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The Spartacus and Game of Thrones TV series are spectacular. I can’t help but admit that they are wonderfully well-made. Indeed, I am a fan of both.

They are both bleak.Unreservedly so and without hope.

Spartacus has to be. We know the ending. While it is not clear what they were actually seeking, it is known the slave revolt failed. The slaves were brutally crushed – indeed, thousands were crucified.

Thrones is bleak as well. But here lies the rub. Its author, the gifted Martin, has stated that the idea of it was to portray what is essentially Europe in the Middle Ages, but with the intention of depicting its cruelty. Readers of the book, especially, know that Martin is true to his stated purpose.

The “rub” lies here: the real Middle Ages, while cruel, also were extremely enlightened. Indeed, it was a time when enlightenment took on cruelty and made great strides.

Why? Because of Christianity.

This was the time of the great hospitalers,  the orders who originally ran hospitals – a Christian invention.

This was the time of thousands and thousands of monasteries. Organized and sharing knowledge, mostly of practical sciences and agriculture.

This was a time, for instance, when poor women could have hope. Take a walk in the University of Leuven, for example: while I forget the name of the order, there were thousands of women given the means to support themselves. The order organized, trained, and gave them shelter. The numerous buildings remain for all to see.

Universities were begun: starting from cathedral schools, which were literally schools run by the side of the great cathedrals.

Hope was given to mankind by the Good News. The best that could be achieved otherwise was a kind of reserved detachment.

Spartacus cannot have a leavening of hope, really, because the setting is the time before the Christian era. Thrones does not because its author chooses not to put it in. Martin apparently has a skewed view of the time he is portraying.

Now, Martin’s work to me is excellent – but there is no one to root for. I suppose Jon Snow and Daenerys are the two most sympathetic. Would you really like to live under even their rule? And what of their heirs? Remember who followed the remarkable Marcus Aurelius: his despicable son.

No, me, I’ll stay right here.

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