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The Period of the Peloponnesian War (continued)

3. The military art of the epoch

1. The main factors which influence the outcome of war are: 1) the goal for which the war is waged"; 2) understanding of this goal by the immediate participants in the struggle, i.e. their level of self-consciousness; 3) class struggle in "our" camp, and in "theirs"; 4) the level of technique and engineering knowledge of the two sides; 5) the military art of the leaders; 6) the number of the troops; 7) geopolitical allies; 8) material and financial reserves. Even though the goal for which Athens fought appears as more progressive and they have had greater engineering knowledge, Spartans have shown greater unity in their camp, greater ability to unite allies around them, and financial backing by the king of Persia.

A Spartan helmet damaged probably in battle, on display in a British museum.

2. In the period of Peloponnesian war, mercenaries start to be used instead of citizens' armies. This makes the army less democratic and deepens the gulf between the army and the people. The generals are no longer responsible to people's Assemblies.

3. War develops the productive forces of society: "The tyrant of Syracuse was a great machine builder, and from Sicily this art has found its way to mainland Greece. Around this time in Syracuse new stone-throwing machines were invented, and the trireme was substituted by quinquereme, a five-banked galley. According to Diodorus, the tyrant of Syracuse gathered in the city the most artful mechanics from all over the world, personally took care of the workers, rewarded them and invited to his table".

4. The Peloponnesian war has led to appearance of military theory. Sophists started to give lectures on the topic. The first military theoretician is perhaps Xenophon and his "Cyropaedia". According to Delbruck, this is "a textbook of politics and military art, in the form of a historical novel". After Xenophon comes Aeneas from Stymphalia; he wrote a practical treatise on the military art.

4. Consciousness of the epoch

1. Information on philosophers before Socrates can be obtained from the first chapter of "Metaphysics" of Aristotle and from Diogenes Laertius' "Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers".

We begin with the main philosopher of the epoch: Socrates. Information on the man can be obtained from three main sources: 1) dialogues of Plato; 2) sketches of Xenophon ("Memorabilia"); 3) play of Aristophanes "Clouds".

A gem imprint representing Socrates, Rome, 1st century B.C. - 1st century A.D.

Socrates comes from the lower classes of Athenian society. "His mother was a midwife; she's experienced in the most ancient human trade. His father is one of those stone cutters who cut and polish the stones from which Parthenon is built". Socrates himself chooses the trade of his mother. "He will help give birth to the truth which every person carries in himself". In order to make money, Socrates follows in the footsteps of his father.

2. A. Bonnar writes: "The main trait of Socrates from 'Clouds' is that he is able to explain phenomena of nature without introducing gods; Socrates of Aristophanes explains rain and thunderstorm not through actions of Zeus, but through action of clouds; in this sense he is an atheist in etymological sense of the word".

3. However, according to Plato, the main object of discourse of Socrates were not phenomena of nature, but rather moral rules. When he is trying to explain to us "what is justice?", Socrates climbs up the ladder of individual morality and throws a glance at the large picture - the structure of society. In this he shows to us an aspect of scientific method, i.e. that individual and singular can not be understood in themselves; science begins when singular is treated as a case of universal.

Socrates generalizes the rules of morality of a just society. This society must have communist foundation, and yet division of people into classes is not annulled: labor is performed by artisans, while another class defends, and the third class rules. Socrates, or Plato (depending on who we attribute "The Republic" to) "want to eradicate from the heart of the servants of the state two of the most deep-seated roots of egoism: love for property and love for family". Sexual  relations in the hypothetical society are "temporary unions regulated by the state officials. As for the children, they are taken from mothers from the moment of their birth and brought up through the cares of the state; they don't know who their parents are and call 'mother' and 'father' all adults who fit this age category; their 'brothers' and 'sisters' are all children born approximately at the same time as they" (A. Bonnar).

4. Dream about a more just constitution of society is realized in "Birds" of Aristophanes. "They wanted to find or found a city without parties, without lies, debts and money, a city in which life would be like a holiday".

Another important comedy of Aristophanes is "Lysistrata". In this comedy Aristophanes asks a question: "What will happen if all the women, from love of peace, will condemn all men to sexual abstinence?" "No sex without peace" is a utopian attempt to end all wars.

About comedies, Aristotle observed: "The man is the only being who knows how to laugh".

5. Plato is the main student of Socrates, born in 427 B.C. into an aristocratic family. "Plato" is a nickname which he obtained because he was wide in his shoulders; his real name was Aristocles. "Until the time of Plato, Greek literature is mostly poetic. Poetry for the people of V century B.C. is an educator of youth and teacher of states. Beginning with Plato, and after Plato, Greek literature is mostly philosophy, love of wisdom, science" (Bonnar).

6. Hegel thinks that the best part of Plato's philosophy is his dialectics. In "Lectures on the History of Philosophy" he says: "I can not not take into consideration that if some see the best of Plato's philosophy in his myths, which don't have any scientific value, there were times - and these were even called the times of ecstasy - when Aristotelian philosophy was valued because of its speculative depth, and 'Parmenides' of Plato - the greatest perhaps creation of ancient dialectics - was thought to be a positive expression of divine life".7. Idealism of Plato is in his theory of knowledge. For him, reality is a reflection of the ideal object. Thus, for example, there is a real table. But this real table is a mere copy of some ideal table. Yet Plato is himself critical of this theory, and in this we see his genius.

7. Idealism of Plato is in his theory of knowledge. For him, reality is a reflection of the ideal object. Thus, for example, there is a real table. But this real table is a mere copy of some ideal table. Yet Plato is himself critical of this theory, and in this we see his genius.

Plato's negation of the reality of the world around him could be his reaction to the spirit of decline in his time. The same reason pushes the modern youth towards religions, and specifically Christianity. For example, Plato says: "Throwing away mindlessness, habitual to our body... we get to know the pure, which is the truth". And Christianity says: "Blessed are the pure of the heart, for they will see god".

8. Philosophical conversations of Socrates can be seen as the greatest achievement of ancient Athens. Defeat in the Peloponnesian war marked start of decline of this city state. Reaction to this decline is philosophy of Plato. Long-term cause for this decline A. Bonnar sees in slave character of labor, which leads to inactivity of mind and body of the citizens. She writes: "In his 'Laws" Plato says that no citizen should get involved in a mechanical profession". Contempt for manual labor we see in "Gorgias" of Plato: "And yet you despise him and his art, and the name of mechanic you say with contempt, so that you wouldn't marry your daughter to his son, or his son to your daughter". 

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