Greek Architectural Digest

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To represent the 'splitters' I single out the collection of essays by the late Jack Winkler on gender-protocols in 'ancient Greece', which he interprets more widely than Cohen to include texts written in Greek in Egypt or elsewhere in the Greek-speaking half of the Roman empire as well as in democratic Athens. Indeed, the close reading of texts is of the essence for Winkler's anthropological hermeneutics of ancient Greek culture - a deliberate challenge to the conventional philological approach to the Classics which claims to find anthropology either irrelevant or positively harmful, and an especially attractive strategy for students of Greece (and Rome) who find themselves engaged in often contentious dialogue with - and about - a multicultural society and its canons (literary or otherwise). Thus Winkler, like Cohen, studies the way the Athenians 'laid down the law' on sexual propriety and agrees that simply knowing the protocols does not tell us how people behaved. But in studying, additionally, the constraints of desire imprecated by or implicated in the necessarily private genre of erotic magical spells, he is able not only to move beyond Cohen's frame of reference but also to provide contemporary evidence that questions the validity of the supposed norms themselves (in this case denial of female sexual pleasure). At the risk of attracting yet more wrath from my already exasperated colleagues, let me summarise what I take to be my own objective observation of fundamental and irreconcilable differences between the mentality of the Classical Greeks' ideological constructs and those of any modern Western society, including that of contemporary Greece. I take comfort - or refuge - in the fact that, whatever similarities may be apparent, for whatever reasons, between the ancient and the modern Greeks, one institution that was arguably central and fundamental to ancient Greek culture and society but is unarguably absent from modern Greece is slavery: at the limit the total deracination and depersonalization, the social death, involved in the chattel slavery experienced by slaves in Athens, at best a vague limbo status 'between slavery and freedom' such as the Helots of Sparta enjoyed. Slavery, I contend, was the governing paradigm of human worth in Classical Greek antiquity, affecting not only economics and politics but also, more subtly, the ideological representations of, and interpersonal relations between, the sexes. There have always been Classicists who have objected to anthropologising cross-cultural study of the ancient Greeks, precisely because it seems to focus on their least edifying traits. To them I would reply that slavery however distasteful was an essential and formative part of a culture that was - in many other ways - admirable, and indeed a continuing source of cultural inspiration, most obviously in the visual and performing arts. Let me, therefore, end on an upbeat note. Like Robin Fox (Anthropology Today, Oct 1993, p10), I look forward to a genuinely universal 'Science of Mankind'. But alongside the massed ranks of his archaeologists and anthropologists I would hope and expect to find arrayed also an international brigade or two of anthropologising C

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