Nobody cared more about statues than the Greeks and the Romans. In fact, the only reason we know what many of the Stoics looked like is because they were preserved in marble by sculptors many thousands of years ago.
The Stoics knew that statues were important. Aristocreon, a nephew of Chrysippus, put up a statue of his uncle—to honor his memory and his role in the founding of Stoicism. The grandfather of Cato was once asked why there was no statue of him. His answer: I’d rather people ask why there isn’t a statue of me than why there is. The idea for the Greeks and Romans was to put up these statues so that we might look up and be inspired by the deeds and the principles of the great men (and women) who came before us.
But today, what statues do we put up? Last year, Michigan became the home of a new statue of Robocop. Most people can agree that statues of Confederate generals (see: traitors) are not appropriate to maintain with public funds. That’s as far as we’re able to go though. We’re not building new statues, that’s for sure. We can hardly agree on who we admire enough to capture in stone or bronze.
That’s really sad and really scary. Because each generation needs guidance. We need to be called to honor the greatness of our past (and in the case of some monuments, reminded of the failures and mistakes civilization has made). We need to see—in tangible form—the principles that we as a people hold dear, that we are aspiring to mirror in our own lives.
A nation—an era—is judged by the monuments it erects just as a home is judged by the art that hangs on its walls. So that’s the question for the world and for you as an individual today: What statues are you putting up? And are you living by the example they stand for?