December 19, 2003

Wars of Words

Geoff Pullum's wish that all battles could be fought with nothing more cruel than mocking phrases and cutting epithets is regrettably not likely to be fulfilled, but there are some interesting precedents. In the Byzantine Empire, the ultimate power was vested in the Emperor, but there were nonetheless political parties, which exerted their power through popular opinion, bribery and, sometimes, violence. These parties were known by colors, the major ones being the Blues and the Greens. Since there were no elections, there was no campaigning of the sort with which we are familiar. Instead, the parties put forward their positions in the stands of the Hippodrome. Representatives of the parties would debate each other across the stadium. This debate was conducted entirely in spontaneously composed verse!

Posted by Bill Poser at December 19, 2003 11:30 PM