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Greek Temple in Denver: Site of Pan-Obamania Festival

One reporter describied the backdrop for Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver as resembling the Parthenon, “the ancient Greek temple of the goddess Athena.”  Given that the Greek goddess is the subject of my neglected dissertation and my interest in politics, I find myself uniquely qualified to write about this.  

Others have weighed it, noting how this set was “built by the same cheesy set team that put together Britney Spears’ last tour.” So the set reinforces that he’s no ordinary politician, but a celebrity instead.  And like most celebrities having delusions of being more than just an actor playing a part a singer entertaining a crowd.

Now, does he style himself some kind of deity worthy of the adoration enjoyed by the owl-eyed goddess?

I mean, there are parallels between our political conventions and the Panathenaia, the great celebration in classical Athens honoring the city’s patroness.  Each were held every four years, with a variety of events held over a period of several days, with one great culminating event.  For our political conventions, it’s the nominee’s acceptance speech.  For the Athenians, it was the presentation of the peplos to Athena.

And what is a peplos, you ask?  It was the garment Greek women wore in those days.  But, this was no ordinary peplos.  Nine months before the Panathenaia, the arrhephoroi, young girls between the ages of seven and eleven, began weaving the robe.  Later, other women, the ergastinai, would take over the production of the garment, yet with the continued assistance of the younger girls.*

I wonder if we could compare the ergastinai to some of Obama’s female supporters one of whom said today that his visit to a women’s luncheon today “was like the clouds parted and the sun was shining in.”  

Perhaps tonight, this woman will join her fellow delegates in presenting a robe to the man she so adores.  For by allowing such a backdrop for his speech, Obama opened himself up (yet again) for ridicule both because of his own audacity and because he has styled himself a new type of politician.

Yet, with the airs he has put on, this new type of politician comes across not as a man who identifies with the people who elect him, but with the Olympians who deign appear to mortal men only during certain rituals or at times of their own choosing.

This whole spectacle may well transform this event from showcasing the platform of a political party and presenting the nominee while articulating his campaign theme into a just celebration of the nominee himself.  Shall we call it the Pan-Obamania?

I wonder what kind of robe his followers will be presenting their icon tonight.
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*Jennifer Neils, “Pride, Pomp, and Circumstance:  The Iconography of Procession,” Worshipping Athena:  Panathenaia & Parthenon.

Image via Political Inquirer via Powerline.

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7 Comments

  1. We know he isn’t a muslim, since he chose not to be one. We know he isn’t a Christian, since leaving Trinity Church hasn’t chosen another church.

    So he does as the the French did after their Revolution, when they overthrew Kings and the Church. they looked back to ancient Greece and unsuccessfully tried to create new French-Greek iconography.

    Sure, Greek Temples are nice, in the West we use this architecture to denote power – as in government buildings and banks.

    But what about Athene? Does Obama have any clue who she was and what she stood for. That she is known for being the goddess of strategy in war. (she left the actual warfare to Ares), something Obama knows nothing about. That she is most often seen in the background, helping and aiding Greek Heros in their missions. Such as Achilles in the Trojan war, Ulysses on his voyage home. On many Greek vases she is there beside Hercules as he performs his 12 tasks.
    Can you imagine Obama in the background, helping another? I can’t and I’m hoping his over the top performance tonight reminds people that we are electing a president, not a rock star

    Comment by Leah — August 28, 2008 @ 8:02 pm - August 28, 2008

  2. Oh
    My
    God.

    Um, Mr. Grecian Formula, as you “say” you know so much about Greek, either active or passive, perhaps you can informed your uninformed readers that, you know, Greek Revival is the style of most significant federal buildings in “”America. Think of the Ronald “Dodged WWII” Reagan building in DC, the nation’s largest, most expensive (and, like Reagan) the least useful edifice in DC. Sometimes, you know, a cigar is just a cigar?

    I woder how many of Gigolo John McCain’s wife’s houses are Greek Revival — any guesses?

    Comment by Parakeeta Byrd — August 28, 2008 @ 9:21 pm - August 28, 2008

  3. Well maybe in order to impart more wisdom and experience, he will just take something old and claim as his own…like he did with Biden. I’m not really sure where they are going with this set design, I guess it might an ode to the White House or other capital buildings since they are so sure of winning? It just seems very out of place and doesn’t fit his theme of New and Change, and its has become another issue and distraction from this Convention. I think that with a historical milestone it has been to have an African American nominated for the first time for a major party that more this convention would focus on Obama. Obama has been the smallest part of the convention so far, you don’t even get a sense of his presence from the Convention. I don’t see how any of this has helped Obama beyond Hillary Clinton’s speech that has helped to stamp down tensions in the party for now. I believe the bump that Obama has gotten so far, which isn’t much yet, is all due to her and her supporters coming home again.

    Though honeslty, Obama, please stay away from Greek Mythology. I don’t really want to start attaching you to something I enjoy reading about.

    Comment by Darkeyedresolve — August 28, 2008 @ 10:04 pm - August 28, 2008

  4. DAMN! I was so certain, in a discussion at work yesterday, that the Parthenon was in Rome. Wonder what I was thinking of….

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — August 28, 2008 @ 11:16 pm - August 28, 2008

  5. I was disappointed that Hillary didn’t sport her bright orange peplos.

    Comment by Right Turn — August 29, 2008 @ 12:33 am - August 29, 2008

  6. Sometimes, you have to wonder if he would just go to Vegas instead of back to the Senate when he goes down in flames this November. He’s really turning into the Liberace of American politics. This sort of shenanigans you would normally come to expect from someone in one of the unpronounceable “-stan” countries who has 12 consonants in a row in his name. Oh well…suppose he would erect statues to himself as president if he could get away with it.

    Comment by E.N. — August 29, 2008 @ 12:43 am - August 29, 2008

  7. Sorry to spoil your good time, but Washington is covered with neo-classical columns. The set actually looks like the East Colonnade of the White House (notice the windows between the columns).
    Some pictures here:
    http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/grounds/kennedy-garden.htm

    Move along, nothing unusual here.

    Comment by Sid — August 29, 2008 @ 8:24 am - August 29, 2008

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