You're Pope *now*. Everyone is. Carry on.
Was Achilles real? Was Odysseus?
The Iliad and Odyssey and Aeneid are full of flawed, powerfully drawn characters that seem almost real. They resonate. And who would *make up* a guy with a bed made out of a tree? Somebody *must* have done that, right?
Ancient writers and storytellers were not stupid. They were as capable of fictional depth as we are (maybe more so.) They didn't all write boring, one-note propaganda tracts. It's just a sign of our temporal provincialism that we expect the Bible to be a propaganda tract and are surprised that there are human, breathing, flawed characters in it. Siegfried and Signy seemed "real" too. Myth has a way of ringing true.
Then again, there's historical evidence of an actual Jesus; AFAIK he really was a preacher who was crucified. If my beloved friend and teacher were tortured to death by the government, you can bet I'd be telling people about him and trying to live up to his message. I'm sure the grief was real.
I suspect that Achilles and Odysseus, and indeed most of the characters in the Iliad and Odyssey, were based on real personages. During a Dark Age, oral epics are the best available source of any history before the lives of grandfathers-of-grandfathers.
The Aenid, however, is deliberate historical fiction, or epic fanfic. It was written as a conscious act of fiction by a man (Virgil) who lived in a time when the rich and educated had access to copious records, and hence the epic oral tradition of the Classical Dark Age had long-since perished. However ...
... it may well have been well-researched fiction, in that Virgil may have had access to sources now long since lost, including Etruscan ones. While the Romans lost all their official written records in the Gallic attack of 390 BC, there may have been unofficial written records not lost, and official written records which survived in other cities. And while the Rome of the earliest kings was almost certainly illiterate, and even more so the Latium of earlier times, oral traditions may have survived long enough to have been written down.
I would provisionally accept the reality of Numa, Romulus etc. and the possible reality of Aeneas. There actually is some archaeological evidence that some of the ancestors of the Etruscans and allied peoples came from Asia Minor, and since we know that Troy was real ...
... though, sadly, the story of Aeneas and Dido has to be either false or a conflation with some other true event, because the chronology doesn't match. Trojan War was late 12th or early 11th century BC; Carthage was founded in the 9th century BC, and Rome in the 8th century BC. A survivor of the fall of Troy could not possibly have encountered an extant city of Carthage: if he did meet people in a city in North Africa, they could not have been Carthaginians even if they lived in the same area, just as Moses or Joshua could never have met a Roman and for the same reasons.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criterion_of_embarrassment for those interested in the topic.
Also, as far as Islam goes - the satanic verses are an embarrassing story, and as child marriage has gone out of fashion, that became another embarrassing story.
I was trying to remember that criterion name!
The child marriage is almost certainly a true story, too -- it was not particularly exceptional in most pre-industrial cultures. For that matter, our whole concept of setting the statutory age of consent at late (rather than early) adolescence is historically very recent: the relevant laws are rarely more than 100-200 years old; and in most pre-industrial cultures there is no formal "age of consent" -- it's just assumed that men aren't much interested in sex with pre-adolescent children. Which is as a general rule quite true, though there are of course exceptions.
Oh, by the way: onset of menstruation is usually timed by intake of protein. In pre-industrial societies, aristocratic girls, who had high-protein diets, often started menstruating around the same time that girls do today (10-14); peasant children, who had low-protein diets, might not start menstruating until later (14-18). Aisha bint Abu Bakrhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aisha
would definitely have enjoyed a high-protein diet, and it's quite plausible that Muhammed chose to consumnate the marriage after her first menses (which signifies "womanhood" in many pre-industrial societies). According to the Quran she was 6 or 7 at the time of the marriage and 9 or 10 at the time the marriage was actually consumnated.
It is unreasonable to expect Muhammed to have looked ahead to American or British laws on age-of-consent and managed his marital life on this basis. There is also no particular reason to assume that Aisha was particularly offended by her treatment, as it was normal
for her society, she had been incredibly lucky in the identity of her husband, she showed numerous signs later on of extreme loyalty to him, and one of the good
things about Muhammed was his treatment of women (the really extreme misogyny entered Islam after Muhammed's death). She wasn't looking ahead to our laws on age-of-consent either, and hence would not have felt "abused" unless he actually abused her, and there's no evidence that he did.
And yes, I believe that Muhammed and the other figures from his life were all real until proven otherwise. Though not the angels and stuff: these were Muhammed's delusions
2012-09-29 07:07 pm (UTC)
> She wasn't looking ahead to our laws on age-of-consent either, and hence would not have felt "abused" unless he actually abused her, and there's no evidence that he did.
That doesn't sound right. In general, it's possible for people to be hurt by normal things: of course if you're a man and your people lose a war you get killed, that's how war works and war is glorious and necessary. You're still dead.
And if it is correct in that case, then our age of consent laws are stupid. Raped kids are horribly traumatized, we spend a lot on catching and imprisoning child molesters, who get beat up and raped by other inmates, and pedophiles have to wrestle with sexual frustration all their lives. If we can get rid of all of these by teaching a few generations that sex with tweens is normal, why aren't we doing that?
Our age-of-consent laws are stupid. We treat sexual relations with adolescent minors as being exactly the same thing as sexual relations with pre-adolescent minor children, and that as exactly the same thing as having sex with babies; we pay little attention under the law to the minor's consent or lack of consent; and in consequence we often not only punish some perpetrators too severely and other too leniently (since we must apply the same law to lover, seducer and rapist alike). What's worse, we often apply the law in ways which hurts the victim (who in some cases is only a nominal "victim") far worse than the perpetrator (who may or may not have actually done something bad. Even worse than that, our incredibly corrupt and inept child protection system may wind up handing said victim over to people who actually will beat and rape her (or him, sometimes) and may also wind up handing her siblings over to such abusers in foster families.
We imagine that the statutory-rape ahd child molestation laws were set up to protect children. They were not. They were actually set up, during the 19th century, to allow the parents of adolescent girls to have boyfriends of whom the parents disapproved threatened with, or actually subjected to, imprisonment to increase the degree of parental control over said adolescents. Originally, nobody but the parents would have reported the "statutory rapist" or "molester" in the case, and in cases where good feelings existed between parents and boyfriend, these "crimes" of course went unreported.
Then, when the government became more intrusive in the lives of individuals (late 19th to early 20th century), the government began seeking out anyone who violated these laws. In most cases the level of injustice was still fairly low, because early age-of-consent laws usually set the age of consent around 14-16 years old.
Then, starting in the late 1940's, when the mood moved toward overprotection of teenagers in response to the problem of "juvenile delinquency" and increasingly open teenage sexuality), municipalities and states everywhere began moving the age of consent up to 18 -- almost in lockstep with a reduction of the average age at which girls were actually losing their virginity.
Today we have a system so insane that almost everywhere in the United States the age of consent is 18, despite the fact that girls are actually losing their virginity on the average at around 14-16. What's more, human nature being what it is and girls being attracted mostly to older men (by which I mean late teens / early twenties), this means that there is massive violation of age-of-consent laws in fact: depending on the particular State's law, there may or may not be an exception for boys who are only slightly older than the girls (yes, there are areas where it is technically illegal for an 18 year old to have sex with a 17 year old!).
Consider what happens to a girl who falls in love with an older boy, marries him and is financially dependent on him before she is "rescued" by the State authorities. She is "helped" by the State by her husband being put in prison on a felony charge which -- if he survives -- will make it difficult to impossible for him to get a legitimate job. What's even worse, the girl doesn't have to be a minor at the time of the arrest -- there have been cases where such arrests were made after the girl had attained the age of majority.
There was one case I remember where anti-child-pornography statutes destroyed the lives of a couple even though both were minors at the time the "pornography" was made. A 17-year-old girl had her picture taken naked by her (also 17-year-old) finacee, as a romantic gesture. They turned 18, were married, and made the mistake of letting the existence of the photo be known. The husband was convicted on charges of producing child pornography, and wound up with a felony record, destroying his career and their future. Who the HELL was the State protecting here?
"almost everywhere in the United States the age of consent is 18"
If by "almost everywhere" you mean "in 12 states".http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_consent_in_North_America#State_laws
Granted it has two of the biggest states, while the nine age 17 states have Texas, Illinois, and New York; I lack the interest to add up population figures and see how many people live under the three regimes.
AIUI exemptions for being close in age are common, as is a blanket exemption for being married. Of course, you need parental permission to marry underage.
California is unusually strict and punitive.
You're right: I didn't research that, I just assumed, having spent most of my life in "age-of-consent = 18" states. These states however include New York and California, which are among the most important centers of the American media, which only reinforces the American assumption that there is something special about age 18 and that sex with anyone younger than 18 is morally "pedophiliac." (Which is incidentally a misuse of the psychological term, as "pedophilia" refers to sexual attraction to prepubescents rather than adolescents).
"These states however include New York and California"
No, the age of consent in New York is *17*. Still high, but not 18. It's right there in the comment you're replying to!
I'm baffled that you've had a long-time interest in this topic without ever looking up what the laws actually were.
2012-09-30 02:02 am (UTC)
In Defense of Muhammed
In any case, while Muhammed was a rotten bastard and a scourge to the human race in general, there is absoulutely no reason to believe that Aisha was hurt by her marriage to him, or by her early sexual relations with him. Ths situation was absolutely normal in her culture, and he seems to have treated her well. In this case, I am willing to defend Muhammed -- not against the charge of marrying and (a few years later) consumnating his marriage with his child bride, but against the claim that by doing so he "abused" her.
If we can get rid of all of these by teaching a few generations that sex with tweens is normal, why aren't we doing that?
I didn't say that "sex with tweens is normal." What I do say is that, biologically, both boys and girls are primed to seek out sexual contact with members of the opposite sex as soon as they hit puberty. What's more, there is a very strong tendency for girls to seek out higher-status males for such contact (because they have to be more careful about the possible biological and social consequences of sex), which means that by and large girls are attracted to older boys.
We can make any rules or laws that we want, and we have to limit human sexuality in certain ways to avoid all sorts of social problems, but if we actively deny reality where human biology is concerned, we are risking all sorts of other social problems: not the least of which are the consequences of criminalizing behavior which is often common, consenusal, and non-harmful to the participants. I could show you long lists of people whose lives were ruined because they fell afoul of the age-of-consent laws: this list would not be limited to the "perpetrators," but would also include many of the supposed "victims," who found the State destroying them as well.
When it comes to another culture which operated under very different technological limitations than do we, it is especially absurd for us to try to impose the American age-of-consent of 18 years old (!!!) and then assume that anyone who failed to obey this future foreign mandate. It is historically normal for the daughters of pre-industrial aristocrats or rich merchants (who start menstruating around 10-14) to marry around 12-16 and consumnate their marriages by 14-16. By our standards, almost all males from such families were "pedophiles" -- which shows the absurdity of these standards.
I believe people also use this same idea to argue that the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt must be historical.
It might very well be true: there is archaeological evidence for the presence of a Hebrew minority in Egypt during and after the presumed time of Joseph. What's more, they would have come in under the Hyksos, and hence might have for obvious reasons been resented by the resurgent Egyptian nation come the New Kingdom -- the part of the history that the Bible studiously ignores.
Really? The consensus from people who were specifically sent out to prove it was "never happened".
Richard Carrier conclusively demolishes the ridiculous Criterion of Embarrassment in Proving History (which I think everyone should read). Durant definitely nodded when he came up with that one.