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The modern world is deeply attracted to ancient Greece.
Every year around one million people visit the Parthenon and wander around the ruins.
Because they're sure the place and the
culture of which its supreme embodiment

has something important to say to them.
But it's often not quite clear what.
What can ancient Greece do for us?
It's a big vulgar but central question.
There are perhaps five big ideas we can
take away from ancient Greece.

Tragedy
The Greeks thought it was extremely important for everyone regularly to witness a certain
sort of gory tail they called a tragedy.
Festivals existed to honor these tragedies and
governments close civic buildings businesses and law courts to enable citizens to go and see them.
Some festivals such as the festival
of Dionysus in Athens which began in 508 BC

would last a week and involve up to
17 plays.

Famous plays included Aeschylus' The Oresteia
Sophocles' Ajax, Oedipus' The king and Electra and Eurípedes' Medeia.
In these tragedies
people were seen to break a minor law or

make a hasty decision or sleep with the
wrong person and the result was ignominy and death.

Yet what happened was shown to
be to a large extent in the hands of

what the Greeks called fate or the gods.
It was the Greeks poetic way of saying
the things often work out in random ways

according to dynamics that simply don't
reflect the merits of the individuals concerned.

In the Poetics, the philosopher
Aristotle defined the key ingredients of tragedy:

The hero of the tragedy should be a
decent person, better than average often

highborn but prone to making small
mistakes as we all do.

At the start it may not be obvious that it is an error they are making
but by an unfortunate chain of events for which they are not wholly to blame
this small mistake leads to a catastrophe.
Tragedy is the sympathetic morally complex account of
how good people can end up in
disaster situations.

It's the very opposite of today's
tabloid newspaper or social media sphere

with a mob rushes to make judgments on
those who slipped up.

Aristotle thought it was extremely
important that people see tragic works

on a regular basis to counter their
otherwise strong inclinations to judge and moralize.

Tragedy is meant to be a
corrective too easy judgment.

Without the idea of tragedy we can make existence for everyone far crueler and far more
judgmental than it really need be.
We should look back to the Greeks to recover an extremely important idea.
Philosophy
Athens was the cradle of philosophy.
Home of the three greatest philosophers:
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
What unites the Greek philosophers is a search for what they termed eudaimonia.
Which translates happiness or fulfillment.
They saw philosophy as a hugely
practical subject that could help people

find their way through the dilemmas of
life.

The approach was already contained in
the word philosophy itself:

in Greek, Philo means love or devotion and Sophia
means wisdom.

Philosophers were people devoted to wisdom.
That would be abstract the concept of wisdom isn't mysterious.
Being wise means attempting
to live and die well,

leading as good a life as possible within the troubled conditions of existence.
What we call the history of Greek
philosophy is made up of repeated

attempts over the centuries to address
ways in which we are unwise.

So for example Socrates paid special
attention to the problem of how people get confused in their minds.

He was struck that people didn't quite
know what they meant by key ideas like

courage or justice or success
even though these were the main ideas they used when talking about their own lives.
Socrates developed a method which still
bears his name by which you can learn to

get clearer about what you mean by
playing devil's advocate with any idea.

The aim isn't necessarily to change
your mind

it's to test whether the ideas guiding
your life are sound.

A few decades later, the philosopher Aristotle tried to make us more confident around big questions.
He thought the best questions with those that ask what something is for.
He did this a lot and over many books asking
what is government for?
What is the economy for?
What's money for?
What's art for?
Today he might be encouraging us
to ask questions like:

What's the news media for?
What is marriage for?
What is pornography for?
Also active in ancient Greece was the stoic philosophers who were interested in panic.
The Stoics noticed the really central
feature of panic:

We panic not just when something bad occurs but when it does so
unexpectedly,

when we are assuming that everything was going to go rather well.
So they suggested that we should arm
ourselves against panic by getting used to the idea that

danger, trouble and
difficulty are very likely to occur at every turn.

The overall task of studying Greek philosophy is to absorb
these and many other lessons and put
them to work in the world today.

The point isn't just to know what this
all that philosopher happened to say but

to aim to exercise wisdom at an
individual and societal level starting now.

Democracy
Athens is known as the home of democracy.
Democracy was developed in the fifth century BC first under Solon then
Cleisthenes and Ephialtes.

However, democracy came under threat in the later stages of the fifth century BC,
When Athene was in the midst of fighting a lengthy war with its nemesis Sparta,
the Peloponnesian War.
So to remind Athenians of their importance within a democracy, the great general Pericles
delivered a rousing speech at the annual Funeral Oration to mark the
dead of the war in 430 BC.

What makes Pericles's famous speech so striking is that
he isn't defending democracy just as a way of running the state.
He's defending what we might call the
democratic spirit,

a spirit of equality, community and comradeship
that can develop in societies where members more or less feel themselves to be equal to one another.
The voting system is a root to something
much deeper that we might term "fellow feeling".

An emotion the Greeks
discovered for Humanity.

Pericles declared: the administration of Athens favors the many instead of the few;
this is why it's called a democracy. If
we look to the laws, they afford equal

justice to all in their private
differences; if there is no social

standing, advancement in public life
falls to reputation for capacity, class

considerations not being allowed to
interfere with merit nor again does

poverty bar the way if a man is able to
serve the state,

he has never hindered by the obscurity
of his condition.

Against the brutality of the Spartans, Pericles celebrates the
generosity, erudition, openness,

public spiritedness and dignity of Athenian democratic life.
These values Pericles says enables
Athens to provide a shining beacon of

freedom and decency to the Greek world and now to our own times too.
Architecture
The Greeks were architects par
excellence.

They were involved in the construction of five of the seven
wonders of the ancient world:

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus,
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia,
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus,
The Colossus of Rhodes,
and the Lighthouse of
Alexandria.

But the most common and inspiring buildings were their ordinary temples.
Magnificent structures typically made of limestone and scattered all across
Greece and its islands.

Aside from the temples on the Acropolis,
other great structures include

the Temple of Apollo at Corinth,
the Temple of Zeus at Olympia,
and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion.
The architectural language of these temples has spread around the world
even when their specific religious uses
are fallen by the wayside.

Because they suggest values which humanity will
always find impressive:

harmony, dignity, calm, reason.
The Greeks taught the West
how to build in such a way that would

externalize some of the noblest ideals
of human beings.

Sport
Where earlier civilizations such as the
Egyptians, Persians, Assyrians found nakedness shameful,

The Greeks celebrated the naked body of both gods and citizens.
Works such as Zeus or Poseidon of Artemision shows the statue, power and physical prowess of a nude Greek god.
Discobolus shows the action of a naked discus throw mid motion
again the sculpture celebrates
the poise and physical beauty of an athlete.

His muscles perfectly toned.
The Greeks loved physical exercise.
There was at least one major national
athletic competition every year.

The most famous sporting event was the Olympic Games held every four years from 776 BC.
But what's distinctive in the Greek
approach is that they didn't want athletes merely to be athletes.

The idea was that everyone should train both mind and body.
It's a telling that Milo of Croton, a
celebrated wrestler of the sixth century BC

was also an associate of a great
mathematician Pythagoras.

One of the important Greek ?
was that a healthy mind could only dwell in a healthy body.
The Greeks thought exercise condition
discipline in people which would enable

them to be diligent and virtuous
democratic citizens in Athens or

devoted and controlled warriors in Sparta.
Ancient Greek gyms were nothing like the mindless body pumping places of our own times.
They were both public centers for physical training and intellectual hubs.
Gymnasia and schools were simply the same thing.
A great number of Socrates's dialogues about ideas around justice and truth unfold tellingly at the gym.
We owe to the Greeks the remarkable now often forgotten idea that
our bodies should be looked after just as our minds are and
that for someone to be merely an
intellectual or merely a body builder is obscene.

True virtue means a balance between the physical and the mental.
There is a sad morality tale about the end of ancient Greek civilization.
They had much nicer ideas than their enemies, but they weren't as well organized .
So they got defeated and the ideas got lost for centuries.
The Greek city-states fought among themselves endlessly over the course of the fifth and fourth centuries BC,
and were eventually stripped of their
independence under Alexander the Great.

The Greeks failed to add political
stability to their virtues.

The ideas of Greece no longer survive in the country in which they first originated but it
should be a tribute to ancient Greece
that the best of these ideas remain of complete relevance to our own times.

With the help of the Greaks
we need to remember the role of tragedy,
emphasize the practice of philosophy,
honor the spirit of democracy,
build with harmony and dignity,
and exercise both mind and body in equal measure.
For all this we can be grateful to the now absent Greeks as we wander among the rubble of the Parthenon.
If you like our films, take
a look at our shop:

the school of life.com/shop
You'll find lots of thoughtful books, games, stationery and more.
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古代希臘小歷史 (HISTORY OF IDEAS - Ancient Greece)

529 分類 收藏
劉蜀君 發佈於 2018 年 9 月 23 日
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