AN02a4_New Directions in Government and Society- Greek Golden Age (Ch05)
Timeline: 6th C. – 4th C. BCE
FS: The Greek Golden Age- The Artistic Spark of Western Civilization.
Significant contributions by ancient Greek scholars, politicians, and philosophers have sustained an ancient world-view for thousands of years. So influential is that world-view that we see it in our architecture, political system, visual and theatrical arts, and education system. This world-view is representative of what Greeks believed were essential values of a civilized society. These values were fostered by ancient Greek contextual issues, defined by its scholars, applied and enforced by its leaders, and representative of the human condition by its artists.*
I. The Arts
A. Visual Arts
Viewing in Nature and Man that which is beautiful and then expressing it in on paper, canvas, in stone, etc..
1. Architecture (Parthenon)
c. symmetry of form
B. Performing Arts: Theatre and Sophocles (~497 – 406 BCE)
The ‘Tragedy’ becomes a popular form thanks to Sophocles’ masterful handling of the values that define the Greek world-view. In a Sophoclean tragedy the downfall of a hero is usually at the hands of a god (a quality of some myths). The source of the hero’s difficulties is often the very qualities that make him heroic.
C. Literary Arts: Epics of Homer (~8th C BCE => ‘Dark Ages’)
During the Greek ‘Dark Ages’ the literary arts were nearly extinct as literacy became a victim of the Dorian Invasions. The oral tradition was the method of choice to preserve the past.
‘Bards’ were the repositories of epic accounts of past events. They would disperse the information to anyone who would listen as they traveled throughout the region. Among the great Bards of all human history was Homer.
Bards devised methods of storing vast amounts of information for later recall. Myths, legends, and stories are among the forms a Bard’s information may be delivered. Over time, the details and accuracy of the original accounts may ‘evolve’ into an oral presentation with less fact and more fiction.
We are now blessed with The Iliad and The Odyssey thanks to this great Grecian Bard. In both these epics (long stories) the Trojan War is a central event. Is it possible that the characters in these works are vested with qualities that the ‘real world’ individuals didn’t have? – probably. Is it possible that one or more of these characters ever existed? – probably.
The Greek world-view, to which Homer contributed significantly, manifested itself throughout the society in cultural and political forms:
1. The Heroic Ideal: The Hero. Personification of what is best in Man. Often best exhibited in the service of the polis (ex: war).
2. Olympic Games: A non-war demonstration of the heroic ideal. Initially, the competitive events focused on five military skills/ arts (pentathlon).
3. Arete: The qualities of the heroic ideal. Striving for excellence (mental as well as physical), courage, honor and glory.
D. Historiography (The Recording of History)
1. Herodotus (~6th – 5th C BCE)
Classical Greece increasingly turns to the written word to record events of the past. Unlike Homer, Herodotus is credited with employing techniques that are part of the scholarly standards we take for granted today.
Like Sima Qian of the Han dynasty (China), Herodotus is considered the first ‘True’ ‘Western’ historian. As in the case of Sima Qian, Herodotus searched for ‘Truth’ and wanted to record it. Along the way, he would find sources, cite them, and often preserve data that eventually disappears when the original source is lost.
Like Homer, the central event of Herodotus’ greatest work is a war. The History of the Persian War may adhere to the developing standards of Western historiography, but it reinforced Arete by recording exploits of Greek soldiers (Ex. Thermopylae and Marathon).
2. Thucydides (~458 – 400 BCE)
An Athenian aristocrat probably in his late twenties at the time the Peloponnesean War began; he realized its importance from the start and began to plan to write its history. In 424 BCE he was elected one of the Athenian generals, and for failing to prevent the loss of an important city to the Spartans, was exiled from Athens. He spent the rest of the war collecting evidence and talking with participants in the various actions. Herodotus, writing a few decades earlier than Thucydides, recorded almost all he heard, whether he believed it himself or not. Thucydides stands at the other pole; he gathers all available evidence, decides what he thinks is the truth, then shapes his presentation to emphasize that truth. We see everything through his eyes, and his views on the forces which shape human events emerge on every page.
II. The Sciences: Philosophy (Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Nature of Man)
A. Socrates & the Socratic Method (~469 BCE)
Formerly a soldier during the Peloponnese War, he appeared to some as a ‘homely’ individual. He didn’t pay much attention to his personal appearance, or at least not as much as other Athenians thought he should have. He annoyed some citizens of Athens by asking questions. He would lure you into a conversation by first asking a question that could easily be answered. Then he would extend his questioning to achieve a point. The Socratic Method was born from this ritual which he used often with his students so they could substantively investigate an issue. If ‘Truth’ is Socrates’ goal, then ‘Reason’ would be the vehicle to reach it.
Socrates was sentenced to death on a charge of corrupting the minds of Athenian youth, particularly as it related to Athenian religious beliefs. Myth indicates that Socrates chose death rather than the option of exile on a matter of principle.
B. Plato (427 – 347 BCE)
1. Student of Socrates for 10 years.
2. Chronicler of Socrates later life and teaching.
3. The first ‘true’ political scientist. (1)
4. Established the ‘Academy’.
5. Most famous work: The Republic (his vision of a perfectly governed society ruled by Philosopher-Kings).
6. He was an idealist. (Refer to Raphael’s School of Athens for an artist’s expression of this attribute)
7. Significant Philosophical Conclusions (1)
8. The State shapes and nurtures man by emphasizing education.
9. The State ensures that justice thrives shaping ‘Right’ behavior in the individual (the Quality of Excellence in each).
10. ‘DO NO HARM’ = A concept evident in Plato’s understanding of medical science and political science.
11. In this State, men and women should participate in communal life (no ‘nuclear family’) so both can equally develop their respective ‘qualities of excellence’. The community would care for the children.
C. Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)
1. Student of Plato for 20 years.
2. Quest for knowledge extended to numerous fields of study, not just political science.
3. His contributions in the field of logic (Syllogism) became a foundation for further advances in mathematics.
4. Personal tutor of Alexander (The Great).
D. Archimedes (~287 – 212 BCE)
Mathematician and inventor. Employed by Rome at one point to devise a distance calculating device to setup mile markers on Roman roads.
E. Haran’ of Alexandria (~10 – 70 CE)
Inventor closely associated with the Library of Alexandria. Many of his inventions, to include plans for the earliest vending machine, were stored and/ or developed there.