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Ancient Greece on British Television$
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Fiona Hobden and Amanda Wrigley

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474412599

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474412599.001.0001

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Louis MacNeice and ‘The Paragons of Hellas’: Ancient Greece as Radio Propaganda

Louis MacNeice and ‘The Paragons of Hellas’: Ancient Greece as Radio Propaganda

(p.44) 2 Louis MacNeice and ‘The Paragons of Hellas’: Ancient Greece as Radio Propaganda
Ancient Greece on British Television

Peter Golphin

Edinburgh University Press

With television shut down for the duration of World War II, BBC radio became an essential medium for the transmission of information and propaganda. This chapter surveys the wartime radio features of the poet and scriptwriter-producer, Louis MacNeice, analysing a series of broadcasts (including The March of the 10,000, The Four Freedoms and The Sacred Band) designed to maintain public awareness of and sympathy for the plight of Nazi-occupied Greece. MacNeice develops themes and incidents drawn from the country’s ancient history which are analogous to the contemporary situation. The ironic phrase ‘paragons of Hellas’, from his long poem Autumn Journal (1939), implies a scepticism over the use of ancient allusions. Even so, drawing important parallels in his radio-dramatic writing between the famed glories of Greece’s ancient civilisation – including Xenophon, Periclean democracy, the Sacred Band, and the military victories at Salamis, Thermopylae, Chaeronea – MacNeice seeks to underline ancient echoes of the resistance and resilience modern Greeks were finding was necessary in attempts to withstand Nazi brutality.

Keywords:   Louis MacNeice, radio features, propaganda, wartime, BBC Radio, World War II, Nazism, democracy, Pericles, Xenophon, Greco-Persian Wars

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