The second city

There is, of course, much more to be learned by reading about times prior to Athens, but I will leave that to you. I have given you two excellent places to start: Russle Kirk, the main author I am reading, and Thomas Cahill’s excellent ‘hinges of history’ series.

Now to move on to the second of the cities in our journey: ancient Athens. Often the term Greece is used in discussing the foundations of American liberty, but there is actually very little of the American founding that can be traced to Greece, or more properly, Athens, since the Greece of our imaginations was mostly that, imagination. It was not a fantastic place of freedom and democracy, but, as Kirk says in his book and history verifies, one of “class conflict, disunity, internecine violence, private and public arrogance and selfishness, imperial vainglory, and civic collapse.” What is known as the “golden age of Athens” lasted little more than 50 years. While Athens conquered many city-states, they could not work together to sustain the greatness that flowered only briefly. They have the perfect word for their own demise: hubris.

This is not to say the Greeks are not important, they are, and that will be the next discussion.


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