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The Greeks were the most literate of all ancient civilizations. Their probing minds, seeking answers to great questions, led them to expressing their answers in poetry, plays, and philosophical treatises. As a result, a wealth of literature from ancient Greece remains for modern readers. This great body of writing provides the modern scholar with a host of evidence about Greek life.
Reading 8 contains a small sampling of Greek literature. Yet even this small sample can provide insight into what the Athenians thought about life, work, death, love, justice, virtue, and beauty. As you learn what the Greeks thought, you should discover what values they held most dear -
that 18, you should discover what they thought was good and bad, what was worthy or worthless, what they believed men should or should not do.
In both your reading outside of class and your class discussion yesterday, you developed a hypothesis about the major values of the Athenians. Readings 8 and 9 will provide evidence which will help you to decide whether or not your hypothesis about Greek values was accurate, As you read, keep in mind the questions which precede each excerpt and ask yourself whether or not the evidence you are gathering supports your hypothesis.
SOPHOCLES' VIEW OF MAN *
The following speech is made by the chorus in Sophocles' play ANTIGONE. Sophocles was an Athenian dramatist who is known to literary scholars as the master of Greek tragedy. ANTIGONE is the last of three plays concerned with the tragedies surrounding the royal house of Thebes, one of the Greek city states. As you read this speech, keep in mind the following questions.
* From Sophocles, ANTIGONE, F. Kinchin Smith, trans.
Sidgwick and Jackson, 1950).
This famous chorus from Sophocles' ANTIGONE begins with the words "Many amazing things exist, and the most amazing is man." From there the chorus extolls the virtues of man and his potential.
THE HEROIC VIRTUES
The Greek Bible was the works of Homer. Like the old Testament, Homer's tales tell of ancient heroes who were held up to be models of perfect (and sometimes imperfect) behavior. Greek school boys read and reread Homer and were taught to emulate the heroes the bard described. In this passage, two of Homer's heroes, Achilles and Hector, are about to confront each other in a fight to the death in the famous Trojan war. The personal conflict became inevitable when Hector slew Achilles' dearest friend, Patroclus, while Achilles was sulking in his tent.
In the following passage the two prepare for mortal conflict and tell of their reasons for fighting. As you read, keep in mind the following questions:
From Walter Agard, THE GREEK MIND, (New York: Van Nostrand,
Two selections from Homer's ILIAD indicate the heroic values of
HESIOD'S ADVICE ON HUMAN RELATIONS
Hesiod was an early Greek poet (ca. 750 B.C.) whose writings were full of sage advice about everyday things. In his WORKS AND DAYS he told stories about the Greek gods and their relationship to men which illustrated the way men should behave in their day-to-day living. The following passage sums up some of this advice. Consider the following questions.
This selection from Hesiod's WORKS AND DAYS extols the virtues of
SOME GREEK APHORISMS
One of the classic ways of teaching the young is to give them short statements of principle, or aphorisms, as guidelines for their lives. The Greek poets wrote many passages that later became aphorisms for young Greeks. The following is a sampling.
These aphorisms hail the virtues of courage, opportunism, associating with the rich and well-born, and nobility.
ARISTOTLE'S CONCEPT OF VIRTUE
Aristotle was an Athenian philosopher and student of Plato who lived when the golden age of Athens began to wane. He tried to write down general principles of justice, virtue, good, and beauty that he had derived from studying men's experiences. The following passage reveals his idea of virtue. As you read, consider these questions.
This famous selection from Aristotle explains the Greek philosopher's
THE ATHENIAN CONSTITUTION
Athens was unique in the ancient world because it gave political power to a much greater proportion of its inhabitants than did other societies, The empires of the Near East and the other Greek city states reserved political leadership to a minute portion of the "best" men. In contrast, every native born Athenian male was allowed to participate in his city's political process. By ancient standards Athens certainly must be called a democracy.
Yet, better than half the inhabitants of Athens were denied any participation in political affairs. Women, slaves, and "foreigners" who resided in Athens were not allowed to vote or hold office.
The selections in Reading 9 are designed to provide you with evidence for understanding the nature of Athenian democracy. The first selection is the description of the Athenian Constitution supposedly given by one of Athens' greatest leaders, Pericles, in an oration to the Athenian people. The account of the speech was written by the Greek historian, Thucydides, who, by his own admission, did not have a text of the speech itself and had to be content with writing a reconstruction of it based on what people had heard.
The second selection 18 drawn from an anonymous source. This author's view of the worth of the Athenian constitution is far different from Pericles'. Yet the two documents taken together can provide a fairly accurate picture of the Athenian constitution if the methods of historical investigation are applied to the problem,
As you read these selections, try to develop answers to the following questions based on the evidence presented in both selections.
PERICLES' FUNERAL ORATION *
"Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. We do not copy our neighbors, but are an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while the law secures equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty a bar, but a man may benefit his country whatever be the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private intercourse we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private intercourse, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having an especial regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as to those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.
"And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; our homes are beautiful and elegant; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish melancholy. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as of our own.
"Then, again, our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, and we never expel a foreigner or prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face. And here is the proof: The Lacedaemonians come into Attica not by themselves, but with their whole confederacy following; we go alone into a neighbor's country; and although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we on a foreign soil, we have seldom any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies have never yet felt our united strength; the care of a navy divides our attention, and on land we are obliged to send our own citizens everywhere. But they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are as proud as if they had routed us all, and when defeated they pretend to have been vanquished by us all.
"If then we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the gainers? --since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; and thus too our city is equally admirable in peace and
Thucydides, THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR, Benjamin Jowett, translation (Bantam