Ancient Greece: Notable Individuals

Figure 1.--This is Raphael's homage to ancient Greece. He titled it 'The School of Athens'. At the center are Plato and Aristotle. Classical manuscripts brought west from Byzantine libraries played am important role in generating the Renaissance that spread from Italy to all of Europe except Russia and Ottoman controlled areas. Each of the figures is Raphael's portrait of the major figures of ancient Greece, many from Athens. He used the great men of the Italian Renaissance as models.

Ancient Greece produced many of the great figures in history. No other small ancient society generated more inspired leaders, thinkers, and artistic geniuses. nd amazingly all these great figures came from a population of only about 10 million people and Athens only a small fractiin of that during a relstively short time period. This inclued not only statesman and military commanders, but the thinkers that layed the foundation for Western Civilization, both philosophers and dramatists. Greek thinkers created the very idea of freedom and then dealt with the consequences of freedom -- consequences that seem very modern concerns. And with freedom we see the prime jewel of Greek civilization--democracy. It is democracy that is very essence of modernity. We also see amazing artistic and scienific advances. Greek thinkers began to develop very modern mathematical and scientific insights, although more from a phiolosophical/theoretical approach tham real science based on the scientific method. Notably most of these figures were Athenians or moved to Athens to participate in the Golden Age. Also notable is the lack of Spartans except for military commanders on the list of notable Greecks. Also notable is the absence of important Greeks after the glow of democracy and the Golden Age faded. While relatively brief, these men and citizens of Athens and other smaller city states created a culture that served as the foundation of the pan-Meditrrranran culture enshrining reason and freedom as the central values on which Western civilzation is built.

Aeschylus (525-455 BC)

Aeschylus writing during theGold Era of Greece was it great trgic playwright.

Aesop (6th century BC)

Aesop like Homer is a semi-legendary figure. In fact he is even mre lkikely than Homer to have been invented to have an author for the many popular fables that circulated among the Greek peasantry. There are many accounts as to his origins. The most common is that he was a barbarian sold to a Greek slave-owner (6th century BC). Another accoun suggests African origins. His stories involving animals have caused him to be assiociated with children's literature and thus accorded a lower literary ranking than Homer. Aespo spoke, however, of more than animals. His fables deal with the ptoblems of the pesantry, the commomn people of Greece as weall as slaves. Thus his fables are in sharp contrast to Homer whose epic poetry appaled to an arstocratic class.

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)

Alexander, prince and king of of Macedonia, is considerd by many yto be the greatest military commander of all time. He also had promise as a statesman, intending to create an expsive view of citizenship in his new empire, something the Romans would eventually adopt. He died, however, a very young man, unable to fulfill his promise other a great military commander. Alexander is one of the most fascinating figures in history. As a boy he was schooled by the great Aristotle, one of the most revered thinkers in Western history. Alexander began military campaigning at the age of 14. In a decade he would proceed to conquer the known world. He is often claimed to be the greatest mikitary commander of history. This may or may not be true, but he certainly was one of the greatest. Western historins focus in his military genius, but he was also ruthless in his tretment of those who dared defy him. His life was very short. After his men forced him to end his conquests and return west from India, he seems to have begun focusing on the shift from warrior to statesman. His early death meant we will never know just how he would have fared with this effort.

Archimedes (287-212 BC)

Archemimes was one of the world's great mathmatician and inventor.

Aristophanes (c445-386 BC)

Aristophanes after Athens defeat in he Phelophenesian War turned from the great tragic themes and became Athens great comic playwright.

Aristotle (385-322 BC)

Arustotle is one of the great philosphers if not the greatest of all timm. He was alsp Alexder's tutor.

Epicurus (341-270 BC)

Epicurus was another important Greek philosopher. Writng well fter Grece's Golden Age, prived bery influenti;l in the rising Roman Rpublic.

Herodotus (c484–425/413 BC)

Herodotus was a Greek writer who invented the field of study we now call history. He was given the honorific `Father of History’ by the Roman writer and orator Cicero for his notable work 'The Histories'. And that name has coninued into our modern wirld. In his own time he was criticized, even by Athenians. He has been called the 'The Father of Lies' by critics who point tio claims claim his `histories’ are little more than tall tales. And some comments certainly seen absurd. Translation may have been a problem when Heriodotus was collecting informntion from non-Greeks. Into modern times we see what seem absurd notions being widely accepted about other people. Among the Greeks there were as yet no clear-cut distinctions between the various disciplines, and historical writing included what er now see as as geography, the anthropology, or economics. Herodotus was the first author who began to ficus on what we now call history. He attempted to document the causes of the wars fought by the Greeks. He was particularly interested in the Persin Wars. He was still a boy during the later stage. His writings include many digressions, setting down all that he could find about every people touched by the expansion of the Persian Empire.

Homer (9th or 8th century BC)

Homer may be the most influential author or authors of all time. We are not sure he existed and may be a legend created to explain the development of two exxtrodinary works -- the epic poemns The Iliad and The Odyssey. Virtually nothing is known about this most shadowy figure of all of literature. If he did not exist, the Greeks attached his mame to these poems. They were the basis of Helinistic Greek education and culture and by extension that of Rome which carried over to the spread of Christianity. Virgil’s Aeneid was loosely molded on the pattern set by Hiomer. Homer was revived by Byzantine scholars qnd passed on to the Christian West by the Greek scholars who fled ro the west fleeing the Ottomans. The Homeric epics had a major impact on the Renaissance which began shaping the modern West.


Pericles (495-429 BC)

Pericles was one of the great statesmen of all time and guided Athens during its Goldan Age. He saw Athensough the third and climatic Persin invasion. His Funeral Ocation is one of the fundamental statements of freedom, unequaled until Lincoln's Gettsburg Address in modern times.



Solon rose to power in Athens (594 BC). His reforms laid the foundation for the flowering of Greek democracy. He was a far-sighted leader who introduced b=vital reforms. The most important was the "sisachthia" which cancelled the debts of poor Athenians. In addition he abolished loans which had the possible result of enslavement in the event that the loan is not paid back. He prohibited agricultural exports except fior the all important shipments of olive oil. And he established the right of citizens to appeal state actiions.

Socrates (Greece, 469-399 BC)

Socrates is the the first educational pioneer known to history. He is also the greatest and founded the principles of Western education that are still revered to this day. Socrates was born in Athens during the Goldren Age and lived almost all of his life there. His father was Sophroniscus, a stonemason. His mother was Phaenarete, a midwife. He showed an early appetite for knowledge. Greece had a developed eductionl system whicg varoed among the city states. He studied the works of the contemporary philosopher, Anaxagoras. He was taught rhetoric by Aspasia, noneother than the gifted mistress of the great Athenian statesman Pericles. Socrates was renounded for walking around Atenes and asking people of all backgrounds about their beliefs, all men, about their beliefs. He especially focused on men seemed to be 'wise' or thoiught themselves wise. He coincluded that men whose reputation for wisdom stood highest were usually the menn mot lcling in it. And that the common people were often the more intelligent. [Plato] The Athenian youth absolutely delighted in watching Socrates question their elders and reducing their argumnts to nonsence. Their parents were none to happy with this. The results of course is that Socretes was put to death. The teaching approach Socretes fonded is today known as the Socratic method. It is a form of dialogue between individuals involving asking questions to stimulate critical thinking and to bring out ideas and assess underlying presumptions. There are not matters than are no open to question and the instructor does not provide students answers or seek to have the participnts arrivd ar precconceived conclusions. Rther the idea is to develop learning and reasining skills.

Thucydides (c455-395 BC))

Thucydides was a general and great historian of Greece's Golden Age.


Plato. Apology 22.


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Created: 10:55 AM 9/29/2018
Last updated: 10:55 AM 9/29/2018