The Humanistic Tradition I

From the Ancient World to The Reformation

The Humanistic Tradition:  Study Questions.
Chapter 4: Greece: Humanism and the Speculative Leap.

1. The term “classical” is often used to describe the civilizations of Greece and Rome in the period between 500 BC and AD 500.  Identify the core components of the "classical tradition".  What does this term mean when applied to these civilizations?  Why is it important to understand the core components of the “classical tradition”?

2. Describe the characteristics of the Bronze Age Civilizations of the Aegean: the Minoan, the Mycenaean, and Greek Heroic Age.  How was the development of these civilizations influenced by the Aegean Sea?

3. Describe the characteristics of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.  What do they tell us about Greek life in the Heroic Age?  What sort of a hero is Achilles?  Compare him with Gilgamesh.  How are they similar?  How are they different?  What does this comparison tell us about Greek civilization?  Describe the nature of the Greek gods.  How are they similar to or different from the gods of religions previously discussed?  What is the Greek concept of the afterlife?

4. Describe the elements of Athenian democracy.  Compare and contrast Athenian democracy with modern American democracy

5. How does Pericles characterize Athenian civilization in the "Funeral Oration" from Thucydides’ Peloponnesian Wars?  What, to Pericles, makes Athenian civilization unique?

6. Describe the characteristics of Athenian drama, especially Greek tragedy.  Summarize Aristotle’s description of tragedy in the Poetics.

7. In Antigone, what is the nature of the conflict between Creon and Antigone?  Who is the “tragic figure”?  How many people die in Antigone?  How do they die?  In Greek plays, violence takes place off stage.  Why did the Greeks avoid the performance of violence?  In contrast, why is violence so pervasive in modern American films and television programs?

8. Describe the contributions to the development of Greek philosophy by the Sophists, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  What are the common elements of Greek philosophy?  How are the various schools of Greek philosopy different?  How does Greek philosophy depart from the thought of other people of the Mediterranean world?  What are the Greek concepts of the “good life”and of “happiness”?

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Last Update:  23.VIII.2006

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