By Diana De Bromhead
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Additional resources for Some reflections on ancient Greek attitudes to children as revealed in selected literature of the pre-Christian era
So in ancient Greece, war and environmental issues had a profound effect on the lives of the citizens of a polis (but they did not have the hope of help from organizations such as the UN or WHO). It is reasonable to suppose that those trapped in a city under siege, facing disease and starvation, or suffering loss of crops following some environmental disaster, would think seriously about what the future held for their children. 455-400 BC) gives a very detailed account of the plague which hit Athens during the second year of the Peloponnesian War, its perceived origins and the symptoms at each stage of the disease (which he himself contracted but survived).
These ancient terms of engagement seem almost civilized when compared to modern warfare and the use of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ intended to inflict maximum casualties on the civilian population. The Ancients’ measures to protect civilians would indicate that life was valued, and children recognized as future generations. In Book 18 of The Iliad, 107 Hephaestus forges a siege scene on the shield of Achilles, which Homer describes thus: “But the people were not surrendering, not at all. ” One can easily imagine these citizens taking to hurling missiles on any war party attempting to scale their ramparts.
Agony’ indicating the depth of her grief) (273), and advises her to avoid provoking the army or they may not allow her to bury her son. He is sickened by his orders and addresses Astyanax kindly: “Come, child. ” (275). Talthybius thus reveals that there are those who are merciless and brutal and who would not be troubled by destroying a child, at least not under conditions of war. Again, he shows his feelings when he tells Hecuba of Andromache’s departure, admitting that “she brought tears aplenty to my eyes”.