By John David Lewis
In 480 BC the ancient Persian Empire reached its highest point when King Xerxes invaded Greece with a massive army, demanding the enslavement of the Greeks under his terrifying power. He was the fourth Persian king to follow an ideology of violent expansion, based upon a demand for submission to his rule, and designed to instill terror in his subjects and his enemies. Against all odds the Greeks held their ground, destroyed the king's navy, routed his army, and drove onto his soil, permanently ending four generations of aggressive warfare. This course considers the main events of these wars, and pays rightful homage to the Greek heroes - the "greatest generation" of their day - who defended their freedom with their lives, and made possible the intellectual achievements of classical civilization.
But this course also considers the philosophical reasons why the Persians attacked, and why the Greeks stood their ground and won. The Persians were motivated in three important ways: a sense of terror in the subjects of the Great King, a demand for submission to his magnificent power, and an ideology of violent expansion. These ideas were rooted in Zoroastrianism, a philosophy that sees the world as divided into two antagonistic realms: the realm of light and order under the king's rule, and the realm of darkness and chaos. The Greeks, who valued personal autonomy and political freedom, refused to submit to such barbarism. This confrontation provides vital lessons to us, for the threats posed by totalitarian Islam encompass the same demands for submission, are pursued by the same ideology of violent expansion, and must be met with the same intransigence.
This course was recorded at the 2006 Objectivist Summer Conference in Boston, MA.
(MP3 download; 4 hrs., 36 min., with Q & A, 199.32 MB)