of the fifth century B.C. The significance of the Greek achievements
lies not so much on what the Ancient Greeks did or how they.did
it, as in the motivating factors that led them to the new things
and perfected their thought and inventions.
This motivating factor is on one hand attributed to the unexpected
victory over the Persians at the beginning of the fifth century
and the peace that followed - the latter providing a fair field
for intellectual and political progress - and on the other hand
the psychology and interdependence of spirit of this particular
Athens of the fifth century B.C., as well as the rest of Greece,
was Promethean in a sense that it was always striving for excellence.
Constant betterment for mankind was seeked by a succession of
ingenious inventions, ideas, concepts. Never
in history there has been a government, a community, a nation
so close to perfection. In the Athenian world a strong sense
of individual worth persisted constantly. Thoughts and conducts
were governed by human understanding and human experience. The
way of thinking was as arrogant and egotistic as it was productive
and healthy. The highest value in life for instance was individual
distinction and the highest prize, individual glory. Rivalry
was accepted as a principle of human existence. All the Greek
life, whether it was cultural, political or athletic was organized
in the form of competition. The winners did not care for monetary
rewards; the real prize was fame and immortality. In this world
a youth was brought up with the belief that he was better than
everyone else and he had to prove it. Winning individual distinction
was considered as the highest service a man could render to the
group of.which he was a part.
The narrow and confined boundaries of the city-states helped
the ancient Greeks retain their individuality and their views
of superiority. But even after the conquests of Alexander the
Great enabled Hellenism to take possession of the entire Near
and Middle East and reduced the old city states to insignificance,
the Greek cultural imperialism in arts and sciences did not crush.
The enormously enlarged environment asserted the individual worth
even more and made the struggle for recognition greater.
As for the Greek government, there hasn't been a more democratic.
In Greece there was no government through representation. Every
citizen sat in the assembly and spoke and voted for himself.
But their views on religion, were
also revolutionary. They loved their gods and worshipped them
with no expectation of being loved or helped by them in connection
with their environment They realized that they had to conquer
nature and that in this world they were the masters. They had
respect for physical phenomena such as gravity or death because
they knew they could not alter them. The only thing they could
do was try to explain them rationally, and try to accommodate
themselves on this earth, making the best of it. They were able
to realize that powerful forces do exist and operate beyond the
sphere of humanity, and yet hold on to their individual worth,
dignity and importance.
Such was the spirit of Ancient Greece. The spirit that enabled
Creeks to progress and strive for excellence while pushing back
the boundaries of what was possible.