today we’re going to have some discussions about The Farewell. First let’s remind ourselves of the story, its locations and the characters.
Billi (Awkwafina), a struggling, artistically minded New Yorker who emigrated from China with her parents as a young child six years old.
In some ways, Billi is closer to her grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen), who lives in the northern Chinese city of Changchun and speaks no English, than to her own mother (Diana Lin) or father (Tzi Ma).
Nai Nai (Mandarin for “grandma”), always available for warm, easygoing cellphone chats, is a funny, candid, lively presence compared to Billi’s parents, who often seem weary, anxious and impatient. They have worked hard and sacrificed so much to give their daughter access to the American middle class, as they don’t hesitate to remind her. It’s a complicated inheritance, to understate the matter. At times, the competing demands of filial duty, individual ambition and cultural identity that Billi faces seem overwhelming.
Billi’s identity crisis comes into view as the side effect of a larger and graver situation. Nai Nai, who has a persistent cough, receives a grim diagnosis. Or, rather, her younger sister (Lu Hong), who accompanies Nai Nai to her medical appointment, hears the bad news and decides to tell everyone in the family except Nai Nai, who may have only a few months to live. A party is planned, at which Billi’s cousin, who grew up mostly in Japan, will marry his girlfriend. The real purpose is to gather the clan to pay respects to the dying matriarch, though no one is supposed to shed a tear or mention her illness.
Billi is bothered by the secrecy, both because it seems unethical to withhold information from a patient and because it means that she must counterfeit her own feelings, suppressing her grief in favor of forced joy. Wang turns her frustration and bewilderment into a gentle exploration of the cultural differences and generational schisms that have, over the years, opened up within Nai Nai’s extended family.
Some relatives offer some ways of explaining these divides. In America, Billi is told, the emphasis is on the individual, whereas in China family and community always come first. Billi, treats such conventional wisdom with respectful skepticism.
Agreeing and disagreeing. Chapter two from Face2Face.
Look at the photo. Who are the people? What are they doing?
Let’s do the reading (you can listen to the transcript R2.6).
JAMES Jenny, you haven’t touched your sandwich. Look, Liam has nearly finished his. (Don’t want it.) OK, go and play with Harriet then. Oh dear, she’s hardly eaten anything.
HAZEL Don’t worry about it. It’s best just to let kids eat when they want.
LILY don’t know about that. I think it’s important for kids to get used to good eating habits as early as possible. That’s what I did with my kids, and when I look after Liam that’s what I do with him. Right from the word go, you should make them stay at the table until they finish their food.
H I can’t really see the point of forcing kids to eat. I think that just makes kids hate meal times and food becomes a bigger problem.
L Oh, do you think so? I think if kids aren’t allowed to play until they’ve eaten their food they soon learn to empty their plates. You have to be strict right from the beginning or they just get into bad habits.
J I see what you mean.
H Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I’ve never been strict with Harriet and she eats anything. All you have to do is make it fun, like, for example letting them help when you’re getting food ready.
J I see your point. I must admit we always send Jenny out of the kitchen when we’re cooking.
L Quite right too. It’s dangerous in a kitchen for a five-year-old.
J I suppose that’s true, actually.
H But life’s dangerous for a five-year-old. They’re always falling down and stuff. And I don’t mean …I’m not suggesting you leave the kid alone in the kitchen to make the meal. You’re there supervising everything.
J I should imagine it slows everything down if they’re helping you.
H OK yes, but on the other hand they’re learning valuable life lessons.
J Mmm. You might be right there. That’s a good point.
L Well, I’m still not convinced. What can a five-year-old do to help in the kitchen?
H Little things like letting them get things for you out of the fridge or the cupboards. Or let them wash the vegetables for you. Just simple things.
J You mean, sort of make it a game.
L But Harriet’s a girl.
H Well, I can’t argue with that.
L No, I mean I don’t think little boys are interested in that kind of thing, do you?
J Oh, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case at all.
H Yes, and you’ll never find out if he’s interested unless you give it a go. Anyway, it’s important that boys learn how to cook, don’t you think?
L I suppose you’ve got a point there. Right,
Liam, time to go. You’re doing the cooking this evening.
Answer these questions.
Who thinks that parents should be strict about children’s eating habits?
Who doesn’t agree with being strict?
Who doesn’t have a strong opinion on the subject?
Fill in the gaps with James, Lily or Hazel.
……. is having trouble persuading his/her child to eat.
…….. believes the way to encourage children to eat is to make meal times fun.
……… and don’t let their children help them prepare food.
………. and agree that letting children help you cook slow things clown.
….. and …….. agree it’s important that boys leam to cook.
Look at these sentences.
Are they ways of agreeing (A) or disagreeing (D)?
I don’t know about that. D
1 can’t really see the point of (forcing kids to eat).
Oh, do you think so?
1 see what you mean.
Oh, I wouldn’t say that.
1 see your point.
1 suppose that’s true, actually.
You might be right there.
That’s a good point.
Well, I’m still not convinced.
Well, I can’t argue with that.
1 suppose you’ve got a point there.
TIP! We often follow an agreement phrase with but to challenge the other person’s opinion: I see what you mean, but I think it’s much better to let them eat when they want.
Look at the underlined phrases. Tick the correct phrases. Change the incorrect ones.
I used to go out with friends’ last night.
I’m usually waking up at 7 a.m.
I’d have pets when 1 was a child.
Occasionally I’ll stay in at the weekends, but I normally go out.
I’m always lose things.
I didn’t use to watch as much TV as I do now.
Make sentences 1-6 true for you.
Find four things that you have in common. Use these words/phrase.
Hong Kong is unrecognisable. In less than six months a global financial centre known for its efficiency and pragmatism has become consumed by rage and violence. On Tuesday, as police stormed a university campus to arrest students, and their teargas and rubber bullets were met by petrol bombs, parts of the campus looked more like a conflict zone than a seat of learning.
The initial trigger for all this was the now-withdrawn extradition bill. But the government’s response, and in particular police brutality, has fired the protests. The latest escalation was sparked by the death of a student who fell from a building following police clashes with protesters last week. Most responded passionately but peacefully – with an estimated 100,000 gathering this weekend for a vigil. Others have ramped up their stance.
The government appears to see that assault, and the wider destruction, as an opportunity to drive a wedge between those taking part in protests and the rest of the population: Carrie Lam, the chief executive, described demonstrators as “enemies of the people”. Some residents are no doubt shifting. Yet the real and profound disagreement remains that between the government and the population of Hong Kong – as Ms Lam’s historically low approval ratings indicate. Even people who disapprove of some or many of the movement’s means understand that, unlike the police, it has no command structure. They also see protest actions as spawned by police violence and a government that can only crack down, never compromise. Attacks by thugs on crowds of protesters and the targeting of leading activists have further hardened opinion.
Nor does the news that the city is now in recession, due in large part to the movement, seem to have made a significant dent. And despite Monday’s disruption and violence, white-collar workers in the city’s centre applauded activists and passed them supplies. In a survey taken a few weeks ago, more than four out of 10 respondents said protesters had used excessive violence; but almost seven in 10 said the same of police. Nearly nine in 10 backed an independent inquiry into police actions.
The true responsibility lies not with rank-and-file officers but with those commanding them. A public inquiry and an amnesty for protesters who have not committed violent crimes might still take some steam out of the movement. But these look unlikelier than ever. The alternative is probably ever-escalating violence. Hong Kong’s government must rely on the police because it does not have the support of the public. And it cannot command public support because residents understand that it is not there on their behalf but that of Beijing. That is why the right to choose their own leaders has become a central demand.
John Tsang, the city’s former financial secretary, defeated by Ms Lam for the chief executive post, observed on Tuesday that, given the imbalance of power between protesters and the government, the government should take the initiative to de-escalate the force it is using. This seems like a statement of the obvious but from a pro-establishment figure it is striking. Yet it will almost certainly go unheard. Beijing appears more determined than ever to rely upon increased repression and a few economic sweeteners. But neither trigger-happy policing nor bungs can resolve this political struggle.
It is hard to explain life and politics in Hong Kong right now. Think of the lack of any political antennae and empathy of Teresa May and ramp it up many times. Think of the inertia of the most stolid and conservative of regimes in history and cover it in superglue.. Think of any person you know who can only make the wrong decision on everything. Then you have Carrie Lam and her government.
As soon as I heard of the face mask ban, (advised agains…
Note; editorial shared via blog platform instead of platforms provided by links on The Guardian as those are blocked in China. Please see The Guardian website for subscriptions to the paper and further relevant articles.
A nineteen-year-old black woman living in Harlem, and the narrator of If Beale Street Could Talk. Despite her age, Tish is quite mature
Fonny (Alonzo Hunt)
A twenty-two-year-old black man in prison because he has been wrongfully accused of raping Mrs. Rogers. Shortly before his arrest, Fonny asks Tish—whom he has known since he was a child—to marry him.
Tish’s mother. Sharon is a kind and accepting woman who doesn’t judge Tish for getting pregnant with Fonny’s baby. Instead, she tells Tish not to think of herself as a “bad girl.
Tish’s father, and Sharon’s husband. Like Sharon, Joseph is an unjudgmental person who readily accepts people and their problems. In keeping with this, he insists that he doesn’t think Tish is a “bad”
Tish’s older sister. Ernestine is a confident and persuasive young woman who works as an advocate for sick and neglected children. Because of this job, she has many connections with lawyers.
Fonny’s father. Frank is quite unlike his wife, Mrs. Hunt, especially since he isn’t religious. Whereas Mrs. Hunt is a “sanctified woman,” he spends his time getting drunk.
A Puerto Rican woman who has accused Fonny of raping her. Mrs. Rogers moved to New York City six years before she was raped, coming to the city with an American engineer she met.
Fonny’s friend. After many years apart, Daniel and Fonny run into one another on the street not long before Fonny is arrested. Going back to Fonny’s apartment, they drink beer and talk about Daniel’s conviction for a crime he didn’t commit.
The racist police officer who claims to have seen Fonny running from the scene of the crime after Mrs. Rogers was raped. This is untrue, but Officer Bell wants to take revenge on Fonny.
Fonny’s mother and Frank’s resentful wife. Mrs. Hunt is a highly religious woman who disapproves of Tish and her family’s lifestyle, believing that Tish has ruined her son’s life because she has agreed to marry him.
One of Fonny’s sisters. Like her mother, Mrs. Hunt, Adrienne is a prim and proper woman who dislikes Tish and her family because they aren’t religious. Unsurprisingly, she disapproves of Tish’s pregnancy.
One of Fonny’s sisters, who is very religious like her mother and sister Adrienne. Also like Adrienne and Mrs. Hunt, Sheila disapproves of Tish and her family because they aren’t religious.
The white lawyer who takes on Fonny’s case. Although at first Tish is skeptical about whether or not Hayward actually cares about Fonny’s trial, she soon sees he is genuinely concerned/
A waiter at the Spanish restaurant in Greenwich Village, where Fonny is a regular. Pedrocito is a kind man who allows Fonny and Tish to eat without paying for their meal after Officer Bell harasses them.
A landlord who agrees to rent his loft space to Fonny and Tish. In contrast to the many landlords who refuse to rent property to them because they’re black, Levy is happy to have the lovers rent his loft.
One of Tish’s childhood friends. An opinionated girl, Geneva gets in a fight with Daniel, ultimately dragging Tish into the altercation. During this fight, Tish ends up hitting Fonny with a board.
The young man who drives Sharon around when she goes to Puerto Rico to find Mrs. Rogers. Although he hardly knows her, Jaime quickly comes to respect Sharon, which is why he devotes himself to helping her in any way he can.
Mrs. Rogers’s “common-law husband,” who works at a night club in Puerto Rico.
Starr Carter – The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Starr is a sixteen-year-old black high school student who spends her life divided between the poor, primarily black neighborhood of Garden Heights and Williamson Prep, a wealthy, primarily white school. Starr is analytical and sharp, but because she narrates events as she experiences them, her emotions are immediate and unfiltered. Traumatized after witnessing the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil, Starr blames herself for not being there for Khalil prior to his death. As Starr gains the courage to testify at the grand jury hearing for One-Fifteen and grapples with how being black affects all aspects of her life, she grows more outspoken, refusing to accept the way racism hurts her.Read an in-depth analysis of Starr Carter.
Khalil Harris – Starr’s childhood best friend who is shot by One-Fifteen during a traffic stop. After Khalil’s death, rumors spread that Khalil dealt drugs and participated in the King Lords gang, placing his character in question. However, Starr remembers Khalil primarily as the sweet friend she knew growing up. Kenya and DeVante attest that Khalil often spoke fondly of Starr, and that he cared about her very much. Toward the end of the novel, DeVante reveals that Khalil took great care of his family and only sold drugs to pay off his mother’s debt to King.Read an in-depth analysis of Khalil Harris.
Maverick “Big Mav” Carter – Starr, Seven, and Sekani’s father, an outspoken and philosophical man who runs a small grocery store in Garden Heights. Despite his dark past as a member of the King Lords gang and a short stint in prison, Maverick is an engaged father who devotes himself fully to his family and his neighborhood. Maverick inspires Starr by educating her on Black Power philosophy, but he struggles with balancing his values of black liberation with the reality that those values put him and his family in danger. His strong beliefs often get him into arguments with Uncle Carlos, who helped care for Maverick’s children while Maverick was in prison.Read an in-depth analysis of Maverick “Big Mav” Carter.
Lisa Carter – Mother to Starr and Sekani, and step-mother to Seven. Lisa is a nurse and a loving but firm mother. Although she comes off as strict, Lisa has a compassionate heart and teaches the importance of forgiveness and second chances. She fiercely protects her children and always reminds her husband, Maverick, not to push the children too far into dangerous activism.Read an in-depth analysis of Lisa Carter.
Uncle Carlos – Starr’s maternal uncle, a police officer. Uncle Carlos served as a father figure in Starr’s life, particularly while Maverick was in prison. With his job as a police officer and a home in a suburban, gated community, Uncle Carlos assimilates into the white community, and encourages Lisa to do the same with her family, leading to conflict with Maverick.
Seven Carter – Starr’s older half-brother, son of Maverick and Iesha. Seven is the oldest of the Carter children and fiercely protects all his siblings. He worries particularly for Kenya and Lyric, his half-sisters through Iesha, because of their dangerous home environment with King.
King – The leader of the King Lords gang. King profits off the drug dealings in Garden Heights, but does not care about the community, threatening elderly men and teenagers alike to protect his hold over the neighborhood. King abuses his girlfriend, Iesha, and daughters, Kenya and Lyric.
Chris – Starr’s boyfriend, a wealthy white boy from Williamson Prep. The two initially bonded over a love of the television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Chris often raps the theme song to make Starr smile. Chris adores Starr and tries to make her feel comfortable being her entire self around him, which Starr struggles with throughout the novel.
One-Fifteen – The white police officer who shoots and kills Khalil. Although the media portrays him as a caring father and good police officer, One-Fifteen lies to his colleagues about the events of the night of Khalil’s death. Throughout the novel, One-Fifteen represents systemic racism and corruption in law enforcement.
Hailey Grant – Starr’s friend from Williamson Prep, a wealthy, white teenage girl who feels uncomfortable when confronted with the racism affecting Starr’s life. In the past, Hailey expected Starr and Maya to go along with her dictates, and finds Starr’s new outspokenness threatening.
DeVante – A black teenage boy from Garden Heights and member of the King Lords gang. DeVante attempts to leave the King Lords after King gives him an assignment that DeVante knows will lead to his own death. Despite his cocky exterior, DeVante cares deeply for his family and others. He has a crush on Kenya.
Kenya – Starr’s friend from Garden Heights and Seven’s half-sister through Iesha. Kenya is assertive and calls Starr out for not spending as much time with people in Garden Heights since Starr started going to Williamson Prep. Kenya also urges Starr to speak out on behalf of Khalil.
Mr. Lewis – The neighborhood barber, an older black man and resident of Garden Heights. Mr. Lewis loudly complains about the effects of gang violence in the neighborhood and often clashes with Maverick because of Maverick’s past membership in the King Lords. The King Lords later beat up Mr. Lewis after he betrays King on television.
Maya Yang – A close friend of Starr and Hailey’s at Williamson Prep. Maya is the peacekeeper of the trio, always trying to get Starr and Hailey to communicate. After Maya confesses that Hailey made racist comments about Maya’s Asian American heritage, Starr and Maya form an alliance to fight Hailey’s racism.
April Ofrah – Starr’s lawyer, a community organizer who leads Just Us for Justice. She encourages Starr to use her voice for activism.
Iesha – Mother to Seven, Kenya, and Lyric, a sex worker who is dating King. Iesha puts her relationship with King over the safety of her children, but she is also a victim of King’s abuse.
Sekani Carter – Starr’s younger brother. Maverick and Lisa protect Sekani from a lot of the dangers around him and Sekani maintains a childish innocence throughout the novel.
Natasha – Starr’s childhood friend who was shot by accident at the age of ten during a gang-related shootout in Garden Heights.
Ms. Rosalie – Khalil’s loving grandmother who often looked after Starr and Sekani when they were young.
Brenda Harris – Khalil’s mother, a drug addict who was often absent during Khalil’s childhood.
Lyric – Seven’s youngest half-sister.
Remy – Hailey’s brother who starts a protest at Williamson to get out of class.
Rome, in around the eighth century BC, was the usual post-Dark Age cluster of clannish villages, struggling for survival, fighting for pre-eminence and squabbling over cattle-rustling, ownership of water sources and land.
The people who first settled there picked a good spot. Situated in northern Latium (the region of western central Italy surrounding Rome), on a group of seven hills, it was the best crossing point of the Tiber river. Not only did it occupy a good defensive position but it was also blessed with a supply of fresh water and easy access to the sea.
By the end of the seventh century BC Rome had begun to develop those indicators of urban civilization: planned streets, temples and a forum.
Between 509 and 264 B.C.E., this city expanded and united almost all of Italy under its control. During this time of conquest, Rome also developed the political institutions of a republic ruled by an aristocratic oligarchy.
The founding myth for Romans was the tale of Romulus and his twin brother Remus. They were the children of Rhea Silvia and Mars (or in some versions, Hercules). The story tells that Romulus and Remus were chucked into the Tiber to drown by their great-uncle, the king of a local city who feared that they would grow up to claim the throne. But the infants were washed up at the future site of Rome, where they were sheltered and suckled by a she-wolf. After an argument, Romulus murdered his twin, spilling his blood on the foundations of the fledgling city.
For later Romans, who knew of the tumultuous civil wars that had racked their city, that Rome should have come into being against the backdrop of bloody murder must have seemed fitting. The story of Romulus and Remus highlighted a persistent and well-founded fear of the consequences of destructive strife within its ruling elite.
The Roman Republic came into being, with noblemen Lucius Collatinus (Lucretia’s widowed husband) and Marcus Brutus (who had led the revolt against Tarquin) as the first consuls of Rome, ridding Rome of its line of kings.
The Republic which lasted for over 450 years, was a mix of monarchical, oligarchic and democratic elements. The king was replaced by two elected consuls, who could serve no longer than a year in office. This constitutional arrangement was designed to ensure that no individual could amass too much political power or influence.
The first act of the two consuls was to administer an oath, taken by all the Roman people, which promised never to accept another king. As Rome grew, new roles, or magistracies, were added to assist the consuls: praetors, aediles and quaestors, each one with a fixed set of responsibilities and seniority. Rome’s courts interpreted the huge body of laws based on the twelve tablets (see below).
All these officials were elected from the law-making body of the state, the Senate. Roman government revolved around the Senate’s body of aristocratic citizens who distinguished themselves from everyone else with their titles, purple-striped togas, senatorial rings and even special shoes. Senators held the key public offices and many would command provinces and armies.
Lastly, there was a Popular Assembly made up of the whole citizen body, enacted legislation and an army of magistrates who enforced it. The Assembly, as in many other city-states, was essentially powerless, but used by aristocrats to legitimate their power through its support. Plebians attempted to wrest some power back. In 495 BC, during discord over debt and military recruitment, the Senate realized it could not function if it lost almost its entire army, and agreed to the Plebeians’ demands. From then on, two Plebeian tribunes, in what became known as the Popular Tribunate, were elected every year to protect the interests of the Roman people in the Senate as well as presiding over the Popular Assembly.
Despite the semi-democratic institutions, Patricians (a closed group of aristocratic clans) had power over the Plebeians (everybody else) Republican Rome was basically still in the thrall of an aristocratic warrior class engaged in cattle rustling and attacking their neighbours.
Like all oligarchies, the Roman elite strove to achieve good order by admitting the barest minimum of ‘rights’ to lower social classes while at the same time preventing anyone of their own number from achieving pre-eminence by breaking ranks and recruiting the lower orders to their banner.
To speak of a Roman senatorial elite is to ignore the fact that political life was controlled by an über class made up of just a few select families. Others might become senators, but it was rare for them to break into the charmed circle of consular families. When individuals from less exalted senatorial families did achieve this, it was usually because they had the support of one of the grand aristocratic houses. Once a consulship had been attained, then a family could dare to hope that more might follow and that eventually they might too join the rarefied ranks of the nobiles (The families of Fabius, Cornelius, Metellius and Marcellus, …).
The aristocratic Roman was expected to uphold the virtues of civilitas (being a good citizen). This involved a rigid set of virtues including courage, clemency, wisdom, duty, modesty and gravitas. The aristocratic male was hard-wired to pursue political and military glory. The extreme competitive ethos that was the hallmark of the ruling class was the greatest engine for Roman expansion.
Republican expansion and integration
Rome first expanded through Italy. It’s great strength was its ability to integrate native populations, creating a large and stable territories.
Rome granted full Roman citizenship to virtually all the Latin cities, they also bestowed the old Latin legal status that guaranteed rights such as property ownership, intermarriage and migration on the populations of the new colonies that they established further afield across the rest of Italy. These Latin rights acted as a kind of halfway house between foreigner and Roman citizenship. Using newly created legal statuses, rather than ethnicity or geography, as the basis for membership of their club, all sorts of very different populations could be quickly and fairly painlessly absorbed into the Roman state. They were good incentivizers too, because by maintaining a sliding scale of statuses, Rome could reward loyal allies with an upgrade. At the same time these communities were able to maintain their own local political offices and identities. It was a blueprint that would help Rome to hold together a vast empire for centuries.
For Rome, the most important benefit of this generosity with rights and citizenship lay in military recruitment: Latin rights brought with them an obligation to provide troops for military service. As Roman territory grew, so did the potential size of its army, giving it a huge advantage over other states with far more finite resources. By the second century BC, over half the Roman army was made up of Italians, not Romans.
Firm control over Italy made Rome one of the Mediterranean’s major powers. Between 264 and 133 B.C.E., Republican Rome expanded to the west and east and became master of the Mediterranean. The Romans began to come into conflict with another rising power located just across the water: Carthage. Located in North Africa near modern-day Tunis, Carthage was the capital of a seafaring empire, shown here in red, that dominated commerce in the Western Mediterranean. Rome fought three conflicts with Carthage, known as the Punic Wars, between 264 and 146 BC. The first conflict occurred after Carthage intervened in a dispute on the island of Sicily, just off the southern tip of Italy. While Sicily wasn’t Roman territory at the time, the Romans felt this was a little too close to home. They sent an army to expel the Carthaginian troops. The result was the First Punic War, which lasted for more than 20 years. This map shows the situation after the war: Rome gained control of the islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia, making it a significant naval power for the first time.
Rome prevailed against the Carthaginian empire in Spain and Africa in the second and third Punic wars. In the east, Rome conquered Macedonia and also took control of the Greek states.
The Romans made their rule acceptable by allowing local autonomy and gradually granting Roman citizenship to non-Romans. Rome’s early laws, written in the Twelve Tables, constituted civil law for Romans. As Rome expanded, the Romans developed the law of nations, that applied to Romans and non-Romans alike.
Religion permeated Roman life. Ritual was at the focus of religion, for ritual established the correct relationship with the gods, both for individuals and for the state. or most of its history, Rome was a pagan society. Romans worshiped a pantheon of Roman and Greek deities, including Jupiter, Apollo, and Venus. From the early days of the republic, the Romans built temples and made sacrifices to the gods, and would consult religious leaders to determine which days were auspicious ones for a wedding, military offensive, or other major undertaking. This map shows the temples in Pompeii. Notice that in addition to temples to traditional pagan gods, the map shows a Temple of Vespasian. This is an unfinished structure that some historians speculate was intended to honor the emperor who was in power at the time Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the city. Religion and state were closely intertwined in Roman society, and subjects were encouraged to think of their rulers as semi-divine figures.
Rome was a slave state.
When the Romans prevailed on the battlefield, they would often take their defeated enemies captive and sell them into slavery. People could also become slaves due to failure to pay debts or as a punishment for crime. Roman slavery differed from American slavery in some important respects. Roman slaves could be of any race. And while American slaves generally performed manual labor, Roman slaves could sometimes be highly skilled. Educated slaves captured from the Greek world were highly sought after for tutoring children and performing clerical work.
The revolt began in 73 BC, with the escape of around 70 slave-gladiators from a gladiator school in Capua; they easily defeated the small Roman force sent to recapture them. Within two years, they had been joined by some 120,000 men, women and children; the able-bodied adults of this band were a surprisingly effective armed force that repeatedly showed they could withstand or defeat the Roman military, from the local Campanian patrols, to the Roman militia and to trained Roman legions under consular command. The slaves wandered through Italia, raiding estates and towns with relative impunity, sometimes dividing into separate but connected bands with several leaders, including the famous gladiator-general Spartacus.
The war ended in 71 BC when, after a long and bitter fighting retreat before the legions of Crassus and the realization that the legions of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus were moving in to entrap them, the armies of Spartacus launched their full strength against Crassus’ legions and were utterly defeated. When the rebellion was finally crushed, 6,000 surviving slaves were crucified along the Appian Way, a major road leading into Rome.
(Let’s listen to Bettany Hughes on Roman Slavery, 0.1.00-)
Fall of the Republic
Huge wealth, earned in a series of military victories across the second century BC, largely found its way into senatorial pockets. The senators were keen to invest their new riches in prime agricultural land, much of which was still in the hands of small peasant farmers. In turn, many of these smallholdings were heavily in debt because their men had been called up to serve in the Roman armies often for many years. A land grab ensued, in which Italian smallholders were kicked off and their farms became part of the huge estates owned by extremely rich senators. The evicted peasant farmers went to swell the ranks of the dispossessed urban poor in Rome.
The Gracchi brothers were two aristocrats who thought rule had become too unfair. Their scheme was to redistribute of the huge bank of public land that the Roman state had accumulated during its conquest of Italy and the central Mediterranean region, and to set up subsidized corn rations in Rome.
These proposals put them on a direct collision course with their fellow senators, many of whom had appropriated much of this public land for themselves. The Gracchi’s appealed to the Popular Assembly; this earned them the hatred of the Senate. When they realized that they could not stop the Gracchi by legitimate means, the senators took the law into their hands. In 133 BC, Tiberius was battered to death on Capitol Hill by senators armed with clubs and planks. In 122 Gaius and 3,000 of his supporters were killed, with swords this time. The corpses of both brothers ended up in the Tiber river.
After 133 B.C.E., Rome’s republican institutions proved inadequate for the task of ruling an empire. Ambitious individuals such as Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar saw opportunities for power. Military reforms at the beginning of the first century had made possible the creation of professional armies that were loyal to the generals who recruited them, rather than to the state. Bloody civil war ensued.
In 58 BC, Julius Caesar took command of Rome’s northern frontier and set out to conquer Gaul, which corresponds roughly to modern-day France. He was following in the footsteps of other ambitious Roman politicians who had led foreign conquests as a way to bolster their reputation at home. This map shows Caesar’s exploits, which took almost a decade and brought him to almost every part of modern-day France. While he was on campaign, Caesar’s enemies gained the upper hand in Rome and declared martial law. Roman law forbade a general on campaign to enter Italy at the head of an army. In 49 BC, Caesar took the fateful step of crossing the Rubicon, the river that marked the northern border of Italy, with his army. That triggered the civil war that would destroy the Roman Republic.
The decisive battle came on August 10, 48 BC, when Caesar defeated Pompey at the Battle of Parsalus, in the north of modern-day Greece. Pompey fled to Egypt, but officials there betrayed him and sent Caesar his head. After that, Caesar became the master of Rome. His strategy would be very different from that of Sulla, the last man to have occupied such a position of political supremacy. Under Caesar, there were no proscriptions or illegal land grabs. Former enemies were treated with impressive compassion.
Under Caesar, poverty was alleviated by debt reform, and new colonies were planned for the landless. Road building and drainage projects were introduced to provide employment and improve the infrastructure of Italy. Economic reforms were enacted to revive an economy shattered by war and mismanagement.
In the provinces, unfair taxation systems were overhauled and large numbers of provincials were granted Roman citizenship. Many loyal followers were elevated to an enlarged Senate.
Julius Caesar’s reforms showed that fair and decent government was easier to achieve under the rule of one man. The previous hundred years of political strife proved that Rome’s constitution had not evolved to meet the needs of a city-state that was now a world empire
Caesar ruled Rome as an autocrat despite his efforts to mask it by showing due deference to the political institutions of the Republic – he held successive consulships, but the idea of Caesar as just another senator was clearly preposterous.
Caesar careful to refuse the crown, not wanting to appear to want to rule as king. However, many of the old senatorial elite disliked the personal oath to protect his life that they had been obliged to swear. In fact, they disliked it so much that they decided to break it.
On the ides (the 15th) of March, a group of senators murdered Jul ius Caesar. When he recognized one of his assassins, Marcus Brutus, an Optimate whom he had pardoned and subsequently admitted into his inner circle, he was said to have cried out ‘Et tu, Brute’, ‘Even you, Brutus’, words of injured betrayal that have rattled down through the centuries.
The plotters were driven out of Rome, an then Italy, by an enraged urban mob. Caesar had nominated an heir, Marcus Octavius, his nephew and adopted son
After the series of civil wars, peace was achieved when Octavian (Julius Caesar’s nephew) defeated Antony and Cleopatra (the Egyptian Queen) at the Battle of Actium, in 31 BC. Antony and Cleopatra tried to flee from Octavian’s advancing army by sea, but he was intercepted by a navy commanded by Octavian’s deputy, Agrippa. Octavian’s ships won the battle, and although Antony and Cleopatra escaped, they no longer had enough forces to pose a serious threat to Octavian.
Let’s listen to Bettany Hughes narrating the fall of Mark Antony and the rise of Caesar (video in class 28.40-37.00)
Octavian renamed himself with the title of Augustus (redeemer of the people) in 27BC (this date is often seen as the end of the Republic).
After a series of bloody civil wars, Augustus created a new order that began the
Roman Empire. Although he never declared the Republic dead and continued
to give the senate a role in governing, most political power remained in the hands of the princeps, or First Citizen, as he called himself. the army swore loyalty to
him, and the restoration of peace soon made the new political order acceptable to most people in the empire.
Augustus established the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which lasted until 68.
In the second century, the five ‘‘good emperors’’ maintained a period of peace and prosperity in which trade flourished and the provinces were governed efficiently.
Within their empire, the Romans were responsible for a series of achievements that were fundamental to the development of Western civilization, a civilization that would arise for the most part in the lands in Europe conquered by the Romans, where Roman culture and political ideals were gradually spread.
The Romance languages of today (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian) are based on Latin.
Roman Republican and Imperial Law and its legacy
Western practices of impartial justice and trial by jury owe much to Roman law. The Twelve Tables (aka Law of the Twelve Tables) was a set of laws inscribed on 12 bronze tablets created in ancient Rome in 451 and 450 BCE. They were the beginning of a new approach to laws where they would be passed by government and written down so that all citizens might be treated equally before them. Although not perhaps a fully codified system, it was a first step which would allow the protection of the rights of all citizens and permit wrongs to be redressed through precisely-worded written laws known to everybody. Consequently, the Roman approach to law would later become the model followed by many subsequent civilizations right up to the present day.
As great builders, the Romans left monuments to their skills throughout Europe, some of which, including aqueducts and roads, are still in use today. Other monuments provided models for public buildings in the West for hundreds of years.
Throughout the classical period, Britain was at the fringes of civilization. Caesar invaded in 55 BC, but didn’t establish a permanent Roman presence on the island. Conquest of Britain began in earnest under the emperor Claudius in 43 AD. Over the next four decades, Roman troops explored the entire island, including the northernmost parts of Scotland. But the Romans only conquered an area roughly corresponding to modern-day England and Wales. The Romans would govern this territory until 410, when the declining Western Roman Empire was forced to abandon the remote province.
Hadrian, who ruled from 117 to 138 AD, believed the empire was becoming overextended militarily, and immediately upon taking office he focused on consolidating Roman control of the territories that had already been conquered. One reflection of this shifting thinking was Hadrian’s Wall, whose construction was begun in 122. Over time, similar fortifications would be built all around the edges of the empire, transforming what had been a fluid frontier into a clearly defined border. The wisdom of Hadrian’s decision became apparent after 142, when Hadrian’s successor, Antoninus Pius, conquered additional British territory and ordered a second wall built farther north. The new wall was only manned for a few years before the Romans were forced to abandon the new territory and retreat to the border Hadrian had chosen.
Protected behind Hadrian’s Wall, Roman Britain flourished. The island’s economy became more specialized and more integrated with the continent. The Roman empire provided its subjects with a reliable and standardized system of currency. Uniform money brings major economic benefits because cash transactions are a lot more efficient than those done by barter.
This map, drawn from a database of amateur archeological finds, shows where Roman coins were found between 1997 and 2010. The fact that coins are still being found all over England and Wales, centuries after the empire’s collapse, suggests just how thoroughly Romanized these territories became during four centuries of imperial rule.
The Romans founded London as Londinium in 47 AD, later building a bridge over the River Thames and establishing the settlement as a port with roads leading to other outposts in Roman Britain. As the largest Roman city in Britannia, London remained under Rome’s authority until 410 AD
East-West diffusion (Roman Empire)
As Rome was rising in the West, the Han dynasty was consolidating power in China. These two great empires were too far apart to have a direct relationship. But they became linked together indirectly through trade networks. This map, based on geographical data recorded by a Greek writer in the early years of the Roman Empire, shows the trade route from Rome to India. Elites in India and China prized Roman-made glass and rugs, while Roman aristocrats enjoyed purchasing silks made in the Far East. Some Roman writers saw the increasing sums Romans were spending on silks for their wives as a symbol of Rome’s decadence and moral decline.
Fall of the Roman Empire
By the third century, the Roman world was suffering an era of decline. Generals fought each other in civil wars. Between the years 235 and 284, there were twenty-seven emperors, and only four of them did not suffer a violent end. German tribes and Persian armies invaded the empire. There were plagues, population
decline, and economic problems.
A new religion—Christianity—was spreading throughout the empire. Beginning among the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, Christianity, with its promise of salvation, its similarity to many mystery religions, and its universality as a religion for all—
rich and poor, men and women, Greek and Roman—slowly gained acceptance.
Late Antiquity, Roman influence, birth of the Middle Ages
The period from the mid-third century to the mid-eighth century was both chaotic
During late antiquity, the Roman world of the Mediterranean was gradually transformed. Diocletian and Constantine restored an aura of stability to the Late Empire by increasing the size of the bureaucracy and the army, establishing price controls, raising taxes, and making occupations hereditary.
Constantine made some profound changes to the empire after he became Rome’s sole emperor in 324. He created a new imperial capital at Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople, laying the foundations for an Eastern Roman Empire that would endure long after the West fell. Even more important, Constantine was Rome’s first Christian emperor. When he took the throne, he began the transformation of Rome into a Christian empire. While some of his subjects resisted Christianity, the change ultimately stuck. As a result, Christianity became the dominant religion of Europe for the next 1,500 years.
Upon Constantine’s death in 337, the empire was divided among Constantine’s three sons, who quickly began fighting among themselves. This cycle would repeat itself several times over the next half-century. It became clear that the empire was too big for any one man to rule. The last emperor to rule a united empire, Theodosius, died in 395. This map shows the result: an empire permanently divided between east and west.
Dividing East and West
In 476, the last western emperor was deposed. With fewer resources and little resolve, the government was less able to repel the German migrants who moved into the western part of the empire.As the western part of the Roman Empire disintegrated, a new civilization slowly emerged, formed by the coalescence of three major elements: the Germanic peoples who moved into the western part of the empire and established new kingdoms, the continuing attraction of the Greco-Roman cultural legacy, and the Christian church.
Politically, the Roman Empire in the west was replaced by a new series of Germanic
kingdoms, including the Ostrogoths in Italy, the Visigoths in Spain, several Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain, and a Frankish kingdom in Gaul.Each of these kingdoms fused Roman and Germanic elements to create a new society.
Beginning in the fourth century, under Constantine, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire. The Christian church (or Roman Catholic Church, as it came to be called in the west) played a crucial role in the growth of a new civilization.
The church developed an organized government under the leadership of the bishop of Rome, who became known as the pope. One of the most significant popes was Gregory I the Great, who gained both religious and political power. The church also assimilated the Classical tradition and through its clergy brought Christianized civilization to the Germanic tribes. Monks and nuns who led the way in converting the Germanic peoples in Europe to Christianity.
In the east, Greek and eastern elements of late antiquity were of more consequence as the Eastern Roman Empire was transformed into the Byzantine Empire. The Germanic kingdoms of the west and the Byzantine civilization of the east came to share a common bond in Christianity.
Despite the Christian bond, the two civilizations continued to move apart.
The rise of Islam, Rome’s third heir, resulted in the loss of the southern and eastern Mediterranean portions of the old Roman Empire to a religious power that was neither Roman nor Christian. The new Islamic empire forced Europe proper back upon itself, and slowly, a new civilization emerged that became the heart of what we know as Western civilization.
According to a Census Bureau Current Population survey, for every $100 in income earned by white families, black families earn only $57.30, and for every $100 of wealth held by white families, black families have only $5.04.
African-American communities suffer entrenched and ongoing disadvantages in education, health, housing, labour, income and criminal justice. (Krivo and Peterson, 2010).
25 per cent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S. Yet the U.S has just 5 per cent of the world’s population.
Today the prison population is more than 2 million. The majority of those imprisoned are African Americans, but African Americans are a minority of all Americans.
Criminal courts sentence black defendants more harshly than white defendants. Many black defendants accept a plea (plea guilty) because they cannot afford competent legal representation.
US leads world in fatal police shootings
Fact: In the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the past 24 years.
Behind the numbers: According to The Counted, the Guardian’s special project to track every police killing this year, there were 59 fatal police shootings in the US for the days between 1 January and 24 January.
According to data collected by the UK advocacy group Inquest, there have been 55 fatal police shootings – total – in England and Wales from 1990 to 2014.
The US population is roughly six times that of England and Wales. According to the World Bank, the US has a per capita intentional homicide rate five times that of the UK.
Police shooting victims disproportionately black
Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater i, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.
The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.
Who is killing all those black men and boys?
Mostly white officers. But in hundreds of instances, black officers, too. Black officers account for a little more than 10 percent of all fatal police shootings. Of those they kill, though, 78 percent were black.
What were the circumstances surrounding all these fatal encounters?
There were 151 instances in which police noted that teens they had shot dead had been fleeing or resisting arrest at the time of the encounter. 67 percent of those killed in such circumstances were black.
There were many deadly shooting where the circumstances were listed as “undetermined.” 77 percent of those killed in such instances were black.
There were instances where police truly feared for their lives.
Data show that police reported that as the cause of their actions in far greater numbers after the 1985 Supreme Court decision that said police could only justify using deadly force if the suspects posed a threat to the officer or others. From 2005 to 2009, “officer under attack” was cited in 62 percent xxxvii of police killings.
Black Lives Matters
BLM is a protest movement against police brutality, including the unlawful police killing of black people.
Some protesters draw historical parrallels with current murders by police and historical abuses. A famous and typical case was the murder of Emmett Louis Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955). Emmet was a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store. The brutality of his murder and the fact that his killers were acquitted drew attention to the long history of violent persecution of African Americans in the United States. Till posthumously became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement.
Let’s watch some clips and get straight into some discussions.
The Hate U Give
The film is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Angie Thomas. The author told NPR she was inspired to write The Hate U Give after the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant—a young, African-American man who was killed by a white transit officer in Oakland on New Year’s Day in 2009.
Grant was unarmed when he was shot, and Thomas was struck by the media coverage that focused on Grant’s criminal record rather than the circumstances of his death. “More people were talking about what he had done in his past than the fact that he unjustly lost his life,” Thomas said.
In the film’s story,
Starr Carter, a teenage girl living with her parents and two brothers in the tough (fictional) neighbourhood of Garden Heights.
Her father Maverick is a former gang member turned community leader keen to impress on his children both the importance of black pride and the dangers of being a person of colour in an institutionally racist nation.
Starr is a high-performing student at Williamson Prep, a wealthy, primarily white school. [one of her friends is the blonde girl Hailey, and her boyfriend is xxx].
Traumatized after witnessing the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil, Starr blames herself for not being there for Khalil prior to his death.
As Starr gains the courage to testify at the grand jury hearing and grapples with how being black affects all aspects of her life, she grows more outspoken, refusing to accept the way racism hurts her.
Let’s watch some scenes from the movie, pausing for a brief discussion after each of them.
Scene 1: Maverick gives his children “the talk” (to be played in class)
Class discussion one.
What’s “the talk” about?
Why does Maverick need to give it?
Scene 2: Starr and Khalil get stopped by a policeman.
Class discussion two.
Khalil is a drug seller, like Maverick was when he was a young man.
Why does Khalil do it? What do you think about that? What would you do if you were in his shoes?
Why did Maverick do it? Why did he stop? What does he do instead?
Scene 3: Starr’s uncle Carlos (a policeman) explains how police think when stopping black and white suspects.
Class discussion three.
What do you think of uncle Carlos’s explanation and Starr’s reaction?
Scene 4: Starr and her friend Hailey fall out.
Class discussion four.
Black Lives Matter and the Bend the Knee Campaign: confronting racial inequality and police brutality
Let’s watch a short video giving a little about social context. . What is “bending a knee”? Why are Colin Kaepernick (and many others) doing it?
What are the links between bend the knee and black lives matter?
If Beale Street Could Talk
The film is based on the novel of the same title by the great American writer James Baldwin (1974).
The film tells the story of Tish, a young woman who, with her family’s support, seeks to clear the name of her wrongly charged lover Fonny and prove his innocence before the birth of their child.
Like many young African American men Fonny (aka Alonzo) has been arrested and jailed on a trumped-up charge (of raping a woman), following a run-in with a grudge-bearing white cop.
Tish is pregnant and promises Fonny he’ll be out and back in Harlem before their baby is born.
Tish’s family, led by protective matriarch Sharon and down-to-earth Joseph, are accepting and proud. But Fonny’s religious mother responds with hostility and spite, blaming Tish for her son’s supposed fall from grace.
Fonny’s friend Frank sounds a warning as he had to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, to avoid getting a long sentence in jail.
Sharon tracks the rape victim Victoria to her native Puerto Rico, and pleads with her to admit that she made a mistake when she identified Fonny as her rapist.
Let’s have have some discussions.
Themes: Love-male/female & family love; family, friend , or community relationships; powerlessness; racism-cultural & legal system; social injustice; religion; community, church, political, identity formation, etc.
1. Which theme is strongest/ most central? Tell us your thoughts about it.
2.. Would you feel powerless if you were in the same situation as Tish? How likely are those events and occurrences depicted in the book likely to happen today?
Please do the Cultural Racism reading. There will be a class quiz on this next week.
Please also watch the first of our movies on American immigrants. We’ll start with The Farewell.
Music (or mousike) was an integral part of life in the ancient Greek world, and the term covered not only music but also dance, lyrics, and the performance of poetry. A wide range of instruments was used to perform music which was played on all manner of occasions such as religious ceremonies, festivals, private drinking parties (symposia), weddings, funerals, and during athletic and military activities. Music was also an important element of education and Greek drama performances held in theatres such as plays, recitals, and competitions.
For the ancient Greeks, music was viewed as quite literally a gift from the gods. The invention of specific instruments is attributed to particular deities: Hermes the lyre, Pan the syrinx (panpipes) and Athena the aulos(flute). In Greek mythology the Muses personified the various elements of music (in the wide Greek sense of the term) and were said to entertain the gods on Mt. Olympus with their divine music, dancing, and singing.
The nine Muses are goddesses of the various arts such as music, dance, and poetry and are blessed not only with wonderful artistic talents themselves but also with great beauty, grace, and allure. Their gifts of song, dance, and joy helped the gods and mankind to forget their troubles and inspired musicians and writers to reach ever greater artistic and intellectual heights.
The Muses are the daughters of Zeus and the Titan Mnemosyne (Memory) after the couple slept together for nine consecutive nights. They are:
Calliope, traditionally the most important (beautiful-voiced and representing epic poetry and also rhetoric),
Clio (glorifying and representing history),
Erato (lovely and representing singing),
Euterpe (well-delighting and representing lyric poetry),
Melpomene (singing and representing tragedy),
Polymnia (many hymning and representing hymns to the gods and heroes),
Terpsichore or Stesichore (delighting in dance),
Thalia (blooming and representing comedy),
Urania (heavenly and representing astronomy).
Other mythical figures strongly associated with music are the god of wine Dionysos and his followers the Satyrs and Maenads. Amphion and Thamyres were both famed for their skills playing the kithara (guitar) whilst Orpheus was celebrated as a magnificent singer and lyre player.
The Greeks believed music could have a beneficial effect on both the mind & body of the listener.
The oldest surviving Greek musical instruments are bone auloi which date from the Neolithic Age (7th-4th millennium BCE) and were found in western Macedonia, Thessaly, and Mykonos. The three major civilizations of the Bronze Age in the Aegean (3000 to 1000 BCE), Cycladic, Minoan, and Mycenaean Civilization, all provide physical evidence of the importance of music in their respective cultures. Marble figurines from the Cyclades represent players of both the aulos and the harp. Cretan hieroglyphic script has three symbols which are musical instruments – two types of harp and a sistrum (or rattle, originally from Egypt). An alabaster lyre decorated with swan heads survives from Knossos and a fresco at Akrotiri on Thera depicts a blue monkey playing a small triangular lyre. The Minoan ‘Harvester Vase’ (1500-1450 BCE) from Hagia Triada on Crete depicts a sistrum player and clay versions of the instrument have been found in graves across Crete. There is also some evidence that music may have been written down as early as the Bronze Age if a Minoan Linear A text on a wall in Hagia Triada is interpreted as such.
The combining of words and music, melodic and scalar systems, and several of the most popular musical instruments such as the aulos and lyre probably derived from the Near East. However, the Greeks themselves considered the lyre, in particular, as a ‘Greek’ instrument whilst the aulos is often represented in mythology as an inferior foreign competitor of Eastern origin. Hence, the great Greek god Apollo, who was believed to be the master of the lyre, defeated the Phrygian Satyr Marsyas and his aulos in a musical competition judged by the Muses. The lyre was also the musical instrument, above all others, which young Greeks had to learn in their schooling and was recommended as such by Plato in his Republic.
Greek musical instruments included stringed, wind, and percussion. By far the most popular were the lyre, aulos (usually double), and syrinx. Other instruments, however, included the rattle (sistrum and seistron), cymbals (kymbala), guitar (kithara), bagpipe (askaulos), conch and triton shells (kochlos), trumpet (salpinx), horn (keras), tambourine (rhoptron), shallow drum (tympanon), clappers (krotala), maracas (phormiskoi), xylophone (psithyra), various versions of the lyre such as the four-stringed lyre (phorminx) and the multi-stringed and elongated barbiton, and various types of harps, usually triangular shaped (e.g. the psalterion). Two unusual instruments were the rhombos (a wind instrument) which was a flat rhombus pierced with holes, strung on a cord, and played by spinning the cord. The second was the hydraulis, a sophisticated Hellenistic organ which used compressed air and water pressure maintained by two pedals. Incidentally, stringed instruments were always played with the fingers or a plectrum rather than with a bow and in the Classical Period, stringed instruments were favoured over wind as they allowed the player to also sing and, for the Greeks, words were considered more important than musical sounds.
There is evidence that the Greeks began to study music theory as early as the 6th century BCE. This consisted of harmonic, acoustic, scalar, and melody studies. The earliest surviving (but fragmentary) text on the subject is the Harmonic Elements by Aristoxenos, written in the 4th century BCE. Music also became an element of philosophical study, notably, by the followers of Pythagoras, who believed that music was a mathematical expression of the cosmic order. Music was also held to have certain therapeutic benefits, even medicinal powers over physical and mental illnesses.
In addition, one of the unique contributions the Greeks made to the history and development of music is that it can have a moral and emotional effect on the listener and his or her soul; in short, that music has an ethical role in society. For this reason, Plato, considering them rather decadent, banned instruments capable of producing all of the scales. Likewise, overcomplicated rhythms and music with too fast a tempo were considered morally dangerous in the great philosopher’s ideal republic.
Regarding written music, 52 pieces of Greek music survive, albeit in a fragmentary form. For example, a musical excerpt from Euripedes’ play Orestes survives, as does an inscription of music from the Athenian Treasury at Delphi. The most complete surviving piece of Greek music is the song of Seikilos from a 2nd century BCE tombstone found at Tralleis near Ephesus.
Greek musicians were very often the composers and lyricists of the music they performed. Known as the ‘makers of songs’ or melopoioi, they created melos: a composition of words, tune, and rhythm. There is evidence that musicians enjoyed an elevated status in society as indicated by their particular robes and presence on royal household staff lists. There was even a specific symbol for musicians in the Cretan hieroglyphic script and the later Linear B. Professional musicians were male, although an exception were the courtesans or hetairai who performed at symposia. However, there are depictions in art of female musicians, notably the clay dancing lyre players from Palaikastro. Other professional musicians included the trieraules who set the beat for the rowers in triremes and trumpet players and choral singers who accompanied marching soldiers.
Music and dancing accompanied processions on special religious occasions in various Greek cities and, amongst the most famous in the Greek world, were the Panathenaia and Great Dionysia festivals of Athens. Certain religious practices were usually performed to music, for example, sacrifices and the pouring of libations. Hymns (parabomia) and prayers (kateuches) were also sung during processions and at the altar itself. These were provided by choral groups of professional musicians, notably aulos players, often attached to particular sanctuaries, for example, the paeanists in Athens and the aoidoi and epispondorchestai in the sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus.
Music, dance, poetry and drama recitals were also a competitive activity in events such as the pan-Hellenic festivals held at Isthmia, Delphi and Nemea. However, as with the athletic competitions, the music contests were of a religious nature in that excellence was offered to honour the gods. There were two types of such musical contest: stephanites (sacred with a symbolic wreath as the prize) and chrematites or thematikoi (with more tangible prizes such as money or precious goods). Sparta, Argos, and Paros held the earliest such competitions from the 7th century BCE. In Hellenistic times, musical festivals and competitions became so common that musicians and performing artists began to organise themselves into guilds or Koina.
Music & Education
Plato informs us that the first schools dedicated to musical education were created by the Cretans. However, the heyday of music in the classroom was during the 6th and 5th centuries BCE when schools of music were established in Athens where pupils aged between 13 and 16 were taught to play the lyre and kithara and to sing, accompanied by their teacher on the aulos. Music taught discipline and order and allowed the educated to better appreciate musical performance. Athletics and other sporting activities, another major element of the Greek education, were also done accompanied to music, particularly in order to increase synchronization.
Music for Pleasure
Music was a staple element of the symposium or all-male drinking party. After eating, the men each sang a song (skolia) with an aulos, lyre, or barbiton providing backing music. Often they sang amusing satirical songs (silloi). Finally, at the end of the evening, it was common for the group to take to the streets as a komos (band of revellers) and sing and dance their way through the town.
Women too could enjoy music in the privacy of their homes. Usually women played stringed instruments and recited poetry to music. In addition, household chores such as weaving and baking were done to music. Children too sang songs (agermos) at people’s doors to receive small change and sweets just as carol-singers do today.
In the theatre, performances of Greek tragedy, comedy, and drama were all accompanied by music, and singing was provided by a designated chorus which consisted of as many as 24 singers in Greek theatre performances of the 5th century BCE.
Music in Art
Musicians and musical instruments were a popular subject on frescoes, in sculpture, and on Greek pottery, particularly in the geometric, black-figure and red-figure styles. Aside from all of the major figures of Greek Mythology previously mentioned, a notable addition to the subject of music on Greek pottery is the greatest of heroes Hercules. Late Archaic and Early Attic pottery often portray the hero with a kithara, and perhaps this symbolizes the association between physical and musical exercise which are necessary for a properly balanced education. Other great heroes such as Achilles, Theseus, and Paris are also sometimes portrayed playing a musical instrument (usually a lyre), once again reinforcing the dual aims of an aristocratic education and the virtue of music. Also, many school scenes on 5th-century BCE pottery depict students with both a lyre and a book-roll, illustrating once again the importance of music in education. Finally, Lekythoi, slim jars for holding perfumes, are commonly found in grave contexts and often have music as the subject of their decoration, perhaps in an attempt to ensure that the deceased was accompanied by music on their journey into the next life.
Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE.
Note: AHE article shared in this form rather for educational purposes in China (links and other forms of sharing restricted). Please see the AHE website for subscription information.
The Trojan War, fought between Greeks and the defenders of the city of Troy in Anatolia sometime in the late Bronze Age, has grabbed the imagination for millennia. A conflict between Mycenaeans and Hittites may well have occurred, but its representation in epic literature such as Homer’s Iliad is almost certainly more myth than reality. Nevertheless, it has defined and shaped the way ancient Greek culture has been viewed right up to the 21st century CE. The story of gods and heroic warriors is perhaps one of the richest single surviving sources from antiquity and offers insights into the warfare, religion, customs, and attitudes of the ancient Greeks.
The main source for our knowledge of the Trojan War is Homer’s Iliad (written sometime in the 8th century BCE) where he recounts 52 days during the final year of the ten-year conflict. The Greeks imagined the war to have occurred some time in the 13th century BCE. However, the war was also the subject of a long oral tradition prior to Homer’s work, and this, combined with other sources such as the fragmentary Epic Cycle poems, give us a more complete picture of what exactly the Greeks thought of as the Trojan War.
The Trojan War, in Greek tradition, started as a way for Zeus to reduce the ever-increasing population of humanity and, more practically, as an expedition to reclaim Helen, wife of Menelaos, King of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon. Helen was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris (also known as Alexandros) and taken as his prize for choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess in a competition with Athena and Hera at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Menelaos and the Greeks wanted her back and to avenge Trojan impudence.
The Greek Army
The coalition of Greek forces (or Archaians as Homer often calls them) was led by King Agamemnon of Mycenae. Amongst the cities or regions represented were Boiotia, Phocia, Euboea, Athens, Argos, Corinth, Arcadia, Sparta, Kephalonia, Crete, Rhodes, Magnesia, and the Cyclades. Just how many men these totalled is unclear. Homer states an army of ‘tens of thousands’ or rather more poetically ‘as many [men] as the leaves and flowers that come in springtime’.
The gods had their favourites amongst the men fighting down on the plains of Troy & they often protected them by deflecting spears.
Amongst the Greek warriors were some extra special heroes, leaders who were the greatest fighters and displayed the greatest courage on the battlefield. Also, they often had a divine mother or father whilst the other parent was a mortal, thereby creating a genealogical link between the gods and ordinary men. Amongst the most important were Achilles, Odysseus, Ajax, Diomedes, Patroklos, Antilokus, Menestheus, and Idomenus.
The Greeks were aided by several of the Olympian gods of Greek religion. Athena, Poseidon, Hera, Hephaistos, Hermes, and Thetis all gave direct or indirect help to the Greeks in Homer’s account of the war. The gods had their favourites amongst the men fighting down on the plains of Troy and they often protected them by deflecting spears and even spiriting them away in the heat of battle to put them down somewhere safe, far from danger.
The Trojan Army
The Trojan army defending the great city of Troy, led by their king Priam, had assistance from a long list of allies. These included the Carians, Halizones, Kaukones, Kikones, Lycians, Maionians, Mysians, Paionians, Paphlagonians, Pelasgians, Phrygians, and Thracians.
The Trojans, too, had their semi-divine heroes and these included Hektor (son of Priam), Aeneas, Sarpedon, Glaukos, Phorkys, Poulydamas, and Rhesos. The Trojans also had help from the gods, receiving assistance during the battle from Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, and Leto.
Most of the Trojan War was in a fact a protracted siege, and the city was able to resist the invaders for so long principally because its fortifications were so magnificent. Indeed, in Greek mythology, the walls of Troy were said to have been built by Poseidon and Apollo who, after an act of impiety, were compelled by Zeus to serve the Trojan King Laomedon for one year. There were, though, battles outside the city where armies fought, sometimes with chariots, but mostly by men on foot using spears and swords and protected by a shield, helmet, and armour for the chest and legs. War waged back and forth across the plains of Troy over the years, but the really exciting battles seem to have been reserved for the final year of the siege and the following are a selection of the highlights.
Paris v Menelaos
Tiring of indecisive battles, Menelaos offered to fight Paris in single-combat and so settle the issue of the war. Agreeing to this, the two warriors drew lots to see who would have first throw with their spear. Paris won and threw first but his spear landed harmlessly in the shield of Menelaos. The Greek king then threw his weapon with tremendous force and the spear went through the shield of Paris and carried on through to pierce his armour. If Paris had not swayed at the last moment, he would surely have been killed outright. However, Menelaos was not finished and with his sword he struck a fearful blow on the Trojan prince’s helmet. The sword shattered, though, and fell in pieces into the dust. Menelaos then grabbed Paris’ helmet with his bare hands and proceeded to drag him from the field. Choking as his helmet strap wrapped around his neck, Paris was only saved through the intervention of Aphrodite who broke the helmet strap and, covering the prince in a thick mist, spirited her favourite back to the safety of his perfumed bedroom.
Hektor v Ajax
The meeting of the two great heroes echoes that of Menelaos and Paris. Each throw their spears but to no effect. Hektor then threw a large rock at the Greek, only for him to fend it off with his shield. Ajax then returned the favour with an even bigger rock, smashing Hektor’s shield. They then drew their swords and closed for mortal combat but were each stopped by their comrades who called for an end to the fighting as night was approaching. Displaying the code of honour for which the good old days were famous, the two warriors even said goodbye on friendly terms by exchanging gifts, Hektor giving a silver-hilted sword and Ajax giving a splendid purple belt.
With the support of Apollo, an inspirational Hektor, in his finest hour, once more beat the Greeks back to their ships.
The Greek Ships Attacked
Following a tremendous day of fighting, Hektor led the Trojans in an attack on the very walls of the Greeks’ camp. Breaking through the gates, the Trojans sent the Greeks fleeing in panic back to their ships. However, as Zeus was momentarily distracted by the charms of Hera, Poseidon stepped in to encourage the Greeks who rallied and forced the Trojans to retreat. Then the tide of battle changed again and, with the support of Apollo, an inspirational Hektor, in his finest hour, once more beat the Greeks back to their ships where he sought to set them ablaze.
Invincible Achilles was quite simply the greatest warrior in Greece, or anywhere else for that matter. Much to the Greek’s frustration, though, he sat out most of the final act of the war in a big sulk. Agamemnon had stolen his female war-booty Briseis and consequently the hero refused to fight. Agamemnon at first doesn’t seem to have been too bothered about losing his temperamental talisman but as the Trojans started to gain an upper hand in the war, it began to look like Achilles would be needed if the Archaians were to actually win the protracted conflict. Accordingly, an increasingly desperate Agamemnon sent an appeal to Achilles with promises of vast treasure if he would only re-join the conflict. These Achilles refused but with the Greek camp under attack, Patroklos appealed to his mentor and great friend Achilles to rejoin the conflict and, when he still refused, Patroklos asked for permission to wear Achilles’ armour and lead the fearful Myrmidons himself. Achilles, on seeing one of the Greek ships already ablaze, reluctantly gave his consent but warned Patroklos to only repel the Trojans from the camp and not pursue them to the walls of Troy.
Patroklos then led the Greek fight-back, the Trojans were swept back and he even managed to kill the great Trojan hero Sarpedon. Flushed with success, the young hero then ignored Achilles’ advice and rashly carried the fighting on towards Troy. However, at this point, great Apollo intervened on behalf of the Trojans and struck the helmet and armour from Patroklos, shattered his spear and knocked his shield from his arm. Thus exposed and defenceless, Patroklos was stabbed by Euphorbos and then Hektor stepped in to deal the fatal blow with a pitiless stab of his spear.
Achilles’ New Armour
When Achilles discovered the death of his great friend Patroklos, he was overcome with grief and rage and he swore to take terrible revenge on the Trojans and Hektor in particular. After a suitable show of mourning, Achilles finally decided to enter the battlefield once more. It was a decision which would seal the fate of Troy.
Resplendent in his shining armour, Achilles, still mad with rage, predictably routed the Trojans.
Before he could enter the fighting, though, Achilles needed new armour and this was provided by his divine mother Thetis who had Hephaistos, the master craftsman of Olympus, make him the most magnificent set of armour ever seen. Using bronze, tin, silver, and gold, the god made a massive shield which depicted a myriad of earthly scenes and all the constellations. So too, he made a dazzling, gold-crested helmet for the hero. Resplendent in his shining armour, Achilles, still mad with rage, predictably routed the Trojans who fled in panic behind the safety of their city walls.
Hektor v Achilles
Hektor alone remained standing outside the walls but at the sight of the awesome Achilles on the rampage, even his nerve gave way and he made a run for safety. Achilles, however, gave chase and pursued the Trojan prince three times around the city walls. Finally catching him, Achilles killed his quarry with a vicious stab of his spear in Hektor’s throat. Achilles then stripped the body of its fine armour and, tying Hektor by the ankles to his chariot, Achilles dragged the body back to the Greek camp in full view of Priam standing atop the fortifications of the city. This was a shockingly dishonourable act and against all the rules of ancient warfare.
Having avenged the death of Patroklos, Achilles arranged funeral games in his fallen friend’s honour. Meanwhile, Priam entered the Greek camp in disguise and begged Achilles to return the body of his son that he might be given proper burial. Initially reluctant, the emotional pleas of the old man were finally heeded and Achilles consented to return the body. Here the Iliad ends but the war still had a few more twists of fate to turn.
The Trojan Horse & Victory
The war involved several more exciting episodes including Achilles’ fight with and killing of the Ethiopian King Memnon and the Amazon Penthesilea who both came to the aid of the Trojans. Achilles was even said to have fallen in love with the beautiful Amazon just at the moment he killed her with his spear. Achilles himself met his destiny and was killed by an arrow to his only weak spot, his ankle, shot by Paris and guided by Apollo. Odysseus and Ajax squabbled over the hero’s magnificent armour and Ajax went mad with disappointment when he lost out on the prize. Slaughtering a herd of sheep he thought were Greeks, he fell on his sword in a messy and pointless suicide. Philoktetes got revenge for Achilles by fatally shooting Paris with the legendary bow of Hercules. Finally, Odysseus even managed to get into the city in disguise and steal the sacred Palladion statue of Athena.
Troy was sacked & the population slaughtered or enslaved.
The final and decisive action was, though, the idea of the wooden horse. Odysseus, inspired by Athena, thought up the ruse to get a body of men inside the walls of Troy. First, the Greeks all sailed off into the sunset leaving a mysterious offering to the Trojans of a gigantic wooden horse which in reality concealed a group of warriors within. Just to make sure the Trojans took the horse within the city, Sinon was chosen to stay behind and tell a cock and bull story about the Greeks having given up and left a nice present. The Trojans did take the horse inside the city walls but whilst they were enjoying a drunken celebration of their victory, the Greeks climbed out of the horse, opened the city walls for the returning Greek army, and the city was sacked and the population slaughtered or enslaved. Helen was taken back to Argos and of the Trojan heroes only Aeneas escaped to eventually set up a new home in Italy.
Victory had its price though. Due to their pitiless ravaging of the city and its people and even worse, outrageous sacrilegious acts such as the rape of Kassandra, the gods punished the Greeks by sending storms to wreck their ships and those who did eventually return were made to endure a protracted and difficult voyage home. Even then, some of the Greeks who did make it back to their homeland only did so to face further misfortune and disaster.
Trojan War: Art & Literature
Troy and the Trojan War became a staple myth of Classical Greek and Roman literature and were revisited many times by writers in works such as Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Euripides’ Trojan Women, and Virgil’s Aenid. Also in pottery decoration and in sculpture, artists were captivated by the Trojan War. Scenes of the judgement of Paris, Achilles fighting Hektor, Achilles playing dice with Ajax, and Ajax falling on his sword were just some of the myriad scenes from the story that would appear in art again and again over the centuries. Perhaps more importantly, the Trojan War came to represent the struggle of Greeks against foreign powers and it told tales of a time when men were better, more able, and more honourable.
There has been much scholarly debate as to whether the mythical Troy actually existed and if so, whether the archaeological site discovered in Anatolia which revealed a city which had prospered over thousands of years of habitation was actually the same city; however, it is now almost universally accepted that the archaeological excavations have revealed the city of Homer’s Iliad.
Of the several cities built on top of each other, Troy VI (c. 1750-1300 BCE) is the most likely candidate for the besieged city of Homer’s Trojan War. Impressive fortification walls with several towers certainly fit the Homeric description of ‘strong-built Troy’. The lower town covers an impressive 270,000 m² protected by an encircling rock-cut ditch and suggests a grand city like the Troy of tradition.
Troy VI was partially destroyed but the exact cause is not known beyond some evidence of fire. Intriguingly, bronze arrowheads, spear tips, and slingshots have been found at the site and even some embedded in the fortification walls, suggesting some sort of conflict. The dates of these (c. 1250 BCE) and the site destruction correlate with Herodotus’ dates for the Trojan War. Conflicts over the centuries between the Mycenaean and Hittite civilizations are more than probable, colonial expansion and control of lucrative trade routes being prime motivators. However, such conflicts are unlikely to have been on the scale of Homer’s war, but collectively they may well have been the origin of the epic tale of the Trojan War which has fascinated for centuries.
Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE.
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