Classical Greece and the Hellenistic Period - tep.engr.tu ... The accomplishments of the Greeks

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  • #Classical Greece and the Hellenistic Period 3

    preview

    By the time Aeschylus took first prize in a drama competition

    for his renowned Oresteia trilogy in 458 bce, the stories of the Heroic Age from which it

    sprang were hundreds of years old and as familiar to the Greeks as their own namesstories

    of King Agamemnon and the divine Achilles, of blood revenge and the wrath of the gods. It

    was not the first time Aeschylus had won. In 472 bce he was awarded the same prize for a

    play whose subject hit much closer to homeThe Persians. Performed just eight years after

    the Greeks defeated Xerxes I, it is the earliest surviving play by Aeschyluss hand and the only

    Greek tragedy we have that describes a historical event that would have occurred in the recent

    memory of the audience. Herodotus would write his Histories three decades later based on

    information he had gathered from many sources, but Aeschylus had been there. He fought in

    the Battle at Marathon with his brother, who was killed. And he fought again10 years later

    in the decisive naval battle of Salamis that turned the tide of the prolonged conflict in favor of

    the Greeks. Like Herodotus in his account of the Persian defeat, Aeschylusthrough the voices

    of characters including the ghost of Xerxess dead father, Dariusattributes the loss to hubris

    that unleashed the anger of the gods. (The theme of hubris also would be an undercurrent in

    Agamemnon, the first of the three plays of the Oresteia).

    As much as it describes the tragic circumstances of war, The Persians exalts the strength

    and spirit of the Greek alliance and glorifies the city-state of Athensjust coming into its

    Golden Age with a renewed sense of pride and determination to rebuild its temples and reaffirm

    its democratic values. Spearheading the postwar campaign was the statesman Pericles (Fig. 3.1),

    under whose leadership Athens reached its peak in the arts, literature, and philosophy. Perhaps

    significantly, Pericles had been the choregos for The Persiansin effect, the producer. He paid

    for the chorus preparations and other production expenses that the state did not cover and, in

    so doing, granted his services to the polis and the people. He was wealthy and could do it; the

    reward was an honorific that confirmed Pericless standing among the elite.

    Aeschylus died just a few years after the Oresteia was performed to great acclaim, but

    the inscription on his tomb makes no mention of the many accolades bestowed upon him

    as the Father of Greek Tragedy. Rather, it is the epitaph of a warrior: Beneath this stone

    lies Aeschylus, son of Euphorion, the Athenian, who perished in the wheat-bearing land of

    Gela; of his noble prowess the grove of Marathon can speak, and the long-haired [Persian]

    knows it well.

    3.1 Cresilas, Pericles,

    2nd century BCE. Marble,

    23" (58.5 cm) high. British

    Museum, London, United

    Kingdom. This portrait bust

    of the Athenian statesman

    Pericles (ca. 490429 BCE) is

    said to be from Hadrians villa

    at Tivoli, Italy.

    Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has

    deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.

  • 80 | CHAPTER 3 Classical Greece and the Hellenistic Period

    1. C. S. Henshilwood et al. A 100,000-year-old ochre-processing

    workshop at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Science 334, no. 6053 (2011):

    219222.

    Classical Greece and the Hellenistic Period

    500 450 404 323 146

    BCE BCE BCE BCE BCE

    Classical Period Hellenistic Period

    The Delian League forms;

    beginning of Athenian empire

    Pericles comes to prominence

    at Athens

    The treasury of the Delian

    League is moved to Athens

    Pericles commissions work on

    the Acropolis

    Pericles is in full control of

    Athens until his death in 429

    from a plague that devastates

    Athens

    The Peloponnesian War begins

    431

    Sophocles writes Oedipus the

    King

    Athens falls to Sparta 404

    The Thirty Tyrants rule

    Athens r. 404403

    Socrates is executed in 339

    Thebes ascends

    Phillip II rules Macedon

    r. 359-336

    Alexanders successors vie for

    power

    Pergamum becomes an

    independent kingdom

    Eomenes II rules Pergamon

    r. 197-159

    Romans sack Corinth in 146;

    Greece becomes a Roman

    province

    classical civilization

    in ancient greece

    The victories in the Persian Wars produced a new spirit of

    optimism and unity in Greece. Divine forces, it appeared, had

    guaranteed the triumph of right over wrong. There seemed

    to be no limit to the possibilities of human achievement.

    The accomplishments of the Greeks in the Classical period,

    which lasted from 479 bce to the death of Alexander the

    Great in 323 bce, do much to justify the Greeks pride and

    self-confidence. The period represents an apogee of civili-

    zation that has rarely, if ever, been reached sinceone that

    continues to inspire our own culture.

    Classical civilization reached its peak in Athens during

    the last half of the fifth century bce, a time of unparalleled

    richness in artistic and intellectual achievement that is often

    called the Golden Age of Greece. Athenians were pioneers

    in drama and historiography, town planning and medi-

    cine, painting and sculpture, mathematics and government.

    Their contributions to the development of Western culture

    not only became the foundation for later achievements but

    have endured, and their importanceand exceptionality

    is continually validated. Greek tragedies are still read and

    performed, because the experience of these works is as emo-

    tionally intense and intellectually satisfying as anything in

    the Western dramatic tradition.

    The Classical Ideal

    The rich legacy that is Greece did not take root amid tran-

    quility; the Athenians of the golden age lived not in an envi-

    ronment of calm contemplation but in a world of tension

    and violence. Their tragic inability to put noble ideals into

    practice and live in peace with other Greeksthe darker side

    of their geniusproved fatal to their independence; it led to

    war with the rest of Greece in 431 bce and to the fall of Ath-

    ens in 404 bce. In this context, the Greek search for order

    takes on an added significance. The belief that the quest for

    reason and order could succeed gave a unifying ideal to the

    immense and varied output of the Classical period. The cen-

    tral principle of this Classical ideal was that existence could

    be ordered and controlled, that human ability could triumph

    over the apparent chaos of the natural world and create a

    balanced society. In order to achieve this equilibrium, indi-

    vidual human beings should try to stay within what seem

    to be reasonable limits, for those who do not are guilty of

    hubristhe same hubris of which the Persian leader Xerxes

    was guilty and for which he paid the price. The aim of life

    should be a perfect balance: everything in due proportion

    and nothing in excess. Nothing too much was one of the

    most famous Greek proverbs, and the word moderation

    appears in many texts.

    The emphasis that the Classical Greeks placed on order

    affected their spiritual attitudes. Individuals could achieve

    order, they believed, by understanding why people act as

    they do and, above all, by understanding the motives for

    their own actions. Thus confidence in the power of both

    human reason and human self-knowledge was as important

    as belief in the gods. The greatest of all Greek temples of

    the Classical periodthe Parthenon, which crowned the

    Athenian Acropolis (Fig. 3.2)was planned not so much

    to honor the goddess Athena as to glorify Athens and thus

    human achievement. Even in their darkest days, the Classical

    Greeks never lost sight of the magnitude of human capabil-

    ity and, perhaps even more important, human potentiala

    vision that has returned over the centuries to inspire later

    generations and has certainly not lost its relevance in our

    own times.

    Golden Age Late Classical Period

    Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has

    deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.

  • Classical Civilization in Ancient Greece | 81

    The political and cultural center of Greece during the

    first half of the Classical period was Athens. Here, by the

    end of the Persian Wars in 479 bce, the Athenians had

    emerged as the most powerful people in the Greek world.

    For one thing, their role in the defeat of the Persians had

    been decisive. For another, their democratic system of gov-