The Song Remains the Same

Classroom Discussion (02/09/17) — Room | 02/09/17 | 1:30–3:00 pm

As per usual Thursday routine, we started class with a quiz on the module for the week. After the quiz, we delved into a class discussion on the different leadership roles that we have studied in the modules up to this point. We’ve examined military commanders — Agamemnon and Leonidas — , statesmen/political leaders — Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Octavian “Augustus” Caesar — , and even poets/philosophers — Socrates and Tyrtaeus. As we examined the different roles that the leaders have been in, we also examined how they can switch up by “acting” to play the role that best suits any given situation. This principle is known as impression management. Sometimes, in extreme cases, a leader can even be seen as a great actor for playing a role so well. The ability to put on these facades in such a well-executed manner comes from the leader’s ability to read and understand how the audience is perceiving them at any given moment. As a follow-up to the discussion, Dr. Sandridge then asked us to identify with one specific leader and the roles that they played, and give reasons why.

I think the leader that I identify with most at this point in my life is Socrates. Currently, I am a college student who is working towards getting my undergraduate degree in Physics. I hold no political office or military rank. I, like Socrates, identify as a scholar who seeks to improve the lives of others through the sharing of my knowledge and life experiences. Socrates was a philosopher; he held no official title/role in government and no rank in military.

Classroom Discussion (02/14/17) — HSL | 02/14/17 | 9:30–11:00 pm

We began class by listening to Dr. Sandridge’s rendition of “99 Red Balloons” by Nena; he provided the acoustics by playing the chords on his guitar, and the vocals by singing himself. After listening to his song, we then dove into discussion on President Frederick’s decision to host Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education, on the campus of Howard University on Thursday, February 9, 2017, for a meeting. An exercise in civil discourse occurred when students began to take sides on whether they thought the meeting was the right or wrong decision by President Frederick. I personally believe that it was more right than wrong to meet with the new Secretary of Education, for it allowed Dr. Frederick to get a sense of what she is like personally, and what to expect from her in the next four years. Now, I do believe that it could have been handled better, i.e. not in secret. I understand that given the nature of Betsy DeVos’ current popularity in America that it may have been in her best interests to not announce her visit to campus, however I don’t really see the point of having the meeting at Howard University in the first place. At that point, you could have had the meeting anywhere. Howard University receives about $220 million in federal funding, and it would be beyond foolish to disregard the necessity of that money just by refusing to be cordial with a member of President Trump’s cabinet.

How to see the “Greatness” of Alexander — Room | 02/12/17 | 7:30–9:00 pm

As he is portrayed in the “Alexander Mosaic,” Alexander the Great was seen as an iconic and ideal leader in the ancient world. In the artwork, Darius III is positioned in the center of the piece, elevated above every other soldier on the battlefield. This can be seen as congruent to the way he was seen during his rules as king of Persia. Although elevated and centered, his facial expression reveals a sense of uneasiness at that very moment. This depiction stands in stark contrast to that of Alexander the Great, who is positioned towards the left of the piece, without any sense of elevation from the rest of the soldiers. His facial expression seems to be one of focus and ferocity as he eyes the Persian king Darius, in hopes of either capturing or killing him. The mosaic captures an instance in the Battle of Issus, where Alexander defeats Darius III on the battlefield. It appears to capture a moment in which Alexander is charging towards Darius and the Persian army, pinning them back on their heels.

The Alexander Mosaic was found in one of the rich Pompeian villas, at a time where Alexander the Great had been dead for nearly 300 years. In order to understand the why the Pompeian citizens would revel in the iconic figure that is Alexander, one must first examine his legacy. As a military general, Alexander the Great was undefeated on the battlefield. He also was tutored by the great Aristotle and inherited the throne of Macedon at the age of twenty after the passing of his father, Philip II.

Understanding Ancient Royal Iconography in Context — HSL | 02/13/17 | 3:30–5:00 pm

Alexander the Great granted Lyssipios the right to sculpt him after Lyssipios perfectly captured Alexander’s gaze into the sky as he was accustomed to doing. All of the Ptolemaic monarchs are minted with their side portraits on the coin. Some, like Alexander the Great, were even depicted with divine items that were meant to add even more meaning to the coin. These were an attempt to align certain monarchs with the gods. This can be seen as a PR ploy to elevate their image in the eyes of their constituents to that of the gods.

Octavian “Augustus” Caesar held the title of pontifiex maximus, which is the head priest in the church/state religion. This is illustrated through a statue of Augustus conveys his priesthood by placing a veil on his head. In another sculpture, Augustus is wearing armor and raising his arm. This can be seen as a portrayal of his role as commander of the Roman army. Also, his uncle Julius Caesar had been made a god, so Augustus represented himself as the son of a god. In his relief on the Ara Pacis, Augustus is sculpted wearing a laurel wreath. In the ancient world, the laurel wreath was symbolic of victory; and in Rome, they were symbols of martial victory, typically given to military commanders after a successful bout on the battlefield. Augustus had been victorious in the war with Pompeius and his war with Mark Antony. In fact, Augustus was so attracted to the notion of victory that he changed his first name to Imperator — “victorious commander.” But what could be interpreted as a laurel wreath, may also be interpreted as a Civic Crown composed of woven oak leaves. These crowns were highly regarded as a military decoration that could only be earned by saving a fellow citizen by slaying an imposing enemy.

Trajan’s Column — Room | 02/15/17 | 9:00–10:00 pm

Trajan’s column is a very detailed and designed column that was built in commemoration for Trajan’s victories in the Dacian wars. On the column, the Roman soldiers can be identified as the only ones wearing helmets. Dacian helmets are depicted on the column, however, they are never illustrated as being worn by the Dacian soldiers. Trajan himself appears 58 times on the column, the notable being his statue cast atop the column in gold.

Portrayals of the emperor Trajan often contain the same facial features, “his bowl cut and clean shaven face were meant to evoke his role as a military leader.” Although this was true for basically every portrayal of Trajan, this also applies to Augustus in his portrayals in art.

Returning to Material Culture and Leadership — Room | 02/16/17| 12:30–1:15 am

The similarities between ancient and modern leadership are numerous. The one aspect of this module that most stuck out to me is how the Ptolemaic emperors like Alexander the Great, Philip II, Darius III, etc. had the wherewithal to mint themselves on money. They started a trend that, to this day, is as popular as ever. One would be hard pressed to find money of a country that doesn’t have an important leader’s portraiture on it. I feel that we could use the same tools to interpret modern leadership as we did the ancient, however I do not feel that it would paint the entire picture. Modern leaders live in a more complicated world with more people, technology, and money than have ever been present before. Thus, there would be some intricacies to a modern leader’s rule that would be overlooked if gazed upon through an ancient leadership lens.

The display of leadership through material culture is monumental. First of all, it gives ordinary citizens and constituents an image to admire and look up to during the leader’s rule. Most importantly though, it gives the leader a way to cement himself and his legacy in history. The portrayals of ancient leaders like Alexander the Great, Octavian “Augustus” Caesar, and Trajan have allowed many people to get a sense of what these men looked like and how they carried themselves as the most important figures of their time. Their portrayals in material culture have not only promoted positive images throughout their lives, but also throughout history.

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