A Review of Individualism in Ancient Greece

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Updated: Nov 20, 2022
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An Ancient Greek was a unique civilization at its time. Not only the Greek were very cultivated, their society was more advanced than other places. So, what made the Greece society so unique and different from their predecessors? The answer can be found in the Greece’s portray of individualism and citizens.

To define individualism, individualism is the principle or habit of belief in independent thought or action. Such as practice can be found in the Spartan Society and Values. Although, Spartan’s weren’t technically Greece, but they were part of Greek lands, and their Spartan Creed serves as a good example of person’s individualism. Spartans heavily rely on serving and defending their homes. As the document says “Here is a man who proves himself to be valiant in war. With a sudden rush he turns to fight the rugged battalions of the enemy, and sustains the beating waves of assault.”(Spartan Society and Values, 76). This particular passage encourages the Spartan army to be brave and fight for their lands at any cost. Similar approach to individualism can also be seen in Thucydides Peloponnesian Wars. The Peloponnesian Wars document recreates the speech given by the Athenian leader Pericles, who honors Athenians who were victims of the war. Pericles approach to individualism from Athenians perspective is different compare with Spartans society. For example, from the military side Pericles explains that “Our approach to military training differs from that of our Spartan opponents in the following ways. We have an open city and do not, by periodically expelling foreign, keep them from seeing and learning things lest some enemy benefit from what is open to his view. (Peloponnesian War, 97). This meant that the Athenians were more open to diplomacy, rather than acting in pact of war.

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More on individualism can be found in Sophocles Antigone. Antigone was a tragedy by Sophocles written in 441 BC and it describes life of a docile sister Antigone. In Antigone, Sophocles describes the type of pride that allows men to create laws that substitute for divine principles. Specifically, when Creon created a law because he believed it is divine will, that is the ultimate display of punishable pride, for no man can ever create a law that is equal to or above divine right “Haemon: It is not reverence to trample on the rights of gods. Creon: A hateful heart that bends before a woman! Haemon: But never will you find me subservient to the base. Creon: Why, all your argument is urged for her. Haemon: Yes, and for you and me, and for the goods below. Creon: You shall not marry her this side grave.”(Antigone, 108). This note how the individualism was abused a threaten under fear. Another story on punishment is seen in Plutarch’s “Life of Alexander” where Alexander the great treated individualism through loyalty and respect, and breaking this pact can be punishable by death, as it states “As Cleitus still refused to give way… Alexander seized a spear from one of his guards, faced Cleitus as he was drawing aside the curtain of the doorway, and ran him through. With roar of pain and a groan, Cleitus fell, and immediately the king’s anger left him.”(Life of Alexander, 141).

Looking back at the question, how did individualism make the Greeks unique and different from their predecessors? It had its ups and down sides. What they did right was the unity under certain rules and if you were following them you would be rewarded. On the other side, it was also ruled by fear not following these rules result in punishment, mostly by death. There were certainly some downfalls, but none can argue how big of an impact it had on its time.

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A Review of Individualism in Ancient Greece. (2022, Nov 20). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-review-of-individualism-in-ancient-greece/