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No, the Ancient Greeks Weren’t Color Blind. They Justed Had Unique Ways to Describe the World

February 08, 2022
00:00 47:32
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Were ancients color-blind? They weren’t but this idea has been passed around for centuries, usually by classicists confused by the Greeks’ odd choice of descriptive language. Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the first ‘great’ poet of western civilization described the sea as oînops, or ‘wine-dark’.
Today’s guest is David Wharton, editor and contributor to “A Cultural History of Color in Antiquity,” is here to disabuse those ideas of the ancient world. Some prominent, recent research on Latin color language asserts that the ancient Romans mostly lacked abstract color concepts, instead conceiving of “color” as intimately connected with the material substances that Latin color terms typically referred to. Not only that the Romans were fully capable of forming and expressing abstract color concepts, but also that they expressed relationships among these concepts using structured metaphors of location and motion in an abstract color space.

We also discuss how would a resident from the ancient world would view color differently from a modern person, techniques for color creation in the past, and how color was utilized iin such things as conspicuous consumption, sartorial purposes, and class distinction.

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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