Political Thought: Ancient Greek, Part-3

Political Thought: Ancient Greek

Unequal, selective approach to different people in accordance with their relative merits and virtues was exemplified by Odysseus’s attitude to his fellow countrymen: exhorting the “good” ones and appealing to their sense of honor and to common ideals, he resorted to threats and even man-handling in relation to the “bad” ones, e.g.Thersites:

But when he found one of the lower sorts
Shouting and brawling, with the royal wand
He smote him, and reproved him sharply, thus:
“Friend, take thy seat in quiet and attend
To what thy betters say; thou art not strong
Nor valiant, and thou art of mean repute
In combat and in council.We, the Greeks,
cannot be all supreme in power. the rule
Of the many is not well. One must be chief
In war, and one the king, to whom the son
Of Saturn gives the scepter, making him
The lawgiver, that he may rule the rest.
(Iliad, pp.36-37[book II,246-257].)
(Ancient Greek)

Homer’s Life Fell In The Eighth Century

Homer’s life fell in the eighth century B.C. and the events described in his poem took place as far back as the late thirteen century B.C. (troy fell in 1225 B.C.) As regards the cosmological and theological myths treated by Homer already in a clearly rationalistic and sometimes even skeptical vein, their origin dates to a much earlier period when the primitive mind took mythological stories at their face value and had no doubt about the authenticity of the events they described.

Further rationalized of the primordial cosmogonies and theogonies is represented by Hesiod’s theogony(Origin of the Gods) and Work and Days (seventh century B.C). In the context of the problems we are concerned with, special interest attaches to Hesiod’s understanding of the mythological gods as the ethical and legal principles and forces.

Conceived In The Theogony (Ancient Greek)

The descent in the line of supreme deities(Chaos- Uranus- Cronos-Zeus and the Olympian gods, semi-gods, and heroes) is conceived in the Theogony as a process of successive changes of ethical forces leading to the establishment of the moral and legal order in divine and human affairs. Very characteristic in this respect is Hesiod’s view of the Olympian gods. According to his theogony, the marriage of Zeus and Themis, one of his numerous wives, resulted in the birth of two daughters, goddesses Dike (justice), and Eunomia (fairness). Hence, Zeus’s coming to power ushered in the era of justice, legal order, and social prosperity.

Coercion And Violence

Very much like in Homer, justice (dike) in Hesiod is contrasted with coercion and violence. Dike and Eunomia. The daughters of Zeus, the embodiment of perfection and benevolence. And Themis, the embodiment of eternal, natural, and divine order. Represent two different aspects of the law: Dike safeguards divine justice and punishes those who encroach upon it. Whereas Eunomia signifies the divine nature of the rule of law on the one hand, and social(state)order, on the other. Here we find in embryo the antithesis of two notions running through the entire history of the Greek Philosophy of law. The notion of natural law or the law deriving from nature (Physis) and the nation of artificial or positive law is a product of convention(nomos).

In his Works and Days, Hesiod describes the history of human society as a succession of five ages. Golden, Silver, Copper, the age of semi-gods or heroes, and, finally, the contemporary Iron Age. The people of the Golden Age (under Cronos) led a happy life without toil and worries. The people of the Silver Age who did not worship the gods have destroyed themselves in internecine (the age of Heracles and the Trojan War). Perished in evil wars and bloody battles.
(Ancient Greek)

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