Cities of Myth: Crash Course World Mythology #35


Hey there, I’m Mike Rugnetta, this is Crash
Course Mythology, and today we’re gonna put on our mythical coats, grab our mythical
hats, hop on a mythical mode of public transportation and get ourselves into the hustle and bustle
of mythical cities. Some of these cities are real, some are fictional,
and some are even metaphorical. But all of them are metropolitain! Come on, Thoth! The Bifrost Bus only runs once an hour! [Intro]
City myths can be tricky. They’re not like other mythical places we’ve
looked at– like gardens, caves, or mountains–because they don’t belong to the natural world. They’re man made, or sometimes god made. And this means that the stories we tell about
them can be a little different. A lot of the stories we have about cities
are closer to tall tales, which are fun, but they don’t meet our criteria for myth, mostly
because they’re, well…a little unserious. A good example of a tall tale city is El Dorado,
the city of gold said to exist somewhere in South America, that really tended to be more
of a metaphor for some ultimate prize that one may search for endlessly… but likely
never actually attain. And some urban tales are almost too serious–they’re
places that really existed, with archaeological evidence and complicated histories that transcend
the stories we tell about them. Probably the best known of these is Troy,
whose siege is described in the Iliad. The archaeological history of Troy is fascinating,
but I’ll leave that for Crashcourse Archaeology. Just kidding. There’s no Crashcourse Archeology. [[[Thoth comes on like Indiana Jones.]]] Or maybe we just haven’t discovered it yet. Another significant archeological city that
has a mythical story attached to it is Jericho. Jericho is one of the oldest cities in human
history, but is probably best known for the story of its destruction at the hands of Joshua
in the Old Testament. According to the story, the Lord tells Joshua
to march around the city walls for six days with seven priests blowing ram’s horns as
they carry the ark of the covenant, a chest that contains the ten commandments. On the seventh day, following the Lord’s
instructions, Joshua has the army march around the city seven times and on the seventh circuit
he has the trumpets sound and the army shout its war cry. According to the book of Joshua, chapter 6,
verse 20: “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted,
and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed;
so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.” It’s a great story, but archaeologists are
still arguing over whether or not a walled city even existed at the time of Joshua. And even if it did exist, trumpets probably
didn’t bring it down. Looking at things etiologically, as we sometimes
do, is fun, but it isn’t ALWAYS possible to reconcile myths and historical remains. This is especially true of living cities,
which have to go about their business while also existing as a repository of stories about
them. Let’s start with a holy site mentioned in
the Bible, but still standing today, a holy site common to all three Abrahamic religions:
Jerusalem. It might be an understatement to say that
Jerusalem has been the subject of many stories. And the imagery used to describe Jerusalem
changes dramatically depending upon who’s doing the describing and when. Sometimes the city is beautiful, sometimes
ugly. Sometimes Jerusalem is personified as a not
especially reputable mythic woman. This is particularly true during the Babylonian
captivity, a time in the 6th century BCE when the babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar kept
sacking Jerusalem and sending Jews into exile. This all led to some complicated feelings
about Jerusalem. The lamentations of Jeremiah begin: How doth the city sit solitary, that was full
of people! She is become as a widow, that was great among
the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces
is become tributary! (1:1)
Okay. A tributary. Not so bad. But then it gets unpleasant, Jeremiah continues: Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore
she is become as an unclean thing; All that honored her despise her, because
they have seen her nakedness: Yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward. Her filthiness was in her skirts; she remembered
not her latter end; Therefore is she come down wonderfully; she
hath no comforter: (1:8-9) Yeah I mean, Jeremiah’s ambivalence is maybe
understandable. It’s hard to see your sacred city conquered
and destroyed. Though as for Jeremiah comparing the city
to a lewd and unclean woman, it’s not the only time the Bible deploys the female image
unfairly. But maybe we can read it as a lamentation
for a city that was supposed to nurture him but is now taunting him and other Jews by
harboring their conquerors. The Jews eventually go back and rebuild Jerusalem
so hopefully some of these feelings abate. In the New Testament, Jerusalem is described
as a woman again, but this woman is more… well, clean. In the Book of Revelation, John invents an
idealized Jerusalem, a New Jerusalem intended as a new spiritual home. In chapter 12 he says: And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev 21:2)
So which is it? Bride or harlot covered in filth? … both? Some cities in the Bible are often classed
as places of sin — Sodom and Gomorrah being the most obvious example — but let’s not
forget: cities also provide opportunities for humankind to unite. For the early Christians, the ideal city wasn’t
Jerusalem, but Rome. We haven’t talked a great deal about Roman
mythology in this series, largely because it draws heavily on Greek sources, but Romans
did create their own mythological history, particularly for their city. We’re going to look at two important myths
surrounding the founding of Rome, involving, you might be shocked to learn: families and
violence. One story of the foundation of Rome comes
from Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid. This is the story of the Trojan hero, Aeneas,
who escapes the sack of Troy with his aged father, his young son, and statues of his
household gods. Eventually he makes his way to Italy where
he and his group of Trojans settle. There, Aeneas marries Lavinia, the daughter
of the king of Latium. Anchises, Aeneas’s dad, dies during the
journey, but in book six of the Aeneid, Aeneas goes to the underworld and his father explains
to him the future history of Rome. Anchises mentions a future descendant called
Romulus: “Of him, my son,
Great Rome shall rise, and, favored of his star,
Have power world-wide, and men of godlike mind. She clasps her seven hills in single wall,
Proud mother of the brave” That’s right, it’s not Aeneas who founds
Rome. It’s his son who settles at Alba Longa,
and a later descendant–Romulus–who builds the city of seven hills. But hold the mythical phone for just a moment…
who is this “Romulus”? The story of Romulus and his twin brother
Remus begins in Alba Longa where a woman named Rhea Silvia lives. Unfortunately for Rhea, Mars, the god of war,
is obsessed with her. And after cornering her in a sacred grove
he “seduces” her — which, I mean, let’s be real, probably he rapes her. Now pregnant, Rhea goes to her uncle, King
Amulius, for help. But Amulius is furious. Instead of helping his niece, he imprisons
her. When she finally gives birth, he orders her
twin sons to be left to die on the bank of the Tiber river. Abandoned, the twins are suckled by a gentle
she-wolf until they’re found by a shepherd named Faustulus who raises them. Probably because of their early troubled life–oh
but also because they were sort of raised by a wolf?–the boys turn to crime, eventually
stealing some of Amulius’s sheep. Remus is captured and taken before Amulius
for trial. At this point, Faustulus reveals to Romulus
the brothers’ true identities. Romulus, in good criminal-hero fashion, sets
off for Alba Longa to get revenge on his great-uncle the king. Romulus kills Amulius and rescues Remus. He gives the vacant throne to Amulius’s
grandfather Numitor and then the twins go off to found their own city, which brings
us to the Thoughtbubble. Romulus and Remus decide where they were abandoned,
on the banks of the Tiber, would be a great place for a new city, but they can’t agree
on the exact location. Romulus receives a sign from the gods telling
him to choose the Palatine hill as the site, so he sets out to mark the boundaries by digging
a ditch. Remus sets up camp opposite him on the Aventine
hill. Remus, the more headstrong of the two brothers,
jumps over the ditch to show Romulus that it’s not exactly invasion proof. Romulus, seeing this as sacrilege, kills his
brother and becomes the sole ruler of the new city. That’s why it’s called “Rome” and
not “Reem” and I think we’re all thankful for that. Imagine being a REEMAN instead of a ROMAN. BUGH. So Romulus has a spot for his city and no
rival twin, but he still has one big problem: not enough people. So he puts out the word that the hill will
be a refuge for the criminals and runaways of Italy. And that’s exactly who shows up. Roman historian Livy calls them “a miscellaneous
rabble, without distinction of bond or free.” But that rabble is almost entirely male, and
in order to populate the city, Romulus and the city leaders invite visitors from neighboring
cities to celebrate a harvest festival with them. After the visitors arrive, at a pre-arranged
signal, the Romans seize all the young women. And grow the Roman population through … mass
rape. BUGH
Thanks Thoughtbubble. These stories, like the ones in the Bible,
remind us how easily myths can gloss over or sometimes even glamorize terribly violent
actions. The founding and conquering and defending
of cities can get really ugly. Some myths reflect this, others choose to
pretty up their origin stories with magic and stuff. The story of Rome’s founding highlights
some of the complexity to be found in mythical cities. Many cities have origin stories, some more
historically grounded than others. When we’re dealing with actual cities, that
have archaeological and written histories, we often find that the myths surrounding the
city jibe with that history. Jericho was besieged and conquered at some
point, though it’s unlikely that trumpet blasts were responsible. Rome, built on the Palatine, and became the
seat of one of the most expansive empires in the world. One empire that relied on cunning and violence,
characteristics that we might easily ascribe to its pro-wolf, pro-rape, pro-conquest, brother-murderer
of a founder. Cities are ambivalent, morally ambiguous places. Kind of like everywhere else people live. And with that, we’ve reached the border
of our final mythical place. Next episode, we move on to the first examination
of mythical beasts. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Cities of Myth: Crash Course World Mythology #35”

  1. His comment about no one can agree if there was a walled city that ever existed is total BS! The city & the wall was found and has been excavated! The story of the lady in the window and her red scarf was shown in the ruins to be true! Her window and wall was left un damaged. This is a misinformation Chanel. The clues are all there if you look closely. Look at David Rohls work he has found it all. Also it was sound that brought down the wall. Sound used as a weapon.

  2. So you're telling me that the romans invented their own mythology, and decided that their ancestors were a fratricide patricide king of thieves, and a bunch of criminal runaways, and that all the young women had been captured and raped?

    It doesn't sound like the romans had a very high opinion of themselves.

  3. I didn't knew that about the trumpets for Jericho. Now its name makes sense. I mean in Greek the name sounds like "Hier echo". Hieri means "divine" or "holy" and echo means sound. So the name of the city in Greek translates to "Holy Sound". But its not a Greek name, and that makes it even more interesting.

  4. is it possible that, since there were not walled cities in the time of Jericho that "The Walls of Jericho" was referring to the defending army (being like a "wall" of shields and flesh) and that the "crumpling of the walls of Jericho" is instead the defending garrison fleeing at the intimidating sound of the horns and hollers from the attackers?

    Also, I know that it's very popular and ties in to the story of Remus and Romulus, but when will the mythological community stop using the Aeneid as the founding myth? It was written in the middle stages of the empire as a propaganda piece by a writer who very much did not want to be doing his job. The story of Remus and Romulus is more than enough to go off of and holds those uncertain or metaphorical historical truths that the Aeneid could not (the excepting being the implication of Rome being a Phoenician colony, however I think this is purely accidental as Virgil pretty much just copy-pasted The Odyssey in Latin).

  5. Shambhala, is a very significant myth in Asia as is it's counterparts across global cultures it holds a place in mythology as Aryavartha (‘The Land of the Worthy Ones) to Hinduism; whereas the Chinese know it as Hsi Tien and in Russia, it is known as Belovoyde.

  6. I was walking to the library today and wondered if there’d be a crash course mythology episode on the mythical history of Rome’s founding. Lo and behold!

  7. I know these aren't comprehensive, but I'm fairly surprised the Crash Course team didn't touch on the mythical city of Shambhala. Seems to fit with the greater themes of the series on it's allegory to human nature, and Idyllic nature of it's existence.

  8. "We built this city, we built this mythical ciiity. We built this city, built it on mythical rock n' rooooll"

  9. Awesome commentary. He could be a rapper with his linguistic abilities. I hope he does mythical caves theme someday.

  10. actually in Russian you say "Reem" and not "Rome" "Reemlian" and not "Roman"(although my name is Roman and not Reeman . but i am Russian) does any body know why is it like that?

  11. I almost did a happy dance when he said "I'll leave that for crash course archeology"! I am SO READY for that Crash Course!

  12. “It’s not the only time the Bible portrays the female image…unfairly.” Because it never portrays the male image “unfairly”? Have you even read it? The adulterous woman is a metaphor, not an attack on womankind. Total misread, Michael.

  13. materialism was seen as a sin by jesus, thats why one interpetation of the city description is a 'filth covered woman'.. markets,money.. if i am correct he aparently once said that in a market and even flipped some tables

  14. Remind me not to watch Chrash Course Bible.
    1) how does Jerimiah use the female figure unfairly in Lamentations? You can't just look at Biblical metaphor without getting the context. The prophet wasn't just mad at the city because it fell. That doesn't make sense. He condemns the city and likens it to a tawdry and unfaithful woman because of a running theme in the Hebrew scriptures that compared the relationship between God and Israel (and the holy city more specifically) as one between a husband and wife. God had caused the city to be cast out among the nations as a harlot because "she" had been cavorting brazenly with other "suitors." There were pagan idols in the temple and child sacrifice (which even the best of the pagans dared not do) was becoming acceptable. Therefore the imagery of the promised and beloved pure bride vs the brazen harlot is a spiritual metaphor that requires context. In context, how is this usage "unfair." The prophet is not insulting women, he is insulting the spiritual depravity of the people. The female image is also shown as symbolizing purity and beauty. The Bible upholds the love God has for this fallen lady by having a different prophet at a different time to symbolically buy a temple prostitute out of slavery, free her, and then marry her as an image of God's graceful love toward his "beloved bride." Also, the image of evil men is also used in prophetic imagery.

  15. This episode has too much specification to the "mainstream" mythical places/cities. It features the old school ones. What about Zerzura, Kitezh or Biringan City?

  16. romolo, numa pompilio, tullo ostilio, anco marzio, tarquinio prisco, servio tullio, tarquinio il superbo e la storia delle elementari si fa sentire

  17. Okay so 1:8-9 was mentioned an we know that Israel always played the harlot except when it speaks of it's Saviour Jesus Christ in Isiah 53. Jesus did not side with the Jews but the Jews and the rest of the world or as the saying goes 'the Gospel spread to the Gentiles".

  18. It's not just this video, well not really this video, but they sort of make fun of some religions. No hate, crash course is awesome! I guess they don't really understand all religions.

  19. Actually, the word for "she-wolf" could also mean prostitute, in which case, it might have been a hooker that nursed Romulus and Remus.

    Now, in terms of the "less glamorous", it should be worth noting that a good many of those stories were records/interpretations of past events.

  20. Myths are decided by funders (Gatekeepers) of Universities. Rich white guys decided Troy is myth & moon landings real. Truth is the exact opposite.
    Troy = real, Moon Landings = myth.

  21. 2:44 Actually my mechanics professor at university says it may well have happened that way, the walls were likely made out of packed clay and the right frequency of loud noise could actually have caused it to crumble.

  22. Jerusalem's archeological records show it was a Persian province before Rome invented the abrahamic religions. There's no archeological evidence of a place called Israel or a people called Hebrews until Rome created it.

  23. "Cities of Myth" – doesn't actually talk about mythological cities and talks about real cities that have either mythological or religious importance/backstories

  24. This video doesn't actually explore mythical cities at all. It sounds like a badly written essay by someone who didn't listen in class.

  25. Thinking of Jerusalem, with oases on the brain, I could also think of an oasis like area gone dry and filth… and then rejuvenated, and also snow… another reason why ancient mythology could be so essential for human survival…

  26. aaaaaaahHHHH-ohahoahhhhh wishing for the citiessss of golddddd… ahhhhhhohahohahhhh some day we will find the cities of goldddd

  27. trumpets didn't bring down the wall aye what if the horn frequencies just happen to counter the sturdiness of the rocks of the wall and caused them to collapse

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