The Greek PolisOriginator of Political Philosophy And Science
Brief History of Greece• The first great civilization in Greece and Crete was the Minoan.• It lasted roughly from 2000 BCE until 1400 BCE.• Around 1400 BCE, the Mycenaean civilization supplanted the Minoan, and dominated Greece until about 1100 BCE, when barbarians known as Dorians invaded.
Emergence of the Polis, or Greek City-State• Starting around 800 BCE a new civilization, the Hellenic, became dominant in Greece.• The Hellenic civilization was composed of two strands, the Dorian and the Ionian.• This civilization gave rise to a new form of social/political organization: the polis.
The Polis• The polis was an independent, self- governing city of between 50,000 and 300,000 people.• Several dozen polises (Greek “poleis”) dotted the Greek countryside• In each polis, politics, religion, and social life were closely intertwined.
Types of Government• Two types of government were used in the Greek Polises.• The Dorians generally had an oligarchic form of government.• The Greek word oligarchy means rule by the few.• The Ionians developed the first democratic form of government.• Democracy means rule by the people.
Sparta and Athens• Generally speaking, the Dorians depended upon agriculture, while the Ionians were seafarers and merchants.• The two primary polises were Sparta and Athens.• Sparta was Dorian, oligarchic, and had an agriculture-based economy.• Athens was Ionian, democratic, and depended on seafaring and trade.
Foreign Wars• The greatest challenge to Hellenic civilization came from Persia, to the east.• Greece fought two Persian wars, in 490 BCE, and in 481 BCE.• The Greek polises formed an alliance, led by Sparta and Athens.• The Greeks won both wars, ensuring that the roots of western civilization would include Greek thought.
The Great War• After the Persian Wars, Greece was divided into two power blocs.• One, the Peloponnesian League, was led by Sparta.• The other was the Delian League, led by Athens.• These power blocs fought a great war, from 431-404 BCE.
THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR, 431-404 BC• During the war, the soldiers of the Peloponnesian League besieged the cities of the Delian League by land.• The Delian League used its navies to supply itself with food, and to harass the home cities of its enemies.• The Spartans and their allies finally defeated Athens and its allies.
Socrates and The Rise of Political Philosophy• One of the greatest contributions of Hellenic Civilization was its origination of political philosophy.• Just before and during the Great War, an Athenian citizen, Socrates, began raising questions such as, “What is justice?”• Socrates asked these questions of his fellow citizens, in public places.
The Socratic Method• Socrates’ mode of inquiry, asking questions and analyzing the answers, became known as the Socratic Method.• Socrates was perceived by many Athenians as a threat to their settled way of life.• He was finally put to death by Athens for impiety and corrupting the young.
Death of Socrates Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825)
Plato• Socrates’ most famous student was Plato, who wrote the first great works of political philosophy.• Plato’s most famous work is The Republic,• Plato’s books are written as dialogues, or conversations.• These conversations are usually between a character named Socrates, and other Athenian citizens.• In the Republic, Socrates is portrayed as talking to two young men, Adeimantus and Glaucon.
Plato and Aristotlefrom School of Athens by Raphael
Aristotle• Plato started a school, called The Academy.• His most famous student was Aristotle.• Aristotle wrote many works of philosophy, and made the first systematic effort to collect and organize information on a wide variety of topics.• Aristotle might be considered the first scientist.• His works are written as treatises, which are more systematic, but much drier than dialogues.• One of these is the Politics, the first systematic treatise on politics.