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The Greek Way. Humanism and the Western Tradition. I. Tale of Two Wars. Myth, History and the Greek Mind. A. The Anger of Achilles. Achaeans (Greeks). B. Nike! . Heroes and History. Archaic Period - “heroic individualism” - acceptance of Fate

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The Greek Way

Humanism and the Western Tradition

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I. Tale of Two Wars

Myth, History and the Greek Mind

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A. The Anger of Achilles

Achaeans (Greeks)

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Heroes and History

Archaic Period

- “heroic individualism”

- acceptance of Fate

The Iliad& The OdysseyHomerca. 800-700 BCE

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Marathon, 490 BCE v. Darius I

Thermopylae, 480 BCE v. Xerxes

Salamis, 480 BCE

Platea, 479 BCE

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Herodotus the “Father of History”- continuity- freedom- interest in other cultures- hubris

History without myth- human actors, motivations

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The Lust for Life

Odysseus and Achilles

I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead.


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II. Epochs

Bronze Age pre 1200 BCE



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Greek Dark Ages 1200-800 BCE

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A. Archaic Environment & Culture

Crossroads of civilization

Necessity and invention

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Ionian philosophy

  • Rationalism

    - nature composed of elements

    - universe was not random (laws)

    - gods in-active

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2. Thales of Miletus ca. 600 BCE

Change v. permanence


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The Polis

- abstract; artificial

“The state…aims at the highest good.”- Aristotle

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Hoplite Culture

1. Citizen-soldiers






Athenian hoplite

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- anti-king, law-givers

- merit v. heredity

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Cultural life

Centrality of human existence to arts

Discobulusby Myron 400s BCE

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II. Hellenic Powers

Sparta and Athens

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A. Sparta

  • Conquest, class and conflict600s BCE


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2. Reforms of Lycurgus ca. 600 BCE


- state supportkleros

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3. Service to the state

- mentors

Delayed citizenship


4. “Liberated” women

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1. Draco620 BCE

- written codes

2. Along came Solon594 BCE

wealth corrupted men

Militarism cowed men

Economic reforms

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3. Cleisthenes508 BCE

- political reform

- demos→ “the people”

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III. The Hellenic Achievement

Classical Age, 500-323 BCE

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A. The Persian Wars

  • Miletan Revolt 499 BCE

    [ Cyrus the Greatd. 530 BCE]

    - Darius I d. 485

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3. Greek unity

- Thermopylae 480 BCE Leonidas

- Salamis 479 BCEThemistocles


- Go Greek

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B. Athens’ Advance

  • Pericles495-421 BCE

    - links freedom to expansion

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C. Limits of democracy

  • The Delian League477 BCE

    - prosperity / slavery rise

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2. Women and public life

- heirs v. wives

Aspasia, a hetaira

Teaching a woman to read and write? Like feeding a vile snake on more poison- Menander the Athenian

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D. Peloponnesian War 431-404 BCE

1. War on land and sea

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2. War and democracy

- demagoguery

- impatience

- slave revolt


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3. Defeat of Athens

- Greece vulnerable to conquest

- dramatic reassessment of human nature, politics

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IV. Age of Introspection

The heights of Classical thought

*from external to internal philosophy*

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A. Philosophy

  • The Sophists

    - radical skepticism / relativism

    Man is the measure of all things- Protagorus

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2. Socrates469-399 BCE

- Socratic Methoddialogue or dialectic

- knowledge (virtue) developed from within

Challenge all popular beliefs

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3. Plato429-347 BCE

The Republic

- why did Athenian democracy fail?

- Allegory of the Cave

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B. The Humanities

1. Drama

- focus on human dilemmas “reality”

Sophocles Oedipus Rex and Antigone

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2. History

- Herodotus

“lesson,” or thesis

- Thucydides

objective, investigative

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A. Macedonians

1. Philip IId. 336 BCE

- Hellenization

- showdown with Persia

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B. Alexander

  • War & legitimacy

    - Calisthenes

    - Granikos River 334; Gaugamela, 331

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2. Cultural fusion

- migration

- koine “common Greek”

3. Decline of the polis

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D. Hellenistic philosophy

1. Aristotle 384-322 BCE

- empirical data, careful observation

- minimize errors of senses

- another early basis of scientific method

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2. Anti-Aristotle


- Stoicism


- purpose is pleasure


- Cynicism

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Hellenistic Legacy

1. Language of the ancient world

2. Western “achievement” not confined to Greeks

3. Accelerated the rise of Rome