A History of the Greek World from 479 to 323 B.C

A History of the Greek World from 479 to 323 B.C

A History of the Greek World from 479 to 323 B.C

A History of the Greek World from 479 to 323 B.C

Excerpt

The period of Greek history from the end of the Persian Wars to the death of Alexander the Great can claim to be in some of its aspects unique in the history of the world. Where else could one find crowded into the brief space of five generations such a galaxy of great poets, artists, and thinkers; in short, of men whose creative achievement directly or indirectly has exerted an unparalleled influence on Western civilisation for two thousand years, and in some of its manifestations at least is still unsurpassed?

Yet the very magnitude of what was then accomplished in literature, philosophy, and art has all too often so overpowered those who have set themselves to portray the age as a whole, that it has paralysed their critical faculty. The less admirable features of Greek civilisation have been ignored or glossed over, the Athenians of the Periclean Age represented as a society of paragons and supermen. The truth, of course, is very different. Dispassionately considered, the political history of the Greeks during the fifth and fourth centuries makes sad reading. Pericles and Isocrates might indeed envisage some kind of larger political organism than the city-state, which should knit the Greek nation together, cause the Greeks to live in harmony, and enable them to present a united front at all times to extraneous enemies. In practice, though the fourth century especially saw many experiments in bringing together groups of city-states to effect greater security and stability over a larger area, all of them were shattered on the rock of particularism, a blind adherence to the cherished αὐτονομία which, in view of the selfish policy pursued by a few states stronger than their neighbours, had degenerated into a mere catchword. Disunion prevailed and the Macedonian conqueror came, saw, and conquered before any true federation had been evolved by the Greeks.

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