Posts Tagged ‘Sparta’

The Isles of Greece! The isles of Greece

Wherefore this amnesia, drunk from Lethe?

Have you forgotten the warrior race

Whose swords smote down kings and forthwith

‘Here be warriors that knew no fear’

Went thus message post-haste far an’ near?

Sparta led and the hordes of foes

Before their tight phalanxes melted:

In Athens no less brave were demos

Before whose iron resolve tyrants fled.

Spartan or rich in tastes at best

Were men who deemed their own lives least.

What service has the Turks bestowed

That you let your blood and honor

Be trod and your wives as slaves sold?

Martyrs for faith in Asia minor

Lay forgotten as of no value.

For a slave race this’s nothing new.

Spare me your woes with Euro bail-out

Or the Golden Dawn spawn’d from hell.

How slaves for long living on hand-out

Are undone is a sad chronicle:

A land of slaves shall ne’er regain

Unless Greece unlearn past as one.


Original Version

THE isles of Greece! the isles of Greece!

Where burning Sappho loved and sung,

Where grew the arts of war and peace,—

Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!

Eternal summer gilds them yet,

But all, except their sun, is set.

The Scian and the Teian muse,

The hero’s harp, the lover’s lute,

Have found the fame your shores refuse;

Their place of birth alone is mute

To sounds which echo further west

Than your sires’ “Islands of the Blest.”


Place me on Sunium’s marble steep—

Where nothing, save the waves and I,

May hear our mutual murmurs sweep:

There, swan-like, let me sing and die;

A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine—

Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!


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Euripides (480-406) Dramatist, Greece

He was an intellectual rebel, who like Bernard Shaw in recent times made men uncomfortable and made them angry. In return they accused him of blasphemy and misogyny;  they lampooned him and cursed him; but they had to listen to his ideas and hear them couched in some deathless verses. For posterity his place along with Aeschylus and Sophocles among the pantheon of Greek drama is secure.
He was born about the momentous date in the Greek history, the great naval battle at Salamis. Born to well to do parents, instead of a career in art he chose at the age of twenty-five to be a poet. His first play Daughters of Pellas in 455 BC was a success. His was a fresh talent breathing lines that were close to reality and those who considered themselves guardians of Attic tradition had to sit up and note him. Remarkable was his realism, in his treatment of women characters whether heroines or cruel as varied as Alcestis, Iphigenia, Medea or Phaedra still sound plausible and their motivation defined. In his sympathy for the underdog, women in Greek society elicited his special attention. Out of his vast output,-some 80 to 90 tragedies only nineteen are extant. Alcestis, Medea, Andromeda, Iphigenia in Tauris, Electra are a few.

Euripedes was a democrat who hated demogogues and other power-mongers who were the bane of the society in his time. The gloom and doom of an internecine war with Sparta is reflected in “The Suppliants” and “The Trojan Women”. Like Socrates after him he as a citizen served in the war and also held position of a Consul in Magnesia.
As a result of relentless attack on him by the mob and a clique of comedians after the production of “Orestes” he left Athens. He was 72. Remainder of his life he spent time in the court of Archelaus of Macedonia.
His death, which took place B.C. 406, if the popular account be true, was, like that of Aeschylus*, in its nature extraordinary. Either from chance or malice, the aged dramatist was exposed to the attack of ferocious hounds, and by them so dreadfully mangled as to expire soon afterward, in his seventy-fifth year. His life was ever since the benchmark to many dramatists who sought to emulate him.
In his lifetime he was held in less esteem than the other two great dramatists. He had warm admirers in Alexander the Great and the Stoic Chrysippus, who quoted him regularly in several of his works. Among the Romans, too, he was held in high esteem, serving as a model for tragedy, as did Menander and Phrynichus for comedy.

In his survey of the shades of departed poets, Dante makes no mention of Aeschylus or Sophocles, but classes Euripides as one of the greatest of the Greeks. Dante’s assessment we may accept as definitive.
Quote:Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.
* Aeschylus was accustomed to contemplate while seated on the rocky outcrops facing the sea. Bald in head he had the misfortune for an eagle mistaking him for a rock. The eagles in that area were known to break the shell by force of impact and dropped its catch with deadly consequence.

For Additional Reading:
(An example of misogyny, after two failed marriages)
“O Zeus, why hast thou brought into the world
To plague us such a tricksy thing as woman?
If thou didst wish to propagate mankind,
Couldst thou not find some better way than this?
We to the temples might have brought our price
In gold or weight of iron or of brass,
And purchased offspring, each to the amount
Of that which he has paid; and so have dwelt
In quiet homes unvexed of womankind.
Now, to import a plague into our homes,
First of our substance we make sacrifice,
And here at once we see what woman is.
The father that begot her gladly pays
A dowry that he might be rid of her,
While he may bring this slip of evil home.
Fond man adorns with costly ornament
A worthless idol, and his living wastes
To trick her out in costly finery.
Ha has no choice. Are his connections good,
To keep them he must keep a hated wife;
Are his connections bad, he can but weigh
Against that evil a good bedfellow.
His is the easiest lot who has to wife
A cipher, a good-natured simpleton;
Quick wits are hateful. Ne’er may wife of mine
Be wiser than consorts with womanhood.
In your quick-witted dames the power of love
More wickedness engenders; while the dull
Are by their dullness saved from going wrong.”
This is sufficiently bitter, but nor more so than the words which Euripides is accustomed to use when speaking of women.


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A Spartan of Ancient Greece did not fight merely for himself. But also for others. His Spartan living began from the day he was born and his whole life was spent in service of the city-state. What moral sense one can hold without giving the individual his due?
A nation may hold me under its obligation this much and no further. It may be the most enlightened and noble. Even so I must never sell myself to its bondage.
Coming back to Sparta, the city-state with its scant regard for individual liberty did a terrible mistake. There was no dissenting voice to make it take a warning or reexamine its perilous path. The state that let the weak and sickly to perish and admitted only fighting men, and women to give birth to more of the same could not have known democracy; The Spartans never learnt to govern by consent but instead spent their lives to fight wars. It earned them victory and slaves. They thrived on slave labor on a massive scale that was a pointer to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.

I do count in the scheme of things: on the anvil of time human society is hammered by time and I may not escape the hard blows and shape may be changed, drawn or made into some ingot. These are outward forms of my destiny as to be part of the whole but there is still me as part of it all. I may have been tested by fire or dipped in cold water of chance. I still count. Since I have imparted something of my own to the whole lump I shall be present in whatever society may finally end up. Should I care as to what shape? Not exactly. Had I while there was time and power to understand my place in the scheme of things and could rise above my limits I have reinvented myself. If once it stands to reason there shall be many more such changes.


To reinvent and to hold my own is the excellent goal I have set for myself. For what purpose? My answer is simple: I please myself. What would the world care if I rose like a phoenix above every circumstance? The world seeks its own pleasures to understand the values I have set for my own world or motives. Strangely enough every change that you and I make alters the existing status quo. It matter not in the least whether it is noticed by others or not.  If not for that there would not be such a thing as progress. In the stone age a flint must have been the state of the art. But iron age made it outdated and inadequate. It is thus human society is made up where human excellence is never lost. like the proverbial leaven any one may affect the whole. Sparta or Rome or any other may be breached by any individual who has not compromised to ride the coattails of others.  I consider any such compromise is suicidal.


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“…for all wives and children were to be in common, to the intent that no one should ever know his own child, but they were to imagine that they were all one family; those who were within a suitable limit of age were to be brothers and sisters, those who were of an elder generation parents and grandparents, and those of a younger children and grandchildren…”(Plato-Timaeus)
The quote is from Timaeus in which Plato using Socrates as his mouthpiece advocates his views on the upbringing of children.  In order to bring up a perfect state he would strike at  the very idea of a family. Instead he argues for a  communal living which is not alien to us. In the turbulent 70s it was in vogue.  Looking at  the history of Sparta we know that such  a state came to ruin in a matter of 3 centuries.. There were many reasons but it suffices to say that bringing up a child under every citizen’s charge was not to have any, as illustrated in the story of Working Within Limits. (note: In Sparta a boy on reaching the age of seven was sent for military training which was run by the state. Women had far greater freedom than of Athens and could bear children from other men within marriage.) With so many fathers doing the office, which one has failed in the upbringing in any particular case? No one father in particular. But the fact remains the child failed in achieving the goal since Sparta was anything but perfect. It fact it was a failed state.
Who is to blame? None. So there is a fuzzy area by which anyone can escape blame.
Now let us look into recent crisis in consumer confidence. Who is to blame for the economic meltdown? Pundits may cite so many reasons but aren’t we all part of the cause since we played the game while stocks went higher and higher?
In our lives we interact with others where uncertainty is part of the deal and in falling with the general trends we give that uncertainty more mileage.
The only way we can be certain is in the way we conduct ourselves. Our actions should dispel whatever uncertainty others may have about us.

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