Did The Ancient World Ever Have Clean Slates?


WORDS | Claire Catacouzinos

Ha, there was never such a thing! If you thrust your sword at the wrong guy, and miss, you’re dead, or if you acted wrongly in public, you would be penalised, depending on your insolent act to your city-state. Now you might ask, how could there not be clean slates, or even ‘second-chances’? The reason, my friends, is this, everything came down to power and authority. Let’s say, you were on the battlefield, ready to fight against Spartacus, or even Caesar, or Ramses II, then all of a sudden, you are stricken with fear, the coward within you is unleashed, and you run away like a crazy scaly wag, dropping your shield to the ground, screaming like a frightened child. What do you think the generals would do to you? You would be stripped of your title, banished from your property, exiled from your state – an embarrassment to your community; this would definitely be fitting for a Spartan warrior. No second chances; no clean slate.

But in our times, in the contemporary world, all you would get for handing an assignment in late would be a ‘simple’ email, or perhaps even, a friendly reminder as to why you have not submitted your assignment yet. Back in the ‘school days’, teachers would threaten to call home, then you would be in big trouble. So it all comes down to power and the fear of authority; of the consequences of your actions. Now I could go on about the panopticon state, that Foucault talks about, (which you first years will soon learn about); but always remember, in the 21st Century, we can screw up anywhere in life, but we can always redeem ourselves.

That is why the first semester of university is all about fresh starts.

Photo by Effy Alexakis, Photowrite

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