Wednesday, February 27, 2008


While a history buff growing up, I never really delved into the classics. College gave me that opportunity, and I enrolled in several courses in Greek and Roman culture and history. So much of the dramatic and comedic storylines we see today on film or read in books come from the basics of Greek theater. The Greeks and Romans created the political basis for our own democratic republic. I often think of my Greek Culture professor who explained that thankfully we took more cues from the Romans because the Greeks used the same word for custom as they did for law, which made things confusing at times. That was one of the many tidbits of information I learned in those courses.

One thing that I truly loved was the mythology of Ancient Greece. Fantastic stories that could centered around humans, maybe have human and God interaction, or revolve aroud quasi-God figures and Gods, or any other combination. I remember vividly the Minotaur. The Minotaur was a bad ass, half-bull/half-human monster that ate people. As the link above takes you to wikipedia for background, note the interpretations of the Minotaur. In my classics class, we discussed how we still do this to modern days but substitute important figures of our modern world to fit into a narrative to explain certain behavior or the world around us. Example numero uno would be the assassination of JFK. Why would one man kill our president? No way could it only be one man? Let's make up a story. Even better, let's make up even more mythical reasons why people would have wanted him dead so you know that if you ever get to a position of power, you better watch out. "They" are always watching and in control.
My personal interpretations was one I put forth in class. Yes, I once had an original thought! It was a simple one at that, but it did have a moral. My interpretation was that the Queen of Crete had a love child who was dumb in the olden days sense, brutally strong and insane. Like teenage boys with FAS who don't know their own strength but add insanity. He roamed the halls of the labyrnthine palace and would have fits of rage. To appease him, the ruling family would leave human sacrifices (the young boys and girls) out for him to attack instead of members of court. The grotesque nature of the beast was a representation of the grotesque view of illegitimate children in Greek culture. It was something alien, yet human and familiar. The family would not kill it, and endured it in a sense. The beast being in the center of the labyrnth of the palace represented the child being the center of the royal family's problems and shame.
Greek mythology is full of such wonderful stories that are incredibly dark at times. Not every story ends happily, and if written by Sophocles, someone is going to maim themself or commit suicide. I enjoyed learning that the stories of Oedipus or Electra were a commonly known framework that different writers would take a stab at and use to create a trilogy of plays. I only wish more of these stories had survived the Dark Ages. We know Sophocles version of the Oedipus trilogy, but what of Euripides or Aeschylus? How would they compare? Sadly, we will never know.

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