The Appearance's Relevance at the Time of Homer and Nowadays
Appearance today is considered important by many people: being beautiful means being accepted by the others and, in general, it is something relevant in order to become successful. You have more chances to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you may have more friends, and also professional life can become easier for you, as you can be engaged in particular jobs in which physical appearance is important (for example, promoter or model). Also in the past appearance was something considered important by people, especially in the Ancient Greek society. This article will compare how physical appearance is important today with Classical Age's relevance of being beautiful.
Good Physical Appearance
Bad Physical Appearance
More chances to find a girlfriend or a boyfriend
Being nice may be the only solution you can use to win a girl or a boy
You can access jobs in which being beautiful is important
You cannot access certain types of jobs (for example, model)
You are seen as a tidy and healthy person
You are seen as a untidy and unhealthy person
The "καλοκαγαζíα" in Ancient Greek Society
The "καλοκαγαζíα" (kalokagathìa) is the word which sums up what Ancient Greek people were thinking about being beautiful: it is composed by the two words "καλός" (kalós, "beautiful") and "ἀγαθός" (agathós, "good"). The word means a beautiful person is also good and virtuous (and vice versa), while an ugly one is also bad and cowardly. Being beautiful was meaning especially having a good body and being strong, as that was important in a society in which military value was everything for people: being weak was meaning being unable to fight and be the winner in the battlefield.
We can find an example of καλοκαγαζíα in the Iliad poem, book 2, when Thersites enters the scene and is described as the ugliest man who ever came to Ilion: he is not only lame, with pointed skull and flat nose: he is also coward and shameful for armies. So we can see in Thersites the perfect example of a man who is ugly and also coward and evil.
In the Odyssey there are other examples of beauty associated with virtuosity: while Dolon, an ugly Trojan hero, is also described as someone with no sense of honor, Penelope is often said to be fair among other women.
The Difference between Ancient Greek Society and Modernity
As said before, appearance is also important nowadays, and not only in the Ancient Greek Society, however there are some differences in why it is considered relevant: we can sum up these by saying in the past being beautiful was meaning also having moral qualities, while today it is only something can be used in order to become successful in life. Sometimes beauty is also seen in a bad way by some bigot people we can find today, as these generally have prejudices against everyone who cares a lot about their physical appearance: how many times have you heard sentences like "All muscles, no brain"? I guess many! In addition, people who are very smart, or the so called nerds (not seen as people who love technology, but as intellectual scholars) are often stereotyped as ugly characters. Luckily there are also many people who do not criticize men and women who care about their beauty... and yeah, there are also "cool nerds"! People can care about their physical appearance and, at the same time, about their mind, by ignoring everyone who says they can only choose between them. People who do this are more similar to Ancient Greeks, as they associate their beauty with their moral qualities.
Ancient Greek Society
Meaning of being beautiful
Being virtuous and winner in the battlefield
Only being successful; sometimes bigot and closed-minded people also say being virtuous and smart are incompatible with being beautiful ("All muscles, no brain" is one of their favorite sentences)
What is "beauty"?
Being strong & having a good body (it was required in order to be successful in war)
It is related to trends: having a good body is still important, but only because it is pleasing to the eye.
© 2016 Alessio Ganci