Simpson 1Connor SimpsonProfessor MyersSpring 2012Academic Writing The Founding Fathers Of Our Founding Fathers And America As We Know It In the history of humanity there have been many civilizations that rose to power and con-trolled vast majorities of the world as they knew it. However, few have left impressions on mod-ern day society that have become apart of our culture and are accustomed into everyday actions.The civilization of Ancient Greece was the most powerful in the world at the time of their exis-tence and would compare to the powers possessed by modern civilizations such as the UnitedStates. Think of some everyday items or ideas that every person possesses and takes for grantedeveryday. Establishments from universities and libraries, all the way up to our modern dayAmerican government, many customs in our culture have been adopted from the Ancient Greeks.Many philosophies, sports, arts and even medical treatments have their basis in Ancient Greektraditions. Many are good for society such as our form of government, democracy with represen-tation from the people. Other customs such as our tendency for liking violence and being mili-taristic are not so beneficial to a modern society, such as the United States It was once stated that, “Had Greek civilization never existed, we would have never fullydeveloped as humans.” (W.H. Auden). This statement is showing that had the Greeks not existedthat humans would have remained a sub human type of species and not reached the potential theyare capable of. History has shown that many things have trickled down throughout the sands oftime but the most evident and visually obvious would be the architecture of the time. Even todaymany buildings, including those of the Mall in Washington D.C. are clearly based on designs
Simpson 2used to build the city state of Athens.The U.S. Supreme Court and the Jefferson Memorial’scolumns building incorporates all these classic elements of Greek architecture (ehow.com). Many historians throughout the course of history have inquired much about the AncientGreeks. All will agree that without the Ancient Greeks and their innovative, technological, andlogical methods, the modern world in which we live would be set back and not as advanced aswe are today. While this is a common understanding among historians, there are other topics inwhich historians do not see eye to eye. One specific is which city-state was the most dominantin the ancient world, but which was it and did they affect America as we know it? All can agreeit was one of two, the philosophical thinkers of Athens, or the fearless warriors of Sparta. Bothoffered to the modern world rich and bountiful information to the modern world on how theymade steps towards advancing as a human race but one would dominate the western world.Spartans were a militaristic group that conquered others and were very brutal. Every aspect of aSpartans life revolved around warfare, which could explain some of the tendencies of Americansof todays world to associate with and enjoy violence on television and in video games. Althoughvery powerful they did not contribute the same wealth of understand and knowledge as Athens.The city-state of Athens would carry humanity into a new era of thinking and development fargreater than any other city-state could have ever imagined, including Sparta. Athens was established around 1500 B.C.E. positioned on top of a key hill named the“Acropolis.” This word means “high city” and the high ground made it extremely easy for theAthenians to defend it. Many people believe that Washington D.C. Is supposed to replicate thelayout of Athens. Although the city was very small in comparison to many major cities of themodern world it has lived to be one of the oldest cities in the world and was a hub for culturaland human development achieved through democracy, naval innovations, philosophical teach-
Simpson 3ings, and artwork. In the western world throughout the 5th century BCE Athens was the mostsuccessful city of any civilization. Like all other cities of the ancient world Athens had somerough spots in its creation but all things began to flourish around 590 BCE when a new ruler bythe name of Solon came into power. Solon worked not as a tyrannic ruler, but wrote a new con-stitution that combated economic decline and boosted the moral of the inhabitants of Athens byseparating the people into four main social classes. Much like America, these social classes weredetermined by amounts of property owned by citizens and allowed more lower class people, interms of money, to be elected to an office. For this reason Solon is credited with laying the foun-dation for modern day democracy, a government for the people, run by the people. Economical-ly at this time Athens became an amazing place to live. Due to the social classes network, tradewas expanded beyond social and physical borders. Foreign trade was a huge success in reform-ing the economy and helped the needy people of the city. Solon was not the only Athenian however that changed the city for the better. Besideslooking at Athens from a political standpoint there are a couple other items that clearly stand outabove the rest. Athens saw a whole entire period that marked the zenith of Athens as a center ofliterature, philosophy and the arts, mainly through theater. Some of the most important figures ofwestern cultural and intellectual history lived in Athens during this period: the play writes Euripi-des and Sophocles, the philosophers Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, the historians Herodotus, thepoet Simonides and the sculptor Phidias. Many of the teachings and thoughts of these greatminds were copied down in writing and are used today in reference to their respective topics,that’s how smart these men were. The political leader of this period was Periclus, who used themoney raised through taxes paid by the members of the Delian League to build the Parthenonand other great monuments of classical Athens. The city became, a garden of Eden for social and
Simpson 4physical development in the western world. It literally represented all things good about human-ity. Without the Periclus era Athenians and their brilliant minds the way the world operates to-day would be changed greatly. You can look at almost every part of life in America and find a connection, an influencefrom Athenian methods. Anything from social status based on money, first created by Athenianleaders to the buildings in which we live and conduct our government business in. Minus thetechnology we currently have, they were as organized and hard working as modern people, ex-plaining why so many of their traditions have been incorporated into the minds of the Americanpeople, whether we realize it or not. Although no longer a world superpower, Athens continuesto live on in our daily lives, seeing as how it is now the capital of Greece. Traditions meldingseamlessly with the current world, creating a strong starting point for us to build upon. HadAthens never developed into the thriving city-state that it was in the 5th century, the world inwhich we live in would be a totally different place. Who knows, our founding fathers may neverhave recognized democracy as a valid form of government for our people. During the Jacksonian Era, American architects looked to Ancient Greece for their inspi-ration. Not only had British styles begun to lose favor with prosperous Americans during theWar of 1812, but Ancient Greece represented democracy and liberty to a nation (The UnitedStates) that had now established its independence and system of governance and Americans ad-mired this. Many of the founding fathers recognized that Ancient Greece was a prime example ofdemocracy and it was the basis of then modern American intellect. Additionally, many Ameri-cans sympathized with Greeces own struggles for independence in the 1820s. Greek Revival ar-chitecture began with public buildings in Philadelphia (architect.about.com). The best exampleof this would be the Second National Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, built in 1824.
Simpson 5Many European-trained architects designed in the popular Greek style, and the fashion spread viacarpentry guides and pattern books. With its classic clapboard exterior and bold, simple lines,Greek Revival architecture became the most predominant housing style in the United States, es-pecially in the Southern states. Colonial Greek Revival mansions, also called Colonial houses be-came popular as plantation houses and estates (erasofelegance.com). Greek Revival houses wereusually symmetrical in shape and featured bold, simple moldings, heavy cornices, and a widefrieze (a horizontal section above a doorway or windows). Became the most predominant hous-ing style in the United States until the 1860s. This is a very dominant example of how AncientGreece influenced this country providing a layout for buildings in which American citizens live. Perhaps the biggest influence Ancient Greece has had in the current world is that of gov-ernment. The first known democracy was created in Greece and gave political power to the citi-zens. This culture has continued, and the power to elect continues to be held by the people. In1776 when the United States was in the mist on not only a war against the British Empire, thecolonists of the American Colonies were forming a new government and separating away by re-volting. The government that colonial leaders envisioned was one that was a government by thepeople for the people. This type of government just so happened to be a democracy and was thegovernment that ancient greeks living in the city state of Athens would have been included in.This form of government is very successful and adaptive for a society and is still very popular incountries today. The way that Greeks carried themselves as almost a very nationalistic society ishow many Americans are today. Philosophies first created in Ancient Greece are also still heavily discussed and debated,especially those by Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. Their philosophies and theories have helped toshape generation after generation, and will likely continue to do so. Not only did these people sit
Simpson 6and discuss, but in order to write down their ideas Greeks even had an alphabet similar to ourown. In fact, many letters from the Greek alphabet are still used today in many places. For ex-ample, alpha (ox) and beta (house)(omniglot.com). From these groups of people sitting aroundtogether philosophizing, institutions such as universities and private schools where students aretaught to think and interpret the teachings and ideas of Plato. Many famous poets and thinkershave been said to carry on the ideas of Plato through a thinking method called, Neoplatonism.Some cite American poet Erza Pound as a Neo-platonist or post Platonic thinker, from a perspec-tive due to his great admiration for Plotinus and his writings on philosophy and religion. Thisjust goes to show the impact that Greek philosophers brought to the development of humanity. Even medical practices performed by the Greeks have also been apparent in modern daymedical research. Ancient Greek doctors are often referred to as the fathers of medicine andmany medical treatments have their origins in Ancient Greece. There were people in AncientGreece who did not just follow the Gods. One of them was Hippocrates; he was a Greek doctorwho came up with a theory about the causes of disease. He believed that there were four Hu-mours; blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm and that disease was caused by an imbalance ofthese humours (h2g2). Hippocrates theory led to many cures that did not work such as bleedingto get rid of excess blood and of course the theory is now believed to be incorrect. However,Hippocrates is still known to be the Father of Modern Medicine because his theory was the firsttime doctors began to look for practical causes and cures of disease. Of course, procedures nowhave been refined, but their basis still lies in ancient times. Sports also played a big part in Ancient Greek life, and Greece hosted the very firstOlympic Games, which of course are still held today every four years. Many of the sports foundin the modern day Olympics either closely resemble or are the same as those competed in at the
Simpson 7first Olympics. Some of these sports include track and field, however there were fewer events.In fact the race the marathon was named after the distance from the city of Marathon to the cityof Athens. Like our Olympics, though, winning athletes were heroes who put their home townson the map (perseus.tufts.edu). Also closely related to sports would be the idea of a public gym-nasium. The ancient Greeks had places where men could go to exercise and socialize with oneanother just as people do today in gyms. Another social aspect that the Ancient Greeks gave to American society applies to manypeople at York College. This is the organization of fraternities and sororities. The Greeks hadbrotherhoods of certain trades that were essentially clubs for them to be apart of and allowedthem to be around people like them. The word fraternity actually means brotherhood in Greek.The very first fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 in America. In 1831 they dis-closed their secrets and bylaws referring to many Ancient Greek traditions (appstate.edu). Whenmany fraternities were founded, initiation rites and ceremonies were often borrowed or modifiedfrom any combination of the Philosophy and Literature from Ancient Greeks. As most can imag-ine these items no longer hold the importance in the curriculum that they had previously but canstill be seen in “Greek Life”. One area in which Greece influenced modern society in a bad way would be the militaris-tic tendencies of the Spartan nation. America has become a military superpower and has beencapturing land and resources in order to expand itself. Greeks, much like many modern day soci-eties, understood that violence was a means of achieving political ends and was often state sanc-tioned (sparta.markoulakispublications.org). Although America is not publicly violent towardsone another or use the killing of people as a sport, there are still many violent shows that serve asentertainment, much like the ancient world.
Simpson 8 You can look at almost every part of life and find a connection, an influence from AncientGreek times. Anything from social status based on money, first created by Greek leaders to thebuildings in which we live everything is related to Greek life. Minus the technology we current-ly have, they were as organized and hard working as any modern day civilization, and many oftheir ideas about science were as legit as any of ours, explaining why so many of their traditionshave been incorporated into the current world. Although no longer a world superpower, AncientGreece continues to live on in our daily lives, traditions melding seamlessly with the currentworld, creating a strong starting point for us to build upon. Had the Ancient Greeks never devel-oped into the thriving civilization that it once was the world in which we live in would be a total-ly different place.WORKS CITED"1825 - 1860: Greek Revival House Style." About.com Architecture. Web. 17 Mar. 2012."About Greek Life." History of Greek Life. Web. 1 Apr. 2012.Auden, W. H. The Portable Greek Reader. New York: Viking, 1948. Print."Eras of Elegance - Victorian Architecture: Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Stick-Eastlake, and Queen Anne Styles." Eras of Elegance. Web. 9 Apr. 2012.Journal of Ancient Spartan and Greek History." Sparta : Journal of Ancient Spartan and Greek History. Web. 08 Mar. 2012.
Simpson 9"The History of Modern Medicine." H2g2.com Web. 3 Apr. 2012."Perseus Collection Greek and Roman Materials." Greek and Roman Materials. Web. 08 Mar. 2012."Omniglot - the Guide to Languages, Alphabets and Other Writing Systems." Omniglot. Web. 08 Mar. 2012.