Greece Ancient Greece Has Been Thoroughly Investigated Essay

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  • Subject: Drama - World
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #38954260

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Ancient Greece has been thoroughly investigated by historical scholars. Some of the most beautiful art and the most intelligent science have come to the population of the world through the work of these ancient thinkers. Ancient Greece was also home of some of the world's most beautiful architecture. They were also the founders of modern philosophy and politics, as well as the basic principles of morality and ethics that modern people accept as fact. At the start of Grecian culture, artists and craftsman were seen as relatively unimportant members of society. In around the year 480 BC, art became far more important as it became clear that through artistic media, stories could be written and legacies historicized.[footnoteRef:1] What is known for a fact about Ancient Greek is limited because, but through the writings and artwork of those that lived so long ago, scholars can piece together an understanding of a truly unique society. [1: Hodge, Susie. Ancient Greek Art. (Heinemann: Chicago. 2006). 6]

Many policies and principles that people accept in the present have their basis in the writings of Ancient Greece. The idea of a democratic government wherein each person has a say in how the government is run stems from the philosophies of the Ancient Greeks; particularly great thinkers Plato and his student Aristotle. In the book Politics, Aristotle writes about how he believes that the center of the political world should be equated with the center of population activity. Consequently, the city would be the center of the political system in a functioning government. Aristotle made famous the concept of politics as a natural organism rather than a machine.[footnoteRef:2] Unlike a machine which can have interchangeable parts which can function without a cohesive system, a political organism functions more fluidly and all the parts of the government system cannot function properly if one of the components is unsuccessful. Aristotle's imagined version of a functioning governmental system is one based on a cohesive organism which was almost a living thing. For Plato, he believed that there was such a thing as an Ideal World and an Ideal Plane of existence. Every person was to have access to the same justice, no matter their financial or social class. According to Plato, the only way a community can function properly is if each person has the same rights and the same chances to achieve happiness. "Injustice causes civil war, hatred, and fighting, while justice brings friendship and a sense of common purpose."[footnoteRef:3] Consequently, all of Plato's writings about politics involved the creation of a government system wherein there would be as little injustice as possible and all citizens would feel satisfied in the belief that they would be treated equally in the eyes of their community and their government. Controversy is the thing that leads to civil unrest and it is this civil unrest which leads to dissatisfaction in the government and eventual war and bloodshed by the individuals who believe that they are being oppressed by an unrepresentative government. In the Republic, Plato asserts not only that civil war and the creation of political factions are the greatest danger to society, both its citizens and to the structure of the city itself, but also that peace which is achieved by the destruction of the foe rather than peaceful resolution can lead to further societal discord.[footnoteRef:4] Those who lose a physical altercation will be far more likely to feel anger about their loss and thus the more likely to eventually create a situation where there will be similar battle at some point in the future, whereas a peace which is led by mediation and compromise is more likely to yield a lasting armistice. [2: Ebenstein, Alan. Introduction to Political Thinkers. (Wadsworth. 2002) 59] [3: Plato. The Republic. ] [4: Plato. The Republic.]

Any discussion of politics must be discussed in terms of the repercussions for breaking laws. The concept of justice is an extremely important one, particularly in the Western World where the determination to ensure that no one is treated unfairly is part of the legal systems in democratic governments. In Aristotle's writings, there are two separate and distinct types of justice; general justice and special justice.[footnoteRef:5] General justice "is concerned with the good of others and, more exactly, with the common good of the political community."[footnoteRef:6] Special justice "is concerned with equality and fairness, and the avoidance of pleonexia, a greedy encroachment on the goods justly assigned to others."[footnoteRef:7] Both of these types have to be assured in the society if there is any hope of the common people being treated with the same amount of justice as those with wealth or who were in positions of power. Aristotle's writings would become the basis for the justice system in the modern western world which is based on his ideas of equal justice despite the social or class label of the individual on trial. [5: Irwin, T.H. Aristotle's First Principles. (Oxford: Clarendon. 1988) page 424] [6: Irwin, Aristotle's First Principles. 424] [7: Irwin, Aristotle's First Principles. 424.]

The religions of Ancient Greece centered on polytheism. Tales of the Greek Gods are told even today, used to illustrate the kind of emotion and reason that was prevalent in the time of the ancients. These stories were most often use as explication or explanation, used by the people to explain certain phenomenon that was not yet explainable by science or reason. They were also used to entertain and to teach the people of Greece how to behave in various situations. Lives of the Greeks were intrinsically linked to these stories and fables. According to historian Sarah Pomeroy:

Among agricultural people, the relationship of mortals to immortals revolves around the continuum of the fertility of the land and animals. To appease the gods, who can bestow or take away the blessings of nature at will, the people make communal displays of respect, including sacrifices of food and animals and, in some cultures, even humans. The larger and more complex the society becomes, the more elaborate the displays…They honored their gods with processions, music, and dance, and propitiated them with gifts and sacrifices. The slaughter and butchering of animals on outdoor altars was the most solemn of rituals.[footnoteRef:8] [8: Pomeroy, Sarah B. Ancient Greece: a Political, Social, and Cultural History. (New York: Oxford. 1999). ]

Religion was an important aspect of nearly every part of life for the Greeks. What was especially remarkable in the Greek culture was that the female deities had almost as much power as their male counterparts. Although the three strongest gods were all males: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, there were female gods who were just as powerful and just as dangerous. The queen of the Gods, Hera, was capable of changing the color of animals and punishing women who slept with her husband. Athena, goddess of wisdom, was adept at strategy and capable of warfare against even the strongest male adversaries. She was so important that the major city of Greece, now its capital, was named Athens in her honor.[footnoteRef:9] Those that worshipped at the cult of Athena would utilize her teachings even in the construction of her temple, thus the design features logically straight line and aesthetics based on geometry. [9: Jenkins, Ian. Greek Architecture and its Sculpture. (British Museum Press: London. 2006). ]

Besides sacrificing to ensure the harvest or end an illness, religious iconography can be seen in Grecian art, pottery, and architecture. Few of the buildings constructed during the times of the ancients in Greece, but those that still stand are testaments to the focus on beauty of the olden days. "Architecture especially served religion, which became the most important means of control, for it identified the will of the ruler with the will of the gods. Vast wealth and increased population allowed battles to be fought on a large scale by well-organized armies; and war progressed from spontaneous actions inspired by revenge or greed for booty into deliberate campaigns of punishment or conquest by one ruler against another."[footnoteRef:10] Some of the most beautiful of the buildings erected were altars and temples built to honor the Gods and Goddesses. Other buildings, like the famed Parthenon feature images of the same gods and goddesses on the famed entranceway.[footnoteRef:11] Each of the buildings had to be blessed by the Gods and part of the attempt to engender this blessing was to appease the Gods through panegyric depictions of the religious icons. Besides architecture, Grecian artists would paint pictures and creating pottery, all of which would show scenes from different mythological stories. There were a variety of media at their disposal. Specifically: [10: Pomeroy, Sarah B. Ancient Greece: a Political, Social, and Cultural History. (New York: Oxford. 1999). ] [11: Dinsmoor, William Bell & William James Anderson. The Architecture of Ancient Greece: an Account of its Historic Development. (Biblo: New York. 1928). ]

Greek artists painted on walls, wood or marble panels, terracotta slabs, and sometimes pieces of ivory, leather, parchment, papyrus, or linen. Wood was…

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