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Posts Tagged ‘Classical Greece’

“A tragic poet had his play put up before the boards. He watched a tragic actor who was required to wear thick shoes and tall wigs. Since it was his play and knew the effect he wanted from him he explained his entry called for a subtle approach. The much harried actor said when he came in such thick shoes it was a wonder he did not fall over. “So I need a cane to support myself. How much more subtlety you intend to put into my cane?”
Another time a comic actor who did not impress his audience with his witticisms asked the public, “You get two obols worth of seat, free from the city. The least you could do is show some appreciation of that?”
Dramatists of yore wrote as they often said, as inspired by gods. The audience lapped it up and said they were enlightened and taken to a higher sphere as a result. Aesop was shrewd to note how the relationship between the writer and his audience went a shift over the years. It was progress that Aesop thought as natural. The audience became enlightened with so many plays that they attended in civic pride and it made them arbiters as well. Gradually it was the taste of man on the street that decided the kind of plays that were to be staged. Not the poet, not the muse but the uncouth rabble set the trend. It was the masses that in the end beat the system.” (selected-Ch.11.6 pp.203)
Here we see two principles at work. Mass education enabled them to understand the nuances of the play and consequently judge the dramatists as their peers. Inversion principle gave the masses the power to determine what kind of plays they wanted to see. Dramatists had to write plays to cater to their tastes or go out of fashion. Public taste was not inspired by gods but by social realities of the day. Conjugation principle gave their taste its vitality and not from exalted imagination of dramatists.

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The historian Thucydides, a contemporary of Pericles and often critical of the statesman was asked by Sparta’s king, Archidamus, whether he or Pericles was the better fighter, Thucydides answered without any hesitation that Pericles was better, because even when he was defeated, he managed to convince the audience that he had won. Politics is not for the fainthearted and in Ancient Greece it was played fair or foul and played to win. Pericles means ‘glory surrounding.’In terms of his ability to ward off all attacks of political opponents we might say he was teflon-coated. Like Winston Churchill or Charles deGaulle of the recent times statesmen of old were made from the rough and tumble arena of politics. The Age of Pericles saw Athens locked in a bitter struggle with Sparta and also the full flowering of Greek Art.
Pericles was born c. 495 B.C. in Athens, Greece. He was descended, through his mother, from the powerful and historically influential Alcmaeonid family.
Pericles had such a profound influence on Athenian society that Thucydides, his contemporary historian, acclaimed him as “the first citizen of Athens”. Pericles turned the Delian League into an Athenian empire and led his countrymen during the first two years of the Peloponnesian War. The period during which he led Athens, roughly from 461 to 429 BC, is sometimes known as the “Age of Pericles.” In 461, he assumed rule of Athens—a role he would occupy until his death.
“… It is from the greatest dangers that the greatest glories are to be won.”
Pericles entered politics in 470 B.C. Upon joining the Assembly, Pericles supported major reform of the Athenian constitution and was outspoken about his hostility towards Sparta. 

In 462, Pericles and a fellow politician, Ephiatles, established a vote in the popular assembly. The vote resulted in the complete loss of power for the old noble council, Areopagus. Cimon, the conservative Athenian leader whose policy it was to maintain friendly relations with Sparta, was exiled. To many historians, these events marked the true beginning of Athenian democracy. Pericles quickly seized the helm, organizing democratic institutions throughout the city and in 461 becoming the ruler of Athens.
Pericles, following Athenian custom, was first married to one of his closest relatives, with whom he had two sons, Paralus and Xanthippus, but around 445 BC, Pericles divorced his wife. He offered her to another husband, with the agreement of her male relatives. The name of his first wife is not known. Next he chose to live with Aspasia of Miletus. This relationship supplied ample ammunition to his political opponents who cast slur on her reputation. Even Pericles’ own son, Xanthippus joined in the fray. Most virulent attacks came just before the eruption of the Peloponnesian war.
Since Pericles was highly esteemed and powerful attack against him came roundabout.
Phidias, who had been in charge of all building projects, was first accused of embezzling gold intended for the statue of Athena and then of impiety, because, when he wrought the battle of the Amazons on the shield of Athena, he carved out a figure that suggested himself as a bald old man, and also inserted a very fine likeness of Pericles fighting with an Amazon. Pericles’ enemies also found a false witness against Phidias, named Menon.Aspasia, who was noted for her ability as a conversationalist and adviser, was accused of corrupting the women of Athens in order to satisfy Pericles’ perversions. Such slanders from his enemies did not have the desired effect but the whole experience was very bitter for Pericles. Although Aspasia was acquitted thanks to a rare emotional outburst of Pericles, his friend, Phidias, died in prison and another friend of his, Anaxagoras, was attacked by the ecclesia for his religious beliefs.
Over the course of his leadership, Pericles organized the construction of the Acropolis and the Parthenon in Athens. He also led several crucial military missions. Among them were Athens’ recapture of Delphi from the Spartans in 448, the Athenian Navy’s siege on Samos during the Samian War, and the misfortunate invasion of Megara in 431, which ended in Athens’ defeat and ultimately its ruination.
According to Plutarch, after assuming the leadership of Athens, “he was no longer the same man as before, nor alike submissive to the people and ready to yield and give in to the desires of the multitude as a steersman to the breezes”.
In matters of character, Pericles was above reproach in the eyes of the ancient historians, since “he kept himself untainted by corruption, although he was not altogether indifferent to money-making”.
According to Plutarch, he avoided using gimmicks in his speeches, unlike the passionate Demosthenes, and always spoke in a calm and tranquil manner.[
Quote from his funeral oration:

“Our polity does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. It is called a democracy, because not the few but the many govern. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if to social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition.”
Pericles’ Funeral Oration as recorded by Thucydides
In 429, he died of the plague.(ack:biography.com,wikipedia)
benny

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(Aesop is here discussing with his friend about their past and Xeno the Cynic presses the story- teller closely about the discussion they had the day before.-b)
It was evident Xeno had given much thought to the last discussion he had with Aesop. “But you did not get equal chance. Neither did I.” Xeno explained in so many words about his past. He was the second son who merely replaced the one who died before. He said, “I knew I was not loved for what I am.” Controlling himself he added, “By the time my younger brothers came my parents were cured of their folly and they got their share, alright.” Suddenly Xeno fell silent.
“Yes, my friend,” Aesop explained, “there is so much ignorance and cruelty. Those who ought to have loved and cherished us merely failed in their duty. We came into this world naked and dispossessed already. It is the law of deprivation at work. We had no choice in the matter. Did we?” Xeno shook his head.
“It is random and an accident. Why make it worse by feeling sorry? The law of deprivation entitles us to another law.”
Xeno shot up his eyebrows.
“Yes. Law of Compensation.” Aesop said, “Whatever good comes your way you have earned it. How I came into the household of Iadmon was not how I went out.”
“You are still cash strapped,” Xeno asked, “Aren’t you?” “Yes,” Aesop said, “Making riches was not how I wished to be compensated.” Aesop realized life compensated him only in directions he sought to remedy his wants.
He told him a story to llustrate it. An Argive went in search of gold after hearing of a gold rush in the neighborhood. He came to the right spot all right. But he was too late. So many had before him panned gold from the rocks and so quickly too, and had exhausted the deposit. So he went on in dismay not knowing where. He stumbled upon a field strewn with bodies of men and horses. A bloody carnage the battlefield had witnessed and he was the only living person there. The Persian army lay dead in their rich apparel and armor before him. He picked as much gold plated helmets and body armor, not to mention swords with handles studded with precious jewels. He brought home a fortune! There was gold much more than he would have ever picked from panning. Was he wrong if he treated his find as compensation for his trouble? (Selected-The Life of Aesop-Ch:8. 9 )
note: Law of Deprivation and Law of Negation denote the same.

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During the mysteries a staple feature was enacting the legend of Demeter and Persephone. Aesop and Xeno watched the procession of initiates wearing myrtles and carrying the image of Iacchos. When it reached the Cephisus-bridge there used to take place an exchange of pleasantries before it once again solemnly moved along the Sacred Way to Eleusis. The exchange sent its wave of merriment along the spectators. Spontaneous it was. Aesop with a chuckle narrated about one woman whom he knew by name Demeter. “Xeno, she called her daughter, so obvious isn’t it, by the name Persephone? She was married to a potter and before long she left her husband to live with her mother. After she was bothered by her incessant demands, mother could only say: ‘Demeter had it really good. Only she had to go in search of her daughter. In my case Oh!’” (The Life of Aesop-benny thomas.www.bennythomas.nl/books/Ch.7.8-pp131)

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7.
One day the boy, Pheidonides said he was alone in the wide world. ‘No one cared if I lived or died,’ he said. Aesop let him speak. The boy explained that since he considered himself not responsible for his little brothers he came to the conclusion there existed no reason why should others care if he existed or not. Aesop explained how the world was connected by means of an example.
“When eagles fly the wild hares sunning on the rocks run as fast as their legs can carry. If hares run what will a tortoise do? He thinks hares are running to spite him. So he also sprints not realizing he is clumsy. He is bound to slip and fall over. “Sad uh?” Aesop asked: ”with his heavy shell he merely scratches the air; helpless he is.” The boy said, ”If I were there I would set him right.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“I think of Creon whenever I see a tortoise.” Aesop didn’t press the obvious. For he knew the boy already had sensed the connection.

8.
When Aesop told Xeno the cynic about his discourse to the neighbor kid Xeno said, ”What, are you partial to the tortoise? The poor eagle has his mate and a brood of chicks to feed. Think of their state if every one had the same notions as you?”
“Xeno,” Aesop said, ”you are right. Eagles with red talons and beak also have their place in the scheme of things.”
“I did not think you would agree so quickly!”
“ You are right but you miss the whole picture.” Aesop said, ”It is the duty of every living being to preserve the right to life in others. Speaking of the right no more compassion can be shown than when one is helpless. Compassion is the means to provide equal chance for the birds of prey and tortoises. Equal chance, Xeno”
Xeno agreed.

9.
It was evident Xeno had given much thought to the last discussion he had with Aesop. “But you did not get equal chance. Neither did I.” Xeno explained in so many words about his past. He was the second son who merely replaced the one who died before. He said, ”I knew I was not loved for what I am.” Controlling himself he added, “By the time my younger brothers came my parents were cured of their folly and they got their share, alright.” Suddenly Xeno fell silent.
“Yes, my friend,” Aesop explained, ”there is so much ignorance and cruelty. Those who ought to have loved and cherished us merely failed in their duty. We came into this world naked and dispossessed already. It is the law of deprivation at work. We had no choice in the matter. Did we?” Xeno shook his head.
“It is random and an accident. Why make it worse by feeling sorry?  The law of deprivation entitles us to another law.”
Xeno shot up his eyebrows.
“Yes. Law of Compensation.” Aesop said, ”Whatever good comes your way you have earned it. How I came into the household of Iadmon was not how I went out.”
“You are still cash strapped,” Xeno asked, ”Aren’t you?”  “Yes,” Aesop said, ”Making riches was not how I wished to be compensated.” Aesop realized life compensated him only in directions he sought to remedy his wants.
He told him a story to illustrate it.  An Argive went in search of gold after hearing of a gold rush in the neighborhood. He came to the right spot all right. But he was too late. So many had before him panned gold from the rocks and so quickly too, and had exhausted the deposit. So he went on in dismay not knowing where. He stumbled upon a field strewn with bodies of men and horses. A bloody carnage the battlefield had witnessed and he was the only living person there. The Persian army lay dead in their rich apparel and armor before him. He picked as much gold plated helmets and body armor, not to mention swords with handles studded with precious jewels. He brought home a fortune! There was gold much more than he would have ever picked from panning. Was he wrong if he treated his find as compensation for his trouble?
10.
The city of Athens was electrified by the news. The Battle of Salamis was fought and the City drew some kind of shock that converted each citizen. A new confidence was evident everywhere. Aesop had put himself for the war effort and Basileus relieved him for the purpose. Because of his lameness he could not do active service as a foot soldier. When Xeno asked him if he was disappointed he said, ”Oh no! I do not care for the glory of a war but it is necessity to put myself to the cause of Athens.” With a smile he said, ”The commander who saw me awaiting marching orders said, you will not do, son. Your bad foot shall not hold up other soldiers.”
“Law of compensation at work I see!” The cynic said. Aesop continued, ”I spend part of my day copying orders in a clear hand. My commander says he is satisfied with my work. My beautiful hand must serve instead.”  (Selectd from The Life of Aesop-Ch.8, pages 147-151)

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