say, the novel set in a particular place and a particular time’. Some classicists might be tempted to push this claim further. As it happens, ancient Greek writings include some fictional boy-girl love stories which their authors set in much earlier Greek times than their own. The nineteenth-century writer often said to have invented the historical novel in today’s sense might even have been aware of these ancient essays in his craft. An opening passage in the writings of Sir Walter Scott (died 1832), famous nowadays as the author of Ivanhoe, might seem to echo – ‘strikingly’, it’s been said – the opening of an ancient Greek romance with the un-snappy title of Ethiopian Story of Theagenes and Charicleia, available in translation in Scott’s day: The sun was nearly set behind the distant mountains of Liddesdale, when . . . (Scott) The light of day had just begun to smile and the rays of the sun to illumine the mountain ridges, when . . . (Heliodorus)

Well, readers will judge for themselves how ‘striking’ this alleged resemblance is. Be that as it may, historical novelists in the modern genre from the nineteenth, but especially from the twentieth century, have been drawn to ancient Greek settings, especially ones featuring famous ancient Greeks, such as the Spartans, or Socrates, or Alexander of Macedon, not to mention the teeming cast of Homer’s poems the Iliad and Odyssey. These choices seem in line with a larger tendency of this genre of modern fiction: 235

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. . . the best known periods and figures . . . are the favorites with writers of popular historical fiction: the more familiar the historical décor, the more titillating the reader’s sense of taking part in the events through the medium of the fictitious characters.

If we fast-forward to today, in 2021 the BBC broadcast on radio a dramatisation of a ‘classic book’ about ‘a warrior king who is enmeshed in dark forces beyond his control’. For a ‘boomer’ like myself who studied Ancient Greek at school in the 1960s, the historical novelist who wrote this and other ‘classics’ about ancient Greece – Mary Renault – offered a portal into an action-packed world of exotic pagan values embodied in heroic males, noble females and memorable villains like the Minotaur. Escape into Renault’s world offset the difficult business of sitting in class and wrestling with the ancient Greeks through their writings in the original Greek. Mary Renault, who died in 1983, explored something particular about the ancient Greeks. This goes some way to explaining her appeal both then and now, but especially then, when what she captured was certainly not a fit subject either for teachers to explore in the classroom of an all-boys’ boarding school or for a curious pupil to raise his hand and ask about. I had already left school when I read the book of hers that made the greatest impression on me for its extraordinary exploration of states of mind now very much present and vocal in the public sphere, but back then definitely muted, to say the least. A handsome teenage lad is forcibly castrated. He is groomed for entry into the Persian king’s household, where his duties include sharing the royal bed. From the Persian king he passes as a captive to Persia’s Greek-speaking conqueror, Alexander of Macedon. Alexander’s cultural openness and curiosity about Persian customs in particular lead the king into a relationship with his ‘Persian boy’ (the title of the book) that is sexual, but also more. The sexual side is certainly there: Later, when the moon stood high, and he lay sleeping, I leaned to look at him. Exaltation of spirit had kept me wakeful. His face 236

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was smoothed and beautiful; he was satisfied, and in sleep he was at peace with it. Though the wine is strong, I thought, you will come back for more.

Back in 1972, when the book was first published, this was still forthright – bold even. As Renault tells the story, this relationship flourishes for the rest of Alexander’s short life, alongside the king’s deep and preexisting relationship with a fellow Macedonian warrior, and alongside his polygamous marriages to Asian women. Not only that, but Renault has the Persian boy – Bagoas is his name – assume a larger place in Alexander’s history. By schooling Alexander in Persian ways, Bagoas encourages and facilitates Alexander’s ‘Persianising’: his public adoption of Persian customs and court culture as a way of reconciling the defeated Persian elites to foreign rule. What makes Renault’s storytelling so convincing, as a friend and fellow fan put it to me, is that her books aren’t ‘just modern characters in togas’ (well, chitons then, to be pedantic about ancient Greek costume). That is, she arguably defies the American writer Henry James on the near impossibility (as he saw it) of setting fiction in the past: The ‘historic novel’ is, for me, condemned . . . to a fatal cheapness . . . the real thing is almost impossible to do . . . I mean the invention, the representation of the old consciousness, the soul, the sense, the horizon, the vision of individuals in whose minds half the things that make ours, that make the modern world were non-existent.

One might add, too, that the arguable effectiveness of The Persian Boy rests with the plausible back-story of emotions that she attributes to her characters. Bagoas, used and abused in his pre-Alexander life, is ripe for love. Alexander, having always been led by his longterm lover, with Bagoas discovers the novelty of leading. Perhaps above all, Renault imparts her own deep-felt sympathy for her 237

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creations. For instance, she dispels any fixed ideas the reader might have about the appearance of eunuchs, by referencing the handsome, slim figure of one of the true-life castrati of the eighteenth century, ‘whose romantic looks caused them to be much pursued by women of fashion’. A fact beloved by her fans is that Renault was painstaking in her use of the ancient writings. This matters to readers who enjoy historical novels partly as an education in the period in which they are set. When, as a university academic, I wrote research articles about Alexander, I was following up an enthusiasm for a historical figure, and a period of history, with which Renault decades earlier had first inspired a much younger me. If Renault’s interpretation of a controversial historical figure such as Alexander has a decidedly romantic tinge, this can be justified by the way ancient writers themselves chose to portray him. This portrayal presents a figure whose humanity is flawed, but whose character retains a noble core to the end. On the scant facts about Bagoas himself, through whom she tells her story, Renault erects what might be called a ‘maximalist’ interpretation. From the viewpoint of a literary critic, this move is neither here nor there in judging her art as a novelist. All a specialist might say, half a century later, is that historians have not been kind to those ‘scant facts’. After carefully dissecting them, one expert thinks that their value ‘for the historical reconstruction of Alexander’s love-life is almost nil’. He sees Bagoas as he appears in ancient writings about Alexander as ‘nothing more than a cipher’. Still, for the novel-reader, in a way, who cares? In The Persian Boy Renault exemplifies what the ancient Greeks did for modern fiction. She took a famous epoch of antiquity, a time of stirring and, to many readers, at least faintly familiar, events and personalities. She then used it to explore an aspect of ancient life with a deep modern resonance. The book came out only five years after the UK decriminalised homosexual acts in England and Wales for consenting males aged twenty-one or over. 238

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The abiding appeal of this approach is suggested by the huge success of a more recent historical novel. This time, the setting is the Trojan War of Homer’s Iliad (see chapter 8). Even the die-hards who insist on a core of historical truth to Homer’s epic poems accept that Homer’s characters and characterisations are mostly a work of art. Arguably this is true, to a greater or lesser extent, of all the historical figures known to us from ancient writings (see chapter 7). Anyway, whether or not the dramatic setting is more myth than history, the core subject of this more recent historical novel – by Madeline Miller – is again a romance between two young males. Here, too, it is one of these males who tells his story, as Renault’s Bagoas does, in the first person. Here, too, the voice chosen by the novelist belongs to the partner in the relationship who is less well known from the ancient writings – in this case, Patroclus. The other similarity is that this relationship, too, has a ‘Did they, or didn’t they’ quality. With Bagoas, there is, if truth be told, a historical question-mark over his very existence. Patroclus and Achilles are characters in an epic poem best classed as ‘myth’. The question then becomes how the poet himself imagined their friendship. Was it homosocial or full-bloodedly homosexual – to use modern terms? Arguably, in both stories such uncertainties only add piquancy to the modern novelisation of these ancient tales. As for the tone, here is Miller describing the lad Patroclus feeling the first dawning of love: And as we swam, or played, or talked, a feeling would come. It was almost like fear, in the way it filled me, rising in my chest. It was almost like tears, in how swiftly it came. But it was neither of those, buoyant where they were heavy, bright where they were dull . . . This feeling was different . . .

Some have seen a ‘Mills and Boon’ quality to Miller’s writing in this book. The reference is to an imprint which publishes hugely popular romantic fiction of a rather formulaic kind, and in language which 239

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does not aim to stretch the reader. The workings of the heart, no less than the act itself, are hard things to write down in ways that convince everyone. (Not for nothing does a London-based literary magazine offer an annual ‘Bad Sex’ award for what the judges consider the most toe-curling descriptions of sex in the latest fiction.) Readers will vary in how they judge the success of such passages. What is undeniable is that Miller’s writing has been given a resounding thumbs-up by many of its myriad readers. As she has said herself: I’ve been honoured to hear from readers who put excerpts in their wedding vows, who made quotes into tattoos . . . I’ve heard from people who said it helped them come out to their parents, and others who said it inspired them to get their PhDs, or to start their own novels.

Well, another best-selling novel of recent times is also drawn to Homer’s Achilles, but from its opening lines it opts to present him in a decidedly unheroic light, as a killing-machine: Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles . . . How the epithets pile up. We never called him any of those things; we called him ‘the butcher’.

The author of The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker, a British Booker Prize winner – has described how, on her first reading Homer’s Iliad, ‘what I took away was silence, because the girls whose fates are being decided say not a word’. Her lead character is a young queen from the Trojan side, captured by the Greeks. Briseis becomes the object of a bitter quarrel between the Greek warrior Achilles and his commander-in-chief over who should have her as his sex-slave. Barker gives us Briseis’s voice with a contemporary ring that can be startling: . . . Briseis thinks bitterly, ‘I spread my legs for the man who killed my husband and my brothers.’ 240

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As with Miller, so here, the ancient Greeks offer a medium for exploring contemporary concerns through historical fiction. Like all such novels, there is nothing to stop readers from enjoying these books as entertaining reads, no more and no less. However, the publication in 2018 of Barker’s tale of female rape and disempowerment chimed with a widespread backlash then against the sexual abuse and harassment of the weaker by the stronger. It is not for nothing that Barker’s voicing of Homer’s silent ‘girls’ has been claimed as ‘an Iliad for the age of #MeToo’. The newly born film industry at the start of the twentieth century was prompt to recognise ancient Greece as fertile ground for entertainment on a grand scale. After The Death of Socrates (1910) came the first stab at putting Homer on the silver screen, with The Fall of Troy (1911). As for the subject’s appeal for audiences: Its enduring popularity is perpetuated by a raft of stereotyped characters and visual backdrops: cunning beauties, waifish slave girls, strapping warriors, and mysterious sages populating a world of thunderous battles, court intrigues, sex, decadence, and cults.

Still reshown from time to time on British TV is a 1963 Hollywood film called Jason and the Argonauts. The film is an example of how cinema can deploy Greek myth to satisfy a huge public appetite for adventures set in fantasy worlds. In these scenarios, good is pitted against evil and heroic leads eventually overcome the obstacles to their ‘journey’. This particular film’s enduring appeal owes much to the masterful realisation on screen of the ancient story’s supernatural elements, thanks to an innovative creator of visual effects. Ray Harryhausen animated the winged female ‘snatchers’ of food (Harpies), the multiheaded monster called the Hydra and the ghoulish warriors who spring up from dragon’s teeth sown in the ground to fight the Argonauts. Not for the last time, the demands of cinema required tweaking of the original stories. The creator of these effects later 241

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recounted apropos the ‘sown’ warriors: ‘In the legend it is rotting corpses, but we thought this would give the film a certificate that might have barred children, so we decided on seven skeletons.’ Animation is a fast-moving field. Computers now generate special effects once laboriously achieved by using models and individually photographed frames (below). The effects in Jason are now rather dated; they form a part of the film’s period charm. The film – and the ancient Greek story behind it – can take some of the credit for the towering stature of its creator of visual effects. Directors of more recent hit fantasy films, such as the Star Wars series or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, freely acknowledge their debt to the late Ray Harryhausen. After a lull, Hollywood returned to raid the ancient Greek world for inspiration early in the twenty-first century. Ancient Greek history offered at least two moments deemed pivotal in the traditional narrative of western culture and history as this has developed since the Renaissance. These moments provide subject matter potentially recognisable to a mass audience. I well remember listening to a public lecture by a British expert on Alexander who talked about his experience as historical adviser hired by the director Oliver Stone in the making of his Hollywood film Alexander (2004). An enthusiastic horse-rider in life, the would-be adviser requested, by way of a fee, to be included in ‘every major cavalry charge to be filmed in Alexander’s company’: Charging across the desert gave me a unique opportunity for some first-hand historical research. Can we really understand the horse-bound charges that were essential to Alexander’s famous victories if we have never tried to carry one out? It was also a fantasy and spectacularly good fun.

Robin Lane Fox, the adviser, got his way. Still, you would need to be in the know to spot him beneath his Macedonian helmet amidst the dust of the desert in Stone’s version of Alexander’s third and decisive 242

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rout of a Persian army at Gaugamela. For understandable reasons, Stone recreated this ancient battle, fought near what is now Mosul in northern Iraq, in the comparative safety of Morocco. As for the film itself, personally I am always excited to see the ancient Greeks realised on the wide screen and with a Hollywood budget. I find all these films extremely watchable, even as I register my own critique. The scenes from Alexander’s early years in northern Greece, with everyone wearing white, reminded me a bit of school Greek plays. The recreated battles were stirring, as was the evocation, accurate or not, of Persian royal palaces, with domestics operating huge, wafting, overhead fans. I suppose I ought to have been more disturbed than I was by the liberties taken with the facts – such as Alexander’s famous first meeting with the Persian queen mother. This gorgeous scene owed not a little to a long western stereotyping of ‘eastern’ sex and fantasising about harems and seraglios. Stone in the end substituted for the mother her lovely young daughter. This was an obvious crowdpleaser, although the implicit ‘ghosting’ of older women seems more troubling today than it did at the time. The same might be said for the casting as Alexander’s mother of an actor only a year older than the male lead. Occasionally a scene of high drama could be inadvertently funny. Hephaestion, the boon companion whose death Alexander will go on to mourn extravagantly, lies on his deathbed. At this critical juncture, a seemingly regardless ‘Alexander’, his back to his dying friend, gazes out of the window and soliloquises his grand plans for his new empire. The historical Alexander’s staggering, unprecedented military success brought down the world’s greatest land empire in just three battles. The general line taken by the ancient Greek and Roman writings was that this extraordinary success corrupted the conqueror. That is, to a greater or lesser extent their Alexander succumbed to the moral decadence with which classical writings in general imbued the peoples and civilisations of – viewed from Europe – the ‘east’ 243

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(see chapter 3). So, Stone’s film cannot be blamed for following the same line. Thus it is that, after Gaugamela, Colin Farrell’s Alexander starts to wear eyeliner and silken robes. Then he takes a feline Persian eunuch – the ‘Bagoas’ mentioned earlier – into his companionship (and bed). The implication seems to be that his moral jeopardy from Persian ways includes sexual deviance. Stone’s film gave experts in the academy much to chew over. Some of them made up the raft of contributors to a whole book on the film. In it, the film’s director gamely responded to these learned critiques of his film. These included ‘possible answers’ to the ‘question of commercial failure’. The film made significantly less from its world-wide showing in cinemas than some other ancient epics of the time. In Hollywood terms back then, Stone’s Alexander offered the viewer a non-standard vision of mainstream masculinity. It stirred up a hornet’s nest by presenting Alexander as actively bisexual. Nationalist Greeks objected. Others protested that Stone’s Alexander wasn’t gay enough. The silver screen is the home of the squeakyclean male hero. In that department, Stone’s Alexander has been said to compare unfavourably with another blockbuster male hero of the time: the Aragorn of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Greeks on the silver screen in recent times offer the means to explore sexuality in a more direct way than was possible in the days of Hollywood’s Hays Code. These industry guidelines banned, among many other things, ‘sex perversion or any inference of it’, along with ‘complete nudity’. Here, too, twenty-first century epic has been emboldened. Stone’s Alexander, for instance, has a lively wedding-night scene with Colin Farrell and the actor Rosario Dawson playing his wife, Roxane, in which much flesh is bared. The other epic film of the early twenty-first century based on a pivotal moment in Greek history is 300 (2007). This centres on an episode in Greece’s eventually successful resistance against a Persian invasion in 480 bc. In traditional western history, the west should be grateful to those who made this achievement possible: they prevented 244

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Persian autocracy from snuffing out the incipient brilliance of the ancient Greek civilisation (see chapter 7). The film is about one particular moment in this resistance, when the Spartans led a futile Greek attempt to hold the Persian host at a mountain pass, which the ancient Greeks called Thermopylae. The Spartans ended up being killed almost to a man, earning themselves undying glory in ancient times and an honourable place in modern military history. In this film the ancient Greeks provided entertainment, but of a kind that not everyone might wish to admit enjoying. I must say that I did, partly thanks to the film’s visual stylishness. Creative computer work generated nearly all the ancient environments, shot in a Montreal warehouse. It also helped – along with more conventional working out – to give the ‘Spartans’ their hyper-toned bodies. The director was trying – successfully, the critics said – to reproduce his immediate source material faithfully. This wasn’t Herodotus, or indeed any of the ancient writings about Thermopylae: it was a modern comic book (1998) with a distinctive art style and an approach to its subject matter which was more that of a historical novel than a work of factual history. One reason why this film might be called a guilty pleasure is that it is such a distortion. It presents the Spartans as improbably hyper-masculine brutes and the Persian foe as a preposterous caricature. The Persian king – in real historical time a heavily bearded Xerxes I – is depicted as a half-naked, beardless deviant wearing body paint, make-up, jewellery and the rest, in overt contrast to the improbably butch Greeks. On one level, this might all seem harmless fun. Understandably, modern Iran, heir to the ancient Persians, was not amused. A cultural adviser to the country’s then president complained that the film was ‘plundering Iran’s historic past and insulting this civilisation’. Hollywood’s Zack Snyder (director of 300) produced a film that managed to stereotype both sides – to great box-office effect. Belittling easterners is an old habit of western civilisation: after 245

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defeating them in war, the ancient Greeks themselves were quick to denigrate Persian manhood (see chapter 3). It feels as if the west is all too rarely offered more thoughtful images of Iran and its heritage – such as the Epic Iran exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (2021). The ancient Greeks also feed into a popular strand of documentaries made for the small screen that have the intention of entertaining, as well as informing. Many of these documentaries tackle subjects that are relatively familiar and have some kind of popular resonance, such as the Spartans or Athenian democracy. There may be something genuinely new to offer the viewer, like an archaeological discovery or a new interpretation. Or it may be that the last treatment of a vintage subject is sufficiently far in the past for a fresh retelling to seem timely. These documentaries can be presenter led. The appearance and manner of the presenter may divide the opinion of viewers. Filmmakers hope that the presenter can help attract an audience. I remember a series on Troy which had my flatmate at the time riveted to the screen. This was thanks mainly – as she told me – to the young and good-looking male presenter. A first-hand experience of my own taught me something about the dynamics of the genre. By a serendipitous sequence of events, I once ended up presenting a BBC documentary about Alexander the Great. There was filming in Greece, Egypt and Turkey, as well as the reshooting of a piece to camera in which a fortuitously blue sky in the north of England stood in for the Mediterranean. Only slowly did the director give out the background to the film. This was a documentary which, had all gone well, would have offered the viewer an archaeological scoop of a sensational kind. The director had cultivated excellent relations with a Greek archaeologist, an independent. She was digging in an oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert called Siwah, where she was claiming to have found Alexander the Great’s tomb. This was world news: the whereabouts of 246

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Alexander’s tomb in Egypt, like that of his remote cousin Cleopatra, was one of archaeology’s great mysteries. Unfortunately for all involved, an official delegation from Greece’s Ministry of Culture had flown over to inspect the Greek archaeologist’s finds. It declared its doubts to the world’s media. The archaeologist’s claim rested partly on her finds of inscriptions in Ancient Greek. In the end, I was filmed interviewing the Greek archaeologist, Liana Souvaltzi. We sat down and she produced a transcript of one of her inscriptions. Rather to my surprise, she was willing to let me see this. Pointing to three Greek letters, she claimed triumphantly that this was the word for ‘poison’. She saw here a reference to ancient traditions that Alexander had died just short of his thirty-third birthday from poisoning. This was an awkward moment. It was clear to me that the three letters, IOY, did not form a word of their own: they ended a longer word, the rest of which was clearly visible in her transcript: ‘Soulpikiou’. This was the Greek version of a common Roman name, ‘Sulpicius’. Ms Souvaltzi’s inscriptions were in Ancient Greek of Roman times. They had nothing to do with Alexander. Her Sulpicius was a Roman official. When I pointed this out, a visibly startled Ms Souvaltzi promptly withdrew the piece of paper. The director said afterwards that he had got, as it were, his money shot. The problem for the film-makers was where to go next with the documentary. It needed a new ‘hook’. This was the bait that opened the programme. It aimed to intrigue viewers sufficiently for them to keep watching. I realised how hard it can be to say anything truly new about great figures in history who have been repeatedly turned over by generations of experts. This may be one reason why the archaeological documentary can often seem to be tipping into a travel programme. Shots of exotic environments and locals leaven the format. Since the documentary was hosted by the BBC’s department of religious affairs, the director, following consultations, decided to devote the rest of the programme to the alleged influence of 247

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Alexander on world religions still with us today, notably Christianity. On this new turn that the programme took, I had something to say earlier in this book (chapter 9). What it underlined for me was another feature of this genre of small-screen programming: namely, the journalistic need to connect the past with the present, to identify a ‘legacy’. Documentaries, the silver screen, historical fiction: these are just some of the media channelling the ancient Greeks in the twentyfirst century and helping to confer on them a new kind of nearuniversality. The British champion breaststroker Adam Peaty took a second gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics of 2021. Not only is he a fan of Alexander the Great, but tattooed on his right arm Achilles appears alongside Athena and a Spartan warrior. Says Peaty, apparently referencing the wrath of Achilles when Briseis is taken from him: ‘This [right] side is about fire, chaos, anger – one of the most powerful emotions in sport.’ This is an interesting, and perhaps unexpected, way for an ancient Greek hero to inspire a modern athlete. The ancient Greeks in their way have been, and remain, a powerful influence on today’s sporting world, as the next chapter seeks to explore.

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amiliar daytime sights on one of the busiest avenues of central Athens are the parked coaches, from which tour groups descend to photograph an impressive athletic stadium built into a hillside. Years ago, when I worked in Athens in my twenties, a friend and I used to come here before office hours to jog. We made our way to the back of the stadium, where you could access a practice track. This runs round the stadium’s upper perimeter, out of sight of the tourists at ground level. To keep us going, as we huffed and puffed on the cinders, there were the panoramic views – of the stadium below and, further away, the Acropolis. As for what the ancient Greeks did for us, this stadium, built of glistening white and grey marble, deserves a place on any list. The observant visitor may spot here and there battered fragments of much older marble built into the fabric. These come from an ancient stadium on the same site, of which the present monument is a modern rebuild. The occasion for this rebuild was the first celebration of the modern Olympic Games, held at Athens in 1896. Both stadiums came into existence thanks to a social type who is both very old and very current – the uber-rich public benefactor. The ancient donor – one Herodes Atticus – was a Roman-Athenian 249

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oligarch, whose new stadium was first put to athletic use in ad 143. There was a taint to his gift: ancient writings claim that the Athenians, instead of lauding their benefactor, hated him. This was because, to pay for the construction, Herodes had cancelled another, evidently more popular, benefaction that had been offered by his late father, another plutocrat, in his will – a cash legacy to every Athenian citizen. A financial question-mark attaches to the modern donor, too. Much honoured by his countrymen, this Greek businessman, George Averoff, made money in Egypt’s cotton trade, and also in the Sudan. Recent research has tracked the focus of this Sudanese trading to the Nilotic city of Omdurman. Here its legacy lives on in the Arabic place-name ‘Aburoff ’. This was originally attached to a dock on the River Nile that ‘used to be an important center of Averoff ’s entrepreneurial activity’. More challengingly for his reputation today, ‘according to Ondurman [sic] residents’ local history, Averoff was involved in the slave trade, an activity that lasted for decades and made him earn a great part of his huge property.’ In both cases, the reputational tarnish is based on anecdotes, not archival documents. Still, this whiff of financial scandal around both donors, ancient and modern, is interesting. As mentioned, we owe today’s stadium to the modern Olympic movement. Averoff ’s gift gave 1890s Athens an imposing athletic venue in the nick of time for the first games. However, this rebuilt stadium is arguably not just a symbol of the sporting culture of ancient Greece, or modern Olympism’s illusion of reviving it. It also hints at the more troubling association of today’s Olympics with risqué gifts – just think of the allegations of bribery and corruption over the years. The modern Olympics are the most globally high-profile manifestation of ‘what the Greeks did for us’. If you are one of the millions who have watched the modern games either in person or on screens, you will have been reminded by the opening ceremony of the link to ancient Greece. This ceremony includes the parade of competing 250

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athletes from all over the world. But the national team that heads this parade is (nearly) always that of modern Greece. Then there is the solemn ritual involving an athlete, a torch and a cauldron. I remember a 2018 visit to the archaeological site of Olympia in south-western Greece coinciding with the sight of a group of young Greek women, all in sandals and white ‘Grecian’ garb. They were rehearsing something in what was once the heart of this ancient Greek religious sanctuary dedicated to Olympian Zeus, king of the Greek gods. At the time of writing, the most recent enactment of the ceremony that they were rehearsing for took place in October 2021. The young women are ‘priestesses’. In the current form of the pageant, the most senior of them, a professional actor, goes down on bended knee and – sandstorms and rain permitting – solemnly ignites a modern torch from a concave mirror which focuses the sun’s rays. Carrying the flame, she then walks in procession to the nearby stadium, where the ancient Olympic Games were held. In normal times, an athlete would meet her there and light another torch from hers, thus starting the Olympic ‘torch relay’. However, in October 2021, with the coronavirus epidemic raging, the traditional relay was curtailed. Instead, the flame was transferred to a safety lamp. This in turn left Greece by plane, landing the day after the Olympia ceremony in Beijing. There it was to be kept ‘at Beijing Olympic Tower on display for the general public’ until 2022, when China hosted the Winter Olympics. As for the intended meaning of this ritual, according to the International Olympic Committee, the organising body of the modern Olympics since their inception: From its lighting in Ancient Olympia, Greece, the Olympic flame connects the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games with every previous edition of the Games and its heritage back millennia to the historic Olympic Games of Ancient Greece. 251

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The interesting question of (in)authenticity is one to which this chapter will revert. Returning to where we left the ‘priestess’, she was in the part of the archaeological site of Olympia most obviously recognisable today for what it was in ancient times. For this reason, today’s visitors tend to congregate there. Most of these visitors arrive on organised tours. Often they are holidaying on huge cruise liners docked nearby and come from all parts of the world. Their guides lead them to an ancient stadium, where thousands of spectators once sat on grassy embankments to watch athletic races. This is the feature of the ancient site that today’s tourists can most readily make sense of and connect with: the original setting of the ancient Olympic Games. Many times I’ve seen visitors – young and not so young – have a go at racing each other on the grass track here. Sometimes they do so barefoot, like ancient Greek runners. The guards don’t intervene. They would, however, if – like the ancient athletes – these visitors shed all their clothing. Modern conventions require Olympic competitors – and those in organised sports generally – to cover up. Even so, female athletes in some events are encouraged, or required, to wear skimpier clothing than the men. To some, this skimpiness seems like old-fashioned sexualisation of women. After all, as one expert has put it: ‘If there was any kind of biomechanical advantage, then men would be in Speedos. But they’re not.’ Well, maybe, maybe not. One Olympic champion, the British diver Tom Daley, has talked frankly about body-image issues arising from the near nudity of his sport: ‘. . . you’re up on the diving board and you’re so naked, so visible, so it’s quite hard to be content with your body, because you always want to be better’. Why the ancient Greeks performed naked is a moot point. As to the effect of nudity on performance, a British classicist, himself an enthusiastic runner, was widely reported in 2004 when he decided to research naked running himself. He did this by baring all in a 100-metre race on a wintry campus in north-west England. Afterwards he told the BBC: 252

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I lined up with quite a few semi-professional sprinters. I’m 49 and they were about half my age. They all had lycra on, while I had to run unencumbered. I just tried it to show you can run perfectly well naked. People these days say it’s difficult from a practical point of view. At least I proved it could be done.

He added his thoughts on the point of the ancient nudity: perhaps it was to avoid getting too hot. He reminded listeners that the ancient Olympics were a religious occasion: ‘Perhaps it was seen as purer to run naked.’ In fact, the ancient writings that best explain this seemingly puzzling practice are those of a fifth-century bc Greek historian, Thucydides (see chapter 7): The Spartans were the first to adopt the moderate manner of dressing that is now the standard custom, and with respect to all other things the richer citizens conducted themselves in a fashion that as much as possible put them into an equal position with the general populace. The Spartans were the first to strip naked and to disrobe openly and anoint themselves with oil after playing sports in the nude. Formerly, even in the Olympic Games, the athletes who contended wore loincloths; and it is but a few years since that practice ceased.

The historian seems to imply that athletic nudity had nothing to do with performance, and everything to do with what today we would call social justice. The ancient Greeks struggled to achieve a fairer distribution of opportunities and privileges within their societies. They came to see – the Spartans first – that ‘playing sports in the nude reduced social inequalities’. This was at a time in early Greek history when the rich had been used to adopting more lavish dress as a way of emphasising social differences. At least on the athletics track, nudity bolstered an image of social harmony. 253

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In the 1890s, nudity was less outlawed than today’s generally prudish image of the nineteenth century might suggest. A more open-minded naturism was on the rise, not least in Germany. Even Britain’s ‘buttoned-up’ Victorian society accepted all-male naked bathing in the open air as something healthy, and so on. Still, generally prevailing cultural norms around the world meant that the organisers of the first modern Olympics did not even consider the resurrection of Greek athletic nudity. Indeed, the architect of the modern Olympics was far from seeking to revive ancient Greek athletics in all their authenticity. It has even been suggested that he had no real enthusiasm for ancient Greece. So it seems legitimate to ask how this single-minded Frenchman, of whom more shortly, came to rate the ancient Olympics so highly in the first place. In ancient times, the Olympic Games were the most famous and the most glorious of the hundreds of Greek athletic festivals which Greek communities organised on a recurring basis. They were celebrated at Olympia for at least eleven centuries, not to mention the many imitation Olympics which sprang up across the ancient Mediterranean. The Olympics invaded the writings of the ancient Greeks for another reason, too. This is how a Greek historian, writing in the first century bc, dated the year in which the Spartans fought the Persians at Thermopylae (480 bc): Calliades was archon in Athens, and the Romans made Spurius Cassius and Proculus Verginius Tricostus consuls, and the Eleans celebrated the seventy-fifth Olympiad, that in which Astylus of Syracuse won the men’s short foot race.

A popular Greek way of measuring time was by counting the successive celebrations of the Olympic Games, starting from the first meeting. This first meeting marked the first year of the first of the four-year intervals between each ancient meeting. The Greeks called each interval an Olympiad. They identified each 254

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‘Olympiad’ not only by a number, but also by the name of a particular champion – the victor in the defining event of the ancient games, the men’s sprint. So it was that, in more ways than one, the renown of the ancient Olympics made its presence felt in the ancient writings still circulating, or being rediscovered, in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In 1572, in the Rose Theatre, Elizabethan London’s theatre-goers first heard the following lines, which Shakespeare’s latest play gave to Henry VI’s brother George, duke of Clarence, referring to troops loyal to the king: And if we thrive, promise them such rewards As victors wear at the Olympian games. London’s theatres at this time accommodated up to three thousand people. Not just their ‘betters’, but the general public, or at least the middling classes, were theatre mad. Still, did Shakespeare expect everyone in his audience to follow the reference to the ancient Olympics? Or was he flattering the educated elite in the best seats? It’s hard to say. But two centuries or more later, in the early nineteenth century, awareness of the ancient games was quite widespread. This was an era when bodily fitness, and sport as a means of attaining it, became an increasing preoccupation of the western world. Not least in England’s independent schools. I remember at mine praying for the act of God which alone could postpone yet another afternoon given over wholly to outdoor sport, although you had to be careful what you wished for. In bad weather, if pitches needed to be preserved from churning footwear, the open countryside surrounding the school was always there to inflict the cross-country run. The sporting facilities were lavish: an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, tennis, fives and squash courts, and acres of playing fields for rugby, cricket, hockey and so on. All this was a living legacy of a mid-nineteenth-century way of thinking that was widespread among the sector’s headmasters. This 255

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saw organised sport as a way of keeping pupils out of trouble. It was also character building and, not least, a check on moral ‘impurity’, by diverting coltish energies to the playing field: One headmaster, for instance, waved away the tedium of family dinner conversations reduced to recitals of sports statistics and blow-by-blow accounts of games with the comment: ‘You may be thankful this is so. What do French boys talk about?’

Other countries at the time also developed a physical culture – gymnastics in Germany, for instance; or, in the USA, college sports and the ‘national pastime’ of baseball. In England itself, this athletic spirit was not confined to independent schools and the better off. In an otherwise unremarkable market town in western England, a road sign welcoming visitors today announces a local son as ‘Contributor to the rebirth of the Olympic Games’. In 1850, this enthusiastic doctor and philanthropist staged local ‘Olympic Games’ as a way of encouraging the townsfolk to take exercise – the town’s name was Much Wenlock. The Olympic tag reflected the general admiration for ancient Greece of the time, but not much more. The ancient Olympics did not include a wheelbarrow race, like Much Wenlock’s. Even so, the doctor, one Richard Brookes, has rightly been seen as ‘ahead of his times’. Years later, in his old age, this bewhiskered Victorian was visited in Much Wenlock by a French sports enthusiast and great admirer of Victorian Britain’s sporting culture. Brookes staged a performance of his local games specially for this visitor, the ‘single-minded Frenchman’ mentioned above. He was a driven aristocrat, a young man still in his twenties, called Pierre de Coubertin. This encounter in 1889 was significant. Much Wenlock ‘undoubtedly influenced Coubertin and impelled him towards his vision of revived Olympic Games’. Coubertin’s initial ambition had been to use sport to improve the fitness of the French male, as a remedy for national defeat at the 256

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hands of Germany in the Franco-Prussian War. Underneath a painted ceiling in the palace of Versailles that depicted French King Louis XIV’s triumphant crossing of the Rhine in 1672, the victorious king of Prussia had topped the Prussian humiliation of the French by having himself declared emperor of Germany (1871). Just how much this drubbing still smarted in France half a century later is shown by the then French president’s insistence that a defeated Germany sign the peace treaty ending the First World War under the very same ceiling. However, Coubertin’s initial thinking evolved into something much bigger. Following his visit to Much Wenlock, he developed the idea of an international movement themed around the ancient Olympic Games. Coubertin was an organisational genius and arch‘schmoozer’. This was as well. As is so often the case with a big new idea, people did not easily fall into line with what he wanted to achieve. An initial success was his organising an international meeting of movers and shakers in the world of sport. Out of this congress in Paris came the choice of Athens for the first modern Olympics, and the principle of rotating host cities. Coubertin did not want the new games to be captured by the Greeks, even if their king, at the closing banquet of the first games, expressed his wish that Greece would become their permanent seat. As much to the point of this book, the congress also committed to sport in the modern sense. Its members did not contemplate reviving the ancient Olympic programme of events. The brandishing of the Olympic name was, as much as anything, a way of legitimising a novelty. It did not signal an antiquarian revival, even if it did help to embed many a Greek term in the vocabulary of modern sport, such as stadium, athlete, pentathlon, hippodrome and so on. One obvious departure from antiquity was that women – ever since the second Olympiad – have been eligible to compete in the modern games, and the range of sports in which they can do so has steadily expanded ever since. The position at ancient Olympia was different: 257

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On the way to Olympia . . . there is a precipitous mountain with high rocks . . . This is where the laws . . . hurl down any woman detected entering the Olympic assembly . . . though they say that no one has ever been caught with the single exception of Callipatira . . . Her husband died before her, so she completely disguised herself as a trainer and took her son to Olympia to fight; but when Pisirodus won, Callipatira leapt over the fence where they shut in the trainers, and as she leapt over she showed herself. They detected she was a woman, but let her off scot-free out of respect for her father and her brothers and her son all of whom were Olympic winners.

If married women were not admitted to conservative Olympia even as spectators, this may have had something to do with the need to protect their modesty from the nudity of the male athletes. Although ancient Greek athletics was essentially a man’s world, Olympia was not an out-and-out stronghold of the patriarchy. Unmarried girls, unlike their mothers, were admitted to the games as spectators. Additionally, the same stadium was used for an all-female event, likewise held every four years: The games are a running match between virgin girls; they run with their hair let down and their tunics rather above their knees, and the right breast and shoulder bared. The course for the race is the Olympic track, less about a sixth.

These were local girls, and athletics for local females was not unknown elsewhere in the Greek world. What communities hoped to achieve in this way is specified only in the – possibly exceptional – case of the ancient Spartans. As recorded in ancient writings, their alleged motive meets today’s definition of ‘positive eugenics’: Judging that the most important business of a free woman was making children, he [the Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus] began by 258

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establishing a regime of physical exercise for the female, as well as for the male, sex; then he set up contests for them, in running and physical strength, under the same conditions as those for men, in the belief that if both sexes were vigorous then their offspring would be more sturdy.

If the ancient Greeks excluded women from the glittering prizes of their sports culture, this is not to say that ancient Greek athletics did not support the ideology of modern Olympism in other ways: But of Theron let your voices ring, For his victorious four-in-hand. He is courteous and kind to guests, The bulwark of Acragas; In him his famous fathers Flower, and the city stands. This poem in Ancient Greek – the original would have been sung – was a commission by a champion to celebrate his victory in the fourhorse chariot race at Olympia in the early 400s bc. If you pause over the wording, you start to get the message. This competitor – his name was Theron – was a blue-blood (‘famous fathers’). He was well bred and a legendary – and assuredly rich – host. His excellence made him a mainstay (‘bulwark’) of his city (Acragas in Greek Sicily, encountered in chapter 11). Ancient writings like these helped to shape an influential view in the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century that contestants in the ancient games were mainly ‘gentlemen amateurs’, as with the Oxford don who penned the following in a book published in 1910: The victors whom the poet praised were princes and nobles, who competed for pure love of sport, and for whom athletics were in no sense a profession nor even the chief occupation of their lives. 259

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This was a view of ancient Greek athletics which went down particularly well in Victorian England. Here the upper classes of the later nineteenth century, products of the private schools, enthusiastically embraced a cult of sporting amateurism. They sought to distance themselves from the burgeoning world of professional sport that involved prize money and other financial incentives, a world marked by more social diversity than they cared for. These gentlemanly attitudes are still enshrined in Anglicisms such as ‘playing the game’ or ‘it’s not cricket’. Nowadays, this amateur ideal – rather damningly – is understood as ‘a legitimating ideology that excluded the lower social orders from the play of the leisure class’. Good old British class snobbery, in other words, as enshrined in this comment by the so-called ‘father’ of cross-country running, the British athlete Walter Rye, born in 1843: ‘men who are “gentlemen of position or education” . . . should not mix with the rougher and uneducated lot, or have them in their clubs’. Coubertin himself did not particularly care about this fixation on amateurism among a certain social type, especially in England but elsewhere, too, including the USA. However, he humoured it because he needed to garner support from influential members of the leisured class for the enactment of his Olympic vision. So it was that his International Olympic Committee built amateurism into its rules of eligibility. In the twentieth century, its Rule 26 defined an amateur as ‘one who participates and always has participated in sport as an avocation without material gain of any kind’. Only in more recent times, from the 1980s, did pressures of various kinds render this rule more or less redundant in practice. In 1981, the film Chariots of Fire offered a ‘highly-fictionalized account’ of the 1924 Paris Olympics. To a gushing score by the Greek composer Vangelis, it told the story of two amateur runners who end up in the British Olympic team. One, the high-minded son of Scottish missionaries, ‘feels that his victories glorify God’. The other, a Cambridge undergraduate, is deplored by his college dons 260

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for doing the ‘ungentlemanly’ thing of taking a professional coach. At the time that it was made, the film ‘cast a nostalgic glow over the amateur era’. Among experts today, the rosy ideal of the Victorians about amateurism in ancient Greek athletics no longer holds true. To compete at the highest level, by the 400s bc – the glory days of classical Greece – Greeks took for granted that the would-be athlete needed to undergo sustained training. As just seen, trainers were a conspicuous presence among the spectators at ancient Olympia. True, the prize at Olympia was symbolic – a wreath of olive twigs and leaves. But other athletic meets in the Greek world offered prize money or materially valuable prizes, such as jars of olive oil or bronze cauldrons and their stands. Finally, with contestants from all over the Greek world attending the Olympics, victorious sportsmen returned home to enormous acclaim. There they reaped both tangible (such as free dinners or front-row seats in the theatre) and intangible benefits, such as a store of credit in the bank of political favours on which they could, and did, draw when in need. As for social class, this is trickier, owing to lack of evidence. Certainly, ‘posh boys’ were always a presence in ancient Greek athletics, from early on until very late. In researching my PhD on the Spartans under the Roman empire, I was struck by how often members of the local elite had won renown as sportsmen. Examples included two champion runners, father and son, of whom the son was ‘twice an Olympic winner in the ad 220s’. The family’s grand connections included a Roman senator, making them big cheeses indeed in the provincial town that Sparta had become by that time. On the other hand, as early as the 500s bc, we hear of Olympians like a certain Glaucus, a hammer-fisted boxer who hailed from Euboea, modern Evvia, the Greek island devastated by wildfires in 2021: . . . they say he began as an agricultural labourer; when the ploughshare fell out of the plough he stuck it in again using his hand for 261

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a hammer. Demylus [his father] happened to see what the boy had done, so he took him along to Olympia to box. Glaucus had no experience as a boxer and his opponents hurt him, and when he was boxing with the last one, people thought he was too badly hurt to carry on: and then they say his father shouted out to him ‘Come on son, the one for the plough’, and he hit his opponent a harder punch and suddenly found he had won.

From this distance in time, it is well-nigh impossible to decide whether the case of an Olympian from a fairly lowly social background like Glaucus making it to the top was relatively common or rather unusual. Perhaps suffice to repeat that Athenians in the fifth century bc took it for granted that, to succeed in sport at Olympic level, would-be athletes needed sustained training. This in turn was bound to favour well-to-do families. Only they had the means to hire a trainer, and only they produced sons who had access to leisure time – that is, who did not need to work on the family farm, like Glaucus. Like amateurism, another modern tradition about the ancient Olympics played into Coubertin’s vision for a revived games. This one lives on vigorously to this day, to judge by a novel feature of Tokyo’s Olympic Village in the 2020 Olympics, postponed to 2021: Athletes and officials participating in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be encouraged to show their support for the Olympic Truce by signing the Olympic Truce Mural in the Olympic Village . . . [Inaugurating the mural] the International Olympic Committee President said: ‘. . . The athletes show us that, despite all our differences, it is possible for humankind to live together in peace.’

Taking his cue from the scholars of the time, Coubertin had seen the ancient Olympics as a time when ‘all armed conflicts and all combat among Hellenes had to cease’. These were his own words. The idea 262

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that international athletics can promote international peace was, and is, obviously commendable. That there was ancient Greek precedent remains a common belief. A few years ago, the august Harvard International Review ran a piece on ‘The Olympics in International Relations’. With reference to the supposed date of the first ancient Olympics, it claimed that ‘As early as 776 bc, warring states set aside conflict to briefly congregate in the spirit of peaceful athletic competition.’ Well, not exactly. A distinguished German sports historian back in the 1970s argued that the original Olympic truce had a far more limited purpose. It gave the sanctuary of Olympia immunity from attack and athletes safe passage to and from the games. A more general cessation of war throughout the Greek world was out of the question. The ancient sanctuary itself was far from symbolising a state of peace among Greeks. It not only hosted the games every four years: Zeus here was closely linked to warfare and ancient Olympia positively ‘bristled with the booty and spoils of Greek victories over other Greeks in war’. Finds have included over a thousand helmets and ‘hundreds and hundreds of other pieces of offensive weapons’. The most eye-catching of these thank-offerings to Zeus was a marble female statue personifying victory, erected in the late 400s bc by Greek enemies of the Spartans. It stood on a pillar nearly twenty feet high, right outside the entrance to the temple of Olympian Zeus. If the ancient Olympic festival was a religious event, so was the celebration of success in Greek-on-Greek war. This cultural proximity of two activities that are – to a modern mind – seemingly so different makes sense given that, to the ancient Greeks, ‘battle – like athletic competition – was considered an agōn’, in Ancient Greek, meaning a contest: ‘a word applicable to war no less than to athletics’. One thing the ancient Greeks certainly gave to modern Olympism was the idea for one of its most famous sporting events – although the ancient model had nothing to do with sport. At the Athens 263

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Olympics of 1896, local enthusiasm for this new contest reached fever pitch: If the winner is Greek, a tailor has promised him a suit of clothes, a barber has undertaken to shave him for life, a man at a kaphpheneion [coffee-house – spelling sic] has promised him two cups of coffee daily for life, another has promised a dinner a day for a year, another has undertaken to do his washing for life, and another to keep his things ironed, and last, but not least, a lady has offered to marry him.

The winner was a twenty-three-year-old Greek water-carrier, who promptly became a national hero. What he had done was to run approximately 22 miles from the plain of Marathon to the north-east of Athens to Averoff ’s new stadium in the capital. Here a rapturous home crowd greeted him, delighted that at last the host country had won something. As for the course, it was not for the faint-hearted. A German eye-witness of the time described the route as going ‘over mountains and valleys, over stony boulders and dusty roads, sometimes it went kilometres up the mountain’. An American and a French athlete were among the contestants who dropped out on the way. The idea for this event was suggested to Coubertin by a senior French professor of ancient linguistics who gave informal advice for the first Olympics. A letter from him to Coubertin survives, dated September 1894, just before a planned visit by Coubertin to Athens, the city chosen a few months earlier to host the first games. Almost as an afterthought, Michel Bréal – the professor – wrote at the end of this missive, penned ‘at the gallop’ in a Swiss hotel room: Since you go to Athens, see if a race can be organised from Marathon to the Pnyx. This will have the savour of antiquity. If we knew the time it had taken the Greek warrior, we could 264

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establish the record. For my part I would claim the honour of offering the ‘Marathon Trophy’.

The letter refers to a rather wobbly ancient Greek tradition that in 490 bc the victorious Athenian troops sent one of their own to run from Marathon back to Athens, supposedly still in his armour, to report the news to their fellow citizens: Thersippus of the deme Erchiae brought the news of the victory at Marathon, as Heraclides of Pontus relates. But most people say that it was Eucles, who ran in full armour, hot from the battle, and, bursting in at the doors of the leading men of the state, could only say, ‘Hail! we are victorious!’ and straightway expired.

These writings date to the years around ad 100. They show that by this time – six hundred years after the battle – the ancient tradition about this messenger was muddled, if only as to his name. A further muddle, in Greek writings half a century later, confused the Marathon runner with another long-distance messenger, an Athenian contemporary called Phidippides, who ran from Athens to Sparta. The scholarly Bréal seems to have known these sources. He suggests the Athenian hill of the Pnyx as the finishing point presumably because he knew that this was the open-air meeting place of the Athenian citizen assembly in the fifth century bc. He must have imagined the gathered citizenry in 490 bc anxiously awaiting news. Coubertin evidently liked this idea and shared it with the Greek organisers of the Athens games. In this manner it made its way onto the official programme. The event was Bréal’s invention, based on a one-off episode in Greek military history with no connection whatsoever to the ancient Olympic Games or even (as already said) with ancient Greek sport. This seems to have worried neither man. It shows that for Coubertin’s purposes the ‘savour of antiquity’ 265

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was indeed all that mattered. The last thing he was interested in was ‘an antiquarian recreation of the actual contests held by Greek youths’. As for the modern Greeks, their euphoric celebration of a Greek victory in this first marathon is particularly understandable, given the nationalist and patriotic resonances of the ancient Athenian defeat of the Persians. Educated circles at the time, the kind of Greeks encountered by Coubertin, will have known the lines of Lord Byron, the English milord who actively supported Greece’s struggle for independence from the Ottoman empire, dying for the cause in 1824: The mountains look on Marathon – And Marathon looks on the sea; And musing there an hour alone, I dream’d that Greece might still be free; For standing on the Persians’ grave, I could not deem myself a slave. In 1896, the liberation of Greece from the ‘despotic’ rule of the Ottomans was far from complete. What is now northern Greece, including Salonika (to become the modern state’s second city), was still under Ottoman rule; so was the great island of Crete. When the Athens crowds adulated Spyridon Louis, the Greek winner of the first marathon race of the modern Olympics, they would not have forgotten that Greece, as in classical times, still had an eastern imperialist foe on its doorstep. The modern Olympics that harked back more emphatically than others to the ancient Greeks, and that did the most to reorient the games towards today’s lavish international pageants, were those of Berlin 1936. This also became the most notorious celebration of the twentieth century, although many observers of the time saw things differently. A British member of parliament who attended the closing ceremony wrote in his diary: 266

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. . . there were more processions, the orchestra played, Hitler rose, the great torch faded out, the crowd 140,000-strong sang ‘Deutschland über Alles’, with arms uplifted. There was a shout, a speech or two, night fell, and the Olympic Games, the great German display of power and bid for recognition, was over. Mankind has never staged anything so terrific, or so impressive.

The by now middle-aged Coubertin was also impressed: ‘The grandiose success of the Berlin Games did magnificent service for the Olympic ideal.’ At the time, foreign admiration for Hitler was far from unknown, especially among the upper classes. Well known, as well, was the racism of his regime, especially its anti-Semitism. Influential people, notably in the USA, had tried, unsuccessfully, to organise a boycott by foreign athletes in protest at the Third Reich’s treatment of Jews. Earlier chapters have touched on the admiration of Nazi ideology for the ancient Greeks. This was fanned by long-standing German cultures of the body. These in turn fed into Nazi aspirations to breed a master race. In January 1934, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, took over the publicity for the upcoming Berlin Olympics. They thus became at once a politically freighted event. Nazi Germany needed to assuage international doubts about its moral suitability to host the games. There was also the appetite at the top of the regime to use the games as a vehicle for government propaganda. This was a new development in the history of modern Olympism at that point. Specifically, the Olympics were an opportunity to exalt German physical education. German athletes could embody National Socialism’s racial ideals and promote the value of athletic training in producing good soldiers. A German sports historian has combed the governmentcontrolled print media of Nazi Germany published in the summer of the Berlin Olympics to gauge how they presented one particular event with ancient Greek echoes, the pentathlon. The pentathlon of 267

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the ancient Olympic Games – the word means ‘contest of the five exercises’ – comprised the long jump, running, the discus, the javelin and wrestling. Coubertin’s modern pentathlon, first introduced at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, comprised pistol-shooting, fencing, swimming, horse-riding and running. At first, the event was all male. At a time when armies still had cavalry, in the beginning contestants tended to be military officers – somewhat paradoxically, given Coubertin’s vision of Olympians as promoters of peace. This paramilitary aspect appealed to the Nazi regime. German print media in 1936 extolled the modern pentathlon as a military discipline. They also talked up its allegedly ancient Greek lineage. As the Reich’s official Olympic publication claimed, ‘the pentathlon winner is a true successor of the classical pentathlon winner, the king of the Olympians of ancient Hellas’. A young German officer – Gotthardt Handrick – went on to win the Berlin pentathlon: the only German ever to have done so. As well as demonstrating German superiority – the event had hitherto been dominated by Sweden – the German gold medallist ticked other boxes for the Nazis: It was also Handrick’s outward appearance – ‘a blond, broadshouldered athlete with bright blue-grey eyes’ – that perfectly fit[ted] into the Nazi scheme of Aryan type and thus led to his [being admired].

The German organisers of the Berlin Olympics also sought to ramp up the games as spectacle, by enhancing their ceremonial in ways suited to the ideology of National Socialism. ‘The Olympic torch: an excellent idea of Dr Goebbels!’ This was how the editorial of a Greek national broadsheet in 1935 enthusiastically welcomed the most daring invocation of ancient Greece which modern Olympism owed – and still owes – to the 1936 Olympics. The Greek editorial referenced the Nazi innovation of the torch ceremony at ancient Olympia and the subsequent relay. 268

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This invented ritual was revived, along with the Olympics themselves, after the Second World War. Ever since, the Olympic movement has kept it in the programme (see earlier in this chapter). Its German origins are acknowledged. A certain mistiness pertains to details, such as exactly what the inspiration was for its different elements and who the key players were in its creation. The name usually proffered is that of Carl Diem, a German sports bureaucrat and the chief organiser of the 1936 games, of whom it could be said in 2005: As to the true conceiver of the Olympic ceremony – Carl Diem – he has for long served as alibi to the international Olympic movement to avoid the charge of continuing a ‘tradition’ invented by Goebbels. Recently, the role of Diem in his capacity as Nazi apparatchik responsible for sport and close collaborator of Goebbels has been well substantiated.

At any rate, that the original ceremony had the blessing of the Ministry of Propaganda is not in dispute. As for its authenticity, there is no harm in categorically restating that, notwithstanding their religious character as a form of Zeus worship, at the ancient Olympic Games there never was such a fire ceremony, or anything like it. Nor was there any kind of torch race, let alone torch relay. The modern ritual is a splendid example of invented tradition – not just in its conception, but in its staying power and continued acceptance within the Olympic movement. In the original ceremony, the relay of runners across Europe used torches supplied by Krupp, the German arms manufacturer. What this ceremony meant to the Nazi regime was clearly stated at the opening ceremony of the Berlin Olympics. In the presence of Hitler himself, the president of the German Olympic Committee stated in his speech: In a few minutes the torch bearer will appear to light the Olympic fire on his tripod, where it will rise, flaming to heaven, for the 269

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weeks of this festival. It creates a real and spiritual bond of fire between our German fatherland and the sacred places of Greece founded nearly 4,000 years ago by Nordic immigrants.

It is time now to leave the inventive showmanship of the modern Olympics for other kinds of staging inspired by the ancient Greeks, including modern performances which keep ancient Greece alive in arguably the most vivid of all cultural formats.

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he American dancer Isadora Duncan was once an international sensation. With almost nothing of her art caught on film, she is arguably best remembered today for the manner of her death. She was strangled by her own trailing shawl, caught up by the wheel of an open-topped car in which she was the passenger. That was in 1927. By then middle-aged, she had enjoyed a hugely successful career on either side of the First World War as a dancer. She performed in the homes of American and European society figures, as well as on the public stage as far afield as Argentina. She was one of a kind: a high-minded, unconventional personality, who was also a born show-woman and self-publicist. As a young woman, she lived at a time when new ideas about the educational value of dance on both sides of the Atlantic coincided with movements to liberate female dress, and to improve bodily health through exercise. Without much formal education, Isadora was an autodidact. Rejecting the formal strictures of classical ballet, she took much of her inspiration for her liberated style of dancing from how she imagined ancient civilisations, especially the ancient Greeks. Here she is in her early twenties in Paris with her brother, whose classical enthusiasms were an important support for her artistic endeavours: 271

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. . . we used to get up at five o’clock in the morning, such was our excitement at being in Paris, and begin the day by dancing in the gardens of the Luxembourg, walk for miles all over Paris and spend hours in the Louvre. Raymond had already got a portfolio of drawings of all the Greek vases, and we spent so much time in the Greek vase room that the guardian grew suspicious and when I explained in pantomime that I had only come there to dance, he decided that he had to do with harmless lunatics, so he let us alone.

She lived at a time when women in supposedly Greek dress and recreating ‘Grecian’ postures already had a history. In the 1780s, Emma, the talented young wife of the British ambassador to Naples, Sir William Hamilton, became famous for the novel entertainment she offered the ambassador’s guests. She would perform her so-called Attitudes before them. These were choreographed poses which Emma modelled on paintings and, probably, on the figures decorating the antique Greek vases that her husband collected and displayed in his residence. As an eye-witness wrote in 1787: The old knight [Sir William] has had made for her a Greek costume . . . Dressed in this . . . and taking a couple of shawls, she exhibits every possible variety of posture, expression, and look, so that at the last the spectator almost fancies it is a dream . . . Standing, kneeling, sitting, lying down, grave or sad, playful, exulting, repentant, wanton, menacing, anxious, – all mental states follow rapidly, one after another. With wonderful taste she suits the folding of her veil to each expression, and with the same handkerchief makes every kind of head-dress . . . This much at any rate is certain, – the entertainment is unique.

For some viewers there was an erotic frisson to Emma’s performances. So there was to the young Isadora’s – not least thanks to her ‘Greek’ costume. Once, when asked how she felt she would be 272

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remembered, she is said to have answered, ‘I freed women from corsets.’ This freedom of dress was one of the talking points of her performances: ‘The best thing in Miss Duncan’s art is her costume – a transparent tunic which does not conceal the forms of the body (she wears no tights) and which does not hamper the freedom of the movements copied from Greek models.’

As a more recent scholar clarifies, ‘Her Greek costume left her breasts free . . . and modestly covered her groin, eradicating any pubic hair.’ She danced bare-footed, bare-legged and bare-armed. Her referencing of classical Greece helped to legitimise what in her youth, before the First World War, was still a daring exposure of the female form in public. Duncan needed to distance her act from the vaudeville performances of her day. One American matron called her ‘an exquisite figure on an old vase that we are allowed to admire with all propriety’. In the ancient Greek vases and classical sculpture that she saw in museums, Duncan found a source of inspiration for the steps and gestures to the music of the great composers. She insisted of her performances that they were a new form of high art. She took to the stage at a time when students of the dance saw ancient Greek dancing as one of the earliest, and therefore one of the purest, stages in the art form’s development – if only it could be reconstructed. Duncan was a voracious reader and was open to the ideas of foreign thinkers. In her travels, she picked up languages. She said of herself that she had learnt to read and converse well enough in French. In Germany she lectured in her ‘American German’. She enthusiastically embraced the nineteenth-century German philosophers as they touched on the ancient Greeks. In her own words: Among the artists and writers who frequented our house was a young man with a high forehead, piercing eyes behind glasses, 273

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who decided it was his mission to reveal to me the genius of Nietzsche. Only by Nietzsche, he said, will you come to the full revelation of dancing expression as you seek it.

A German classics professor, Friedrich Nietzsche (d. 1900) had developed the idea of two opposing strands in the culture of ancient Greece. One was wild, chaotic and disruptive; the other rational, ordered and harmonious. Nietzsche saw two ancient Greek gods as embodiments of this polarity. On the one hand there was the beauteous Apollo, god of poetry and music, who was calm, simple and dignified. On the other there was Dionysus, the wine-god among other things, standing for intoxication, ecstasy and the outsider. With its purported echoes of ancient Greece, Duncan seems to have seen her new type of free dance as dovetailing with this nineteenth-century notion of the ‘Dionysian’ in ancient Greek culture. In the sweeping statements of her writings – the best evidence for her ‘philosophy’ of dance – experts detect the influence of Nietzsche’s idea of ecstasy, as in this passage: . . . the dance of the future will be one whose body and soul have grown so harmoniously together that the natural language of that soul will have become the movement of the body.

There is not much of a specific legacy in the form of accurate records of her dances – steps and movements – that would allow them to be reproduced and taught today. Even so, Duncan’s place in the history of the modern dance movement is assured. Back in 1979, for instance, the by then semi-retired ballerina Margot Fonteyn included Duncan and her work as an important moment for dance history in Fonteyn’s series for BBC television called The Magic of Dance. As it happened, I was working in Athens at the time. Via a friend, the BBC asked me to scout out a particular Athens location with Duncan associations. In due course, Fonteyn and film crew turned up at the location to ‘recce’ its filming angles. They were delighted to 274

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find a romantic wreck of a building, strewn with wildflowers, only to return the next day for filming proper and discover that the local mayor, in honour of his VIP visitor, had had the whole site raked over and weeded. The location in question was what was left of a house that Duncan had begun to build in 1903, during a prolonged stay in Athens. Her colourful persona is captured in her autobiography’s possibly fanciful stories about this Athens house, which she never finished before the money ran out. The search for a suitable building site naturally required the Duncan family to be in ancient Greek dress: Having fitted ourselves out with tunic and chlamys and peplum, and having put fillets round our hair, we set out to find the site for our Temple.

They settled on a waterless plot of land in what was then open countryside to the south-east of Athens, at a spot that Duncan calls ‘Kopanos’. The nearest spring, she writes, was ‘four kilometres’ away. Raymond, her brother, was to design a house based on the ‘Palace of Agamemnon’, meaning the Bronze Age ruins of ancient Mycenae, which archaeologists had begun to excavate in 1841. As for how Duncan and family would spend their time here: . . . we drew up a plan in a copy-book, which was to exclude all but the Clan Duncan, and therein we set down the rules for our lives to be spent on Kopanos. We did this somewhat on the same plan as Plato in his ‘Republic.’ It was decreed to arise at sunrise. We were to greet the rising sun with joyous songs and dances. Afterwards we were to refresh ourselves with a modest bowl of goat’s milk.

Duncan’s manifesto could almost belong to the world of the 1960s commune. However, the manner of her artistic investment in ancient Greece was very much a product of her times. As with the thinking 275

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behind the Olympic Games of Pierre de Coubertin (see chapter 13), she was not trying to revive an ancient Greek cultural form in all its authenticity. As she herself wrote: ‘To return to the dances of the Greeks would be as impossible as it is unnecessary. We are not Greeks and therefore cannot dance Greek dances.’ Although Duncan sought to free up the human form in dance, she categorically distanced her performances from, as she put it herself, ‘this deplorable modern dancing, which has its roots in the ceremonies of the African primitives’. By this she meant ragtime and jazz and associated dances then taking hold in American popular culture, such as the black bottom and foxtrot. Like many on both sides of the Atlantic in her lifetime who identified as white and western, she was not above using overtly racist language in public. As for the actual dance culture of the ancient Greeks, here is an ancient traveller’s description of a rural locale in the border country of the Spartans: . . . the place belongs to Artemis and the nymphs and is called Caryae; there is a statue of Artemis Caryatis standing in the open air, where the Laconian girls come to dance a traditional local dance every year.

This sounds like folk dancing, but experts can’t be sure. Something, such as names of different dances, is known about the ancient Greek dance; but not that much. Even so, this largely lost world of ancient Greek dancing has given today’s world a familiar word, adapted into many languages. A visitor to Epidaurus (already mentioned: chapters 6 and 11) can stand in the standard feature of an ancient Greek theatre from which the word derives. In the well-preserved theatre there, this is the large, circular space between the auditorium and the stage building, defined by a kerb of masonry blocks. The ancient Greeks had a special name for this feature of their theatres. Taken over by the Romans, the word had entered the English language by the 1500s. Its main modern 276

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meaning – a large ensemble of instrument-playing musicians – still carries faint echoes of its original associations. To the notes of a pipeplayer, the dancers in the ancient orchēstra – meaning ‘dancing place’ – sang as they danced. The ancient Greek theatre about which the experts would dearly love to know more is not to be found at Epidaurus. On a slope of the Acropolis hill in modern Athens, visitors can still explore the so-called Theatre of Dionysus in the state that late antiquity bequeathed it. By then – the ad 300s – the ancient Athenians had adapted their theatre for Roman-style shows. A stone balustrade facing the front row of seats has holes in its top surface. Into these were once inserted supports for a protective fence of nets. Through the netting, the front-seat crowd watched – in safety, they hoped – combats involving gladiators and wild beasts. On the same spot centuries earlier, things were different. Then the ‘theatre’ seems to have consisted of not much more than a bare slope for seated spectators, a ‘dancing place’ of beaten earth and perhaps the simplest of wooden stages. Here in the 400s bc, the Athenians brought to new heights a recently emerged Greek art form. A few years ago, a food writer for a British Sunday newspaper reviewed a new Russian restaurant in London. True to the aspirational, ‘lifestyle’ tone of much writing on food, he worked in the following: The best thing about Greek tragedy is that betwixt hubris and nemesis you get catharsis, the purging release of pent-up emotion . . . it is one of the greatest pleasures of civilisation. If we thank the Greeks for only one thing, it would have to be the invention of catharsis – intellectual crack.

Pretentious or flippant, this aside presupposes that readers will enjoy a highbrow nod to the ancient Greeks and their culture. The reference is to a tricky noun in Ancient Greek related to the Ancient 277

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Greek adjective meaning ‘clean’. The writings of the philosopher Aristotle use this word when discussing the art form in question – drama. Specifically, these writings describe what they claim is the experience of the audience when watching one of the two main genres in which the ancient playwrights worked – tragōidia, whence our word ‘tragedy’. A modern expert sums up the difficulties of translating this word: . . . katharsis . . . results from pity and fear when watching tragedy. ‘Purgation’ is only one of several (problematic) possibilities; another . . . is that the tragic experience removes obstacles to our recognition of the mutability of human life, and therefore ‘cleans up’ or ‘clears up’ our muddled view of human fortunes.

Whatever its exact meaning, the word suggests that audiences for the tragic plays of Athens in the 400s bc could expect to undergo an intense and perhaps draining encounter with ethical themes of the weightiest kind. The tragic plays that have come down to us from the Athens of those times also display a surprising feature. This helps to explain why, despite their being a ‘legacy’ art form if ever there was one, theatres around the world continue to stage them. The tragic play that I studied in sixth form is a case in point. Its ‘star’ role goes to a female character – a mythical Greek queen called Clytemnestra. Not exactly admirable, she is an extreme personality of a sort which the stage has always loved. She is capable of terrible actions, but is also entirely a human creature. As the play presents her, she nurses a bitter grievance against her absent husband, the king, who is away leading the Greeks against Troy. The play depicts her actions when the king finally returns home. She literally rolls out the red – purple, in fact – carpet in a welcome which the play implies is both manipulative and insincere. Having lured the travel-stained king back inside their palace, she stabs him to death in his bath. She then kills the concubine he has 278

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brought back from Troy, a young captive. A double-murderess, the queen, like the king, has herself been faithless. In his ten-year absence, she has taken the king’s cousin as her lover. Brazening out the condemnation of the citizenry, the couple now assume rule of the kingdom. Despite her ruthlessness, in the playwright’s portrayal the queen is far from being a monster. Hearing the horrors of the Greek sack of Troy at the war’s end, she is given these lines: . . . Women of Troy prostrate Over dead husbands, brothers; aged grandfathers Mourning dead sons and grandsons, and remembering Their very cries are slaves’ cries now . . . Not only can she empathise with the suffering of the enemy women. Her grievance against the king is not his faithlessness – far from it, since clearly she does not love him – but something, for a mother, unimaginably worse. In her own words: [He] Who with as slight compunction as men butcher sheep, When his own fields were white with flocks, must sacrifice His child, and my own darling, whom my pain brought forth – He killed her for a charm to stop the Thracian wind! Ten years earlier, a north wind had been preventing the Greek fleet from leaving home waters for Troy. A goddess demanded the sacrifice of the king’s virgin daughter as the price for a fair wind. The king duly sent for her. I was moved by a Greek painted vase from the fifth century bc in a Palermo museum which captures the awful pathos of what happened next. Her head modestly bowed, the daughter is shown making as if to unveil, or possibly disrobe. Facing her ominously is a bearded Greek warrior in full armour, his long hair falling in carefully coiffed ringlets over his shoulders. In his swordhand he brandishes a naked blade. 279

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Typically of these ancient tragedies, the story is set in what, at the time of its first production (458 bc), a contemporary Athenian audience saw as a remote and legendary Greek past. There is a family curse, which also impels the action and is part of a religious dimension to the plot. People were ‘fated’, human life was ‘in the lap of the gods’: the ancient Greeks were great believers in destiny. As for the murderous queen, she has agency: she is far from being solely a victim of ‘tragic’ forces beyond her control. This is one of the surprises from the pens of the male playwrights of fifth-century Athens. So often, their plays accord women a prominent role, despite the social subservience to the male citizenry of wives and daughters in the real life of ancient Athens. It has even been claimed of this particular playwright – the Athenian Aeschylus – that he ‘knew as much about human nature, and even about feminine nature, as any of the Greek dramatists’. A closer reading of the evidence for ancient attitudes always has this potential to add nuance to the sweeping generalisations that sometimes seem required of history-writing. Encountered before in this book is the miracle of the preservation of ancient Greek works of literature. By ‘literature’ I mean the writings thought by the ancients themselves to have had artistic, and therefore superior, merit. The scripts of ancient Greek plays fall into this category. They occasionally come down the centuries in an immediate way. The ‘wonderful things’ – their excavator’s words – found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922 still define today’s popular image of the rewards awaiting treasure hunters in the sands of Egypt. It is harder to imagine the kind of archaeologist in Egypt for whom nothing can compare to the excitement of finding ancient Greek writings on sheets of Nilotic papyrus. These writings were left behind by the Greek-speaking colonists settled in the Nile valley in the wake of Alexander of Macedon’s conquests. These sometimes contain dramatic gold. In 1999, a classics scholar published five fragments from a ‘multitude of . . . scraps, partly 280

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crumpled or compacted, with literary text written along the [papyrus] fibres’. He found these scraps while going through folders of unpublished papyri dug up in Egypt and now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The hand(s) that wrote these five fragments can be dated to the third or second century bc. What the expert recognised was that the language was unmistakably that of ancient Greek tragedy. For instance, its Ancient Greek includes the words iōi moi – ‘woe to me’. More than that, the fragments preserve ancient musical notation in the form of letters of the Greek alphabet placed above the fragmentary lines of tragic verse. Such fragments from Egypt are proof that a Greek tragic performance was, originally at least, a music drama. These particular fragments of music are set ‘in a baritone register’ – so for a male voice or voices. Herein is revealed another key aspect of ancient Greek theatre. In classical Athens, it was the men who not only wrote the plays, but also produced and performed them. In 458 bc, the role of Aeschylus’s murderous queen Clytemnestra would have been premiered by a man with a naturalistic actor’s mask covering his whole head and wearing women’s clothes. For obvious reasons, it is the complete plays that still have an impact today. Most have come down the centuries by the various means we have already encountered. At first there were the generations of scribes and scholars who copied and recopied scripts deemed ‘classics’ long before the Middle Ages. The Greek-speaking ‘Romans’ of medieval Constantinople continued to study these classic plays in their original Greek. Visiting scholars and refugees from Byzantium became a conduit that led eventually to the new-fangled printing presses of Renaissance Italy. In 1495, a Florentine press was the first to print four tragedies from the fifth century bc in their original Greek. Once print let the genie out of the bottle, the rediscovered plays of ancient Greece gradually revealed to sixteenth-century Europe a ‘lost realm of theatrical origins’. As to impact, England’s Shakespeare offers clues, as when he has Hamlet complain: 281

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What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba, That he should weep for her? Hamlet here has asked an actor to perform. He then attacks him for his tear-jerking choice of a speech about the best-known and most popular Greek tragic figure of the time – Queen Hecuba of Troy, who loses everything when the besieging Greeks finally capture her city. For the Elizabethan dramatists, fascinated by the powerful female characters of the Greek tragedies, Hecuba in particular became a ‘symbol of grief ’. Fast-forward to nineteenth-century Vienna, where another of these Greek plays was instrumental in shaping a modern idea that retains a popular currency, even when people have little or no direct knowledge of ancient Greek tragic theatre. For instance, the sciencefiction film Dune is a 2021 remake of an earlier (1984) adaptation of one and the same novel. A review casually comments on the portrayal by these movies of the familial relations of the young hero: ‘Both films are driven by a benign Oedipal romance. The father dies and the son gets to hang out with his mum, but there is no aggression or lust.’ It is perhaps fair to say that many more of us have heard of the so-called Oedipus complex than know exactly what it claims to describe, let alone who Oedipus was. A clue to the genesis of this theory can be found in a museum in north London. This is a shrine to the Viennese father of psychoanalysis who lived here in exile from Nazi Germany for the last year of his life, dying in 1939. A display cabinet in what was briefly Sigmund Freud’s London study gathers together some of the ancient Greek artefacts which fascinated him, which he collected, and which he managed to escape with when he fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938. They include an Athenian vase from the fifth century bc decorated with a scene of a young man in apparent conversation with a hybrid creature perched on a rock that is half-bird, half-beast, with a human, female head – the Sphinx. 282

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Freud was fascinated by the Greek mythological story which the vase depicts. This is clear from the fact that the vase is one of at least six representations in Freud’s last home of either the very same story or of the creature alone. They include ‘a terra cotta Sphinx which Freud displayed prominently on top of a glass cabinet just behind his desk chair’. In the Greek myth, Oedipus is a king who unintentionally both kills his father and marries his (also unwitting) mother. He then discovers the truth – with tragic outcomes: his appalled mother commits suicide and Oedipus blinds himself. The Sphinx entered his story rather in the manner of J.R.R. Tolkien’s riddling, cannibalistic creature Gollum in The Hobbit. Oedipus had earlier saved his people from this man-eating creature, who killed passers-by unable to answer her riddle. Oedipus did manage to answer, however, and in so doing caused the Sphinx to die. It was while practising in Vienna and pioneering his theories about the workings of the human subconscious that Freud developed this idea of what he called the Oedipus complex. According to his theory, this complex was a universal of human childhood. It took the form of an incestuous attraction felt by children for their oppositesex parent. In turn, boys – Freud’s main focus – felt hostility towards their father. They then repress these feelings as they mature and are socialised into adult relationships with the opposite sex. Since Freud’s death, his larger claim – that a child’s relationship with his or her parents can shape the adult – has become embedded in the western tradition, as an important insight for many people into how the self is formed. The Oedipus complex as such is hard to prove empirically. This is one reason why it remains a debated doctrine among the experts. This not being a book about psychoanalysis, the question which intrigues me more is why Freud hit on the legend of Oedipus in the first place. If his aim was to find a story or legend to act as a metaphor for his theory about a psychological complex, why did he turn to the ancient Greeks? The short answer is that Freud and the Greeks 283

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‘had history’. His son Martin Freud remembered how he once heard his late father reciting lines by heart, in the original Greek, from Homer’s poem the Iliad. That is to say, Freud’s knowledge of ancient Greece went far beyond his visit to the Acropolis in 1904, or even his fascination with ancient Greek objects. At school in Vienna, young Sigmund had spent six hours weekly for six years learning Ancient Greek. As a schoolboy, he had read – in the original Greek – a tragic play entitled King Oedipus. And in his final exam, he was set a passage from the play which he translated well, having already read the whole play in the original ‘on his own’. This drama set out the whole story of Oedipus’s slaying of his father and marriage to his mother, not knowing that they were his parents; his victory over the Sphinx; and his eventual recognition of his own identity and subsequent self-mutilation. Much later, in his psychoanalytic writings, Freud explicitly sourced the origin of his Oedipal metaphor: This discovery [his theory of childhood sexuality] is confirmed by a legend that has come down to us from classical antiquity . . . What I have in mind is the legend of King Oedipus and Sophocles’ drama which bears his name.

True to his times, Freud was a fan of Sophocles, as repeated references in his voluminous writings make clear. This Athenian playwright was a generation down from the playwright Aeschylus, whom we met just recently. He was still active in 409 bc. Freud was learning Ancient Greek at school, and reading Sophocles in particular, because by the mid-nineteenth century both the language and the playwright occupied places of prestige in the educational system of the Germanspeaking countries, Austria included. As earlier chapters have pointed out, this period was the high noon of western admiration of ancient Greece. At the time, this same regard for Sophocles could be found in other countries with strong classical traditions, including England. For the mid-Victorian poet 284

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Matthew Arnold, Sophocles ‘saw life steadily and he saw it whole’. Or as one of Arnold’s poems put it: Sophocles long ago Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought into his mind The turbid ebb and flow Of human misery . . . As well as personal taste, Freud, it has been suggested, might have had ‘professional’ reasons for tying his novel psychological work into the ancient Greeks and their tragic playwrights. Thanks to a common educational curriculum, the majority of professionals in Freud’s day were amateur classicists. The Greek and Latin classics made up a central part of the common knowledge of professional men across Europe and America. By associating his controversial ideas about childhood sexuality with the tragic figure of Sophocles’ Oedipus, Freud might have ‘attempted to frame them in terms familiar to the authoritative culture of educated men’. Besides his reading of the ancient Greek writings, another medium allowed Freud to connect with the myth of Oedipus. In the later nineteenth century, re-stagings of ancient Greek drama found increasing success with a theatre-going public. As a young man, Freud had spent a year in Paris (1885–86). Here he attended a French production of Sophocles’ play at France’s state theatre, the Théâtre Français. It ‘made a deep impression on him’ – even if the French translation prudishly glossed over the explicit reference in the original Greek text to lying in bed with one’s mother. This was the bit of the Oedipus myth that particularly fascinated an older Freud. Freud was far from put off by the alien – alienating even – aspects of an ancient Greek tragic performance for a modern audience. These included the unrealistic ancient device of the group of performers who comment on the action (the chorus), not to mention the religious backdrop of vengeful deities and a seemingly random 285

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destiny. The same is true in more recent times of the writers, directors and actors who mine these plays, translating, re-staging or adapting them for what they find in them that seems to speak to the human condition today. Ancient Greek drama has now gone global. In the final twenty years or so of the twentieth century, ‘acclaimed productions’ of fifthcentury bc Greek tragedies were mounted in Japan, India and Africa. By then Chinese translators were also at work. A recent Chinese translator of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King rendered all the Greek gods by the generic name of Apollo. This was because he felt he could rely on a Chinese audience’s acquaintance with this name from the USA’s Apollo space programme. In 1994, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove published her adaptation of an ancient Greek tragedy. She called it The Darker Face of the Earth. It went on to be staged in the USA and, later, in London. Dove transposed the action to a slave plantation in the preCivil War American South. In her plot, the white wife of the white owner gives birth to a black boy. His father is a black slave whom she has seduced. The wife and her husband have the baby sent away. Having grown up a slave elsewhere, he is bought by the unwitting wife twenty years later. Against a background of plans for a slave revolt, they become lovers. He strangles – again unwittingly – his own father, who has gone mad. The wife finally realises their true identities and kills herself. The reader will recognise this reconfiguring of, once more, Oedipus the King by Sophocles. As one expert observes: Greek tragedy permits a political response to irresolvable, extreme situations without being crudely topical. Set in an imaginary past that offers few specifics in the way of setting or physical description, it is also amenable to both changes of venue and to multiracial casting . . . it has been used [in the twentieth] century as a façade for staging political protest or a response to a particular political climate. 286

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So: not exactly Netflix. With the possible exception of shows that can build on an already huge fan-base, such as the London show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, theatre, even as straightforward entertainment, tends to be a mainly middle-class concern. If it fails to reach a ‘broad popular audience’, the same is even more true of experimental or alternative theatre. Indeed, after the pandemic arrived in 2020, a commentator worried whether the virus was killing off tragedy as an artistic genre: Maybe we want tragedy because it’s actually comforting to be told individual human actions have a meaning and a grandeur. And maybe no one’s really writing them because we don’t believe, any more, that that’s true.

As a host on the USA’s National Public Radio said in 2021, ‘After what we’ve all been through the last 18 months, we desperately need a laugh.’ The other chief genre of ancient Greek drama – one which has also enjoyed an after-life after rediscovery in more recent times – is what the ancient Greeks called kōmōidia. From the same heyday of ancient Athens as the tragic plays survive comedic plays from Aristophanes, an Athenian comic playwright active at the end of the fifth century bc. To provide those readers who are unfamiliar with this ancient form of laugh-in with a hint of its flavour, there is the play called Frogs. I remember a few years back being at the presentation in London of a prize for the best new book on matters Greek. This was an august ceremony in the presence of a bearded British royal (said to resemble his kinsman, the last tsar of Russia). In his speech, this cousin of Queen Elizabeth quoted a line of Aristophanes, as if signalling his initiation into the mysteries of ancient Greece: Brekekekex koax koax! In Frogs, this gibberish is the ‘song’ sung by a secondary chorus of male performers impersonating frogs. These ‘marshy children of the 287

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waters’ croak away as the two anti-heroes row across a river on their way to the Underworld. The frogs typify the fantasy element in the comedy of Aristophanes. In this particular play, one of the plot’s anti-heroes is none other than the god Dionysus (whom we have already met), who was also patron of ancient Greek drama. His slave is the other anti-hero. The ‘little guys’ were very much a focus of Aristophanes. The disrespectful treatment of Dionysus by the play offers an insight into Athenian religious attitudes of the time. It is proof, too, that in the fifth-century bc Athenian democracy there was evidently no prohibition, legal or otherwise, on human actors playing the part of a Greek god on stage. We seem to be far from the conservative censorship of the theatre of more recent times. In the UK, for instance, government censorship of the theatres was only formally abolished in 1968. The plot makes Frogs a ‘playwrights’ play’. Dionysus is so alarmed by the low standards of present-day tragic theatre in Athens that he decides to visit the Underworld and bring back to life a dead tragic playwright, in order to raise Athenian standards and ‘save’ the city. Once descended, he ends up having to choose between two rival shades. He ditches his original choice, preferring the other, whom he brings up to Athens with the blessing of the god of the Underworld. As for the humour, the jokes are bawdy and can be obscene. Modern translations, wilfully or not, sometimes veil what it was that was meant to provoke laughter. In line 479, according to one translator, Dionysus says ‘I have made a mess’; another – less coy – renders his words: ‘I have shat in my clothes.’ The ancient audience would also have picked up on the playwright’s irreverent wordplay here: he uses a verb which the Greeks also used for the ritual act of ‘pouring out’ a liquid offering of wine to the gods. In one respect, the comedies of Aristophanes, funded by the state and performed before an audience of Athenians, took themselves seriously: 288

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It is right and just for our sacred chorus to advise and teach what’s good for the city. This in Frogs is the main chorus, directly addressing its audience. Wearing (as it were) this hat of a public intellectual, the same chorus goes on to inveigh against the declining quality of the city’s presentday politicians, as compared with those of old (a familiar refrain, some may think). So Frogs, like the other comedies of Aristophanes that survive, comments on the domestic politics of the Athenians. Unlike tragedy, which is about myth, the comedy of Aristophanes ‘is about the actual city’ of Athens. At the time of the original production (405 bc), Athens was embroiled in a generation-long war which it was about to lose decisively. In Frogs, the solution to the city’s political doldrums is to improve its drama. The god of the Underworld bids farewell to the shade of the tragic playwright whom Dionysus is taking back to Athens: . . . go and save our city with good advice and teach the dunces.

This edifying idea – that the arts, and specifically drama, can improve society – sounds modern. It helps to explain the appeal of Frogs to twentieth-century thespians. In 1974, future Hollywood stars Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver were among the drama students who performed Frogs in a staging by Yale University’s drama school. The setting was the university swimming pool. This allowed the swimming team to perform a water ballet as the frogs. With further rewriting, a generation later this same production made it into the theatrical mainstream: the Lincoln Center Theatre on New York’s Broadway (2004). The American writer and actor who was one of those spearheading this latest revival had this to say of Frogs: Dionysos’ dream to go down to Hades and bring back this great writer who could actually have an effect on the world, it’s noble 289

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and touching and crazy – all at the same time. I found it moving, in light of what was going on in the world.

As for ‘what was going on in the world’, those responsible had very much in mind the recent destruction of New York City’s Twin Towers by hijacked airliners serving as human bombs. In a time of great turmoil, watching a Greek play perhaps offered an escapist vision of a better world: one in which humans sought to serve their community and the gods encouraged them to do so.

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An exhaustive exposition of the ways in which the world has defined itself with regard to Greco-Roman antiquity would be nothing less than a comprehensive history of the world.

I

f they have got this far, some readers of this book may feel that it falls short of what its subject demands. The book could have been more systematic in its choice of themes and examples. It could have covered more topics and countries. The personal asides scattered through the text – in the hope of making the book less ‘stuffy’ for the informed general readership that it aspires to target – may not be to everyone’s taste. Other readers may be relieved that the book’s scope is limited. Exhaustive surveys of what is sometimes called ‘the classical tradition’ exist. Such books are not necessarily written with fellow academics as their ideal readers. Still, no matter their excellence, their density of detail and scholarly tone may not always appeal to a broader public. Aged thirteen, as a birthday treat I was taken to see the newly released Hollywood epic Cleopatra. I can still quote – accurately or not – from the glossy booklet which the West End cinema supplied: ‘As we pace the halls of the Ptolemies . . .’ The film, although not a 291

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critical success, made a deep and lasting impression on this young person. This book hopes to have shown that there now exists in many parts of the world a collective picture of the ancient Greeks. Largely this is based on popular outlets, including books, films, television, video games and theme parks, not to mention mass tourism. The latest generation of cruise ships includes behemoths capable of carrying more than 5,000 people. In a typical year, such ships can disgorge hundreds of thousands of tourists in search of ancient Greece onto archaeological sites such as Olympia or the Acropolis. The image of the Greeks derived from these cultural experiences is not necessarily punctilious about dates and historical context. For some, these experiences stimulate an appetite for a deeper understanding of the ancient Greek world. This book attempts a subjective and somewhat personal snapshot of its almost limitless subject. The emphasis on the present day is meant to make the content topical, rather than timeless. As a result, the book has a certain built-in obsolescence. It has tried to capture some of the continuing vigour of ancient Greece’s after-life today. It freely acknowledges, too, that the one-time western deference to the ancient Greeks and their civilisation is nowadays much harder to find. This may have something to do with a larger decline of faith in the past as a source of wisdom. There are those who claim for the modern west ‘an innate confidence in our ability to invent a future for ourselves so that we no longer need a past to instruct or inspire us’. In the era of climate crisis and (at the time of writing) European war, some will find such an assertion ringing somewhat hollow. Still, even in the universities, I wonder how many teachers of whatever aspect of ancient Greek civilisation would publicly go along with a viewpoint such as this one from 1930. An American classicist of the time opined that ‘the philosophy, the literature, and the sculpture of Greece . . . are living forces, influencing the world of today and capable of doing the highest service to mankind’. The book has also taken on board the fact that in some quarters of western cultural life the ancient Greeks are increasingly meeting a day 292

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of reckoning. Earlier chapters looked at areas in which the old authority of the ancient Greeks as a kind of archetype for long-standing western values and attitudes has declined. These values and attitudes themselves have come in for increasing criticism, especially as they affect women, black and brown people and sexual minorities. This pushback against the ancient Greeks acknowledges their patriarchal repression of women and their quasi-racism, their imperialism and colonialism. It also calls out the writings and artworks that helped to make these ancient behaviours systemic, or which show these behaviours as the ancient norm. The same pushback recognises and deplores the use and abuse of the ancient Greeks by those who wish to build and strengthen the racism and misogyny of western societies in more recent times, up to and including the present day. At the moment, this reaction is a strengthening cultural force in some western countries, notably the USA. It has supporters among professional classicists themselves. At the Ivy League’s Princeton University in New Jersey, the academic staff of the classics department have created an Equity Committee. Its online remit states that staff ‘specifically consider how the cultures of Greece and Rome have been instrumentalized, and have been complicit, in various forms of exclusion, including slavery, segregation, white supremacy, Manifest Destiny, and cultural genocide’. A member of staff writes on his bio page of his ‘strong conviction that classics and classicists should be allies and champions for black and brown folk’. And yet . . . In 1996, on my one visit to China, a young ministry official assigned to accompany our group surprised me during a friendly conversation in the back of our minibus when he boasted: ‘We had philosophy before you.’ The tone of emulation was palpable. By ‘we’, of course he meant Chinese people. By ‘you’, he meant westerners like me. Whether he was right about the chronology of the origins of respectively ancient Chinese and ancient Greek philosophy is another matter, not for investigation here. What struck me about this conversation with an educated young Chinese person in 293

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the mid-1990s – and what has stayed with me ever since – was this vaunting of the cultural achievements of ancient China as a source of national, and personal, pride. As this book has tried to show, the transmission of ancient Greece’s legacy from antique to modern times has involved many different societies and ethnicities in history. What these transmitting cultures shared, from the Romans, Byzantines and Arabs to the scholars of the Renaissance and beyond, was an impulse to learn from the ancients, especially via their writings and their arts. As a result – and referring back to the quotation with which this epilogue began – the ancient Greeks are less obviously ‘owned’ by any one modern society. This is true even if, as genome data now suggest, modern Greeks derive their ancestry from the populations of Greece in the Bronze Age. One might speculate what such data might reveal about modern people occupying other ancient Greek territories, such as Libya, Turkey or Crimea. To descend from such ancestors is arguably a noble thing. But ancient Greek civilisation was too great to be contained even by the ancient Greeks themselves. It had already escaped them when the indigenous people of Egesta in Sicily first raised a Greek-style temple on the doorstep of their city (400s bc). So it had when Scythian warriors were buried in their kurgans on the Ukrainian steppes with gold ornaments (300s bc) fashioned to their cultural demands by Greek craftsmen. As for today, it might fairly be claimed that ancient Greece paradoxically belongs both to no one and to everyone. In civilisational terms, it was, and still is, a ‘superspreader’. It may seem hard to define limits in this issue of ownership of a legacy shaped by hands so many and so diffuse in time and place. One might even argue that transmitters, as well as creators, are stakeholders in this legacy. It is easier to define why pride can be taken in the cultural civilisation of the ancient Greeks, than it is to identify who is most entitled to take it. True, there are those who would say that ‘the ancient Greeks invented nothing but were great improvers of what other races 294

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invented’. This harsh charge against the originality of ancient Greek civilisation recognises, but seems to overstate, the debts of that civilisation to the older societies of the eastern Mediterranean and the Fertile Crescent. One thinks, for instance, of the ‘geared astronomical calculation machine of immense complexity’ known as the Antikythera mechanism. This second-century bc Greek device was found in an ancient shipwreck. In March 2021, a team at University College London published new findings about its gearing. The team had come to ‘an even better appreciation for the sophistication of the device’. This new understanding ‘challenges many of our preconceptions about the technological capabilities of the ancient Greeks’. It is sometimes said that a besetting sin of the opinionated discourse of today’s culture wars is the lack of nuance in the noisy exchanging of salvoes between sides, along with the readiness of partaking groups to blame, name and shame. Empire, for instance, often seems to confer benefits on the imperial people as a whole – from the Athenians, with their fine buildings and fees for citizens funded from Athenian sea power, to the larger trickledown of wealth during the Victorian heyday of the British empire. This uncomfortable truism about empires in history – if that is what it is – makes the stance one should take towards the cultural products of such societies into something of an ethical dilemma. To turn the besetting sins of past human behaviour into a relative matter is not a solution. Western culture in the deeper sense is historically the product of a long list of somehow ‘colluding’ societies (if they can be called that) – from ancient Athens to the European empires of more recent times. Some were implicated in slavery, in ways that are only beginning to be acknowledged. And that is just the west. For instance, take those much-admired and highly collectable Tang pottery horses, with their pretty green and brown glazes. In the perspective of one western historian, the expansionist Chinese dynasty under which these figures were produced in the seventh and eighth centuries ad used military force 295

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to acquire ‘a vast bulb of territory extending into central Asia’. Under these same emperors, ‘Sinocisation, whether imposed or accidental, took place on a scale unprecedented in Chinese history’. To cast stones at the past is – I repeat – a complicated business. The study of the ancient Greeks, warts and all, can be one way of deepening our understanding of the limitations, as well as the potential, of humanity. In this perspective, they offer a metaphor for the human condition. So do all societies of the past, if approached with sufficient curiosity and clear-sightedness. As for the creative side of the ancient Greeks, its output seems too large and uncontainable to be put out of reach. Some will add that modern life is too harsh and incomprehensible for people to deny themselves the escapist pleasure of enjoying the ancient Greeks and their world – in whatever format. During Covid, when many people, for many good reasons, found it harder than usual to stay sane of mind, I’m sure I was not alone in thinking about the value of culture to me. When I duly escaped during lockdowns into the cultural world of the ancient Greeks, it was partly to feel refreshed. Ancient Greece offered – offers – encounters with things that strike me and many others as wondrous or as fascinating, whether by their beauty, their human ingenuity, their strangeness from today’s societal norms or, indeed, their similarities despite the passage of time. In a challenging world, ancient Greek culture in all its boundless variety in time and place reminds us of the equally boundless creativity of the human mind. It surely gives us hope. The final word goes to the young English poet John Keats, expressing this sense of wonder on encountering Homer for the first time: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken . . .

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NOTES

Prologue

‘I hate the ancient Greeks’: P. Leigh Fermor, Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece, London, 1966, pp. 68–9. ‘Greek Play Bishop’: Edmund Richardson, Classical Victorians: Scholars, scoundrels and generals in pursuit of antiquity, Cambridge, 2013, pp. 21, 31. ‘dazzling was her beauty’ and other quotations from Musaeus: F.L. Lucas, Greek Poetry for Everyman, London, 1951, pp. 377–84. ‘utterly exhausted’: Artemis Cooper, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An adventure, London, 2012, p. 372. ‘The Spartan legend trades’: Myke Cole, ‘The Spartan fetish is a cultural cancer’, The New Republic, 1 August 2019: https://newrepublic.com/article/154563/sparta-myth-risefascism-trumpism (19 May 2020). ‘bring good luck’: Margaret M. Toscano, in Michael Kimmer, Christine Milrod and Amanda Kennedy (eds), Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis, Lanham, MD, 2014, p. 81. ‘Perhaps more uncomfortably’: Rebecca Levitan, ‘A “rape” by any other name: Against teaching “abductions” in Greek art’, Journal of the History of Ideas ( JHI) Blog, 6 May 2019: https://jhiblog.org/2019/05/06/a-rape-by-any-other-name-against-teachingabductions-in-greek-art-2/ (19 May 2020). ‘I know of no topic in classical studies’; ‘[f ]ew classical monographs’: K.J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, third edition, London, 2016, pp. xxix–xxx, vii. ‘Daedalus’: Martial, On the Spectacles, 8, cited by Katherine E. Welch, The Roman Amphitheatre: From its origins to the Colosseum, Cambridge, 2007, p. 146. ‘maiden’: Scholiast to Juvenal 4.53 (Valla). Some historians doubt the truth of this item. To others, like me, the details have the ring of authenticity. 1  Back to the Greeks

‘the education of Hellas’: Thucydides 2, 4, 6. ‘in education everyone would concede’: Isocrates 15, 302. ‘And so far has our city distanced’: Isocrates 4, 50. ‘They expose bare buttocks’: Bradford Keeney and Hilary Keeney, ‘Reentry into first creation: A contextual frame for the Ju/’hoan bushman performance of puberty rites, storytelling, and healing dance’, Journal of Anthropological Research, 69:1 (2013), pp. 65–86.

297

notes to pp. 19–35

‘Women doing the Bear ritual’: scholion to Aristophanes, Lysistrata, line 645. ‘modern version of the Brauronia’; ‘in turn took a pinch’: Emily Wilson, ‘Diary’, London Review of Books, 4 August 2022, p. 37. ‘guardians of the forest’: Artemis Pack website: https://www.artemispack.org/post/ artemis-story-part-iii (17 November 2022). ‘Now the Chaldaeans’: Diodorus Siculus 2, 29, 1. ‘how and what humans know’: Marc van de Mieroop, Philosophy before the Greeks: The pursuit of truth in ancient Babylonia, Princeton, NJ, 2015, ch. 1, p. 31. ‘a manner of speaking that was high-minded’: Plutarch, Pericles 5, 1 (Loeb translation adjusted by this author). ‘Obama is a more elevated orator’: David Kusnet, ‘Obama is the nation’s orator-in-chief, and he deserves the title and the accolades’, Guardian, 12 January 2016: https://amp. theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/12/obama-orator-in-chief-he-deserves-titleaccolades-final-state-of-the-union-address (23 September 2020). ‘many’ Athenian males: Plutarch, Pericles 24, 4. ‘turned out many fine orators’: Plato, Menexenus 235e. ‘Blush, Caledonia’: Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto II, 11. ‘I have actually made a pilgrimage’: Cicero, De Finibus 5, 2, 5. ‘our history descends’: Cassius Dio 71, 36, 4. ‘As the learning of the Greekes and Romaines augmented’: Louis Le Roy, Of the Interchangeable Course, or Variety of Things, trans. Robert Ashley, London, 1594, pp. l0lv–102r. For William ‘of Moerbeke’, see Guy Sanders, ‘William of Moerbeke’s church at Merbaka: The use of ancient spolia to make personal and political statements’, Hesperia, 84:3 (2015), pp. 583–626. ‘For some of them I see’: Lapo da Castiglionchio the Younger (Lapi Castelliunculi), De Curiae Commodis Dialogus, extract in Hodius, De Graecis Illustribus, p. 3, cited by Louise Ropes Loomis, ‘The Greek Renaissance in Italy’, American Historical Review, 13:2 (1908), p. 251. ‘The hystory writtone’: see the catalogue entry for the copy in the University of Michigan library: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A13758.0001.001?view=toc (14 September 2020) The book of poems from St Paul’s School to Elizabeth I: see the fascinating article about Greek in Elizabethan England by Matthew Adams on the British Library website: https://www.bl.uk/greek-manuscripts/articles/greek-in-elizabethan-england (14 September 2020) ‘I would never have traveled to Greece’: Julien-David Le Roy, The Ruins of the Most Beautiful Monuments of Greece, trans. David Britt, Los Angeles, CA, 2004, preface to vol. 1. ‘It was not until the publication’: N. Revett, Antiquities of Ionia, vol. 4, 1881, cited by David Watkin, ‘The impact of Stuart over two centuries’, in Susan Weber Soros (ed.), James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, 1713–1788: The rediscovery of antiquity, New Haven, CT, and London, 2006, pp. 515–48; also available at https://www.bgc.bard.edu/research-forum/articles/ 202/epilogue (15 September 2020). ‘has served as a design source’: Calder Loth, ‘The Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus’ (2011), Institute of Classical Architecture and Art website: https://www.classicist. org/articles/classical-comments-the-choragic-monument-of-thrasyllus/ (15 September 2020). ‘by the mid-nineteenth century’: Mary Beard, The Parthenon, London, 2002, p. 18. ‘This instance is selected’: [Alexander Hamilton], Federalist Papers No. 25, published in the New York Packet, 21 December 1787: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1404/1404h/1404-h.htm#link2H_4_0025 (22 September 2020). ‘D—n Homer’: William Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, vol. 1, Leipzig, 1844, p. 321.

298

notes to pp. 35–44

‘the possession and the symbol’: The Times, 29 September 1853, p. 6, cols. c–d, cited by Edmund Richardson, Classical Victorians: Scholars, scoundrels and generals in pursuit of antiquity, Cambridge, 2013, p. 17 n. 13. ‘for the improvement of ’; ‘Men of Color’: from the founder William Whipper’s address, published in Freedom’s Journal, 20 June 1828: https://africanamericanlibraryhistory. wordpress.com/readingroomsociety/ (23 September 2020). ‘. . . a fund of ideas’: cited in Carl J. Richard, The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome and the American Enlightenment, Cambridge, MA, 1994, p. 4. ‘. . . a young miner’: Edith Hall, ‘Classics for the people’, Aeon Essays, 13 November 2019: https://aeon.co/essays/why-working-class-britons-loved-reading-and-debating-theclassics (17 November 2022). ‘We cannot escape’: Richard Livingstone, A Defence of Classical Education, London, 1917, p. 6. ‘Hey hey, ho ho’; ‘Cultures, Ideas, & Values’: https://exhibits.stanford.edu/stanford-stories/ feature/1980s (24 September 2020). ‘The fundamental question’: text of a speech by President Trump placed on the White House website on 6 July 2017 and now archived: https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/articles/ top-three-moments-from-president-trumps-speech-in-poland/ (6 November 2022). 2  Political animals

‘merchant of bodies’: Hervé Duchêne, ‘Sur la stèle d’Aulus Caprilius Timotheus, sômatemporos’, Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, 110 (1986), pp. 513–30. The Greek inscription is on p. 518. The gravestone is now on display in the archaeological museum at Amphipolis. ‘of Thracian race’: David Lewis, ‘Notes on slave names, ethnicity, and identity in Classical and Hellenistic Greece’, U Schyłku Starożytności: Studia Źródłoznawcze, 17 (2018), p. 177 n. 21 for some of the inscriptional evidence from Athens. 80,000–100,000 enslaved persons and 30,000 male citizens: figures from the entries for ‘slavery, Greek’ (Paul Cartledge) and ‘population, Greek’ (Robert Sallares) in Simon Hornblower, Antony Spawforth and Esther Eidinow (eds), The Oxford Classical Dictionary, fourth edition, Oxford, 2012, pp. 1374 and 1186. ‘To Aristotle, slaves were’: Paul Cartledge, Ancient Greek Political Thought in Practice, Cambridge, 2009, p. 21. ‘. . . there is extensive anthropological evidence’: Matthew Todd Bradley, ‘The Other’: Precursory African conceptions of democracy’, International Studies Review, 7 (2005), pp. 407–31. ‘Though the ancient governments’: Thomas Paine, The Working Man’s Political Companion: Containing the Rights of Man, London, 1840, p. 94. ‘Greek Influence on US Democracy’: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/greekinfluence-us-democracy/ (28 September 2020). ‘never had there been collected’: Polybius 38, 11, 4. ‘tyrannical’: R.W.K. Hinton, ‘Was Charles I a tyrant?’, Review of Politics, 18:1 (1956), p. 69. ‘[t]he history of Greece’: John Gillies, History of Ancient Greece, its Colonies, and Conquests, from the Earliest Accounts until the Division of the Macedonian Empire in the East, Part 1, 2 vols., Basel, 1786/1790, vol. l, p. iii. ‘grounded him in the rudiments’: Harriet Grote, The Personal Life of George Grote, London, 1873, p. 6. ‘. . . the habitual defects’: George Grote, History of Greece, vol. 6, London, 1848, p. 182. ‘freedom and self-imposed restraint’: Grote, History of Greece, vol. 4, London, 1847, p. 325, quoted in James Kierstead’s excellent chapter 6 in Kyriakos Demetriou (ed.), Brill’s Companion to Grote and the Classical Tradition, Leiden and Boston, MA, 2014, p. 188.

299

notes to pp. 46–58

‘We have more at stake than men’: https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/collectionsonline/posters/item/1983-4-8159 (28 September 2020). ‘We men and women’: Charles W. Hedrick, Jr., ‘The American Ephebe: The Ephebic Oath, US education, and nationalism’, The Classical World, 4 (2004), p. 395. ‘There’s quite a high execution rate’: Professor Paul Cartledge, Could an Ancient Athenian Fix Britain?, Episode 4, ‘Trouble-shooting’, presenter Jon Harvey, BBC Radio 4, 2 January 2020: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000b6sy (29 September 2020). ‘the average age of the Radio 4 listener’: ‘The BBC Radio 4 audience’, https://downloads. bbc.co.uk/radio/commissioning/R4_44_Minute_Drama_Audience_Pack.pdf (27 July 2022). ‘As the pioneers of “rule by the people” ’: Nancy Pelosi, Congressional Record for 29 March 1993: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-CRECB-1993-pt5/pdf/GPO-CRECB1993-pt5-5.pdf (I am most grateful to former US diplomat Brady Kiesling for this reference and for discussion of the domestic political context). ‘gets printed out on heavy paper’: Brady Kiesling (personal email of 3 November 2020). ‘Our great American experiment’: https://gr.usembassy.gov/presidential-proclamation-ongreek-independence-day/ (30 October 2020). ‘brand’: Paul Cartledge, ‘Spartan traditions and receptions’, Hermathena, 181 (2006), p. 41. elegant classical oil painting: The Spartan Mother by Louis Jean François Lagrenée, originally entitled Une Lacédémonienne donnant un bouclier à son fils; now at Stourhead (National Trust): http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/732110 (3 November 2020). ‘Another [Spartan woman]’: Plutarch, Sayings of Spartan Women 6, 16 (Moralia 210f (34)). ‘. . . the Dorians preserved most rigidly’: Karl Otfried Müller, The History and Antiquities of the Dorian Race, trans. George Lewis, vol. 2, second edition revised, London, 1839, pp. 401–2. ‘Science has now made visible’: Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 1869, reissued Oxford, 2009, pp. 104–5. ‘Our German forefathers’: author’s translation, ‘Das Wort “nordisch”’, Der Spiegel, 2 January 1952, pp. 32–3: https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-21048459.html (5 November 2020). ‘Alexander’s pipe’: Helen Roche, ‘Spartanische Pimpfe: The importance of Sparta in the educational ideology of the Adolf Hitler Schools’, in Stephen Hodkinson and Ian Macgregor Morris (eds), Sparta in Modern Thought, Swansea, 2012, pp. 333, 336 n. 3 (translation of Pimpf). ‘the particular glory’: Seneca, Suasoriae 2.5. ‘ “dark” and troubled aspect’: Paul Cartledge, ‘Spartan traditions and receptions’, Hermathena, 181 (2006), p. 42. ‘Come and take’: Plutarch, Apophthegmata Laconica 51, 2–15. ‘has been viewed over five million times’; ‘negative image’: Steven Hodkinson, ‘Sparta and war: Myths and realities’, The Historian, Winter/Spring (2020): https://www. history.org.uk/publications/resource/9797/sparta-and-war-myths-and-realities (19 May 2020). ‘There is no disputing Alexander’s presence’: Christopher A. Hagerman, ‘In the footsteps of the “Macedonian Conqueror”: Alexander the Great and British India’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 16 (2009), p. 391. ‘the first event of general importance’: for this and other quotes from the writings of William Vincent, I follow Pierre Briant’s section on ‘De Néarque à l’East India Company’ in his magisterial Alexandre des Lumières, Paris, 2012, pp. 387–8. ‘From the scattered hints’: James Mill, cited by Christopher A. Hagerman, ‘In the footsteps of the “Macedonian Conqueror”: Alexander the Great and British India’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 16 (2009), pp. 360–1. ‘calling Alexander a murderer’: ‘Athens’ Alexander the Great statue vandalized with graffiti’, Greek Reporter, 1 May 2019: https://greece.greekreporter.com/2019/05/01/athensalexander-the-great-statue-vandalized-with-graffiti/ (8 November 2020).

300

notes to pp. 58–73

‘ancient Hellenic’: ‘Plaque on Alexander the Great statue in Skopje smashed by unknown perpetrators’, Greek City Times, 20 August 2019: https://greekcitytimes.com/2019/08/ 20/plaque-alexander-great-statue-skopje-smashed-unknown-perpetrators/ (8 November 2020). 3  People (un)like us

‘The appearance of the inhabitants’; ‘All the Indians’: Arrian, Indica 6, 9; 11, 1. ‘I’m not a gimmick’: Naomi Campbell, interviewed by Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, 18 June 2020. ‘By the time that this vase was made’: ‘Pitcher (Oinochoe) in the form of a black African male head’, J. Paul Getty Museum 83.AE.229 (about 510 bc): http://www.getty. edu/art/collection/objects/10444/attributed-to-class-b-bis-class-of-louvre-h-62pitcher-oinochoe-in-the-form-of-a-black-african-male-head-greek-attic-about-510-bc/ (9 November 2020). ‘silver service slavery’: Victoria and Albert Museum website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/ content/articles/silver-service-slavery-the-black-presence-in-the-white-home (9 November 2020). ‘Philodespotos’: A. Spawforth, ‘The slave Philodespotos’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 27 (1977), p. 294. ‘Dalgliesh turned to Kate’: P.D. James, A Taste for Death, London, 2005, p. 161. ‘Like donkeys’: Tyrtaeus, fragments 6–7 West. See T. Spawforth, The Story of Greece and Rome, New Haven, CT, and London, 2018, pp. 128–9. ‘as clear and emphatic as language can furnish’: William John Grayson, quoted by Margaret Malamud, African Americans and the Classics: Antiquity, abolition and activism, London, 2019, p. 129. ‘Southern academics, politicians’: S. Sara Monoson, in Edith Hall, Richard Alston and Justine McConnell (eds), Ancient Slavery and Abolition: From Hobbes to Hollywood, Oxford, 2011, p. 247. ‘does not at all possess’: Aristotle, Politics 1260a12. ‘others . . . maintain’: Aristotle, Politics 1253b23–26. In trying to make sense of Aristotle’s ideas, I am indebted to M. Heath, ‘Aristotle on natural slavery’, Phronesis 53 (2008), pp. 243–70. ‘what was contrary to nature’: M.I. Finley, Aspects of Antiquity, London, 1968, p. 167. ‘Aristotle, father of scientific racism’ and other quotes: article by Matthew A. Sears, Washington Post, 11 April 2018: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-byhistory/wp/2018/04/06/aristotle-father-of-scientific-racism/ (11 November 2020). ‘The nations inhabiting the cold places’: Aristotle, Politics 1327b. ‘[T]here is another sort of monarchy’: Aristotle, Politics 1285a19–21. ‘The term proto-racism’: Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, Princeton, NJ, 2004, p. 38. ‘arresting gesture’; ‘I am Eurymedon’: Dover, Greek Homosexuality, p. 105. ‘We can bugger the Persians’: Jeremy McInerney, Review of M. Eliav-Feldon et al., The Origins of Racism in the West, The Classical Review, 61 (2011), p. 178, citing the blog of Judith Weingarten. ‘[v]ictory over the Persians’: Jeremy McInerney, Greece in the Ancient World, London, 2018, p. 26. ‘Anthropological data indicate’: Dover, Greek Homosexuality, p. 105. ‘I dreamed that two women’: Aeschylus, Persae, lines 182–97. ‘You understand well enough’: Herodotus 7, 135, 3. ‘The failure of the Persian invasions’: Emma Bridges, Edith Hall and P.J. Rhodes (eds), Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars, Oxford, 2007, p. 10. ‘12 to 15 million [players] in North America alone’: Nicole Brodeur, ‘Behind the scenes of the making of Dungeons & Dragons’, Seattle Times, 4 May 2018: https://www.

301

notes to pp. 73–86

seattletimes.com/life/lifestyle/behind-the-scenes-of-the-making-of-dungeons-dragons/ (12 December 2020). ‘For some, their rage springs’: http://dnd5e.wikidot.com/barbarian (12 November 2020). ‘somewhat civilized’; ‘less civilized peoples, perhaps barbarian’: Ada Dialla and Alexis Heraclides, Humanitarian Intervention in the Long Nineteenth Century: Setting the precedent, Manchester, 2015, p. 37. ‘French intellectual’; ‘possessed of that crumpled, open-collar, Gallic appeal’: Andrew Anthony, ‘Pascal Bruckner: “Happiness is a moment of grace” ’, Guardian, 22 January 2011: https://amp.theguardian.com/books/2011/jan/23/pascal-bruckner-interview-happiness (12 November 2020). ‘Today, being civilized’: Pascal Bruckner, ‘Barbarians and the civilized’, City Journal, Winter (2017): https://www.city-journal.org/html/barbarians-and-civilized-14957.html (12 November 2020). ‘European or Euro-American’: Paul Cartledge, After Thermopylae, Oxford, 2013, p. 163. ‘. . . of the ancient sculptors’: Diodorus Siculus 1, 98, 5–6. ‘Melampus’: Herodotus 2, 49, 2; 2, 171, 3; 2, 49, 3. ‘And Pythagoras’: Diodorus Siculus 1, 98, 1–3. ‘Discussant A’: this dialogue and later quotes are from participants in the 1996 debate ‘Dr John Henrik Clarke vs. Mary Lefkowitz: The Great Debate’: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=fmei-hUQUWY (16 November 2020). ‘the Bernal controversy seems’: Guy Rogers, private email, 15 November 2020. ‘Let’s start over with a simple question’: Denise Eileen McCoskey, ‘Black Athena, White Power: Are we paying the price for classics’ response to Bernal?’, 15 November 2018: https://eidolon.pub/black-athena-white-power-6bd1899a46f2 (16 November 2020). ‘an invitation to scepticism’: Mary Hamer, in Susan Walker and Peter Higgs (eds), Cleopatra of Egypt, London, 2001, p. 310. 4  The invention of sex

‘cavorting wildly’: Dyfri Williams, Greek Vases, London, 1985, p. 44. ‘would offend our modesty’; ‘Greek art was acquainted’: Edmond Pottier, quoted in Caroline Vout, Sex on Show, London, 2013, p. 232; I am indebted to Vout’s discussion of the history of the display of this pot (BM Cat. Vases E 768). ‘love and pleasure became fused’: Mary Hamer, in Susan Walker and Peter Higgs (eds), Cleopatra of Egypt, London, 2001, p. 304. ‘breathing blooming girl’; ‘the reclining . . . Cleopatra’: George Eliot, Middlemarch, vol. 1, London, 1961, pp. 165–6. ‘she boarded a small boat’: Plutarch, Caesar 49. ‘The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’: John Saxon, ‘Mate, hate is great! A philosophical defense of misogyny’, 20 September 2016: https://mattforney.com/philosophicaldefense-misogyny/ (20 November 2020). ‘without authority’: Aristotle, Politics 1260a7–14. ‘. . . the male and the female’: Aristotle, On the generation of animals 765b9–15. ‘to fully concoct and to emit semen outside his body’: Marguerite Deslauriers, ‘Sexual difference in Aristotle’s Politics and his biology’, Classical World, 102 (2009), p. 216. ‘natural femaleness’; ‘like a deformity’: Aristotle, On the generation of animals 775a15–16. ‘It followed from the fact’: Christia Mercer, ‘The philosophical roots of western misogyny’, Philosophical Topics, 46 (2018), p. 189, citing [Hippocrates], Diseases of Women 1, 1, 11. ‘One could, for example’: Christia Mercer, ‘The philosophical roots of western misogyny’, Philosophical Topics, 46 (2018), p. 205. ‘the fact that the river’: Pausanias 5, 7, 3. ‘the only happy couple she ever saw’: cited by Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique, corrected edition, New Haven, CT, 1982, p. 235.

302

notes to pp. 86–96

‘what it is that brings honour’; ‘kindly Hermaphroditus the all-excellent’: Hugh LloydJones, ‘The pride of Halicarnassus’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 124 (1999), p. 2 (his translation of lines 3 and 19–20 of the inscription). ‘King Alexander [offered this altar]’: Francisco Bosch-Puche, ‘L’autel’ d’Alexandre le Grand à Bahariya retrouvé’, Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 108 (2008), p. 37. ‘gynnis’: Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 435a, claiming to cite a letter of Theophrastus (fourth century bc), in turn cited by one Hieronymus of Rhodes (third century bc). I am indebted to the discussion of Daniel Ogden, Alexander the Great: Myth, genesis and sexuality, Exeter, 2011, ch. 9. ‘Whatever this strange’: Andrew Stewart, Alexander’s Image and Hellenistic Politics, Berkeley, CA, 1993, p. 74. ‘Phaethousa the wife of Pytheas’: [Hippocrates], Epidemics 6, 8, 32. I follow the modified translation by Helen King, ‘Sex and gender: The Hippocratic case of Phaethousa and her beard’, Journal on Gender Studies in Antiquity, 3 (2013), p. 127. ‘positive models of physical metamorphosis’ and further quotes: Min-Jye Chen, MD et al., ‘Fluidity models in ancient Greece and current practices of sex assignment’, Seminars in Perinatology, 41 (2017), pp. 206–13. ‘to restore love to its proper place’: ‘Greek homobesottedness’: James Davidson, ad familiares XXXIV (April 2008), pp. 6–7, discussing his book The Greeks and Greek Love: A radical reappraisal of homosexuality in ancient Greece, London, 2007. ‘pure customs’; ‘since due to shamelessness many offensive things are attempted now’; ‘men who live in kinaideia’: Hasan Malay, Marijana Ricci and Davide Amendola, ‘The city of Tralleis combats immorality: Measures taken against οἱ ἐν κιναιδείᾳ βιοῦντες in a new civic decree’, Epigraphica Anatolica, 51 (2018), p. 314 (their translation of the new inscription). ‘You see him really flashing’: Pseudo-Aristotle, Physiognomics 808a, following the translation in James Davidson, The Greeks and Greek Love, London, 2007, p. 56. ‘Although the sources certainly’: Hasan Malay, Marijana Ricci and Davide Amendola, ‘The city of Tralleis combats immorality’, Epigraphica Anatolica, 51 (2018), p. 95. ‘Kothis are generally’: Venkatesan Chakrapani, Peter A. Newman and Murali Shunmugam, ‘Secondary HIV prevention among Kothi-identified MSM in Chennai, India’, Culture, Health & Sexuality, 10 (2008), p. 314. ‘gone were the Morris wallpapers’: Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde, London, 1988, p. 241. ‘wearing an exquisite Grecian costume’: Donald Mead, ‘Heading for disaster: Oscar’s finances’, The Wildean, 45 (2014), p. 53. ‘byword for gay tastes’: Zorian Clayton, in Rosalind McKever, Claire Wilcox and Marta Franceschini (eds), Fashioning Masculinities: The art of menswear, London, 2022, p. 80. ‘intellectual loves’: Iain Ross, ‘ “Virtue as it was understood by the ancients”: Notes towards a comparative grammar of Wilde and Nietzsche’, The Wildean, 49 (2016), p. 72. ‘Dorian’: Paul Cartledge, ‘The importance of being Dorian: An onomastic gloss on the Hellenism of Oscar Wilde’, Hermathena, 148 (1990), pp. 7–15. ‘I know Hyacinthus’; ‘suddenly found a voice’: Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde, London, 1988, pp. 367 n. and 435. ‘no survey of Sexual Inversion’: Daniel Orrells, ‘Greek love, orientalism and race: Intersections in classical reception’, The Cambridge Classical Journal, 58 (2012), p. 226, quoting a letter to Havelock Ellis from John Addington Symonds. ‘the sight of something’; ‘the most direct road’: Dover, Greek Homosexuality, pp. 164, 165. ‘the higher classes’: my adjustment of John Mahaffy, as quoted by Paul Cartledge, ‘The importance of being Dorian: An onomastic gloss on the Hellenism of Oscar Wilde’, Hermathena, 147 (1989), p. 12. ‘irrational hostility’; ‘embodies a particular religious view’: Randall Baldwin Clark, ‘Platonic love in a Colorado courtroom: Martha Nussbaum, John Finnis, and Plato’s Laws in Evans v. Romer’, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 12 (2000), p. 3.

303

notes to pp. 96–104

‘. . . one certainly should not fail’: Plato, Laws 636c. ‘. . . and the tolmēma of the first’: my translation. ‘morally neutral’: Daniel Mendelsohn, ‘The stand: Expert witnesses and ancient mysteries in a Colorado courtroom’, Lingua Franca, September/October (1996): http:// linguafranca.mirror.theinfo.org/9609/stand.html (24 November 2020). ‘an adventure, enterprise, deed of daring’: Randall Baldwin Clark, ‘Platonic love in a Colorado courtroom’, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 12 (2000), pp. 9–10. ‘made a difference’: Daniel Mendelsohn, ‘The stand’, Lingua Franca, September/October (1996). ‘The village has’: ‘Why lesbians flock to Lesbos’, The Economist, 15 December 2018: https:// www.economist.com/europe/2018/12/15/why-lesbians-flock-to-lesbos (25 November 2020). ‘George, a waiter in the village’: Julie Bindel, ‘Sun, sea and Sappho’, Guardian, 8 May 2008: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/may/08/gayrights.greece (25 November 2020). ‘. . . whenever I look at you briefly’: Sappho, Fragment 31, in the translation of Dover, Greek Homosexuality, p. 177. ‘sometime between 1923 and the present’: David M. Halperin, How to Do the History of Homosexuality, Chicago, IL, 2002, pp. 49, 50. ‘avoided’: Dover, Greek Homosexuality, p. 182. ‘shameless and uninhibited sexuality’: Dover, Greek Homosexuality, p. 183. ‘If we want a real neologism’: Paula Blank, ‘The proverbial ‘lesbian’: Queering etymology in contemporary critical practice’, Modern Philology, 109 (2011), p. 133. 5  Word of mouth

‘English speakers already have’: Andy Bodle, ‘How new words are born’, Guardian, 4 February 2016: https://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2016/feb/04/ english-neologisms-new-words (27 November 2020). ‘The journalese dialect’: Norman W. Dewitt, ‘On making new words’, The Classical Weekly, 15:12 (1922), p. 91. ‘knocked up for £2.6 million’; ‘pseudagora’: Ferdinand Mount, ‘Ruthless and truthless’, London Review of Books, 6 May 2021, pp. 3 and 2. ‘a global epidemic’: John Zaracostas, ‘How to fight an infodemic’, The Lancet, 395:10225 (2020): https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30461-X/ fulltext (17 November 2022). ‘subject him to ridicule’: Ralph Keyes, ‘Is there a word for that?’, American Scholar, 82:4 (2013), p. 66. ‘as one of the recognized routes’: Norman W. Dewitt, ‘On making new words’, The Classical Weekly, 15:12 (1922), p. 89. ‘[the] language not spoken by people’: ‘Minister’s bid to scrap Ancient Greek in schools fuels debate’, I Kathimerini, 7 June 2016: https://www.ekathimerini.com/209366/ article/ekathimerini/news/ministers-bid-to-scrap-ancient-greek-in-schools-fuelsdebate (27 November 2020). ‘almost all’; ‘working extra hours’: Athina Mitropoulos and Arlene Holmes-Henderson, ‘A celebration of Greek language and culture education in the UK’, Journal of Classical Teaching, 17:34 (2016), pp. 55–7. ‘In Britain, the classics carry’: ‘Johnson’, ‘The real reason to study the classics’, The Economist, 30 April 2020. ‘. . . how different is his history’: E.M. Forster, Pharos and Pharillon, London, 1923, pp. 77–8. ‘As the only woman’: Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher, vol. 3, London, 2019, p. 412. ‘by being so long in the lowest’: W.S. Churchill, My Early Life: A roving commission, London and New York, 1930, p. 31.

304

notes to pp. 104–114

‘these rigorous, highly grammatical languages’: Josephine Quinn, ‘The tragedy of classical languages being for the privileged few’, Guardian, 16 March 2015: https://www. theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/16/tragedy-classical-languages-privilegedfew-state-schools (29 November 2022). ‘Graecomaniacs’: Norman W. Dewitt, ‘On making new words’, The Classical Weekly, 15:12 (1922), p. 90. ‘The models of ancient literature’; ‘the classics departments’: Daniel Walker Howe, ‘Classical education in America’, The Wilson Quarterly, 35 (2011), pp. 32, 31. ‘from spicing up’: Tai Nguyen, ‘Speak out: How our voices reveal personality’, The Medium, 6 February 2012: https://archive.themedium.ca/features/speak-out-how-our-voicesreveal-personality/ (28 November 2022). ‘. . . one thing . . . is the correct Baud rate’: Christopher Mann, private email, 1 December 2020. ‘the development of renewable energies’; ‘the appliance of science’: David Robson, ‘The science of influencing people: Six ways to win an argument’, Guardian, 30 June 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jun/30/the-science-of-influencing-peoplesix-ways-to-win-an-argument (17 November 2022). ‘he stood on an elevated platform’: Thucydides 2, 34, 8. ‘the obsequies of the citizens’; Edward Everett’s ‘The whole earth’; ‘Gettysburg Address (19 November 1863)’, 2 and 58 (citing Thucydides 2, 43, 3): text of the speech at Voices of Democracy: The US Oratory Project: https://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/everettgettysburg-address-speech-text/ (17 November 2022). ‘practical experience in law’: Daniel Walker Howe, ‘Classical education in America’, The Wilson Quarterly, 35 (2011), p. 34. ‘lives were not given’: Simon Stow, ‘Pericles at Gettysburg and Ground Zero: Tragedy, patriotism, and public mourning’, American Political Science Review, 101 (2007), p. 205, quoting Edward T. Linenthal, The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American memory, New York, 2001, p. 234. ‘. . . because there has been implanted in us’: Isocrates, 15, 254. ‘. . . he built an underground study’: Plutarch, Demosthenes 7, 3. ‘to be able to discover’; ‘. . . [so-and-so] hissed violently’: Aristotle, Rhetoric 1, 2, 1; 3, 16, 10. ‘The three hundred Spartans’: Seneca, Suasoriae 2.5. ‘the most eloquent man in Greece’: Cicero, Orator ad M(arcum) Brutum 105. ‘The three orations of Demosthenes’: Demosthenes, Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A20143.0001.001?view=toc (3 December 2020). ‘Lord Christ . . . release me’: William P. Haugaard, ‘Elizabeth Tudor’s Book of Devotions: A neglected clue to the queen’s life and character’, The Sixteenth Century Journal, 12 (1981), pp. 90–1. ‘the example of a prince’: Jessica Crown, ‘A “rare and merveleous guest”: Elizabeth I samples life in Cambridge 450 years ago’, 5 September 2014: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/ discussion/a-rare-and-merveleous-guest-elizabeth-i-samples-life-in-cambridge-450years-ago (1 December 2022). ‘read Demosthenes to acquire’: Harry Caplan et al., ‘The classical tradition: Rhetoric and oratory’, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 27 (1997), p. 29. ‘If we mistake not’: [Anon.], ‘Review of the correspondence of William Pitt’, North American Review, 55 (1842), pp. 424–5. ‘Studying rhetoric helps students’: https://www.wabash.edu/academics/rhetoric (17 November 2022). ‘the oldest continuous public speaking’: https://www.wabash.edu/academics/rhetoric/ baldwin (17 November 2022). ‘Ancient Greek philosophers and texts’; ‘It’s important to us’: Professor Jennifer Abbott, private email, 7 December 2020. ‘rich theoretical models’: Professor Sara Drury, private email, 8 December 2020.

305

notes to pp. 114–129

‘Different Kinds’; ‘fools can persuade’: Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, vol. 2, London and Edinburgh, 1783, p. [i] (List of Contents); p. 3 (Lecture 25). I have not seen Linda Ferreira-Buckley and S. Michael Halloran (eds), Hugh Blair: Lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres, Carbondale, IL, 2005. ‘pale, stale male’: Brendan O’Neill, ‘In praise of old white men’, The Spectator, 30 April 2020: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/in-praise-of-old-white-men/ (28 November 2022). ‘long line of largely successful’: Mary Beard, ‘The public voice of women’, London Review of Books, 20 March 2014. 6  In pursuit of wisdom

‘At a depth they sometimes break in’: Diodorus Siculus 37, 3–4. ‘described a calculus-like procedure’: William J. Cannon, ‘Archimedes unbound’, Scientific American, 87 (1999), p. 317. ‘The palimpsest is important’: Paul Keyser, ‘Review’, Classical World, 106 (2013), p. 709. ‘great cylinders’; ‘water was drawn up all day’: Stephanie Dalley and John Peter Oleson, ‘Sennacherib, Archimedes, and the water screw’, Technology and Culture, 44 (2003), p. 7. ‘very unstable’; ‘hard to work with’: Professor Emerita Monica Hughes, Newcastle University, personal comments. ‘primarily to address their own needs’: Maria Mavroudi, ‘Translations from Greek into Latin and Arabic during the middle ages: Searching for the classical tradition’, Speculum, 90 (2015), p. 56. ‘slim brown stick’: Peter Walker, ‘Galileo’s telescope reaches its 400th anniversary’, Guardian, 25 August 2009: https://amp.theguardian.com/science/blog/2009/aug/25/galileos-telescope400-years-anniversary (9 December 2020). ‘the earth is at rest’: Aristotle, De Caelo 2, 6. ‘Salt water’: Aristotle, Meteorologica 2, 3. ‘We must first state the subject’: Aristotle, Prior Analytics 1, 1. ‘exhaustive analyses’; ‘concept of demonstration and proof ’: William A. Wallace, in Riccardo Pozzo (ed.), The Impact of Aristotelianism on Modern Philosophy, Washington, DC, 2004, pp. 69 and 67. ‘the feudal systems’: Shi Juan and Li Bosi, in Li Xixia and Lidija R. Basta Fleiner (eds), The Protection of Women’s Social Rights from the Perspectives of Chinese and International Law, Reading, 2016, p. 696. ‘The sacred grove’: Pausanias 2, 27, 1 (transl. Peter Levi). round building at Epidaurus: Peter Schultz et al., The Thymele at Epidauros: Healing, space, and musical performances in late classical, Greece, Fargo, ND, 2017. ‘Ambrosia of Athens’: Emma J. Edelstein and Ludwig Edelstein, Asclepius: Collection and interpretation of the testimonies, Baltimore, MD, 1998, p. 230, modified translation. Lourdes: quotations from Bernard François, Esther M. Sternberg and Elizabeth Fee, ‘The Lourdes medical cures revisited’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 69:1 (2014), pp. 135–62. ‘Criton, in Thasos’: [Hippocrates], Epidemics 1, 3, 9. For a revisionist earlier date for Hippocrates, see Robin Lane Fox, The Invention of Medicine: From Homer to Hippocrates, London, 2020. ‘the nature of the whole’: Plato, Protagoras 311b. ‘He should consider’: [Hippocrates], Airs, Waters, Places 1, 70–72 (transl. W.H.S. Jones). ‘I do not believe’: [Hippocrates], On the Sacred Disease I, in James Longrigg, Greek Medicine from the Heroic to the Hellenistic Age: A source book, London, 1998, p. 21 no. II.13. For the intellectual atmosphere shaping the earliest texts in the Hippocratic corpus, see Rosalind Thomas, Herodotus in Context: Ethnography, science and the art of persuasion, Cambridge, 2000, esp. pp. 153–61. ‘The body of man’: [Hippocrates], The Nature of Man 4, 1.

306

notes to pp. 129–141

‘The doctor’s business’: [Hippocrates], Breaths 1, 30. ‘[The king] was purged’; ‘applying the principles’: Stanis Perez (ed.), Journal de santé de Louis XIV, Grenoble, 2004, pp. 369; 72 n. ‘Those who are composed of pure blood’: Migne, Patrologiae Cursus, series Graeca 95, col. 244A–B, text and translation in Jacques Jouanna, Greek Medicine from Hippocrates to Galen: Selected papers, Leiden, 2012, pp. 343–4. ‘draw out’ the cold’; ‘Feelings about’; ‘belief that’; ‘Illness results’: George M. Foster, ‘Humoral traces in United States folk medicine’, Medical Anthropology Newsletter, 10:2 (1979), pp. 17–20. ‘Everyone I have asked’: George M. Foster, ‘The validating role of humoral theory in traditional Spanish-American therapeutics’, American Ethnologist, 15:1 (1988), p. 128. ‘After four years of hard work’: website of the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA: https://medschool.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=1158&action=detail&ref=1056 (3 March 2020). ‘a bookish allusion’: Carlos R. Galvão-Sobrino, ‘Hippocratic ideals, medical ethics and the practice of medicine in the early middle ages: The legacy of the Hippocratic Oath’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 51 (1996), p. 445. ‘I will not give a woman a pessary’ and other extracts from the Hippocratic Oath: [Hippocrates], Oath, in James Longrigg, Greek Medicine from the Heroic to the Hellenistic Age: A source book, London, 1998, pp. 101–2, VIII.1. ‘grew more common’: Dale C. Smith, ‘The Hippocratic Oath and modern medicine’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 51 (1996), pp. 490. ‘Medical students usually take an oath’; ‘Some clinicians see the oath’: Kathy Oxtoby, ‘Is the Hippocratic Oath still relevant to practising doctors today?’, British Medical Journal, 14 December 2016. ‘limited’; ‘frequently incorporated’; ‘deviates’; ‘calls for mutual respect’: Declaration of Geneva, World Medical Association website: https://www.wma.net/what-we-do/ medical-ethics/declaration-of-geneva/ (17 November 2022). ‘Life Lessons’: The Times Saturday Review, 12 December 2020, rear cover. ‘receives a phone call’: ‘Larnaca’s statues tell their story’, Cyprus Mail, 2 September 2020: https://cyprus-mail.com/2020/09/02/larnacas-statues-tell-their-story-video/ (17 November 2022). Marcus’s beard: Volker Grieb, Marc Aurel: Wege zu seiner Herrschaft, Gutenberg, 2017, pp. 381–400. ‘He took a passionate interest’: Lives of the Later Caesars, transl. Anthony Birley, Harmondsworth, 1976, pp. 110–11. ‘Do not act’: Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Books 1–6, transl. Christopher Gill, Oxford, 2013, 4, 41; 5, 31, 1. ‘sharp, striking, and unusual’; ‘following some heroic’: John M. Cooper, Pursuits of Wisdom, Princeton, NJ, 2012, pp. 222–3. ‘personal embrace of Stoicism’: Michael Evans, ‘Captains of the soul: Stoic philosophy and the western profession of arms in the twenty-first century’, Naval War College Review, 64 (2011), p. 36. ‘. . . there was something else to Spock’: Kevin D. Williamson, ‘Live long and prosper’, National Review, 1 March 2015: https://www.nationalreview.com/2015/03/live-longand-prosper-kevin-d-williamson/amp/ (17 November 2022). ‘I study Stoic literature’: Matthew Sharpe, ‘Stoicism 5.0: The unlikely 21st century reboot of an ancient philosophy’, 13 July 2017: https://theconversation.com/stoicism-5-0-theunlikely-21st-century-reboot-of-an-ancient-philosophy-80986 (12 May 2020). 7  Facts and alternative facts

‘onto Danae’: Greek Anthology 5, 33 (Parmenio). ‘. . . a well-constructed fictional world’; ‘characters in whose existence’: Sara Iles Johnston, ‘The Greek mythic story world’, Arethusa, 48 (2015), pp. 286, 306.

307

notes to pp. 142–156

‘It began with violent sensations’: Thucydides 2, 49, transl. in D.L. Page, ‘Thucydides’ description of the Great Plague at Athens’, The Classical Quarterly, 3 (1953), p. 110. ‘died like sheep’; ‘or not with a fatal result’; ‘to enjoy themselves’: Thucydides 2, 52–53. On the medical influence, note Simon Swain, ‘Man and medicine in Thucydides’, Arethusa, 27 (1994), pp. 303–27. ‘the men of Corcyra’: Thucydides 3, 81. ‘In peace and prosperity’: Thucydides 3, 82 (transl. Benjamin Jowett). ‘. . . if he who desires’; ‘I have described nothing’; ‘eye-witnesses’: Thucydides 1, 22. ‘a complicated, crabbed’: M.I. Finley, Aspects of Antiquity, London, 1968, p. 44. ‘less pleasant’: Thucydides 1, 22. ‘a protracted struggle’: Thucydides 1, 23. ‘publicly alleged reasons’: S. Hornblower, The Greek World 479–323 bc, third edition, London, 2002, p. 107 (translation of the Thucydidean aitia). ‘a powerful nation’; ‘Thucydides also once said’: Colin Powell quotes, see Neville Morley, ‘Thucydides quote unquote’, Arion, 20 (2013), pp. 9–10. ‘Strategic Leadership’; ‘Thucydides’ Insights’: https://dnnlgwick.blob.core.windows.net/ portals/0/NWCDepartments/Strategy%20and%20Policy%20Department/SLC%20 2020%20Lecture%20Schedule.pdf?sr=b&si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&sig=pmZzH5Ks J8wa%2 FafGXry%2BZpB9h58CSLaunmDeabZlxXk%3D (12 January 2020). I have not seen the 2015 Bristol University PhD thesis by Andreas Stradis on this topic. ‘Thucydides trap’: Nathan Gardels, ‘Chinese President Xi Jinping meets the 21st Century Council in Beijing’, 3 November 2015: https://www.berggruen.org/activity/chinesepresident-xi-jinping-meets-the-21st-century-council-in-beijing/ (12 January 2021). ‘push one another’: Christine Lee and Neville Morley (eds), A Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides, Chichester, 2015; see their introduction ‘Reading Thucydides’. ‘truth decay’: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/election-us-2020-54910344 (17 November 2022). ‘I therefore’: Thucydides 1, 22. ‘attempts at persuasion’: Tim Rood, Thucydides: Narrative and explanation, Oxford, 1998, p. 40. ‘known to the modern world’: Tony Woodman, From Poetry to History: Selected papers, Oxford, 2012, p. 181. Woodman’s research on Herodotus and the Res Gestae is followed here. ‘great and marvellous deeds’: Herodotus 1, 1. ‘No one is fool enough’: Herodotus 1, 87, 4. ‘I haven’t read a book in my life’: Victoria Beckham, interviewed in the Spanish magazine Chic, as quoted by Sam Jones, ‘I’ve never read a book, says Posh’, Guardian, 16 August 2005: https://amp.theguardian.com/uk/2005/aug/16/books.booksnews (2 March 2021). ‘Xerxes [his name] was very angry’: Herodotus 7, 35, 1 and 3. ‘You understand well enough’: Herodotus 7, 135, 3. ‘the menace of tyranny’: https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finesthour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches/ (2 March 2021). ‘. . . the rule of the many’: Herodotus 3, 80, 6, after the translation in Paul Cartledge, Ancient Greek Political Thought in Practice, Cambridge, 2009, p. 139. ‘pigs are considered unclean’: Herodotus 2, 47, 1. ‘pauses to give you information’: Daniel Mendelsohn, ‘Arms and the man’, The New Yorker, 21 April 2008: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/04/28/arms-and-the-man3/amp (25 February 2021). ‘some of our own countrymen’: Herodotus 3, 80, 1. ‘Shame had induced her’: Herodotus 3, 133, 1–2. ‘who has taken over’: Alan Griffiths, ‘Democedes of Croton: A Greek doctor at Darius’ court’, in H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg and A. Kuhrt (eds), Achaemenid History, II: The Greek Sources, Leiden, 1987, pp. 37–51.

308

notes to pp. 157–173

‘The omnipotent’: Malcolm Davies, ‘From rags to riches: Democedes of Croton and the credibility of Herodotus’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 53 (2010), p. 39. I have followed Davies’s analysis of the story of the Greek doctor. ‘certainly not history’: Tom Harrison, ‘Herodotus and “The English Patient” ’, Classics Ireland, 5 (1998), p. 63. 8  Poetry matters

‘The gods have link’d our miserable doom’; ‘Oh had I perish’d’; ‘Elusive of the bridal day’; ‘The work she ply’d’: Homer, Iliad, transl. Alexander Pope, London, 1801, Book 6, lines 446–9; Book 24, lines 966–7; Odyssey, transl. Alexander Pope, London, 1801, Book 2, lines 99–100 and 117–18. ‘new Penelope’: Inscriptiones Graecae, vol. 5, 1, no. 540 emended by Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 11, no. 797. ‘Chareision’ is a feminine name: see August Boeckh, Corpus Epigraphicum Graecum vol. 1, no. 1409. ‘rivalry from boyhood’; ‘Alexander, so the story goes’: Arrian, Anabasis 7, 14, 4; 1, 12, 2–4 with omissions. ‘In essence’: Vasileios Liotsakis, Alexander the Great in Arrian’s Anabasis, Berlin, 2019, p. 162. ‘moral authority’; ‘devotion’; ‘human dignity at its fullest’: Edward Luttwak, ‘Homer Inc’, London Review of Books, 23 February 2012: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v34/n04/ edward-luttwak/homer-inc (21 May 2021). ‘unscramble the erratic’: Peter Frankopan, The First Crusade, London, 2011, p. 205. ‘your Homer deaf to me’: Petrarch, Epistulae familiares 18, 2, translated from the Latin by Nicholas Bellinson in Homer and the Moderns, on-line edition (2015): https:// homeramongthemoderns.pressbooks.com/chapter/chapter-one/ (13 May 2021). ‘to form the best Greek’: William Beloe, cited by Nicholas Bellinson in Homer and the Moderns, online edition (2015). ‘essentially non-mythical’: W. Zhang, ‘Zhou Zuoren and the uses of ancient Greek mythology in modern China’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 22:1 (2015), p. 102. ‘I have yet to meet a Japanese’: Edward Luttwak, ‘Homer Inc’, London Review of Books, 23 February 2012: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v34/n04/edward-luttwak/homerinc (21 May 2021). ‘since rhyming was unknown’; ‘declaimable’: ‘Wrath, goddess’: Homer, The Iliad, transl. Peter Green, Berkeley, CA, 2015, pp. 20, 21, 25. ‘The poetic language’: Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, transl. J. Raffan, Oxford, 1985, p. 125. ‘After 2,700 years’: Kostas Myrsiades, ‘Introduction: Homer; Analysis and influence’, College Literature, 35:4 (2008), p. xi. ‘tells the complete story’: ‘The official homepage of Eric Shanower’: http://ericshanower. com/ (17 May 2021). ‘found that 62%’: Jim Waterson, ‘62% of UK adults played video games during the pandemic, says Ofcom’, Guardian, 27 April 2021: https://amp.theguardian.com/games/2021/apr/ 28/62-of-uk-adults-played-computer-games-during-the-pandemic-says-ofcom (1 June 2021). ‘Embark on an epic journey’: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Official Website: https://www.ubisoft. com/en-gb/game/assassins-creed/odyssey?isSso=true&refreshStatus=noLoginData (1 June 2021). ‘long adventurous journey’: Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, entry for ‘odyssey’. ‘As you set out for Ithaka’: C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems, transl. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, Princeton, NJ, 1992. ‘a Greek gentleman in a straw hat’: E.M. Forster, Pharos and Pharillon, London, 1923, p. 75.

309

notes to pp. 173–183

‘the greatest Greek poet’: Dan Chiasson, ‘Man with a past’, The New Yorker, 16 March 2009: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/03/23/man-with-a-past/amp (10 June 2021). ‘an end in itself ’: George Seferis, ‘Cavafy’s Ithaka’, Conjunctions 31 (1998), p. 88. ‘the Odyssey’s prime example of a confident woman’; ‘wiles, wisdom and presence of mind’; ‘a worthy . . . match for any husband’: Ahuvia Kahane, Homer: A guide for the perplexed, London, 2012, p. 163. ‘The poem contains foundational moments of misogyny’: Charlotte Higgins, ‘The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson review – a new cultural landmark’, Guardian, 8 December 2017: https://amp.theguardian.com/books/2017/dec/08/the-odyssey-translated-emilywilson-review (13 June 2021). ‘Your widow’d hours, apart’: Homer, Odyssey, transl. Alexander Pope, London, 1801, Book 1, lines 455–60. ‘it’s a nice demonstration’: Mary Beard, ‘The public voice of women’, London Review of Books, 20 March 2014: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v36/n06/mary-beard/thepublic-voice-of-women (13 June 2021). ‘shining a clear light’: ‘Introduction’ to Homer, The Odyssey, transl. Emily Wilson, New York and London, 2017, p. lxx. ‘Tell me about a complicated man’; ‘. . . I am shy’: Homer, The Odyssey, transl. Emily Wilson, New York and London, 2017, pp. 5, lines 1–7; 71, lines 221–3. ‘to sound like a bit of a creep’: Colin Burrow, ‘Light through the fog’ (review article), London Review of Books, 26 April 2018: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v40/n08/colin-burrow/ light-through-the-fog (13 June 2021). ‘For a guy who may not have existed’: ‘Homer’, Editor Eric’s Greatest Literature of All Time website: http://www.editoreric.com/greatlit/authors/Homer.html (31 March 2020). 9  The gospel truth

‘What indeed has Athens’: Tertullian, On the prescription of heretics, ch. 7. ‘the idea . . . of a divine intelligence’: A.H. Armstrong and R.A. Markus, Christian Faith and Greek Philosophy, New York, 1964, p. 2. ‘no “legacy” ’: Moses Finley (ed.), The Legacy of Greece: A new appraisal, Oxford, 1981, p. 6 n. 1. ‘including outspread arms’: Tony Spawforth, The Complete Greek Temples, London, 2005, p. 79. ‘Also in the same summer’: Thucydides 4, 133. ‘He used to say’: Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Heliogabalus, p. 292 (transl. A.R. Birley). ‘very fluid situation’: Martin Palmer, discussant on Melvyn Bragg, ‘The Nicene Creed’, In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, 27 December 2007: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/ b008jglt (17 June 2021). ‘sings out’: Professor Janet Soskice, discussant on Melvyn Bragg, ‘The Trinity’, In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, 13 May 2014: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03xgl3m (16 June 2021). ‘God raised him to the heights’: Philippians 2:10, The New English Bible: New Testament, Oxford and Cambridge, 1961. ‘Bishop Porphyrius’: Denis Feissel, Recueil des inscriptions chrétiennes de Macédoine du IIIe au VIe siècle, Bulletin de correspondance hellénique Supplement, 8, Athens and Paris, 1983, p. 192, no. 226. ‘closer to 313 ce’: Valerie Abrahamsen, ‘Bishop Porphyrios and the city of Philippi in the early fourth century’, Vigiliae Christianae 43 (1989), p. 80. ‘reverently integrated’: Ch. Koukouli-Chrysanthaki and Ch. Bakirtzis, Philippi, Athens, 2009, p. 46. ‘it seems all but certain’: Timothy Gregory, ‘The survival of paganism in Christian Greece: A critical essay’, American Journal of Philology, 107 (1986), p. 237.

310

notes to. 184–198

‘teaching took place’; ‘Encountering something new’: Arlene Allan, ‘Herakles, “Christcurious” Greeks and Revelation 5’, in Arlene Allan, Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides and Emma Stafford (eds), Herakles Inside and Outside the Church, Leiden, 2020, pp. 22 n. 6 (citing Origen, Against Celsus) and 38. ‘whose appearance’; ‘went out flashes’; ‘four living creatures’; ‘an eagle in flight’; ‘stretched what seemed’: Revelation 4:3; 4:5; 4:6; 4:7; 4:6; transl. The New English Bible: New Testament, Oxford and Cambridge, 1961. ‘glowing effect’: Judith Barringer, Olympia: A cultural history, Princeton, NJ, 2022, p. 132. ‘a flash of lightning struck’: Pausanias 5, 11, 9. ‘Christ-curious’; ‘one on the throne’: Allan, ‘Herakles, ‘Christ-curious’ Greeks and Revelation 5’. ‘a pale imitation’: Arlene Allan, ‘The god above all gods: The heavenly throne-room of Revelation 4 and Phidias’ Zeus’, in Janette McWilliam, Sonia Puttock, Tom Stevenson and Rashna Taraporewalla (eds), The Statue of Zeus at Olympia: New approaches, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2011, p. 136. ‘disappointing’; ‘precious’; ‘the magisterial air of Christ’: Alta Macadam, Rome and Environs, third edition (Blue Guides), London, 1985, p. 199. ‘alpha gods’; ‘People were used to seeing’; ‘By adopting the attributes’; ‘a strong mental image’: Joan E. Taylor, What Did Jesus Look Like?, London and New York, 2018, pp. 72–4 and 1. ‘concept of a man-god’; ‘ultimately derived from Alexander [the Great]’: Professor Burton Mack, Clermont School of Theology, USA, expert interviewee on Alexander: Child of Fire, BBC2, 18 May 1996. ‘controversial’: Professor Burton Mack, interviewed on Alexander: Child of Fire, BBC2, 18 May 1996. ‘I take it as being’: John Dillon, ‘Logos and trinity: Patterns of Platonist influence on early Christianity’, in G. Vezey (ed.), The Philosophy in Christianity, Cambridge, 1989, p. 1. ‘the ultimate causal principles’; ‘needed correcting’: James Wilberding, personal comments. ‘is not so clearly supreme’: John Dillon, ‘Logos and trinity: Patterns of Platonist influence on early Christianity’, in G. Vezey (ed.), The Philosophy in Christianity, Cambridge, 1989, p. 2, to which this discussion is indebted. ‘When all things began’: John 1:1–4, The New English Bible: New Testament. ‘formative principle’; ‘undoubtedly a person’: A.H. Armstrong and R.A. Markus, Christian Faith and Greek Philosophy, New York, 1964, p. 19. ‘basic meaning’: John Vallance, ‘Pneuma’, in Hornblower, Spawforth and Eidinow (eds), The Oxford Classical Dictionary, p. 1166. ‘For when the time comes’: Luke 12:12, The New English Bible: New Testament. ‘The God and Father’: Origen, First 33–34 (I.3), cited by Tuggy Dale, ‘Trinity’, in Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition): https:// plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2020/entries/trinity/ (22 November 2022). ‘a denial of the pagan assumption’: A.H. Armstrong and R.A. Markus, Christian Faith and Greek Philosophy, New York, 1964, p. 22. ‘discloses something very simple’: Dr Trystan Owain Hughes, ‘What has the Trinity got to do with everyday life?’, posted 7 June 2020: https://trystanowainhughes.wordpress. com/2020/06/07/what-has-the-trinity-got-to-do-with-everyday-life/amp/ (22 November 2022). 10  Greek beauty

‘paragon’: Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, sub-entry for ‘Greek god’. ‘a very well-built’: entry for ‘Greek god’ in urbandictionary.com: https://www.urbandictionary .com/define.php?term=greek+god&=true (22 November 2022). ‘The paintings’: Andrew Graham-Dixon, ‘Posture and imposture’, Independent, 19 October 1992: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art-posture-and-imposture-

311

notes to pp. 198–211

andrew-grahamdixon-finds-fantasy-pastiche-and-a-hint-of-the-boardroom-in-theswagger-portrait-at-the-tate-1558473.html?amp (22 November 2022). ‘[s]winging’; ‘exaggerated swagger’: R.R.R. Smith in Simon Hornblower and Catherine Morgan editors, Pindar’s Poetry, Oxford, 2007, pp. 130–5. ‘an art to be’; ‘On those marble brows’: John Warrack, Greek Sculpture, Edinburgh, 1913, pp. v, xxvi–xxvii. ‘fell out of academic favour’; ‘broken up’; ‘urban legend’: information kindly provided to the writer by Candace Richards, Acting Curator, Nicholson Collection, University of Sydney. ‘They saw flesh’: Robin Osborne, The History Written on the Classical Greek Body, Cambridge, 2011, p. 41. ‘I bring this offering’: The Oxyrhynchus Papyri 18 (1941) no. 14, lines 11–16, transl. Hugh Lloyd-Jones with adaptations, in Christopher Hallett, ‘The origins of the classical style in sculpture’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, 106 (1986), p. 76. Cambridge cast of the Naples Doryphoros, website image: https://museum.classics.cam. ac.uk/collections/casts/doryphoros-0 (22 November 2022). ‘not strictly natural’; ‘conspicuous pattern’: G. Leftwich, ‘Polykleitos and Hippokratic medicine’, in W.G. Moon (ed.), Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition, Madison, WI, 1995, p. 47. ‘palpable sense of order’: Christopher Hallett, ‘The origins of the classical style in sculpture’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, 106 (1986), p. 82. ‘artificial construct’: Robin Osborne, The History Written on the Classical Greek Body, Cambridge, 2011, p. 44. ‘to wrap around the back’; ‘Rather than reflect’: Charles Heiko Stocking, ‘Greek ideal as hyper-real’, Arion, 21 (2014), pp. 54, 55. ‘the beautiful’: Galen, De placitis Hippocratis et Platonis 5, 448. ‘The youth’s sexual parts’: Ian Jenkins with Celeste Farge and Victoria Turner, Defining Beauty: The body in ancient Greek art, London, 2015, p. 115. ‘pleasure to be had’; ‘modesty and self-control’: James Robson, Sex and Sexuality in Classical Athens, Edinburgh, 2013, pp. 131 and 132. ‘noticed a mark’; ‘But why do I chatter’: Pseudo-Lucian, Amores 15–16. ‘The ideal woman’; ‘predominance of rear-entry’: Robson, Sex and Sexuality in Classical Athens, pp. 123, 122. ‘hurled himself ’: Pseudo-Lucian, Amores 16. ‘It is no longer possible’: Lea Stirling, ‘Collections, canons, and context: The afterlife of Greek masterpieces in late antiquity’, in Stine Birk, Troels Myrup Kristensen and Birte Poulsen (eds), Using Images in Late Antiquity, Oxford, 2014, p. 103. ‘to echo the classical male form’: Sarah Goldsmith, in Rosalind McKever, Claire Wilcox and Marta Franceschini (eds), Fashioning Masculinities: The art of menswear, London, 2022, p. 30. ‘the air of ’: Aileen Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe 1715–1789, New Haven, CT, and London, 2002, p. 27. ‘eroticised appreciation’: Caroline Vout, ‘Winckelmann and Antinous’, The Cambridge Classical Journal, 52 (2006), p. 144. ‘Ask those who know’: translation from the German in Thomas Davidson, Journal of Speculative Philosophy 2 (1868) p. 188, cited by Matthew Bell, in Jenkins with Farge and Turner, Defining Beauty, p. 45. ‘Heroic labours’: Matthew Bell, in Jenkins with Farge and Turner, Defining Beauty, p. 45. ‘For the essence of beauty’: Winckelmann, cited by Ph. Jockey, ‘Johann Joachim Winckelmann’, in Th. Fabre and C. Portevin (eds), Les porteurs du rêve, Paris/Marseille, 2013, p. 244. ‘creatures barbarously’; ‘savours’; ‘colours’: Élie Faure, Histoire de l’art: L’Art antique, Paris, 1909–23, pp. 83–6.

312

notes to. 211–223

‘vigorously developed muscles’; ‘harmony’; ‘regularity’: Arthur de Gobineau, Essai sur l’Inégalité des Races Humaines (1853–55), cited by Athena Leoussi, in Jenkins with Farge and Turner, Defining Beauty, p. 56. ‘To those that suggested’: S.N. Behrman, Duveen, London, 1986, pp. 175–6. ‘warm brown’: William St Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles, third edition, Oxford, 1998, p. 299. ‘the myth of white Greece’: Philippe Jockey, ‘Les couleurs et les ors retrouvés de la sculpture antique’, Revue archéologique, new series (2014), pp. 362–3 with fig. 4 (footballer). ‘The race we now call Aryan’: Adolf Hitler, cited by Johann Chapoutot, Greeks, Romans, Germans: How the Nazis usurped Europe’s Classical Past, transl. Richard R. Nybakken, Oakland, CA, 2016, pp. 24–5. ‘all one had ever fancied’: Walter Pater, Greek Studies, London, 1895, pp. 303–4, cited by Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique, New Haven, CT, and London, 1982, p. 200. ‘May none of you fail’: Adolf Hitler, cited by Alastair Sooke, ‘The Discobolus: Greeks, Nazis and the body beautiful’, BBC Online, 24 March 2015: https://www.bbc.com/culture/ article/20150324-hitlers-idea-of-the-perfect-body (1 August 2021). Johann Chapoutot gives the passage in French translation in Le nazisme et l’Antiquité, Paris, 2012, pp. 258–9, citing Adolf Hitler, Discours d’ouverture de la Grande Exposition de l’art allemande de 1938, Munich, 1938. ‘as an overt appeal’: Heidi Morse, ‘Classics and the Alt-Right: Historicizing visual rhetorics of White Supremacy’, posted on 15 February 2018 on the ‘Learn, Speak, Act’ webpage of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, University of Michigan: https:// sites.lsa.umich.edu/learn-speak-act/2018/02/15/classics-and-the-alt-right/ (1 August 2021). ‘tight pants’; ‘the colors are jarring’: Margaret Talbot, ‘The myth of whiteness in classical sculpture’, The New Yorker, 29 October 2018: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/ 10/29/the-myth-of-whiteness-in-classical-sculpture (1 August 2021). ‘my poster boys’: Ben Machell, ‘Wet, hot, having a moment: My poster boys of summer’, The Times Magazine, 31 July 2021, p. 5. 11  Perfect buildings?

‘wholly plain’: Michael Shanks, ‘The classical and the romantic’, posted on 12 July 2011: https://mshanks.com/2011/07/12/the-classical-and-the-romantic/ (22 November 2022). ‘[Thursday 19 September 1805]’: I am grateful to Dr Susanna Phillippo for sharing with me this extract from Monck’s diaries. ‘The house is exactly’: Shanks, ‘The classical and the romantic’. ‘excessive snow’; ‘which they poison’: Henri Omont, Missions archéologiques françaises en Orient au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, 2 vols., Paris, 1902, vol. 1, pp. 608, 581. ‘discipline and severity’: Richard Jenkyns, Dignity and Decadence: Victorian art and the classical inheritance, London, 1992, p. 52. ‘masculine boldness’; ‘a style’: Willey Reveley in James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, Antiquities of Athens, vol. IV, London, 1794, p. xii. ‘. . . public sentiment’ (quoting James Fenimore Cooper, The Home as Found); ‘Even the private homes’: Carl J. Richard, The Golden Age of the Classics in America, Cambridge, MA, 2009, pp. 34, 35. ‘. . . you cannot walk through’: Charles Kingsley, The Heroes (1855), cited by Jenkyns, Dignity and Decadence, p. 1. ‘would consequently be a vault’; ‘rather elaborate practice’: Sokratis Georgiadis with Maria Georgiadou, ‘A battle of curves: The stylobate curvature in Greek temple architecture’, Thetis, 13/14 (2007), p. 10. ‘The final goal’: Heron, Definitiones 135, 13.

313

notes to pp. 223–231

‘intense scrutiny’: Spawforth, The Complete Greek Temples, p. 65. ‘revolutionary’: Jean-Charles Moretti, ‘The evolution of theatre architecture outside Athens in the fourth century’, in Eric Csapo, Hans Rupprecht Goette, J. Richard Green and Peter Wilson (eds), Greek Theatre in the Fourth Century bc, Berlin, 2013, pp. 108–37 at p. 115. ‘Why are choruses’: Aristotle, Problems 901b.35 (11, 25). ‘formed so as’; ‘striking against the cavity’: Vitruvius, On Architecture 5, 5, 1; 3. ‘only when actors’: Nicola Davis, ‘Whisper it – Greek theatre’s legendary acoustics are a myth’, Guardian, 16 October 2017: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/oct/16/whisperit-greek-amphitheatre-legendary-acoustics-myth-epidaurus (22 November 2022). ‘harmony and beauty’: Pausanias 2, 27, 5. ‘It may appear singular’: A.J. Downing, The Architecture of Country Houses (1850), pp. 30–1, cited by Talbot Hamlin, ‘The Greek revival and some of its critics’, The Art Bulletin, 24 (1942), pp. 251–2. ‘memoirs, essays’; ‘Insofar as’: Barbara Miller Lane, ‘Interpreting Nazi architecture: The case of Albert Speer’, in B. Magnusson (ed.), Ultra terminum vagari: Scritti in onore di Carl Nylander, Rome, 1997. ‘the architectural style’: Jan-Werner Mueller, ‘Prussian Disneyland’, London Review of Books, 9 September 2021: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v43/n17/jan-werner-mueller/ prussian-disneyland (22 November 2022). ‘offering . . . a bare grid’; ‘can hardly fail to recall’: Tom Wilkinson, ‘Why are Berlin’s new buildings so intent on looking backwards?’, Apollo, 20 October 2020: https://www.apollomagazine.com/why-are-berlins-new-buildings-so-intent-on-looking-backwards/amp/ (12 September 2021). ‘earned a strong reputation’: Artworkers’ Guild website: https://www.artworkersguild.org/ membership/find-a-member/oconnor-liam/ (6 November 2022). ‘lump of Croesus bling’; ‘very approximately classical’: Jonathan Meades, ‘The Bomber Command Memorial’, London Review of Books, 25 October 2012: https://www.lrb.co.uk/ the-paper/v34/n20/jonathan-meades/at-hyde-park-corner (22 November 2022). ‘classical orders’; ‘pedimented, Doric-columned’: Rowan Moore, ‘Francis Terry: “Architects tend to think if it’s popular, there’s something wrong” ’, Observer, 23 April 2017: https:// www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/apr/23/francis-terry-architects-quinlanneoclassical-pastiche (22 November 2022). ‘In terms of planning’: Pamela Buxton, ‘Quinlan Terry: A classicist in the modern world’, RIBA Journal, 6 August 2021: https://www.ribaj.com/culture/quinlan-terry-hindsightclassicism-modernism-erith (22 November 2022). ‘US government’; ‘All federal’: Amanda Kolson Hurley, ‘Trump’s bizarre plan to make architecture classical again’, The Atlantic, 8 February 2020: https://www.theatlantic. com/ideas/archive/2020/02/trumps-plan-make-architecture-classical-again/606286/ (22 November 2022). ‘visual testimony’: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ‘Guiding principles for federal architecture’ (1962): https://www.gsa.gov/real-estate/design-excellence-program/design-excellenceprogram-overview/design-excellence-program/guiding-principles-for-federalarchitecture (28 November 2022). ‘It doesn’t go unnoticed’: Chicago Sun-Times, as cited by Julie Lasky, ‘Why classicists are against Trump’s Executive Draft Order’, Architectural Digest, 20 February 2020: https:// www.architecturaldigest.com/story/why-classicists-are-against-trump-draft-executiveorder (22 November 2022). ‘father of modern Japanese’; ‘They adapted’: Chia-Lin Hsu, ‘Politics, culture, and classical architectural elements in Taiwan’, in Almut-Barbara Renger and Xin Fan (eds), Receptions of Greek and Roman Antiquity in East Asia, Leiden, 2013, pp. 345, 346. ‘as in the rest of the world’: Akihiko Watanabe in a review of Renger and Xin Fan’s book Receptions of Greek and Roman Antiquity in East Asia in Journal of Jesuit Studies, 6 (2019), p. 332.

314

notes to pp. 231–244

‘symbols of wealth’; ‘the openness of [Taiwanese] society’: Chia-Lin Hsu, ‘Politics, culture, and classical architectural elements in Taiwan’, in Almut-Barbara Renger and Xin Fan (eds), Receptions of Greek and Roman Antiquity in East Asia, Leiden, 2013, p. 355. ‘in parallel to China’; ‘on a level’: Filippo Carlà-Uhink, ‘The Far East, Ancient Greece and the theme park’, in Representations of Classical Greece in Theme Parks, London, 2020, p. 131. 12  Greeks on screen

‘write serialised fiction’: David Barnett, ‘Why authors are turning down lucrative deals in favour of Substack’, Guardian, 3 September 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/ sep/03/authors-lucrative-deals-substack-salman-rushdie-dc-marvel?CMP=Share_ iOSApp_Other (22 November 2022). ‘For it is related’: Plato, Timaeus 24e; 25c–d. ‘laid the foundations’: Pierre Vidal-Naquet, ‘Atlantis and the nations’, Critical Inquiry, 18 (1992), p. 302. ‘strikingly’: Tomas Hägg, ‘ “Callirhoe” and “Parthenope”: The beginnings of the historical novel’, Classical Antiquity, 6 (1987), pp. 203 n. 104. ‘the light of day’: Heliodorus, Aethiopica 1, 1. ‘the best known periods’: Hägg, ‘ “Callirhoe” and “Parthenope”, p. 202. ‘classic book’; ‘a warrior king’: The King Must Die, BBC Radio 4: https://www.bbc.co.uk/ programmes/m000ydpg (5 November 2022). ‘Later, when the moon stood high’: Mary Renault, The Persian Boy, Harmondsworth, 1974, p. 141. ‘just modern characters’: Lee Stannard, personal comment. ‘The “historic novel” is for me’: Rachel Cohen, A Chance Meeting: Intertwined lives of American writers and artists, 1854–1967, New York, 2004, p. 88. ‘whose romantic looks’: Mary Renault, The Persian Boy, Harmondsworth, 1974, p. 411. ‘for the historical reconstruction’; ‘nothing more than’: Daniel Ogden, Alexander the Great: Myth, genesis and sexuality, Exeter, 2011, p. 167. ‘And as we swam’: Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles, London, 2021, pp. 46–7. ‘I’ve been honoured’: ‘Madeline Miller on The Song of Achilles’, Guardian, 27 August 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/aug/27/madeline-miller-on-the-songof-achilles-it-helped-people-come-out-to-their-parents?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other (22 November 2022). ‘Great Achilles’: Pat Barker, The Silence of the Girls, London, 2018, p. 1. ‘what I took away was silence’: ‘Pat Barker on The Silence of the Girls’, Guardian, 7 August 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/aug/07/pat-barker-on-the-silence-ofthe-girls-the-iliad-is-myth-the-rules-for-writing-historical-fiction-dont-apply?CMP= Share_iOSApp_Other (22 November 2022). ‘. . . Briseis thinks bitterly’: Barker, The Silence of the Girls, p. 240. ‘an Iliad for the age of #MeToo’: Geraldine Brooks, ‘Giving voice to Homer’s women’, New York Times, 27 September 2018: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/27/books/review/ silence-of-the-girls-pat-barker.html (22 November 2022). ‘Its enduring popularity’: Paul Cartledge and Fiona Rose Greenland, Responses to Oliver Stone’s Alexander, Madison, WI, 2010, p. 3. ‘In the legend’: Ray Harryhausen, ‘Model heroes’, Guardian, 20 December 2003: https:// www.theguardian.com/books/2003/dec/20/featuresreviews.guardianreview16?CMP= Share_iOSApp_Other (22 November 2022). ‘every major cavalry charge’; ‘Charging across the desert’: Robin Lane Fox, writing in The Australian, 14 July 2004, reproduced on the History News Network website: https:// historynewsnetwork.org/article/6179 (22 November 2022). ‘possible answers’; ‘question of commercial failure’: Paul Cartledge and Fiona Rose Greenland, Responses to Oliver Stone’s Alexander, Madison, WI, 2010, p. 8.

315

notes to pp. 244–260

‘sex perversion’; ‘complete nudity’: ‘The Motion Picture Production Code (as published 31 March, 1930)’: https://www.asu.edu/courses/fms200s/total-readings/MotionPicture ProductionCode.pdf (22 November 2022). ‘plundering’: Majid Joneidi, ‘Iranian anger at Hollywood “assault” ’, BBC News, 16 March 2007: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6455969.stm (22 November 2022). ‘This [right] side’: Adam Peaty, quoted in Jane Mulkerrins, ‘Adam Peaty: “The Strictly curse? I can see how it happens” ’, The Times Magazine, 2 October 2021: https://www. thetimes.co.uk/article/adam-peaty-the-strictly-come-dancing-curse-i-can-see-how-ithappens-rt9l3zjcf (22 November 2022). 13  Sporty Greeks

‘Aburoff ’; ‘used to be’; ‘according to’: Antonios Chaldeos, ‘Sudanese toponyms related to Greek entrepreneurial activity’, Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies, 4 (2017), p. 188. ‘at Beijing’; ‘From its lighting’: ‘Olympic flame arrives in China’, International Olympic Committee website, 20 October 2021: https://olympics.com/ioc/news/olympic-flamearrives-in-china (23 November 2022). ‘If there was any kind’: Charlene Weaving, associate professor of human kinetics, St Francis Xavier University, Canada, cited by Rachel Axon, ‘Why are some women still wearing skimpy uniforms at Olympics?’, USA Today, 30 July 2021: https://amp.usatoday.com/ amp/5399967001 (22 October 2021). ‘you’re up on the diving board’: Tom Daley, cited by Saman Javed, ‘Tom Daley opens up about disordered eating habits and body image issues’, Independent, 7 October 2021: https:// www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/tom-daley-disordered-eatingbody-image-b1933932.html?amp (23 November 2022). ‘I lined up with’; ‘Perhaps it was seen’: Stephen Instone, as reported in Justin Parkinson, ‘Academic recreates naked Olympics’, BBC News Online, 9 July 2004: http://news.bbc. co.uk/1/hi/education/3860261.stm (12 July 2021). ‘The Spartans were the first’: Thucydides 1, 6, cited in Paul Christesen and Donald G. Kyle, A Companion to Sport and Spectacle in Greek and Roman Antiquity, Chichester, 2014, p. 228. ‘playing sports in the nude’: ibid. ‘Calliades was archon’: Diodorus Siculus 11, 1, 2. ‘And if we thrive’: Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3, 2.3.52–53. ‘One headmaster’: Jennifer R. Sheppard, ‘Sound of body: Music, sports and health in Victorian Britain’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 140 (2015), p. 349, citing J.M. Wilson, Morality in Public School and Its Relation to Religion, London, 1882, p. 19. ‘national pastime’: Steven W. Pope, Patriotic Games: Sporting traditions in the American imagination, 1876–1926, New York and Oxford, 1997, pp. 62–3. ‘ahead of his times’; ‘undoubtedly influenced’: Michael Llewellyn Smith, ‘The 1896 Olympic Games at Athens and the Princeton connection’, Princeton University Library Chronicle, 64 (2003), p. 448. ‘On the way to Olympia’; ‘The games are a running match’: Pausanias 5, 6, 7–8; 5, 16, 2–3 (transl. Peter Levi). ‘Judging that the most important’: Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 1, 4. ‘But of Theron’: Pindar, Olympian Odes 2.5–10 (transl. Maurice Bowra). ‘The victors whom the poet’: E.N. Gardiner, Greek Athletic Sports and Festivals, London, 1910, pp. 108–9. ‘a legitimating ideology’; ‘men who are’ (quoting Walter Rye): Matthew P. Llewellyn and John Gleaves, ‘A universal dilemma: The British Sporting Life and the complex, contested, and contradictory state of amateurism’, Journal of Sport History, 41 (2014), pp. 109, 105. ‘one who participates’: Eligibility Rules of the International Olympic Committee (1964), Rule 26: https://stillmed.olympic.org/Documents/Olympic%20Charter/Olympic_Charter_

316

notes to pp. 260–266

through_time/1964-Olympic_Charter_Eligibility_Rules_of_the_IOC.pdf (23 November 2022). ‘highly-fictionalized account’: Dilwyn Porter, ‘The end of the amateur hegemony in British sport, c. 1960–2000’, Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies, 43 (2011), p. 76. ‘feels that his victories glorify God’; ‘ungentlemanly’: Patricia Bauer, ‘Chariots of Fire’, Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Chariots-of-Fire (27 October 2021). ‘cast a nostalgic glow’: Dilwyn Porter, ‘The end of the amateur hegemony in British sport, c. 1960–2000’, Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies, 43 (2011), p. 77. ‘twice an Olympic winner’: Paul Cartledge and Antony Spawforth, Hellenistic and Roman Sparta: A tale of two cities, second edition, London, 2002, p. 188. ‘. . . they say he began’: Pausanias 6, 10, 1–2 (transl. Peter Levi, adjusted). ‘Athletes and officials’: press release, 19 July 2021, International Olympic Committee website: https://olympics.com/ioc/news/athletes-invited-to-show-commitment-to-buildinga-peaceful-world-through-sport-at-tokyo-2020-by-signing-the-olympic-truce-mural (23 November 2022). ‘all armed conflicts’: P. de Coubertin, Selected Writings, ed. N. Müller, Lausanne, 2000, p. 565. ‘As early as 776 bc’: Alison Steinbach, ‘Competition, cooperation, and cultural entertainment: The Olympics in international relations’, Harvard International Review, 37 (2016), p. 35. ‘bristled with’: Mark Golden, ‘War and peace in the ancient and modern Olympics’, Greece & Rome, second series, 58 (2011), p. 5. ‘hundreds and hundreds’: Judith Barringer, Olympia: A cultural history, Princeton, NJ, 2021, p. 32. ‘battle – like athletic competition’; ‘a word applicable’: David M. Pritchard, Sport, Democracy and War in Classical Athens, Cambridge, 2013, p. 165. ‘If the winner is Greek’: Private letter to the London Weekly Times (1896), cited by John W. Cunliffe, ‘Browning and the Marathon race’, Modern Language Association of America Proceedings, 24 (1909), p. 154. ‘over mountains and valleys’; ‘Since you go to Athens’: Norbert Müller, ‘Michel Bréal (1832–1915) – The man behind the idea of the Marathon’, Sport Journal, 22 (2001): https://thesportjournal.org/article/michel-breal-1832-1915-the-man-behind-the-ideaof-the-marathon/ (23 November 2022). The author, a sports historian and authority on Coubertin, formerly professor at Mainz University, cites Bréal’s letter in the original French. He read it in the archives of the International Olympic Committee. The translation is my own. ‘Thersippus of the deme Erchiae’: Plutarch, Moralia 347c = De gloria Atheniensium 3. The attractive suggestion has been made that the Eucles of this passage was claimed as an ancestor by the family of the Roman-Athenian grandee Herodes Atticus (see above in the text), who (on this view) had promoted his ancestor’s alleged role in 490 bc, and that Plutarch here is politely ‘drawing attention to the fact that this was not an undisputed story’: Lucia Athanassaki, ‘Who was Eucles? Plutarch and his sources on the legendary Marathon-runner (De gloria Atheniensium 347c-d’, in J. Opsomer, G. Roskam and F.B. Titchener (eds), A Versatile Gentleman: Consistency in Plutarch’s writing, Leuven, 2016, p. 214. It is going too far to say that the modern marathon ‘can claim to be a modern British event’, as, in an otherwise excellent article, does Mark Golden, ‘War and peace in the ancient and modern Olympics’, Greece & Rome, second series, 58 (2011), p. 2. Is has yet to be shown that either Bréal or Coubertin knew the recent (1879) poem ‘Pheidippides’ by the English poet Robert Browning, who incidentally (line 106) has the messenger from the Marathon battlefield sent to the Acropolis, not to the Pnyx. ‘an antiquarian recreation’: Michael Mackenzie, ‘From Athens to Berlin: The 1936 Olympics and Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia’, Critical Inquiry, 29 (2003), p. 315. ‘The mountains look on Marathon’: Lord Byron, ‘The Isles of Greece’, in John Hayward (ed.), The Penguin Book of English Verse, Harmondsworth, 1956, p. 281.

317

notes to pp. 267–281

‘. . . there were more processions’: Henry ‘Chips’ Channon, The Diaries: 1918–38, ed. Simon Heffer, London, 2021, p. 569, entry for Sunday, 15 August 1936. ‘The grandiose success’: statement by Coubertin, published in Le journal, 27 August 1936, 1, cited by Louis Callebat, ‘The modern Olympic Games and their model in antiquity’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 4 (1998), p. 565. ‘the pentathlon winner’; ‘It was also Handrick’s’: Sandra Heck, ‘A blond broad-shouldered athlete with bright grey-blue eyes’: German propaganda and Gotthardt Handrick’s victory in Modern Pentathlon at the Nazis’ Olympics in 1936’, Journal of Sport History, 38 (2011), p. 261 (citing an article in the Reichssportblatt, ‘the official Olympic voice during the Berlin Olympics’) and p. 267 (the comment on Handrick’s appearance appeared in the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, a Berlin daily newspaper). ‘The Olympic torch’; ‘As to the true conceiver’: Anastassios Anastassiadis, ‘L’anathème sur la flamme olympique? L’Église orthodoxe et l’Olympiade de 1936’, Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 131/132 (2005), pp. 47 and 48 n. 4, referring the reader to Achim Laude and Wolfgang Bausch, Der Sport-Fuehrer: Die Legende um Carl Diem, Göttingen, 2000, which I have not seen. ‘In a few minutes’: David Clay Large, The Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936, New York and London, 2007, p. 196. 14  Greeks on stage

‘. . . we used to get up’: Isadora Duncan, My Life, New York and London, 2013 [1927], p. 53. ‘The old knight’: J.W. von Goethe, The Works of J.W. von Goethe, vol. 12, transl. A.J.W. Morrison, London and Boston, MA, 1901–02, pp. 324–5. ‘I freed women’: Lincoln Kirstein, ‘Isadora Duncan’, Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art, 9 (1941), p. 10. ‘The best thing’: Michelle Potter, ‘Designed for dance: The costumes of Léon Bakst and the art of Isadora Duncan’, Dance Chronicle, 13 (1990), p. 165 (quote from an anonymous article in Russian Musical Journal, 51–52 (19–26 December 1904), p. 1882. ‘Her Greek costume’; ‘an exquisite figure’: Ann Daly, ‘Isadora Duncan and the distinction of dance’, American Studies, 35 (1994), pp. 9, 10. ‘Among the artists and writers’: Isadora Duncan, My Life, New York and London, 2013 [1927], p. 121. ‘. . . the dance of the future’: Isadora Duncan, Der Tanz der Zukunft [The Dance of the Future], Leipzig, 1903, cited by Melissa Ragona, ‘Ecstasy, primitivism, modernity: Isadora Duncan and Mary Wigman’, American Studies, 35 (1994), p. 48. ‘Having fitted ourselves’; ‘. . . we drew up a plan’: Duncan, My Life, pp. 105, 108. ‘To return to the dances’: Isadora Duncan, The Art of the Dance, New York, 1977 [1928], p. 62. ‘this deplorable’: Ann Daly, ‘Isadora Duncan and the distinction of dance’, American Studies, 35 (1994), p. 17, also giving an explicit example of Duncan’s public racism. ‘. . . the place belongs to Artemis’: Pausanias 3, 10, 7. ‘The best thing about Greek tragedy’: A.A. Gill, The Sunday Times Style, 27 May 2012, p. 54. ‘. . . katharsis’: Martha Nussbaum, ‘Aristotle’, in Hornblower, Spawforth and Eidinow (eds), The Oxford Classical Dictionary, p. 162, col. ii. ‘. . . Women of Troy prostrate’; ‘[He] Who with as slight’: Aeschylus, Agamemnon, lines 325–8; 1415–18 (transl. Phillip Vellacott). ‘knew as much about human nature’: F.R. Earp, ‘Studies in character: Agamemnon’, Greece & Rome, 19 (1950), p. 53. ‘multitude of . . . scraps’; ‘in a baritone register’: Martin L. West, ‘Sophocles with music? Ptolemaic music fragments and remains of Sophocles ( Junior?), Achilleus’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 126 (1999), pp. 43, 49. ‘lost realm of theatrical origins’: Tanya Pollard, Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages, Oxford, 2017, pp. 5, 120.

318

notes to pp. 282–293

‘What’s Hecuba to him’: Shakespeare, Hamlet 2.2.486, 494–495, cited in ibid., p. 119. ‘symbol of grief ’: ibid., p. 120. ‘Both films are driven’: Michael Wood, ‘At the movies’, London Review of Books, 16 December 2021, p. 18. ‘a terra cotta Sphinx’: Vincent Scully, ‘Freud’s antiquities: A view from the couch’, Arion, 5 (1997), p. 232 n. 6. ‘on his own’: ‘This discovery’: Sarah Winter, ‘ “Schoolboy psychology”: Freud’s classical education and the institutionalization of psychoanalytic knowledge’, Cultural Critique, 38 (1997–98), p. 156 (citing S. Freud, Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873–1939, transl. Tania and James Stern, ed. Ernst L. Freud, London, 1961); p. 142 (citing S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, transl. and ed. James Strachey, 1953 [1900], p. 294). ‘saw life steadily’; ‘Sophocles long ago’: citations of Matthew Arnold, in Simon Goldhill, Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy, Oxford, 2012, p. 219. ‘attempted to frame them’: Winter, ‘ “Schoolboy psychology” ’, p. 138. ‘made a deep impression’: Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, New York, 1953, vol. 1, p. 177, cited by Richard Armstrong, ‘Oedipus as evidence: The theatrical background to Freud’s Oedipus Complex’, PsyArt Journal, 1 January 1999. ‘Greek tragedy permits’; ‘broad popular audience’: Helene P. Foley, ‘Modern performance and adaptation of Greek tragedy’, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974–2014), 129 (1999), pp. 3–4, 9. See pp. 1–2 for the Chinese translation of Oedipus the King. ‘Maybe we want’: Charlotte Higgins, ‘In times as troubled as these, can we still believe in tragedy?’, Guardian, 15 January 2022: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jan/15/tragedy-pandemics-climate-crisis-algorithms-tech-drama?CMP= Share_iOSApp_Other (23 November 2022). ‘After what we’ve all been through’: Audie Cornish, ‘Comedian Josh Johnson dares to make us laugh in a global pandemic’, National Public Radio, 30 September 2021: https://www. npr.org/2021/09/30/1042008581/comedian-josh-johnson-dares-to-make-us-laugh-ina-global-pandemic (18 January 2022). ‘Brekekekex’: ‘marshy children’: Aristophanes, Frogs, ed. Matthew Dillon, lines 209–11. ‘I have made a mess’: ibid., line 479. ‘I have shat in my clothes’: Aristophanes, The Frogs, ed. Kenneth Dover, Oxford, 1993, p. 255, comment to line 479. ‘It is right and just’: Aristophanes, Frogs, ed. Dillon, lines 686–7. ‘is about the actual city’: James Redfield, ‘Comedy, tragedy, and politics in Aristophanes’ “Frogs” ’, Chicago Review, 15 (1962), p. 111. ‘Dionysos’ dream’: Nathan Lane, quoted in Mary English, ‘Aristophanes’ Frogs: Brek-kekkek-kek! On Broadway’, American Journal of Philology, 126 (2005), p. 128. Epilogue

‘An exhaustive exposition’: Anthony Grafton, ‘Preface’, in Anthony Grafton, Glenn W. Most and Salvatore Settis (eds), The Classical Tradition, Cambridge, MA, and London, 2010, p. viii. ‘an innate confidence’: Jonathan Sumption, ‘What did liberalism do for us?’, Literary Review, 501 (2021), p. 40. ‘the philosophy, the literature’: Robert Virgil Fletcher, ‘The influence of Greece upon our modern life’, The Classical Journal, 25 (1930), p. 426. ‘specifically consider’: Statement by the Princeton Department of Classics Equity Committee on the Princeton Classics website: https://classics.princeton.edu/department/equity (21 February 2022). ‘strong conviction’: Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Princeton Department of Classics, staff page: https://classics.princeton.edu/people/faculty/core/dan-el-padilla-peralta (23 November 2022).

319

notes to pp. 294–296

‘the ancient Greeks invented nothing’: Richard F. Burton, A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights’ Entertainment, printed by the Burton Club for private subscribers only (1885–88), vol. 10, pp. 210–11, cited by Daniel Orrells, ‘Greek love, orientalism and race: Intersections in classical reception’, Cambridge Classical Journal, 58 (2012), p. 204. ‘geared astronomical’; ‘an even better appreciation’; ‘challenges many’: Tony Freeth, ‘An ancient Greek astronomical calculation machine reveals new secrets’, Scientific American, 1 January 2021: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/an-ancient-greekastronomical-calculation-machine-reveals-new-secrets/ (23 November 2022). I am grateful to Monica Hughes for this reference. ‘a vast bulb of territory’; ‘Sinocisation’: Ron Huisken, Introducing China: The world’s oldest great power charts its next comeback, Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence vol. 176, Canberra, 2010, pp. 9–10. ‘Then felt I’: John Keats, ‘On first looking into Chapman’s Homer’, in John Hayward (ed.), The Penguin Book of English Verse, Harmondsworth, 1956, p. 293.

320

FURTHER READING

This short list of suggestions for further reading includes titles which cover Rome as well as Greece. Beard, Mary and John Henderson, Classics: A very short introduction, Oxford, 1995 Derbew, Sarah F., Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity, Cambridge, 2022 Finley, Moses (ed.), The Legacy of Greece: A new appraisal, Oxford, 1981 Grafton, Anthony, Glenn W. Most and Salvatore Settis (eds), The Classical Tradition, Cambridge, MA, and London, 2010 Hall, Edith and Henry Stead, A People’s History of Classics: Class and Greco-Roman antiquity in Britain and Ireland 1689 to 1939, Abingdon, 2020 Jenkins, T.E., Antiquity Now: The classical world in the contemporary American imagination, Cambridge, 2015 Jenkyns, Richard, The Victorians and Ancient Greece, Cambridge, MA, 1980 Jenkyns, Richard, Dignity and Decadence: Victorian art and the classical inheritance, London, 1991 Porter, J.I. (ed.), Classical Pasts: The classical traditions of Greece and Rome, Princeton, NJ, 2006 Postclassicisms Collective, Postclassicisms, Chicago, IL, 2020 Renger, Almut-Barbara and Xin Fan (eds), Receptions of Greek and Roman Antiquity in East Asia, Leiden, 2013 Silk, Michael, Ingo Gildenhard and Rosemary Barrow, The Classical Tradition: Art, literature, thought, Chichester, 2014 Spawforth, Tony, The Story of Greece and Rome, New Haven, CT, and London, 2018 Zuckerberg, Donna, Not All Dead White Men: Classics and misogyny in the digital age, Cambridge, MA, 2018 Many entries on aspects of the ancient world treated in this book can be found in: Hornblower, Simon, Antony Spawforth and Esther Eidinow (eds), The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization, second edition, Oxford, 2014, and, by the same editors, the more comprehensive (over 6,700 entries) The Oxford Classical Dictionary, fourth edition, Oxford, 2012 The online Loeb Classical Library is an invaluable source, featuring works in both Ancient Greek and translation: https://www.loebclassics.com/

321

322

Index

Achaians 167 Achilles 159–60, 163–4, 167, 170, 248 historical novels and 239–40 Acragas 222, 259 Acropolis 180, 210, 219, 222 see also architecture, Erechtheum, Parthenon A Defence of Classical Education (book) 36 acoustics 122, 225–6 actors 281 Aegean Sea 23, 160, 172, 184, 234, 285 Aegina 221–2 Aeschylus 287, 280 Agamemnon 278–80 Persae 70–1 Africa 234 civilisation and 74 dance and 276 democracy and 42 Greek origins and 76–8 see also Black Africans, Egypt, Ethiopia, racism African Americans 35, 286 see also Bernal, Martin Agamemnon 275, 278 agōn 263 Agrigento 222 Aldus Manutius see Manutius, Aldus Alexander (film) 242–4 Alexander the Great 23–4, 55–6, 60, 68, 103 ancient image and 87–8 Christianity and 188–9, 247–8

documentary and 246–8 European colonialism and 56–8 film and 242–4 historical novels and 236–8 Homer and 163–4 modern politics and 58–9 Alexandria (Egypt) 36, 103, 133, 173, 193, 194 Alice in Wonderland (book) 76 amateurism see athletes American School of Classical Studies (Athens) 172 anatomy 201, 203 Ancient Greek (language) 3–4, 31, 54, 119, 121, 132–3, 189, 190–2 Homer and 167 modern Greece and 102 new words derived from 100–2 status symbol 35, 102 teaching 4, 34–5, 36, 102–5 tragic language 281 Siwah inscriptions 247 Winston Churchill and 103–4 see also translation al-Andalus see Spain Antikythera mechanism 295 Antinous 208 Antiochus I, king of Commagene 189–90 Antony, Mark 111 Aphaia 221–2 Aphrodite 5, 87 Cnidian statue 204–5

323

index

Apollo 72, 75, 86, 90, 94, 206, 286 Nietzsche and 274 Apollo Belvedere (sculpture) 207 Apollo space programme 286 Arabic language 27, 119, 132, 166, 250 Araboi, Arabs 24, 203 see also al-Andalus, Islam Aragorn 244 Archimedes 117–18 architecture Greek influence on 32, 216–32 Argentina 271 Argonauts 241 Aristophanes (playwright) Frogs 287–90 Lysistrata 81–2 Aristotle 10, 28, 36, 118–19, 180, 225 barbarian monarchy and 67 experiment and 120 Galileo and 119–20 katharsis and 278–9 Politics 43 Rhetoric 112–14 slavery and 40–1, 66–7, 71 syllogism and 121 women’s nature and 83–5 Arius, of Alexandria 194 Arnold, Matthew 284–5 Arrian, historian 163–4 art see beauty, body, Greek art, Greek sculpture, Greek vase painting, nudity, Winckelmann Artemis 19, 276 Artemis Pack 19–20 Aryan 52, 212–13, 268 Asclepius 122–5, 206 see also medicine, Greek Ashington (Northumberland) 36 Ashmolean Museum (Oxford) 281 Asia, Asiatic 231 Greek thought and 67, 73–4, 77, 151 see also Persia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan Aspasia 23, 114 Assassin’s Creed Odyssey 171–2 Assyria, Assyrian 117 astrology 21, 76 astronomy see Galileo Athena 162, 180, 248 Athens 36, 146, 172, 262, 264–6 athletics and 262 Atlantis and 234–5 black people and 61–2 Demosthenes and 112 education and 17–20

Funeral Speech and 107 Hephaestus, temple of 217, 219 Isadora Duncan and 274–5 Lord Elgin and 32–3 modern Olympics and 249–50, 257, 263–6 paramilitary training and 46–7 plague at 142–3 Rome and 26–7 slavery and 39–41 Stuart and Revett and 31–2, 218–19 teaching in rhetoric at 111 Theatre of Dionysus 277 Winckelmann and 209 see also Acropolis, democracy, freedom, Lysicrates Monument, Parthenon, theatre athletes, athletics 14–15, 24, 209, 248, 249–70 amateurism and 259–61 female 14–15, 257–9 festivals 254 social class and 261–2 statues of 203–4, 212 see also Olympia, Olympic games, stadium Atlantis 233–5 Attwood, Margaret 174 Augustus 72 Herodotus and 149–51 Augustus, Mausoleum of 149–50 Austria 282 Averoff, George 249–50, 264 Averroes (Ibn Rushd) 27–8 Avicenna (Ibn Sina) 27–8 Babylon, Babylonia 21 Bad Sex in Fiction Award (Literary Review) 240 Baghdad 27 Bagoas 237–9, 243 barbarian, barbaros colossal Roman statue 71–2 Greek idea of 67–8, 70–4 Baroque 227 Barker, Pat 240–1 basilica see church Bavaria 213 BBC see British Broadcasting Corporation Beard, Mary 174–5 beards 88, 137, 187 Beardsley, Aubrey 80–1 beauty, in Greek art 197–215 see also architecture

324

index

Beijing 147, 231, 251 see also China Belerin, Hēctor 159 Belsay Hall (Northumberland) 216–18, 221, 226, 228, 230 Berkeley, California 54 Berlin 227 Olympics (1936) 266–70 Bernal, Martin 76–8 Bethseda, Maryland 132 Bible 168 King James 162 Biden, Joe 230 bilingual, bilingualism 111, 150 Black Africans 61–2 Blair, Hugh 114 Blue Guide see Rome Bodrum 87 body, male and female 84–5, 197–215 300 and 245 see also Aryan, beards, medicine, nudity, penis, tattoos, thighs Boeotia 76 Bomber Command, memorial (London) 227–8 Boston (USA) 111 boxing see Glaucus Brauron, Brauronia 19–20 Bréal, Michel 264–5 Briseis 240, 248 Britain 150 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 48, 106, 147, 176, 236, 252, 274 British Medical Journal 134 British Museum 13, 17, 24–5, 33–4, 58–9, 75, 80–1, 87, 90, 153, 204, 214, 246 Duveen and 211–12 Troy exhibition and 169 Bronze Age 77, 168–9, 234, 275, 294 Brookes, Richard 256 Brummell, Beau 207 Brutalist (architecture) 219 Brutus, Marcus Iunius, Caesar’s assassin 111 Bush, George W. 22 Byron, Lord 118, 266 Byzantine, Byzantium 29, 119, 145, 164–5, 293 see also Constantinople Cadmus 76 Cairo 87 Callipatira 258

Cambridge, University of 112, 260 Museum of Classical Archaeology 202 Cambyses, Persian king 156 Camden School for Girls (London) 102 Capitol (Washington DC) 32 Caryae 276 Caryatids (‘maiden statues’) 210 castrati 238 casts, of ancient sculpture 33, 202, 207 catharsis see katharsis Cavafy, Constantine 103, 172–3 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 147 Centrale Montemartini museum (Rome) 25–6 Chaldaeans 21 Chariots of Fire (film) 260–1 Charles I of England 44, 198 Charles III, 228 as Prince of Wales 228–9 Chicago 229 Chicago, University of 165 China, Chinese 4 Homer and 166, 176 pride in ancient China 293–4 replica Parthenon 8–9, 231 Thucydides Trap 147 translation of Aristotle 121 translation of Sophocles 286 see also Beijing chorus 285 Christ, Jesus 15, 181–2, 191–2, 194–5 image of in art 15, 187–8, 206 see also Christianity Christianity 15, 91, 178–96 Asclepius and 125 pagan statues and 205–6; see also church, William ‘of Moerbeke’ Christie’s, auction house 117 Chrysis, Argive priestess 181 church, churches Early Christian 182–3 pagan cult and 183–4 Patmos cave-church 185 Santa Pudenziana (Rome) 187–8 see also William ‘of Moerbeke’ Churchill, Winston 103–4, 148, 153 cinema see film circumcision 60 Citium 136 civilisation 24, 27, 36–8, 74, 151, 231, 243, 292–4 empire and 295–6 superspreader 23 see also India, British; ‘western civ’

325

index

Cleopatra VII, Egyptian queen 78–9, 82–3, 111, 247 Cleopatra (film) 291–2 climate, Greek 209, 218 Clinton, Bill 22 Clytemnestra 278, 281 Cnidus 204 colonialism 42, 56, 231, 293 Colorado Gay Rights Case 96–7 Colosseum 8, 14, 89 colour ancient architecture and 221–2 ancient sculpture and 207, 210–14 skin, ancient Greek 78–9 comedy, Greek 287–9 see also Aristophanes Commodus, Roman emperor 138 Common Prayer, Book of 178 Commons, House of 153 Comnena, Anna 165 Complete Works of Hippocrates, The 126 Conder, Josiah 230 Confucius 121, 231 Congress, American 49–50 Constantine I, Roman emperor 159, 194 Constantinople 2, 29, 31, 164, 206, 281 see also Byzantine contagion, in Thucydides 142 Copernicus 120 Corcyra (Corfu) 143 Cordoba 27 Corinth 122, 127 Corinthian (architecture) 123, 219, 230 Coubertin, Pierre de 256–7, 260, 262, 264–8 Covid-19, 118, 296 see also pandemic Creed, Nicene see Nicene Crete 266 Crimea 294 Croesus 228 Crusade, First 164 Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis (book) 11 Culture, Ministry of (Greece) 247 Cyclopes see Monopoly Daedalus 14 Daley, Tom 215, 252 Damascus 27 Danae 140 Danaus 76 dance, dances 19

ancient Greece and 123, 276 see also Duncan, Isadora, orchēstra Darker Face of the Earth, The (play) 286 Darius I, Persian king 67, 155 Darius III, Persian king 24 David Geffen School of Medicine (UCLA) 132–3 Dawson, Rosario 244 Death of Socrates, The (film) 241 Delphi 72 demagogue 44 Demiourgos (Platonic) 191 Democedes, Greek doctor 155–8 democracy 38, 220 Africa and 42 Athenian 40–50, 109, 209, 246 Herodotus and 152–4 dēmokratia 153 Demosthenes 26–7, 109–14 Denver 96 see also Colorado Diem, Carl 269 dildos 82 Dionysus 76, 274 Frogs and 288–90 Nietzsche and 274 Dionysus, Theatre of (Athens) 277 doctors see Democedes, medicine documentary 246–8 Dorian, Dorians 52–3, 70, 78, 94, 213 Doric (architecture) 216, 219, 221, 223, 225–6, 228, 230 Doryphoros or Spear-Bearer 202–3 Douglas, Lord Alfred 94 Dove, Rita 286 Dover, Sir Kenneth 13, 91 drama see theatre dress, Grecian 272–3, 275 Dublin 94 Duncan, Isadora 271–6 Dundee 134 Dune (2021 film) 282 Dürer 211 Duveen, Joseph, Sir 211–12 Dungeons and Dragons 73 East India Company 56–8 Easter Island 200 Edinburgh 198 Edinburgh University 113 education Athens and 18–19 classics and 285 Homer and 164–5

326

index

see also Ancient Greek language, Latin, public schools Egesta (Sicily) 294 Egypt, Egyptians 7, 20–1, 61, 87, 164, 213, 231, 234, 246–7, 250 Egyptian blue 222 Egyptian screw 117–18 Greece influenced by 75–6 Greek medicine and 129 Herodotus and 154, 156 papyri and 280–1 sculpture 200–1 see also Africa, Cleopatra, Siwah Egyptian Museum (Cairo) 87 Elagabalus, Roman emperor 181 Eliot, George 82 Elizabeth I, English queen 31, 114 Ancient Greek and 112 Elizabeth II 227, 287 Elgin, 7th earl of 25, 32–3 Elgin Marbles 211 Ellis, Havelock 95 empire see imperialism Empire State Building 8 English Patient, The (film) Ephesus 75 Epic Iran (exhibition) 246 epicure 136 Epicurus 136 Epidaurus, shrine of Asclepius 122–5 theatre 122, 224–5, 277 epilepsy 128 Epipolae 104 Erechtheum 219–20 Eresos 97–8 Eros 197 Ethiopia, Ethiopians 60–1, 150 Ethiopian Story of Theagenes and Charicleia (Greek novel) 235 ethnicity 60–2, 82 see also barbarian, skin colour, race Etruscans 33 Euboea 261 Eucles, messenger from Marathon 265, 317 eugenics 259 eunuchs 238, 243 see also Bagoas Europe, European 26, 42, 74, 151, 159, 211, 230, 233–4, 243, 281 Eurymedon, Battle of 69–70 Eurymedon Vase 69–70 Everett, Edward 107 experiment 120

Failaka 24 faith-healing 124–5 fake history 154–8 Fall of Troy, The (film) 241 Farrell, Colin 243 fiction 233 see also novel filioque 195 Filipino community (Rome) 186 film, films 8 ancient Greece and 241–6 see also documentaries, Alexander, Chariots of Fire, Cleopatra, Dune, Gigi, Gladiator, Jason and the Argonauts, Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Death of Socrates, The English Patient, The Fall of Troy, 300, Troy, 2001: A Space Odyssey Fitzgerald, F. Scott 146 Florence 29, 81, 119, 281 folklore 156 Fonteyn, Margot 274–5 Forster, E.M. 103, 173 Fortuny, Mariano 198 Fourmont, Michel 218 France 146 Franco-Prussian War 256–7 see also Coubertin, Fourmont, Louis XIV, Louvre, Old French, Paris Franco, Francisco 229 freedom 48–9, 71, 152–3, 266 Freud, Martin 283 Freud, Sigmund 4, 282–5 Freud Museum (London) 282 Frogs (play) 287–90 Galileo 119–20 Ganymede 90 Gaugamela, battle 243 Geber ( Jabir ibn Hayyan) 27–8 gender fluidity 86–8 Geneva, Declaration of 135 geometry 76 Germany 8, 32, 52–4, 146, 213, 214, 227, 282 Franco-Prussian War 255–6 Isadora Duncan in 273–4 physical education and 256–7 see also Nazis Getty Museum, J. Paul 61–2 Gettysburg 107, 113 Gettysburg Address 106–7 Gibraltar 234

327

index

Gigi (film) 144 Gladiator (film) 138 gladiators 277 Glaucus, boxer 261–2 Goebbels, Joseph 267–9 Gollum 283 Gospels see John Graecomaniacs 105 graphic novel see novel Grecian code word 93–4 dress 272 Greece, Classical definition 6–7 western civilisation and 291–2 see also ethnicity, gymnasia, masculinity, philosophers, religion Greek, Ancient (language) see Ancient Greek Greek art, artists 11–12 see also art Greek Homosexuality (book) 91 Greek language, Modern 184 see also Ancient Greek Greek love see homosexuality Greek ‘miracle’ 7 ‘Greek Play Bishop’ 2 Greek Revival (architecture) 219 criticisms of 226 Donald Trump and 230 Greek Sculpture (book) 198, 210 Greek vase painting 33, 40, 60–2, 69–70, 81, 140, 214, 279 Freud and 282–3 homosexual imagery and 13, 91 Isadora Duncan and 271 Green, Peter 167 Grote, George 44–5 Groton School (Massachusetts) 105 Günther, Hans 53 gymnasia, gymnasium, Greek 20, 200, 203, 209 gymnos 203 gynē 87 gynnis 87 Hades 12, 289 Hadrian, Roman emperor 208 Halicarnassus 86–7 Hamilton, Alexander 33 Hamilton, Sir William 272 Hamilton, Lady (Emma) 272 Hamlet 281–2 Handrick, Gotthardt 268

Harpies (mythical monsters) 241 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (show) 287 Harryhausen, Ray 241–2 Hays Code 244 Hector 159–60 Hecuba 281–2 Helen of Troy 5, 159–60, 162, 168 Heliodorus (novelist) 235 Heliogabalus (god) 181 see also Elagabalus Hellas, Hellenes, Hellenic, Hellenism 17, 53, 58, 94, 199, 211, 262, 268 see also civilisation Hellespont 152 helots 63 Hephaestion 163, 243 Hephaestus 217 see also Athens Hera 181 Heracles, Pillars of 233 Heracles, statue 209 Hermaphroditus 86–7 modern therapies and 89 Hermitage (St Petersburg) 32 ‘hero’ (in ancient Greek religion) 183 Hero 5 Herodes Atticus 249–50 see also Eucles Herodotus 149–58 Hindus 57 Hippocrates 125–33, 142 Hippocratic Oath 132–5 history-writing, historiography 142–58 see also fake history, Herodotus, Thucydides Hitler, Adolf 53, 111, 212–13, 266, 269 see also Nazis Hitler Schools, Adolf 53–4 Hobbit, The (book) 283 Hollywood 242–5, 291 see also film Home Counties 228 Homer 4–5, 35, 158, 159–77 Freud and 283 historical novels and 235, 239–41 Keats and 296 homoousios 195 homosexuality Alexander and 58–9 Eurymedon Vase and 68–70 film and 244 Greek 13–14, 89–97 historical novels and 236–40 Homs 181

328

index

Hong Kong 231 horse-racing 259 Howards End (book) 173 humoral theory, humours, 129–32 Hungarian (language) 13 Hyacinthus 90, 94 Hydra (mythical monster) 241

kinaideia, kinaidoi 91–2 kōmōidia 287 see also comedy Kos, island 7, 125, 132 kothis 92 Kounalakis, Eleni 159 Krupp, arms manufacturer 269

Iliad see Homer imperialism, imperialists 18, 56, 202, 293, 295–6 incest 283 Independence, American War of 220 India, British 56–8 Indiana 113 Indo-Europeans 52–3 Indoi, ‘Indians’ 60–1 Indonesian language 171 infodemic 101 Instone, Stephen 252–3 Ionic (architecture) 219–20, 230 Iphigeneia 279 Iran 246 see also Persia Islam, Islamic caliphate, Islamic world 2, 27, 74, 119 see also Arabic, Spain Isocrates 20 Istanbul 194 Ithaca, Ithaka 168, 172–3 ‘Ithaka’ (poem) 172–4 Ivanhoe (book) 235

Lancellotti Discus Thrower 213 Lancellotti family 214 Lane Fox, Robin 242–3 Larnaca 135–6 Latin language 31, 35–6, 43–4, 72, 101–2, 104, 119, 132–3 Lauro, Achille 159 Leander 5 Lefkowitz, Mary 77 Leigh Fermor, Patrick 5 Lenin, Vladimir 153 Leonidas, Spartan king 54–5 ‘Les Dieux du Stade’ (French male calendar) 197 lesbian, Lesbian, lesbianism 14, 97–9 lesbiazein 99 Lesbos, Lesvos 97–8 libraries 21, 29, 35 Libya (ancient) 234 Libya (modern) 294 Lima 132 Lincoln, Abraham 106–7, 148 logic 120–1, 190 Logos 192 London 171, 173 see also Bomber Command, British Museum, University College, Victoria and Albert Museum London Transport Museum 45 Long Island 146 Lord of the Rings (film trilogy) 242, 244 Los Angeles 147 Louis, Spyridon 266 Louis XIV 129–30, 131, 257 Lourdes 124–5 Louvre 86, 271 Luttwak, Edward 166 Lycurgus, Spartan lawgiver 258–9 Lydia, ancient 228 Lysicrates Monument 2, 219

Jackson, Jesse 36 Jackson, Peter 244 James, Henry 237 James, P.D. 62 Japan, Japanese 13, 166, 230–1 Jason and the Argonauts (film) 241–2 Jerusalem 179 Jesus Christ see Christ Jevons, Frank 146 Jews 181, 189, 192, 268 John (Gospel) 191–2 John the Evangelist, John the Theologian, John of Patmos, author of Revelation 184–6 Johnson, Boris 47, 100 Julius Caesar 83, 111 Jupiter (god) 187–8 Jupiter (planet) 120 Keats, John 296 Keith, Penelope 159

Macedonian, Macedonians 67–8, 82 see also Alexander Magic of Dance, The (documentary) 274 ‘maiden statues’ 210–211 see also Caryatids

329

index

manuscripts 29–30, 119, 145, 165 Manutius, Aldus 30 Mao, Chairman 121 maps 169–70 Marathon 264–6 marathon (race) 264–6 Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor 137–9 marble see colour Marie-Antoinette 146 marriage, forced 12 Marx, Karl 153 masculinity 10 Dorians and 52 Homer and 163 menswear and 207 skin colour and 78 300 and 245 see also Alexander, beards, body, kinaidoi masks 281 mathematics 76 see also Galileo Mausoleum 87 #MeToo 241 medical schools see Hippocratic Oath Medici family 29, 206 Medici, Lorenzo de’ 165 Medici, Piero de’ 165 medicine, Greek 121–35 female bodies and 84–5 see also anatomy, Democedes Melampus 76 menstruation 18–19, 84 Mercury, Freddie 197 meritocracy 101 Merriam-Webster Dictionary 101 Mesopotamia 7 metics 62 Mexico City 132 Middlemarch (book) 82 Miller, Madeline 239–40 Mills and Boon 239–40 misogyny 211, 293 see also women Missouri 101 moai (Easter Island) 200 Mohammed, prophet 27 monarchy see Alexander, Aristotle Monck, Sir Charles 217, 219, 221 Monopoly (Odyssey edition), boardgame 169 Montreal 246 Morocco 243 mosaic 23–4, 182–3, 186–8

Mozia (Sicily) 197, 199 so-called Charioteer statue 197–8 Much Wenlock 256–7 Müller, Karl Otfried 52, 78 Munich 8, 212–14 Glyptothek 213–14 Musaeus, poet 5–6 Mussolini, Benito 212–13, 229 see also razionalismo Mycenae 275 myth, mythology, myths, 6, 12, 140–1, 168, 176 Romans and 14–15 see also Atlantis, Oedipus, religion Naples 72, 202, 272 Napoleon 86, 159 Nashville, Tennessee 8, 230 National Geographic Society 43 National Rifle Association 55 Naval War College (Rhode Island) 146–7 Nazis, Nazism 53–4, 213, 282 architecture 226–7 Berlin Olympics (1936) 266–70 Nemrut, Mt (Turkey) 188–9 New Jersey 76, 219, 293 New Testament 184 see also John, Revelation New York 76 Broadway 289 City College of 47 City University of 77 Ground Zero 106 Lincoln Center Theatre 289 Twin Towers 290 Newport (Rhode Island) 146 Newton, William 117 Nicaea (Iznik) 194 Nicene Creed 191, 195 Nietzsche, Friedrich 274 Nile, River 154, 208, 250, 280 9/11 108, 290 Nineveh 118 Nisyros 6–7 Nordic see Aryan, Nazis, race North Macedonia, Republic of 58 Northumberland see Ashington, Belsay novel, ancient Greek 235 novel, graphic Age of Bronze 171 novel, historical 235–40 nudity 244 in Greek art 75 Greek athletes and 252–4

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ritual 19 see also sculpture Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (Copenhagen) 71–2 Obama, Barack 22, 139, 147 Odysseus 161–2, 168, 172, 174–6 Odyssey see Homer odyssey 172–3 Oedipus 282–6 Oedipus complex 4, 282–3 Oedipus the King (tragedy) 284, 286 Old French 101 Olympia 14, 90, 141, 162, 251 cult statue and Christianity 185–8, 206 warfare and 263 Olympiads 254–5 Olympic Games (ancient) 257–9, 268–9 prizes 262 social class and 259–62 Olympic Games (modern) 231, 248, 249–70 torch ceremony 15, 251–2, 268–70 Olympic Truce 262–3 Olympus, Mt 140, 168, 190, 197 Olynthus 111 opera 4 oral society 155 oratory see public speaking orchēstra, orchestra 225, 277 Orient, Oriental, Orientalism 57, 73, 211, 243 Origen, of Alexandria, Christian writer 193–4 osteopathy 101 ostracism 41 Ottoman empire, Ottomans 33, 217–18, 266 Oxford English Dictionary 101 Oxford University 93, 189–90 Oxford University Press 121 paiderasteia 90 Paine, Thomas 42 Painted Porch (Athens) 136 painting, ancient Greek 201 see also Greek vase painting, Vergina Pakistan 24, 134 Palermo 279 palimpsest 117 Palladian (architecture) 228 pandemic 4, 100–1, 116, 142 papyri, papyrus 85, 164, 280–1 Paris 272, 285

Parthenon 17, 25, 33, 89, 180, 217 Athena statue in 162 Athenian imperialism and 18 replicas 4, 8, 230 so-called refinements 222–4 Parthian empire 72 Patroclus 160, 163, 170, 239 Paul, St 182–3, 189 pavonazzetto 72 see also colour Peaty, Adam 215, 248 Pelasgian, Pelasgians 76 Peleus 167 Peloponnesian War 81, 108, 145, 147 Pelosi, Nancy 50 Penelope 159, 161–3, 168, 174–5 Penelopiad (book) 174 penis, in art and thought 60, 69, 80–1 Greek ideal of 204 pentathlon 268–9 Percy Jackson and the Olympians (film) 8 Pericles 17–18, 23, 25–6, 36, 40, 103, 146 Funeral Speech and 46, 105–8 oratory and 41 Perry Mason (TV series) 96 Perseus 141 Persia, Persians 67, 151–8, 213 film and 242–6 historical novels and 236–8 see also Cambyses, Darius, Iran, Xerxes Persian Boy, The (book) 236–8 Persian Gulf 24 Persian Wars 49, 54–5, 156–8, 266 modern claims for significance of 74–5 Phaethousa, transitioning woman 88–9 Phalerum, Bay of 26–7 Phidias 185 Phidippides, runner 265 Philadelphia (USA) 35 Philip II, Macedonian king 87, 111 Philip II, Spanish king 111 Philippi 182–3 Philippians 189 Philodespotos, Syrian slave 62–3 philosophers, philosophia, philosophy, Greek 20–1, 116–21, 136–9,180 Christianity and 190–6 see also Aristotle, Plato, wisdom-lovers philosophy, Chinese 293 Phoenicia, Phoenicians 77 Phyle 47 Piazza Navona 14 Picture of Dorian Gray, The (book) 94 pigs 154, 161

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Pilgrim Fathers 131 Piraeus 156, 221 Pisa 121 Pitt, Brad 170 Pitt the Elder, William 113 plague, at Athens 141–3 Plato, Platonism 36, 179 Atlantis and 233–5 Christianity and 190–5 homosexuality and 13, 94–7 Isadora Duncan and 275 Platonic 136 plays see theatre Pneuma 192 Pnyx 264–5 poetry 176, 259, 296 see Keats, Homer, Musaeus, Sappho Polyclitus 202–3, 212 Pompeii 23, 90 Pope, Alexander 35, 166–7 popular culture 292 see also documentaries, film, graphic novels, tourism, video games pornai 90 pornographos 90 pornography 90–1 Porphyrius, bishop 183 Poseidon 6 Powell, Colin 146 Priapus 197 Princeton (New Jersey) 219–20 Princeton University 293 printers, printing 29, 81, 146, 165, 233, 281 Procrustes 7 prostitution, male 92, 203 Prussia 257 pseudagora 100–1 psychoanalysis see Freud Ptolemy (astronomer) 28 public speaking 21–3, 27, 108–15, 146 see also Demosthenes, Gettysburg Address, Pericles, rhetoric ‘Public School Greece’ 103 public schools (UK) 103–4 sports and 255 Pulitzer Prize 105, 286 Pyramids, Egyptian 185 Pythagoras 76 race, ‘racism’ 68, 77–8, 211, 276, 286 see also colour, ethnicity rape 241 razionalismo (architecture) 227 reception studies 9

religion, ancient Greek 15, 180–1 Christianity and 183–9 Greek theatre and 280 mythology and 140–1, 177 see also Brauron, faith-healing, medicine, Greek, Parthenon and individual Greek divinities Renaissance, Italian 2, 28–9, 81–2, 111–12, 133–4, 206, 219, 242, 255, 282, 294 Renault, Mary 89, 236–9 Res Gestae 150 Revelation 184–6 Revett, Nicholas see Stuart, James rhetoric, rhētorikē 21–3, 109–15 Rhine, River 257 Rhode Island 146 Rights of Man, The 42 rite of passage 19, 134 Robertson, Donald, modern Stoic 139 Rogers, Guy 76–8 Romans, Rome 82, 206–8, 294 architecture and 219 Greek culture and 14–15, 25–6 Greek homosexuality and 90 Herodotus and 149–51 public speaking and 111 Sparta and 54 Winckelmann and 209 see also Centrale Montemartini, Colosseum, Mussolini, Piazza Navona, Santa Pudenziana, Stadio dei Marmi Romantic era 209 Rome, Blue Guide to 187 Room with a View (book) 173 Rose Theatre (London) 255 Rye, Walter, British athlete 260 Sacred Disease 128 sacrifice, human 279 St Paul’s School (London) 31 St Helena (island) 159 St Helena, Roman empress 159 St Paul see Paul, St St Petersburg 32 St Pudentiana 187 Salamina (Greek island) 156–8 Salamis, Battle of 14, 70, 156 Salonica 266 see also Thessaloniki Samaritans 181 Samos 75 Santa Pudenziana, church of (Rome) 186–8

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Santorini 234 Sappho 98 Saracens 27–8 Schliemann, Heinrich 169 science see Antikythera mechanism, Archimedes, Aristotle, astronomy, experiment, medicine, philosophers, wisdom-lovers Scotland 153 Scott, Walter 235 sculpture 75, 197–215 Hermaphroditus 85–86 Zeus abducting Ganymede 90 Scythians 294 Senate (USA) 146 Sennacherib, Assyrian king 118 serfdom see helots sex 80–99 see also dildos, homosexuality, novel, historical, penis, rape sexual assault 12, 69–70 Shadow of the Colossus (video game) 171 Shakespeare, William Hecuba and 281–2 Olympic games and 255 Shanower, Eric, graphic novelist 171 Sicily 85, 104, 117, 197, 259, 294 see also Acragas, Egesta, Mozia, Palermo, Syracuse Silence of the Girls, The (book) 240–1 Siwah 246–7 Skopje 58 slave labour, slavery, slaves 18, 39–41, 62–7, 209, 250, 266, 286, 293 American South and 64–5 Smithsonian American Art Museum 171 Socrates 95, 236 see also film Sofia (Bulgaria) 183 Solon 49 Sophocles 284–6 Souvaltzi, Liana 246–7 Space Invaders (video game) 171 Spain 112 Islamic 27, 131–2 New 131 Roman mining and 116 Sparta, Spartans 10–11, 26, 34, 50–5, 63, 71, 78, 94, 103, 111, 147, 163, 172 athletic nudity and 253 Aubrey Beardsley and 81 female athletes and 258–9 dance and 276

historical novels and 236 Olympia and 263 Roman-period athletes 261 300 and 244–6 speech, speeches 105–6, 109–14, 148–9, 155 women and 114–15 see also Aspasia, public speaking Speer, Albert 226–7 Sphinx 282–4 Spock, Mr 138 sport see athletes, gymnasia, Olympic Games, pentathlon, stadium Stadio dei Marmi (Rome) 212 stadium 14, 249–50 see also Averoff, Herodes Atticus, Olympia Stanford University 36–7 Star Trek 138 Star Wars (films) 242 statues, power of 201–2 see also sculpture Still, Dr A. T. 101 Stockholm 268 Stoics, Stoicism 7–8, 136–9 Stone, Oliver 242–4 Streep, Meryl 289 Stuart, James and Nicholas Revett 31–2, 218–9 Sturgeon, Nicola 153 Sudan 250 Supreme Court (USA) 97 Sweden 268 Sydney, Australia 2, 219 Sydney University 199 syllogism 120–1 Syracuse (Sicily) 85–6, 104 Syria, Syrian 181, 189 Taiwan 230–1 Tang pottery 295 Tate Britain (London museum) 80 Tate Gallery 198 Telecles (sculptor) 75 temples, Greek see architecture Teresa, Mother 58 Terry, Quinlan 228–9 Thasos 126–7 Thatcher, Margaret 103, 148 theatre design, ancient Greek 224–6, 276–7 male actors 82 restricted audience 82 see also Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Epidaurus, comedy, tragedy

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The Times (London newspaper) 35 theme parks see Parthenon (replicas) Themistocles 41, 103, 157 Theodorus (sculptor) 41 theos 189 Thermopylae, Battle of (480 BC) 54–5, 111, 245, 254 Theron, tyrant of Acragas 259 Thersippus, runner from Marathon 265, 317 Thessaloniki 39, 68, 182 see also Salonica thighs, in Greek sex 91 Thrakes, Thracians 39–40, 67, 73, 111 Thrasyllus, Monument of 32 300 (film) 51, 111 Thucydides 104–6, 142–9 athletic nudity and 253 English translation 30–1 Margaret Thatcher and 103 Thucydides Trap 147 Tiananmen Square 37 Tite Street see Wilde, Oscar Tobu World Square 231 Tokyo 231, 248, 262 Tolkien, J. R. R. 141, 283 Tom Jones (novel) 35 Tourism, tourists 15, 27, 292 see also Olympia Tralleis 91–2 tragedy, tragic drama, Greek 277–87 tragōidia 278 translation, translators 27, 30–1, 35–6, 43, 97, 110–12, 118–19 Aristophanes and 288 Greek into Chinese 121, 286 Homer and 166–7, 176 Indonesian 171 Trinity 15 see also Christianity Trinity Sunday 196 Trojan War 168–9, 170, 278–9 Troy (film) 169–71 Troy, Trojan 160, 169 Trump, Donald 37–8, 50, 55, 139, 142 architecture and 229–30 truth, Greek attitudes to 86 Turkey 72, 74, 91, 169, 188, 205, 208, 294 see also Ottoman empire Tutankhamun 280 2001: A Space Odyssey (film) 172 Tyre 76

Ukraine 294 United States 8, 32 Ancient Greek teaching in 105 baseball and 256 Classical Greece and 33–4, 35 graduation oaths 46–47 Greek style in architecture 219–21 Greek democracy and 42–3, 45, 47 Hippocratic Oath and 133–4 Rhetoric and 113–14 Thucydides and 146–7 ‘western civ’ and 36–7 see also African Americans, Trump, Donald United States National Library of Medicine 132 University College London 295 Van Dyck, artist 198 Vangelis, composer 260 vase painting see Greek vase painting Vatican 209 Venice 29–30 Venus (planet) 120 Vergina 11–13 Versailles 257 Vicks VapoRub 131 Victoria and Albert Museum (London) 208, 246 video games 171, 233 Vienna 282, 283 War, Civil (American) 64, 107 War, First World 45, 257, 271, 273 War, Franco-Prussian 257 War, Gulf 24 War, Second World 228, 269 warfare see American War of Independence, Olympia, Peloponnesian War, Persian Wars, Trojan War Washington DC 32, 42, 171, 220, 229 Washington Post 66, 68 Weaver, Sigourney 289 West Point (United States Military Academy) 55 ‘western civ’ (university course) 36–7 White House 50 white see colour white supremacists, supremacy 66, 78, 214, 230, 293 Wikipedia 233 Wilde, Oscar 93–6 William ‘of Moerbeke’ 28, 43 Wilson, Thomas 110–11

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Winckelmann, Johann 207–10, 217–18 Window of the World 231 see also China wisdom lovers 179, 190–6 see also philosophers women Athenian ideal body of 205 athletics and 257–9 Chinese women’s employment rights 121 Greek attitudes to 83–5 Greek democracy and 40, 45 Greek theatre and 82, 278–82, 286 Homeric image of 162–3 Orientalism and 209–10 public voices of 114–15 rhetoric and 23 skin colour and 78 Spartan 51 transitioning and 88–9 see also Artemis, menstruation, misogyny, rape

Wonders of the World 86, 185 Wooden Horse 170 World Medical Association 134 World Health Organization 101 Xerxes I, Persian king 111, 152, 154, 156, 245 Xi Jinping, Chinese President 147 Yale University 105, 289 Zeno, Stoic philosopher 8, 136–9 Zeus cult statue at Olympia 185–8 Danae and 140 Ganymede and 90 protector of freedom 49 warfare and 263 see also Olympia Zeus-Ammon 87

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