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Friday, August 9, 2013

Ancient Greece and The End of the Golden Age

The End of the Golden Age
During the time of the Golden Age, Athens and Sparta became the most powerful city-states in Greece. Yet neither was satisfied. Athens wanted to become even stronger. Sparta wanted to weaken Athens. The city-states of the Peloponnesian League supported Sparta, while those of the Delian League supported Athens. In 431 B.C. the Peloponnesian War broke out. The war lasted 27 years.

Golden Age of Ancient Greece
After Sparta attacked Attica, many people from the countryside moved into Athens. Because of the crowding, diseases swept through the city-state. One-fourth of the Athenian army died from an outbreak of a plague, or deadly sickness. Pericles also died at this time.

Without the wise leadership of Pericles, the members of the assembly began to follow bad leaders, or demagogues (DEH»muh»gahgz). These demagogues made promises they could not keep and led the assembly to make poor decisions. Faced with ruin, Athens surrendered to Sparta in 404 B.C. Sparta quickly replaced the Athenian assembly with an oligarchy like its own. However, the Athenians soon rebelled and brought democracy back to Athens.

Great thinkers and teachers lived in Athens during the last days of the Golden Age and after. One famous teacher was Socrates (SAH»kruh*teez). Socrates taught by asking questions and making his students think rather than by telling them information.

Socrates called himself Athens's "gadfly," after an insect that bites horses and makes them jump. Socrates often used criticism to "sting" Athenians so that they would return to their earlier greatness. Such criticism would have been more welcome in Pericles' day. In 399 B.C. it was not. An Athenian court convicted Socrates of teaching dangerous ideas to the city's young people. The court sentenced Socrates to end his own life by drinking poison. He did so, because he believed it was more important to obey the law than to save his own life by running away.

Golden Age of Ancient Greece
One of Socrates' students was Plato. Like Socrates, Plato was disappointed in the leaders who came after Pericles. Plato said that a ruler should be a good person, because good people are just and wise. He believed that it was possible to become a good person by studying hard and loving wisdom. He felt that philosophers, or "lovers of wisdom," would make the best rulers. In 385 B.C. Plato started a school called the Academy. There philosophers could learn the lessons they would need to live and govern well.

Plato also thought about what it takes to be a good citizen. He decided that a good citizen is someone who thinks and feels and then takes action. He felt that it was important for people to be informed, to understand other viewpoints, and to be responsible for their own actions. This idea of citizenship is shared by many people today.

Golden Age of Ancient Greece
Aristotle (AIR»uh»stah»tuhl), a student of Plato's, was more interested in how things were rather than in how he would like them to be. Aristotle entered Plato's Academy at age 18 and studied there for about 20 years. He left when Plato died in 347 B.C.
Aristotle's wide search for knowledge covered many subjects including law, economics, astronomy, science, and sports. Aristotle was also a pioneer in zoology the study of animals  and botany the study of plants.

Aristotle and Plato disagreed about many things. However, they both thought that the best life was one spent in search of knowledge and truth.

What brought an end to the Golden Age of Athens?


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