King of the Waves

I was lucky enough to attend a high school that offered a variety of subjects, especially within the history department. After four years of textbook readings and history lectures, Its appropriate to say I had a strong grip on the story of Alexander the Great. I am pretty much able to spit back the chronology of that time period from his birth to death. After surveying my friends and family and getting to know their understanding of Alexander and his time, I would say I’m quite shocked but intrigued at the same time. Shocked that some of them acknowledged his existence but had not a clue of his importance and legacy. Alexander was one of the most successful military commanders of all time who until today amazes historians with his war tactics and colonialist abilities. My 50 year old father seemed to be the most knowledgeable of his success when I asked him a couple question about Alexander the third. “He was an Ancient Greek conqueror born in Macedonia who ascended the throne after the death of Philip. He was particularly young, maybe early- mid 20’s when he conquered most of the known world, as far as India. He also was the student of Aristotle”. My father last learned about Alexander’s era in high school, specifically in history and anthropology class. The next person I surveyed was my local supermarket clerk in Rockaway. He looked Russian, around 45. He knew of Alexander but couldn’t give much detail of his reign. “He conquered Rome and was into men perfecting themselves”. He also mentioned that the information he knows of Alexander was absorbed through media or novels and articles. Then I asked a friend who’s my age at her home, 6 blocks from mine, the same set of questions. “He conquered Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia. The famous city in Egypt, Alexandria, was founded by him”. What was similar between each of their responses was that they all recognized Alexander as a prominent conqueror of a large empire. They all failed to mention the idea of Hellenism and its influence on the citizens of the conquered empires. This is different then our syllabus because Hellenism/ Panhellenism was a big portion of our class. The dividing and unionizing of the greek polis makes up a large part of what we know of Alexander the Great as a historical figure. He successfully managed to change the culture and history of his empire, an important feature that went unnoticed to those I surveyed.
“for with one word, I shall sink the barbarous hordes of countless nations in the waves of the sea”. This quote is most similar to Alexander as a figure and his actions because he managed to synchronize, with little effort, countless of nations into a rhythm that resembles the waves of the sea.

– Lauren, Team Vesta

Barbarians throughout the ages

Spain saw one of its most violent days in recent memory as a series of incidents throughout the country appeared to be connected to a terror attack Thursday in Barcelona that left thirteen people dead and more than hundred injured. “The atrocity was the first successful attack on Spanish soil since 191 commuters were killed in the 2004 Madrid bombings” (Reilly). The deadly events began in the early evening with a van plowing through crowds on the renowned Las Ramblas avenue, a popular tourist section of Barcelona. There were at least 18 nationalities among the victims who came from countries as varied as France, Venezuela, Australia, Ireland, Peru, Algeria, Belgium and China, according to Spain’s civil protection agency. As police searched for the van driver, Spain’s Prime Minister called it an act of “jihadi terrorism.” Both articles contextualize the van drivers and their terrorist actions as ‘barbaric’. The first article gives a factual chronology, with no hidden bias or agendas, of what had happened in Spain these past few weeks. It also mentions quotes from world leaders condemning the accident and sharing their concern to the victims and their families. The second article offers a perspective of a witness, who shared his descriptive view of what had happened. Isaac, the witness, mentions, “streams of blood” and “panic stricken tourists”, expressing more emotion in contrast to the first article. Generally, most people could agree that foreigners inflicting terror and threats on citizens of a nation can be categorized under barbarians. These two articles manifest that idea and explicitly calls ISIS, the group who took blame for the crimes, barbarians, and in a sense treated as ‘other’. The targeted audience are the people who need to be informed of the atrocity and brutality of terrorists. The purpose behind this article is to instill in it’s audience that loyalty between one another and between the citizens and its government will ensure safety and combat terrorism. Loyalty is a social value under the provisions of the U.S constitution, a document that holds the foundation upon which this nation was constructed. Loyalty is embedded in the social contract, which is an agreement between the government and its people that states that as long as they don’t misuse their power we will remain loyal to them. In other words, the articles intention is to inform us on loyalty, a value that serves as a bedrock in preserving the tranquility of America and a value that if correctly practiced, can prevent terrorism anywhere. Over two thousand years ago, barbaric, as used in the newspaper articles, was used in Greece, but to a different extent. The Greek historian Herodotus divides the world into those who speak Greek and those who do not. Barbarians are the latter. Herodotus writes: “But the Greek stock, since ever it was, has always used the Greek language, in my judgment. But though it was weak when it split off from the Pelasgians, it has grown from something small to be a multitude of peoples by the accretion chiefly of the Pelasgians but of many other barbarian peoples as well”. Within English usage, the word ‘barbarian’ has a derogatory connotation, regarded today beyond its definition as an uncivilized savage. In 490 B.C.E in the age where Herodotus lived, the word barbarian held its own context and would often be defined as ‘different’. Herodotus is just an example of word that evolves over time almost to a completely different definitions.

Game of Stereotypes

One of the reasons why Game of Thrones is such a popular series is because it appeals to its audience’s desire for escapism. The elaborate costumes and enchanting accents serve as a mental diversion, and a way of coping, for those who wish to withdraw from the pressures of the real world and shrink away into a safer fantasy world. However, Thrones seems to channel so many contemporary political, social and sexual concerns, that its less of a fantasy and more of a reflection of the modern world. In the era Game of Thrones is taken place, women led very traditional lives and tend to be submissive to their husband or father. Today, gender roles evolved and women are rarely oppressed, allowing for a new term to enter modern society. Feminism has always been so taboo and misidentified that some groundwork must be laid. To put it efficiently, feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” The setting of the series made women seem inferior and subservient, however, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for these female characters. Since the beginning, there have been many moments where they took back their power and strongly defined their feminist identities, matching and sometimes beating the show’s men at their own game. Among the show’s setting in a feudal, agrarian society with battles and blades, and magic and monsters, the series also begins with a scene portraying female empowerment. As the daughter of Ned Stark, the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, Arya is expected to marry well, have children, and raise a prince or two into kings, but Arya continuously rejects her fate. Arya has a moment with her father where she denounces her obligation and expresses who she wants to be and what she wants to do with her life. This moment is introduced with a question when Arya asks her father: “Can I be Lord of the Holdfast (a fortress)?” Her father laughs, smiles, kisses her forehead, and tells her, “You will marry a high lord and rule his castle, and your sons shall be knights, and princes, and Lords.” To which she confidently looks her father in the eyes and daringly denies, “No, that’s not me.” Arya successfully sends a message to all women that you can be whatever you want and no one has the right to define you, even your own loving father. She wants to run around barefoot, take up sword-fighting lessons with the best swordsman in the kingdom, and doesn’t mind if she gets dirty doing all of it, proving to us that she wasn’t made for the fluffy comforts of a lady or a princess.
Game of Thrones is an ideal reflection of the social contemporary issues that are present in Sophocles’ Antigone. There’s a prevalent pattern of fearlessness and courage between Antigone and Arya. Patriarchy was alive and well in Ancient Greece, where Antigone took place, as well as in Arya’s era. Despite both societies being a male dominated culture, both Antigone and Arya didn’t allow their limits to restrain them from their accomplishments. Sophocles paints Creon as a sexist ruler with a low opinion towards women leading to Creon’s downfall, similarly how women in Game of Thrones often surpassed masculine power and beat them at their own game. 

-Lauren Ishay, Team Vesta