Chapter 7: Athens in Relation to Culture

*this blogpost is one of my reading summary series of History Western of Philosophy. For chapter 6, you can read here

Book 1: Ancient Philosophy
Part 1: The Pre-Socratics
Chapter 7: Athens in Relation to Culture

All this time I thought all ancient philosophers came from one place, which was Athens. It changed since I carefully read this book. Now I know that ancient Greeks wasn't limited only in Greece island, but also encompassed to Miletus (Aydin Province, Turkey) and south Italy. 

From previous chapters, we've acquainted with Ionian and Magna Graecia (the Greek cities of south Italy and Sicily) philosophers. In this chapter, we will learn the greatness of Athens and soon we'll find out the impact to philosophy.

The greatness of Athens begins at the time of two Persian wars (490 B.C. and 480-479 B.C.).(p. 65) The victory against the Persian king Darius gave huge positive impact. This was the first war, by the way. The Ionians had rebelled against Persia and Athens had helped Ionia. In this rebel, Sparta took no part of it. Therefore Athens became predominant in this alliance against Persia. Later, Athens had acquired naval supremacy over other allies. Gradually this alliance transformed into Athenian Empire. Athens became rich and prospered under Pericles.

Pericles reigned for about thirty years until his fall 430 B.C. He was a wise king. Under his reign, Athens enjoyed the happiest and the most glorious time in Athens history. Pericles rebuilt the temples on the Acropolis which had been destroyed by fire. He also built the Parthenon and other temples. Pheidias, the sculptor, was employed by the State to make statues of gods and goddesses.

Before Pericles' times, Athens was so left behind from other Greek cities. After Athens was given stimulus of victory, wealth, and the need of recronstruction, architects, sculptors, and dramatists produced works that still impress us until today. In philosophy, there are only two great names from Athens. They are Socrates and Plato. 

To understand what happened after Pericles, we need to learn about Attica. Attica, at the beginning, was a self-supporting village agricultural region. Its capital was Athens. Many of the citizens were artisans and skilled artificer who was trying to have some luck at abroad. Gradually, they learnt that it would be more profitable to cultivate vines and olives rather than grain.

Attica had been a monarchy, but the king merely a religious official without political power. (p. 67) Then, the government fell into aristocracy, who oppressed farmers and the urban artisans. Later, the power fell to tyranny, but aristocrats still be able to secure positions in democracy. Towards the end of Pericles' life, leaders of Athenian democracy demanded a larger share of political power. At the same time, his policy and the economic prosperity of Athens caused frictions with Sparta, leading to Peloponnesian War (the second war), which Athens was completely defeated. 

Russell closed the chapter as follows:

In spite of political collapse, the prestige of Athens survived, and throughout almost a millennium philosophy was centred there. Alexandria eclipsed Athens in mathematics and science, but Plato and Aristotle had made Athens philosophically supreme. The Academy, where Plato had taught, survived all other schools, and persisted, as an island of paganism, for two centuries after the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. At last, in A.D. 529, it was closed by Justinian because of his religious bigotry, and the Dark Ages descended upon Europe. (p. 67)

So, that's all from chapter 7. Next on chapter 8, we're gonna meet Anaxagoras. Stay tuned! \m/


  1. cerita perkembangan kota Atena ya? pasti keren...seandainya saya ngerti XD

    1. Iya, chapter ini membahas Atena, dari yang gak ada apa-apa sampai punya pengaruh di dunia, pada masanya.


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