Ancient Greece by Hal Marcovitz

By Hal Marcovitz

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Says Tucker, “Athens was in no sense the capital of ancient Greece. It happens to be the most attractive city, and the city of which we know most; it was the city in which art, intellect, and social culture flourished best, and therefore it has left us the completest records of itself. ”17 32 Rise of a Despot By the middle of the sixth century BC, the Athenian ruler—known as the archon—was Peisistratus, an aristocrat who gained the favor of the Athenian people by lowering their taxes and giving them free land for farms.

Socrates had occasionally joined the Athenian soldiers in battle, but in the assembly he raised many uncomfortable questions about the purpose of the war. For Socrates, his arguments were simply in keeping with his philosophy of life—to always be introspective and raise questions and doubts about all decisions. For a city-state fighting a war, the questions posed by Socrates were often regarded as treasonous. A typical example occurred following the naval battle of Arginusae, just east of Lesbos, in 406 BC.

Back in Athens, panic joined gossip in the lanes and courtyards, in the agora and the assembly,” says Bettany Hughes, historian for King’s College in London, England. “The flower of the city, the Athenian youth, was abroad. . The early toleration of the democratic state was forgotten. ”33 In 413 BC, a two-year campaign on the island of Sicily ended in an Athenian defeat—all Athenian soldiers were killed in battle, executed by their captors, or made into slaves. Moreover, during the course of the war, the best Athenian military leaders had either been killed in battle or exiled after disputes with the assembly or archons.

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