What ideas and cultural forms were discussed and developed by Greek dramatists and philosophers? How, and in what ways, did they constitute, or reflect, the major contributions of Greek civilization to world history?
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Our modern-day drama is heavily influenced by the Greeks. The melodrama and comedy, for example. Other techniques and aspects of Greek stage productions, such as chorus and the God in the Machine, are still used today. We even regularly put on the same plays!
Ideas developed by Greek, especially Athenian, philosophers related to the ennoblement of humanity instead of humanity's subjugation. These ideas include freedom, rationalism and dignity and were opposed to non-Greek ideas of subjugation by force and degradation of humanity to spiteful vengeful deities.
It is important for us to realise how many aspects of our culture today are actually built upon Greek discoveries and innovations from so long ago. This helps us to realise what a major cultural force the Greek empire was. Plato's reflections on reality and what is reality and how we can often mistake reality for something else, as in his famous cave illustration, is something that is a vital part of our cultural understanding today.
I must also add to the discussion Aristotle's Poetics. In poetics, Aristotle introduced the idea of hamartia. What this was that man was noted to have a tragic flaw. Many have critiqued Aristotle's use of the word and redefined the word to align with aspects of err made given ignorance.
The ancient Greek dramatist Aristophanes was one of the first writers of comedy. His political satire was often laced with sexual innuendo, and he lampooned many of the events of the day. His Old Comic style later influenced writers such as Cervantes, Voltaire and Jonathan Swift.
One of the major contributions of the classical Greeks were the tragedies written by people Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. One of the things that these tragedies have passed on to us is the idea that hubris is a very dangerous thing. This is a cultural idea that we all have now, seen in things as the idea that pride goes before a fall. These tragedians tended to emphasize the extent to which life was complicated and contingent and how we can never be sure that all will be well.
Plato had an enormous influence on subsequent western thinking. In fact, someone famously said that the whole history of western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, with later thinkers being influenced by Plato even when they strongly disagreed with him. Plato's impact on western history is just one example of the enormous influence the ancient Greeks had on subsquent cultures and civilizations. Aristotle's influence has been, perhaps, at least as strong as Plato's, if not more so.
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