Adonis Diaries

What’s with ancient Athens?

Posted on: February 11, 2010

What’s with ancient Athens? (Feb. 10, 2010)

            There is this Western civilization tendency of focusing mainly on ancient city-state Athens as the roots of its knowledge (with extension to all kind of knowledge and everywhere!).  The European and northern America civilizations insist that the “Greek miracle” between the 6th and 5th century BC was the cornerstone for dissemination of knowledge and the improvement of human cultures.  Worse, this tendency would like you to believe that enlightenment of city-state of Athens is a unique experience that was never witnessed before, later and in nowhere else at any periods of history!

            Based on that comforting assumption, most scholars gave up attempting to explain this phenomenon and just applied to describing this status as fact.  First, we can explain it pretty rationally. The City-Sates of Byblos, Sidon, Tyr, and countless other eastern Mediterranean cities preceded Athens in enjoying their Golden Ages at least one thousand years before Athens was built. Competition among the City-states for dominance in trade, industry, and schools of learning, and mastery of the seas was the main factor for the changes in their political-economic structures that shifted from monarchy, oligarchy, or democratic systems within the City-State limits. The constitutions were valid for the City-State residents.

            It happened that before Athens’ Golden Age the Phoenician city-states were subjugated by one of the Persian kingdoms.  Scholars and traders immigrated to Athens and transmitted their know-how in trade, learning, forms of governments, and schools of thoughts to the Athenians.  The pre-Socratic philosophers and the sophist teachers were the founders of rhetoric and sciences among the aristocratic Athenian classes who were required to be eloquent and learned in order to vying for political positions.

            This is the same process that occurred to many other Golden Age cities and nations.  For example, Venice and Genoa captured the scholars and artisans fleeing or emigrating from Constantinople after the sack by the second European crusaders.  It is what happened to Germany when the French armies sacked Rome and scholars bolstered the Reformist movement of Martin Luther and disseminated the Bible in the German language and encouraged printing.  It is the same when the French aristocracy fled France to London during the French Revolution and carried with them their knowledge and money and started a new era for the coming industrial revolution.

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adonis49

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adonis49

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