Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Design Diary 4: A muse can be a harsh mistress

It is better to tell a rated R truth than to tell a G-rated lie.

-- Richard Dutcher

Since I first encountered Atlantis in the media (I think I was 6), I was gripped by the imagination of Atlantis. When I started playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was twelve, I learned about Atlantean Archaeology. "Atlantaeology" I believe it is called, is the study of Atlantis to see if it actually existed. Learning that Atlantis could actually exist fired up my imagination. That was when I started doing research for the Atlantis campaign setting.

However Clio, the Muse of Epic History, can be a harsh mistress. In my efforts, I learned many different points of view of the history and culture of four different ancient civilizations: Egypt, Greece, India, and Israel. The number one thing I learned was this:
you can not assume that an ancient culture has the exact same attitude about modesty as the present day culture. This is especially true if you define modesty by how much square feet of the body has to be covered with cloth.

My research shows that neither of them carried the same sort of regard for modesty as our own. In fact, if anything, their definition of Modesty does not depend on how much cloth that needs to cover the body; but rather more on Webster's definition of Modesty which is this:

MOD'ESTY, n. [L. modestia.] That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.

To complicate matters further, virginity was unheard of in Egypt, they didn't even have a word for virgin in Ancient Egyptian. Young girls as young as six would have sexual intercourse with a mate in Ancient Egypt. By the time that Moses was thirteen and raised as an Egyptian, he would have sown his wild oats with a girl about his age or younger. Meaning that he may have gotten an Egyptian noblewoman pregnant while she was 12, 13, or 14. An uncountable number of Egyptians may claim Moses as an ancestor.

In ancient Israel, a girl was considered to enter the age of Marriageability at the age of twelve, while a boy could be considered to enter the age of Marriageability at the age of 13. The Bar'Mitzvah and the Bat'Mitzvah; traditions where a young jew was considered to be of age stemms from this fact.

To complicate matters further, social nudity was regarded in these four ancient civilizations a lot differently than social nudity is now. To the Ancients, social nudity was regarded as a Gift of the Gods (or in Israel's case --- a sign of the Prophets) while in our day and age social nudity is regarded as destructive. In order to create an authentic Ancient Culture like that of Atlantis, social nudity has to be addressed.

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