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Recently I found a striking telling of the sack of Costantinople in 1204, made by Nicetas Choniates, a contemporary who witnessed the very events...

One passage in particular made me think: at some point the narration stops and there is a detailed description of a great number of bronze monuments and landmarks of the city (they were dating back from the Classical Age), and the way they were systematically torn apart, or melted down into coins by the crusaders and their troops. Constantinople had been standing apart from the rest of the world, for it was the sole city where all the ancient memories had survived intact, and several generations worked hard to preserve its past and make it grow into something new, while the rest of the world had long sunken into pillage and the warfare of many capricious kings.

"Many other statues and admirable works, [...] shared the same fate, and were destroyed by these barbarians, who, incapable of admiration for the beautiful, converted all these master-pieces into coin, and annihilated monuments which had cost so much, for the sake of such an inconsiderable amount of money."

If we take this sentence out of its original context, we can find out a message for our present day. The substance our works are made of may be needed for something different than art. Bronze can be easily turned into money, bytes endure much less.
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Submitted on
July 6, 2007