What Caused the “Golden Age” of Athens?
And What Can We Learn About It?
Dear Classical Wisdom Members,
First off, I’d like to give a shout out to all our new members and readers who have recently subscribed. On behalf of the entire Classical Wisdom community, welcome!
We are so glad you could join us and help our mission in preserving and promoting the Classics. We feel the need to understand and appreciate history, philosophy, and literature is more important than ever... and I’m glad you do too.
While learning about the ancient world is interesting in and of itself (filled with examples where fact is more fascinating than fiction!), one of the main reasons our readers enjoy delving into the Classics is to make sense of our current situation. After all, how can we know where we are going, if we don't take the time to understand from where we have come?
It is for this reason we thought today we would explore the “Golden Age” of Athens. Beginning in 478 BC after the defeat of the Persian invasion and ending with the onset of the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC, this “Age of Pericles” was in fact remarkably short. Nonetheless, its influence in history is arguably without parallel.
It is the time of the Acropolis, of Plato and Socrates, of the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides... Likewise of the historians Herodotus and Thucydides... Indeed most of the Essential Greeks.
And underneath it all, was the political experiment that was Athenian Democracy. Did this governmental structure enable this brilliant period of growth and productivity? Was it a coincidence or a necessary foundation?
Indeed, what caused the Golden Age of Athens? And what can we learn about it?
To understand this extremely important question (and all its implications for our here and now), let us begin with Athenian Democracy itself... How did it begin? How did it work?
Please enjoy today’s Member’s in-depth article by Ben Potter (who, as regular readers know, we recently ran into on the streets of Tbilisi!) on the Nuts and Bolts of Athenian Democracy, below.
Please note! This article comes from the just released Classical Wisdom Litterae Magazine on ‘The Golden Age of Athens’, exclusively for our members.
Also included are:
The Rise and Fall of the Delian League,
Ancient Building Boom,
Pericles, the man,
The Acropolis and earthquakes,
And... Is Man the Measure of all things?
Classical Wisdom Members, you can find this magazine at the end of this article.. or access it directly here.
All the best,
Founder and Director
By Ben Potter
Athens, July 514 BC. Two of Athens’ most disgruntled sons, Harmodius and Aristogeiton become forever known as ‘The Tyrannicides’. With their swords plunged into the Tyrant Hipparchus, these two soon-to-be martyrs become the symbol of Athenian democracy.
This is because these brave men’s actions paved the way for Athens to unfetter herself from oppression and tyranny. Her screaming infancy was at an end; it was finally time for the demos (people) to unleash their kratos (power).
So harmony and joy ensued in what was now the cradle of democracy?
Not at all.
Not even slightly.
Two issues rise starkly out of the noble intentions of our forefathers; the system… and the results.
But let’s deal with the latter first; to see if any means can justify such ends!
Athenian democracy, despite a couple of interruptions and renaissances, is generally agreed to have reigned supreme from 508-322 BC.
Those who know their important dates will see an instant red flag; didn’t KING Alexander the Great die in 323 BC? How could Athens remain an independent, democratic state while under the yoke of Macedonian imperialism? A very intelligent question; you should congratulate yourself for asking it.
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