Greeks Vs. Romans - Beauty vs usefulness

Post date: Jul 14, 2014 3:18:42 PM

Reading Mythology, I found something similar to what I read earlier in a different book, different context. Maybe cultures are also like people... some love and appreciate beauty others are practical. Excerpt from two books -


Until Greek literature and art entered Italy the Romans felt no need for beautiful, poetic gods. They were a practical people and they did not care about "Violet-tressed Muses who inspire song," or "Lyric Apollo making sweet melodies upon his golden lyre," or anything of that sort. They wanted useful gods. An important Power, for example, was -One who Guards the Cradle. Another was One Who presides over Children's Food. No stories were ever told about the Numina. For the most part they were not even distinguished as male or female. The simple acts of everyday life, however, were closely connected with them and gained dignity from them as was not the case with any of the Greek gods-except Demeter and Dionysus. - Edith Hamilton in Mythology


The Romans generally scorned mathematics, at least the mathematics of the Greeks. In the words of the Roman statesman Cicero, who lived from 106 to 43 b.c., “The Greeks held the geometer in the highest honor; accordingly, nothing made more brilliant progress among them than mathematics. But we have established as the limit of this art its usefulness in measuring and counting.” Indeed, whereas one might imagine a Greek textbook focused on the proof of congruences among abstract triangles, a typical Roman text focused on such issues as how to determine the width of a river when the enemy is occupying the other bank. With such mathematical priorities, it is not surprising that while the Greeks produced mathematical luminaries like Archimedes, Diophantus, Euclid, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and Thales; the Romans did not produce even one mathematician. In Roman culture it was comfort and war, not truth and beauty, that occupied center stage. And yet precisely because they focused on the practical, the Romans saw value in understanding probability. So while finding little value in abstract geometry, Cicero wrote that “probability is the very guide of life.” - Leonard Mlodinow in The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives