chapter  Chapter 1
The foundations
Individualism, media, and the public sphere, theatre, court society
WithRobert van Krieken
Pages 28

One obvious place to begin any history of celebrity is with Alexander the Great, who made sure that the populations of the enormous swaths of Europe and Asia Minor he conquered kept him at the forefront of their minds by having his image imprinted on the coinage used in those territories. From Ancient Greece and Rome onwards, there have been various turning points, watersheds and revolutions in the historical development of celebrity. The economic function and commodification of saints is a striking pre-figuration of the characteristic of modern celebrities. Celebrity concerns a particular kind of relationship between a historical period’s aristocracy – however it is defined and constructed – and its increasingly ‘mass’ public. Lenard Berlanstein has argued more generally that ‘celebrity culture, far from being a revolt against elite good taste, already existed—in one of its historically contingent forms—before mass culture arose and, in effect, “trickled down” to the masses from media that first reached primarily the bourgeoisie’.