(urth) Long Sun and the Ancient Mediterranean

Nessun Saprà nessun-sapra at web.de
Mon Jan 5 03:27:33 PST 2015

Interesting point. Another one which could be of importance here, is that
Euhemerus was considered a “Bergaios” (like Pytheas or Antiphanes) in
antiquity, i.e. someone who is deliberately telling lies.




Von: Urth [mailto:urth-bounces at lists.urth.net] Im Auftrag von Marcos Bidoli
Gesendet: Sonntag, 4. Januar 2015 23:16
An: urth at lists.urth.net
Betreff: (urth) Long Sun and the Ancient Mediterranean


Hi all,


I’m a long time lurker but this is the first time I’ve posted in a quite a
while. Last year I reread the whole Solar Cycle and gathered some thoughts
to share. Between my first reading and this latest go I became Classicist,
and I was surprised to find how much of the Long Sun was opened up by the
knowledge I had picked up. 


Usually when I think about Wolfe’s reading in classical literature I look to
the Soldier books, but now I think it is even more vividly at work in how he
draws daily life in Viron. For Latro, Greek culture and even his experience
of the gods is alien to what he knows (even if he remembered what he knows).
But for the Vironese animal sacrifice is a common affair (even if not on Sun
Street). The same goes for dancing, shrill singing, augury, and reciting
prayers. (I thought I read about a sistrum at one of the sacrifices, but I
cannot find the place at the moment.) These are all practices that are very
well-attested across ancient Mediterranean cultures. They were as central to
what people meant by 'religion' then as they are distant to them now. One of
the great effects of the Long Sun books is to paint all these
characteristics—drawn out of our own history—into the ‘foreign’ culture of
this future society. I think Wolfe is having fun disguising these
commonplaces of the ancient world as futuristic developments, or at least
playing the futuristic element off the ancient one.


My favorite example is his deployment of Euhemerism. Euhemerus famously
proposed that the gods worshiped by Greeks and others were actually great
kings and heroes who had been elevated to status of gods by reverent
followers. (Fame is pretty much all Euhemerus has going for him-- none of
works of his survive.) I think Wolfe engaged in something of a thought
experiment in the Whorl: in what sort of scenario would men again find it a
a relevant, even edgy explanation to say that the gods were once men? Belief
in multiple gods is not commonly taken to be a plausible view in the west,
and so it is easy to dismiss the disturbing character of Euhemerus' claim.
It's just not our problem. However, it is much easier to find it plausible
that computerized personalities might wield godlike power over us. In the
Whorl, there is really very little difference between what Scylla is and
what a sea goddess might have been to the Greeks. 


There’s an impishly Chestertonian manner to how Wolfe takes makes an ancient
theory of apparently little relevance to us and makes it a genuinely
exciting development in his novel. He seems to be insisting that history
does not leave everything behind, and that what made sense to humans in one
day can again be plausible. 


I have one more thought on this, but I’ll save it to avoid overstaying my
welcome on a first foray in a long time. I’d be interested to hear thoughts;
I could not find any discussion of Euhemerism directly in the Whorl
archives, but I’m sure there’s something I’ve missed there.



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