A Brief History of Everything

As I’m sure you know by now, we spent the weekend in Edinburgh, and may I say we had the most beautifully typical British weather we have had all summer – cold breezes and light showers. I was convinced the weather was trying to spite me with its incessant sun, but Scotland has proved to be no less than perfect.

On the Saturday morning we were given a walking tour around the Old Town of Edinburgh by a fantastic tour guide named Andrew, who managed to stay entertaining and engaging despite having flown in from Rome at 5 that morning. He showed us to the city hall, explaining that the apparent 6 stories in fact disguised several more built into the face of the bluff behind.

Upon our tour we stumbled across many statues and pieces of architecture harkening out to ancient Greece and Rome. By the city hall we saw a statue of Alexander and Bucephalus, on the old parliament perched sphinxes (sphinces?), and peppered around the city are various statues of the famous dressed as Roman generals and statesmen, including David Hume in a toga. Edinburgh, of course, has about as much claim to Roman iconography as my left foot, so this strange phenomenon had to be explained.

Hume
Hume with his Golden Toe

In the mid 18th century , you see, Edinburgh had been churning out intellectuals like they were going out of style. The financial state of the city was healthy, and itseemed as if it were the dawn of a new empire for Scotland (it didn’t pan out). In keeping with imperial tradition, monuments were commissioned to glorify the scions of Scotland in true Roman fashion.

Big Ass Church
Behold our Imperialist dogma!

The architecture in the city is beautiful, a faux classical design from the early 1800’s and in the New Town a delightfully easy to navigate grid layout for the streets. Sir Walter Scott was responsible for the popularity of certain stereotypes, suggestion that the Scots walked around every day in kilts, playing the bagpipes and drinking whisky. The stereotype was so powerful that Queen Victoria herself was visibly disappointed at the subversion of her expectations. To be honest though, I’m not sure why – during but an hour of wandering around I discovered men wearing kilts, playing bagpipes (whilst wearing a kilt!), and expressing extraordinary interest in the taste of whisky. I suppose the best lies have a kernel of truth to them.

It's true! - Ruby Bartlett, On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Reinforcing cultural stereotypes since 1846!

I’m sure there are many more things I could relate about the city, but for now I shall have to leave it at this – if you ever get the chance, make your way to Edinburgh. You won’t regret it.

3 thoughts on “A Brief History of Everything

    1. Thanks Randy. We were having a light discussion about it whilst walking, but couldn’t reach a conclusion.

  1. So Edinburgh is full of Roman and Greek (and presumably Egyptian) allusions because it was wealthy and pretentious? It has lost the wealth but not the pretention, to judge by the kilted young man in the picture. I suspect that is largely due to the high level of tourism, resulting in a skewed view of the kilt…

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