The glory of Athens

Politicians often refer to our Judeo-Christian heritage but in math, science, philosophy, and especially politics we owe much more to our Greco-Roman heritage. Consider; democracy, republicanism, and the rights of citizenship, these idea owe virtually nothing to the Judeo-Christian tradition and everything to Greece and Rome.

I am reminded of this by rereading Pericles’ Funeral Oration. Here, from nearly 2500 years ago, is Pericles, in the midst of war in a ceremony to honor the dead he speaks to Athens, and also perhaps to us, about liberty and war.

If we turn to our military policy, there also we differ from our antagonists. We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality; trusting less in system and policy than to the native spirit of our citizens; while in education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger.


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