Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Greek Way. Edith Hamilton (8).

Time, Inc. 1930 (8).

Why read It? The Athenians were a people who lived their view of truth which was many-sided and often contradictory. They accepted and lived the contradictions. They were individuals who also participated in the community. They were poets who were also soldiers. They needed to suffer in order to achieve exhilaration. The ancient Greeks’ view of life is summed up in this quotation from Edith Hamilton’s The Greek Way: “The Roman games played an important part in the life of the Romans, but, as has often been remarked, the Greeks played; the Romans watched others play.” P. 320.

One thing you will recognize: There’s a significant difference between the Athenian democracy and the U.S. democracy: citizen responsibility.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his brother Robert F. Kennedy was completely distraught. His sister-in-law Jackie Kennedy gave him a copy of The Greek Way. That book enabled Robert to survive the tragedy in his life. The Greek Way provided a model for how to deal with tragedy.

The purpose of this blog? To find interesting ideas in books.

“The arrogance that springs from a consciousness of power was the sin Greeks had always hated most.” P. 172. ………. Sparta: “War was by no means a necessary evil; it was the noblest form of human activity.” P. 175. ………. “A Spartan was not an individual but a part of a well-functioning machine which assumed all responsibility for him, exacted absolute submission from him, molded his character and mind, and imbued him with the deep conviction that the chief end of man was to kill and be killed.” P. 176. ………. “The idea of the Athenian state was a union of individuals free to develop their own powers and live in their own way, obedient only to the laws they passed themselves and could criticize and change at will.” P. 177. ………. “Freedom strictly limited by self-control—that was the idea of Athens at her greatest.” P. 177. ………. “Xenophon was truly a man of his times, when poets and dramatists and historians were soldiers and generals and explorers.” P. 191. ………. “The basis of the Athenian democracy was the conviction of all democracies—that the average man can be depended upon to do his duty and to use good sense in doing it.” P. 193.

To be continued.

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