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« BU big time | Main | At least the football is so-so »

Aug 22, 2012


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I wonder if this linkage of freedom and democracy with the Greeks is something of an invention (or, perhaps a discovery) of the Enlightenment. I mean, that whole Roman Empire-Domination of the Church thing for most of the intervening time wasn't exactly a victory for freedom a rationality as it was for subservience and unquestioned, and unquestionable, belief.

Democracy was an attribute of Athens for a measurable period of time. Other Greek cities followed their own ways. Slavery was accepted and most women were subject to the overlordship of a man -- father, husband, son.

Then there was Athenian imperialism, Sparta's really weird culture, and the hiring out of Greek mercenaries to the Persians for use, among other things, in attacking Greece.

Phillip's and Alexander's militarism doesn't fit the freedom and democracy mold, either.

I'm not deprecating the contributions of Athens and other Greek cities to democracy, to rationality, to letters. But, except for a few centuries of the Roman Republic, it was pretty hard times for democracy and freedom until the West rediscovered Greece all over again.

Bill Yaner

An amazing book on this subject is Thomas Cahill's "Sailing the Wine Dark Sea, Why the Greeks Matter."

A wonderful historian bringing his craft to this question.

Account Deleted

I would accept corbly's points about the restrictions on the idea of "freedom" as it held meaning in ancient Greece, but I think the concept DW points to of the emergence of the individual man free of government or religious oppression is the core concept at the heart of our notion of liberty.

The expansion of liberty to more and more segments of the population has long been the ultimate concern in more modern democracies.

David Wharton

Justcorbly, Meier's book addresses the issues you raise directly, and I touch on them briefly in the review. You'll have to buy the book, or this week's copy of The Weekly Standard, to get your questions answered.

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