Tag: Antiquity (home)

We would find the ancient Greeks a strange people indeed. They were courageous and bold to a fault, but they were also heartless and cruel. They slaughtered one another in trivial wars. They were superstitious and fanatical. They knew they were vulnerable, but an inner demon drove them into battle. With only swords, shields, and pikes to fight with, they inflicted catastrophic and terrible cutting wounds on one another. The Greeks had little in the way of machinery, except to besiege cities. Yet they unflichingly slaughtered one another in the name of honor. The strong man prevailed. All others were left for dead on the battlefield. The Greeks directed their strength and energy into making war. Then they sat around their campfires and recited stories about the heroes of old. Because the Greeks had talented poets and artists, they were able to create from their bellicose and unpitying society an imaginative culture that impressed itself upon many later generations. The Romans were much like the Greeks, but the Romans established a peaceful empire built on the concept of law and order. They built aqueducts to bring water into their cities and built roads to carry their civilization to the ends of their empire. The Greeks had only heroes, who with a sense of honor laid waste to their cities and engaged in perpetual conflict unto death.

permalink source: Norman Cantor, Alexander The Great: Journey To The End of the Earth,172
tags: Culture, Antiquity

The key to the life and behavior of the historical Alexander the Great lies in his belonging to a pre-Christian, thoroughly pagan world. He remained culturally and psychologically committed to an archaic Homeric time of heroic behavior. Alexander belonged to an age of gods and heroes. It was a harsh, pitiless world of unremediated severity and cruelty, in which the laws of war, by which whole populations could be wiped out or sold into slavery, prevailed. It was a superstitious ambience requiring that the gods be propitiated, but these divinities were lacking in any ethical consciousness. It was a world in which women were abused and prostitution was commonly acceptable. It was a moment in time when pedophilic abuse passed without comment. Falling-down drunkenness was similarly viewed as manly and socially acceptable. This culture produced Alexander, a man of incomparable heroism, who gloried in his physical strength and his battle-ready glamour. Overall the time was marked by a reckless, harsh ethos embedded in savage cruelty. This was Alexander's world, and he strutted on its stage as a colossus.

permalink source: Norman Cantor, Alexander The Great: Journey To The End of the Earth, 167-168
tags: Slavery, Antiquity

The Persian empire was a "soft" empire, resembling the British Empire of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The imposition of a common English culture was far beyond the capacity of even the ambition of the British Empire's modest-size official personnel. Rulership in the British Empire varied radically. In Africa and parts of India, the British were content with "indirect rule"--leaving government largely in the hands of native chieftains and princes. Hedonism, eroticism, and self-indulgence on the part of the elite were common characteristics of such empires. The Roman Empire, in contrast, was hard-core. Only two languages--Greek in the East and Latin the West--were recognized. Every effort was made to impose Greco-Roman culture and religion on the peoples of the Roman Empire. ... Alexander's empire, modeled on that of his Persian predecessor, was of the soft variety...

permalink source: Norman Cantor, Alexander The Great: Journey To The End of the Earth, 26-27
tags: Antiquity

Alexander was born into a pagan, pre-Christian world. His behavior was conditioned along certain lines--heroism, courage, strength, superstition, bisexuality, intoxication, cruelty. He bestrode Europe and Asia like a supernatural figure, and that is why his fame has not only endured but also become magnified and embellished by fantasy.

permalink source: Norman Cantor, Alexander The Great: Journey To The End of the Earth, 168
tags: Antiquity