Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Historical Misconceptions

Since I teach Art History, which like it sounds is Art AND History, I thought I should enlighten some people about some serious misconceptions. Right now in our esteemed institutions of higher learning, there are some folks that want us to believe that the civilization of Ancient Greece was a peaceful bucolic sort of existence. Having just taught that unit, I can assure you nothing is further from the truth. All those Greek tragedies, so loved by literary types, have their core stories based in the sad, tragic stuff of reality, not legend. In reality, the Greeks were a bloody band of loosely aligned city states that believed men were born for two purposes-to fight in battles and to compete in athletics. When you look at contemporary American society, and the worshipful way we approach all things athletic, can you really say we have advance much at all? While my class was looking at slides of the Parthenon, Erechthion and Knossos, they were puzzled at how we are creating our own iconography of our civilization. It seems that rather than gods and goddesses, we have athletes and celebrities. We honor them daily in our TV and movie viewing. We put their images on our computer screens and busses and billboards. I am sure we all like to think that civilization has advanced in over 3000 years, but except for a few technological aids, we are the same pagan, brutal, mindless folks that wandered and ravaged lands from Persia to China. There's a great deal we can learn from history. Unfortunately, ancient scholars often were faced with death for their deviation from the norm. Today we revel in deviation and scorn the norm. I wonder what sort of future that sets up for our society.

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