Yesterday Isabel showed me one of her old text books from high school. It is tattered and torn and on the spine you can barely read “History”. I flipped through the pages, feeling the smell and the old-fashioned layout, and suddenly something caught my eye. Left page, inner column, midway from the top, in all-caps bold type: “VISIGOTH EPIGONISM”.
I immediately recognised the words. That wasn’t my book, but surely enough I used the same edition when I did history at high school. I will never forget the topic on Visigoth epigonism; I was 16, a curious kid quite well read for his age, and when I first stumbled against those words that I could not recognise, they got engraved in some engram at the back of my head.
I knew who the Visigoth were. I had studied history before and I had a rough idea of what they looked like in the pictures of the books. And I had watched a movie about them too! But “epigonism”… I had no clue about that word. I remember reading through the passage in the history book and being completely unable to infer the meaning of the title from the meaning of the text.
I learned what “epigonism” means 30 seconds ago, just before I started typing this. That word has been memorised in my brain for 22 years without a meaning. I have asked around a few times over the years, but nobody has been able to tell me.
Sixteen. I was 16 years old. What on earth were the authors of my book thinking when they decided that a 16-year old kid would understand “epigonism”? Do they call themselves “educators”?
According to the Wiktionary, epigonism means either an artistic or literary imitation of an artist by a later generation or the product of an epigone, an epigone being a follower or imitator. The dictionary.com website adds that an epigone is a second-rate imitator. An “epigonation”, however, is a kind of Orthodox religious vestment, according to the Wikipedia.
So the Visigoths were wearing diamond-shaped, stiff clothes. Or they were just cheap imitators. I am relieved I know, after so many years.