You may have seen other videos like this; this is the chanting that’s going on from rooftops in Iran each night as part of the protests since June 12. It reminds me of a notorious women’s festival in ancient Athens called the Adonia, celebrated on the roofs of houses. We have tantalizing but inconclusive evidence that at the Adonia of 415 bce, the women were particularly, and perhaps intentionally, disruptive with the ritual wailing “Woe for Adonis” from the rooftops all over Athens; in retrospect this was seen by some as a bad omen for the ill-fated Sicilian Expedition. It’s been suggested that this was, in fact, a political protest against the coming war.
A roof is an interesting space: at once private (it’s your house) and public. During the day, protesters on the streets or in public squares in Iran are increasingly subject to arrest. But what exactly can the regime do to stop people from making noise from their own rooftops or balconies at night?
Anyway a couple of years ago I spent a happy afternoon trolling the wonderful Thesaurus Linguae Graecae for references to roofs in ancient Greek; I wrote up the results on my sabbatical blog. I’ll copy the whole thing below, as I still think it’s quite interesting!