When Herodotus read his history in public, it is said that a youth called Thucydides was so moved that he burst into tears. Herodotus congratulated the young man’s father upon having so appreciative a son.  Thucydides grew to be a rich man. He owned gold mines in Thrace. During the Peloponnesian War he commanded a squadron of Athenian ships but, having failed to accomplish the mission assigned to him, he went into exile (424). He used his enforced leisure to work on a history of the war which he had planned. He only reached 411 (the War went on till 404), but he produced a remarkable work. It is less chattv than that of Herodotus because the author’s aim was different. He was determined to write what we would now call scientific history. He took care about dates, grouping each year’s events together. He checked facts and weighed up one account of an event against another. He travelled in order to collect information and during his exile had access to both sides in the struggle.  On the other hand, when he came to the reporting of speeches, Thuycides made a point of not being scientific. The speeches he put into the mouths of many of his characters were far more than a digest of what had been said. They contained the historian’s own views on why men had acted as they did and what were the rights and wrongs of the question. These views were often wise.  Thus, though the Peloponnesian War was small in comparison with many of the wars of ancient history, we know a great deal about it. Further, because of the quality of Thucydides’s writing, we can feel a great deal about it. Though he was not himself a tragic poet, Thucydides well understood the tragedian’s business. His …

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parthenon today

The Parthenon

In the year 437 the Parthenon, which had been begun ten years before, was far enough advanced to contain a gigantic statue of Athena by the sculptor Pheidias. Enough of the Parthenon still survives to give an idea of how it must have looked when it was new and a visit to the British Museum will fill in the details. Here some of the sculptured figures which adorned the temple may be seen. They are known as the ‘Elgin Marbles’ because Lord Elgin brought them back from Greece in 1802-4 to save them from Turks, who then ruled the Greeks. Now that the danger is past, the Greeks would like them back. Pheidias, who supervised their construction, would not necessarily have regretted that Athens had lost them. The Athenians treated him very badly. After his work was finished he constructed the statue of Zeus at Olympia (one of the ‘seven wonders of the world’) and thereafter returned to Athens. Enemies of Pericles, whose friend Pheidias was, then tried to attack Pericles through him. He was accused of impiety. It was alleged that he had introduced his own likeness and that of Pericles into the scene of Athenians fighting Amazons (tough mythical women) with which the shield of Athena’s statue was decorated. It was not a flattering portrait. He had represented himself as a bald old man about to heave a stone. He was put in prison and died of disease there in 432, the year in which the Parthenon was finished. The name ‘Parthenon’, by which Pericles’s famous temple later came to be called, is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘maiden’. It was dedicated to the Maiden Goddess, Athena and the gigantic statue of her was its greatest treasure. No trace of this statue now remains, and perhaps this is …

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Herodotus, The Father of History

In 445, if tradition can be trusted, the Athenians must have felt more self-confident than ever; for it was then that Herodotus came to Athens, read aloud his history of the Persian wars and was given a reward. That the Athenians should have listened with interest as well as gratification is not surprising. The historian had done full justice to their distinguished part in the Persian Wars and in addition his work (9 books in all) contained all sorts of interesting details about countries like Egypt and Scythia (south Russia) which were only remotely connected with the war. Herodotus had travelled widely and produced a combined guide book and history covering most of the known world. No one had ever done anything of this sort before.  “My duty is to report all that is said”, wrote Herodotus, “but I am not obliged to believe it all alike.” There is no doubt that people told him some odd stories, but the bulk of Herodotus is reliable. His History ends in the year 478. We have no detailed continuous account of the period 478-432.  In 443 the Athenians founded a colony at Thurii in southern Italy and there Herodotus ended his days. Just when he went there is uncertain. We do not know whether he was still at Athens in 441 when a new dramatist, Euripides, won his first success, or in 440 when his friend Sophocles won a prize for his play Antigone (the name of the heroine).  The Antigone is a tender play, which sets the audience worrying about how difficult it is to do one’s duty — loyalty to a friend may mean disloyalty to one’s country. This is a very real problem, though one best not pondered by soldiers. Their first duty must be unquestioning obedience to orders. …

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The Athenian Empire

Cimon was rich and pro-Spartan, but generous. He kept open house and invited the public to make use of his garden and grounds. It was said that he got riches that he might use them and used them that he might get honour by them. This was in fact the course which Athenian Empire herself now began to adopt; but Cimon was not destined to steer her along it.  He had a rival, Pericles. In 461 the queer process of ostracism was once again brought into operation. (For the events leading up to this see) Every citizen scratched a name on a piece of broken pottery. When the count was made it became clear that fear of Sparta meant more to the Athenians than the use of Cimon’s garden. Cimon had to go. For the next thirty years Athenian Empire was guided by Pericles.  Pericles. He wears the ‘Corinthian’ type of helmet, which could be pulled down to cover the whole face for fighting. In 454 things went badly for Athens. She lost 200 ships which had been sent on an expedition as far afield as Egypt. What if the Phoenician vassals of Persia should choose this moment to raid Delos and rob the treasury of the League? They must not be given the chance. Once again, just as at the time when she had prevented the secession of Naxos, the action taken by Athens was very reasonable and at the same time very advantageous to herself. She removed the League’s accumulated wealth from Delos to Athens. Finally, in 451, rights of citizenship were restricted to men whose father and mother were Athenian born. This limited the number of those who were entitled to share in the spoils of what could now be called, not a confederacy, but an empire.  While …

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The Confederacy of Delos

Delos a Greek island in the Cyclades archipelago was an important religious centre in the Archaic and Classical periods. The island was also a major commercial and trading centre in the 2nd and 1st centuries CE. About the same time as the land victory at Plataea (479) the Greek fleet had beaten the Persians at Mycale on the coast of Asia Minor (478) and now that they were absolutely sure which was the winning side the Ionian Greeks of the coast and the islands gradually decided to change sides again, but they needed help. Persian garrisons had to be driven out.  The Spartans might have undertaken this. They had been the acknowledged leaders of Greece on land and during the campaign against Xerxes, but the Spartans were not enterprising enough and they were always afraid that the downtrodden Helots might revolt, while their masters were campaigning outside the Peloponnese. So it was Athens which seized the opportunity and formed a confederacy of Aegean towns and islands for defence against Persia. Some larger islands such as Chios, Lesbos and Samos provided ships, but most members of the league contributed money.  Aristides, old now but still renowned for honesty, decided how much each of the confederates should pay and the money was kept in earthenware jars at Apollo’s shrine on the island of Delos. From the first Athens was very much the leading partner and imposed strict discipline. When in 467, the year after the triumphant return of Theseus in his coffin, the island of Naxos tried to leave the Confederacy, it was forced to continue as a contributor. Athens insisted that since no Aegean city-state could help benefiting from the league’s activities, no state should be allowed to stay out of it. This is a reasonable enough argument, but one might have expected it to be used by …

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Theseus Comes Home

The annual festival of the Great Dionysia, in March of the year 468, was not only remarkable for the victory of twenty-seven year old Sophocles over the honoured and battle-scarred Aeschylus, who was now approaching sixty. There was something else. Owing to the excitement which the competition between youth and age had aroused, the official whose duty it was to appoint the judges had not yet dared to do so. He was about to solve the problem in the way Athens solved many problems — by drawing lots — when Cimon, an aristocrat, politician and admiral, entered the great open-air theatre with nine of his senior officers. They had just returned from a naval expedition, during which they had subdued the island of Scyros, the supposed burial place of Theseus. An oracle had said that the body of Theseus should be brought back to Athens and Cimon had brought it (or someone else’s; there were no archaeologists to put awkward questions). Cimon was therefore the hero of the hour.  The official in charge stood by the altar. (These drama festivals, were religious ceremonies, the god on this occasion being Dionysus.) With relief the official saw Cimon and his officers come in. Certain that his choice would be popular he led them to the altar and administered the judges’ oath. It was their decision which sent Aeschylus off to Sicily in a rage.  For our present purpose the point of interest in this story is the huge coffin, alleged to contain the body of the mighty Theseus, which the Athenians had greeted with such rejoicing. That sort of demonstration over a legendary hero takes place either when a people is in great danger, or when they become ambitious. Now although Athens was still at war with Persia, the Persians had left …

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Postwar World Looks for Ways to Live at Peace

The postwar stirring of nationalism among peoples in Asia and Africa, was one important outcome of World War 2, but World War 2 created another great yearning that was world-wide, the desire for a firm and lasting peace. This greatest of all conflicts had uprooted millions from their homes, destroying their means of livelihood. It had brought death, sorrow and a great war-weariness. News of the Allied victory in 1945 was received in a spirit of quiet relief and hope for the future.  Following World War 2 a split developed between the free world (designated by the NATO flag) and the Communist world. The hope for peace met disappointing setbacks in the years that followed. Instead of working together, nations split into three camps — the free world, the Communist world, and the neutralist countries. As a result of Soviet policies, a “cold war” of words and threats developed. This “cold war” turned into armed conflict when United Nations forces came to the defense of the Republic of Korea. Communist-inspired crises also broke out in many other parts of the world.  Problems plagued the world in recent years and the United States played a key part in the strengthening of the free world and in the search for peace. We get a glimpse of the awe-inspiring challenges of tomorrow’s world. These matters will be taken up under the following topics: How did the postwar world become divided? What steps did the free world take to meet the threat of postwar communism? What did the postwar future hold?  1945 A.D. – 1970 A.D 1. How Did the Postwar World Become Divided?  Victory in World War 2 would not have been possible without close teamwork among the nations fighting the Axis powers. Then, in 1945, while the combined armed forces were crushing Germany and Japan, the United …

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Nationalist Beliefs in Asia and Africa after WW 2

Nationalist beliefs in Asia and Africa swept over changes in many lands. In the spring of 1955, the city of Bandung, Indonesia, was tense with excitement. Crowds lined the streets to catch glimpses of delegates attending an international conference. The citizens of Bandung saw Arab diplomats arrive, dressed in the flowing robes and headdress of the desert. They saw prime ministers and foreign ministers wearing the jaunty caps and spotless white clothing popular in tropical South Asia. The rest of the world watched too, for the Bandung Conference was the first of its kind ever to be held. Only Asian and African statesmen were present, yet they spoke for half of the world’s people. Many of the 29 nations they represented had become independent since World War II. In short, the Bandung Conference was a symbol of the tremendous changes that swept across Asia and Africa after 1945.  New nationalist feelings emerge in Asia and Africa as peoples once under colonial control strive for freedom. We read about the recent nationalistic efforts of Asian and African peoples to gain freedom from colonial control, to run their own affairs and to achieve a better standard of living. This nationalist awakening made India a free nation. It brought important nationalistic changes in Southeast Asia. It set the Moslem Middle East aflame with nationalist feeling and swept over Africa. The Communist drive to gain power round the world, but nationalist events in Asia and Africa are important to free people everywhere. 1939 A.D. – Modern Day What nationalist changes took place in China and Japan since world war 2?How has nationalist beliefs affected India and Southeast Asia?How did nationalists changed the Moslem world?How has the desire for freedom transformed nationalistic Africa? 1. What Nationalist changes have taken place in Japan and China since World …

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aggressor nations

Aggressor Nations Fail to Achieve World Conquest

It was summer in 1939, vacation time for lots of people. No one knows how many Americans heard the voice of the British statesman Winston Churchill coming over the air on August 8, less than a month before World War 2 began. His words were grim, prophetic and weighted with bitter humour. “Holiday time, ladies and gentlemen! Holiday time, my friends across the Atlantic! Holiday time, when the summer calls the toilers of all countries for an all too brief spell from the offices and mills and stiff routine of daily life and bread-winning and sends them to seek, if not rest, at least change in new surroundings, to return refreshed and keep the myriad wheels of civilized society on the move.” Thus began the stockily built Englishman with the round face and the big cigar. As he talked, his light mood changed. He spoke of the “hush” which he said was “hanging over Europe.”  Aggressions by the aggressor nations (Axis powers) plunged the world into the greatest of all wars. “What kind of a hush is it?” Churchill asked his radio audience. “Alas! It is the hush of suspense and in many lands it is the hush of fear. . . . Listen carefully; I think I hear something — yes, there it is, quite clear. Don’t you hear it? It is the tramp of armies crunching the gravel of the parade grounds, splashing through rain-soaked fields, the tramp of 2 million German soldiers and more than a million Italians going on maneuvers –yes, only on maneuvers! Of course, it’s only maneuvers -just like last year. After all, the dictators must train their soldiers. They could scarcely do less in common prudence, when the Danes, the Dutch, the Swiss, the Albanians and of course the Jews, may leap out at any moment and …

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Dictators in Germany and Italy Challenge Democracies

Dictators came to power in many European countries during the twenty years following World War I. About 9:20 P.M. on February 27, 1933, the rumble and clang of fire engines echoed through the heart of Berlin, capital city of Germany. Down the broad avenue called Unter den Linden the trucks roared toward the Reichstag building where the German legislature met, but the firemen were too late; they could not check the flames which licked savagely from the windows. Within a few hours the big building was no more than a smoke-stained skeleton. The Reichstag fire was a grim prophecy of what lay ahead for Germany. Investigation proved that the fire had been started at many points in the building at the same moment; but by whom? Police claimed they had the answer when they arrested a dull-witted fellow found poking about the fire-gutted building that night. He had been arrested before for setting fires; besides, they said, he was a Communist. It is quite possible, however, that the person mainly responsible for the fire was a man with unruly hair, burning eyes and a toothbrush mustache. The dictator of all dictators, his name was Adolf Hitler. The confusion and hard times which Germany had suffered since its defeat in World War I provided an excellent opportunity for power-hungry dictators like Hitler. A few months before the Reichstag fire he had been named Germany’s Chancellor, or Prime Minister. Neither dictators like Hitler nor the Nazi Party which backed him had a firm grip on the government. (The name Nazi consists of the first four letters of the German word for “National,” in the name of the National Socialist Party.) A troubled Europe saw the rise of dictators in Italy and Germany and violent civil war in Spain. A new election was set for March 5. Something had to be done to …

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