Western Heritage

“The Greek Miracle”

Overview

The emergence of the polis as a political form distinguished Greece from its neighbors in the ancient Near East.  The polis was a small community—originally grouped around a citadel—governed by a council and a public assembly, and defended by a hoplite phalanx.  Oikonomia (household management) was structured in such a way as to enable full political participation of the household in the city, through words and deeds worthy of note. The individual man who engaged in reasoned speech (logos) thus had an importance in the Greek community that was unusual compared to the other civilizations of the Near East, which were generally organized as hydraulic societies based on irrigation and public works, governed by a sacral monarchy, and administered by a bureaucratic class using the technology of syllabic script.

Lecture

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Readings

  1. Herodotus, "The History"
  2. Thucydides - "Pericles' Funeral Oration"
  3. Aristotle - "The Politics" (Excerpt One, up to Section I§3)
  4. Aristotle - "The Politics" (Excerpt Two, Section III§6)

Q & A Session

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Paul A. Rahe is the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Professor in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College. He received a B.A. from Yale University, a B.A. from the University of Oxford, and his Ph.D. from Yale University.