Earned Knowledge, L6, P5

The Greeks, however, were not especially well-mannered. Here are a few comments from Will Durant, describing their behavior:

They have a high reputation for legal justice, but they are seldom altruistic to any but their children; conscience rarely troubles them, and they never dream of loving their neighbors as themselves. Manners vary from class to class.

The Athenians are competitive animals, and stimulate one another with nearly ruthless rivalry.

They are kind to animals and cruel to men… Nonetheless they are generous to the poor and the disabled.

The Greeks never tire of admiring themselves, and announce at every turn their superiority to other warriors, writers, artists, peoples.

And again, the Greeks believed in their ways… that their ways were better than the old ways and better than any other civilization they knew. Many of them, for example, (and the Athenians in particular) wouldn’t say something like Hello when they met each other, as we do; rather, they’d say Rejoice!

Again, Durant describes them with phrases like these:

Is there any community of like population or extent that pours into the stream of civilization such a profusion of gifts as flowed from the chaotic liberty of the Greeks?

To the Greeks, the best life is the fullest one, rich in health, strength, beauty, passion, means, adventure, and thought.

The Athenian ideal man… combines beauty and justice in a gracious art of living that frankly values ability, fame, wealth, and friends, as well as virtue and humanity… self-development is everything.

Here are a few additional bits and pieces on the Greeks:

    • The Greeks didn’t use money nearly as often as we do, and there is no paper money at all; only gold, silver and copper. Instead, the Greeks more commonly trade goods. (This type of trade is called barter.)
    • They loved athletics, and followed them closely. It was no accident that Olympic games began there.
    • Smiths (metalworkers) and potters had their own shops, but most other tradesmen did not: carpenters, saddlers, masons and cabinet-makers worked at the homes of the people who purchased their products.
    • The Greek and Roman models of the universe were very similar to that of the Sumerians. (See Lesson #2.)


Lesson Plan:

As usual, go through the material slowly, being careful to to leave any gaps in the mind or minds of your student or students.

There are a number of words in this lesson that you may want to stop and examine. Here they are, along with some notation:

    • assumptions: the things we assume to be true about ourselves and the world.
    • Expectations: the things we expect to happen to us and to the world.
    • primaries
    • secondaries
    • deity or deities
    • amphitheater
    • barter
    • slog
    • marrying up: a son or daughter marrying a spouse from a family of higher wealth and/or prestige.
    • marrying down: a son or daughter marrying a spouse from a family of lower wealth and/or prestige.
    • Altruistic: doing something nice without intending to be paid back.

The Will Durant quotes are from his book The Life of Greece.

Following the Durant passages on Greeks not being especially well-mannered, you may wish to add something like this:

What I think we see from these Durant quotes is the Greeks embracing the power of individuality, but remaining stuck in dominance and status.

If you agree, that’s something worth mentioning, but please be sure to add that this is just an opinion, and that each student must make up their own mind.

Finally, it may be worth your time to go through the 150 Delphic maxims we mentioned earlier. There is a slightly complex story as to how they were developed and displayed, but the important thing is that these were ideas that huge numbers of Greeks thought were important. They might not incorporate them into their daily lives (and certainly very many didn’t), but they were the things most of them thought were good ideas. I’ve appended them below.


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