Going greek

Hatzis September Modern Greece has a history of almost two centuries. During these centuries, the country managed to move from the backwaters of Europe to a prosperous liberal democracy before economic crisis hit the country hard in Greece was founded after a War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire that was based on liberal and democratic principles. This left a political legacy which led to universal male suffrage as early as and one of the longest parliamentary histories in Europe, despite the tumultuous political life and brief periods of authoritarian regimes.

Going greek

Then philosophy migrated from every direction to Athens itself, at the center, the wealthiest commercial power and the most famous democracy of the time [ note ]. Socrates, although uninterested in wealth himself, nevertheless was a creature of the marketplace, where there were always people to meet and where he could, in effect, bargain over definitions Going greek than over prices.

Similarly, although Socrates avoided participation in democratic politics, it is hard to imagine his idiosyncratic individualism, and the uncompromising self-assertion of his defense speech, without either wealth or birth to justify his privileges, occurring in any other political context.

If a commercial democracy like Athens provided the social and intellectual context that fostered the development of philosophy, we might expect that philosophy would not occur in the kind of Greek city that was neither commercial nor democratic.

As Going greek happens, the great rival of Athens, Sparta, was just such a city. Sparta had a peculiar, oligarchic constitution, with two kings and a small number of enfranchised citizens.

Frequently bought together

Most of the subjects of the Spartan state had little or no political power, and many of them were helots, who were essentially held as slaves and could be killed by a Spartan citizen at any time for any reason -- annual war was formally declared on the helots for just that purpose.

The whole business of the Spartan citizenry was war. Unlike Athens, Sparta Going greek no nearby seaport. It was not engaged in or interested in commerce. It had no resident alien population like Athens -- there was no reason for foreigners of any sort to come to Sparta. Spartan citizens were allowed to possess little money, and Spartan men were expected, officially, to eat all their meals at a common mess, where the food was legendarily bad -- all to toughen them up.

Spartans had so little to say that the term "Laconic," from Laconia, the environs of Sparta, is still used to mean "of few words" -- as "Spartan" itself is still used to mean simple and ascetic. While this gave Sparta the best army in Greece, regarded by all as next to invincible, and helped Sparta defeat Athens in the Peloponnesian Warwe do not find at Sparta any of the accoutrements otherwise normally associated with Classical Greek civilization: Socrates would have found few takers for his conversation at Sparta -- and it is hard to imagine the city tolerating his questions for anything like the thirty or more years that Athens did.

Next to nothing remains at the site of Sparta to attract tourists the nearby Mediaeval complex at Mistra is of much greater interestwhile Athens is one of the major tourist destinations of the world.

Indeed, we basically wouldn't even know about Sparta were it not for the historians e. Thucydides and philosophers e. Plato and Aristotle at Athens who write about her. In the end, philosophy made the fortune of Athens, which essentially became the University Town of the Roman Empire only Alexandria came close as a center of learning ; but even Sparta's army eventually failed her, as Spartan hegemony was destroyed at the battle of Leuctra in by the brilliant Theban general Epaminondas,who killed a Spartan king, Cleombrotus, for the first time since King Leonidas was killed by the Persians at Thermopylae in A story about Thales throws a curious light on the polarization between commercial culture and its opposition.

It was said that Thales was not a practical person, sometimes didn't watch where he was walking, fell into a well according to Platowas laughed at, and in general was reproached for not taking money seriously like everyone else.

Finally, he was sufficiently irked by the derision and criticisms that he decided to teach everyone a lesson. By studying the stars according to Aristotlehe determined that there was to be an exceptionally large olive harvest that year.

Borrowing some money, he secured all the olive presses used to get the oil, of course in Miletus, and when the harvest came in, he took advantage of his monopoly to charge everyone dearly.

After making this big financial killing, Thales announced that he could do this anytime and so, if he otherwise didn't do so and seemed impractical, it was because he simply did not value the money in the first place.

This story curiously contains internal evidence of its own falsehood. One cannot determine the nature of the harvest by studying the stars; otherwise astrologers would make their fortunes on the commodities markets, not by selling their analyses to the public [ note ]. So if Thales did not monopolize the olive presses with the help of astrology, and is unlikely to have done what this story relates, we might ask if he was the kind of impractical person portrayed in the story in the first place.

It would not seem so from all the other accounts we have about him. The tendency of this evidence goes in two directions: First, Thales seems to engage in activities that would be consistent with any other Milesian engaged in business. The story about him going to Egypt, although later assimilated to fabulous stories about Greeks learning the mysteries of the Egyptians who don't seem to have had any such mysteries, and would not have been teaching them to Greeks anywayis perfectly conformable to what many Greeks actually were doing in Egypt, i.

Going greek

Indeed, the Greeks had another basic export besides olive oil and wine, and that was warriors. Since the Greek cities fought among themselves all the time, the occasional peace left many of them seeking to continue the wars by other means.

Indeed, the kings relied so heavily on Greek mercenaries, and there were so many Greek traders swarming over Egypt, that considerable tensions arose. The Egyptians basically didn't like foreigners, and the Greeks, although awed by Egypt, also found the Egyptians more than a little strange and ridiculous.

Their references to things Egyptian were sometimes mocking: As a colony, Naucratis was a little unusual, existing under the sovereignty of Egypt, and also because several Greek cities joined in the founding.

As it happened, Miletus was one of the founders of Naucratis. The degree of involvement with Miletus in Egypt thus makes it more than probable that Thales, engaged in the ordinary business of his fellow citizens, would have found himself there, probably more than once.The premier “cheat sheet” for Greek Syntax and Exegesis.

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Going greek

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