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Should We Be More Naked?
Is modesty too modern?
Dear Classical Wisdom Reader,
The locals were concerned when we told them we are writers. At first my husband and I were a bit perplexed... but with a wry smile and a dead serious gaze, they clarified with their instructions:
“Whatever you do... don’t write about this place!”
So I won’t talk about this Dodecanese island, once a port of call for the Argonauts and mythological homeland of the Titan Iapetus and the sea god Proteus. I’ll leave out descriptions offered by Homer, Pliny the Elder or Strabo... I won’t talk about how they sided with Sparta or lost their independence to Rhodes, Rome and the Byzantine empire.
And I CERTAINLY won’t discuss the crystal clear azure waters, dramatic cliffs, delicious fresh seafood and (hopefully still) friendly locals.
Instead, I’d like to consider something that’s been on my mind since our “Jews in the Roman Bathhouse” event... our relationships with our bodies and our society’s perception of modesty versus nudity.
Professor Yaron Eliav mentioned how in the ancient world, people were much more comfortable in their skin and that the family would casually bath together in the buff. It was certainly a thought that struck my modern mind as a bit bizarre... and unimaginable. And yet I know that there were so many instances when nudity was the norm. From sports to socializing, folks had no worries with getting their kit out.
Here on the not-yet-overcrowded beach on island “X”, European women sunbathe topless...while in the sandy spots we recently visited, in Israel and Turkey, “burkinis” and much more modest swimwear were commonplace.
We have these deeply ingrained notions of how much skin we should bare... but should we?
Is modesty a modern concept? Should we be more comfortable in our skin and act like the ancients? Or should we keep our bodies private?
As always, you can reply to this email or write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org - I’ll post your responses next week.
In the meantime, you can enjoy a few responses to our previous question: Does First Matter Most? As well as an excellent question for our astute readers to discuss as well: Did Alexander the Great really go to Jerusalem? Read on below and let me know what you think!
All the best,
Founder and Director
Classical Wisdom and Classical Wisdom Kids
Anya, I have been enjoying your travelogue. It has been very interesting. I visited all of the places you have visited for the most part but it has been a while and of course we all see things differently.
I just wanted to comment on your statement that "all the great men of history visited Jerusalem" and your inclusion of Alexander the Great in that list. I'm sure you know that is much disputed and debated. I for one come down on the side of those who think that Alexander did not divert himself and his troops from the coastal road on his trip to take Egypt, but simply received the embassy from Jerusalem (and Shechem) and then continued on his way. The story of the visit is found in Josephus and it includes a rather fantastical account of Alexander offering sacrifice at the Temple and acknowledging the God of Israel. That in and of itself is not too hard to believe, Alexander allowed the populations he took over to maintain their cultures and their gods and goddesses and he would acknowledge them all - in the form of stating that he was the embodiment of them all. But it is the detail that he prostrated himself before the High Priest that I think is unbelievable. It is hard to imagine Alexander prostrating himself to anyone. And the desire to get on with subduing Egypt I think was a much more important priority for him. I think it is highly unlikely that Alexander visited Jerusalem.
Thanks and continue to be safe in your journey...
S. Blake D.
The question as to who owns something seems like a complex question, but maybe it isn't. Years ago at the Presidio of Monterey the gentleman manning the Presidio's museum stated, regarding this particular situation, "If you can't defend it (militarily) you can't keep it."
Since humans are still at a low level of spiritual maturity and because history is full of land exchanging hands it seems like an adequate answer. Another way to look at who "gets" to keep a particular area is to keep it in the hands of that group whose stewardship of the land has benefited the largest group of people for the longest amount of time.
Regarding who is first, I think of Marx who said “Property is crime.” The way we look at property is kind of like an object in that we have a cathexis with it, similar to an infant to the mother”s breast. Once the breast is removed anxiety comes about and though we move on we never really leave the past object.
I think it is similar to why many want their dead bodies to be buried in the place from which they originate—yes, their poor children. So regarding land or country, we create the illusion of being first, but until we give up Object, we are doomed to have much strife.
Herman H, San Francisco
When I was growing up, I often heard the phrase, "Possession is nine tenths of the law." I took this to mean that when someone is currently in possession of something, taking it away from them to give - or return - it to someone else is not easy.
When it comes to land, especially lands claimed by different ethnic groups, based on where their ancestors lived, or who may have lived on it in times past, we should be very careful about efforts to restore those (claimed) descendants to that land.
Historically, there has been a common approach to preventing such future claims, which is that invading armies will simply wipe out the existing population, leaving no one alive. The land, and legal title to it, are then divided up among the conquerors.
I would hate to see this idea brought back into use. War is already terrible, but this would make it far worse.
This question is open-ended. My response will deal with real property of land, not chattel personal property. Who owns what is determined by being there first and having the strength and character to maintain it. Israel is a special God driven exception.
As to all other gentile nations ownership is the spoil of victory for as long as the victor can maintain it or the defeated are removed from the playing field permanently.
Cultures that are more dynamic replace those that aren’t unless the latter changes rapidly. See American Indians in the former and Japan in the later.
First counts. The might and will and means to hold that position is the true test of sovereignty for each and every successive generation. Those successive generations almost never meet the mandate. That is why we have a well populated registry of extinct peoples and nations.
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