Senate 1001 Days That Shaped the World! Disc. Gauls Attack Rome & Lay Siege to the Capitol (July, 390 BCE)

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Rogue1-and-a-half, Nov 10, 2008.

  1. Champion of the Force Jedi Master

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    There's The 300 Spartans (1962) which is from that time period - it was the film that actually inspired Frank Miller to write 300 in the first place.
  2. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    The books Thermopylae or The Hot Gates are both far better representations of the battle than 300 is.
  3. Nevermind Jedi Knight

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    Here's generally the spot where someone posts that historical accuracy is not important. :p
  4. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Nah, that would be in the Amphitheatre. :p
  5. Nevermind Jedi Knight

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  6. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Xerxes Trounced
    Themistocles? ?wooden walls? save the city of Athens from the Persians
    September 12, 480 BCE

    As the Persians attempted their second great invasion of Greece, Themistocles, an Athenian politician, solidified his place in history by throwing his support behind a strong naval force. Themistocles told the people of Athens that only the ?wooden walls? of their ships would never be conquered by another people and pushed for the creation of a navy of nearly 400 ships, all equipped with a strong iron prow that could be used for ramming and holing the Persian ships.

    At the Battle of Salamis, Themistocles? advice was proved good. Luring the Persian fleet, of more than a thousand ships, into the Straits of Salamis, the Athenian fleet was able to doubly decimate the Persians, who found themselves unable to maneuver because of the tight conditions. The Battle of Salamis ended with more than 200 Persian ships sank or captured.

    Xerxes recognized a high watermark when he saw it and he returned to Asia, not wanting to stick around for the final defeat. Soon after came the battles of Plataea and Mycale where Xerxes? surrogate general, Mardonius, was soundly whipped and thus the Second Invasion of Greece concluded, victory going to the Greeks.

    Many historians consider the Battle at Salamis to be one of the most significant in human history. Xerxes was looking for a decisive victory; instead the Greeks got one and, while Persian forces remained in Greece for some time after, Xerxes? spirit was apparently broken. The Second Invasion was no longer a priority and Greek culture continued its ascendency. Most people consider that if the Battle at Salamis had gone the other way, that the Persians would have overwhelmed the Greeks entirely and subsumed their culture, hamstringing the development of Western civilization as we know it. Civilization as we know it, briefly protected only by flimsy wooden walls.

    Next time, we turn our attention from war to the arts with one of the great moments of literature.
  7. Champion of the Force Jedi Master

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    Ironically, Themistocles ended up being ostracised, and later became a satrap (governor) under Artaxerxes I (Xerxes son). :oops:
  8. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    That is ironic. From what little I've read, it more or less seems that Themistocles was the main reason the Greeks won the war. But hero one day, villain the next.
  9. Champion of the Force Jedi Master

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    The Athenians had a habit of doing that - Miltiades (victor of Marathon) got similar treatment. From memory even Pericles came close to it as well.
  10. Violent Violet Menace Jedi Master

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    A Persian victory wouldn't necessarily mean the decline of Greek culture. The Persians only cared about the prestige of having an expansive empire. They gave already existing leaders the new title of satrap, and basically let them and their newly won province keep their existing laws and governance. The only difference was that the new title of the leader made it official that he and his land were now subservient, which meant that they had to pay an annual tribute to the Emperor. One of the strengths of the Persian Empire was that it was mostly an Empire in name only. They interfered little in the ways of their subject provinces. The Romans would later adopt this same style of Empire administration.
  11. Jabba-wocky Force Ghost

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    I wouldn't agree that it was an empire "in name only" but I do agree, as I've said earlier in this thread, that the prattling about the end of Western civilization is overblown, and pretty heavily Orientalist in tone. Was the Persian subjugation of Judah "the end of Jewish civilization?" Didn't the whole casus belli of the Graeco-Persian Wars emerge out of the fact that the Greek colonies in Asia weren't being forced through radical cultural reforms, thus severing their ties to the mainland city-states? Does any of this rhetoric at all square with the fact that Cyrus was greeted as a liberator and restorer of traditional values in Babylon?

    It's a tired, overly-broad, glossed over, and patently stupid argument.
  12. Nevermind Jedi Knight

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    Okay, the Persians had a 1,000 ships, and 200 were sunk at this battle. That leaves 800, more than enough to do the job.

    Does not compute...
  13. Champion of the Force Jedi Master

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    Once again, I think the bias from the sources (all Greek of course) is showing through. Modern estimates put the Persians at around 600 or so ships (some put it as high as 800), leaving the Persian's with the larger force but not overwhelmingly so.

    In the aftermath of the battle the Persians withdrew their fleet to guard the Hellespont in order to protect the army's sole land access to Asia Minor. Makes sense as a defensive measure, but undoubtedly the Greeks - full of nationalistic pride - saw any such backing off as evidence of crushing victories from their side. And since we only know about all this courtesy of the Greeks themselves it tends to colour the whole perception of the events.
  14. Nevermind Jedi Knight

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    Are there any Persian sources at all?
  15. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Actually, probably not. The fellow I mentioned up above in relation to a more accurate telling of the events at Thermopylae-Paul Cartledge-posits that it's very unlikely due to Persian culture of the time for them to have had a historian-type fellow like Herodotus, who wrote most of these things down in his epic work of history 'Histories(yes, that's what it's called :p) between the 450s and 420s.


    Herodotus


  16. Champion of the Force Jedi Master

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    We should be grateful for Herodotus - without him we'd probably know hardly anything in the first place, it's just a pity he was more interested in telling a good yarn than necessarily telling us an accurate account of what was going on.

    I much prefer Thucydides, however he only wrote about the Peloponnesian War (oh, and he was ostracised as well - those Athenians must have spent half their days exiling people).
  17. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Yeah, Herodotus also had a pro-Hellenic nationalism political bent to Histories; it's important to keep in mind that the idea of "Greece" didn't really exist yet. There was a shared culture, but the entire thing as a cohesive whole didn't really exist.
  18. Nevermind Jedi Knight

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    The Athenians were heavily into groupthink.
  19. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Sophocles Wins Prize
    Aeschylus and Sophocles compete for the ivy wreath of the Great Dionysia
    March, 468 BCE

    The City Dionysia was the counter part to the less renowned Rural Dionysia. Together, the two formed the Dionysia, one of the most important festivals in ancient Athens. One of the most important parts of the City Dionysia, held at the end of March (according to our modern calendar) was the performance of the plays. Playwrights originally presented three tragedies and one satyr play apiece. At the end of the festival, five comedies were sometimes performed. Judges were chosen by lot and at the end of the festival two prizes were given, just like at the Golden Globes, one to the best tragedy and one to the best comedy. These were the most prestigious awards for cultural achievement in the world at that time.

    Most of the extant Greek plays were debuted at the Dionysia; Aeschylus? Oresteia, The Suppliants, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians; Euripides? Bacchae; Sophocles? Antigone and Philoctetes were all among the winners of the prize. Comedies from Aristophanes, including The Clouds, The Birds and Lysistrata, were also debuted at the Dionysia.

    In the year 468 BCE, Sophocles took the prize for Triptolemus, a play which has not survived. The book picks this particular year, I would bet, because this was the first time Sophocles entered the City Dionysia. For a brand new playwright to win, beating out Aeschylus, the reigning prince of Greek tragedy, would be akin to a first time actor winning an Oscar over a slate filled with veterans.

    This begins Sophocles long reign as the second of the greatest Greek tragedians (after Aeschylus and before Euripides). Sophocles brought several innovations to the traditional tragic form, including the introduction of a third character and a reduction of the role of the chorus, both innovations which help tragedies by Sophocles and by others, including Aeschylus, who adopted his innovations seem more modern to us. He brought a strong sense of fatalism to the tragedies and many consider that he introduced a greater degree of character development and logic to the form as well.

    It?s exciting to see this on the list. After a lengthy litany of massive disasters, battles and spiritual insights, we are reminded that art too is a world changing force. Sophocles and the school of Greek tragedy that he helped to codify and push to greater and greater heights is a perfect example of this.

    I actually think I prefer the late Aeschylus to Sophocles; the Fagles translation of the Oresteia was a watershed moment in my creative life and hits like a frigging sledgehammer. Though you can?t quibble with a play like Sophocles? Antigone, my favorite of his work and, I think, the best of the Oedipus cycle, which feels somehow absolutely timeless and still, all these centuries later, rings true in its sympathetic characterizations of both the fiery, obsessive Antigone and the conflicted, troubled Creon, a part I?d love to play on stage. There is a depth of nuance and psychology there that I?ll admit you don?t find in a lot of other work, not even in the Oresteia.

    Next time, another significant cultural moment in the history of Athens from about thirty years after this one!
  20. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Athenians Flaunt Status With Giant Statue
    After the defeat of the Persians, Athens sees an extraordinary flourishing of cultural and political confidence and creativity
    438 BCE

    <img src="http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Arts/Parthenon/Athena.jpg">

    Work was begun on the Athena Parthenos in 447 BCE. The iconic Parthenon and the Athena Parthenos, a massive statue of the goddess Athena, were completed in 438 BCE. The Athena Parthenos is here described by the historian Pausanias:

    The statue itself is made of ivory, silver and gold. On the middle of her helmet is placed a likeness of the Sphinx ... and on either side of the helmet are griffins in relief. ... The statue of Athena is upright, with a tunic reaching to the feet, and on her breast the head of Medusa is worked in ivory. She holds a statue of Victory about four cubits high, and in the other hand a spear; at her feet lies a shield and near the spear is a serpent. This serpent would be Erichthonius. On the pedestal is the birth of Pandora in relief.

    The statue was probably destroyed by a fire in the fifth century CE or perhaps moved to Constantinople where it might have survived longer.

    The image above is of a replica created for the replica Parthenon that currently stands in Nashville, TN. At over 41 feet tall, this replica is the largest indoor sculpture in the world. Creating the replica was no mean feat and we?re talking about modern technology being used; this should bring home just what a massive accomplishment this was and what a staggering sight it would have been to the Athenians in 438. Small wonder that sculptor Phidias was considered the greatest sculptor of his day.

    What this statue represents, of course, is more than just a great, awe-inspiring work of public art. It represents the splendor of Athens during this period; with iconic buildings like the Parthenon, famous festivals like the Dionysia, significant victories as against the Persians, great authors like Euripides and Aristophanes . . . Athens was the cultural and social center of a large and ever growing portion of the world. Only in Athens would one find a statue like the Athena Parthenos; travelers would return to their home towns in awe and spread the word of Athens? glory.

    The ironic footnote: Athens very nearly bankrupted its treasury financing the Athena Parthenos; later, a cash-strapped Athens had the gold removed from the statue and used it to pay their army. Same as it ever was.

    Next time, we?ll continue our look at cultural/artistic achievements by turning our attention to a mode of artistic expression we haven?t talked about yet. We?ll move forward about 7 years and lend our ears to one of the most famous speeches in human history.
  21. Nevermind Jedi Knight

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    Ozymandius, King of Kings...to add insult to injury, it's rather ugly.
  22. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Pericles Praises Dead From Peloponnesian War
    The great political leader tries to galvanize Athens with his famous funeral oration
    431 BCE

    <img src="http://geopolicraticus.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/pericles-funeral-oration.jpg?w=360&h=287">

    Pericles? Funeral Oration came at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War. Pericles was a charismatic, divisive politician who ascended to the role of Athens? leader in 461. He ascended in a cloud of murder and scandal, as was not entirely unheard of in those days (or, sadly, in these). He ruled Athens until his death in 429, a staggeringly long period of leadership.

    The historical record indicates that he was a figure of great controversy, as perhaps any truly great politician is. He was revered as a figure of great charisma and magnetism and something of a genius at swaying the populace. Others attacked his lack of a strong moral compass.

    The causes of the Peloponnesian War are too numerous to even begin to get into here, particularly because I am no expert on this period. Our primary record of the War is, of course, Thucydides? epic History of the Peloponnesian War and it is from this text that Pericles? Funeral Oration has been preserved. Pericles was asked to speak at the annual memorial service for the war dead after the first year of serious combat. He honored the dead, but spent much of the speech extolling the great virtues of Athens in contrast, of course, to their enemies, and, ultimately, whipping up public support for the war. The war continued apace for some time, so Pericles could be said to have done his job well.

    All historians of serious reputation agree that the speech, as recorded in Thucydides? writings, is not historically accurate in detail. Opinions range from one extreme to the other, with some scholars believing that Thucydides fabricated the speech entirely and others believing that the speech is probably mostly correct and was only edited by Thucydides when he included it in his books.

    Regardless of the historical accuracy of the speech as we have it now, its impact on countless great writers, thinkers and speakers is undeniable. It is a masterful bit of rabble rousing and still stirring, when read in a good translation. One listens to political speeches made today, some couple thousand years later, and hears echoes of Pericles? emotional appeal and powerful rhetoric. It is a speech still much studied and, sometimes to the bad, sometimes to the good, much imitated.

    Next time, a historical figure of truly epic proportions ends his own life at the behest of the state. I think we all know who?s coming next time.
  23. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Socrates Forced To Drink Poison
    The famous philosopher is found guilty of corrupting the youth of Athens
    399 BCE

    He said: Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt? The debt shall be paid, said Crito; is there anything else? There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.

    Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend; concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.


    Socrates? trial involved two primary charges against him, subverting the youth of Athens and impiety towards the gods. The influence of Socrates on the youth of the city was undeniable; chief among Socrates? infamous followers was the volatile and controversial Alcibiades who was known for things like randomly defecting to Sparta during wartime and knocking the private parts off of public statuary. He was probably at least something of an outlier in Socrates? students, but tell that to the city fathers. Then again, another student, Critias, had been incredibly influential in the reign of the Thirty Tyrants, during the attempt by that group, influenced and supported by Sparta, to take over Athens and install an oligarchy in place of Athenian democracy.

    His impiety was less easy to pin down. Socrates talked about his own personal spirit, or god (daimonian), but in a strange and vague way. He himself stated that he had no disrespect for the gods. Still, he was seen as a dangerous influence with his constantly questioning philosophy and his occasionally nihilistic and bleak outlook on human nature. Regardless, for all the danger he appeared to pose to Athens by undermining the foundational principles of the city and its government, he was put on trial, convicted and sentenced to death.

    The history of these events have come down to us through Socrates? most famous student, Plato and, secondarily, Xenophon. My favorite Socratic dialogue is easily the Symposium, in which a load of party boys debate the meaning of love, with properly crazed results, and it has nothing to do with the death of Socrates. But for a great experience, and to get a first hand feel for whether or not Socrates? death was justified, read the following:

    Euthyphro, in which Socrates, on the way to his trial, pauses to debate what exactly impiety and piety even are with the titular character
    Apology, in which Socrates? trial is given out in detail
    Crito, in which the title character visits Socrates in prison and tries to convince him to escape
    Phaedo, in which the soon to die Socrates faces the biggest question of all: the nature of life and death; this one concludes with Socrates? taking the poison and expiring

    Are these valid historical sources? The question may be moot, since they?re about all we have, but let?s take the question anyway. First of all, they are hardly by a disinterested party. And Plato has his own points to make and doubtless throws literal historicity out the window in order to form the image of Socrates (and of the larger world) that he wants; these are works of thought experimentation first, minimalist drama second and history only a distant third. But they?ve survived for a reason; in a good translation, they?re riveting reading and thought provoking. Hardly anyone nowadays will go all the way with Plato/Socrates in whatever direction they?re headed, but the history of thought would be profoundly different without the Socrates that Plato passed down to us.

    Next time, we?ll jump forward about nine years and hop back over to Rome, a city we?ve deserted for Athens quite a bit of late, and back into the realm of armed conflict.
  24. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Um, hmmm...are we going to be covering the siege & fall of Athens in the Pelleponesian War?
  25. Nevermind Jedi Knight

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    The question is: should one suffer for what your followers do? And for what you believe in? The answer in those days was yes.