The Golden Age Of Greece/Links To The Renaissance

Yesterday we discovered that our present day society can be traced back to it’s roots in the Golden Age of Greek civilization…I know it’s hard to see the connection between these robed and bearded scholars and philosophers, and our cool hip modern trendy “now” society but the ancient Greeks laid the groundwork for most all of what we consider “normal” today…Everything is a link in a chain, everything is connected….

The ancient Greeks did all the heavy lifting, and we are lucky enough to be the beneficiaries of their ancient wisdom and knowledge, and it’s modern day practical applications….The Golden Age of Greece was the direct and philosophical link that rescued Europe from the Dark Ages and ushered in the Renaissance… We saw yesterday how the brilliant philosopher Socrates was forced to drink a cup of hemlock (poison) because he was considered a threat and for “corrupting the youth of the city”…

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Sokrates, Antisthenes, Chrysippos, Epikouros
Sokrates, Antisthenes, Chrysippos, Epikouros

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We will resume our narrative here…. Socrates main disciple Plato expounded on and spread the philosophy of Socrates through the written word….As per our Google sources: “This philosophy begins with the belief that he knows nothing and that life is not for attaining riches but a process of knowing oneself. Socrates 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 actually knew”…For espousing this philosophy,  “He was executed by the state, forced to drink a cup of hemlock (poison), for corrupting the youth of the city.

Plato became an opponent of the Athenian styled democracy, probably because he believed any society that would condemn someone like Socrates to death had to be insane. He believed that society should be governed by governor kings, or benevolent dictators, educated and trained from the beginning of life for this purpose. He went on to open the world’s first University, the Academy, the ruins of which can still be seen in Athens. Plato was an idealist. He believed in a higher reality of which the material world is just a manifestation. It is said that all philosophy is just a footnote to Plato.

His student and then fellow philosopher Aristotle was more of a materialist and believed in putting everything in categories and (is credited) as the inventor of logic. Aristotle opened his own school, the Lyceum, and went on to become the tutor of Alexander the Great. He is considered the father of European thought, though some of his scientific observations were simply wrong.”

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Now historically speaking, we must leap ahead from 4th-5th century BC Greece to the Middle Ages In Europe…The Middle Ages were a relatively static period. Society was predominantly agrarian. It was ruled by a warrior nobility. Manorialism provided the economic underpinnings and feudalism gave a limited political stability.

The Roman Catholic Church with its priests, monks, and bishops formed the First Estate. The pope was not only a spiritual leader but a powerful political force. During the High Middle Ages, medieval towns and feudal monarchy added further elements to what has been called the Medieval Synthesis. The ideal of the Middle Ages was a universal Church within a universal Empire. While never realized, it remained an ideal.

The Renaissance is the beginning of our own Modern Period of history and marks the ending of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance started in Italy because crises within Christendom benefited Italy. It gave Italy an independence and freedom which it had not previously enjoyed. It must also be noted that the ruins of Roman civilization where more visible in Italy than elsewhere.

The Renaissance was a rebirth of the human spirit, a rebirth of creativity. While taking the classical past as its model, the Renaissance was one of the most creative periods in human history, comparable only to the Golden Age of Hellenic Athens in the fifth century before Christ. Florence has often been called the Athens of the Renaissance because so many great artists were born or worked there.

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Renaissance” means “rebirth” in the French language….The Renaissance was a rebirth in many different ways. It began in Northern Italy about 1350 right after the Black Death had ravaged the country, killing from a third to half the population”…..The Black Death was a revelation to the Europeans, they had no concept of the theory of germ transmission of disease and believed that God was punishing them for their wickedness, although they were a very devout and religious society….After the Black Death had passed, the survivors decided to enjoy this world more….

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“The Renaissance was a rebirth in a second sense. It was a rebirth of classical learning and a rediscovery of ancient Rome and Greece. Renaissance artists and scholars looked back to this Classical past. They deliberately rejected the scholarship and religious thought of the Middle Ages. For them, the Middle Ages were the Dark Ages. Nothing original and creative had happened since the fall of Rome.What, then, is the Renaissance and why did it begin in Italy?

One can often define an age, era, epoch, or period by comparing and contrasting it to another. The Middle Ages were an Age of Faith. In the West, the religion of Christianity gave definition to the Middle Ages. The search for salvation was the primary motivation for most people within Christendom. The Middle Ages was God-centered. In contrast, the Renaissance, and the Modern Period of which it is a part , is man-centered. It is secular rather than spiritual. This does not mean that religion and salvation are not important today, but they are not the focal point of most people’s lives.

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The Italians had never quite forgotten that heritage even during the Dark Ages. Urban life had never disappeared entirely in Italy, the way it had in the rest of Europe. And when trade and towns revived, the Italian communes had flourished most of all. The Renaissance began in the Italian city-states because they had the wealth from the commerce and trade of the Middle Ages.

For some time, Venice had outfitted the crusaders and was the conduit for the silk and spice trade from India and China. Furthermore, the Byzantines and the Moslems cross-fertilized these urban city-states with their cultural ideas. Merchant banking families, such as the Medici in Florence, were able to profit from these commercial endeavors and became the ruling elite.

These wealthy bankers were able to finance and patronize the arts, providing employment for the famous painters, sculptors, and architects of the time. In addition, Italy had many reminders of the Roman past: the road network, the aqueducts, the public buildings, the monuments. Wealth, a standing heritage from the past, the freedom of the urban elite society—all of these factors contributed to a shift in attitude, which would soon include respect and admiration for the classical age.”

So we see where the inspiration for the Renaissance was directly inspired by the Golden Age of Greece, and that the Renaissance was the beginning of our own modern times….Tomorrow we will explore how this link grew and expanded to our present day society….

Everything is connected!

For more information on “The Golden Age of Greece” see http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/greece/gr1050e.shtml AND http://www.a history of greece.com/goldenage.htm/

For more information on the Renaissance, see faculty.ucc.edu/egh-damerow/renaissance.htm

For more articles by john whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

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