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18 November 2010 @ 03:18 pm
Ancient Worlds; The Victorians  
TV night again! We actually started off with a bit of RB3 playing, as we'd just picked up A Whiter Shade of Pale & Stayin' Alive from the new DLC releases yesterday. And we watched about 10 minutes of the football match (England v. France, friendly) but that was pretty dire so there was no temptation to keep watching. And then it was time for Ancient Worlds, so we watched it live again :) This programme covered from the Bronze Age Collapse (you could hear the capitals every time Miles said it) through to the rise of Iron Age Greece. I was a bit wrong what I was saying yesterday about the break-point between the programmes being the eruption of Thera - that was a bit to early to be the cause of the collapse. Miles said it wasn't clear what the cause was, but there was some disaster (be it natural or man-made) that displaced a large number of people from the Western Mediterranean, who subsequently came & attacked the cities of the Eastern Mediterranean - these were the Sea Peoples that Ramesses III fought against, as shown on the walls of Medinet Habu. And they disrupted & brought down most of the larger kingdoms, demonstrating the fragility of civilisation at that time. The smaller kingdoms that replaced them were peoples like the Phoenicians (which apparently means the Purple People, because they had the monopoly on purple dye production) - kingdoms based on trade more than military might. Who promptly got over-run by the Assyrians (once they got going), who were all about the military might - seeing it as the most efficient way of generating wealth, just subjugate people & exact tribute. One thing he pointed out that I'd never considered before was that the materials for making steel were much more widespread than those for making bronze - so the superiority of iron technology wasn't just about superior metals, but also about it being easier to get hold of material for more weapons/tools, so more people could have them. He also pointed out the similar democratising effect that the development of an alphabet had - alphabets being easier to learn as they have fewer signs, and also easier to sound out words you don't know than it is if your writing system uses many unique signs for syllables or whole words (like Egyptian hieroglyphs or the chinese writing system). Not sure I agreed with everything he was saying as he sung the praises of the alphabet (there was written poetry & stories before there was an alphabet ...) but I guess I take the general point :)

Next up was the next episode of the Paxman series about the Victorians. This one was about industrialisation & Empire, the Empire side of which has produced some of the tackiest & most racist art the Victorians went in for. Amongst other things the programme covered the professionalisation of the army in the wake of the Crimean War (in particular because of the charge of the Light Brigade) and the hardening of attitudes towards Empire (changing from a trading Empire that might have things to offer England, but an Empire of subject peoples who needed to be sternly taught civilised values & religion). The subject matter of these has been pretty sobering, so far, which isn't that surprising, I guess, as there were a lot of unpleasant aspects to Victorian society. But Paxman got to fire a cannon in this one, so it wasn't all doom & gloom ;)
 
 
Current Mood: curiousinterested
Current Music: Elton John "The Very Best of Elton John"