Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Allegory - Ancient Greek Words
Three Corinthian columns on the site of Ancient Corinth when the city was under Roman occupation.
By Alexios Demos on December 4, 2019
Corinthian Columns | Archeaological site of Ancient Corinth | Corinth | © Copyright 2021 Alexios Demos
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Corinthian Columns - Ancient Corinth
Most of you are familiar with the word Allegory and probably remember it from high school from English / Literature or Art class as a literary device whose purpose is to symbolically highlight ideas about morals, religion or politics. However, what you might not have been exposed to is Plato’s “Republic” (375 B.C) and more specifically within this work the “Allegory of the Cave”. Plato (428-357 B.C) was one of the greatest Athenian philosophers and with the opportunity of the project, I would like to focus on his notion/application of allegory. In this work, Plato described people imprisoned, chained within a cave for the entirety of their lifetime and they only have the capacity to view shadows from a fire behind them. In essence, all they can do is describe the shadows with words and this is their reality. Eventually one is able to escape viewing the world we all know and returns with this profound knowledge to share it with the prisoners. The prisoners do not believe him and ignore him believing that their reality is the sole reality. The allegory is that our basic human understanding leaves us blind to other possibilities and even greater knowledge and our base instinct is to resist new ideas.
Testament to the strength of the concept of allegory is that as a device it appears to have been used by Philo of Alexandria to interpret the Jewish Torah, by Origen to interpret the Christian Bible and influenced Muslim theologians such as Al-Kindi & Al-Farabi in their interpretation of the Qur’an. Obviously this is a heated debate through the millennia as the interpretation of sacred scripture has always been a sensitive matter and I am not an authority to comment on it. Nonetheless what I do find interesting is the strength of the concept of Allegory and to what extent it has influenced the practical interpretation of nearly all of the dominant religions of today.
I have not been trained in Philosophy, Art History, Theology or Archaeology. What I am striving to do is to create a conversation between all of you so that together we can expand our knowledge of a subject and debate it. What I write is my personal interpretation.