PASCO HERNANDO COMMUNITY COLLEGE
WESTERN CIVILIZATION (EUH 1000) CLASS NOTES
. Instructor: Dave Tamm / Term: Spring 2008 .
THE HELLENISTIC GREEKS (Pg. 30-50)
Sources: davies, schatt, levack et. al., noble.
GREEK RELIGION TO SOCRATIC PHILOSOPHY
Love of wisdom. One who loves wisdom. Ionia 600s BC and persisting to
today. It has not stopped. Generally, philosophy was religion and 'big
explinations' cosmology - study of everything and how it works.
Generations of gods and goddesses made war on each other etc. Unlike
in Genesis where God arranged things with a certain purpose and
meaning. Here in Greece, the gods did all this weird stuff. They knew
the world was not as books were. the greek deities were a great screen
that the greeks projected themselves on. a public social religion.
When the greeks invented philosophy they did not abandon religion.
A formal intellectual discipline: imposing 3 questions:
what is the world made up of? (this is natural science)
what is the nature of knowing (epistomology the science of knowing)
what should we do? how should we behave? ethics, morals? (world in here)
it is in the elaboration of formal asking and formal answering like
that that marks the birth of philosophy. knowledge is the accumulation
of facts and details, wisdom is what we really want. it is the that
which is basic to this. you met people who are well informed but there
is something missing. missing.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO KNOW
Being (the state of existence)... the question is on the platform,
still---- our senses are the tools by which we perceiving being.
where did it start? in the part of the greek world that is gone now.
ionia. traditions passed back and forth there, persia opened
mesopitamia and egypt and levant to ionia. lydia. ionia was a lively
Thales of Miletus- asks "of what is the cosmos made?" of water, he
deduces. He asks how things some into being. reflected on what was out
there. water is behind everything. he wants to find something
imperishable and unchanging, that things may be measured against.
Predicted flooding of Nile, eclipse, the distance between ships at
sea. he was amazing. died by falling down a well.
Heracleitus of Ephesus- not water but fire is the basic material of
all things, always in flux. Change is constant, change is immutable.
The mutable is immutable. subject to decay, change over time,
causation. Don't step.
Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (Pericles' teacher) a supreme mind (nous)
animates all living things and exerts its force on divisible seeds,
from which life arises. The planets are stones torn from earth, and
the sun is red hot from motion. is he wrong? "mind is crucial" -
things exist only to the degree they are precieved. if a tree falls in
the forest, does it make a sound? anaxagoras said no. it must be
percieved. from the world that is intelligible to the thing
For example: Herodotus said one can write about what he has seen.
close study is crucial. what we have seen? seen is a sense. sense of
sight. we have four more senses they found. taste touch hearing and
smell. 5 senses: but is sense perception enough? is there an objective
reality that can be attached to something, or is it purely what is
perceived by the senses? is asparagus tasty or not? is mozart pleasing
you tell a blind person the sky is blue. they think they ought to
believe you. but they don't really know. so, does all the world's
knowledge depend on what you perceive?
Empedocles of Acragas says earth is made of four elements, fire water
earth wind. they are always merging and separating under stresses of
love and stife. he jumped into mt. etna to test his capacity for
Pythagoras of Samos argued that everything in the universe is
reducable to numbers. sound etc. and that it could be understood
mathematically. devised pythagoran theorem. In southern italy, magna
grecia, PYTHAGORAS created a kind of brotherhood. the only way we are
going to get in touch with the world. using mind to comprehend
reality, we need to keep ourselves to the formulation of lawlike
principles . to gain true knowledge one must be dedicated to
formulas... mathematical relationships like sound. if you pluck a
string it makes a sound, if you pluck one half as long, it makes a
different sound... a higher sound. music is physics pure mathematics.
there is nothing subjective about this. what is happening inside the
piano is a certain precise thing... so are there some laws that are
woven into the fabric of the universe and the more we can discover the
more we can know?
I can tell you that plucking strings or blocking a hole in a flute
makes a certain sound you can test it yourself. You can believe me or
not, but it is there, it is always there. So... ANAXAGORAS... material
answers are insufficient, but we must get above the ambiguities of
Parmenides of Elea created the concept of logic. all assertions must
be based on proof of truth. If it cannot be proven, it may not be
true. He wanted to add meaning to what Thales had brought up.
Democritus of Thrace followed Parm and Pyth. He stated the cosmos is
both mathematical and logical. that it contains an infinate amount of
irreducible, basic units, called atoms- 'uncuttable'. these float
endlessly in empty space.
Hippocrates of Cos argued that disease is naturally caused, not smote
upon people by the gods. Observation and prognosis are methods by
which we can combat them. Hippocratic oath still taken by doctors-
devotes life to the welfare of his patients.
Sophists were a group started in Ionia, and they argued that there was
no real truth, as it all depended on the specific situation. They said
it was useless trying to understand the world, that Thales worked in
vain. What they could do, however, is provide people with the tools
they need to formulate good laws to run the city state. Rhetoric and
the making of effective speeches, was emphasized. PROTAGORAS (not
Pythagoras) was a sophist, and they all travelled around the greek
world, selling their services as teachers to upper class youth,
especially in athens. Aspiring politicians heard the sophists tell
them that "man is the measure of all things." The gods are perhaps
real, perhaps not. but question the basic greek values... these
teachings, because they broke down the reality of greek life,
discontented people. Indeed the sophists did teach the seeking of
success, not truth. As it happened, their pupils were power hungry and
destabilized because they sought power and influence, not good
Sophists have a bad reputation. Sophistry has a bad rep. maybe
justified. they turned to practical matters, the temporal world. bad
rep cause they studied language and taught people how to elucidate.
rhetoric. rhetoric today is someone trying to bamboozle us, but it
really is how to speak elegantly and persuasively. Artful use of
language to pursuade the assembly.
Law is convention they said, we make a deal. thats it. according to convenience.
Nature is different, battle goes to the strong. asking if its good or
just is irrelevant.
its how the rule works.
So if law is mere convention, then. Sophocles' antigone proves it.
Nothing is right, nothing is. we can make rules and all that, but
nothing is right. nothing is absolute. quest for truth is foolish.
quest for ultimate reality is foolish. Man is the measure of all
things. we measure things in relation to myself. If i go to court, i
want to win! i dont care about justice, i want to win!
At that juncture, socrates appears. Socrates vindicates reality. There
is truth out there, and we can get at it. Sophists are wrong. But the
durable contribution of the sophists was to forced us to ask these
nasty questions about the eternal and the momentary and justice and
the prevailing, or, winning.
SOCRATES (to 399)
Not all teachers welcomed the goals of the sophists. Their most
notable critic became one of the greatest philosophers of all time,
and spawned through his students an entirely new framework of
thinking. Driven by a will to learn the truly good life, Socrates was
a great teacher who discussed anything with anyone. He asked questions
and probed with further questions based on the answers, in real time.
This is the Socratic Method. "The unexamined life is not worth
living." Question everything. He was no fee charging sophist, taught
no specific body of knowledge, and had no formal students. Only those
who gravitated into his orbit. He angered Athenian politicians,
demonstrating their ignorance, and was declared superior by the
oracle, because he understood his own ignorance. With his eyes open,
aware of his actions, he brought philosophy down from just the study
of the natural world and epistemology, and used to to get at the best
life. Arete was transmuted from its Homeric connotation to something
like study of truth, knowledge. No one who understands truth will do
Socrates was a hoplite during the Peloponnesian War, and criticized
democracy for giving a voice to the uneducated. He did emphasize the
individual and not the polis. The public thought him a sophist and a
during a low point of morale, reached when Socrates friend Acibaldes
sent the doomed fleet to Syracuse, he was brought up on charges of
corrputing the youth of athens, and defaming the city gods. These were
capital crimes. He was put to death by poison, which he willingly
In death, socrates lived on. many people had second thoughts and the
trial was dismissed as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice, as
well as revealing of one of the little known attributes of democracy:
the majority can make mistakes. Read the Apology by Plato for his
Socrates worked during the confident days of Pericles, but his student
Plato will work during the Pelo war, bad times culimating in the
execution of socrates. But those bad years of the peloponnesian war
was the same time when philosophy really began. interested in eternal
truths. anti tragic. focuses on our ability to take control of our
world, so its optimistic about human life and capacity.
anti homer? how can you believe in a world ruled by homeric gods, who
behave worse than many humans do! no! we can be better. we can be
great! systematic effort to understand.
Socrates: born 11 years after marathon. never wore shoes, gadfly,
washed sledomly, a stone mason but didnt do much work. stood
motionless, indifferent to heat and cold, talked to people on the
street. but he attaracked some of the richest people in town. coined
term philosophy at his trial. someone went to the oracle "is socrates
the smartest person?" yes. socrates is flabbergasted. he was a lover
of widsom but not a wise man himself. in response, he goes around
trying to find out who the truely wisest are, and cant find anyone,
and determines they are not because he is aware of the extent of their
ingnorance. an ironic statement. self deprecating. to some degree
meant seriously but not totally. "i know that i dont know". there are
things of vast importance that i know but cannot prove. religious
believers are cause of training and also experience 'you are feeling
god'. like when you eat a pickle and you 'know' you are tasting sour,
but prove it! i am in love. you are? prove it! knowing, means getting
it. get what you cant get rationally.
Plato says "what is justice?" in the republic. they answer and he
demolishes their answers. like a zen master or bal sham tov in jewish
rabbi who engages them intellectually and then push them until the
explanitory apparatus breaks down and you find you cannot know what is
just unless you already know! the sense is the basis of the arguement.
so socrates tries to bring people into the presence of that sense.
Rationality too depends on knowing what you dont know. that sense of
aha i got it! is the sense that clicks.
Tutoring someone in math- if someone doesnt understand that 4+-3=1 and
you say it 40 times, they just dont get it. they have to 'get it'.
Logic then, rests on intuition - a sense of how things are. this is
what socrates taught us.
IN the republic, plato asks friends 'what is justice'. Socrates asks
it. someone says 'Justice is nothing but the advantage of the
established ruling class. the stronger'. Huh? well marxists say that
today! justice is a TOOL that powerful people use against other races
and women, to convince them to submit to a situation that lets the
people in charge stay in charge. imperial justice. Undo it! impower
Socrates is not satisfied. says, city and soul - imagine that what is
good in one is good in another. 3 classes in an ideal society:
philosophers (PK) who have access to reason and logic, and give order
guardians (warriors, defenders of the state)
lowest class (appetite satisfier)
noble lies :)
PKings should rule us. Aras is the appetite for food, consumer goods,
sex, etc. and that is what Pkings must control, because reason rules,
and you can self dicipline. a society where there are rationally
funcitoning human beings in charge is better. Its all about reason.
But, how do those philosopher kings know what is right? what is good?
Claim is: our knowledge of things cannot be based on our sense because
its always changeing, you are not even the same. growing. what you
precieve in the past, is not what is now. there has to be something
better. a structure out there, a truth not this imperfect stuff. The
sturcture is the Theory of Forms. We look through the world around us,
and apprehend things of that kind. of some form based on what we know
about it. an imperfecto knowledge. a cat a dog.
where do these forms come from, and where does this stuff live?
we rise to the forms by considering it in mind space. we see things in
the visible world cause of the sun. what gives light in mind space?
the form of the Good. the source of True and Beautiful. You see it,
click. PK's can see it. they know what is good and true.
All that is good comes from same source.
Because that is true, what is best for the community?
Education is the art of turning minds from looking at and being
confined in the visible world round them to looking at and acting on
the basis on what can be seen in the world of MInd, in the world of
In SEEING this, feeling and being present to this, the good, you
fulfill religous yearnings, are confronting what god there is, and are
bathed in the light of understanding, and you overcome the tragic
limitations of human beings.
So rationality, contemplating how we know what we know, can lead us to
a vision of the true and the beautiful which provides us a model for
living. true living.
An odd title for philsophical dialogue. a symposium is a drinking
party and it is one. one in celebration of the victory of a writer
Agathon, winning a 416 contest. so they'd pass around a cup and get
drunk, and flute girls were sent home. they were to talk about love.
Aristophanes, Scorates and Agathon are there. homosexual love of a
certain kind was not only allowed but celebrated. only between a
middle aged upper class man and a pubescent boy. continue through teen
years and then would transmute into a generalized friendship.
Topic is Love. Each speak of it.
Aristophanes the comic speaks: "each person was connected with a
double. gods divided them and we spend our lives looking for our other
half." There is a wound which is only satisfied by finding that other
person that perfectly complents us." vision of true love comes from
Agathon: a nice piece but then...
Socrates speaks: agathon your story is nice but not true. What is?
Well, "I talked to a woman named diotima (perhaps made up), who said
one can move from erotic love to full contemplative enlightenment. a
notion familiar to us, that there is something redemptive in love.
that love can be destructive but also in at lease some guise, a route
to the deepest truth. like when you take that sip of wine in the
morning on the dorm room floor.
But more than that.
This is what it goes to be led by another into the mystery of love:
one goes always upwards for the sake of beauty starting out iwth
beautiful things, and using them like rising stairs- from beautiful
objects to all beautiful objects then to beautiful customs to learning
beautiful things and from these he arrives to this lesson: he catches
somthing wonderfully beautiful in its nature, the reason for all his
earlier labors. which neither waxes nor wanes, not beautiful now and
ugly later, but beautiful in all ways for all times. when someone can
see this beautiful thing, he may give birth to true virtue. and is
worthy of the love of the gods. if any human can become immortal, it
will be he who has seen that beauty. i see different from you. books
Move from images of virtue to true virtue. One would thing it stops
here, but they do not.
What follows gives this diologue profundity that makes it Plato's
best. Its 416, right before the Sicilian problem. Party is
inturrupted, when alcibiadies, dazzling, 4x olympic victor and
Socrates devoted friend, shows up. Howling, stinking drunk, and
crashes the party. He speaks of socrates like this: compares him to a
statue of cylenes, a saatyr. man with half human animal / giant
fallus, and they were sold in athens, like dolls you can open up.
inside, there were little gold images of the gods. alcibiadies
compares socrates to these dolls: "in public, his whole life is one
big game. a game of irony. have any of you seen him when he was
serious? i did. i glimpsed the figures he keeps inside, so bright, so
beautiful so amazing, that i had to just do what he told me."
Socrates looks rediculious. but his talk can be a stairway to heaven.
he can take you to a vision of the forms, to the plane of
enlightenment. here's the catch: "he always traps me, and makes me
admit that my poltical career is a waste of time. so i refuse to
listen to him, so i tear myself away".
This is what philosophy can do. Socrates has done it. It is also
possible to get there, to get to the top, and say "naaaah, i dont
thing so" "forget it" "im having too much fun here" "thats wonderful
and stuff, but i dont think its for me." alcibiades did it. he was
taken up, and he said no thanks. as wonderful as this ascent is,
capable as it tis in providing us with the answers we need, in fact,
oh no, there is part of human nature that is out there, and we answer
it. the lower denominator pulls us down.
Note: symposium was for the athenians to read, and plato writes
something magical to them, as if we were reading a story about life on
the titanic or in the kennedy family before he was shot: alcibiades
went traitor after the sicilian blunder, and socrates was condemned in
part by the demos due to his relationship with alcibiades. athenians
would have known that. if alcibiades did it, it was because socrates
corrupted him (to the people), but he did NOT go the socratic way! he
deliberately opted out of the socratic way, and because he turned
away, that is why he messed it all up. the unexamined life is not
worth living, and by correlary, the systematically examined life, can,
whether starting from the consideration of love, or math, or justice,
lead to a life full of wisdom and happiness. It can lead you to a
consideration of the true, beautiful and good. It also says the best
approach to life is through thought and examination - not allegiance
to a tradition, or obedience to recieved wisdom but pursuit of wisdom
whereever it can be found.
Disguested with public life after socrates fiasco, plato founds the
Academy, on the outskirts of athens. with a low opinion of demokratia
partly beause of what they did to socarates, the idiots, so he tries
to recreate the magic of socrates on paper in dialogues. he doesn't
write treatises but dialogues. "the senses are misleading, don't
depend on them." Even though it is impossible to draw a perfect
square, or circle, the prefect square does exist... in the realm of
ideas. Beautiful things participate in the universal form of beauty,
but nothing is perfectly beautiful, being made up of realative,
imperfect things. When comparing athenian, sycracusian, corinthian,
spartan and persian political systems, its not enough to compare them
together, but aganst that absolute ideal of perfect governing, that
does not exist but in the mind.
Plato was no moron, he knew not everyone would understand philosophy
or take the time to care about it- and could'nt anyway, because only
some people have the requisite intelligence. Pk's would shy away from
pettiness and greed. Today we are shocked: why would anyone serve for
nothing? to Plato it was self evident. Plato is difficult to read,
sometimes he shocks us, and you must be an awake reader. He wants you
to be socked and disagree at first.
There is no other philosopher. The greatest. The ultimate polymath.
Came from 'nowhere' a tiny town in north Greece, knew philip of
macedon, tutored alexander the great. He came to study with plato at
the academy when 20 and stayed with plato until he went to found his
own school, the lyceum.
his legacy is incredible, best logician ever. his works were
unsurpassed for 1700 years, and still are honored in contemporary
logic courses. greatest biologist who ever lived. wrote on physics,
politics, literary criticism, invented metaphysics. and he wrote
ethics. "how should we behave". dazzling. level headedness, coherence
is unbelievable. everything he writes is an expression of one
fundamental vision, system. sponges, plants, human soul, literature,
whatever, physics, ethics, all of it reflects a fundamental vision:
not the unchanging world of forms of Plato, but the world we see
before us. the process he sees at work, is the seeking of all things
to fulfill their potential. A fabulous interrelated world in the
process of becoming, a fluid thing. embryo seeks to be a human being,
flame that seeks to rise up, earth seeks to be in its natural place
between water and air. whatever it is it is trying to reach its
Potential? that is what is not yet there. everything is trying to
fulfill its potential, its telos. its teleological. telos of an acorn
is to become an oak tree.
Ethics forms a part of that system. The ETHICS asks, what is the telos
of human beings? How should we get there? It is to be a fully
actualized person. Whose potential has been brought to fruition.
People are intrinsically social, so the full expression of raitonality
is the root of happiness. pursuit of happiness (which is the full
expression of our potential) is what ethics is about. Ethics is not
being just good, but it is really about being happy but no matter!
being happy fulfilling your potential, you must be good to fulfill
your potential. if you are being ridden by your desires, you are NOT
fulfilling your telos. Happy? no. why? reason is not in control.
ridden by obsessions? bad. point of ethics is to fulfill that which is
distincively human, reason. the satisfaction of being reasonable.
now? can you be happy if you are poor, overworked, deformed or ugly?
well, you could be but not as happy as you could be. What! that
stinks! what about the fact i cant control it? too bad. that strikes
us as shitty, we rebel against it.
sorry, reality butts in. and who does not agree, really, with this?
that we are not better off not broke, ill, etc. profoundly refreshing.
many philosphers say "im the hotshot, and the people are fools" not
aristotle. he says "if most people really think its right, if it
matters to most of us, its probably right." common sense realist.
aristotle seems realistic and right, but is at odds not with what we
think, but with what we are at odds with: the hebrew christian
teaching that self denial, richeousness is good. A: if you are good,
you wouldnt have to work so hard to be happy, cause thats what you
want to do. Kant's catagorical imperative says "morality begins when
you dont want to do it but you do because you know its right" but A
says no, that's just trying to be good. if you're good, you want to do
it. it makes you happy to do it, because that is what you were
designed to do.
if we are disciples of aristotle or not, its fair to say we in daily
lives, are pursuing this to some extent. an aristotilian happiness.
which byt he way does not look too far away from that arete, that
ideal and excellence, wheich we began with.
Homer: ethic of arete (achievement on an individual excellence) finds
expression in athletics, olympics, and in drama, by aescylus esp. who
celebrate the formulation of law. expressive of an ongoing quest of
making sense of the world around us.
These are the contributions still alive among us of the greeks.
Are Plato and Aristotle irreconcilable? Plato timeless and eternal,
the genreal and A more particular, here and now, and 'happening'? They
were reconciled. Down through the centuries, a vision was prepared in
which they became complementary and unified into one system- Plotinus
in Egypt. He did it and it is called New Platonism. It then became the
default philosophy of the middle ages because New Platonism was
adapted by St. Augustine!
Aristotle wrote dialogues that have not survived, one of mankinds
great tragedies. in Name of the Rose, we can see how some did not. He
agreed with Plato on there being absolute standards of good and evil.
The standard of life is the telos.
SUMMARY OF GREEK CULTURE
Philosophy, science, politics, schulpture, painting, literary genres
all crystalized in greece. some borrowed, some original,. theough
small and factionalized, the polis system was remarkable in its
ability of foster individual creative genius. the greek philosophers
did not have all the answers, but they asked most of the important
questions. the greek arts are the starting point of western art in all
fields. will our art be remembered in 4500 AD?
they were paradoxal. applonian and dynonysian. athens and sparta,
monuments to mythical gods and philosophers who said they were of no
importance. in sheer concentration of talent during 5th century,
greece was something unique. its sense that state, cultureal elite and
demos all shared a common telos, and that this was somehow possible,
was its most poignant gift.
PHILIP AND MACEDONIA
The roots of Hellenistic age were in Macedon. Village people in the
far north of Greece. Farmers, horsemen, highlanders, traders over
short distances, cavalrymen, enemies with their illyrian and thracian
neighbors. Considered semi-civilized by their Greek brethren- and
indeed they knew little of city life. Their chiefs, however, claimed
Hercules as an ancestor (which also allowed Macedon to compete in the
olympic games!). During the Persian Wars, however, Macedonia stayed
out- even egged the Persians on. Persian money was siphened to
Macedon. After the Peloponnesian War in which Macedon supported no
one, the kingdom was disintegrating. Then Philip became their chief.
Philip II became their chief in 359, after growing up a hostage in
Thebes where he learned military strategy, and brought greek culture
with him. In Pella the capitol, Philip sponsored greek thinkers to
give talks. Very apollonian. Philip was a voracious drinker and
womanizer. very dionysian. great soldier and statesman. very greek.
Philip improved the hoplite phalanx by elongating the spears and
drafting peasants to use them. He created a new and elite cavalry
division, called the Companions, who swept in while the enemy was held
at bay with the longer lances. His aspiration was to extend thrace
(bulgaria and NE greece) to macedonia. his love for greek culture was
matched only by his anger at the squabbling of the city states. when
he moved on thrace, no one cared about it, and he went for the gold
and silver mines. In 349 he siezed some northern greek cities. A
decade of bribery and diplomacy followed.
What lay beyond thrace? Athens' trade route to the euxine sea, the
Bosporus, did. that made up the vital food supply chain link for
attica. philip's expansion now brought him into conflict with athens.
In athens, Isocrates championed pan hellenism and backed philip for
the good of all greece, to be united under him. we'll see the pan idea
later on too, in pan slavism, pan germanism etc. Demosthenes however,
denounced philip in blistering speeches calle the phillipics, and
rallied the poleis to defend themselves together. Yet, Isocrates asks,
"-what's the diff between Macedonia and Persia?" D was a great orator,
however, and many cities sided with him, inc. athens and thebes, and
agreed to resist philip.
At Chaeronea, 338, philip defeated athens and thebes. His son
alexander led the dicisive charge of the Companions that ended greek
independence. But philip's answer to demosthenes was that he was not
an outside conquerer, he was no barbarian, but champion of greece. no
ending or replacing of greek values. Indeed, all local government
remained in the same hands as before. All cities however, were
compelled to join the League of Corinth, under Phiip and Macedonian
leadership. Philip decreed that no city may change their government
without consulting him first. He had taken all of greece but the
peloponnese, and sent word to sparta: "if i enter lakedameon i shall
raze it" the ephors sent back a laconic reply, "If." Philip did not
take sparta, he did not try, it was not worth it.
What was worth it, was to move against the empire of the east. Partly
to avenge the previous century's Persian invasion, and partly to bring
Greek ways to the easterners. Soon, however, philip was assassinated
by a disgrunteled courtier.
Philip trained his only son in the military arts. Greek education,
macedonian outsider looking in. Very intelligent, taught by Aristotle.
as the League of Corinth faced rebellion at Philip's death, Alexander
called together philips army and marched from thrace to greece,
restored order, and crushed a revolt at thebes- and planned the
conquest of Persia.
LORD OF ASIA
In 334 he crossed Hellespont with 40k men. small compared with the
Persian army, but better organized. He loved colorful gestures: 1. he
stopped at Troy to make a sacrafice to the homeric gods and remember
the illiad, invoking the epic in a speech. Alexander was much more
inspiring than the Persian emperor, now Darius III. At Granicus in
Anatolia, alexander met the persian army and defeated its advanced
force- freeing the Ionian cities. as he chose to continue into Persia,
west faced east again, and this time, the west was now the attacker.
At Gordium where the legend said whoever cut the impossible knot left
by Gordius would be master of all Asia, Alexander was bid solve the
knot. He solved it all right, but slicing it in half with his sword.
At Issus he mangled the Persian army in 333, taking phoenicia and the
Levant. He moved south to egypt in 332, founding Alexandria there.
Turning up to Mesopotamia, he defeated the Persians again, at Arbela,
and Darius III fled the scene, angering many soldiers. This was not
the first time he did this, and was killed by his upper classes on
charges of cowardice and incompetence. Alexander now moved to Persia
proper, and proclaimed himself shah in shah. Millions of his new
subjects literally worshipped him as a god. "Iksandr" is remembered in
the Man who would be King.
in control of the empire, he moved south to India and conquered the
northern section, stopping only because his troops were angry and
weary about being so far from their homes. So in 10 years he made the
largest empire of all time. Singlehandedly, he ruled the known world
except china and the western part of the mediterranean, which he was
drawing plans to take when he unexpectedly died.
Alexander represents the unexpected in history, He proves that not
everything can be explained, like many in academia say they can, by
'economic trends', religious changes, or the cyclic growth and decline
of empires or civilizations. No, in this case, a single human actor
took his sword and jammed it into the spokes of the wheel of history.
He confounds the historian who says the individual doesn't matter.
Let's elaborate: one cannot blame the Persian empire for being weak,
it was not on a 'declining cycle.' Darius III was indeed a coward in
battle, but he was a strong leader of others. Eastern civlization
itself was not weak or weakening. Yet, Alexander would install a
Western influence that would last 600 years, until the birth of Islam.
Finally, although fine soldiers, Alexander's troops could not be
counted on 'to win no matter what' just because they were macedonian /
greek. In fact, Darius III had greek mercenaries working for him- as
many as the total number of alexander's troops! Also, not long before,
Sparta moved on the Persian Empire, and had to withdraw.
His phenomenal success, unmatched, can only be described to himself as
a commander. His frightening and unpredictable quality. His will to
outdo Achilles, hero of the Iliad. He won every campaign and battle.
He never lost. He used siege warfare. His homebase was, c'mon,
macedonia! A backward place even today. Macedonia against Persia?
impossible. He had fine generals, like Ptolemy. But he led troops into
battle himself. He made the battle plans. Set an example of valor.
Napoleon used alexander's tactics with success. Alexander acted as a
brilliant tactical innovator who acted on the spur of the moment, in
the face of the enemy.
He crossed over the Hellespont with 40k infantry and 5k cavalry. In
thrace, he was in a deep gorge and the thracians were pushing wagons
down the sides onto him. Alexander has his men kneel in groups,
holding their shields at an incline, the wagons jumped their lines and
He moved to Granicus and defeated the Persians, taking back the Greeks
He moved to Issus in Syria and played the cavalry charge, winning
Phoenicia and the naval bases.
In the siege of tyre, on its own island like clearwater beach,
alexander took months but had a land bridge built to get to it and
took the city. After Tyre, Darius III offered Alex his daughter and
the empire west of Mesopotamia. Alex rejected that and marched to
Egypt, where the Egyptians welcomed him as a liberator from their
After Egypt he moved to Mesopotamia, where, at Guagumela (arbela) he
faced a force 5x his size. He knew where Darius was because he was
lifted in the rearguard at center left. On the spur of the moment,
alexander harried troops from the center and got his troops to break
ranks and fight on the right and left, while his best force straight
down the middle towards Darius, in phalanx style. Darius fled, and
leaderless, the Persian army was disorganized and haphazard. Napoleon
used a similar procedure at Austerlitz.
Next he moved to the Persian heartland, and captured and burned
Persepolis down in 330. With the wealth of Persepolis, he paid off his
entire army's wages for the past and the next 12 years into the
future. Darius was murdered by his own nobles for cowardice.
Alex moved on and on, to Central Asia where the tribes knew nothing of
what empire they belonged to anyway, and then south through the Kyber
Pass in 327, to India. In India, Alex faced elephants, 200 and
armored, at Hydapses. they battered his forces with their riders, and
alex devised a way to encircle them while their riders were picked off
with archers. the elephants were released or destroyed with scimitars
Once past the River Indus, Alex was stopped by his own troops.
Overall strategy though, has been questioned. Why not go right for
Susa in the heart of Persia? why all the wasted time defeating the
peripheries of the empire? go for the core! Well, Ionia, anatolia,
phoenicia, levant, egypt came first because Alex had to demonstrate
how a land power could neutralize a sea power by taking its coastline.
He now controlled the sea trade.
When one looks at the cradle lands of Western civilization, Greece and
the Levant, it is amazing to see how small they actually are. Their
message may never have gotten across if the way for it had not been
opened. Alexander's conquest did just that first with Greek values,
and secondly, by emplacing Hellenistic kingdoms spanning the known
world, which would last over 100 years, and prepare the way for Rome.
The greatest ancient conquerer had a sincere desire to see Greek
culture spread and become universal. wherever he went, he installed
greek culture. the Greek stretch into central asia and egypt took many
forms, from building projects to reworking political systems. Many
totally new cities now complemented older centers, for example
Alexandria, built at the mouth of the Nile, and Memphis/Giza.
An integrationist, Alex went against the Greeks' reluctant attitude to
marry non-Greeks. He ordered his soldiers to marry Persian women,
personally overseeing a mass marriage at Susa of 10k soldiers with
upper class persian women, and he himself married Darius III's
daughter sealing his title. His soldiers resented this and also,
refused to grovel before him like the Persians were used to doing with
their previous empeorors. Meanwhile alex was trying to convince
everyone he was 'Lord of Asia.' The Macedonians and Greeks resented
also Alex's insistence on Persian soldiers in their ranks. But alex
was smart and held it all together. But then, he died. In Babylon
after drinking too much and getting a fever, the Lord of Asia
succumbed in 323 at age 32. He never lost a battle.
THE HELLENISTIC WORLD
His death destroyed any possible cooperation between Persians and
Greeks. Yet, the Hellenistic age began with the conquering of Persia
by Alexander, which spread greek culture as far east as Afghanistan
and India. Greeks followed and settled in the new territories and
built new greek cities. they became a middle and upper middle urban
class. It was a complex cosmopolitan civilization (story of Scipio and
Hannibal's dinner- they spoke in greek and talked about common
topics). Today people study english all over the world, to do global
business. Romans, Jews, Persians, Celts, Carthagainians and others
absorbed greek culture - art, philo, lit, religion, science and
learning: the 7 day week, belief in a Hell and Judgement day,
astronomy, agricultural and metallurgical processes and navigation.
large portions of this cultural realm ultimately became 'the West'. It
was a threat to their local cultures though, as global culture is
today. cultural adaptation and synthesis were done.
Macedonian nobles fought viciously for his conquered territory.
Ptolemy carved out Egypt, Antigonus 'the one eyed' got macedonia and
Seleucus got Asia. The Seleucids lost some to the Partians. Bactria
(Afghanistan) split off and India was taken back by Chandragupta.
Pergamum arose in northern Ionia. In all the Hellenistic kingdoms,
Greeks ruled and no non-Greeks were recruited into the ruling elite.
In Egypt, Cleopatra, last ruling decendent of ptolomy 300 years later,
was the first ever to even speak egyptian. Even so, goodwill between
ruling Greeks and non greeks occurred. "How can I accomodate myself to
all the different races in my kingdom? By adopting the appropriate
attitude to each, making justice one's guide."
Ptolemy II conquered part of Anatolia and Syria in 260. His sister
Arsinoe II directed the navy which conquered Phoenicia. Ptolemy II
built ports on the Red Sea to trade with India. He built the great
library of Alexandria, as a patron of the arts. Alexandria became the
queen city of the world for the next 150 years. Alexandria was
cosmopolitan, with Macedonians, Greeks, Jews, Syrians, and Egyptians.
These often fought and lived in different neighborhoods in the city.
Yet, Jews there translated the Torah into Greek. In Babylon and
Jerusalem, because of strong traditions already, were not hellenized
as much. Babylon still worshipped marduk. In Mesopotamian cities
Aramaic was used not Greek, but leading families learned Greek to get
Though often worshipped as gods, Hellenistic monarchs were simply
drawing from indiginous traditions. It was more political worship than
spiritual or divine. "Thanks for keeping us safe..." When an Antigonid
ruler took Athens in 308, they sang "the other gods either dont exist
or are far off... and they either do not hear or do not care.... you
we can see not just in wood and stone..." The Greek colonists were
given land in exchange for loyalty to watch over the non greeks.
CULTURE OF THE HELLENISTIC KINGDOMS
Koine was the standard Greek spoken all around. Cities were given wide
berth by the monarchs, and had much independence, though illusory.
Priene in Anatolia and many other new cities had exercise fields,
collonaided fields for athlectic competition, gymnasium (also an
education center), social life centers for greek speakers. wealthy men
learned greek lit, rhetoric, science, a music, and these would be the
leaders that for 200 years + would keep things stable. Less equality
though, democratic cities had interests of the poor and the rich, but
Hellenistic was more rich focussed. Kings spent a lot of $$ turning
their cities into showcases of art and design. From here, Carthage and
Rome learned building styles. Stone theatres, council halls, baths
with heated pools, etc. Artists integrated buildings with the
surrounding countryside. Turning away from ideal perfection,
freestanding sculptures that decorated public spaces explored the
movement of the body and facial expression.
Hellenistic Greeks considered peoples outside their realms as
barbarians. Celts, Africans south of the Sahara, steppe nomads like
Arabs, Babylonians etc. Yet, they did enjoy reading traveler accounts
of these peoples' customs and habits.
Berosus of Babylon was translated into Greek, which gave understanding
of them and their astronomy. Mantheo of Egypt was translated too,
wrote the history of his land. Megastheses was a Hellenistic diplomat
in India, and he wrote of that land's Hinduism.
Greeks rarely learned local languages. In babylon, age old patterns of
life continued despite the greek presence, including temple worship.
Some indigenous peoples learned greek to be part of the universal
culture. Sometimes this alienated them from their people. Some noble
persians practiced zoroastrianism as a solace.
In Egypt, Babylonia and Persia, local nobles wrote religious texts
that their gods would be sending some great leader to kick out the
Greeks, eventually. In Persia the greeks were Ahriman's agents, in
Egypt the Ptolomies were to bring punishments from the gods, whose age
old religion was being messed with. Nothing happened, though.
The Jewish reaction to Hellenistic ways though, was problematic. Book
of Maccabees explains it. Jerusalem and the Jewish lands went to the
Ptolomies, then the Seleucids. At first, this was great. The temple in
Jerusalem was still the scene of traditional jewish worship. Under
Hellenized rabbis, gymnasiums opened in Jewish cities.
In 167, Antiochus IV Epiphanes went to far in Hellenizing the city to
demostrate his greatness. He introduced foreign worship at the temple,
and the Jews resisted the abomination. Intending to make a show of
crushing the Jews, Antiochus was blitzed by the Maccabees family of
fighting priests who now led a Jewish army in a war of liberation and
purification of the temple. They succeeded and the Hellenists were
thrown out of Judea. A new Jewish Maccabee kingdom appeared. Jews in
Alexandria were shocked but understood the resistence to hellenism.
EXPLORATION AND TRADE
The interior seas of Asia: Caspian, Aral and Red, are explored by
Greeks. Trading posts are installed on the Horn of Africa, and ivory
was the main product. Overland, pepper and cinnamon came from India by
way of Arabia, but these middlemen limited direct trade.
Eudoxus tried to find a sea route to india by sailing down african
coast but never got further than morocco
Pytheas of Marseilles in 300 sailed from Gades (cadiz spain) to
Britannia and landed at either Iceland or Norway. Also reached the
Vistula- recording astonomical bearings and wrote of wonders like the
menander of athens (300) was popular in drama, a "new comedy" with
risque satires. Theocritus (270) from Syracuse but wrote in Alexandria
wrote pastoral poetry- descriptions of the idyllic life of the
countryside. He inspired Shakespeare, 19th Century Russian poets too.
Callimachus (250) was playful and learned, writing the Wonders of the
World and the Elegies.
The academy and lyceum remained in session in Athens. But new schools
arose too, which shared the common goal of overcoming "disturbance" by
attaining an inner tranquility.
Epicurans Epicurus of Samos (280): open to women and slaves too. since
the entire world lives in pain, choose pleasure. not just eating and
drinking, but of attaining a harmony of body and mind. how? a virtuous
and simple life. plain living, withdrawl from the world of politics.
students! do not fear death or the gods. the soul is material so there
is no afterlife. gods live happily far from earth, no reason to fear
Stoics Zeno of Cition (270): main rival to epicuranism. all human
beings have an element of divinity in them and therefore participate
in one single indissolulable cosmic process. today stoic means someone
who seems unfeeling to pain or misfortune. Stoics believed the
vissicitudes of life should not affect them. but be eager in public
life! your participation is part of a cosmic divine plan.
Cynics Antisthenes (400): was a follower of socrates. the key to
happiness is the rejection of desires and pleasures and possessions. A
life of asceticism. Diogenes (340) is the main exponent, he lived in
an empty barrel. "get out of my light." Today cynics sneeringly deny
the sincerity of human motives and actions.
Alexandria was it. At a place called the Museum, and the Library,
there was centered a plan to organize all the world's knowledge.
Summarizing the work of previous scholars though, was only half of it.
New emphasis on realism and rejections of the weirder or unprovable.
Euclid (300) produced a textbook on geometry, the elements. remained
the standard until the 20th Century AD. People can know by math
Archimedes of Syracuse (240) figured out pi (3.14) and measured the
diameter of the Sun. "give me a fulcrum and i will move the world".
simple machines. During a roman siege in 212, he built a reflecting
mirror that focussed the bright sun on roman worships, burning holes
in the decks!
Heraclides of Pontus (330) observed that Mercury and venus orbit the
sun, not earth.
Aristarchus of Samos (250) observed planets spin on their own axes.
Eratosthenes of Cyrene (230) calculated the circumference of the Earth
Heliocentrism never caught on because of opposition from the lyceum,
whose geocentric idea became the standard canon.
Hipparchus of Nicaea (140) insisted earth was center of the universe,
but cataloged stars better than anyone else. After he, the Ptolemian
view would last 1,800 years until Copernicus.
Diocles (350) wrote the first book on anatomy, including humors, which
are what give emotions: but are they hot, cold, wet and dry? or earth,
water fire and air? or are they blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black
bile? Other helenistic scientists dissected cadavers.
One measure of the status of women in a society is the level of female
infanticide. greeks did abandon unwanted female babies. this was
lessened in hellenistic times. greek women in egypt had full
Citizenship was expanded, important people even got to be citizens of
more than one city, something the Hellenic greeks would have found
In helleniistic art. we see many oriental influences (cause of Alex. And his battles…) greek art becomes more open to ‘new’ as many counties that alex joined to greec has already had its own cultural tradition.
Idealization -> expression and some ‘naturalistic’ tendencies, eg. Portraits of people in every age and every condition: young, old, health and disabled – ofcourse we CANNOT say it is naturalism – naturalism in art will occure in the XIX c, but we may say about some naturalistic tendencies, esp. when we compare them w previous very very idealistic canon, eg. Homer’s portrait. It is very significant change in greek art: the presence of ‘ugliness’. When we see laokoon group we may observe that if we could describe Dyscobol as ‘ethos’, Laokoon group gives priviledge of ‘pathos’. Art comes to the earth, art is closer to people as it expresses feelings – ofcourse we may agruge hoe truly it does it (well we never know how would we look if couple of snakes attacked us,maybe we would look as theatrical as laooon?).
Art and Philosophy – greek philosophers are famous for some certain philosophical systems built according to rules.the very same is w art – it is build according to rules, according to canon and HARMONY. Beauty= harmony.
Big boom cause of new cities. All of the cities were andvanced in a modern way: plan of the city took under consideration abilities of landscape and distance from the ‘trade route’ and climate – it was so called ‘planning’ – now obvious but not quite so in medieval times. Aleksandira is the typical city from this period. Doric order was in minority. New: central plans in sacral buildings – Tholos’es.
Lots of the sculptures were free standing – so it gave a chance to make a big and multicompositional scenes that you can see from ‘all around’ – Diskobol was not quite so dinamin, Dyscobol is amovement captured and stopped in time.
Laokoon and Farnese Toro are composed in a Pyramida composition – this type of composition will be very charactesitic for Michalangelo and its not a coincident. Toro Farnese and Laokooon belonges to so called ‘barock’ tendency in Hellenistic art – it is expressive and full of pathos.
The Hellenistic Age ended in 31 BC when the Romans under Octavian
Augustus won control of the Mediterranean, Near East and Egypt. But
Hellenistic culture endured by being adaped by the Romans,
putting the - in Greco-Roman.
EUH 1000 Main Next: Rome