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Was Greece the Ideal Society?

  • Certain things were sacred to the Greeks. One was their common heritage; another was their religion. Both were on display at the Olympic Games, first staged in 776 B.C. Each time the Games took place, all hostilities would cease and athletes would be allowed to travel to Olympia to compete and then travel home again.
  • Today's philosophy has its roots in ancient Greece. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle popularized the main tenets of philosophy&emdash;questioning, probing, careful examination. No subject was spared their scrutiny. What is the world made of? Why are we here? What happens when we die? What is it to be a good person? What makes a successful businessman? What makes a good city-state? Why are wars fought? All these questions were vigorously asked and answered.
  • Slaves could not marry or have a family. They could own property or testify in court. They did work as craftsmen, in some cases receiving the same wages as free men. Slaves served in mines, on plantations, in households and on the battlefield. In mines and on plantations, slaves worked in very harsh conditions. In the home, slaves were servants and received better treatment; on the battlefield, they were relegated to carrying baggage, cooking meals, and burying the dead. Greek society came to depend on slave labor. Some historians believe that at the height of Athens' Golden Age, up to one-third of all Athenians were slaves.
  • Greek literature is unsurpassed in its contribution to later societies' work. Centuries before the Golden Age, Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Greeks invented drama and created some of the world's best plays. Shining stars were Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, the latter writing comedies and the former three writing tragedies. Plato crystallized Socrates' and his own philosophy into the Dialogues. Aristotle wrote Poetics and many other works that have stood the test of time and influenced philosophers and scientists for centuries. Herodotus, the "father of history," wrote a history of the Persian Wars; Thucydides, himself a general, wrote a history of the Peleponnesian Wars.

So, was Greece the ideal society? You be the judge.

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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