Timeline: Ancient Greek Civilization



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Timeline: Ancient Greek Civilization
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800BC 490-445 460-430 404 403 399 387BC

Homeric Persians Pericles 30 Tyrants Academy

Age conquered Golden Age Democracy founded

Pre-Socratic philosophy and: 460-404: Restored

Athens vs. Sparta Socrates killed

Socrates: 470________________________________________

Plato: 428_____________________________348


I. Ancient Greek history (in a nutshell)


  1. Mediterranean culture

B. Homeric Age



  1. Heroic Age

  2. Illiad

  1. Greeks vs. Trojans

  2. Paris: Aphrodite (Helen), Artemis, Athena

  1. Odysseus

  2. Greek mythology




  1. Pre-Socratic Philosophy

  1. Natural foundation for reality

  2. Impersonal, intelligible foundation for reality

  3. Beginning of science: find the natural causes of individual objects/events and of reality as a whole

  4. Thales: water

  5. Anaximander: air

  6. Empedocles: earth, air, fire, water

  7. Democritus: atoms

  8. Heraclitus: fire; the only law that does not change is the Law of Change

  9. Parmenides

  10. Anaxagoras: mind




  1. Democracy

1. Geography

  1. Democracy by lot: all males with property

  2. Inequality: slaves, women, children

  3. Purpose of legislation is to make people good

  4. Six types of government: just = rule for sake of ruled; unjust: rule for sake of ruler

  1. Rule of one: monarchy (just) vs. tyranny (unjust)

  2. Rule of few: aristocracy (just, rule of the best) vs. oligarchy (unjust, rule of rich)

  3. Rule of many: democracy (just, people self-controlled and generous; rule for the good of all) vs. corrupt democracy (unjust, people impulsive and greedy; rule for good of oneself, sycophants)

  1. Best for of government: polity, mix of aristocracy and democracy; those with talent for ruling are given more opportunity; people must vote for rulers

  2. Rulers train citizens to conform/be able to function in, their form of government

  3. Important of habit and custom, especially the habit of abiding by the laws; do not change the laws too often, enforce laws even if not perfectly just

  4. Liberal virtues: generosity and temperance, creates best political community

  5. Political evil: pleonexia, the desire for more than one's share; this is what creates animosity between rich and poor and destroys political community




  1. Persians: 490-445 BC

  1. Government: one demi-god Emperor, everyone else a slave

  2. Attacked Greece, Greeks outnumbered 8 to 1

  3. Greeks took advantage of their geography: Marathon, Salamis

  4. Greeks won, a confirmation of their way of life, Golden Age




  1. Golden Age: 460-430 BC

  1. Pericles

  2. Olympics

  3. Art, architecture, sculpture, tragedies




  1. Peloponnesian Wars: Athens vs. Sparta: the "open" society vs. the "closed" society

  1. End of Golden Age

  2. Plague: Pericles died

  3. 404-403 BC: 30 Tyrants, Critias, "return to the good old days"

  4. 401: democracy restored

  5. 399: Socrates tried and killed




  1. Analogies with US history




  1. Revolutionary War: democracy vs. absolute monarchy

  2. American principles: democracy, freedom, equality, rule of the people, by the people and for the people

  3. WWI: joined European forces: democracy vs. non-democratic

  4. WWII: joined European forces: democracy and freedom vs. fascism

  5. Vietnam: controversy about whether the US was fighting for freedom or for Empire; "open" society vs. "closed" society; ulterior motives: money, power

  6. Globalization: are we promoting global democracy, freedom and equality, or are we promoting our own economic interests at the expense of others?

  7. The War on Terrorism: "open" societies vs. "closed" societies; democracy vs. theocracy; moneyed interests on both sides; in what sense(s) are we the "good" guys and in what ways can we be perceived as being the "bad" guys? In what sense(s) is bin Laden a "bad" guy and in what sense(s) could he be perceived as a "good" guy? What motivates bin Laden's followers to commit suicide for the cause? What motivates the Palestinian suicide bombers?

III. Socrates



  1. Gadfly: wanted Athenians to examine and reexamine their assumptions about who they really were, what they were really fighting for and whether the particular policies they had and choices they made were consist with their beliefs in democracy, freedom, and equality

  2. Leaders of Athens: received formal training in how to manipulate the people to vote for whatever they wanted; developed techniques for creating the appearance of being virtuous and wise without ever thinking about what is truly wise, just or virtuous

  3. Sophist: teachers who were paid huge sums to teach politicians and economic leaders how to be persuasive; how to create the appearance of being virtuous and wise in order to get whatever they wanted

  4. Socrates challenged leaders and sophists, forced them to account for themselves, explain their motives and decisions, often humiliated them in front of the youth and undermined their authority. Their motives were revealed as anti-democratic and selfish: they wanted to become as powerful as possible with no regard for the common good or the common person.

  5. The youth, especially those whose fathers were away from home because they had high-powered jobs, followed Socrates around and began to recognize the corrupt motives of the elder generation.

  6. Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth.

  7. The corrupt authorities often used religion and "the god's will" as a way to cover up their real motives and manipulate the uneducated masses.

  8. Socrates questioned this corrupt use of the religious tradition and was accused of "not believing in the gods the city believes in."

  9. Plato was one of the youth who followed Socrates around; Plato believed Socrates was the most just, wise and virtuous man and was killed for being unjust and corrupt.




  1. Socrates and Jesus

  1. Jesus also questioned the religious authority figures of his day and was accused of being unholy.

  2. Jewish leaders had formal training in religious texts, used this training to develop a complicated set of requirements necessary to follow religious law; the poor were unable to comply, hence considered less holy.

  3. Religious leaders used their education to create the appearance that they were exceptionally holy when they were really creating only the appearance of being holy and just.

  4. Jesus was also sentenced to death; the most holy man was accused of being unholy.

  5. How do these things happen? Why does history keep repeating itself?




  1. Plato

  1. Student of Socrates

  2. Had relatives in both political parties. His uncle, Critias, was the head of the 30 tyrants and at one time asked Plato to join him in his political campaign. Plato's brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus, were members of the liberal party.

  3. Plato observed the rise and fall of Athens: the Golden Age, the decline, the defeat, the 30 tyrants, the restoration of democracy and the death of Socrates

  4. Plato dedicated his life to founding a school that would teach history, philosophy and other subjects that aimed at educating young men to love true virtue, not to have the power to create an appearance of virtue.

VI. Plato's dialogues as tragedies





  1. The tragic character is not exceptionally good or evil, but a decent person who makes an error in judgment which has disastrous consequences.

  2. In many of the dialogues, such a person is listening to/talking with Socrates, who is portrayed as the ideal, and a sophist, who is portrayed as worse than most people and cynical about human life, the tragic character could go either way; he goes the wrong way and come to a bad end personally, and brings Athens down with him.

  3. The goal of tragedy: a catharsis (purgation) of pity and fear, the audience is intended to identify with the tragic figure, to pity him for his error and the suffering it caused and to fear for their own ignorance; the audience should try and learn from the character's mistakes.

  4. The titles of Greek tragedies and of Plato's dialogues are ironic: these are not heroes, they are decent people who made mistakes; we should avoid imitating them.

  5. Plato wanted to show how people's beliefs, especially their mistaken beliefs, led to errors in judgment and personal ruin.

  6. Plato wanted to show how people's mistaken beliefs and actions led to the fall of Athens from democracy to tyranny to a conservative democracy that ended up killing Socrates, the greatest friend to democracy.

  7. Plato wanted to show his readers that they, also, have had those opinions or know other people who have them; the arguments are still alive. Anyone living in a democratic society can develop a way of life which undermines the freedom and equality they enjoy.




  1. Plato's dialogues as presenting a new model for the best life




  1. Plato wanted to replace the Homeric, heroic ideal with a new model for the best human life: the contemplative life, the examined life.

  2. Plato wanted to replace with Homeric gods with the "forms" of Justice, Virtue, Courage, Temperance, etc. because the religious tradition was being used by corrupt people to justify corrupt actions.

  3. Plato wanted to establish a metaphysical foundation for morality because his tradition was corrupt and not motivating people to love virtue.

  4. Plato wanted to preserve democracy because he believed in political and intellectual freedom.

  5. Plato wanted to show present an allegory of the struggle between good and evil which goes on within each person, "thought is an inner dialogue of the soul with itself." The conversations that take place between people in the dialogues also take place within each person at some point in life.

  6. Plato wanted to present a comprehensive view of all aspects of a completely rational life, the life of the mind. Socrates is presented as a person who embodies that ideal.




  1. Socrates: The Ideal of the Life of the Mind




  1. Plato's early dialogues: individual character traits

  1. Laches: courage

  2. Charmides: temperance

  3. Lysis: friendship

  4. Euthyphro: piety

  5. Ion: beauty




  1. Plato's middle dialogues: how to relate to people to create a just society

  1. Gorgias: rhetoric: manipulation vs. education

  2. Meno: teaching; Is virtue teachable?

  3. Protagoras: virtue: Is virtue teachable?

  4. Republic: What is justice?

  5. Phaedrus: What is education? The relation between thought and emotion in the process of education.

  6. Symposium: What is love?




  1. Plato's later dialogues: the relationship between humanity and reality

  1. Euthydemus: the relations between logic and reality

  2. Cratylus: the relations between language and reality

  3. Theatetus: What is knowledge?

  4. Parmenides: What is a form?

  5. Sophist: What is reality? What is being?

  6. Philebus: What is the good life? Pleasures of the body vs. of thought.

  7. Timeus: A creation story.

  8. Phaedo: Is the soul immortal?




  1. Plato on the nature of reality and what follows for how to live

  1. Reality is as ordered as possible; the drive toward order is a principle of being; without order nothing could be or be conceived

  2. There must exist a divine mind which is this ordering force at work

  3. It is possible for reality to be understood, because it is ordered.

  4. The human species is the species whose nature is to understand reality.

  5. Socrates represents the ideal person, the one who uses his full potential to be rational, to know.

  6. Socrates treats other people above all as potentially rational, even thought they don't always act that way.

  7. Socrates disagrees with anyone who claims human beings are by nature irrational. Such a view simply justified a failure to pursue virtue, justice and truth.

  8. If human beings by nature desire to know, they must develop those personal virtues which maintain an inner order in their souls.

  9. If human beings by nature desire to know, they must care about the well ordering of societies, about creating just societies.

  10. The only way to activate other minds is to ask questions, to set an example and to engage in dialogue. No one can be forced to care about virtue, justice or truth; but arguments against the pursuit of the life of the mind always fall apart logically. Anyone who wants to be selfish also wants other people not to be; selfishness is inconsistent, it is based on contradictory principles.








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