Greece/The Cradle Of Modern Civilization

Did you ever wonder why our modern day American society is like it is? It did not just spring up overnight, but has deep roots that can be traced back thousands of years…In fact, it all began in ancient Greece, a tiny island in the Mediterranean ocean….Many of the ancient monuments and statues still exist there to this day as ruins, and visitors that travel there and observe them will attest they are still a source of awe and wonder even to our modern, hip, wise cracking “cool” attitude and sensibility that is most prevalent in American society today, in the year 2015…

This ancient Greek civilization was the crucible and foundation of almost our entire modern civilization and formed and shaped the way we look at the world, even today…..From architecture to art work, from poetry and literature, from philosophy to our views of morality, all were originally conceived, discussed, analyzed and debated in ancient Greece…Our ideas of beauty, of grace and form, our Judeao Christian ethics of morality all sprung from the same fountainhead, ancient Greece...

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According to my Google sources, “The “golden age” of Greece lasted for little more than a century but it laid the foundations of western civilization. The age began with the unlikely defeat of a vast Persian army by badly outnumbered Greeks(immortalized in the movie (The 300) and it ended with an inglorious and lengthy war between Athens and Sparta. This era is also referred to as the “Age of Pericles” after the Athenian statesman who directed the affairs of Athens when she was at the height of her glory.

During this period of time significant advances were made in a number of fields including government, art, philosophy, drama and literature. Some of the Greek names most familiar to us lived in this exciting and productive time. It was an era marked by such high and diverse levels of achievement that many classical scholars refer to the phenomenon as “the Greek miracle”. Even those who don’t believe in miracles will concede that it is possible that the ever-competitive Greeks were spurred on to higher levels of innovation in their field by seeing the bar being raised in so many other areas…

None of this would have happened without an encouraging environment and Athens was at that time at the “top of her game”. Her citizens were supremely confident, filled with energy and enthusiasm and utterly convinced that their city provided what a combined London – Paris – New York might offer today.

Military victory over the Persians, largely achieved under Athenian leadership, set the stage. The transition in government from the reluctant hands of the aristocratic elite into the mass of common people also played an important role. More people felt that their opinions mattered than ever before…

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The physician Hippocrates, the sculptor Phidias, the architects of the Parthenon, all contributed to an era that truly deserves to be called “golden.”What brought the golden age to an end? The long and mutually murderous war between Athens and Sparta, with their conflicting values and aspirations? Military misadventures? Dreams of imperialism? Possibly the best answer lies in what the Greeks call hubris (pride). Perhaps Athens overstepped its bounds and failed to follow the twin admonitions of Delphi- know thyself and All things in moderation.

Perhaps, like Icarus, it tried to fly too close to the sun…”“The Classical Period or Golden Age of Greece, from around 500 to 300 BC, has given us the great monuments, art, philosophy, architecture and literature which are the building blocks of our own civilization.

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The two most well known city-states during this period were the rivals: Athens and Sparta. It was the strengths of these two societies that brought the ancient world to its heights in art, culture and with the defeat of the Persians, warfare. It was the same two Greek states whose thirst for more power and territory, and whose jealousy brought about the Peloponnesian wars which lasted 30 years and left both Athens and Sparta mere shadows of their former selves.

The seeds of the classical period were sown in the 8th century with the committing to writing of the works of Homer, the Illiad and the Odyssey, which in a way created a code of conduct and an ethnic identity for the Greeks. The heroic exploits of Odysseus, Achilles and the other Greeks served as role models for the Greeks which told them how to behave, (and in some cases, how not to behave) in many situations, particularly on the field of battle and in competition.

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Just as important in the creating of a Greek identity was the emergence of the Olympic games and the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, both of which had their roots in the 8th century.”

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Spartan and Athens were both powerful, influential city states and bitter rivals throughout their existence…The 6th Century was a time of social strife and to keep society from falling apart the Athenians elected Solon, a poet and statesman,to mediate between the various groups that were in conflict and to reform the system of economics in Athenian society, where there was an enormous difference between those who were well off and those who were not.

With the threat from the east gone Athens begins a fifty year period under the brilliant statesman Pericles (495-429 BC) during which time the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis and the city becomes the artistic, cultural and intellectual as well as commercial center of the Hellenic world, attracting all sorts of smart and interesting people and taking command of the other Greek states. Continuing their war against the Persians they liberate the Ionian Greek cities of Asia Minor and the Aegean islands.

Greek Philosophy,Theater and Historians

Among the dwellers of Athens during its Golden Age is the philosopher Socrates. Though he left no writings of his own, he is mostly known through the work of his student Plato in the form of written dialogues which are conversations with other learned and un-learned men on a variety of topics. The ‘Socratic method’ consists of asking questions until you arrive at the essence of a subject…

Plato begins with the basic belief that he knows nothing and that life is not for attaining riches but a process of knowing oneself…He believed that virtue was the most valuable of all possessions and that the job of a philosopher was to point out to people how little they knew…For his radical viewpoints, he was executed by the state, forced to drink hemlock (poison), for corrupting the youth of the city….

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Sound familiar people? It seems some things never change! I have just skimmed the surface influence of Greece on our society, and to truly do it justice, we will need to explore it more fully in the next few days…..It is amazing that these philosophical principles and concepts of beauty still exist today….

As well as the authorities same reactions to free thinkers!

 

For more information on this topic, see http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/greece/gr1050e.shtml AND
http://www.a history of greece.com/goldenage.htm/

For more articles by John Whye, click on http://www.johnwhye.com@wordpress.com

 

 

 

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