Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Brief History of Greece

The Classical and Hellenistic eras of Greece are undoubtedly the most splendid, having left behind a host of ideas and art that provide the foundation of “western civilization”. After the dark ages of Europe, the “Renaissance”, was named by historians in the mid 19th century to describe the rebirth of ideas, philosophies, and culture from the classical period.

Ancient Greek Art

Greek architecture permeates monuments and buildings around the world. Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian styles holding up a pediment based roof or creating column lined walkways can be found throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, and even Africa. Likewise, sculpture emerged as a visual expression of the human body and spirit, driven by the free discussion of sexuality found in Greek writing.

Ancient Greek Thought

Greek scholars and teachers develop the concept of philosophy, "love of wisdom," as great philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle emphasize the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of the knowledge itself. They believed that this knowledge would help people to live happy and worthwhile lives. Anaxagoras (500-428 BC) introduced dualistic explanation of the universe, that the universe consists of living and non-living matters (organic and inorganic). He developed the concept of nous (reason), which he considered as an infinite and unchanging substance that entered into and controlled every living object. This concept of eternal substance was later adopted in formulating the doctrines of Christianity during the Ecumenical Councils of Churches.

Pythagoras stressed the importance of form rather than matter in explaining material structure. - leading to the development of the Pythagorean Theorem and the evolution of Trigonometry.

Socrates led the Greek people to consider fundamental questions such as:
  •   What is the purpose of your life? 
  •   What is good? 
  •   What is justice? 
His insistence on understanding ethics and his teaching of critical thought, led to his downfall. I wonder if he realized the irony of his belief that all corruption is the result of ignorance, and that no person is willingly bad, when Politicians, threatened by a free thinking society, forced him to drink hemlock, a deadly poison.

Plato, a student of Socrates, continued Socrates focus on ethics and used fictitious dialogue in books like The Republic to express his beliefs. Aristotle, was one of the students who studied under Plato. Extending Socrates thirst for understanding, he believed that people should examine, describe, and classify as many forms of life as possible, because it is important to have scientific knowledge. Aristotle stated that the universe consists of four elements, fire, air, earth, and water, plus a fifth element that exists everywhere and is the sole constituent of the heavenly bodies "above" the moon.

As you can see, Greek scholars and artists formed a strong foundation for Western civilization. This perspective will make your exploration of Greece much more fascinating.

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