GREEK PHILOSOPHY AND MORAL THOUGHT

 

Moral concepts:  Ananke, A/nan/kee—“What has to be”—directed by natural law to a particular fate or condition:  Can’t exceed certain limits, stronger than the gods.

 

Moira (Moy/ra)—pattern of life—each person has, each hero has.  Jigsaw puzzle to solve by actions and choices.  Don’t know outcome in advance.

 

Free will, accident, and divine intervention interact to reach a particular result.

 

Hubris—quote p. 80 Persians:  Overweening pride—take on a role beyond one’s proper nature, aspire to being like one of the gods.  Will be punished by wrath of the gods.  Examples:  Agamemnon, walks on a rich ornate carpet, dye to expensive, only for the gods (lines 620-655).  Tantalus—“tantalize”—a man ate nectar and ambrosia with the gods.  To trick them as fallible (lines 650-65), serves them a banquet with a stew made of his son Pelops.  Gods send Tantalus to Hades to suffer eternal thirst and hunger for his Hubris.

Also in Oedipus Rex—pride in figuring out riddle, thinks knows more than Creon and Teiresias.

 

Nemesis:  Punishment from, revenge of the gods, retaliation for hubris by mere mortals.  Avenging goddess, the principle of retribution.

 

THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR AND OLD COMEDY

 

Pericles:  born of noble family, Cleisthenes, great uncle on mother’s side, well educated.  First elected general-in-chief in 461 b.c.  Re-elected except for two years until death from plague in 429 b.c.  Aspasia, his wife, ex-courtesan—educated, knew music, dancing, conversation.  Unlike most wives, normally not involved in high level social life.  Ran a virtual salon of intellectuals, artists, philosophers, etc., to have “brilliant conversations” together.

Pericles—led popular party (like Julius Caesar), gets Cimon, leader of aristocratic party ostracized (banished).  Started paying archons, then all officers—why democratic?  (No poor serve if don’t).

Aristotle:  20,000 on public payroll.  Poor could now serve in any office—457 b.c.  Pericles’ aggressive foreign policy—like Germany before WWI.  Engaged in foreign conquest, fought Boeotia, Aegean islands, Egypt.  Cimon returns, fights well vs. Persia (449 b.c.).  446 b.c.—Delian League cities recognized as Athens’ possessions by Sparta.  Built Parthenon, inc. Navy’s size.

“Memorial Oration” (read?)

 

Peloponnesian War:  431-404 b.c., cf. WWI, Allies vs. Germany.

 

Main cause of war, Thuc., p. 49, Sparta’s fear of Athenian power.

Immediate cause:  Colony of Epidamus, Democratic faction appeals for help vs. aristocratic faction, pirates.  Corcyra—Main founder, refuses help.  Corinth—leader was founder from there, Epidamus signs itself over to get help.  Corcyra (“upstart” colony, prideful) vs. Corinth (puts Corcyra in place idea—not respected at festivals).  Corinth sends army.  Corcyra sends fleet, sides with aristocratic party, local natives.  Corinth raises volunteers, sends fleet, defeated by Corcyra, who enslaves then kills prisoners who aren’t Cor.  Corcyra afraid of counter-attack, appeals to Athens to its league vs. Sparta’s league.  Athens—if sides with Corcyra, such that has to attack Corinth, WAR will result.

 

Sparta:  Values of endurance, scorn luxuries, firmness.  Helots:  slaves.  Perhaps 500,000 helots vs. 25,000 citizens;  Non-citizens, non-slaves called perioeci (pair-ih-ee-si).  Land owned by govt., if can’t support children, must give back to govt., lose citz.  Citz. couldn’t trade of manuf. (be artisans), only farm, using helots.  Once a year declare war on helots to kill “worst” ones—feared revolts.  Cared by mother until 7, put in co. of 15 under strict disc., ate with them in public dining hall.  Bravest made capt., could punish rest.  At 12, given one outer garment a year.  Reading/writing not nec., but learned Illiad, songs of far, relig., trained in running, wrestling, using weapons.  Could only marry starting age 30, attend meetings of assembly, hold office.  At 60, retired from army.  Taught to be direct, tough, not sensitive.

Spartan women:  ran households, engaged in athletics, in business, some wealthy, influential, owned 2/5 of land.  Ephors elected.  King limited in power, only on campaigns can execute people.

 

Cleon (Athenian):  Spartans surrender when trapped on island, cut off.  Light troops outdo hoplites, rear attack (ala Thermopylae) works.  292 captured alive, 120 officers.

 

Sicilian expedition disaster for Athens:  415-13 b.c., navy, army largely destroyed.

 

Aristophanes:  Comedic playwright.  Conservative, admired Sparta, opposed war and democratic faction.  Compare to Rush Limbaugh.

Like U.S. in Vietnam, losing war at this point, but Athens doesn’t quit.  **Amazing tolerance, freedom of speech—govt. owned, equipped theatre, yet allowed attacks on policies, individuals.

Cf. Don Imus—satirical songs lampooning govt. leaders.  Anti-war play put on by govt. at war!  Better than U.S. in WWI!

 

Lysistrata:  “She who disbands armies.”  Kalonike:  “Dried weed.”  Mirryhine:  Mir-ri-nee—“myrtle wreath”—Euphemism for female genitalia.  Kinesias (“ki/nee/si/as)—husband—name from verb for sexual intercourse.

 

Origins of plays in springtime Dionysian rites—planned, seasonal orgies—celebrate food, drink, sex, sexual pleasure.

Socrates, Apology, text.

 

Put on trial for impiety, corrupting the youth of Athens.  Wisdom:  Consists in knowing that you don’t know!  Oracle at Delphi said wisest man checks out truth . . . so questions people to (he says)  to fulfill oracle’s commands.  Made self unpopular, exposes ignorance of others.  Artisans—think know everything since know own field.  Would hurt self if corrupted others.  Questions Meletus, embarrasses him.  Attacks Aristophanes’ portrayal, denies interest in metaphysics.

Key issue:  must consider in life if doing right or wrong, being a good bad man.  Beware of thinking one knows when one doesn’t.

Gadfly analogy.  Others, not “students,” like hearing arguments, people proved ig.  Use reason, not emotional arguments, in courts, inc. in his case.  38a, “Life without this sort of examination is not worth living,” know thyself idea.  Chooses a secular martyrdom.

 

GREEK THEATER AND TRAGEDY

 

Origins of Theatre in Athens:  A religious place, tied to state, 3 days long, early spring (late March or early April), the Greater Dionysia.  Theater invented by Greeks, c. 534 b.c.  Thespis, leader of acting/theatrical troupe, “Thespians.”

Dances to honor Dionysus become drama.  Somebody added an actor who spoke and didn’t sing to interact with chorus.  Dancers wore masks.  Sophocles—added third actor.

For three days, population sat from sun rise to nearly all day.  Would see 3 tragedies, a short farcical play with satyrs, and a comedy.  Done for three days in a row.  All three tragedies on one day by one man.  Like Super bowl or World Series in importance annually, only it’s politically/philosophically charged.  Theater would hold 14,000-18,000.  Ave. people, even poor given money for tickets, saw plays.

Masks worn by actors, stories’ plots well-known to audience already, mythological/legends.

Needs strong voices, 60 feet to front row, 300 feet to back.  Music, singing important, like Opera or a musical really, not straight drama.  12-15 masked dancers stand on stage throughout.  No curtains or artificial lighting.

 

Aeschylus:  7 of 90 plays survive.  “Preacher,” didactic, wants to raise ethical level of his society.  Moderate politically, aristocrat by birth, brought in some liberal ideas, fought at Marathon.

 

Orestia (O/res/tI/a trilogy:  Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Euminides.   Kly-tem-nes-tra:  Seeks revenges against husband, Agamemnon, for sacrificing daughter to ensure win vs. Troy.  [Molech, in OT, babies sacrificed, Jehovah against].  Iphigeneia (IF/i/je/NI/ya) sacrificed to Diana/Artemis—virgin goddess of hunt, moon.  Agamemnon—returns with Trojan prophetess, Cassandra.  Problem of fate, foreshadowing.  Clytemnestra and her lover Aigisthos (i/Jis-thos) meet him.  She murders her husband as an act of revenge.  Net put over husband in bath so he can’t escape getting hit.

Cassandra:  knows will die by going into palace, yet goes in anyway.  Only Clytemnestra really free—but destructive with freedom.  Old tradition of justice as revenge.  Problem:  Chorus tied to tradition, but Clytemnestra uses freedom in a way that would hurt society.

 

Libation Bearers (transitional play):  Apollo, “a progressive god,” wants mother and her lover killed in an act of justice/revenge for father’s death.  Cf. Hamlet’s situation.  Orestes in similar situation.  But if kills, Furies will attack him, saying (in tribal tradition) if kill family member, should be killed in return.  Choose to kill mother, attacked by Furies, driven from stage.

 

Dilemma of polytheism for men wanting to obey gods:  Gods opposed to each other.  Not situation with Jews, monotheism.

 

Eumenides:  “Gracious Ones”—Orestes on trial.  Furies say can’t let Orestes be unpunished, or children will think they can freely kill parents.

Athena:  has neither a god nor ave. people decide, but makes a jury of citizens to judge.  Apollo:  defense attorney.

Athena:  in speech, shows need balance between anarchy and dictatorship, excessive freedom vs. total control.

Jury returns in a tie vote—Athena breaks tie, lets Orestes go.

Furies turned into Eumenides by efforts of Athena.  New role as defender of city will give them worship and honor.

Ag.:  Ave. people freed from mental bounds of tradition. 

Eum.:  People still need boundaries, parameters for actions, have freedom within limits that don’t hurt others. 

Background of inc. individualism in Athens during “Golden Age,” relativism, skepticism of sophists.

Aeschylus:  wants balance—bottom.

 

Euripides:  Concerned with poor, powerless, oppressed, etc.,  “left-winger,” like Bertolt Brecht, German playwright, who served Communist Party for 30 years.  Portrayed men/women as they are, while Sophocles did as they ought to be.

Portrays Orestes and Electra as cold-blooded murders, Aeschylus uses them as way to teach audience and develop idea of justice, Sophocles portrays Electra as driven mad by indignities heaped on her, a psychological study.

 

E. portrays power of women and hypocrisy in play Medea.  Kills husband, her two sons as Jason, husband, plans to marry someone else.

 

Trojan Women:  No one “wins” a war—brutality emphasized with Troy’s fall, doesn’t glorify the victory.