One Culture’s “Heaven” is Another One’s Hell: Pederasty in Ancient Greece

As historians, I have often emphasized the need to suspend our own cultural tastes, opinions and taboos to be able to study those who came before us in an objective scholarly way. Most of the time for many scholars this comes easier than in most of society. From topics of brutal slavery, racism, sexism, national and religious extremism, genocide, rape, killings, and all sorts of practices and attitudes we now would deem completely unacceptable were at one time or another, part of the culture and made up the historical background we must acknowledge in order to understand them. Part of understanding the lives of our predecessors, is to look at it impartially, and dispassionately. The good and especially the bad, as it is harder for us to accept what we don’t like than what we do. For many unpleasant topics to our culture, overall most scholarly people are able to swallow and get past their own cultural perspective and analyze others with different values. However, I believe there is one topic so taboo in our culture, one even hardened criminals revile and abhor, it is hard to see past our cultural revulsion of it: sexual crimes involving children. Murder is one kind of evil in society, rape is too, but sexual harm to children is by far the most reviled and horrific in our society. The taboo aura the topic generates ironically has prevented a lot of actual victims from getting justice as it is “the topic which will not be spoken of” to that effect. What does this have to do with the historian? Plenty when it comes to the study of Greek Pederasty.

The topic historically has been downplayed heavily and overlooked as “the thing we shall not mention”. It was only more recently did historians decide to address such a taboo subject. The actual practice had to do with the education of Greek boys and young men. It was part of the “erotic-educational model”, in which an older man would teach a boy the virtues of Greek society and wisdom in exchange for sexual gratification from the boy. To modern ears, this sounds like the unethical exploitative practices of modern teachers taking advantage of their students and conjures up images of the Catholic priest scandals and other scandals involving teachers and coaches. However, this needs more explanation. In our culture, sexuality is though of in terms of gender, ex. homosexual vs. heterosexual and so on. In the ancient world, sex and sexuality revolved not around gender, but power. It was a matter of who penetrated whom, whether man or woman regardless if you were the opposite sex. To us, we like to envision sex as a mutual undertaking. A shared experience between two equals. This is why we get upset if there is a power imbalance, whether it be a man over his wife, or an authority figure over a subordinate. To us, any power differential in a sexual relationship is exploitative to the one not in power. An adult and child is a prime example of the inherent power differential we decided is unethical.

To the ancient Greeks and many many other cultures, power is the key in such relationships and society in general was far more hierarchical. The Greeks envisioned pederasty as not unethical, as it would be done in a way that the younger boy, who really was 14 and up, or at least into puberty, that does not compromise his citizenship rights. The thing they were cautious of in such relationships was that if done improperly, the

The “up and down gesture” depicted in Greek Art. Yes, it’s explicit. We’re all scholars here, if you want to study history, you will come across far worse things…

younger boy could lose his citizenship status if he is too “submissive” in his sexual role. Being on the receiving end to so to speak, meant you were the passive one. Indeed, the terms for the two who would be in a pederastic relationship were the erastes or “lover” and his eromenos or “loved one”. To combat this, the boy would have to play “hard to get”. He could not enter into the relationship too quickly, but must be convinced to help preserve his autonomy. Likewise, the erastes must also temper his desire for the boy, or risk appearing unmanly with desire. The emphasis on the relationship though, was not supposed to be about pure lust and sexuality. Going back to the “erotic educational model”, there was a big emphasis on the education part of the deal. It was more important for the erastes to teach the eromenos how to be a productive and wise citizen of Greece than for the eromenos to give love to the erastes. To further preserve the dignity and autonomy of the eromenos as a freeborn male, in many cases, there was no penetrative sex. In one of Plato’s works, The Symposium, one of the guests at that party made a speech detailing more about the practice of Greek pederasty. He said that it was a form of “heavenly love”, as opposed to the “common love” of women and physical bodies, unlike the higher heavenly love of wisdom and your partner’s intellectual qualities. Pederasty was part of that “heavenly love”, as they believed the male sex was superior in wisdom and intellect. Pederasty was in that sense, more of an intellectual union than a physical one.

Regardless, this practice is still unacceptable in our own culture, and I personally agree with that judgement. Just because it worked in Ancient Greece, does not mean it works here! Our own notions of sex and power dictate it is unethical within our cultural framework. Trying to justify it in our culture is comparing apples to oranges. Our culture has vastly different in worldviews on the subject, and being done in our culture, would cause psychological harm. However, in Ancient Greece, the practice was extremely commonplace, and no trauma would result as it is not considered taboo or dirty, or wrong in their own culture. For Ancient Greek males, this was simply a stage of life to go through. Many went on and married women and had normal lives. This was not about being “gay” or getting “confused”, as like I said before, gender wasn’t the issue. It’s about power. Once the boys grew into proper men, they ended the sexual component, as sex between male equals was taboo, and would disempower the man in the passive role. However, they often retained life long bonds with their former erastes and teachers, like a lifelong mentor.

As historians, it is still a challenge to overcome our own revulsion of the practice to study it in a frank and honest way. It also challenges our notions of the Greeks being this “ideal culture” in which we were bred from! Yes, the Ancient Greeks contributed much to our culture, but it is an important lesson to learn that no culture will have 100% of your values, no matter how much you glorify them. Nor does Greek pederasty diminish the awe inspiring contributions Greek society did give the Western World! Let me reiterate this one last time: Just because the ancients did something in their culture, doesn’t mean it works in ours! I am in no way saying because pederasty was done in Ancient Greece, it make it ethical in our cultural framework. Conversely, I will boldly state just because something would be unethical in our culture doesn’t mean it’s unethical in their cultural framework! Let’s be historians and scholars here shall we? Stop our collective cultural blushing, giggles, and “eeeeeewwww!” and just grow up! What’s “heavenly” in one culture may be “hellish” in another…

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For more resources:

Ancient Greek Pederasty: Education Or Exploitation? (This article is excellent in emphasizing how we must not let our cultural taboos get in the way of scholarly analysis! She also provides some information I left out in the courtship process!)

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Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology and Anthropology, Opinion Piece | 2 Comments

Happy International Septuagint Day!

The Septuagint is a Greek Translation of the Hebrew Books in the Bible! As there is a Greek New Testament, the Septuagint is essentially the Greek Old Testament with a few additional books not found in the Christian Bible! The name “Septuagint” refers to the legend that 70 translators translated the text! There were technically 72, but 70 sounds better ;) The word comes from Latin for 70 (LXX). The Septuagint is an important document to historians wanting to learn more about the early origins of the Bible and gives great insights into how the Greek speaking Jews of the time translated their readings of the Hebrew texts. History is Interesting encourages you to learn more about this awesome historical resource, and others like it that shape the history of things we find fascinating! :)

(PS. The “Museum of The Bible” YouTube channel has some very fascinating easy to understand videos like this one on the history of the Bible from a non-religious scholarly perspective! Even if you are not an adherent to the Judaeo-Christian traditions yourself, the Bible, Torah, and other books not included in the official canon are fascinating in themselves as interesting pieces of ancient literature! If you haven’t studied them as closely, broaden your horizons into the history of these age old texts!)

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Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology and Anthropology, Helping Make History More Interesting, Holidays | 1 Comment

The Drunkard’s Children (1848): Sequel to “The Bottle”

The sequel to Cruikshank’s work, “The Bottle”, detailing a family’s demise from alchohol addiction, shows the fate of the brother and sister after their mother was murdered, and father committed to an insane asylum. Now, they are all on their own, and fall into bad crowds. The first few drawings are simply detailing what the children have been up to, gambling, going to seedy dance halls, and hanging out in bad parts of town. The real story begins when the brother, now a teenager, is persuaded to steal by a group of bad kids. He is caught in a tavern after the robbery.

The police bust the thief, the teenage son, and in the process, wake everyone else up. He seems shocked, like he thought he was sneaky enough to get away, and is indignant the police found him. The look on his face seems to me one of indignation, and surprise! Everyone else around him runs he gambit from angry at being disturbed, to confused as if woken from a deep slumber, and indifferent. The innkeeper and his wife aren’t too pleased either to have been roused so late at night! The police, like in the last scenes from “The Bottle”, are portrayed as neutral and professional, dispassionate contrasted with everyone else.  Urged on by His Ruffian Companions, and Excited by Drink, He Commits a Desperate Robbery. — He is Taken by the Police at a Three-Penny Lodging House.

The brother and sister are in court for his crimes. She was associated too since she is his sister. The sister is distraught, but the brother seems more resigned to his fate, which  was often quite harsh for more minimal crimes. Victorian web has a good analysis of this scene, noting the cold professionalism and dispassionate attitude of the judges and jury.

Cruikshank’s plate again features a crowd, but of lawyers rather than drinkers, gamblers, or dancers. Cold, dispassionate, and professional, the attorneys and functionaries of the legal system seem oblivious to the feelings of the accused. Although this scene would offer, in an earlier Cruikshank illustration, “a traditional gorgeous subject for caricatures, . . . here there is no memorable variety of type and passion in the massed legal faces” (Harvey, p. 150). Indeed, the faces of most of the characters bear some resemblance to one another, and a fashionably dressed young man watching the proceedings from immediately below the prisoner’s docket bears a striking resemblance to the brother. Record-keeping rather than speaking and listening dominates the courtroom as the Drunkard’s son becomes an anonymous case number. (Victorian Web)

From the Bar of the Gin Shop to the Bar of the Old Bailey It Is But One Step.

This scene, is the most touching, to me, and my favorite in this series. The sister was acquitted, but the brother was sentenced to “transportation for life”.  He would be sent far away to Australia as a convict, and never see his sister, or anyone else he knew ever again. Both brother and sister would henceforth be alone in the world, without even exchanging letters. The brother is more distraught than in the previous scene, but the sister is beside herself. I also feel that the light and dark dynamics are also symbolic here too, like in scenes from “The Bottle”. Both brother and sister are highlighted, but everything around them is dark again. It is as if the darkness of the whole situation will soon engulf them both. The room is dark, even the jailer is wearing dark mourning clothes. He himself like the other professionals, is portrayed as dispassionate. To him, this scene is just part of the job day to day. Like Victorian Web pointed out in the courtroom scene, they are simply regarded as another case number in a sea of case numbers. Victorian Web’s analysis has many points of mine, and a few others:

In his “Notes on the Illustrations,” Richard A. Vogler comments on the scene in which brother and sister must part forever. The Crown has not prosecuted the daughter for involvement in her brother’s crimes, perhaps for lack of hard evidence. She and her brother now go their separate ways, he to death from disease aboard a hulk, she to suicide at one of London’s bridges. He describes the girl as “distraught” and her brother as shocked at the harshness of his sentence. Vogler contends that the boy seems “remorseful.” He theorizes about the meaning of the cloth on the boy’s leg, suggesting that it represents an attempt to spare his sister’s feelings: “The convicted criminal has an iron on his right leg, but it is temporarily tied at the top with a piece of cloth, apparently because the authorities had allowed him to see his sister without wearing the full set of leg irons” (p. 162). The illustrator uses strong verticals and bars to reinforce the son’s status as a convicted felon, and suggest in the spartan visiting room’s interior the kind of life he must henceforth lead. The funereal clothing of the turnkey adds to the somber atmosphere, contrasting the snuff colored suit worn by the Drunkard’s son. As warder calls the sister away, the young man begins to realize that he is utterly alone, and will see neither familiar faces nor locales ever again. The prison functionary effectively blocks their way as the light plays about the pallid figures of the stunned brother and tearful sister. Presumably the brother is now mulling over the consequences of his crime, including the meaning of transported for life. (Victorian Web)

The Drunkard’s Son is Sentenced to Transportation for Life; The Daughter, Suspected of Participation in the Robbery, Is Acquitted. — The Brother and Sister Part For Ever in This World.

The brother tragically dies on board a prison hulk, which was a holding spot before he set off for Australia. Those hulks were extremely squalid and disease was rife. Many died before they even reached their destination, like the brother. The doctor closes his eyes for the last time, the priest just closed his book after giving last rites. Two convicts help shield him from view for the other prisoners, who are indifferent to his death and suffering. The hulk is dark and dreary, but he is lit up in the picture. Perhaps it is symbolic of his departure into a better place, like heaven, escaping his worldly woes. Early Dissipation Has Destroyed the Neglected Boy. — The Wretched Convict Droops and Dies.

To end the tragic story, Cruikshank shows us the sister’s fate as well. She realized she is utterly alone now. No family or friends. She decides it is hopeless to g on, with no one, and no resources and no future other than destitution, she decide to end it all. She is seen plunging into the darkness head on now. A concerned couple stands in the far right corner, but they’re too late to save her. Maybe they were a source of help she didn’t see, that came too late. I wonder if they knew, or could guess all that led her to this breaking point. There is something graphic about this scene, even though it’s hand drawn, it does not shy away from the moment she is plunging to her death. Not merely about to jump, but in mid air about to die. I’m sure Cruikshank did that intentionally to drive the point home. I find it tragic too, not just in the obvious fact that she committed suicide, but the people standing helplessly in the corner, watching her fall, but are concerned. There were people potentially willing to help her, but came too late.  Now we see how both children have succumbed to the darkness of their misfortunes. The Maniac Father and the Convict Brother are gone — the Poor Girl, Homeless, Friendless and Deserted, Destitute, and Gin-mad Commits Self Murder

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George Cruikshank: The “Modern Hogarth” The Bottle (1847)

William Hogarth, the amazing artist I wrote about in a previous post, inspired other artists after his time as well! One such artist was George Cruikshank (1792-1878), another British artist that did many works of social satire, and like Hogarth, some moral stories told in pictures like a primitive comic strip. I think he was directly inspired by Hogarth’s works, and mirrored many scenes and motifs from Hogarth!  Two of his most prominent works, and my favorite of his was made for the Temperance movement, which believed that alchohol and drunkenness was the cause of many social ills and misery. His first work for the Temperance movement, “The Bottle” (1847), details the decay of an idyllic middle class family from the ravages of “the bottle”. I provided links to click on for a much more detailed analysis of each picture from victorianweb.org.

The first scene is when the bottle is first brought out. Everyone is happy and the home is filled with nice mementos and gives an atmosphere of warmth. The family is happy, and seems to be doing quite well. The Bottle is brought out for the first time: The husband induces his wife “Just to take a drop”.

The second scene is when the father loses his job to “the bottle”, and the family is selling their clothes to raise money to live off of. The father now looks disheveled, and out of it, and the two children who were playing by the fire now look on in trepidation. The mother and daughter look a bit more hopeful things may turn around.  He Is Discharged from His Employment for Drunkenness: They Pawn Their Clothes to Supply the Bottle

In the third scene, they lose their possessions, as the father cannot find work, and they spiral into poverty. They must sell almost everything to stay afloat. The picture seems portrays the whole family being affected now, and all look miserable at this unfortunate turn of events. They huddle towards the fireplace, in what I think is symbolic of them trying to “keep warm”, and away from the coldness of the harsh world closing in. The men taking their stuff are in shadow, contrasted with the family in the light by the fireplace, perhaps symbolic of the darkness and coldness of the fate that awaits them. An Execution Sweeps Off the Greater Part of Their Furniture: They Comfort Themselves with the Bottle

The family are now turned out, and have to beg to get by. Their young son is off in the distance begging and a woman gives him some money. Their clothes are now raggedy and disheveled. They are no longer middle class. It is evident, that even with what little money they’re begging for, the father spends it all on the bottle, continuing the cycle as they are outside of the liquor store and the father puts a new bottle in his pocket. Unable to Obtain Employment, They Are Driven by Poverty into the Streets to Beg, and by This Means They Still Supply the Bottle.

The family has lost their youngest child, the little girl from the first few scenes. Everyone is mourning her, but the father stares on, only turning to the bottle for comfort. He seems to have a degree of remorse, but cares more about his drink, than the loss of his youngest child. The darkness is now closing in, occupying more of the room than in the scene prior when they lot their possessions. Again, they huddle by the fireplace, clinging to what little warmth is left, while the coldness and darkness of the world is closing in fast. The elder daughter also, is shown to be moving away from the attachment to the dysfunctional family, symbolized by her at the coffin of her younger sister. This is the turning point for her shown in subsequent scenes. I think she starts to realize this whole thing is wrong. Cold, Misery, and Want, Destroy Their Youngest Child: They Console Themselves with the Bottle

Things reach a breaking point: the father gets physical in a drunken rage, while the children hold him back. There is no more light by the fireplace. The whole room is now dark, except for some light from a neighbor peeking in. The world and its darkness has enveloped the whole family. The room is in disarray, and furniture on its side or upside down, just like their family life. The only light comes from a concerned neighbor, who witnesses the abuse. Perhaps she would try to do something? Fearful Quarrels, and Brutal Violence, Are the Natural Consequences of the Frequent Use of the Bottle

This scene by far is my favorite. So much is going on! My most prominent observation is the look on the father’s face. It is not one of malice, or evil, but looks of horror, confusion, and remorse all at once. It’s as if he’s at a turning point, or breaking point, as if he knows he went too far, but now it is too late. He can’t take back what transpired. I particularly liked this analysis from Victorian Web:

Once again we encounter a study in black-and-white, the whiteness of the coal fire, plaster above the barren mantel, and the bare floorboards mirrored in the dresses of the lamenting women contrasting the darkness of the open doorway, the police uniforms, the kneeling woman (left, who prevents us from seeing the corpse, for which we as viewers must create appropriate images) and the ragged child (right), who chews his nails in sheer anxiety as he watches the drama starring his surviving parent unfold in the midst of what was once a thriving, congenial home. The scene juxtaposes the curiosity of the neighbors, the stunned responses of the children, the anguished stare of the demented father, and the cool professionalism of the police and the attending physician, who, one suspects, are no strangers to the deadly repercussions of “The Bottle.” The cupboard, once stocked with dinnerware, is open once again, perhaps portending the life-long incarceration of the madman. (victorianweb.org)

The part about the juxtaposition between the intense emotions of the crowed and the children, and the “cool professionalism” of the police and the doctor was my favorite insight. It is true, that they have probably seen that scene play out time and time again, and are desensitized to it all. I think it is also one of the mot compelling scenes to a modern audience, as a scene like that could easily be made with modern apparel in a modern household. Now, sadly like back then, police and first responders often get calls for such horrible scenes, with neighbors and children caught in the middle. The husband, in a State of Furious Drunkenness, Kills His Wife with the Instrument of All Their Misery

The very last scene shows the aftermath. The son and daughter look upon their deranged father, now a shell of his former self. This is my second favorite image. I think surprisingly, this image gives off a more of an atmosphere of sympathy or pity, than harsh justice being done. The father is in prison, or an insane asylum, but it is lit up more and is more inviting than the usual dark motif of a dungeon like atmosphere. It seems more of a message to pity the father, as he has now broke down and is no longer sane enough to be responsible for his crimes anymore. In here, perhaps he is finally safe from the harsh outside world, symbolized in the shadows in the doorway to outside his cell. The children also raise some questions, like how did they get so finely dressed? This is the lead into the sequel that details the children’s fall from grace. Again, Victorian Web has a great analysis:

Cruikshank creates visual continuity with the earlier plates by placing the coal-grate with its chained poker, the source of warmth in the chilly, barren room, to the right, and the doorway to the left, which matches the juxtaposition Cruikshank established in the family parlour in the opening scene. The daughter, now emotionally detached, stands just left of centre, standing on the bare floorboards. The father wears a jacket and trousers that are no longer torn, but he wears slippers rather than shoes, suggesting that he will never walk the streets a free man again but will remain an inmate for life. His shorn head, a prophylactic against lice, is the singular badge of his imprisonment. Despite the fact that he sits next to to a roaring fire, the madman clutches himself, as if he is cold, his staring eyes suggest that, in his mind’s eye, he is seeing something horrible — presumably the corpse of his murdered wife. The son and daughter study him objectively, as if he were a curiosity, as the turnkey (far left) casually studies all three of them, establishing an atmosphere of surveillance. (victorianweb.org)

The Bottle Has Done Its Work — It Has Destroyed the Infant and the Mother, It Has Brought the Son and the Daughter to Vice and to the Streets, and Has Left the Father a Hopeless Maniac

Overall, Cruikshank tells a poignant tale, even for today! The ravages of addiction are still with us, and even Victorian Web observed it is not unlike the opioid crisis today! No matter what time period, this lesson is one we can all learn from…

Posted in Art and History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Modern History, Reviews | 1 Comment

Happy Holidays!

This is a bit late, but History is Interesting wishes you had very happy holidays this holiday season! Throughout history, this time of year has been one of joy and triumph for many cultures in welcoming the return of life in the spring, and conquering the darkness of winter, and many deities have also been celebrated as part of that re-birth! No matter what you celebrate, History is Interesting wishes you a joyous time, and a happy new year ahead!

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The Ghosts of Christmas Controversies Present!

There is a well known- yet overlooked annual tradition that comes with the holidays every year: Christmas controversies! In modern day, everybody’s a critic! From those who feel that Christmas is too commercialized, or too secular, to not enough “Christ” in Christmas, to those who feel that Christmas shouldn’t be the only holiday of note during the winter season! No one is really content with Christmas in society today, some even going so far to declare war! However, many would be surprised to know, that their “war” is based off of many misconceptions about Christmas, and that this “war” is a minor skirmish in a long line of wars, fought on many different fronts. Here are some of the major “wars” on Christmas since its existence:

  1. Keep the “Christ” in Christmas

More recently, some Christians have complained that “X-mas” is insulting because it erases “Christ” and makes it “X” as in unknown or anonymous. However, they fail to realize their own history! “X” in that context is the Greek letter, Chi, and is the first letter of Christ’s name in Greek, Χριστός . The X is often seen in Christian religious iconography, especially orthodox. The Chi-Rho symbol in may churches contains this symbol. In the Middle Ages, it was often used as an abbreviation, to save paper and ink in a world where such things were expensive luxuries. Would the medieval clergy who could write stuff down, intentionally insult the son of God, when medieval society was basically a theocracy? Xmas is Christmas. X=Christ. Moving on…

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2. Christmas is becoming too “secular”, as in not overly Christian

I’d argue, historically, Christmas is only superficially Christian. No where in the Bible does it mention celebrating Christ’s birth, and his birth, if he were actually real, is most likely to have taken place in the spring! Also, not to mention the intense pagan influence on Christmas, such as Germanic pagan traditions, like trees and the Druid’s holly. Ornaments, gift giving and especially the date are all from pagan influence! The early Church knew that to convert those peoples, they couldn’t alienate them and their traditions. Instead, they celebrated their customs under a Christian veneer. If anything, Christmas waged war on pagan holidays, wiped them out and won! The only thing Christian in Christmas is the excuse to have the day to celebrate, and the nativity scenes! Other deities such as Mithras, have the 25th as their birthday, and the winter solstice is more “the reason for the season” than Jesus’ birthday which should have been months ago!

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3. “The Reason for The Season”

Many feel that Christmas has become too commercialized, and not about family and giving, but about selfishness and consumerism. While many could feel that way, one also has to remember, the “reason for the season” changed and evolved drastically throughout history. Historically, Christmas had a very different atmosphere: One of drunkenness and partying! Christmas parties were more like college parties than the sentimental picture painted today! Indeed, the Puritans and Pilgrims, did not like Christmas, not only for its paganism, but also for the sins it encouraged such as drunkenness and rowdiness. The Christmas we know today really stemmed from the Victorian era, and “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. That warm family friendly feel and generosity stemmed from that perception to make Christmas more popular.

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4. Christmas is American, and those who take it away are assaulting American traditions

Christmas is now an American tradition, but it wasn’t until 1870 when it was officially made a federal holiday! Christmas is more broadly, a European tradition. Christmas was happily celebrated in London when it was banned in Boston! The first colonists, the Pilgrims and Puritans made Christmas illegal to celebrate since it was associated with paganism and popery. They spent the first Christmas in the New world working on their settlement, and there is an account of some trying to secretly celebrate by playing games but were caught! Christmas really wasn’t a major holiday at all until the later 1800’s and work, schools and congress all were in session on Christmas Day. In the scheme of religious holidays, Christmas took a back seat to things such as Easter. America itself has historically waged “war” on Christmas from its very beginning! Only now has Christmas turned the tide in its favor since 1870. What we now have embraced, has historically been shunned by our country.

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5. The “enemies” of Christmas have a contempt for Christianity and Western traditions

I mentioned before, many early “enemies” fought against Christmas because they were Christian! Christmas wasn’t Christian enough for them! They knew all about the paganism, and decided it wasn’t Christian to celebrate such a pagan thing under the guise of Christianity! Now, some opponents did have a contempt for Christianity, such as the Cult of Reason during the French Revolution, who did want to stamp out Christmas since it took away from the influence of their new “free” regime. Many totalitarian regimes are threatened by the influence of religion in general, including the Nazis who also tried to stifle Christmas, and seek to stamp it out since religion is a powerful rival. The point of that example, is to illustrate that this opposition came from the West though, not some far off “foreigners”. Not to mention the controversy listed above, Christmas was never originally “American”, Christmas fought a long and hard battle to be embraced by America. Christmas had to weasel its way into our culture, it was imported from Europe!

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6. “Happy holidays” is an assault on traditional Western culture!

One may find it interesting to know, but that greeting has been originally a Christian Christmas greeting! The “holidays” in question were Christmas, Advent and the New Year’s. Only recently did detractors from celebrating Christmas in the public sphere  and assuming everyone else does too reclaim that phrase for the sake of generality. “Happy Holidays” existed in the Christian majority West, and even former presidents such as Eisenhower said “Season’s Greetings” in the presidential Christmas card in the 1950’s, certainly before the current “war” began!

Ironically, it’s a Christian-friendly greeting at its root; “holiday” stems from the Old English for “holy day.” For much of the United States’s history, it would have been given and  accepted by Christians without a bat of the eye, understanding that the holidays in question were those of Advent, or perhaps Christmas and the Gregorian new year. Only relatively recently has it become a catch-all for people of other religions. (Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays, Round 2,016)

7. My own argument: Christmas is becoming politicized, to an annoying degree!

It’s thought by all but not said, but I will say it in the open: We are afraid of Christmas going away because of other recent things such as terrorism in the Western world, and we are threatened by the idea of our culture becoming erased. Christmas now is a big deal in our culture, and many are afraid that if we give it up, it will be a slippery slope to the end of democracy and a free society! In addition, many feel the more generic terms such as “The Holidays” is a politically correct attempt to wipe out our individuality in favor if “diversity”. I am no supporter of political correctness, especially when it comes to covering up facts, such as history, but I don’t personally mind if we don’t become a Christian theocracy where no one else has their religion in the public sphere but the majority! If you don’t know if others celebrate Christmas, “Happy Holidays” is the most appropriate thing instead of assuming. How would you feel as a Christian to be bombarded with “Happy Hanukkah” all the time because you lived in a Jewish majority community who assumed everyone else was Jewish? Look, I’m not against Christmas at all, but I am against historical misconceptions and nationalistic and religious propaganda to fuel a “war” about it! Now, phrases such as “Merry Christmas”, or even the act of openly celebrating Christmas has become a political act, “taking sides” in this “war”. I think that’s extremely unfair to those who want no part in any “war”, but to merely celebrate their own holiday because it has personal significance to them. Politicizing Christmas ruins the spirit of the holiday today, one of peace and unity, and turns it into yet another partisan issue, a division of our country, not a reconciliation. Whatever happened to celebrating whatever holiday one wants during the holiday season, without getting into who you’re slighting? I celebrate Christmas in my family, but I don’t declare “war” and demand a complete annexation of the public sphere! Christmas to me, means celebrating family and reminding to care about those we love, but so do all the other holidays celebrated this time of year for other families. The holiday season has been one of joy and triumph for many cultures throughout history. Forget the wartime propaganda about the religious, nationalistic, political and historical misconceptions surrounding Christmas, just be merry no matter what you decide to celebrate! :)

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The Dwelling Place

The Dwelling Place is a movie based off a novel of the same name by Catherine Cookson. Catherine Cookson has made many Victorian era-Edwardian Era period novels which were turned into movies in the 1990’s. Many are compelling stories, often highlighting social issues faced in those eras. However, the most interesting story I’ve seen so far is called The Dwelling Place.

The plot centers around Cissie Brodie, the eldest child who is a teenager who now must take care of her younger siblings when their parents die from cholera. To avoid the inevitable fate of being split up forever and sent to workhouses, Cissie takes matters into her own hands, and moves the family into an empty cave they found they named “the Image result for the dwelling place catherine cooksondwelling place”. In the meantime, the younger siblings, two younger brothers and two younger sisters take on jobs to help support their little family. The brothers work in a mine and the sisters work as a maid and laundress. Cissie and the family also prepare a roof and entry way for the impending winter and meet Matthew, a local carpenter to help them out. Matthew develops an interest in the family, and gets attracted to Cissie. When one of the brothers comes home from the mine with a gash on his knee, it is revealed that he is being abused in the mine. Matthew gets both boys out if that mine and employs the older one as his apprentice instead. The two sisters, Mary, becomes a maid, and Bella becomes a laundress. The youngest child, Joe wanted to help too, and does so by catching rabbits.

Life gets up heaved for the Brodies soon after things begin to settle down. One day, while Joe was catching rabbits, he went onto a noble’s estate and was caught by the daughter on there. Joe screamed for help and Cissie came and fetched him back, making an enemy out of the people living on the estate. Clive, the son of the estate’s owner followed Cissie Image result for the dwelling place catherine cooksonback and raped her in front of little Joe. Joe ran to get help and meets Lord Fischel, the owner of the estate. He witnesses the act and is horrified that his children would do such a thing. As punishment, he sends Clive away at sea and Isabelle, who first caught Joe, is grounded. Matthew finds out something was amiss when the oldest brother, his apprentice tells him what happened. Matthew was furious, but Cissie told him to keep out of it. Months later, Lord Fischel was riding by in his carriage and saw that Cissie was pregnant with his son’s child. He sends his butler to find out when the child is due. Lord Fischel tries to persuade Cissie into giving him the child, but she remains steadfast in her decision to keep him. This all changes however, when Bella, the younger sister was accused of theft of some handkerchiefs. Bella threatened with the prospect of jail, Cissie makes a deal with lord Fischel to give him the child in exchange for all charges to be dropped for Bella. For this, Cissie also would be payed a hefty sum each week for the child’s absence. Cissie was devastated at the loss of her child.

Three years later, Clive returned from sea a changed man. He sought Cissie out and told her she could keep her child once he knew what happened between his father and Cissie. Clive felt it was unjust what his father did. his condition was that the child could not live in their hovel, but must have a proper house and be sent to school. Clive would arrange this by buying Cissie a house in her name. Cissie would agree to those terms. Since Cissie’s life wouldn’t stand still though, Matthew who had to marry another, but was still attached to Cissie saw Clive as one, the one who wronged her, and two, a new rival to his affections. He tried to persuade Cissie to let him buy her a home, but Cissie wanted her son back so badly, she was compelled to take up Clive’s offer. Isabelle, however is completely opposed, and tries to get the child back. A fight ensues between her and Clive and he accidentally kills her in the struggle. This is covered up to look like a riding accident. Meanwhile, the child is not attached to Cissie as she didn’t raise him, and Cissie ultimately decides to let Lord Fischel have him back. She also returns the deeds to the house and the money he gave her for the child. As she went back to the dwelling place, Clive catches up to her and confesses is love for her and they decide to marry. Cissie moves back into the house he has bought for her and Clive told her he’d rejoin her after one more year at sea.

Image result for the dwelling place catherine cookson

Overall, I thought the story was compelling. However, my biggest praise was for Cissie’s character. She had shown a strength of character and fortitude that many her age and even older would never have! They way she cared or her younger siblings, and even giving up her own child so that her sister would be protected was awe inspiring! Also, the fact that she never took charity and always insisted on providing for herself. I think she should have taken more help than she did! The greatest feat of character she did, in my opinion though, was giving her child back when she knew he didn’t love her, and giving up the deeds to the house and the money. It truly showed how she honored her word and the deals she went into and her integrity. It also showed her love for her child, as she wanted the best for him and what he needed, beyond her own desire to keep him. Cissie overcame all odds to make life better for her family and retained her integrity throughout her ordeal in a way many wouldn’t have.

The stranger part in the story was probably Clive’s transformation from callous rapist, to repentant and loving father to the boy. Some of it felt like it was stretched a bit too far outside the boundaries of imagination. Others noted, in a modern context, Cissie’s choice to marry her former rapist seemed detrimental and unsatisfactory. However, one must not look at it through modern eyes. Women back then were not empowered like women today to stand up against sexual assault, and considering Cissie’s circumstance in life, the marriage to Clive was the best thing she did in terms of securing her family’s future out of destitution. Not to mention, Clive did return a changed man, and helped her get her child back to make amends and even bought her a house. He came to love Cissie, and it was a marriage of love, more than necessity. I think Cissie, being who she was, would have refused if she did not love him, as she refused many other comforts in favor of her integrity.

Overall, I loved the history too! The costumes were period appropriate and it showed the type of hardship and poverty that faced many in that era. The plot was engaging and one could really be transported back in time! Overall a great period drama!

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