Talk:Essay:Greatest Mysteries of World History

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Dark Ages

I have to ask: does this really qualify as a "mystery?" Most people who have actually taken the time to study European history, I would suggest, would say that there's a clear and simple answer: "No, the so-called "Dark Ages" weren't really so backwards." Significant advances were made during the period generally termed the "Dark Ages" in many fields: music, agriculture, metallurgy, and philosophy spring to mind immediately. Historians today generally avoid using the term "Dark Ages" for precisely that reason.

Should it really be termed a "mystery" just because some people continue to hold misconceptions about it? --Benp 14:11, 28 December 2008 (EST)

Yes, it's not a mystery at all. Renaissance humanists hated the "dark ages" with a passion. Now we know just how much science and culture were developed during those centuries. Not so much a mystery as a myth, really (liberals love to claim early Christian Europe was fruitless) - Rod Weathers 14:14, 28 December 2008 (EST)
Perhaps a better question would be "Why are the advances of the early Middle Ages frequently overlooked or dismissed?" --Benp 14:19, 28 December 2008 (EST)


Perhaps this entry could be clarified: is there a particular form of humor that the author had in mind? There are examples of jokes, riddles, puns, comic figurines/images, anthropoligical notes of humorous conversations, etc. from both pre-Christian times and from post-Christian 'first contacts' with cultures that had had no previous exposure to Christianity.--Brossa 09:37, 8 February 2009 (EST)

Brossa: Can you provide some? --AbnerY 21:51, 8 February 2009 (EST)
I'd like to see Brossa's alleged examples also.--Andy Schlafly 23:49, 8 February 2009 (EST)
How about Greek and Roman comedy? that way predated Christianity. Andy, what kind of claim are you making here? on what basis would you allege that humor does not predate Christianity? it seems pretty far-fetched. I'd like to see some evidence. --DaveClark
You misunderstand what a Greek "comedy" was. It was not a humorous performance as meant by the term today (after the onset of Christianity).--Andy Schlafly 08:32, 9 February 2009 (EST)

Yes. It was. The intention was to make people laugh. Otherwise, what on earth do you mean by "humor"? Also.. KimSell 09:02, 9 February 2009 (EST)
Aschlafly is right in saying that the term "comedy" did not mean exactly what it does today, but KimSell is right that the works of playwrights such as Aristophanes certainly included humorous elements such as wordplay, farce and grotesque exaggeration (often surprisingly coarse by our standards). I'd also cite the episode where the children mocked Elisha in 2 Kings 2:23-24 as an example, albeit fairly base, of pre-Christian humor.--CPalmer 09:10, 9 February 2009 (EST)
As a side-note, in the past there have been bitter disputes where people have taken the polar opposite position to Mr Schlafly, ie that all humor is un-Christian. This is touched on in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, which I recommend.--CPalmer 09:21, 9 February 2009 (EST)
The pre-Christian examples don't withstand scrutiny. Mockery or crude comments are not quality humor, and may not be humor at all.--Andy Schlafly 09:23, 9 February 2009 (EST)
Sorry Mr. Schlafly. While you may not consider crude comments humorous, it is still defined as humor. you are yet to back up the claim you're making with any specific evidense. even if greek comedy didn't qualify as humor (and it does) there would still be no evidence that the advent of christianity brought the advent of humor.

This will be easier if you define precisely what you mean by 'humor' or 'comedy' so that we can determine if in fact it did or did not exist before Christianity. As the essay stands now, it implies that there was no humor before Christianity, not that, say, stand-up comedy as practiced in the United States today did not exist in the ancient world. The Greek comedy tradition was well-established by the sixth century BC and contains aspects of sexual farce, parody of 'serious' literary styles, and mockery of specific political and public figures. Comic performers wore characteristic costumes that included fat suits, huge genitalia, and grotesque masks that are still in use in modern comic performances. Greek vases depict these comic characters engaged in antics; I recall in particular a vase depicting two grotesque dwarves helping a third dwarf up a ladder or ramp - Three Stooges level humor.
Isaac in the Bible got his name from the laughter of Abraham and Sarah; does this not indicate a sense of humor? Elijah mocks the prophets of Baal, including the suggestion that Baal cannot hear his priests because he is on the toilet.
Egyptian papyri show exaggerated caricatures of dishevelled older men engaged in sexual relations with young women, including humorous captions (in heiroglyphics!) detailing the women's commentary on the situation. Other examples of Egyptian pictorial humor include depictions of animals engaged in human activities - like cats herding geese and goats and lions playing board games - juxtaposed with humans engaged in animal activity. A foreign queen is depicted as being so fat that she stands next to an ass with the caption 'the ass needed to carry the queen'.
Sumerian scatological humor is recorded (in cuneiform) on a tablet dated to 1900 BC.
Many Native American groups had oral traditions that include the 'Trickster' figure, who gets involved in humorous scrapes and mocks authority figures. Many of these stories also include punning wordplay and practical jokes; another dimension of humor.
Nineteenth century Australian ethnographers, coming into first contact with an isolated Aboriginal group, noted that the Aboriginals told stories among themselves and laughed during an otherwise stressful time - in this case, a terrible thunderstorm.
I'm sure that others could contribute examples from Sanskrit or Asian cultures.
So scatological humor, sexual humor, puns, riddles, slapstick, political satire, parody of 'serious' art forms, practical jokes, and others are all documented in pre-Christian or non-Christian cultures.--Brossa 09:40, 9 February 2009 (EST)
To one with an open mind, your vulgar "examples" tend to reinforce the basic observation: (real) humor was lacking before Christianity. Crudeness or vulgarity or mockery is not true humor, and Greek "comedies" were not attempts at humor in today's sense.
If you had evidence of writings about humor itself, or books of humor, or truly comedic performances, or anything remotely similar to quality humor today, then that could help your argument. But the above examples, they are the best you have, simply underscore the insight in this essay.--Andy Schlafly 09:54, 9 February 2009 (EST)