Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Wire and Greek Mythology.

I've been watching the rather superb HBO show The Wire recently (I'll spare you the pretty normal superlatives here and just say that it's great) and another (I'll admit) strange classical connection came to light.

In a scene with Omar Little (an almost supernatural character played by the pretty much amazing Michael K. Williams), a stick-up bandit with a code (a really superficial summary for the depth his character has) he's sitting across from a cop who's doing a crossword puzzle (or other word game) when said officer of the law starts asking (partly to himself) "Greek God of War....????".

Mars is the officers first guess, but Omar corrects him and says Mars was the Roman God of War but the Greek was Aries, explaining that they're the same dude but with different names.

Now Omar is far from stupid (in actual fact he's sharp as a tack) but he comes from an urban culture with little focus on such learning, and so I was a little surprised when he came out with it.

I did some research into the scene (it's in the season two episode "All Prologue) and the creator of the show, David Simon, claims in his book "The Corner: A year in the life of an inner-city neighbourhood" on page 283 that in his experience many children in the schools of Baltimore will pay little attention to most of what they are taught in schools, but they pay particular attention and appreciation to Greek mythology.

For me, that's a pretty interesting notion. Kids from the urban areas of an inner-city area with one of the highest murder and crime rates in the U.S love Greek mythology but care little for most of what's on offer at school. I wonder why?

Perhaps there is something fantastic about the Greek gods that appeals to them (as opposed to their - perhaps - harsh daily lives). Maybe the idea that Gods interfere with our lives gives them some hope that theirs can be changed, or maybe they just like the fun (or gory!) stories. It's hard to say.

Either way, I'm deeply fascinated by why this is the case. Any further musings will be posted here. In the meantime, like almost everyone else, I recommend watching The Wire. It's really as good as everyone says.


  1. Hi Derek
    I too am interested in the Classics and also often visit the Czeck Republic - coincidence! For me the notion that kids growing up in such areas are drawn to Classical mythology reaffirms my view that the Classics are grounded in the naturally arising order of human social relations. I often think that in such places where 'street' law becomes more observed and respected that official legislation, the hierarchy that arises is based on fundamental human instincts, just like those observed and respected by the Ancients. Just a thought I cared to share. Enjoying reading your blog, keep it up!

  2. I have been visiting various blogs for my term papers writing research. I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with valuable information... Regards

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Hello blogger - just a small correction - the Greek god of War was Ares. Aries is the astronomical sign of the Ram, in March and April!
    Apart from that - it's great to see that the Classics are still appearing in popular culture - they grabbed me when I was around 11 years old and never let go.