Greek Contributions to Civilization
The spotlight of the world has been shining on Greece in recent days. I belong to a Book Club whose members read about a country and report on their reading. I’ve appointed myself historian. This month is Greece and I am blown away with the importance and relevancy of Ancient Greek wisdom to our lives today. I was especially impressed with the number of words we use that have Greek origins.
The thing that set them apart from all other civilizations was that they had a series of thinkers who asked the question, “What is the nature of reality?” While religious values of Ancient Israel tended to inhibit critical thinking and free inquiry, especially into the working of the universe, Greeks somehow felt that they were responsible for their own thinking.
This was probably influenced greatly by the fact that democracy was first introduced in Athens (505 BC) by Cleisthenes. Government to be in the hands of the many rather than the It shaped the way democracy has developed to this day.
Here are a few of the names that are still household names today.
Homer, who wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey in the 8th century BC, is still studied in modern schools. Hippocrates, the first physician, in the fifth century BC wrote the oath that many doctors still take. Democritus taught that the universe was composed of a – tonna (small particles). Herodotus is called the Father of History. Pythagorus looked at the deep meaning in numbers. Socrates and his genius pupils, Plato and Aristotle, are still being studied in the academic world. Socrates was accused of corrupting youth by teaching them to ask so many questions and sentenced to death by poison.
Plato was the first philosopher and believed that leaders should study philosophy rather than economics. He established the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Aristotle was a giant intellect who investigated many fields of knowledge: metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. His approach to logic, more than any other, formed the European mind and greatly influenced the Muslim world.
Alexander the Great spread Greek language and culture over the wide domain he conquered. The Romans carried Greek culture into the West. Early Christian writing was in Greek so was influenced by their ideas.
Ancient Greeks had a zest for living and a desire to excel in all fields of endeavour. Their enthusiasm for fitness and sport led to the Olympic Games. They left a wonderful legacy for all of us. Their impeccable creative curiosity and love of freedom made Greeks cultural giants.
Educators would do well to follow their example and make stimulating curiosity the first goal of schooling. A close second I would love to see is happiness. A curious happy person is ready for learning and living!