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It is the logic of our times, No subject for immortal verse — That we who lived by honest dreams Defend the bad against the worse. Close study of Antiquity richly repays the effort and can provide understanding and methodology as we grapple with seemingly new and unsolvable problems that are really only reprises of those our ancient forebears encountered. A final example reveals the need for absolute clarity on issues of propaganda and motivation:.
Donum natalicium. How much of the fatal policy of states, and of the miseries and degradations of social man, have been occasioned by the false notions of honor inspired by the works of Homer, it is not easy to ascertain … My veneration for his genius is equal to that of his most idolatrous readers; but my reflections on the history of human errors have forced upon me the opinion that his existence has really proved one of the al misfortunes of mankind.
In the cold and somewhat troubled winter of — in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group of young scholars including Gregory Nagy, Douglas Frame, Steven Lowenstam and myself met one evening a week to discuss Homer and to read our current work aloud to each other. Athenian Art and Politics evolved. We styled ourselves the Homer Club, and, mainly, it was a lot of fun. That winter of — was a period of political uncertainty following the reation of Richard Nixon. There were severe economic troubles that followed in the wake of the Yom Kippur War and the Arab oil embargo.
The final tragic chapter of the war in South Vietnam and Cambodia — in which I had served as a naval officer — was taking place. The Turks had overrun the excavation site at which I had worked as a field archaeologist with Emily Vermeule in the summer, and there had been looting of the dig finds over which members of the excavation team including myself had labored many hours that were stored in the apotheke of Agios Mammas Church in Morphou.
The academic job market seemed almost non-existent. But despite the prevailing troubled atmosphere, Greg Nagy kept our attention focused on the language of Homer and kept asking about the transcendent meaning of the words. And he never discouraged, but instead encouraged and urged on the thinking processes and ideas of a lowly graduate student. It was my good fortune that one of the resident scholars that year was Evelyn Harrison of New York University who generously gave her time in discussing with me my nascent ideas about the context of late Archaic and early Classical Athenian sculpture.
Her comments on the Athena Parthenos as we stood before the small copy in the Patras Museum on a School trip helped me formulate my ideas about the iconography of the Athenian state. In recent years, I have gained the insight that my ideas about the religious usage of the tyrant slayers as founding heroes of the Athenian democracy were influenced by my childhood spent as the son of Southern Baptist missionaries living amongst the Yoruba in what was then the Western Region of the British Protectorate of Nigeria.
My father, a Duke University Ph. He often reminded me of the parallels between the Greeks and the Yoruba, both living in city-states and both worshipping a pantheon of deities. AsI sometimes came upon a dish of food set before a painted rock as I explored the bush around our mission station and often saw women of the town praying for fertility before a giant baobab tree around which strips of cloth were tied.
From these experiences, I came to understand how a propitiatory religion works, and in retrospect looking back years later, I can see that I applied that understanding to the tyrant slayers. My desire to be an archaeologist was greatly influenced by my historian father, but I did not need much pushing in that direction after visiting the ancient ruins of Africa, the Middle East and Europe in my childhood and early teenage years. I owe a great debt to my parents, Orville W.
Taylor and Evelyn B. Taylor, for the gift of a love of learning and the opportunity to explore our past. My interest in the Athenian democracy was triggered while I was still in high school by a lecture that I attended at UNC-Chapel Hill in the early s given by Anthony Raubitschek on Athenian ostracism. And my understanding of the threats that democracy could face and the citizen efforts that could be undertaken to oppose those threats was informed by the fight against the Speaker Ban Law at Chapel Hill during my undergraduate years and by the events of the Watergate scandal.
Certainly, my visceral and partially negative reaction to the reckless daring of the tyrant slayers and its destructive possibilities was influenced by my military service in the Vietnam War. Michael W. But my presence in Athens, Greece, on November 17,when the Junta crushed the student demonstration at the Polytechnion gave me a renewed admiration for opponents of tyranny when I witnessed uniformed officers knocking a bearded young man to the pavement and savagely beating and kicking him as the crowd began to run up Kolonaki, heard from my room at the American School the rumbling of tank tre on the streets and machine gun fire echoing across Athens during the night, and then saw the destruction at the Polytechnion and its environs the next day.
I began my research in the summer of in the library of the Fogg Art Museum in trying to understand why Theseus was being depicted in the tyrannicide poses. I collected all of the vase paintings of Theseus that I could find and lined them up chronologically. This is the research work that produced Chapter 4 of my book. As it became clear to me that the dating of the shift in the portrayal of Theseus to the tyrannicide pose coincided approximately with the reforms of Ephialtes in the late s and the ascent of Pericles to power, I realized that I had found what I was looking for, a nexus of evidence for understanding the spirit of the Athenian democracy at its high summer.
Because of the course in Greek Lyric Poetry that I had taken from Gregory Nagy, I was able to grasp early on that my basic theme had a Homeric and Nagy-ian quality to it, and was at essence about the Athenian quest for kleos aphthiton — undying fame. This is a perilous matter, it turns out. Great things can be accomplished with immense self-confidence, but reckless daring also to le to destruction. An enticing aspect of the subject of Harmodios and Aristogeiton was the wide variety of the evidence, literary, historical, epigraphical, numismatic, sculptural and pictoral.
When I was writing my Ph. As I did my research back then, I came to visualize scholars in a variety of walled-off enclosures working in his or her own field — philology, ancient history, political philosophy, archaeology, art — and his or her own set of evidence — the statues, the drinking songs and the references to them in Aristophanes, the laws about the descendants, the passages in Herodotus and Thucydides — with each scholar laboring on his or her own projects in isolation, almost as if they saw themselves as not being allowed to proceed to find the overarching meaning of their work, perhaps through a too-zealous application of time-honored narrow and restrictive customs of Classical scholarship, put in place long ago to assure the focus on detail and accuracy required for excellence in this field.
As a graduate student, I was always encouraged to view German scholarship as a great model for emulation, so when I found only a short article on the tyrant slayers in the PaulyI realized that I might have stumbled on a piece of Greek history that had not yet been thoroughly studied, and I was off and running. It seemed to me that all of the evidence about the tyrant slayers — historical, literary, epigraphic, numismatic, sculptural and pictorial — cried out for a multidisciplinary interpretation. And I also set out to collect vase paintings of the Labors of Theseus in an effort to understand the phenomenon of a mythological king being refigured to imitate historical democratic heroes in red figure Athenian vase painting depicting Theseus standing in the poses of the tyrannicides.
My book, The Tyrant Slayerswas basically the result of asking a question — Why did Theseus appear as a tyrannicide in Athenian vase painting? Before The Tyrant Slayersscholarship on the Athenian tyrannicides remained fragmented. Where do we go from here with Harmodios and Aristogeiton? What more does the phenomenon of the tyrant slayers have to tell us about Athens — and about ourselves, about our own 21st century concepts of democracy and the state?
What has been missed? In writing this, I have the advantage of returning to Classical scholarship after an absence of more than three and a half decades while I have practiced law, been engaged in politics and, as an avocation, read the Classics and American and English history on the side along with writing and publishing books and articles about the American Civil War. I am now able to look at my work and the scholarship that uses it with a fresh perspective. The main issue that needs to be further studied, I believe, is a point I attempted to make in the original Introduction to my Ph.
We live in a time when propaganda, much of it of religious and particularly civil religious in nature, permeates our lives through the airwaves. I fully believe that the power and effect of the propaganda being directed at us cannot be fully understood without an appreciation of the impact of its religious component.
From only brief recent observation of the current academic scene, but also from my knowledge of the society surrounding it, I have come to postulate that we live in a time when it is very difficult for scholars with standing within the Academy to acknowledge and accept the power of the religious experience without at the same time belittling that power as mere superstition. Some scholars, very understandably, tired of being attacked as God-less secular humanists, tend to react by discounting and even disdaining the genuine impact and emotional power of religion, giving little credence to the religious instinct.
If we had an infallible intellect with its objective certitudes, we might feel ourselves disloyal to such a perfect organ of knowledge in not trusting to it exclusively, in not waiting for its releasing word. But if we are empiricists [pragmatists], if we believe that no bell in us tolls to let us know for certain when truth is in our grasp, then it seems a piece of idle fantasticality to preach so solemnly our duty of waiting for the bell.
During my first semester at Harvard in the fall ofProfessor Edith Porada was a visiting scholar from Columbia University.
So, once again, the power of the religious experience manifests itself not just in emotions but in tangible ways through art which in turn has emotive power. We may not be as adrift religiously as much as a character in a Douglas Coupland story in Life After God Pocket Books,but the Coupland stories are on target enough to make many Amazon.
It is not very surprising, then, that scholarship touching upon the tyrant slayers over the past 37 years has given little attention to the religious aspect of Harmodios and Aristogeiton, too little in my opinion. It is critically important to remember that the Athenians of the classical period were a very religious people, even when beginning to address the sometimes apparent dichotomies of faith and reason.
It may be that civil religion is in a category all by itself when it comes to producing emotions of a violent nature, perhaps because the machinery of the State is available to those so emoted so that they can sometimes wreak vast swathes of destruction. One has only to think of film footage of torchlit Nazi rallies at Nuremburg to understand the extremes to which those emotions can be taken. The images of civil religion, like those of Harmodios and Aristogeiton, can seem to elevate when they actually serve to soften and even falsify our understanding and memory of the horrors of war and violence.
A central postulate of my Harvard Ph. It seems that Pericles, as a brilliant politician, understood the importance of propaganda in a democracy. The power of propaganda is frequently underestimated by idealists who fail to see, until too late, the ways it can be used to manipulate the public. By looking back at the experience of the Periclean democracy and then forward at examples in our more recent history, we can gain a deeper understanding of propaganda and see that its use from ancient times to modern forms one continuum of the same phenomenon.
Jacques Ellul has pointed out that when a democracy has appeared, propaganda has historically established itself alongside it. In order to come to power, parties make propaganda to gain voters. The notion of rational man, capable of thinking and living according to reason, of controlling his passions and living according to scientific patterns, of choosing freely between good and evil — all this seems opposed to the secret influences, the mobilizations of myth, the swift appeals to the irrational, so characteristic of propaganda.
Democracy was not meant to be a myth … [D]emocracy cannot be an object of faith, of belief: It is an expression of opinion. There is a fundamental difference between regimes based on opinion and regimes based on belief. To make a myth of democracy is to present the opposite of democracy. One must clearly realize that the use of ancient myths and the creation of new ones is a regression toward primitive mentality, regardless of material progress … [T]he objects of propaganda tend to become totalitarian because propaganda itself is totalitarian … [S]uch propaganda can be effective as a weapon of war but we must realize when using it we simultaneously destroy the possibility of building true democracy.
Within Athens and as an adjunct to compulsion within the Athenian Empire, propaganda was critically important to the execution of the policies of Pericles.
In Harmodios and Aristogeiton, I would contend, Pericles found an ideal focus for his propaganda. The question must be whether Pericles used this propaganda for democratic or anti-democratic purposes. How can we gain an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon of the Harmodios and Aristogeiton as powerful symbols of the radical Athenian democracy?
Useful analogies can be found in modern American and European history. It should be noted at the outset that the power of propaganda in the form of demagoguery in a pure democracy was much feared by the American Founders. It is clear that they looked with horror and revulsion on the example of the Athenian democracy as a recipe for mob rule and cataclysm. Jennifer T. Roberts in a useful and fascinating article traces the rising and falling fortunes of the contrasting portraits of Pericles by Thucydides and Plutarch in America and in England.
Such a shift may have been seen as possible once the basic structure of the American constitutional government had been established on the basis of a divided balance of power. Both Everett and Woolsey later became President of their respective universities. Socrates is pitted against the famous atheists of Ionia, and has just brought him to a contradiction in terms.
Pericles is mounting the stand. Then for a play of Sophocles, and away to sup with Aspasia. Harvard Greek Professor and President Edward Everett was influential in several areas including the American movement that began in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts to make cemeteries into something like parks or nature preserves. Although the image of Pericles shifted to a more beneficent one as the 18th century wore into the 19th, the history of the American Civil War and subsequent conflicts shows that propaganda — which I believe Pericles wielded very effectively — has become only more prevalent, with its practitioners more skilled and, as a result, propaganda is even more dangerous than it ever was.
Modern events, especially wars which call for especially intensive propaganda efforts, offer useful historical analogies for the study of the Classical period in Athens in general and of the motivating emotions offered by the tyrant slayers in particular.
The tyrant slayers offer a fruitful subject for understanding the uses and abuses of propaganda, particularly with civil religious overtones, and the striking parallels with modern American and European history can inform our understanding of both periods of history and of our own present situation, besieged as we are with propagandizing messages pouring in over the air waves. It is often difficult to believe that modern soldiers have been willing to sacrifice themselves voluntarily in scenes of such great carnage as presented by warfare waged by modern industrial states.
The motivating factors must be understood, and paramount among those factors is propaganda. At the same time, it is extremely interesting and encouraging to see that poets and other artists have chosen at critical moments both before, during and after wars to question and speak out against the prevailing national tides of propaganda that unleashed such violence, even though, as World War I English war poet Wilfred Owen, who died in the fighting only a week before Armistice Dayobserved, all a poet can do today is warn.
The American Civil War was a cataclysm of extreme violence and loss that brought freedom to the slaves and along the way also forged the modern American state, introducing such measures as military conscription, the income tax, huge prison camps in which inmates perished by the thousands, suspension of habeas corpus, trench warfare, and industrial slaughter of soldiers on a scale so massive that the true total of losses are even now mere estimates and historians have yet to write comprehensive scholarly histories of some entire campaigns.
As Daniel Webster had predicted in an speech replying to those who argued that secession could be peaceable, the American Civil War was a climactic and very nearly apocalyptic event: Peaceable secession! Sir, your eyes and mine are never destined to see that miracle.
The dismemberment of this vast country without convulsion? The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep without ruffling the surface? Who is so foolish … Sir, I see as plainly as I see the sun in heaven … that disruption … must produce war, and such a war as I will not describe.
The events of — are replete with examples of uses, abuses, and means of deployment of plastic and verbal imagery as propaganda through which the harsh medicine of modern statehood was made palatable and, if necessary, force fed to the citizenry, just as the imagery of the tyrant slayers was used to inspire the citizens of the Athens with a love of their polis to attempt — and sometimes fail at — great things. The State with a sword summons to war a student who drops his books.
Photo by the author. Antietam, Md. Confederate dead by a fence on the Hagerstown road. Lee found his way out blocked by regiment upon regiment of black troops at Appomattox. Photograph by the author. The American Civil War start to finish was a great arena for overheated rhetoric and a ferocious attachment to images and idealized leaders.
The international campaign to abolish slavery involved a massive propaganda effort that was sped on its way by iconic works such as J. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gileadby Marilynne Robinson in which the narrator recounts some of the history of his preacher grandfather who rode with John Brown in Kansas contains a fictional 4th of July speech by the grandfather in which he encapsulates the feelings of his generation that fought against slavery — and his words are not peaceable.
Holmes makes an interesting case because his wartime letters clearly show disillusionment with the fighting, perfectly understandable given his three severe wounds. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. It has been everything that could impress the senses and stir the imagination.
That in itself would make this parade an occasion of transcendent mark. And yet how tame is the mere circumstance of s in this case. Who gives a thought to the bare fact that two hundred thousand soldiers have been reviewed in the National Capital? The thought that fills the mind is not how many soldiers; but what soldiers. Who would not rather see the three hundred of Thermopylae than all the millions of Xerxes?Any Athens, Ontario girls looking for a generous guy
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The Mural September 6,