Ancient Greece

The human good turns out to be activity of soul in conformity with excellence, and if there are more than one excellence, in conformity with the best and most complete. But we must add 'in a complete life'. For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.

- Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, 1098a

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek myths from Achilles to Zeus. Are you a touch narcissistic? Do you have the body of an Adonis? Are you willing to undertake Herculean tasks or Promethean ventures? Perhaps you have an Oedipus complex? If you answer to any or perhaps all of these you owe something to the Greek myths, a collection of weird and wonderful stories that, like Penelope’s shroud or the needlework of Arachne, were constantly woven and unpicked across centuries of Greek and Roman civilisation. The myths have a cast of thousands including mighty Zeus, Jason and the Argonauts, wily Odysseus, beautiful Aphrodite and Cerberus, the three-headed dog. They are funny, shocking, quirky and epic and have retained their power and their wisdom from the ancient world to the modern.

Listen to Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The reek Myths on the In Our Time podcast

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

Just how special were the ancient Greeks? Was there really a Greek “miracle”? The question has become painfully politicised. Critics of colonialism and racism tend to play down the specialness of the ancient Greeks. Those who maintain that there was something identifiably different and even superior about the Greeks, on the other hand, are often die-hard conservatives who have a vested interest in proving the superiority of “western” ideals. I fit into neither camp. I am certainly opposed to colonialism and racism, and have investigated reactionary abuses of the classical tradition in colonial India and by apologists of slavery all the way through to the American Civil War. But my constant engagement with the ancient Greeks and their culture has made me more, rather than less, convinced that they asked a series of crucial questions that are difficult to identify in combination within any of the other cultures of the ancient Mediterranean or Near Eastern antiquity...

Continue reading Edith Hall's article: Classics for the people — why we should all learn from the ancient Greeks

Further Reading

From Thales, who is often considered the first Western philosopher, to the Stoics and Skeptics, ancient Greek philosophy opened the doors to a particular way of thinking that provided the roots for the Western intellectual tradition. Here, there is often an explicit preference for the life of reason and rational thought. We find proto-scientific explanations of the natural world in the Milesian thinkers, and we hear Democritus posit atoms—indivisible and invisible units—as the basic stuff of all matter. With Socrates comes a sustained inquiry into ethical matters—an orientation towards human living and the best life for human beings. With Plato comes one of the most creative and flexible ways of doing philosophy, which some have since attempted to imitate by writing philosophical dialogues covering topics still of interest today in ethics, political thought, metaphysics, and epistemology. Plato’s student, Aristotle, was one of the most prolific of ancient authors. He wrote treatises on each of these topics, as well as on the investigation of the natural world, including the composition of animals. The Hellenists—Epicurus, the Cynics, the Stoics, and the Skeptics—developed schools or movements devoted to distinct philosophical lifestyles, each with reason at its foundation...

Continue reading the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Ancient Greek Philosophy by Jacob N. Graham

Related Topics

Plato | The Presocratics

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