By John David Lewis
Archaic Greece encompasses the three centuries prior to the flowering of classical Greek culture. It subsumes intellectual and political achievements that stand as self-sufficient in their own right, but that also established the foundations of the later classical revolution. The rise of hundreds of autonomous city-states spread Greek culture across the Mediterranean, culminating in the establishment of the democracy in Athens and the defense of Greek independence against the Persian invasions. Poets and other intellectuals brought heroism and a respect for wisdom to the cultural forefront, spreading a respect for reason that set a context for the rise of philosophy.
The three classes in this course are structured around three aspects of this period. The first is the chronological background of the Greeks in the Minoan and Mycenean palace economies, and the emergence from a dark age in the eighth century BC. The second class focuses on the rise of the polis as a political innovation, which spread through colonization and set the stage for the Greeks' defense of their independence. The third class, the discovery of the self, is both an examination and a celebration of selections from lyric poetry and philosophy, drawing on thinkers such as Homer, Hesiod, Tyrtaios, Solon, Xenophanes and Sappho.
In conclusion, the rise of the Greeks is not explained by factors such as natural environment, external kingdoms and warfare, or migrations. The cause is the Greeks themselves, who decided, on a cultural level, to live their lives with the fullest measure of energy, intellectual acuity and passion available to them.
This lecture was recorded at the 2009 Objectivist Summer Conference in Boston, MA.
(MP3 download; 4 hrs, 29 min, with Q & A, 174 MB)