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Posts Tagged ‘historical comparison’

The idea behind a Toga Party is obvious: to elevate the conventional student pursuit of drinking to excess by associating it with the well-established image of Roman decadence. Vomiting down one’s front is legitimised by classical precedent! To paraphrase Marx’s 18th Brumaire, the participants find in ancient history the self-deceptions necessary to conceal from themselves the humdrum nature of their activities. In a similar manner, the spate of Roman analogies for the rise of Trump serves to present our current historical predicament in more elevated terms as the crisis of the Republic and the potential triumph of decadent autocracy, as historical events in the grand old manner, rather than any of that tedious or depressingly complex analytical stuff. We are living in time of Great Men and Terrible Villainy and Heroic Deeds and Grand Gestures! The fact that this all derives from a thoroughly old-fashioned and dubious conception of history, just as the toga party is based on multiple layers of literary representation and reception, is beside the point, except for pedants like me. No, the Romans didn’t spend their entire time eating honeyed dormice, shagging their sisters and changing the course of World History with their speeches or battles – but ‘The Romans’ did, and that’s what matters. (more…)

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There’s probably enough material for an entire article on modern classical reception in the coverage of the Hoeness Affair in this week’s Die Zeit. One piece develops an analysis of the relationship between Hoeness and the Bayern fans through a comparison with the Roman arena: Franz Beckenbauer may be known as the Kaiser, but Uli is the emperor in reality, looking down at the gladiatorial combat that he has orchestrated – and, unlike in Sandalenfilme (the term for Italian classically-themed films from the 1950s), where the audience roots for the gladiators, here it is the emperor with whom the fans identify, as someone who is equally powerless (as a spectator) and equally devoted to the success of the red team.  We’re not quite at the point where individuals are taking it in turns to declare “I’m Uli Hoeness!”, but you get the feeling that it’s only a matter of time. Meanwhile, a second article reflects on the enormous power that Hoeness had (and may still have) in the FCB set-up by bringing in the example of Athens, where over-mighty individuals could be sent into exile for a limited period of time for the good of the community. Is this about to happen with Uli, now seen not as a down-to-earth representative of the masses but as the sort of out-of-touch member of the 1% who can ‘accidentally’ forget to declare 28 million Euros of income to the tax authorities? Or will a spell in prison serve the same purpose as exile, to put those crimes firmly in the past? All that’s missing in these analogies is a more specific identification of which ancient figure Hoeness most closely resembles. I’m currently inclined towards Vespasian…

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