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Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition$
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Meredith Safran

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440844

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.001.0001

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Introduction: Searching for Gold in an Age of Iron

Introduction: Searching for Gold in an Age of Iron

(p.1) Introduction: Searching for Gold in an Age of Iron
Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition

Meredith E. Safran

Edinburgh University Press

This volume introduction analyzes a pervasive fantasy in American popular media: the desire to escape an “iron age” deemed materially and morally degraded in comparison with an idealized lost world that people hope somehow to recover. This idealized “golden age” is viewed with the painful longing of nostalgia and the sorrow of belatedness from the degraded “iron age” of the viewer’s present time, often accompanied by inquiry into how and why golden conditions no longer obtain. Self-proclaimed heirs to classical antiquity’s cultural patrimony adopted this myth with alacrity, and its deployment can be traced continuously throughout the classical tradition, including in popular media not conventionally associated with classicism. The introduction reviews key strands of golden-age discourse in ancient Greek and Roman texts, including views on human-divine relations, gender relations, and technological innovations; and modern receptions of historical societies as golden ages to be emulated, especially Periclean Athens, Thermopylae-era Sparta, and Augustan Rome. Case studies include the Vergilian concept of “Arcadia” as deployed in the sci-fi television series The 100 and “golden age thinking” as a psychological malady in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

Keywords:   golden age, iron age, classical tradition, Arcadia, The 100, gender relations, technological innovation, Periclean Athens, Augustus Rome, Midnight in Paris

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