How the Greeks Explained the World

Looking at civilizations of Greek and Roman antiquity, we feel confident we can judge them. Were the people of antiquity better or worse off than us? Did they live under authoritarian or democratic governments? Did they cultivate the sciences? Did they live in harmony with the natural world? And what was their legacy?

Depending on our education, each one of us living in the twenty-first century may have something to say or can probably answer these questions.

In my case, I am slightly biased in favor of Greek antiquity because I lived that antiquity, though more than two thousand years later in modern Greece. My additional bias comes from living in America, the antithesis of the ancient and the super model of the modern.

In the fifth century BCE, the Greeks had about a thousand-five hundred poleis (states) all over the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. They invented and practiced democracy, other forms of government, and political theory.

But, above all, the Greeks produced civilization. They settled in poleis where they developed agriculture, laws, architecture, education, theater, national identity, poetry and literature. Their small poleis provided security and schooling in the arts and crafts of civilization. They were hives of festivals and athletic games like the Olympics honoring their gods.

Curiosity led the Greeks to philosophy. They explored the natural world and the cosmos and discovered laws, order and harmony. Accepting the world as is inspired them even more to science.

The Greeks put to use their science and cunning craftsmanship in the building of the Parthenon in the fifth century BCE. That beautiful temple dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom, was also a paradigm of how to construct and explain the world.

After the Parthenon we have Plato and Aristotle who constructed philosophies of moral and scientific wisdom for a real understanding of —> Read More