Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

SO ANOTHER dreary Oscar ceremony is over, with various dim artistes awarding prizes to other dim artistes and the whole world clapping like sea-lions. Ancient Greeks would certainly have been up there clapping with them, including the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (c.490-c.425 BC), who played such a starring role in one of the major Oscar winners, The English Patient.

Greeks adored competitions. Tragedies and comedies, for example, were put on at festivals in competition with each other, and Best Producer and Best Actor prizes awarded, the latter on the strength of audience acclamation. Games were hugely popular (the Olympics were only one of hundreds of similar occasions celebrated all over the Greek world), and choral competitions fiercely contested. But Greeks were also adept at handling the associated problems.

Herodotus tells the story of the Greek attempt to select Best Commander after they had defeated the Persians in the famous sea battle off Salamis in 480 BC. The commanders all met together and put the issue to the vote at the altar of the sea-god Poseidon at the Isthmus. …

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