World History Homework Two Answers - Student One
AddisonDM 16:53, 9 February 2009 (EST)
1.One of the greatest influences in Alexander the Great’s success was no doubt his tutoring/homeschooling by Aristotle. It stands to reason (although ironically Aristotle would prefer experience) that if Alexander was tutored in his formative years by one of the most brilliant men ever, that he himself would pick up or learn some of that brilliance. However, the question remains of why he would have been so ingenious militarily, since Aristotle was not primarily concerned with military studies. Perhaps the Greek education was so great that it was able to cover and encompass all topics, including military skill. Or perhaps Alexander was intrinsically brilliant himself. More probably, both. (And if we want to get speculative, you never know if Alexander didn’t have some sort of divine inspiration, since his achievements paved the way for the spread of Christianity.)
2.Greek geography was unique because Greece as a whole was geographically small, and yet within Greece itself, geographic barriers like rivers, mountains, and peninsulas made further divisions in which individual city-states developed. Because the city-states were geographically separate, they were able to develop stable governments more that the Middle East could, which was constantly ravaged by war. Sometimes conflict caused democracy to disappear, but most of the time it came back shortly, after the conflict subsided. (Note, Egypt and China were geographically isolated like Greece, so Greece is not exactly unique.)
3.The great advance in language was the change from cuneiform (symbols representing words) to letters/alphabets. In cuneiform, complex ideas, verb tenses, and even new names and words would be very difficult to create. But once phonetics were applied to individual letters, and syllables existed, it was possible to create new words. An analogy would be this: in cuneiform, each word is a building, and each new word is a new building (unless cuneiform could be partially combined). But in alphabets, each word is a building built from 22 or 26 or some number of bricks, and these bricks can be used again and again to build new words.
4.Something fascinating about the Greeks is that even though they were the first civilization to discover relatively modern science, they also had scores of mythology to explain natural phenomena. For example, the Sun was driven across the sky each day in a chariot, the horse and olive tree were invented by Poseidon and Athena respectively, and lighting was Zeus getting angry. What I wonder is whether the Greeks believed these myths at the same time that better science existed or not, and what they thought of the myths after they discovered science.
5.Aesop’s fables are a great example of truth existing even without God’s revelation. According to Christianity, many of the morals in his fables would be true and good. Non-Christians would say that Christianity stole its teachings from Aesop, Aristotle, and paganism- but Christians would say that God’s truth is so great that it can be discovered in degree by reason and good conduct alone.
6.Plato. He began to develop monotheism, based on the idea of a prime mover. He considered there to be an ultimate being who was an ultimate embodiment of Good. From his philosophy is derived Neo-Platonism, a variation of monotheism. A teaching in Neo-Platonism is that the universe emanates from God without diminishing Him. While these philosophies tend to consider God more of a transcendent “One” (similar to pantheism) than a living being with a will (as in Abrahamic monotheism), they do demonstrate a great point- the Greeks, the most logical civilization ever, began to envision monotheism without revelation. This seems to me proof that belief in God is in fact logical.
7.The American Indians. (Who were not mentioned in the lecture but who did exist at the time.) It’s interesting that they developed so little technology as opposed to almost every other civilization. If they were descended from Noah and dispersed after the Tower of Babel, why would they be different than any other civilization that formed? If the evolutionary story were true, there is really no better answer. Perhaps the Indians were really not a primitive, savage, people. Perhaps they had found human happiness more than other peoples, and they focused more on this than on military ambitions and technology. If everyone was content with their friends and families, would there be technological growth at all? Are technology, science, and war endeavors that man descends into when he is unhappy with the basic comforts of faith and family? I wonder.
2.The Persian Wars were the defining moment of Western civilization. Man originated in either Africa or the Middle East, and all early civilizations originated in the Middle East. Persia was an Eastern culture, and Greece was among the first cultures to exist outside of the Middle East- the first Western civilization. Greece, with its reason, democracy, and military of the few but strong, crushed the old way of civilization, where despotic rulers sent out thousands of unskilled men, like herds of animals, as their army. Conceptually, democracy and individuality destroyed despotic, mindless collectivism. Each single Greek soldier was crucial to the Phalanx formation. If his role was lacking, the Phalanx was deficient (it reminds one of the Body of Christ, one single formation enriched by the very diversity and individuality of its single members, or of the United States, a collection of individual sovereign entities who together form a single nation, the full heritage of which would be lacking without all 50 members). In the Persian model, however, the soldier was little more than an archetype, the members of the army little more than slaves. The identity, humanity, or even the participation of a single soldier was unimportant. The human mass marched on unflinchingly, missing and lacking nothing. Only the mass itself meant a thing. Greece, in winning a battle and securing its nation, set the political and conceptual stage for human worth, dignity and individuality, for self-government, and, in fact, for Christianity.
4.On more than one occasion, the Ekklesia (the assembly of citizens in the Athenian democracy) voted compulsively and had to later rescind its vote, or deal with the consequences. When the passions of the people are mindlessly inflamed with nationalism or worry or stress during war or domestic crisis, a direct democracy almost necessarily ensures that the nation will be lead emphatically in the wrong direction, unprepared or with a rash mentality. For example, the Ekklesia voted in 406 BC to execute eight generals who failed to collect survivors from ships damaged in a storm. The trial tried all eight generals together and thus was an illegal proceeding, which happened anyway due to the excitement of the people after years of war. Later the Ekklesia made up for the unlawful executions by executing those who had accused the generals. More infamously, Socrates was executed by the Ekklesia- an event which Greek reason might helped avoid.