How exactly was Athens able to take over the Delian League without anyone contesting it until it was too late to not incite violence?
A bald eagle implies the existence of a hairy eagle asks:
Why did Athens take over the Delian League?
So… “why” I think is actually pretty simple: because it made them richer and more powerful. I mean… obviously it’s more complicated than that, and publicly they professed altruistic motives and said the word “freedom” a lot (…remind you of anyone?), but honestly… when you get right down to it, I think it was because wealth and power are useful to have. Classical Athens was a democracy and we remember it for its literature and art and philosophy, but that doesn’t mean they were “the good guys” in any meaningful sense. Thucydides, who wrote the main contemporary history of the Peloponnesian War, seems to think that they trapped themselves into it: the more power you gain, the more you have to be afraid of what happens if you lose it, and the more desperately you have to fight to hold onto it, potentially to the exclusion of all ethical concerns.
Continue reading “A Black Lizard-Lion on a Grey-Green Field asks:”
What’s your favorite hellenistic Greek City-State and why?
So, even as a classicist it has never really occurred to me to have a favourite Hellenistic Greek city-state (because… why?). Maybe this makes me a bad classicist. But it really seems like a weird thing to have, because we usually think of the Hellenistic period as the era when the city states don’t particularly matter anymore; it’s all about empires and god-kings. So I had this hour-long discussion with Jim the Editor about what possible valid answers this question could even have, because what still counts as a city-state in the Archaic-to-Classical Greek sense? He doesn’t think anything that’s part of one of the big kingdoms counts, because city-states are supposed to have political autonomy – so we can’t pick the really big centres like Alexandria or Antioch, and Jim thinks Pergamon does still count, whereas I don’t think you can count Pergamon if you’re not also willing to count Alexandria (and anyway, can’t you be both a city state and the capital of an empire? I mean… Athens and the Delian League, for fµ¢£’s sake). And then what even counts as Greek, because all this stuff is, like… Greco-Macedonian(-Persian?) koine that doesn’t closely resemble classical Greece in its politics, society or culture; the only ones that you could reasonably argue aren’t a little Macedonian by this point are the western colonies (Syracuse, Neapolis, Tarentum, Massilia, etc.) and Sparta (and no one, at all, in the world cares about Hellenistic Sparta). Or you can swing wildly in the other direction and argue with equal merit that everything is Greek, because I have definitely heard people suggest, only a little bit ironically, that Rome is in practice a Greek city-state up until basically the Punic Wars (especially if you buy into Dionysius’ “the Romans are totally Greek, guys!” bull$#!t).
So yeah, I dunno. My actual favourite is probably Cyrene but they only barely make it into the Hellenistic period with their independence so maybe that’s not in the spirit of the thing. Rhodes is cool. Colossus of Helios, obviously. Lots of good glasswork done on Rhodes in the Hellenistic period too, and I am nothing if not a glass nerd. Syracuse has Archimedes’ giant death laser (I want to believe, okay???). Hellenistic Athens is really interesting, actually; like, we all fixate on the Classical stuff in Athens but they get up to just as much Game of Thrones bull$#!t as any Hellenistic monarch in trying to preserve their independence and democratic traditions. They also have this fascinating position as, like, the ex-cultural capital of the Greek world that they continue to leverage for political gain well into the time of the Roman Empire. These are certainly some opinions that I have.
Don’t worry, I’m not vanishing into an archaeological dig for a month; I’m just here for a week to attend a top-secret cool-kids-only seminar on ancient glass, my speciality (and, uh, take some photos of the Arch of Hadrian to catch some angles I missed the last time I was here). It’ll be a bit of a slow week on account of the program being fairly intense, but I’m still aiming to get my next Pokémon review (Celesteela) written and posted in accordance with the 10-day schedule I seem to have adopted. So, speaking of that… it seems to be working well? I’m posting things consistently (3 Ultra Beast reviews in March), I’m answering questions (14 over the course of the month), I made a ridiculous cake that people seemed to like, and… well, to be honest I don’t really know what all the numbers on my stats page mean, but the ones for March are the biggest yet, by a fairly impressive margin (more than double those for January), and we seem to be getting more people coming in through links on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc – so, to anyone who’s shared any of my writing over the past month, thanks, and keep doing what you’re doing! And, y’know, keep the questions coming; I know I whine about the difficult ones sometimes but interesting questions are kinda this blog’s lifeblood in a lot of ways, and I literally couldn’t do this without you.
Special thanks are due as always to my Patreon supporters, James Crooks, hugh_donnetono and Esserise, whose contributions pay for the upkeep of this WordPress site. If you enjoy my writing, want to see more of it and have exactly $US 1 too much money per month, consider clicking that link at the top of the page to browse the perks I currently have on offer for my patrons. At the moment, all proceeds will go towards upgrading my WordPress plan so the site can do more interesting and flexible things. Anyway, I should get back to doing glass stuff – until next time!
I’ve been a little bit swamped lately with teaching; my students have just handed in their first big assignment and taken their first test of the semester (don’t worry; only a few of them will be executed). I haven’t finished writing my next Pokémon review, Komala, so instead you’re getting a spiel about some of what I’ve been teaching recently, as well as some pictures of my first attempt at something resembling an English-style pork pie. Continue reading “No Pokémon review this week, have some democracy and pie instead”