About Ancient Greece
About Its spirit
Ancient Greece is a so attractive county that attracts many people, including me. The first time I get in touch with Greece was the history class I took in middle school. In those days, I just knew Greece was a large country in history and very powerful. The only thing it attracted me then was it is different from China, and nothing more. I guess perhaps the history book was so dull that covered the brilliant of Greece. Otherwise, I was too young then. The second time I touched it, when I was much more experienced. That is when I was a high school student in the third year. By then, I learned many things that had a strong effect on me and I began to understand many things. I read Greek Myths and Legends, the simplified edition. In it, I was not just reading the interesting stories; I read more than the papers said to me. What a splendid world it right represented! The way the people lives. The way they thought. The society is so good. The hero is so heroic. Everything in it seemed
to be perfect. And if you think it over, you will find how great the Greek was. In myths and legends, people often talk about the nation's spirit. And you can see from it the Greek's Spirit: good, strong, enjoy life much and full of explore spirit. I began interested in Greece. One of my friends is quiet good at ancient Greece and Roman, He told me much about the great achievement the Greeks made.
Greece was so large a country that is covered Africa, Europe and Asia. Its race spirit is very different from any race in the world, in the past, now and forever. They feel the upset parts of life. Perhaps because they suffered more than other races, which made them have this spirit. Because they could enjoy life fully, they found many things out. Other races can't, now and forever, do as the Greeks did, because of the less of spirit energy. I was learning English when I read Greek Myths and Legends. I'm more interested in science though. Later I learned that Greece "found" science. I think I could say this way. No other race made such achievements in such a short time, and never will. Before them, science was quite poor. But they found science and carried it forward. They put science into different categories. People after them followed them and developed to today's condition. If there had not been Greeks, we'd live in wooden house and moves around on foot. Also in other aspects, Greeks was the model of all races. Their art are considered never could be done again. Philosophy stems from Greek and always based on them, and shall never change. Greek's spirit of innovation made their ideas spread wide and covered quite a part of human's spiritual world. Besides these great achievements, Greeks also enjoyed life much. That would surprise you. Their epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry and many other entertainments were quite noble than other races. Greece has so many splendid things that I can't (not only me, but all the people can't) put it in a very short composition. So let's go into the Greek world:Social and Political
The society of Eastern world is quite different from Western world. This was caused by two countries perhaps: China and Ancient Greece. From the very beginning of civilization, China developed a despotic democratic system. This has a profound and lasting effect on Eastern and Western worlds. Almost all the countries in Eastern were the despotic system and almost all the countries in Western were the democratic system. So at different history times, Eastern and Western worlds has relevant development and different from each other. China's despotic once made China the most powerful country in the world. But now, China's despotic made us fall behind and developed slower. I am quite surprised to find that Greece had its democratic system so many years ago. Though only the adult male citizens had the right. I think it is democratic enough for politics. In my opinion, in those years because of the condition, women, children and slaves are much more pedestal. That was a very democratic
society. Chinese now are pursuing democratic society. It is quite a good example on how to make a fairer society. Even today, China's level of democratic is not as good as it in Greece so many years ago. I'm, to some extent, jealous of Greeks to had a nicer society. This made the Greeks the bravest race. We shouldn't criticize Greece to had slavery. For in those years, any country must have slavery to live on and the most important reason is that slavery was a good thing in those years slavery was suitable for the development of economy and the whole country. Greece developed to be so powerful in those years when there were no modern weapons. This society is not a suppress society for almost everybody and it quite encouraged many people to develop what they were interested in and what they wanted very badly. Perhaps this is why the Greeks developed much faster in almost every field: science, art, philosophy and so on and so on.
History of a country is often a vivid collection of interesting stories. Greece was no other. Many people all over the world know their history. Don't you know Troy War? Don't you know Olympic Games? Don't you know Alexander? … If you do not know any of these, the ones who heard this will probably tease you. The most important event that happened in Greek history is around 1200 B.C., the war between Greece and Troy. Troy was a rich city on the Asiatic side of the Aegean. Troy failed the war and
Greeks killed all Troy people. Greeks were quite just toward history affairs. In china we would probably only praise the heroes at our side, and in many other countries. But Greeks didn't think this way and they praise Troy heroes as well as their own, without any disturb from the bad things that Troy people had done to them. They praise Hector as well as Achilles. Troy was on a very good bay that surrounded by all kinds of obstacles. Because of this, Greeks had difficult to conquer this city.
After ten years, Ulysses thought out a solution. He ordered several soldiers to hide into a big wooden horse. And they left a slave and the big horse to Troy, pretending to sail home. When they went far, Troy people went out to assail the slave. The slave said he had a quarrel with the Greeks and they didn't want him to go with them. As the Greeks went home, they produce the big horse as a to Neptune, so as to secure a safe voyage back to Greece. Troy people thought if they put the big horse in their city, Neptune would be offended and would drown the Greeks. But in the deep night, the soldiers that hide in the horse went out and let all Greek army went in. Greeks killed everybody in Troy city except Helen, the one who was considered the most beautiful woman in the world and the one who caused the war. Don't you know Troy Horse?
In the 5th century B.C., Greek culture reached a rather high point of development. The successful repulse of the Persian invasion early in the century, the establishment of democracy and the flourishing of science, philosophy, literature, art, and history writing in Athens marked this. At the end of the century, there was a civil war between Athens and Sparta. Then, Alexander born. He was a genius in wars and was born to bring the whole Greece under control. Not only this, his army conquered large areas of Europe, Asia and Africa, spreading Greek culture wherever they found themselves. Unfortunately, Romans conquered Greece in 146 B.C. The Greek race disappeared. But by that time, Greek culture had firmly established itself in much of eastern and Western Europe and northern Africa, with flourishing centers of Greek learning.
Is there any silly poet who does not know Greek? Is there any silly poet who doesn't know Homer? Homer's poetry is very beautiful. Homer was the author of Greek epics. The Iliad and the Odyssey have survived after so many years. And in them you can read not only the history stories but also the art of writing. Homer has a good influence on poets all over the world. Many famous poets declared they learned many things, spirit and more from Homer's poetry. Homer lived around 700 B.C. But he wrote about great men and wars of a remoter age, in the period 1200-1100 B.C. Homer's epics were not the only poetry that Greeks had written. There are other forms, such as lyrics. Today readers still admire two lyric poets of the time: Sappho and Pindar. Sappho (about 612-580 B.C.) was a woman poet of Lesbos. She was considered to be the most important lyric poet of ancient Greece. She and Homer were probably the same as 李白 and 杜甫 in China. But in the 10th century the Christian church burned her works. Only fragments remain. Then came Pindar (about518-438 B.C.) who is best known for his odes celebrating the victories at the athletic games. And he also has great effect on poetry history. The 17th-century English poet John Dryden was one of his followers.
Greek poetry is another inflection of its nation spirit. In the poetries, the theme was often to praise courage, honest, wisdom and many other noble things. In poetry those thing are more brilliant the ever and giver out light not only to the ancient Greeks, but also to us, people who live in modern society. The heroes, the great things, the good nice words will never loss its attraction. Greek poetries survived so many years, yet still admired by many readers today, which surely proved its value.
I don't quite skilled at the field of drama. But for drama's important position, I must say something concerning on it. The Greeks started to perform plays at religious festival. Actors wore masks and performed in open-air theatres. The audience sitting on stone benches and looking down at the stage from three sides. There were several great drama writers. Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.) wrote plays like Prometheus Bound, Persians and Agamemnon. Though there are only two actors and a chorus, it managed to stir and move the audience. Aeschylus showed heroes and heroines in complicated human situations, out of which there is no escape but death. The plays are written in verse and can be treat as poetry. Sophocles (496-406 B.C.) was another important drama writer who wrote plays like Oedipus the king, Electra, and Antigone. He was quite skilled at the art of tragic. He added a third actor and decreased the size of the chorus. Oedipus the King has a perfect plot. It described a quite touching story. A king and his wife had a son. A predictor said the boy would kill his father and marry his mother. They send the boy away, but the boy grew quite well for some reason and knew the prediction. He didn't believe it and came homeward. By almost an accident, he killed a man who was his father and marred the queen. When he found out that, the man he killed was his father and the queen is his mother. He stabled out his eyes and his mother hanged herself. "The Oedipus Complex" is quite a question for human and no one can solve it. This is a most attractive part of his drama art. Euripides (484-406 B.C). He was a realist and wrote mainly about women in plays such as Andromache, Medea, and Trojan Women. There is also comedy in those days. Aristophanes (about450-380 B.C.) was the best comedy writer, who left eleven plays, including frogs, clouds, wasps, and birds. Swift says of him is " As for comic Aristophanes, The dog too witty and too profane is". Greeks drama was so splendid too!
Art with its no words languages is telling us the splendid of Greece and the great spirit of Greeks. It is a visual proof of Greek civilization. The art of Greeks is considered never to be made again both its shape and the spirit in it. Greek people are much more enjoyed life than any of us. The whole nation had the same spirit: we should be happy for any shake. This made them never to be surmounted by those races that do not understand the meaning of life. Every person lived in ancient Greece seemed to be happy. This can explain why there is only on "Venus de Mil" in the world for centuries of years and why must the Greeks have made it. Venus is the most famous art works. It was discovered in the island of Milo in 1820. In artistic circles everyone knew it quite well for the broken arms. This ancient sculpture has been considered to be the symbol of beauty, grace and health, a personification of vitality and dignity. Art proved itself in Architecture. Greek architecture has three styles: The Doric style is sturdy, powerful, severe looking and showing a good sense of proportions and numbers. The Ionic style is graceful and elegant and often shows a wealth of ornament. The Corinthian style is known for its ornamental luxury. There were famous temples: the Acrpolis at Athens (437-432 B.C.) and the Parthenon(447-432 B.C.) are the finest monument of Greek architecture and sculpture in more than 2000 years. The ancient Greek pottery is another art form. Their varying shapes and beautiful figures painted on them showed the high degree of Greek civilization. The subject of those painting ranged from everyday scenes to animals and figures in Iliad and Odyssey. You will find something if you saw them.
Western Philosophy dated from Greek Philosophy. They set subject on finding what is the universe real is and the things behind those things we feel, see, smell…That is quite different from China's which most concerning on how to operate and how to perform…There were many great thinkers in ancient Greece. Heracleitue (about 540-480 B.C.) believed fire to be the primary element of the universe. Everything had arisen from fire. To him "all is flux, nothing is stationery". You must hear his words: "You cannot step twice into the same river, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you. The sun is new everyday. The greatest names in European philosophy are Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. They were active in Athens in the 5th and 4th century B.C. In Chinese we say " 名师出高徒"(If the teacher good, the student will good too). That is it. Socrates taught Plato and Plato taught Aristotle. Socrates was recorded by Plato in the famous Dialogues. Socrates was very skilled in talking and made enemies with it. In 399 B.C., at the age of seventy Socrates was put on trial on a charge of "injuring the city" by not acknowledging it gods and corrupting the young. Socrates didn't fear death and thought death to be a good thing for person. Plato (about 428-348 B.C) built up a comprehensive system of philosophy. It dealt with, among other things, the problem of how, in the complex, ever-changing world, men were to attain knowledge. He gave reply: men have knowledge because of the existence of certain
general "ideas:" like beauty, truth, goodness. Plato's philosophy is called Idealism. Aristotle (384-322 B.C) was born in a medical family in the small town of Stagire. He studied in Plato's Academy for many years. He was once Alexander's tutor and In 355 he retired to Athens to found his own school and spend his last years teaching and researching.
First let me say something not severely. I heard that the first closestool is invented by Greeks, but no detailed information. We found a closestool in Greece time that was much older than the one we considered the first one. In that time some small countries had nuclear bomb. And ancient Atlantic was destroyed by nuclear bomb. These haven't been proved yet.Now let us go into the severe part of ancient Greek science.
In my opinion, Greek science is the most attractive part of Greece achievements. They created the most basic scientific subjects and did the most important search that enabled later scientists like Newton, etc. to do their work. Never later there had been any nation that made such great achievements. Plato was a mathematician while Aristotle contributed to zoology. After them, Greek science made further advances. We all learned Archimedes Theorem in middle school. Archimedes (287-212 B.C) did important work not only in geometry, but also in arithmetic, mechanics and hydrostatics. He invented machines, which greatly helped his native city Syracuse against Romans. You must hear the words he said, "Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world". A modern historian of science concludes:" This represents a sum of mathematical achievement unsurpassed by any on man in the world's history". Pythagoras (about 580-500 B.C) was the founder of scientific mathematics. Democritus (about 460-370 B.C.) speculated about the atomic structure of matter. He was one of the earliest exponents of the atomic theory.
Ancient Greece science has great good effect on science developing both in the past and now. Many times human made great improvement in science field just by carrying on Greek science a little. We should review great Greece's great science achievement, not just it's physical achievements, but also the spirit in it: The explore spirit and the spirit of innovation. These spirits in Greeks' mind seemed to be naturally formed, but it is hard to gain for all of us.
For all these reasons, I can't put it in such a very short composition all over. The Greeks' spirit is brilliant for all their splendid achievements. They are neat at almost any field based on its spirit.
Why all these belonged to Greece? For some extent, the barren islands made it. We know that Greeks lived on certain islands in the Mediterranean Sea. In those years the islands were not as barren as today. But you can find that Greece was a federal
system country, which made up by many smaller countries. These small countries had the same situation. They all had a or several islands and these islands are not very big. This made these countries weak. The islands became too barren some time. They had to move around. After hundreds of years' emigrating and immigrating, they form the firm spirit of explore. And when they came to other island. Probably there were already people there. How should the earlier people accept them? They must give goods and interests to the island owner to gain the right to live on the island. This made the Greeks to understand the suffering go life more. If they did not have anything to offer, or after the offering the island owner would not accept them. There probably would be a war to decide if they could stay. Battles were quite common in those years that made the Greeks to be extremely courage. For all of these, Greece grew to a splendid country and Greeks became the most civilized people in those years.
Ancient Greece is Ancient Greece, not modern Greece. It went dead. NO! NEVER! Greeks went to tombs, their body rotted, their houses ruined, their belongings never to be found again… But they never dead. Their nation disappeared, but they never dead. All over the world, you can see a great deal of fans of Ancient Greece, they love Ancient Greece, followed the Ancient Greeks' way of living, thinking, working and also its spirit. The Ancient Greece never dead, its great spirit is admired by all nations all over the world and all the outstanding persons somehow have some quality of Ancient Greek, even if they do not noticed it.
Greek Myths and Legends, 学苑出版社,1995.
European Culture: An Introduction, Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.