Thursday, December 24, 2009

Green States vs. Blue States

Partisanship, the likes of which we have with modern day US congressional democrats and republicans, has been around for quite a while. The Romans had a long-standing tradition of circus factions identified by their colors. The 'big two' were the blue and green factions, the other two being the red and white. I guess in the US we have donkeys and elephants, but the idea is not new. Below is a rare ancient mosaic of a blue faction member.

Emperors Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Verus, and Commodus supported the greens (note, the greens back then didn't really have the 'tree-hugging' reputation that the green party today has). Caracalla and Vitellius backed the blues (no police reference, the emperors were the police). Marcus Aurelius is on record as having supported neither party, and I think I identify most with him. In truth, the factions were/are set up as a distraction for the masses; a way to make common plebs forget who is really pulling the strings of power.

In no place was this truer than Byzantine Constantinople. There, at the center of the political world were games in the hippodrome. The Constantinople Hippodrome was a horse racing track about 450 meters long and 130 meters wide with occupancy of about 100,000. In other words, think of it like a 1500 year old NASCAR, but with congress, the president and executive and the judicial branches all present.

People were so wrapped up in the goings on within the hippodrome, a civil war within the empire almost started in 532 (Nika Revolt). Speaking of civil wars, hopefully we won't have one against the state of Nebraska because of the residents there not having to pay any Medicare tax at the expense of citizens in the other 49 states in a sleazy vote for payoff deal. I'm pretty sure the rest of the union could probably take those arrogant bastards down in a war, even with their stockpiles of corn.

Regardless of which color faction of the day you might favor... As the current US faction in power is rushing through a massive healthcare mandate that over the holiday behind closed doors, I'll leave you with this thought from Procopius written in his 1500 year old 'History of the Wars'.

"In every city the population has been divided for a long time past into the Blue and the Green factions; but within comparatively recent times it has come about that, for the sake of these names and the seats which the rival factions occupy in watching the games, they spend their money and abandon their bodies to the most cruel tortures, and even do not think it unworthy to die a most shameful death. And they fight against their opponents knowning not for what end they imperil themselves, but knowing well that, even if they overcome their enemy in the fight, the conclusion of the matter for them will be to be carried off straightway to the prison, and finally, after suffering extreme torture, to be destroyed. So there grows up in them against their fellow men a hostility which has no cause, and at no time does it cease or disappear, for it gives place neither to the ties of marriage nor of relationship nor of friendship, and the case is the same even though those who differ with respect to these colours be brothers or any other kin. They care neither for things divine nor human in comparison with conquering in these struggles; and it matters not whether a sacrilege is committed by anyone at all against God, or whether the laws and the constitiution are violated by friend or by foe; nay even when they are perhaps ill supplied with the necessities of life, and when their fatherland is in the most pressing need and suffering unjustly, they pay no heed if only it is likely to go well with their 'faction'; for so they name the bands of that I, for my part, am unable to call this anything except a disease of the soul."


  1. Hope your Christmas was lovely, Eric.

  2. OT to this post: I enjoyed your comment about the stone in my picture. That was taken at the Four Seasons restaurant (which has landmark status). Feel free to comment on random stone any time!

  3. Loved the little history lesson. Very interesting and even still relevant today.

  4. What?! Nebraska isn't paying medicare tax?! How could I not know that. Now you've told the whole world and will probably cause war. I think that's what happened with Iraq. Wait a minute!!!! You and Bush are buddies aren't you? It's all coming together.

    P.S. Your comment on mylittlebecky's post. I died. Seriously.

  5. I demand tales of Antaeus(hopefully spelled correctly)! Never has there been a better myth, even though he dies in the end.

    Wait a mo'; I only write office comedy. Why am I here?

    Don Joe

  6. Otherworldlyone,
    It was great *and* fun, and I hope yours was good and the kid got everything she wanted.

    Hah, I leave no stone undiscerned?
    The Four Seasons rocks... oops, unintentional pun.

    Isn't it strange how most all the situations and human concerns in today's world have been played out thousands of years ago?
    Maybe people weren't worried about why their Blackberry isn't working, but I'll bet they had trouble with their scroll delivery guy sometimes.

    The Jules,
    You'll notice that my blog background colors are about equally blue and green, I'm no partisan round these here parts.

    We need to start the 'War on Nebraska Freeloaders'. Bush lives in my town, but it's not like we go bowling or to the Mesquite rodeo together or anything.

    Antaeus the giant mythical son of Gaia? Or Antinoos the *ahem* life partner of Emperor Hadrian?
    If the first one, I've been to the Delphi oracle location in Greece, so I can work in a story about that.
    I guess I've been to Villa Hadriana also, but I'm not going to speculate about the odd goings on that might have occurred there.

  7. Guilt trip!!!! :P. do you not check your email here?

    Arrggggg brain overload! lol.. can I get back to this post around Jan 10th? lol...

  8. I nearly missed this post.
    Sigh, I just love your posts about the Romans.

    Have a very happy and Healthy 2010 Eric!

  9. Division is a such a dominant and long running theme in history and will always be a component of politics, religion, etc.

    Great history lesson. Happy New Year Eric.

  10. Toni James,
    I do, I was just busy playing with my new remote control (see next post).

    Dutch Donut Girl,
    I hope you do / did too!

    Jenny Mac,
    Thanks, Hope your new year is the best!