Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Like Sparta, but Smarta

My distaste for 300 is solely a gag reflex caused by CGI poisoning. I can't speak to the historical accuracy of the film. But, Hiromi is right about the trailers being weird- the Spartans look like the Justice League or something! They were certainly heroic, but wasn't Sparta the sort of society that only a fascist could love? Anyway, Ephraim Lytle, a Hellenist at U of Toronto has seen the film and thinks its distortions are bizarre and disturbing. It's an interesting article. I have a bit of a nerd crush on Classicists anyway; they're sort of like us early modern historians, but even more diligent and nitpicking, and they've learned Latin, which I could never higher than a B in. Anyway, it's worth reading.

9 comments:

Hiromi said...

The ex was a classicist. Classicists not only learn Latin, but ancient Greek as well. I don't envy them, however; their subject is so well trodden that a major research breakthrough can consist of an alternate interpretation of a Greek particle in one sentence in one source. Well, I exaggerate a bit.

Anyway, according to the ex, the Spartans had two forms of eugenics -- the selection of superpeople from their own population, and on the helots. Particularly attractive or intelligent helots were killed. And as repulsive as their society appears to us today, they were equally as freakish to other Greeks, who would travel to Sparta to check out these freakish specimens.

Rufus said...

Yeah, I never even got to ancient Greek. I figured after two painful years of Latin, that I should switch to easier languages. Incidentally, to return to an older topic, a number of our classics majors at W&M were of the high level autistic spectrum, so maybe that was the secret to learning the languages.

The way we were taught about the Spartans made it sound like, if you had to live back then, you'd much rather live in Athens than Sparta. I'm also wondering how they deal with the man-boy love that was so central to their military life.

Hiromi said...

It cracks me right up when people boggle when I tell them I speak and read Japanese. Japanese grammar is simple and clear; it's just the reading/writing that sucks, but if you have the patience, it's no problem. But ancient Greek? Not only is the grammar insane -- I never heard of such a fucked up grammar principle as declensions -- but it was tonal as well!

What do you mean, "...how they deal with the man-boy love that was so central to their military life"? Do you mean as in, how that works in terms of military discipline and yadda yadda?

Rufus said...

Oh, no, I mean the filmmakers. It looks like such a macho film, I'm just wondering if they're going to get into the pederasty or not. I'm guessing not.

gregvw said...

German has declensions as well and has, overall, a more-complicated-than-average grammar (at least compared to Italian, which I consider shockingly straightforward). Greek grammar, however, is famously complex.

My adviser for my second Ph.D. is from Greece and he informs me that, to this day, people in Sparta are widely considered to be not-right by the general Greek population.

Question for hiromi: since you know at least one Asian language, how does sarcasm work in tonal languages? Or doesn't it?

Hiromi said...

Sometimes I think English might be one of the hardest languages to learn. Even a basic principle like when to use "a," "an," and "the" is really, really difficult for foreigners to master. Our grammar isn't straightforward or systematic.

I speak only Japanese, and when they want to convey irony, they do so the same way we do, in tone of voice and facial expressions. Or they can be totally deadpan.

I don't speak any tonal languages but if you think about it, even though there is tone, there is still tone of voice or manner of speaking. In English, we don't have tone, but we have stress, and we manage to have a tone of voice while still preserving proper stress. I imagine it's the same for tonal languages.

gregvw said...

English is particularly difficult because it is a hodgepodge. The articles you mention do appear in German and Italian. German, of course, complicates the issue by adding 3 genders and 4 cases which modify the articles accordingly. Also, verbs are way way WAY more complicated in German than English. Plus many verbs are separable so the conjugated stem goes in the second position of the phrase and the "prefix" goes to the end. There are far more conjugations and probably 100 times more irregular verbs if I had to guess.

Rufus said...

Declensions were murder for me as well. It took me forever to get used to the idea that the word for gate changes depending on what the sentence is saying. I'm not looking forward to reliving this experience when I start learning German, but alas, I have no excuse. Studying romanticism and not reading German just doesn't make sense.

gregvw said...

Well any time you want any real-world learning experience in German, you're welcome here. Although, I confess the Styrian dialect is pretty far from Hochdeutsch. I'm learning Italian on my own and it is 100 times easier than German IMO.