Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Coffee Conversations: Why Can’t Classics be Sexy?
Coffee Conversations is a new segment that talks about things usually overheard in quieter moments; like when talking to a friend in a coffee shop. The subjects will be loose, opinionated, and poorly researched. I promise nothing and will deliver less.
So, first up in this train of thought comes an idea I tried to articulate for three minutes when I woke up at 5:35 this morning. I woke up, thought ‘I’d better write this down before I forget it tomorrow,’ and remembered the coffee shop part, and almost forgot the part relating to a potential article. That’s what happens when you’re halfway between asleep and awake I guess.
Anyway, so at some point in the night I suddenly wondered why Classics is either looked at super shallowly in media, like 300 or God of War, or intensely by nerds who read books, such as myself. There’s no middle-ground, and certainly no sex appeal outside of marketing for various products. I think Mueller or Danone did an advertising campaign for Oykos (meaning ‘household’ in Greek, but usually spelt oikos), and used a sexy Greek man making pottery with his shirt off to lure in the single mum audience. I never really understood who yoghurt adverts were marketed towards anyway. I can’t relate to women in yoghurt adverts. I’m not the kind of guy to have a quiet orgasm as I linger at the end of the spoon, so delicious was the pot of off-brand Activia. Instead, I unapologetically love to watch Disney’s Hercules with other people just so I can point out the inconsistencies and sound clever. So again I ask, why can’t Classics be sexy outside the bounds of mainstream media?
The short answer, as far as I’m concerned, is that it absolutely is. Ancient Greece is where our modern concepts of beauty originate. Zeus’ sexual exploits are world-renowned and have inspired sexual deviants for centuries. Remember that time he cuckolded Heracles’ dad whilst disguised as Heracles’ dad? Remember the time he had kids with basically every familial relation he had? What a great guy. Maybe Classics is too sexy for the mainstream, too hot for TV. Sex wasn’t exactly a taboo topic back then; Athenians had institutional paedophilia, Phryne used her breasts as part of her defence in a trial (and was acquitted), and one of the first life-size naked statues in Classical art (Praxiteles’ Aphrodite) had a stain left on it by a particularly zealous worshipper. Sex and Classics are as inseparable as Uranus’ testicles are from the birth of Aphrodite.
Then again, maybe Classics is too sexy for modern audiences. 300 is basically as close to a masculine power fantasy as you could get. They somehow managed to remove any whiff of homosexuality from it too, which is quite the achievement considering how sweaty everyone’s jock straps must have been by the end of it. It also completely contradicts the historical assertion that homosexuality was probably encouraged in the Spartan ranks so as to forge closer bonds, but that’s none of my business. What? Historical inaccuracies in a film based upon a graphic novel, based upon a film, based upon Greek propaganda, based upon a real event? Surely not. *Audibly gasps*
If anything, the sexuality goes overboard in the other direction. It’s so overtly heterosexual (as far as the men are concerned) that you’ve got crusty old perverts licking smoky oracles, and goat-headed musicians overseeing orgies of women and physically deformed caricatures of oriental decadence. It’s completely ridiculous when you say it like that. It’s Bee Movie all over again. Zack Snyder would rather have implied sexual activity between a goat-headed man and a harem of women than three hundred overtly masculine men doing the do. They weren’t called The Hot Gates for nothing. Did you know that Ancient Greek women used bread as dildos? It's true. Bet they got a lot of yeast infections. That joke cost £27,000 to make. And they didn't even laminate it. What am I doing with my life?
I think my favourite story about sexual promiscuity comes from the Life of Aesop, where he gets offered a shirt to sleep with the mistress of the house. He has the biggest penis the mistress has ever seen, by the way, so she’s really rather keen on the whole thing. Aesop says ‘fine I’ll sleep with you, but only if you're serious about the new shirt’. The mistress agrees, and they share a night of sexy stuff, only for Aesop to tell his master the next day that his wife made him sleep with her. The wife gets punished for adultery, Aesop keeps the shirt, and eventually gets thrown off a cliff. If that doesn’t convince you that Classics is a sexy rollercoaster, I just don’t know what will.
Or maybe Classics itself is sexy, and it’s the Classicists that fail to do it justice. Maybe if every male classicist had to wear a leather jockstrap and a billowing cloak, and every female had to wear a tiny peplos with one breast exposed, people would be a bit more receptive to the idea of my reality TV show, Roman on the Streets, Greek in the Sheets.
I don’t know. At the end of the day, my experience with Classicists is anything but sober, Christian fun. We sacrificed melons and drank sangria out of them one time, that was fun. Nearly stabbed myself with a knife too. Classics is way more Rock and Roll than most people give it credit for. The only thing we didn’t do was overthrow a tyrant and establish a democracy. We nearly did though. She was so bad as president that we’d had three scandals before Christmas, and she’d written a really passive aggressive article in The Tab. What a canem.
Anyway, my invisible coffee’s finished. We should do this again sometime though, this was fun. We’ll do lunch or something. You know that little burger place at the bottom of Tottenham Court Road? The one with the paprika chips? Yeah, that’s it. Something to do, isn’t it?
Alright, see you later.