86 comments posted · 13 followers · following 5
No, but seriously, I do have to be opened up soon, but really not a big deal---at least I hope not.
I actually had some fairly good news, healthwise, too. Found out my whole family has the bad gene that gives you hemochromatosis, which'll kill ya good and dead. Fortunately my brothers and sister, who all have it, are being treated for it and are thus unlikely to die from it. Even more fortunately, while I have the nasty gene, it turns out it's turned off in me, and thus I'm the only one who *hasn't* got the disease. Yay for me!
We won't discuss the broken heart. That's still a very sore subject.
However, I'd press you to provide support for your assertion that no ancient historians would claim a literacy rate of higher than 10% for the Levant or any other part of the Empire. In point of fact, I've read many an archeologist and historian who would place the literacy rate higher than that. rtbradshaw is correct when he says that people of the region (in fact many other regions of the Empire as well) were at least bilingual. Of course, being bilingual (or better) doesn't equate to "literacy" per se. But we should then take into account Hebrew traditions dealing with the skill of writing (and presumably reading) as well as similar, if less systematized, Graeco/Roman traditions. In short, people were expected to have a certain level of literacy---whatever that level might have been---which allowed them to live as useful citizens within a fairly literate Empire. Now, no---to equate this with a modern context for "literacy" is perhaps expecting too much. But likewise, it's also probably too much to suggest that the great bulk of people living at that time, in arguably the most advanced culture in the world, were entirely illiterate.
The bottom line is that no one really knows. Certainly literacy, however, was far greater than it was *after* the fall of Rome. And of course much of the grey area here enters where we begin to discuss what might have been true for "peasants" vs. the monied/aristocratic classes. But likewise, there was also a solid merchant class in existence throughout the Roman Empire, and if you can doubt that such a class could thrive without being literate to a certain degree, then you need to be better tutored in not only history, but economics as well. In fact, there is every indication that most of this nascent "middle class" in the Roman Empire was very literate; this is indicated by a great many archeological finds which clearly indicate a knowledge of letters amongst such people. That this should extend to the peoples of the Levant---or at least certain groups of them---should not come as a surprise.
At any rate, it's doubtful that men such as the disciples would have had the necessary gravitas to carry out their mission if they had been utterly ignorant of writing and reading. It's not impossible, but it seems unlikely.
Mine too, even for myself.
And no, it wasn't the goat. I'll never make THAT mistake again.
In the first place, the list writer makes the oft-repeated error of equating "most famous" with "best" or "greatest." The mere fact that a work of art is very famous does not, in itself, say much about it's aesthetic value or inherent artistic worth. Now, having said that, most of the choices on this list *do* belong here; however, the "bird girl" most certainly does not. Granted it has a haunting poignancy about it--no small quality in a sculpture--but that's about it. Except for having been used to represent "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (both on the cover of the book and in the film) it never would have been generally known. It's just another piece of fairly commonplace funerary art, very non-descript and plain. If one wanted to include funerary art, there are *far* better examples, such as Michelangelo's tombworks for Pope Julius and for Lorenzo de Medici.
Next, a list of this kind that ignores Bernini is lacking in the extreme; he almost single-handedly defined the demarcation between the High Renaissance and Italian Baroque, and was a master of both. Bernini is only one of several sculptors from this period of Italy that could be mentioned, but his is the most glaring absence.
Next, "Spencer," in compounding his/her errors, chooses to include two of Rodin's most well-known, but not necessarily greatest, works. Surely, yes, one could argue that either "The Thinker" or "The Kiss" belong on a list of this kind---but if one is truly interested in citing the works of the greatest artistic force from a particular sculptor, then for Rodin I would have first chosen his monumental representation of Honore de Balzac, surely one of the greatest and most powerful sculptures since the Classical Age. It's overwhelming, whereas the other two works of Rodin---while great---are really merely iconic.
Next point, Spencer--a "pieta" is ANY representation of Mary and the dead Christ---there are many examples of this both in sculpture and painting. However, one could say that Michelangelo's is certainly the most famous and perhaps, yes, the greatest.
The choice of "Lady Justice" here is another example of pandering to fame over true merit... and in fact, a nearly disingenuous one, seeing as Spencer isn't even citing a particular version of the statue, but "Lady Justices" in general. This is absurd. Mass-produced works cannot and should not stand with the other items on this list; not that such works can't sometimes be great on a certain level, but surely we'd all recognize that their artistic greatness--if it exists---is of an entirely different nature than that of a true masterpiece.
And that too is lacking in this list: an elucidation of what makes a given work of art a masterpiece. Why were these particular works chosen, as opposed to others? There's no real communication of the reason or the criteria.
Lastly, I would point out all the great examples of sculpture that are missing here, from some of the works of Henry Moore, to Cellini, to ACTUAL works of the ancient Greeks. The only representations of Greek genius here are Roman copies of inferior quality; whereas true Greek works do still exist---such as the Charioteer of Delphi, the Zeus/Poseidon from the sea, the Elgin Marbles, the numerous examples of abstract Cycladian art--far older than Classical Greece--and so on. One could even have cited the great Greek works lost to us, such as the Zeus of Olympia, but I think that might be a kind of cheat.
There are also truly powerful works of sculpture which pre-date the Classical world, and these too might have been mentioned.
Lists of this kind are never easy; it's difficult to pare down Art to a choice of ten. But if one is going to attempt it, one should do the homework more rigorously.