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Mr. Boxy

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Was the sky in ancient Greece red?


Did the sky look different back then? In the "Iliad" Homer keeps mentioning that the sky being red or bronze. Does this have anything to do with volcano eruptions? Was this because the poet was blind?

4446 day(s) ago

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Answers (2)

whitehound
No, it means we've forgotten what colour bronze is if you don't polish or laquer it. Leave bronze standing around outside and it soon turns to a pale sky blue, called verdigris. We only think bronze is brown because we no longer use it for everyday items which stand outside and oxidise.

And of course, the sky is often red, or at least pink.

Posted 3995 day ago

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cabbagehead
The sky was blue, just like it is today. However, to the Greeks it was red and bronze. The Greek concept of "chroma" would include what we call color, shading, and texture. Sometimes these colors also expressed qualities: Green was the color of vitality, so it was used to describe things like blood, tears, and honey.

Confusing, isn't it? Let's put this another way: What color is this Korean pop star obsessed with?


Unless you are reading this with an online translator, your answer is "pink." Why? Pink is a color in English. However, if you were asked to describe what the color pink was you'd probably say something like "light red." Many languages don't have an equivalent to the word pink, so they would have to describe the objects in the video as "light red" or simply "red." Experiments have shown that if you give someone a group of items and group them by color, they will do so by language. You or I might make a pile of pink objects and a pile of red objects, while someone with a different language would put them together.

This can work both ways: When describing proximity in English, things can only be "here" or "there." In Spanish things can be close to you, some distance away, or far away instead of just here or there. In Japanese things are near me, near you, or far from either of us.

So, when you read about the "bronze sky" or the "rosy-fingered dawn" know that Homer's language limited him to using color names to describe the brightness instead "bright" or "dark."

Posted 4446 day ago

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