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Athens

by on July 19, 2019

Acropolis

The Acropolis of Athens by Leo von Klenze.

Athens and Sparta were two of the most influential city-states in the ancient world. They both held sway over the history of ancient Greece and to this day have spawned much comparison and analysis. And as we wrote in a previous article, Sparta was known for their militaristic civilization and for their affinity for war.
Conversely, Athens would be remembered for it’s remarkable progress in the fields of philosophy, politics and literature. And for all of it’s beauty and devotion to intellectual progress, it was a city-state that was often harrowed with tragedy. In the words of the medieval, christian scholar Alcuin of York:

“At Athens, wise men propose, and fools dispose.”

Democracy athens

Democracy in Athens
painting by. Philipp Foltz

Athens

It was said in the early years of Athens, the city-state was governed by a series of kings. In mythology it is said that the hero Theseus was one of the early kings of Athens and began his reign shortly after slaying the ferocious Minotaur. Athenian politics would evolve into a early form of democracy in 550 BCE. The Athenian system of democracy was set up as a direct democratic process in which the population was able to vote directly on legislation. However, only men who had completed their military service were actually allowed to vote or participate, which would constitute about 20% of the total population. Despite restrictions such as these, Athenian democracy was remarkable y successful and well maintained. It is for this reason that Athens is often considered “The Birthplace of Democracy”.

In addition to being the birthplace of democracy, Athens is also considered the cradle of western civilization. This is due to their progress in the fields of philosophy, literature and even architecture. Athens was the heart of ancient philosophy. It was the location of Plato’s Academy as well as Aristotle’s  Lyceum. Athens was also the home of the famous Socrates as well as other influential philosophers such as Diogenes and Epicurus. Philosophy took great strides in Athens.

Greece Versus Rome: Polybius Decides

by on July 17, 2019

By Ben Potter, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
It is the eternal question for all classics enthusiasts: brawn versus brains, power versus beauty, empire versus empiricism – Rome versus Greece.
Which team do you support?
Picture of Athens

Which is better? Greece or Rome? Illustration of Ancient Athens

Of course the equation is far, far more complex than that. Indeed, most of the choices listed above are somewhere on the spectrum between ridiculously oversimplified or downright wrong; too false to even make a false dichotomy.

Can History Incite HATE? Should it be Censored?

by on July 16, 2019

***The Dialectics is an exciting new section of Classical Wisdom. Taken from our weekly newsletters, it delves into the discourses our Classical Wisdom community is having about ancient and modern topics. The idea is to use our knowledge of the ancient world, as well as the logical and philosophical methods at our disposal to investigate important issues, whether they are current, theoretical or ethical.
Feel free to contribute to the conversation in the comments section below. We only ask you address the ideas, and not the people. This isn’t a space for ad hominem approaches.***

It’s a time for Discourse…

I thought I had it all figured out. I thought it was simple. I was wrong.
You see, I’ve always believed strongly that we just need to teach history so as not to repeat past mistakes. “Lest we forget” and all that. The dark, dirty secrets that had been swept under the rug should be brought out, and under the bright, honest and searing light, seen for what they really are. Genocides, dictatorships, corruptions, illegal detentions and internments… There’s no country in the world that doesn’t have a few nasty skeletons in the closet, a fact many have still not accepted.

The myth of Jason and the Argonauts

by on July 16, 2019

Imagine a group of superheroes, each with their own special power, traveling around on wild, improbable adventures. There is the guy who can fly, another with super strength and yet another fellow with a secret, unbeatable weapon. And of course there is also the captain of the team, usually an “all around good guy” who’s almost an everyman… if it wasn’t for his quick-witted thinking and problem solving.
This is the Argonauts, a fantastic ancient Greek gang, complete with a cool name and trusty boat to speed them on their way.
myth of jason and the argonauts

Jason and the Argonauts

The main man leading the group is Jason. In his cadre of killers are famous myth makers such as the Boreads (sons of Boreas, the North Wind) who could fly, Heracles, Philoctetes, Peleus, Telamon, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, Atalanta, and Euphemus.
Their mission? To help Jason take his rightful place as king. To accomplish this quest, however, the band of heroes must fetch the golden fleece…. which is hung from a tree in the grove of the Colchian Ares, guarded night and day by a dragon that never sleeps.

Give Me My Eagles Back, Give Me My Regiments Back Again!

by on July 12, 2019

By Benjamin Welton, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Painting of the battle of Teutoburg

Varusschlacht by Otto Albert Koch

The great British novelist, poet, and World War I veteran Robert Graves created one of the most agonizing scenes in fiction when, in his 1934 novel I, Claudius, he portrays a grieving Emperor Augustus crying to the ghost of his general Publius Quinctilius Varus:
“Varus, Varus / Give me my three Eagles back! / Lord Augustus tore his bedclothes, / Blankets , sheet and counterpane. / “Varus, Varus, General Varus, / Give my Regiments back again!”
In the ballad that Emperor Claudius recalls so well, Augustus mourns the loss of the Nineteenth, Twenty-Fifth, and Twenty-Sixth Regiments and their battle standards. These fine soldiers, who were some of the best representatives of Rome’s martial spirit and ironclad discipline, were the victims of an incredibly successful German ambush that occurred in A.D. 9. The leader of the German tribesmen, Arminius, became a hero, while the Roman war machine became suddenly vulnerable.

The Humours of Hippocrates: Which one are you?

by on July 10, 2019

The Four Humors Illustration

Four Humors Drawing by Granger

If you had assumed that the theory of ‘humours’ had been unanimously relegated to the ‘didn’t work’ shelf of ancient philosophy, then… perhaps you’d be wrong. It appears that Hippocrates’ concept of a four chemical system that affect behavior is enjoying a bit of a revival.
Recently the New York Times posted an article called, “Could Ancient Greek Philosophy Help You Work Smarter and Better”, advocating “Humourism” and apparently it’s making the rounds. For those who want a recap, Humourism or humoralism, conceives that there are four basic fluids in the body; blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile, and that different levels of these fluids, or humors, affect our personalities.
While Hippocrates (460 – c. 370 BC) is usually credited with the theory, the concept has more ancient roots, including ancient Egypt and perhaps even Mesopotamia. Specifically, the medical theorist Alcmaeon of Croton (C. 540–500BC) outlined the idea, though with many substances, and the Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Empedocles (c. 494 – c. 434 BC) believed that there were only four temperaments composed of natural elements like water, air, fire and earth.