History of the Sciences in Greco-Roman Antiquity

By Arnold Reymond; Ruth Gheury De Bray | Go to book overview
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T HE chosen daughter of Zeus, the goddess of the wisdom which inspired war, science and art, Pallas Athene, above all the divinities, was honoured and reverenced by the Athenians; the temple of the Parthenon on the Acropolis symbolizes, even at the present time, the genius of the Greek nation in all its purity. We recall the beautiful prayer of Renan inspired by the sight of this temple: "O nobility, O beauty simple and true, Goddess whose cult symbolizes reason and wisdom, thou, whose temple is an eternal lesson of justice and sincerity, late I come to the threshold of thy mysteries. To find thee has needed an infinity of searching. The initiation which thou didst confer on the newly-born Athenian by a smile, I have won by dint of reflection, at the cost of long struggles."

This homage rendered to the tutelary goddess of Athens expresses in moving words the reverence and gratitude which are inspired by the tremendous labour of civilization accomplished by Ancient Greece. Merely a few centuries have sufficed her, not only for the realization of an incomparable architecture and statuary, but also for the creation of all the known types of literature, and for the establishment of the lasting foundations of most of the sciences. Apparently it was almost without efforts and without gropings in the dark that these conquests were made, in consequence of, as Renan says, the spontaneous initiation granted by reason to every Greek at his birth. In particular, the question arises, How did Ancient Greece succeed in


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