The Greeks and Greek Civilization
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From one of the greatest historians of our modern age comes a masterpiece too controversial to be published in his own time. Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) portrayed ancient Greek culture as an aristocratic world based on ruthless competition for honor, which led, in turn, to a tyrannous state with minimal personal freedom.
often followed by a rapid account o f his ancestry that sounds strikingly like an improvisation. This is why we remarked earlier that even the account o f the relationship between Hellen and his sons is not to be taken seriously. In modern times genealogy is a laborious critical undertaking, while for the Greeks it was a diversion, and even mythical animals were not left out: there was a general conviction that the 19 The Greeks and Greek Civilization sow o f Crommyon, slain by Theseus, was
schematic and subordinated to the needs of his theory. As the creators o f the new historical science the founders o f the German historical tradition possessed a self-conscious perception o f its role, and a xix The Greeks and Greek Civilization transcendental conception o f the meaning o f ‘world history’. The figure of Hegel dominated the philosophy o f history throughout the first half o f the nineteenth century; it lies at the basis o f Marxism, which finally replaced it as the most
unthinkable today: ‘Hit me if you like, but listen to me!’ It hardly matters whether they were spoken by Themistocles, or someone else, to Eurybiades or to Adeimantus.64 The ill-treatment Socrates calmly tolerated has already been spoken of, and there are similar stories about Diogenes, but other cases contrast even more strikingly with modern behaviour. After the performance o f Knights, Cleon had Aristophanes 77 The Greeks and Greek Civilization beaten up (by the guards at the theatre, it
after he fell in battle fighting them and the Carthaginians (about 510).8Or it might happen that a warrior charging down on the enemy in all his youthful beauty would be spared because they recognized something superhuman in him. In such cases national prejudice was set aside, as we learn from the fact that the Persian general Masistius, killed in skirmishing before the battle o f Plataea, was carried about the field because all the Greeks wanted to see 12 8 Introductory Remarks his beautiful
Python; Theseus goes to be purified by the Phytalides at the altar o f Zeus Meilichius, when he has slain the brigands and criminals (one o f whom, named Sinis, is indeed his blood relation through [his maternal grandfather] Pittheus); and even Coroebus is purified at Delphi after killing the spectre Poinê [Punishment].23 One main aspect o f the heroic character is embodied in Homer’s Odys seus, the other, just as clearly, in Achilles. This hero is presented to us in his striving for the