Ancient Greeks’ Lights and Shadows

“Love is a trap. When it appears, we see only its light, not its shadows.” – Paulo Coelho

The Ancient Greeks, according to our English book, and based on what I’ve learnt so far, are exceptional and talented and beautifully artistic and unique. They have contributed many inventions and innovations to their society, and to our world. They are the ones who began art in pottery, their architecture was impressive and useful, their literature is legendary, their philosophies became our basic scientific principles.

Basically, everyone’s inital knowledge about the Greeks is that they are perfect in every way. As we ginny on further into the module, that opinion has been nurtured, so much that, for the masses,  it has turned into a fact.

But the Ancient Greeks were not all that perfect.

Sexism, misogyny, slavery, power greedy men, wars, superiority, colonization… these are some of the factors that we have completely ignored when talking about Ancient Greece. We have blinded ourselves with Ancient Greece’s good things that we forgot mentioning to the masses that the Greeks have done some bad, too.

This is why I have written this essay. I feel a need to express my sentiments. The ancient Greeks are not as perfect as they seem to be in our book.

War is a famous factor of Ancient Greece. In their history books, they boast and pride themselves in being able to conquer many lands. They are said to be a powerful nation because of all the wars they have won. In fact, the Greco-Roman War started with Alexander IV, a Greek who wanted to prove himself in battle by organizing a campaign against the Romans.

I have always loathed the idea of human beings – said to be the most mature specie of the world, said to be the dominant race because of their intellectual prowess – killing other human beings – soldiers who have families and hopes and dreams and actual lives – just because the higher authorities want to claim the land, the resources, the people of the opposing party. Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to know who thought it was a great idea to kill senient beings just so they can claim a plot of land and force the sentient beings who live in said lang into slavery.

To be honest, the different tribes, the different nations, who were each in their own way unique, could have just traveled the seas and explored new worlds and meet new civilizations and stretch out their hand and learn the different cultures, taste the different kinds of food, share the resources and distribute them evenly. Instead of mass murdering the people, turning the survivors into slaves, raping the women, letting them all starve to death, and steal the resources.

Things could have been so much more different if that one Ancient Greek suddenly had an idea that goes like: “Oh I know! What if we slaughter a man, just to gain his properties?” If the Ancient Greeks were really wise, they would have thought of that. But now, two world wars, thousands of colonizations, billions of millions of dead people later, it is too late. This is the world we live in. This is the world the Ancient Greeks have brought down upon us all.

Colonization and war has been happening since the times of B.C. It is now 2013. Sadly, even after 2000 years, we have still not found a solution to the greatest illness found in even the healthiest human being of all – corruption.

With colonizations, and war, comes people with high authorities and a hunger for power that can never be satisfied. Power-greedy men, the leaders who led the war for their own sake, the human beings who claimed they were more important than others. With men like these, comes superiority and most of all, a social issue that still exists now, especially in the Philippines, corruption.

Another factor we have forgotten to delve deep into, is how the Ancient Greeks treated their women, and how they apply to our modern lives, even until now.

One perfect example for this is Helen of Troy in the Iliad. She was portrayed as “the most beautiful woman in the world”. She was the reason the Trojan War started. But wait! Is that really true? No. It all started with Zeus thinking the world was too overpopulated. He wanted to lower the numbers. So he created a war, because apparently it’s more interesting than a tsunami or flash flood because war has tragedy and romance.

So what is Helen’s role in the story, really? She was a trophy for Paris. She was a puppet to Zeus’ plan. She was an object of infatuation for every other man in the world. Another chess piece for the gods of Greece, to be given from one man to another with just a single shot to the chest by the arrows of Cupid.

If you think misogyny just happens in fictional stories, you are wrong. During Ancient Greek times, the lives of the Greek women were closely tied to domestic work. They cannot even watch theatre, or have education, like every other men. They were caged into their very own house, their freedoms stripped away from them the moment they were born, for having a vagina means not having the same equal rights as those who have a penis.

The Greek men are a busy lot during their everyday lives. They either train in military, discuss politics, go to a theatre for entertainment, or farming, depending on their status in the social hierarchy. They played sports naked, and that’s their sole reason why they did not allow women to watch the games.

But, despite all these, the Greeks were not all that bad. The Ancient Greek men, in both the fictional and non-fictional worlds, have done many notable noble and respectable actions.

One perfect example of this is Hector’s bravery to face Achilles despite the fact that his wife and infant needed him. He faced his mistakes, swallowed his pride, and sacrficed his life, all simultaneously, in that one moment when he walked out to battle Achilles into an honest battle of swords.

Another, and this is my personal favorite, is the scene between King Priam and Achilles. This is notable, and it made my sympathize both parties because one was a warrior, and another was a king. One was Trojan mortal, while the other was a demigod. Achilles was a murderer, but King Priam was no different for he and his sons led the Trojan soldiers into battle. They had troubled minds and eating dinner with the same person who was the cause of it must have been hard, but they suffered through it – they suffered together. To me, the whole scene between them was a beautiful tragedy that I am willing to repeatedly replay in my head, if just to satisfy my need to understand the complexity of their actions.

In reality, the Ancient Greek men are notable for their stragetic methods in combat. One particular famous clever strategy was created by the Leonidas and his 300 Spartans who fought against almost 10, 000 Persians near the narrow pass between the mountains. They used the narrow pass to their advantage, and kept piling up the dead bodies of the Persians to create a massive wall.

The Greeks have taught us many useful things, of course, especially in the field of Philosophy and in terms of militaristic strategies. They have taught the world to be passionate about art, to include all kinds of artistry – music, sculptures, pillars, paintings – in to our daily lives. They have taught us that things happen for a reason – that is why they invented the Greek gods and godesses.

The Ancient Greeks were interesting, but they were not perfect.

If you still believe that the Ancient Greeks were special snowflakes with no flaws, then I have failed to deliver my message clearly to you. If you feel a deep hum of dark energy within you because of what you have read in my essay, then I am a disappointment for not being able to tell you the true moral of this essay.

Let us refer to this quote:

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and… bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.” – The Doctor (Doctor Who)

The bad traits of Greece should not spoil the good traits we have gotten from them, and vice versa, the good traits should not blind us completely into believing thatt the bad traits are of no importance.

It all boils down to this – to know not just one’s lights but also one’s shadows is to know one truly, and only then will we be able to fully accept them, and move on. Move on, to boldly do what no man has done before, and that is to solve the problems they never could in the past.

“Sometimes, people don’t see shadows. The Chinese, of course, never paint them in pictures, oriental art never deals with shadow. But I noticed these shadows and I knew it meant it was sunny.” – David Hockney



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