Alexandrian scientist Claudius Ptolemy mentioned Aberdeen (which he called 'Devonia,'
from its River Dee) in about 146 BC. He said Aberdeen
was inhabited by a people named the Taezalians. This week I visited their descendants. The Aberdeen University Department of Classics, founded in 1495, was abolished in 1989, just before its 500th
anniversary. But enthusiasm for ancient Greece remains in The Granite City.
|Aberdeen, Land of the Ancient Taezali|
was proved by the many members of Aberdeen Scottish Hellenic Society who turned
out last Tuesday, despite their first winter snowfall, to hear me lecture on Ancient
Greek Minds and The Sea.
Aberdonians have always liked Greece. In 1905 the new central court hall of the public
Art Gallery was opened to display casts of ancient statues. Its inner walls
were (and remain) adorned by a splendid reproduction of the Parthenon frieze, around
which the building was designed. The frieze was paid for by a local
philanthropist, Sir George Reid. He had made his fortune by his
paintings, despite being born poor and receiving little formal education. An
intellectual Leveller, he wanted everyone in Aberdeen to have access to
|Central Court, Aberdeen Art Gallery, in 1905|
new court was opened at a magnificent reception in April 1905. A special train
arrived from Euston containing 62 guests. Among them was the writer Thomas
Hardy, who, unable to attend university, had studied Greek and mythology as an
apprentice stonemason. He was delighted to receive from Aberdeen University, at
last, an honorary degree.
|George Reid, Beauty for Everyone |
sends out conflicting messages. In the
Maritime Museum, I was appalled to learn from a display that, in 1961, 39% of
Aberdonians still had no access to a household toilet. The display is intended
to prove how much progress has been made, since it is paired with the news that
there are now more multimillionaires in Aberdeen per head of population even
than in London (it must be the oil).
|Granite Meets the North Sea in the Land of Taezalians|
by these facts, by the homeless on the streets, and endless 'Pound
Stores' and charity shops, I checked out the poverty statistics. The
official child poverty rate in Aberdeen is today a disgraceful 23%. In 1905-6 fewer children were being raised in acute poverty--18%.
|Lies & Damned Statistics. There are more Poor in Aberdeen than in 1905.|
don’t regard this as progress, notwithstanding the oil tycoons among the modern
Taezalians. I don’t even like to speculate what the Victorian philanthropist George Reid, or Thomas Hardy, would have made of the widening gap between the rich and poor of Aberdeen in the 21st century.
|George Reid, 'Buchanhaven Fisherman' |
Oh no I missed your talk! That's really annoying.ReplyDelete
Your comments on Aberdeen are accurate. It is a place of tremendous wealth and affluence, but also grinding poverty. If you had taken a trip out Royal Deeside the mansion houses are quite extraordinary. Also mentionable though with regards to Classics and the Aberdeen/ the wider Grampian region is, of course, Calgacus, 'that speech' and the battle of Mons Graupius. There is also a vestige of Aberdeen University's proud Classical history: there is a Classical Studies reading group, a Classics section in the library, the teaching of Latin and (koine) Greek to undergraduates, classes on Classical philosophy and one dedicated Classicist post in the history faculty.In the Divinity department there are also a few people with a Classical background. or those who have an interest in Classical history- including myself.
Really sorry to have missed your talk! I missed Mary Beard's one up here a few years ago too.