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How Do You See Ancient Greece In Today's World - Essay Example

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Whereas whatever Greece stood for—be it in philosophy, in the arts, or in the foundations of rationality—continues to live and breathe in the Occidental heart and mind, the Orient has been surprisingly untouched. In fact, a…
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ANCIENT GREECE IN TODAY’S WORLD Ancient Greece in Today’s World: A Brief Essay on the Reflection of the Greece of Antiquity on the World of Today Your Name
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Greece endures. The ancient Greeks’ way of life—with their agoras and slaves and peripatetic philosophers—does not, but as a phenomenon of Western Civilization, ancient Greece lives on.
A strong demarcation must be drawn here, however. Whereas whatever Greece stood for—be it in philosophy, in the arts, or in the foundations of rationality—continues to live and breathe in the Occidental heart and mind, the Orient has been surprisingly untouched. In fact, a strong case can be made for the fact that as far as the East is concerned, Greece never happened. To be brutally generalistic, the East still believes in looking inward rather than out at the world; its architecture is like nothing the West has seen or envisaged; and so on. In today’s global village, then, where values are mingling and belief systems are coagulating, ripples from ancient Greece are lukewarm. We must, then, think of Greece as having influenced the West, and also consider that the West has influenced much of the rest of the world: to withhold talk of gods and goddesses for now, it was the Greeks who created today’s world of reason, logic, and understanding, where cause and effect are supreme, in place of a chaotic, mysterious universe, incomprehensible to humankind.
We have, however, in early Greece itself, a division fundamental to Western philosophy. Platonists believe the truth is to be searched for in Plato’s well-known “world of ideas”; the Aristotelians’ belief is that truth must be deduced, induced, or otherwise gleaned from observation of the outside world. In Platos Theory of Creation, as in Timaeus, God creates from his blueprints, called the Forms, for which Matter is the receptacle. This is similar to the Indian conception of God as the masculine force and the Earth as the feminine—which, indeed, gives us one of several links between the Greek conception of the universe and the Oriental.
Now here is the poet Heine: “Plato and Aristotle! These are not merely two systems, but rather two types of human nature, that stand, since time immemorial, in hostile opposition. Across the entire middle ages, to the greatest degree, and up to the present day, this battle was waged…” (Heine)
Seen in this light, we in the West are all Aristotelians; our marriage to technology proceeds directly from the view that the external world is to supply us with all our truths. Despite all of Aristotle’s classic mistakes, the man and his views live on: we with our machines are the proof.
From Aristotle, we turn to a phenomenon called Hippocrates – the first ever physician to have considered medicine as science rather than sorcery. Hippocrates is rightly called the Father of Medicine, believing, as he did, that “Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods, a man should himself lend a hand.” He meant the doctor, of course, as opposed to Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing, to whose temples the sick resorted at the peak of Greek civilization. Hippocrates taught that disease had understandable causes, causes that could be studied. The “Hippocratic Oath” that all to-be doctors take today refers to Hippocrates, and is a direct indication of the debt we owe to Greek antiquity. In fact, hardly anywhere else do we see such a powerful influence of a single figure or civilization on an entire world.
We are not talking here only of the influence of the Greece of antiquity on today’s world; we are also talking about where we can see that Greece today. One answer is in the movies. Dr. Cora Sowa makes a strong case for this, mentioning The Godfather, Jaws, and The Phantom of the Opera, among others. “Myth is the system of recurring patterns and themes that people use to make sense out of the world. Significantly, ancient and modern patterns often turn out to be the same… in their universality, they seem to have an intimate connection with the way all human beings think,” she says. (Sowa)
As one example, the essential myth behind The Godfather is the “Succession Myth”: it is “one of mankinds oldest myths, found in the literature of the Greeks… The typical Succession Myth covers three generations—grandfather, father, and son… It chronicles the passage of power from generation to generation. A typical ancient example is the Theogony of Hesiod, a contemporary of Homer: Ouranos, the Sky God, was castrated by his son Kronos; Kronos, in turn, was overthrown by his youngest son Zeus, who became king of the gods. This story… describes the basic facts of family descent and competition.” (Sowa 2)
We now turn to that cornerstone of American political idealism: Democracy. To what extent we do see it in America today is not our concern in this space. Our point is that it is indeed America’s ideal. One only needs to contemplate Nazi Germany, or Mussolini’s Italy, or today’s Afghanistan, to see with a clear and unbiased eye what the democratic ideal holds. And the very word comes from the Greek: “demos” (the people) and “kratein” (to rule). Athens was, circa 500 BC, one of the first societies ever to have established democracy as we know it. Without going into the details, the Athenians had a meeting place of sorts known as the Assembly. It was at the Assembly that Athenians met each month and discussed affairs d’état; the government made no decisions independent of the Assembly. Of course, Athens had its Citizens (only men), its Metics, and its slaves. “Specific freedoms commonly recognized by democratic governments include: freedom of religion; freedom of the press; freedom of speech; freedom of association and assembly; freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment; and freedom to work and live where and how you choose.” (Lehrer) That certainly was not the case in the Athens of 500 BC, but the idea is—very crudely—the same.
In fact, a lot of ideas are the same. We’re referring to the Greece of antiquity as seen today: those Greeks knew what they were doing. In their quest for truth, in their love of reason, in their desire to live the good life, in their drive to advance beyond where they were—they laid the foundations for our world.
Heine, Heinrich (1833). Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland
(On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany).

Sowa, Cora Angier (2001). Ancient Myths in Modern Movies.
Retrieved from the Web 4/12/06.
Sowa, Cora Angier (2001). Ancient Myths in Modern Movies.
Retrieved from the Web 4/12/06.
Lehrer, Jim (2000). NewsHour Extra: A NewsHour with Jim Lehrer special for students.
Retrieved from the Web 4/12/06. Read More
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