A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine

By Karsten Friis Johansen | Go to book overview

8

PERICLES' ATHENS

In 490 BC the Athenians defeated the Persians at Marathon. In 480 the Persian fleet was defeated at Salamis. Although the Persian Wars were not formally concluded until 449, the generation who had witnessed these two fateful battles was marked by unparalleled national and religious exaltation; to the Athenians it was the gods who had interfered and granted freedom to their city. Before 480 Athens had been a somewhat old-fashioned agrarian society still fairly unaffected by the new cultural currents in Ionia. Now the city claimed its place as a leading naval power, and for fifty years Athens' dominant position was maintained with increasing brutality. From about the middle of the century Pericles was the uncrowned king of democratic Athens, and also in cultural matters he conducted imperialistic politics. Philosophers, historians, and rhetors (for example Anaxagoras, Herodotus, and Protagoras) took up residence in Athens for brief or sustained periods, and the flowering of Attic tragedy is indissolubly tied to this age of greatness. It was concluded abruptly by the debilitating Peloponnesian War (431-404) with Sparta, the rival city, which led to the total defeat of Athens and to moral and political dissolution, embodied in the brilliant opportunist Alcibiades and the tyrants' regime ('the thirty tyrants') put in power by Sparta in 404 BC.

The official ideology during the era can, for example, be encountered in the fusion of myth and nationalism of the Parthenon sculptures, but also in the eulogy of Attic democracy, which Thucydides has Pericles deliver on the occasion of the burial of warriors at the outset of the Peloponnesian War (Thuc. II 35 ff.).

Pericles does not mention the gods. The greatness of Athens has been created by the Athenians themselves and their noble ancestors who dwelt on the land from time immemorial. The fundament of the state is democracy, which is to say that a majority governs for the good of all; all have equal rights before the law; and those with the necessary qualifications are elected to the public offices so that even the poor participate in government. All have insight in communal affairs, and, without distrust, the city is open to strangers. Flourishing trade allows the citizen to enjoy the goods brought from abroad, and he can take pleasure in beauty, wisdom and public festivals. A free state is an independent state, and the citizen is his own master; hence Athens is an example to all of Hellas, and hence those who fell sacrificed their lives for the

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A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Presocratic Philosophy 9
  • 1 - Myth, Poetry and Philosophy 11
  • 2 - Ionian Natural Philosophy 20
  • 3 - Heraclitus 29
  • 4 - The Pythagoreans 36
  • 5 - The Eleatics 45
  • 6 - Post-Parmenidean Natural Philosophy 59
  • 7 - Medical Science 79
  • Part II - The Great Century of Athens 83
  • 8 - Pericles' Athens 85
  • 9 - Tragedy and View of History 88
  • 10 - The Sophists 99
  • 11 - Socrates 118
  • Part III - Plato 137
  • 12 - Life, Works and Position 139
  • 13 - What is Virtue? Can Virtue Be Taught? 160
  • 14 - Idea and Man 173
  • 15 - The Good Constitution of State and Man 198
  • 16 - The Late Dialogues: Knowledge and Being 213
  • 17 - The Late Dialogues: Nature, Man and Society 236
  • 18 - Plato and the Early Academy 254
  • Part IV - Aristotle 267
  • 19 - Life, Works and Position 269
  • 20 - Logic and Theory of Science 293
  • 21 - Natural Philosophy and Psychology 316
  • 22 - Metaphysics and Theology 343
  • 23 - Ethics and Politics 366
  • 24 - Rhetoric and Poetics 392
  • 25 - The Early Peripatetics 400
  • Part V - Hellenistic Philosophy 405
  • 26 - Science and Philosophy 407
  • 27 - Epicurus 423
  • 28 - Early Stoicism 442
  • 29 - Scepticism 471
  • 30 - Greece and Rome 484
  • Part VI - Late Antiquity 499
  • 31 - Imperial Rome 501
  • 32 - Plotinus 532
  • 33 - Late Neoplatonism 556
  • 34 - Early Christian Thought 569
  • 35 - Augustine 588
  • Abbreviations General 625
  • Bibliography 639
  • Index 663
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