The Ancient Greeks were, I'm afraid, faceist.
January 10, 2015 7:56 AM   Subscribe

"A rather different story though when it comes to the female of the species. Hesiod - an 8th/7th Century BC author whose works were as close as the Greeks got to a bible - described the first created woman simply as kalon kakon – 'the beautiful-evil thing'. She was evil because she was beautiful, and beautiful because she was evil. Being a good-looking man was fundamentally good news. Being a handsome woman, by definition, spelt trouble."

"And if that wasn't bad enough, beauty was frequently a competitive sport. Beauty contests – kallisteia – were a regular fixture in the training grounds of the Olympics at Elis and on the islands of Tenedos and Lesbos, where women were judged as they walked to and fro. Triumphant men had ribbons tied around winning features – a particularly pulchritudinous calf-muscle or bicep."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (30 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
She was evil because she was beautiful, and beautiful because she was evil.

[Tommy Wiseau voice]

oh hi Homer
posted by Greg Nog at 8:03 AM on January 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


All hail Eris!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:07 AM on January 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Triumphant men had ribbons tied around winning features

Given the tiny peens on the statues, some of those must have very small ribbons.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:17 AM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought this was quite funny:
"My favourite has to be the contest in honour of Aphrodite Kallipugos - Aphrodite of the beautiful buttocks. The story goes that when deliberating on where to found a temple to the goddess in Sicily it was decided an exemplar of human beauty should make the choice. Two amply-portioned farmer's daughters battled it out. The best endowed was given the honour of choosing the site for Aphrodite's shrine. Fat-bottomed girls clearly had a hotline to the goddess of love."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:19 AM on January 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am in love:

a Spartan queen 3,500 years ago would have sported fierce, kohl-rimmed eyes, red tattoos of suns on her chin and cheeks, her hair shaven as a teenager and then dressed to look like snakes. Her breasts would have been bare or covered in a diaphanous gauze.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:23 AM on January 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


"Faceist"
Someone who judges another individual or group because of their face(s).
I hate you!
Why?
Because you have a mole on your face.
That's faceist!
by mmmm...rootbeer April 16, 2009
posted by clavdivs at 8:42 AM on January 10, 2015


Given the tiny peens on the statues, some of those must have very small ribbons.

Evidently the ancient Greeks were mostly growers, not show-ers.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:45 AM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The show-ers may have been censored... Pornography : The Secret History Of Civilization [serious documentary]
posted by zennie at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Fat-bottomed redheads with excessively pale skin were their goddesses???

brb inventing time travel
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:43 AM on January 10, 2015 [35 favorites]


Ages ago, I had a young girlfriend say to me off the cuff "I liked the idea of your penis more when I thought it would be like David's penis."

What do you say to that?
posted by Sphinx at 9:51 AM on January 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


You tell her to Michelangel-go.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Eros, come wither?
posted by clavdivs at 10:33 AM on January 10, 2015


Given the tiny peens on the statues, some of those must have very small ribbons.

The Greek ideal was to prefer small penises. Big ones were considered vulgar and a mark of low breeding.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:33 AM on January 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


That was true when it came to their ideas about fine art anyway. I'm sure it was a different story when it came to the bedroom. Probably why they so frequently had sex with their slaves.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:38 AM on January 10, 2015


Big ones were considered vulgar and a mark of low breeding.

The humblebrag has never been more tempting.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:52 AM on January 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


My days of Greek scholarship are some years behind me, but I have to quibble a bit with the author's translation of kalon kakon. Both of those words have physical and moral aspects - kalla means beautiful, and also good. Kakos is both ugly and bad. So woman is, to Hesiod, something wonderful and terrible, beautiful and ugly.
posted by Makwa at 10:53 AM on January 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


At first glance, I misread the title as "fascist". I was a mite confused.
posted by giantrobothead at 10:59 AM on January 10, 2015


The philosopher Socrates famously confounded all ideas of how a beautiful Greek should look, with his swaggering gait, swivelling eyes, bulbous nose, hairy back and pot belly. Passages in the Socratic dialogues are dedicated to a radical exploration of how this satyr-like shell might in fact contain a luminous character.
Comforting for those of us in satyr-like shells.
posted by edheil at 11:05 AM on January 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hesiod - an 8th/7th Century BC author whose works were as close as the Greeks got to a bible

That's probably not a very helpful comparison.
posted by yoink at 1:09 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


R. Crumb's "The Birth Of Tragedy"
posted by thelonius at 2:14 PM on January 10, 2015


Hesiod - an 8th/7th Century BC author whose works were as close as the Greeks got to a bible

That's almost like saying the Talmud was as close as the Jews got to a bible. Uh, Homer?
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 2:22 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


can anyone recommend any racy historically authentic Ancient Greece uh...romantic adventure novels ?
posted by Bwithh at 4:06 PM on January 10, 2015


can anyone recommend any racy historically authentic Ancient Greece uh...romantic adventure novels ?
- Bwithh

Featuring beautiful men, or beautiful women? The genre seems to specialize in the former.
posted by Dreidl at 6:59 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


can anyone recommend....

Take your pick.
posted by BWA at 7:01 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


judged as they walked to and fro.

The more things change...
posted by arcticseal at 7:04 PM on January 10, 2015


Metafilter: Comforting for those of us in satyr-like shells
posted by surazal at 8:20 PM on January 10, 2015


>Given the tiny peens on the statues, some of those must have very small ribbons.

The Greek ideal was to prefer small penises. Big ones were considered vulgar and a mark of low breeding.


That was true when it came to their ideas about fine art anyway. I'm sure it was a different story when it came to the bedroom. Probably why they so frequently had sex with their slaves.


I think they really meant it.

Consider a passage from Aristophanes The Birds (and the accompanying gloss):
BETTER ARGUMENT
You’ll spend your time in the gymnasium—
your body will be sleek, in fine condition.
You won’t be hanging round the market place, 1280
chattering filth, as boys do nowadays.
You won’t keep on being hauled away to court
over some damned sticky fierce dispute
about some triviality. No, no.
Instead you’ll go to the Academy,*
to race under the sacred olive trees,
with a decent friend the same age as you,
wearing a white reed garland, with no cares.
You’ll smell yew trees, quivering poplar leaves,
as plane trees whisper softly to the elms, 1290
rejoicing in the spring. I tell you this—
if you carry out these things I mention,
if you concentrate your mind on them, [1010]
you’ll always have a gleaming chest, bright skin,
broad shoulders, tiny tongue, strong buttocks,
and a little prick. But if you take up
what’s in fashion nowadays, you’ll have,
for starters, feeble shoulders, a pale skin,
a narrow chest, huge tongue, a tiny bum,
and a large skill in framing long decrees.*
1300
And that man there will have you believing
what’s bad is good and what’s good is bad. [1020]
Then he’ll give you Antimachos’ disease—
you’ll be infected with his buggery.*
------------------------------------------------------------
*long decrees: The Greek says “and a long decree,” which makes little sense in English. The point of the joke is to set the audience up to expect “and a long prick” (which was considered a characteristic of barbarians). [Back to Text]

*Antimachos was satirized in comedy as a particularly effeminate man. [Back to Text]
Satirical of course, but curiously pointless as satire unless the satirized opinions were widely held.

And I think the Ancient Greeks' idealization of smaller penises is anything but irrelevant to their ambivalence toward women.
posted by jamjam at 8:34 PM on January 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Plus, going into phalanx with a hard on can be quite a problem when those spears thrust forth.
posted by clavdivs at 10:14 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I did this, but that excerpt is from The Clouds.

Oh well, The Birds were playing as I wrote, if that's any excuse.
posted by jamjam at 10:56 PM on January 10, 2015


Featuring beautiful men, or beautiful women? The genre seems to specialize in the former.
posted by Dreidl at 6:59 PM on January 10 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]

Either/Both
posted by Bwithh at 6:49 AM on January 11, 2015


« Older Boston Will Bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics   |   Star Wars feat. The Joker and Bane Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments