There are influences and contributions found throughout the world. One such example is through the ancient Greeks. During the period of ancient Greece there were several intelligent men whose theories and ideas helped lead to these great
contributions. They are now known as the Greek philosophers. These philosophers include, Heraclitus, Pericles, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The Greeks were seemingly much ahead of their time through their beliefs and interest. An as a result, they greatly influenced our society and world today.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Greeks to society is democracy. By definition democracy means: a government by the people, or a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. The Greek philosopher Pericles felt that in order for a democracy to succeed it must first contain an authority figure or someone in a leadership role. It was a general belief that in order to maintain this form of government it would require the cooperation of all of the citizens. However, under Greek control it was limited to only white males with property. Today, in American society democracy is available to everyone regardless of his or her race or sex. According to Pericles there are steps necessary for democracy to be present. The first is that one should not care how another enjoys himself as long as it is in private and not in public and thus in public view everyone is to maintain the law. The next is, each person should be interested in not only themselves but also the state. The Greeks were extremely interested in what was happening in their world. Similarly, today we vote as a way of showing our interest in our country’s government. Lastly one must never rush into action, for one acts before debating the consequences then the results are often negative. Through democracy there was never a guarantee of prosperity but a democracy did provide more assistance.
Another unique Greek contribution is the idea of questioning everything. The Greek kings made laws, however, eventually the people began to challenge this. They said that the kings were not God so how could they say what was a law. Therefore, American society did not create the idea of questioning as many may think. Instead, the Greeks did because once one questions the king’s authority who else is left. The idea of questioning was mainly put forth by Socrates. He established a method called the Socratic method, which includes a question and answer technique. After the Peloponnesian War the authority figures did not often approve of such ideas. Socrates believed so strongly in the process of questioning that he put his life on the line in an effort to make his ideas known. When he was accused of corrupting the youth through his teaching he refused to back down from his beliefs and was in turn put to death. This is certainly a contribution of the Greeks that is every present in the American society.
Another, somewhat contribution of the Greeks to the world comes through their protection of women. For instance, Hector, from Homer’s Illiad, tells his wife, Andromache, to go spin and weave and take care of the children while he goes off to war. Hector felt that it was his duty to fight to protect his wife. Although, in our society today women are not nearly as restricted they still have certain limits necessary for protection. For example, women are not put on the front line in battle to fight for fear of rape. However, the fear is that of the society not of the women. Nevertheless, the Greeks believed in protecting women just as many societies, including ours, do today.
Yet another contribution is the Greek idea that man can do anything with time and reason. The Greeks invented the Olympics as a competition for sportsmen to discover who is the best or to determine excellence. Correspondingly, in the present day we use such Olympic oriented events to prove excellence and that man can do anything if he takes his time. For instance, today we have the Special Olympics in which people with disabilities compete. These people much use enormous time and determination to overcome the great obstacles that stand in their way.
The Greeks also made some contribution to the idea of life after death. The philosophers Heraclitus, Plato, Hume suggested that perhaps this idea was out of reach of ordinary thought, however, they still contemplated the idea. They did not simply wonder about this issue but researched it. Thus, they became some the first people to actually research one’s fate after physical death. Even though some of their findings were incorrect such as, reincarnation, nevertheless they made a gallant effort to discover the truth.
Drama was yet another contribution of the Greeks. The Greek states supported drama because they felt that it was a way of educating the citizens. The first Greek dramas were tragedies. Despite being so long ago these drama deal with issues that we also find in our world today. For example, they included the conflict of good verses evil, people’s rights, spiritually, and human nature. Similarly comedy was also developed from the Greeks. Much like our present day comedies, the Greek comedies contained obscene jokes as a way of entertaining the audience.
Another factor is that of reason. Both Socrates and Plato believed that the knowledge of morals must be based on reason. Therefore, they helped to contribute the idea that people should act off of their honorable and just instincts. For instance, it could be said that all societies have evolved in some form of evil because they all evolved from slavery. Slavery is viewed as being wrong because it makes one man master over another man. Therefore, if what is ethical is based on reason slavery could not possibly withstand the test of reason. This contributes to American society, because despite having issues with slavery in the past, the American society of today now views slavery in the same light as the great Greek philosophers. It simply is not right to take charge over another human being.
The Greeks had a general interest of wisdom to which they contributed worldwide. This interest spread throughout the generations. From Socrates to Plato, Plato to Aristotle, and Aristotle to Alexander the Great the Greeks continuously distributed this curiosity universally. Plato, a follower of Socrates formed a school called the Academy, in which Aristotle studied. Then as Alexander the Great traveled through his many adventures he carried with him all that he had learned from his great instructor. However, Alexander was not simply satisfied with what he learned from Aristotle, he continued in an effort to learn throughout his life and consequently spread it to the nations that he conquered. In today’s world it is evident that we gained this trait on from the Greeks, because once we gain an interest on a specific topic we strive to learn everything we possibly can on that subject.
Americans, like many other societies of the world, like to believe that we are supreme and often develop our own ideas. However, it is evident that many of our unique views on life were in fact copied from the Greeks. If you study the concepts of the Greeks it is clearly similar to that of the Americans. The Greek people were very unique in comparison to other world cultures of their time. Similarly, the Americans share that unique quality as they learned from the ancient Greeks.
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