Greece VS Rome
June 17, 2020
If you have time (1.5 hours that is), here is the video with Boris Johnson and Mary Beard.
Before Boris Johnson became PM he was defending the Ancient Greeks in debates (but not the modern ones as it seems). Among others, he mentioned of course that the Greeks created democracy, theatre, etc and eventually... Rome itself (#snap!), which was practically 'based' on Greece (he meant to say it was a 'rip-off' but he was being polite).
There's nothing easier than winning with the Greeks (one would think) but... he lost (no judgement #not).
Thank you anyway, Boris. I'm sure you'll make a great Prime Minister one day!
In my opinion, this whole debate is unfair because they are comparing an empire which is richer, more uniform (i.e. same way of government) and more powerful, to dozens of Greek city states which had common heritage of course (same religion, such as Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena, etc. and same language) but were not united under one ruler (with the exception of Alexander the Great).
The debate could have been just ATHENS vs ROME (i.e. the Roman Empire) and still Athens would take them, even though the population of the empire could have even reached 100 million people whereas Athens had nearly 200,000 inhabitants (which was massive for Greece; Sparta was estimated to have 50,000)!
Don't forget that in 490 and 480 BC it was mainly the Athenians that defeated the biggest empire of the planet at that moment (the Persian Empire) and then Alexander the GReat from northern Greece finished it off in the 4th century.
One could argue (I know I would) that even what this city alone created was the foundations of Western Civilisation (cliché but true).
Speaking of civilisation, let's talk literature for example: the most famous Latin epic poem, the Aeneid (well, ok, not 'Harry-Potter-famous' but it did pretty well), was practically fashioned after Homer's epics (Iliad, Odyssey - now that's famous!) in an effort to create a forced made-up connection (I kinda overdid it here but so did Virgil...) with the Trojans (people of the Near East), who had absolutely nothing to do with the Romans (who were of course Europeans!). I mean seriously, Virgil...
They also compared the Greeks to an empire that flourished half a millennium after the 5th century BC (yes, it was that long later). Imagine comparing the Rennaisance (or however you spell that) to the 20th century....
You would expect to hear of amazing Roman developments 500 years later but... you don't (no, arches and cement that people mistankenly consider Roman inventions were actually not... sorry, Romans. Please read here in the world's most valid encyclopedia).
SLAVERY wasn't abolished
WOMEN didn't vote (actually noone really did since there was NO DEMOCRACY)
EXECUTIONS were still common (especially now; a famous one being CRUCIFIXION - not trying to point fingers here...)
GLADIATORS or torturing Christians etc, sometimes even in Greek theatres which they turned into arenas... (something to think about next time you look at the Colosseum - Greek name by the way.. but to be honest the Romans were the most prolific saint-makers, so we gotta give them that).
So many centuries later, their idea of fun was to watch people kill each other...
My answer to someone from the audience who says that they would have felt better living in the Roman Empire is:
ask all the subjects of the British Empire (for which the Roman one had been an example) where they would have felt better and if they wanted to be subjects...