Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Little History Lesson

I've loved history ever since I was a little girl. My mum used to let me watch Titanic, Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth, and the Duchess (all with some scenes fast-forwarded) for  girly movie nights. After watching the movies, I would go to the library and try to find a book about the topic of the movie. It was always one of my favorite things to do. So today, I figured it would be fun to do a little history lesson on my favorite eras in history.

Image courtesy of Movie Mail, Quo Vadis
Ancient Rome.

Fate will find a way”- Virgil, Roman Poet

What People Think: WAR! Murder! Assassination! And oh, let's get drunk while we do it.
Reality: While the Romans were very much so into war and conquering, their society was so much more than that. For starters they had very strong religious beliefs. The Romans were what we would consider polytheistic, meaning they believed in many gods. There was Jupiter and Mars; Venus and Minerva; and lastly, Pluto (of course the Romans had way, way more gods than this, I just can’t possibly list them all).  Most of you probably know of these gods interesting moral standards, so I’m not going to delve into any of that. 

Also interesting about Rome is their rigid class system. Back in those days it was near impossible to move up in the class system, even through marriage (often times, restrictions were place on who you could marry). At the top of this system the emperors and Patricians sat. They were the super rich, and spent most of their time listening to poetry, hanging out in their villas, etc. Below them were the Plebeians. Today they’d be consider blue-collar workers, but back then you called them Plebeians. At the very bottom were the slaves, and hopefully you’re smart enough to figure out what life was like for them. 

Image courtesy of Les Femmes Velours
The French Revolution & Marie Antoinette 

“Great and memorable night, we wept and hugged one another. What a nation! What glory! What an honour to be French!” Ernest-Francois Duquesnoy on August 4th 1789 

What People Think: People go starving. A lady says: “Let them eat cake!”
Reality: Contrary to popular belief, Marie Antoinette was not a cold-hearted devil queen. Born into the Habsburg family (a.k.a people who ruled most of Europe until WWI), the French queen was married by 15 and crowned at 18. She was known for her extravagant spending habits (she bought over 300 dresses a year), and was reviled by the people. However, Marie Antoinette was also a compassionate person. She funded and oversaw the education of a poor boy as well as tended to an injured peasant, something most nobility wouldn't dare do. 

Marie Antoinette, in my opinion, is a victim of history. Despite her relative ignorance in state affairs, she was blamed for the debt issues in France. Often slandered by papers as an "Austrian whore", Marie Antoinette was depicted as doing everything possible to bring on the downfall of France, including vetoing tax acts made to improve the overtaxation of the poor. In many ways, this bad press was the reason she lost her life on the guillotine in 1793.

Image courtesy of Confessions of a Ci-Devant
Oh, and by the way, Marie Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake!"

Want more? Marie Antoinette (highly recommend!)

No comments:

Post a Comment