The burgeoning science of human nature recognized the implications for human identity. In the later fifth or early fourth centuries BCE philosophers started to develop a systematically dualistic account of human beings as composites of body and soul. In this view, the body is something that embeds the person in a particular community, and the soul is the true ‘self’, the locus of desires and beliefs which those communities could shape. This article suggests that personal identity is for these thinkers social identity, and it is no coincidence that Plato's utopian designs for a polis in the Republic are largely structured around rethinking the educational curriculum, or, conversely, that Protagoras assigns the central role in moral education to the city as a whole.
This article points out that the genre of biography was also fundamentally concerned with Hellenic identity. As the discussion holds, ancient biographies do not just describe individuals, they tackle a range of issues, chief among which is that crucial question, what it might mean to be Greek. Biography is about individuals. That is what makes it interesting; it is also what leaves it vulnerable to critics who look for something more, for the big things rather than Plutarch's ‘small things’. However, the individuals matter too, and usually matter most. The reason biography can do so much is because a human being is both what other human beings tend to find most interesting, and the mechanism and the phenomenon that other humans understand most intuitively.
This article looks at the parallel evolution of civic institutions, all of which culminated in the polis, the ‘city-state’, as the backdrop to the rich cultural legacy of the fifth and fourth centuries. Historians have demonstrated that the formal institutions of the Greek city-state are best understood as emerging from, but still very much embedded within, a much broader range of collective practices and discourses. Nevertheless, it is the dynamic interplay between the institutional structures of the state and these broader practices and discourses that has been the focus of much of the most fruitful scholarship on the ancient Greek city-state over the past thirty years. The discussion then turns to some of the most interesting areas of investigation in current scholarship on the interaction between formal institutions and broader cultural activities and norms in the Greek city-state.
Commentaries are important research tools in the field of Hellenic studies: even those classicists who are most critical of them tend to use them frequently. More fundamentally still, commentaries seem to be inextricable from the very notion of classical literature. This article focuses on four fundamental issues that are likely to confront anybody who plans to use or write a commentary. The first section considers the historical relationship between classical commentaries and classical literature. The second section discusses the commentary both as an act of reading and as a text in its own right. The third section examines how commentaries establish relationships between texts and between readers. The final section raises some issues of value: the value of commentaries and of the texts they seek to elucidate, but also the valuable role played by readers of the classical commentary.
G. E. R. Lloyd
Appealing to Herodotus, who should perhaps be considered the father of cultural anthropology as much as of history, this article resists an extreme position which relativizes concepts of originality and authenticity out of existence. Nevertheless, it shows that the study of Hellenic culture always involves comparative anthropology: one can look harder and see more, but what one sees is always the view from where he is. Indeed, one must put himself in the frame by selecting the object of the study to begin with.
Questions about the ancient Greek language arise in many areas of Hellenic studies and might include, for example: Which linguistic characteristics of the Homeric poems as we have them are particularly ancient? Under what circumstances does Thucydides use an aorist participle in preference to a present participle? How did ancient Greeks address one another or make requests of one another? Comparison with related languages can provide insights into the prehistory of the language and contribute to such questions. This article attempts to highlight some recent developments in these three areas: comparative and historical grammar; synchronic grammar; and the social and stylistic diversity of Greek. Typological and theoretical linguistic work has been, and continues to be, a valuable source of inspiration and hypotheses for work on Greek. Also, work on Greek requires not only ideas and hypotheses but their systematic testing against well-defined corpora of texts.
This article deals with the application of the Hellenic question of how membership of society is counted and structured. Demography and sociology share a focus on group behaviour. While demography is concerned with the structure and development of human populations that are governed by collective reproductive practices and environmental factors, sociology deals more generally with all forms of social behaviour, institutions, and organization. In principle, the value of systematic means of studying these issues can hardly be in doubt. Even so, the formal approaches and methods of current demography or sociology have only rarely been applied to any aspect of Hellenic studies. Conventional disciplinary boundaries and normative preferences for ‘humanistic’ perspectives are the most obvious culprits.
This article considers the theoretical perspective on the polis as the immediate context for an individual's flourishing. That ancient political philosophy has such strong roots in the Athens of Plato and Aristotle is no doubt part of the reason for the perpetuation of the polis as idea. The Cynics, and later, the Stoics, chafed against the artificial boundaries of the conventional polis; the Stoics in fact lived at a time when its political centrality was over. In championing the life of the ‘cosmic community’, what they call the ‘cosmopolis’, they from one perspective invite people to bring the ideals of the polis to bear on the universe as a whole. The number of Greeks for whom the polis was a lived reality was relatively small, then; but seen from this point of view, every Greek utopia was in the end a polis.
This article traces the sense of ‘higher’ – exclusivity of audience and assimilation to higher principles – along a spectrum. The lowest point on this spectrum is the Epicurean school. Among the philosophers considered, the Epicureans also addressed themselves to the widest audience. Yet their moral ideal involves at least a structural similarity to the Neoplatonists' goal of becoming like god. On such criteria, they count as proponents of ‘higher philosophy’. A high philosophy stresses reason, system, treatises, the rare intelligence of elites, and their organized work through schools, museums, and libraries.
Turning to the examples of Demosthenes and Alexander, this article looks at the ideological uses of Hellenism, not only in the general sense of the word, but also in Droysen's sense of Hellenismus (referring to the historical epoch that runs from Alexander the Great to Augustus, now loosely termed the ‘Hellenistic era’ in English). The reviews of Werner Jaeger's study of Demosthenes were symptomatic of wider currents in the history of European thought and politics. Thus, Jaeger's book was condemned by National Socialists and Fascists, who favoured Droysen's conception of a world historical figure, and who therefore strongly praised men such as Alexander the Great and Philip over Demosthenes and his ‘dubious’ politics.
William D. Desmond
Philosophy in an Aristotelian vein speaks a language almost of its own making, with unusual words such as substance, accident, matter, form, actuality, potentiality, entelechy, and the like. The ideal here seems to be that philosophy speaks directly to the mortal devotee, who loses himself in that higher music. And yet there are other dimensions to ancient thinkers, even the systematic ones, which sit uneasily with such a high philosophy. This article sketches its opposite and calls a philosophy ‘low’ when it tends to focus not on a completed architectonic, but on the living thinker; not on necessary or universal thoughts, but on the lived particulars that inspire, ground, and transcend them; not on the eternal and objective, but on the immediate and subjective. What a thinker is, does, and says is more important than books, formal arguments, and system building. In brief, a low philosophy concentrates upon character and its perfection.
This chapter examines the role of the natural world in ancient Greek literature and philosophy by way of Schiller’s claim, in “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” that there was a transformation of the Greek relationship to Nature in the Hellenistic period. While arguing that Schiller’s observations remain seminal, this chapter suggests that a reconsideration of early Greek poetry is necessary in order to properly appreciate the importance of Nature in Hellenistic poetry. The chapter opens up a new approach to this issue by turning to Plato and the Platonic tradition, where access to contemplation is available through a prephilosophical relationship to the natural world. Finally, it is suggested that recent debates between partisans of the autonomy and givenness of the world in continental philosophy reiterate arguments about the cosmos as a home for human beings as expressed in Greek thought itself.
This article reflects on changes in social structures from the eighth century BCE. It describes the rise of the polis and the different characteristics of the city-states that have formed at various times and places. The rise of the polis is an aspect of a more general history or it is an aggregate of many histories. The two poleis most famous in ancient as in modern times were also the two most atypical. Overall, the polis was not about equality but about stratification. The most egalitarian polis was Sparta: it achieved this by rigid controls and exclusions, and by making an exception for the twin kings. The greatest liberty, for citizens and non-citizens alike, was at Athens, but it achieved this only by keeping real political initiative in the hands of a very narrow circle, and by making an exception of the citizen women.