Ever since the International Monetary Fund’s first bailout of Greece’s sinking economy in 2010, the phrase “Greek debt” has meant one thing to the country’s creditors. But for millions who claim to prize culture over capital, it means something quite different: the symbolic debt that Western civilization owes to Greece for furnishing its principles of democracy, philosophy, mathematics, and fine art. Where did this other idea of Greek debt come from, Johanna Hanink asks, and why does it remain so compelling today?
Judaism and the Economy, edited by Professor Michael Satlow, is a collection of sixty-nine Jewish texts relating to economic issues such as wealth, poverty, inequality, charity, and the charging of interest. The passages cover the period from antiquity to the present, and represent many different genres.
MUL.APIN, written sometime before the 8th century BC, was the most widely copied astronomical text in ancient Mesopotamia: a compendium including information such as star lists, descriptions of planetary phases, mathematical schemes for the length of day and night, a discussion of the luni-solar calendar and rules for intercalation, and a short collection of celestial omens.
Epitomizing the radiating sun and perpetuating the cycles of life and time, fire was—and continues to be—a central force in the Mesoamerican cosmos. Mesoamericans understood heat and flames as animate forces that signified strength and vitality; the most powerful of individuals were embodied with immense heat. Moreover, fire was transformative: it was a means to destroy offerings as well as to transport offerings to otherworldly places. The importance of heat and flames is evident in a spectrum of ritual practices, ranging from the use of sweat baths to the burning of offerings.