Tag Archives: Greece

MLB PEDs, A-Rod, and Ancient Cheaters

With all of the talk surrounding baseball, Alex Rodriguez, and the seemingly never ending use of the word “cheating” I thought it would be interesting to discuss what happened to the ancient cheaters. So we know Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for essentially cheating; using performance enhancing drugs, although more of the suspension comes from impeding the MLB’s investigation and simply his obnoxious arrogance. While A-rod is just the most recent cheater to join the ranks of Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and of course Barry Bonds, it is not the first time the question of legacy comes up for a professional athlete. The same questions about remembrance have been brought up about many other athletes such as Tiger Woods, Jim Thorpe, and Lance Armstrong.  We are still waiting to see how most of these will play out (exception being Jim Thorpe, I think he is remembered well, but then his crimes are not considered very serious nor cheating by most people). We can say that McGwire has been passed up multiple times now in Hall of Fame elections and prior to the steroids scandals many were calling him a first ballot Hall of Famer. For the most part, however, it remains to be seen what people will be saying about the steroids era in 10, 20, 50 years.

In the ancient world there were different theories about handling such people. While the Roman example didn’t apply to athletes as much as politicians and traitors, sometimes the same person fit all of those categories I guess, for comparison purpose I will say damnatio memoriae was their method of handling such unwanted stigmas. Damnatio memoriae is a system put in place by the Roman Senate to completely erase someone from history and that was meant in the most literal sense of erase. They would remove inscriptions with his name, remake statues to remove his image, and seize all property. Due to the nature of the practice not a ton of information is known about it, but it was used a few times in the imperial period for emperors who were disliked by the emperor succeeding them or for people who conspired against the emperor.

This is an instance when the Greeks handled things very differently than the Romans. The Greeks would put the story of cheating Olympians everywhere. Yes, cheating happened even in the original Olympic Games. When there are riches to be won and glory to be had, unfortunately if unchecked, cheating will occur; you may say a laurel wreath isn’t exactly riches, but many athletes received rewards either from their home city-state or through other means, but I digress as usual.  The Greeks actually erected statues, using the money of the cheaters, which were to serve as warnings to future athletes. On the statues were elegiac poems, interestingly the same style of poem found on grave markers. These poems extol the values of how the Olympics are to be won, through physical prowess, and criticize other methods of obtaining victory like paying money.

The contrast of the Ancient Roman damnation memoriae and the Ancient Greek example-making tactics are a good chance for history to show us what should be done. Some are saying the MLB should put a steroids era wing on the Hall of Fame to show the history of the game accurately and also to point out the terrible things steroids did to the game of baseball. This is obviously following the Greek example. The voters have consistently left steroid era players out of the Hall, however, maybe preferring the way of the Romans and attempting to erase them from the history of the game. This will definitely be something to watch in the years to come as many steroid era players reach eligibility for the Hall of Fame.

Comment below and tell me if you are for the Roman way or the Greek way? How about outside of athletics like for politicians, celebrities, traitors, etc.?  

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Diana imagery in Grace Potter & The Nocturnals “Never Go Back”

This video provides a stark contrast between the civilized and the barbaric (interesting side note that the word barbarian comes from the Romans who claimed that anyone who couldn’t speak Latin just said bar bar bar bar). Roman writers especially historians and ethnographers, were obsessed with the contrast between their great civilized world and the barbaric tribes around them.  Authors including Caesar, Tacitus, Plutarch, Diodorus and many others wrote at length about the barbarianism of the Gauls and Germans. This video is designed to give a similar perspective.

The girl depicted represents what is pure. She is good and civilized, in her neo-classical home, playing classical music on her cello. Everything she does represents civilization and everything the barbarian children enter the home and do is anti-civilization. At one point a barbarian picks up a wine glass and looks at it in a funny manner then throws it. Tacitus might find this amusing as he described the terrible tribes of Germany drinking unmixed wine. Wine in the ancient days (Greek and Roman) was mixed with water sort of as an additive to water to purify the not so great stagnant drinking water (this is supported by a passage in Homer’s Odyssey but I cannot find the passage, if someone does please post it in the comments). The barbarians of the ancient days could not make music, music was poetry and they couldn’t speak Latin so that wouldn’t work. This is represented in the video by the anti-civilization act of throwing the cello over the balcony.

My favorite classical reference in this video is the girl herself, however.  The moment she pulled out the bow and arrow aiming it at the barbarians and then changing her civilized ways, was the moment I decided this needed to be posted. Whenever I see a woman archer especially one depicted as an innocent young girl I immediately think of the huntress Diana. Diana is virginal and protects children. She is the epitome of the chaste, civilized, innocent lifestyle. This video grabs me though as the image of the archer quickly turns to the means for her lack of civilization. She shoots the flaming arrow into the wall of the house lighting the house on fire and joining the ranks of the barbarian children. She sheds civilization.

Interestingly the song talks about never going back presumably to the man who was barbaric and wrong, but the girl in the video does. It seems to represent the ease with which we can return to dark things, but at the same time extols this lifestyle as a good way of living. The video ends as the girl runs off into the wilderness. This dichotomy is the perfect Diana comparison.

I see the girl in the video as a very Diana type figure. She has the class of a goddess, but the earthiness of the huntress. Diana held reign in the sky and earth. The girl in this music video holds reign over civilization to which she is accustomed, but when the opportunity presents itself she finds her place on earth among nature. More interesting yet is that Diana, according to Frazer’s Golden Bow, is probably one of the oldest deities coming from the Indo-European tradition which means she is present in both the civilized religion of the Romans and the barbaric religion of the rest of Europe.

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