friend of mine is studying french nd told me im lucky im studying latin bc she's always scared to speak french around french ppl b/c they'll judge her, but latin is a dead language so i don't have to worry. and all i can think abt is the disgusted disappointment in my latin teacher's eyes when i call a verb indicative instead of subjunctive
this is such a #classics student mood my latin teacher accidentally made a girl cry once because she couldn’t get the answer right
A few years ago, a friend of mine asked about the myth of the Judgment of Paris. This is the story I told my friend.
A son was born to King Priam and Queen Hecuba. As devout followers of Apollo, the god of prophecy, they made sure to consult the oracle right then.
The oracle said: This child will be the ruin of his homeland. Should he live, Troy will fall.
Priam and Hecuba were distraught. They could not stand to kill their newborn son. But neither could they face the end of Troy. For the kingdom, they called their best herdsman Agelaus.
The king said: Take this child away. For the sake of all Troy, he must die.
So the prince was borne from the city. Yet Agelaus too could raise no hand against him. He ascended Mount Ida, and there left the young child for nine days and nine nights. Agelaus again climbed Mount Ida, but found the child unharmed.
The herdsman said: This can’t still be the prince; I will take him in my backpack [pera], and I will call him Paris, as from my backpack he is reborn.
And Paris grew into a fine child, and the herdsfolk loved him, and Agelaus knew he had brought light into the world.
A daughter was born to King Nereus and Queen Doris, the mer-emperors of the Aegean Sea. They too knew the importance of a birth prophecy. Of Princess Thetis, the oracle said: “She will bear a son mightier than his father.”
Nereus and Doris rejoiced! For Zeus on high hears all prophecies; of all the women in the world, Zeus now knew, this one he must not touch.
Hetalia is so popular and has such a large fandom that it is a bit surprising that the concept is not completely original. Personifying countries is actually pretty common throughout history since the emergence of the idea of nations.
Even now, there is Hetalia and there are also these two:
The only thing they share is that they all personify countries to convey history and stereotypes. The portrayals also vary widely between them (which throughly undermines the idea that there is a single view of country stereotypes, but I digress)
But, this idea has long roots in propaganda, satire, and nationalistic art. It is easier to convey concepts through anthropomorphic allegory than trying to capture something as indefinable as national identity. The viewer can feel more sympathy with their country or animosity against the enemy if they are presented with a human figure.
Allegorical figures to convey concepts are very common in Renaissance art, and predate the idea of nations. A prime example of this is The Judgement of Paris, which became a very common motif in art. It represents the choice of any man between glory (Hera), wisdom (Athena) or love (Aphrodite)
Here is a version of the painting by Peter Paul Rubens:
Catholic art is especially prodigious in its use of allegorical figures to convey glory and majesty.
But, allegory really came into its own with the advent of the idea of nations. Each nation has its own allegorical version of itself to convey the idea of national pride to the populace. Some of these figures are still so familiar to us that we immediately recognize them.
The most obvious example is also one of the first:
The painting is Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, and it is one of the most widely recognized and emblematic paintings of the representation of the personification of France.
Her name is Marianne and she is both an allegory of Liberty and the French republic. She is immediately recognizable by her Phrygian cap, which is the symbol of the French Revolution. She first appeared with the awakening of a national consciousness and became the most accessible version of it, rebellious, beautiful, and unendingly fair and free.
Since the French Revolution she has become a consistent visual representation of France.
But, this is by no means unique to France. Rather, this is the visual language of nationalism.
This beautiful allegory of unity is Germania. The painter is unknown, but it was painted in the Paulskirsche, where the first German congress convened.
Her most recognizable features are the shield or breastplate emblazoned with the black eagle on a Gold field and the Reichsschwert. She is the strength of German unity, represented in a single figure.
As in the case of France, her appearance as a national symbol accompanies an awakening of national awareness. She appeared around the March Revolution in 1848, which was one of the first real calls for German Unity.
Goddess-like figures are the usual choice for national representations because of their link to the earlier tradition of allegorical use of Greek Goddesses. As well as portraying the nation, they also embody the values of the nation in a way that is easy to understand to any viewer.
Here are a few more examples:
This is Britannia, the powerful Goddess of Empire. Like Germania, she has a martial tone to her representation because of the ever-present shield with St. George’s Cross.
This is Columbia, the personification of the United States. Though she is not as widely used now as she once was, there was a time that she was the prominent version of the United States. She looks strikingly like Marianne’s American cousin because of the shared value of Liberty.
This is yet another Delacroix, this time depicting Greece. Although Greece usually skips the intermediate step and portrays itself as Athena.
These personifications makes stirring Nationalist feeling very easy. They often show up in propaganda both for and against that country.
There are examples like Germania honoring the dead:
Or Colombia raising her sword for democracy:
Or Solidarity between the French, British, and Russians represented by allegory:
But, these are also the uses by the enemy, like these two charming depictions:
I will spare you the worst propagandistic representations of Belgium raped by the Germans from the first world war, but they exist. They make use of the personification of a country as a woman in the most devastating way possible.
They have also been used for rallying cries and mockery throughout history. Like this verse from “We’ll Fight for Uncle Sam”, a song from the American Civil War (John Bull is Britannia’s fatter, less dignified male version):
Och, sure, we never will give in, in any sort of manner, Until the South comes back agin, beneath the Starry-Banner; And if John Bull should interfere, he’d suffer for it truly; For soon the Irish Volunteers would give him Ballyhooly.
Even the idea of using these national depictions for satire or comedy is not new. visually identifiable concepts have been useful to political cartoonists for years. It is not the invention of Hetalia or Polandball.
Observe how dignified Britannia looks here:
The media now that personifies countries builds on this legacy of national pride or political satire in the form of recognizable figures. In this sense, Hetalia is building on a rich historical tradition. It really provides insight into the modern view of nations and their characteristics.
The only difference now is that we have replaced dignified Goddesses with hot men that we can ship with each other (although I could get behind BritanniaXMarianne)
Egyptian — Set is the god of winds, storms, the red desert, violence, and disorder. He is well-known in Egyptian lore as the usurper who murdered and mutilated Osiris, and the great rival (and equal) of Osiris’ son and heir, Horus.
Greek — Eris is the goddess of chaos, strife and discord. Presumably, there are two Erises: the daughter of Nyx (Night) and the daughter of Zeus. The second is described by Homer as sister and companion to Ares in the battlefield; in the Iliad, she is the initiator of the Judgement of Paris, and by consequence, the cause of the Trojan War.