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Ancient Greece. Though the origin of the Hellenes, or ancient Greeks, is unknown, their language clearly belongs to the Indo-European family. Named after the mythical king Minos, the Minoan civilization flourished on the island of Crete in the second millennium B.C. .

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slide2

Though the origin of the Hellenes, or ancient Greeks, is unknown, their language clearly belongs to the Indo-European family. Named after the mythical king Minos, the Minoan civilization flourished on the island of Crete in the second millennium B.C.

slide3

In the same period, the Myceneans developed a wealthy and powerful civilization on mainland Greece. At some point in the last century of the millennium, the great palaces were destroyed by fire. With them, the arts, skills, and language of the Myceneans vanished for the next few centuries, a period called the "Dark Age" of Greece. Much of what we know about them is based on the body of oral poetry that became the raw material for Homer's epic poems, the Iliad and Odyssey.

slide4

By serving as a basis for education, the Iliad and Odyssey played a role in the development of Greek civilization that is equivalent to the role that the Torah had played in Palestine. The irreconcilable difference between the Greeks gods of Olympus and the Hebrew god led to a struggle from which only one survived.

slide5

For those raised under monotheistic religions or cultures, the Greek gods and their relation to humanity may seem alien. Whereas the Hebrews blamed humanity for bringing disorder to God's harmoniously ordered universe, the Greeks conceived their gods as an expression of the disorder of the world and its uncontrollable forces. To the Greeks, morality is a human invention; and though Zeus is the most powerful of their gods, even he can be resisted by his fellow Olympians and must bow to the mysterious power of fate.

slide6

For those raised under monotheistic religions or cultures, the Greek gods and their relation to humanity may seem alien. Whereas the Hebrews blamed humanity for bringing disorder to God's harmoniously ordered universe, the Greeks conceived their gods as an expression of the disorder of the world and its uncontrollable forces. To the Greeks, morality is a human invention; and though Zeus is the most powerful of their gods, even he can be resisted by his fellow Olympians and must bow to the mysterious power of fate.

slide7

Though united by their common Hellenic heritage, Greek city-states differed in customs, political constitutions, and dialects.

slide9

They were often rivals and fierce competitors, establishing colonies in the eighth and seventh centuries along the Mediterranean coast. The Greeks who established colonies in Asia adapted their language to the Phoenician writing system, adding signs for vowels to change it from a consonantal to an alphabetic system. First used for commercial documents, writing was later applied to treaties, political decrees, and, later, literature.

slide10

Inspired by their defeat of the Persian invaders, Athens and Sparta emerged as the two most prominent city-states of the fifth century B.C. With the elimination of their common enemy, however, the two cities became enemies, culminating in the Peloponnesian war, which left Athens defeated.

slide12

Before its defeat to Sparta, Athens developed democratic institutions to maintain the delicate balance between the freedom of the individual and the demands of the state. By the time of Sophocles, Athens had become an empire, establishing a league of subject cities, which it taxed and coerced.

slide14

Professional teachers, called Sophists, educated affluent male citizens of Athens in the techniques of public speaking and in subjects such as government, ethics, literary criticism, and astronomy. The secular and humanist spirit of Athenian culture is best expressed in the words of the Sophist Protagoras: "Man is the measure of all things."

slide15

Unlike the Sophists, Socrates proposed a method of teaching that was dialectic rather than didactic; his means of approaching "truth" through questions and answers revolutionized Greek philosophy. Socrates exposed illogicality in old beliefs but did not provide new beliefs. His ethics rested on an intellectual basis. Due to his insistence that it is the duty of each individual to think through to the "truth," resentment against Socrates built, culminating in a death for impiety.

slide16

In the next century, Athens became a center for schools of philosophy based on his ideas, especially as espoused by Plato and Aristotle. Founder of the Academy in 385 B.C., Plato's literary and philosophical contributions often explored ethical and political problems of his time featuring his teacher Socrates as speaker. The first systematic work of Western literary criticism, the Poetics, was written by Aristotle, a member of Plato's Academy.

slide17

Except for his name, we know nothing about the poet Homer, and there is no trace of his identity in the poem. The basis for Homer's Iliad and Odyssey was an immense poetic reserve created by generations of singers who lived before him. Homer made use of an intricate system of metrical formulas, a repertoire of standard scenes, and a known outline of the story. Unlike most oral literature, the poetic organization of the two works suggests they owe their present form to the hand of one poet.

slide18

Focused around the events that transpired in a few weeks of the ten-year Trojan War, the Iliad tells the story of the Achaeans and Trojans in war. Both genders—the men who do battle and the women who depend on them—are affected in this tale of war. Starkly unsentimental, Homer's tale suggests that human beings must implicitly deal with both destructive and creative impulses.

slide19

The Odyssey deals with the peace that ensued and places emphases on the lives of the surviving heroes of the war. It tells the story of Odysseus on a quest to return to his homeland, Ithaca, and be reunited with his son and wife. Along the way, he has many adventures and must rely on his intellect, wit, and strength to extricate himself from perilous situations.

slide20

Neither the Iliad nor the Odyssey offers easy answers; questions about the nature of aggression and violence are left unanswered, and questions about human suffering and the waste generated by war are left unresolved.

slide21

Though Sappho's lyric poems give us vivid evocation of the joys and sorrows of love, it is the drama that emerged more than a century later that is most closely associated with classical Greek literature.

slide22

Greek comedy and tragedy developed out of choral performances in celebration of Dionysus, the god of wine and mystic ecstasy. Thespis was probably the first to add a masked actor, who engages in dialogue with the chorus, to these performance; later Aeschylus added a second actor, creating the possibility for conflict and establishing the prototype for drama as we know it.

slide23

The seven plays of Aeschylus are the earliest documents in the history of Western theater. While Aeschylus's plays reflect Athens's heroic period, those by his younger contemporary Sophocles, especially Oedipus the King, reflect a culture that was reevaluating critically its accepted standards and traditions. Even more so, Euripides's Medea is an ironic expression of Athenian disillusion. The work of the only surviving comic poet of the fifth century, Aristophanes, combines poetry, obscenity, farce, and wit to satirize institutions and personalities of his time. Though parodic in tone, the work often carries serious undertones, thus adding to the rich diversity of writings from the ancient Greek world.

the epic structure
The Epic (structure)
  • Epics include the following elements: 1) a tragic hero with one fatal flaw (i.e. Odysseus's anger) and heroic or supernatural abilities (the gods intervene exclusively on his behalf); 2) a series of adventures and quests; and 3) a foil or series of characters who offer a contrast to the epic hero (i.e. Kyklops is Odysseus's polar opposite).
slide25

The traditional epic follows a cycle of introducing the hero; setting trials for the hero to endure; introducing supernatural challenges after mortal challenges are achieved; and restoring the hero to heroic status.

key concepts
Key Concepts
  • Fate plays an important role in Greek culture, stemming from the idea that the gods influence the course of men's lives for better or worse.
  • Hubris is an act of pride that leads to punishment by gods or leaders. It is the equivalent of "sin" in Judeo-Christian culture and occurs when man's pride leads to his own destruction
  • Hero => qualities?
  • Hospitality
  • Contest
  • Suffering and grief => source?