Tags: Demand, citizens, Athens, United States, Sparta, skilled specialists, city-state, government, training system, upper class, political decisions, Areopagus Council, Spartan women, Spartans, David W. Padrusch, Matt Keed, personal contributions, History Channel, aristocratic families, Class Structure, The Assembly, debt-slavery, Battle of Thermopylae, Thomas R. Ancient, Yale University Press, indebtedness, United States government, Gerousia, Sara Padrusch
Content: A COMPARISON OF modern society WITH THE CULTURE OF ANCIENT GREECE Megan Anderson DR. STEVEN ANDREWS THE Pennsylvania State University CAMS 100: Honors Option Project
INTRODUCTION To begin, this report analyzes multiple cultural habits of Ancient Greece in comparison to what happens today in the United States. Some of these sections are accompanied by suggestions for the improvement of our society, while others only state the similarities and differences. For the sake of better understanding, I used information pulled from the two main Greek city-states: Athens and Sparta. There are, of course, many other Greek city-states that could be applied to these areas, but these are the two most recognizable and the ones on which this course was focused. Each of the sections in this paper are meant to inform the reader of what the typical life was like for Greeks and generalized assumptions about Americans today. There are more specific cases for each that would not necessarily remain under these assumptions, but only the average information is used. The section on citizens' social responsibility focuses on the roles of citizens in regard to their contributions to their society. The United States seems to pale in comparison to Greeks, especially the Spartans who dedicated every aspect of their lives for the betterment of the Spartan state. Class systems are then analyzed to determine how classes are formed and what the role of each class was. In the United States, classes and economic status are very closely tied. Athens later had a similar set-up, but the early Mycenaeans began to determine classes based upon the tribes that different members belonged to and the families that determined status. These families would forever help to establish the identity of a citizen in Greece, while Americans have the opportunity to change their social standing through personal means. 46
After the responsibilities and classes are established, it is important to identify what being a citizen actually means. With the exception of ambassadors and immigrants not yet granted citizenship, it is easy to assume that anyone living within our country is a citizen. Sparta had a strong tendency to reinforce the idea that just because someone lived within Spartan territory, they were not a Spartan. There were three different levels of inhabitants: Spartans, Non-Spartan Dorian speakers, and helots. Each of this sections will be explained in further detail. A very substantial group of any nation's citizens would be the women. For hundreds of years there has been a struggle due to gender differences. The United States has a strong history with the Women's Rights Movement. But, understanding the role of a Greek woman opens up a whole new discussion about how women truly gain the respect of their male peers and how traditional gender roles make a difference in the sex's equality. One of the most significant aspects of any nation's culture revolves around its politics and the political influence on society. Ancient Athens is renowned for being the birthplace of democracy, and plays a significant role in how the United States government is organized today. If this is where our concept of democratic government was introduced, then how similar are our forms of government today to that of Athens? 47
CITIZENS' SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY When attempting to research a professional perspective of American "social responsibility," almost all of the search results are seemingly related to the idea of charitable contributions from American corporations. We live in a society that is plagued by the idea of contributing "beyond their means" as an act of goodwill for a "pat on the back". Americans, as a whole, tend to be a very ego-centric society, always trying to be one step ahead of the competition for personal gain. If we are constantly surrounded by people with this mindset, however, then how is it that 9.29% of the population in the United States was considered unemployed in 2013? That is equivalent to about 28,718,986 people in total that had no jobs and were not actively serving in the Armed Forces. Perhaps in correlation, some of the country's most populated states had unnerving numbers of homeless citizens. California seemed to have the highest homeless population with 136,826 homeless out of a total state population of 37,325,068 people (PolicyMap). Yet, we claim to be a land of opportunities and success that reach out a helping hand to those in need. If this is the case, then why does our country as a whole seem to be suffering from a vast homeless population, unemployment, and a skyrocketing rate of crime? Instead of existing as a society that encourages individual gain for personal success, the United States should encourage citizens to devote more of their actions towards the betterment of society as a whole. When looking at the Spartan society, it was common understanding was that each member of the community was "devoted single-mindedly to patriotic duty" (Demand 118). This may at first appear to be some sort of deranged idea: how is a 48
citizen supposed to aim for personal advancement when everything they do is only supposed to benefit the community? With less personal glorification, it seems difficult to comprehend the motivation behind a person's actions. Demand even says that "individual and family interests and ambitions were to be put aside to create a society focused on the common good" (Demand 130). The "welfare" of the Spartan society was practically interchangeable with the rest of the polis' existence. Every action taken was done for the betterment of their society. As soon as a child in Sparta was born, one of the elders would search the child for defects. If they deemed the child worthy to exist in the Spartan society, then they would allow the child to live. If not, then they would choose to abandon the child to death (Battle). As harsh as it may seem, this was to prevent the build-up of citizens that would not be beneficial to the community. This "contribution" started at an early age, too. At age 7, boys started training in groups called "herds" within the agoge system. Involving both traditional education and physical training, this would continue for approximately 12 years of the boys' lives. Separated from their families, the mother would only bear children for the state. Parents would not have sole responsibility over their child, rather adults in Sparta as a whole were responsible for all Spartan children and necessary punishments (Demand 130). Once a Spartan man had become a full citizen, they were expected to contribute to the food and wine supply in order to remain a citizen. They would supply this through the allotment of land worked by helots (inhabitants of the area controlled by Spartan who were not Dorian speakers). Therefore, Spartans had to make sure that their helots remained effective. Until the age of 60, men were expected to remain active in the 49
military. After 60, they still helped to train and discipline younger men and boys (Demand 130-1). This was all done for the benefit of the state. Spartans were so dedicated to these personal contributions that only men who died in battle or women who died in childbirth were allowed to have a tombstone, because both acts were seen as giving their lives for the state (Battle). At the same time, in Athens, the city-state was concerned with the personal contributions made by the members of its society. In fact, the skilled specialists were allotted exact amounts of their supplies for the specific items they created, so that nothing would go to waste. This was tracked through greatly detailed inventories. Similarly, the number of animals each herdsman was responsible for was also recorded, often with descriptions of the animals listed (Demand 66). Many leaders throughout Athen's history attempted to encourage citizen involvement for the benefit of the state as well. Peisistratus, for example, took on extensive public building projects which helped to foster civic consciousness and shift the power in Athens from the Aristocrats to the polis (Demand 151). This does not go so far as to suggest that every citizen was dedicated to the success and equal participation in the city, however, in the way that Spartans tended to exemplify. In fact, it is speculated that Solon, one of Athen's most influential leaders, eventually faced his downfall due to his inability to enforce compliance with his reforms (Demand 149). While the United States seems to be more demonstrative of Athenian culture, there are still many areas that could be improved by taking on a more "Greek" mentality. Especially within the Spartan culture, each citizen understood that by dedicating their lives to the betterment of the community, they were in turn improving the environment in 50
which they co-exist. Therefore, they were improving their own lives through their actions. If more Americans would adopt this mindset, then they may see improvement in the world around them that would in turn improve their own lives. The negativity in media would begin to transform into something of a more positive nature, and the skyrocketing statistics would gradually become more acceptable. 51
CLASS SYSTEMS According to the Marxist theory, the primary distinction between classes after the Nineteenth Century has been direct ownership of a means of production and those in control of the production. Owning an asset forms a class that assumes those of lower classes are simply charged with their capital (Wolff 1383). In other words, the owner of a factory would be of a higher class than the factory workers themselves. We know that there is an obvious example of differences in wealth of the Mycenaean peoples because of the items buried with the corpses. In fact, some of the shaft grave bodies are referred to as "princes" because of the grave gifts surrounding the bodies. This gifts include gold and clothing ornaments (Demand 57-8). It is easy to assume that these wealthier beings must have been of a higher class than those buried with only a few trinkets. But then again, class divisions in the United States seem most closely related to economic incomes and assets (Wolff 1403). Within our own society, we associate people with classes based upon their financial standings. Yet, this was not always the case in ancient societies. The Linear B tablets give an insight on the social hierarchy of the Mycenaeans. Like many civilizations, the highest status of "wanax" was determined by ownership of land and other allocations. This ownership is what Americans would relate to levels of wealth. Yet, the priests and priestesses also appear to have been high-ranking citizens. They would not necessarily have more possessions, but they were in charge of holding parcels of land for lease, measured in terms of grain. The workers, including the skilled specialists (whom we might categorize as upper-middle class professionals today), appeared to exist on the bottom of the social pyramid. Women with working children 52
but no husbands or family affiliations were listed as slaves in the official records. In order to be deemed "middle-class" in the ancient times would be to participate in the military units or keep watch on the coast (Demand 66). It is difficult to imagine a true "middle-class" in modern society, as the gap between the capitalist (or upper) class and earner (or lower) class has been increasing over recent years (Wolff 1404). Besides the differences of allocation of classes, there is also another fundamental difference between ancient class structure and today. The most common way to identify a person's class was to identify the family they belonged to. These families tied a person to their social standing forever. In fact, "blood pollution," a popular concept in 700BC, occurred when any blood was shed, either on purpose or through innocent means. This "pollution" required purification, and could even warrant serious stains. Such stains could mean serious punishments, including exclusion from the city-state. If any stain was to exist, it would be passed down through generations of a family. Any member born into that family would be forced to carry this stain, unless resolved, for the rest of their life (Demand 143). In the United States today, members living within the same household are not necessarily considered members of the same social and economic class, nonetheless generations over a span of many years (Wolff 1405). 53
CITIZENSHIP Throughout this report, we have been referring to American and Greek "citizens" quite frequently. However, we have not yet established what constitutes a citizen. In Sparta, there were many inhabitants that would be considered to be of "lower-class," but they would NOT be considered Spartans. One example of this would be Periokoi. Periokoi were Dorian speakers (yet, still non-Spartan) that had a local self-government, but any military matters were solely under Spartan control. At the same time, they would fight alongside Spartan warriors under Spartan command (Demand 121). Sparta had enough respect for the Periokoi that they would often leave them alone to make their own major decisions with the understanding that they were officially under Spartan command. This does not constitute them as citizens, however, because they did have their own government made up of only their peoples. "Helots," or non-Dorian inhabitants within Spartan territory, were slaves only to the Spartan state. Yet, they were free to form stable families and work on their allotted land. Some male helots actually assisted Spartan hoplites in battle as servers and were occasionally freed to be drafted into the hoplite corps. Even if they served in the hoplite corps, helots were always considered "inferior" to Spartans, and therefore that of a lower class (Demand 120). The sheer number of helots led Sparta to fear a potential rebellion, though. Proving this fear, the helots attempted to overthrow the Spartan state when Sparta seemed to be at a weak point. It eventually ended in the helot's defeat and Sparta institutionalized a "perpetual state of war" that allowed helots to be killed without penalty (Demand 125). In fact, a Spartan boy did not become a man until they were able to kill a helot without being caught. It acted as their right of passage into 54
manhood (Battle). After the last attempt at rebellion, Sparta had young warriors join a secret force that would observe the helots and kill any whom seemed particularly strong or whom had strong leadership potential (Demand 125). It's hard to consider either helots citizens, because they were truly only slaves at the command of Sparta. There were also regulations for those of Spartan descent before they were officially considered citizens. As stated earlier, the infant born would first have to pass the inspection from one of the elders in the community. Then, before becoming a citizen, a male had to complete all of the training and education provided by the state of Sparta (Demand 129). In this agoge, or training system, the boys did nothing but train for 12 years until they were old enough to enter the army (Battle). What could be looked at as interesting, however, is that every Spartan citizen had expectations as future members of their society and certain "tests" that had to first be passed. In the United States, only those of foreign descent are required to pass a test before becoming an American citizen. Plus, the boys in Sparta had no options besides completing the training provided to them by the state. Today, only approximately 89.73% of School students are attending public schools (PolicyMap). Our citizens have the opportunity to decide where and how their children will learn. One thing that is similar between Ancient Greece and the United States today, however, it that Athens was unlike Sparta, and considered all of their citizens to be equal. While they had classes and practiced politics through these classes, each person was still held to the same moral standards. In the fifth century BC, Attica's citizens, regardless of where they lived, were considered to be equal citizens (Demand 140). Later, Athens began to grow their population beyond those born to previous 55
Athenian families. It is believed that Solon even created a law that encouraged immigrant craftsmen and their families to settle as citizens in Athens (Demand 148). This is MUCH different than the Spartan policy of citizenship only truly being offered to Spartans with the occasional Periokoi. It actually models that of the United States nation today, with approximately 12.87% of the population being foreign-born in 2012 (PolicyMap). After Hippias' rule came to an end, Solon's laws about citizen rolls were reversed and the descendents of the craftsmen that had moved to Athens were viewed as "those of impure descent" (Demand 157). This did not mean that they were no longer citizens, but it was a weak attempt to isolate anyone that may have had a different family background. Only years later, Kleisthenes changed the old system of tribes and came up with 10 new tribes. With these new tribes organized, all citizens, new and old, started as equals under the new system (Demand 158). 56
WOMEN We have determined what classifies citizens as a whole, but there is an entire sub-section of the population that should be taken into special consideration. The United States has had a proud history of the emancipation of different peoples and the women's rights movement leading up to the practice of women's suffrage. After World War II, it was becoming much more common for women to enter the workforce as a means of helping contribute to their families as well as contributing to the community. Today, we often consider women to be the equivalent of men in our society, even holding many of the same jobs as men and having all of the same legal opportunities. But, does this necessarily mean that women are equal? For working the same job, women tend to earn only $0.78 for a man's $1.00 (Vasel). They are not necessarily respected in the workplace for their position, even though they have the same job as men. While this is a hardship that women are still forced to overcome in today's world, it still seems nearly impossible that Ancient Greece could have had more opportunities for women than THE MODERN WORLD. Dramas in Athen's tended to portray women as bold with masculine qualities. Sophocles' Antigone confronted the ruler of her city about matters involving her family, and Clytemnestra actually murdered her husband for insulting her position as wife and mother by sacrificing their daughter, abandoning her for 10 years, and then returning with another female lover (Martin 133). Realistically, however, these dramas only portrayed exaggerated concepts of what Athenian men assumed women had to endure. Women of the upper class in Athens were expected to let only their servants answer the door, and they were not to leave their home unless 57
they had an appropriate reason (Martin 137). These women in the upper class in Athens were kept separate from politics due to exclusion. Lower class women, however, had more contact with men, because they were often forced to work and help support their family (Martin 125). In general, women were allowed to own and manage property if inherited from their father (because they lacked brothers to carry on the family's property) or through their dowry. This dowry was essential for a women to the point that "the husband was legally responsible for preserving the dowry and using it for the support and comfort of his wife and any children she bore him" (Martin 135-6). Athenian women could gain status and earn respect by how they managed their households (and sometimes property). These contributions were often overlooked due to their forced absence from politics. Yet, their main expectation was to give birth and raise the future citizens of Athens. This was considered their "duty as a wife" in addition to maintaining the household. A man was not even allowed to divorce his wife in Athens if she fulfilled her duty of bearing his children, especially sons (Martin 133-5). Within the Spartan society, the women had more freedoms than those of Athens. Spartan women were allowed the freedom to move about the city and participate in religious festivals and processions. Other parts of Greece seemed to disapprove the "freedoms" of these women, even though politics and marriage were dominated by males only. To keep up with the men, Spartan women also went through vigorous training with the intent of ensuring the best possibility of reproduction. Men would then "capture" their brides and cut her hair once she came of age and visit them at night. If pregnancy resulted, their marriage was valid. The night visits were intended to remind 58
the couple of their true purpose and prevent the emotional bond from disrupting a man's military duties (Demand 131-132). If a Spartan woman disapproved of the man who attempted to capture her, then she was able to fight off the capture. If she could escape the male seeking them as a potential wife, then the man's attempt had failed (Battle). Throughout all of Greece, however, women had the respect from men that they deserved once they carried out what was expected of them. Dying from childbirth in Sparta was equivalent to that of a man dying in battle. In the United States, women hold the same jobs as men, and yet are treated as lesser beings through the pay gap. Perhaps identifying the expectations for each of the genders would not be viewed as inequality if each gender received equal benefits from completing their tasks. 59
POLITICS The political field in Ancient Greece was constantly evolving within Athens and is perhaps the greatest influence on our world today. Our modern-day democracy would not be possible if not for the roots in Greece. However, there was corruption that existed within the system that mirrors the unfair examples of today's government. But, there was also greatness entwined with the process. Serving as the court of justice in Sparta, the Gerousia was a selected group of 28 elders from noble families. In addition, both Spartan kings were a part of this group. They also had the power to overturn the Assembly's decisions, if they chose. The Assembly was made up of Spartan male citizens over the age of 30. The assembly elected the Gerousia, but the discussion on the issues presented by the Gerousia was not allowed. They were only allowed to vote (and have their decision potentially overruled by the Gerousia). The topics they voted on were points of discussion brought up by the Gerousia as well (Demand 128-9). This can be compared to the system of government existing today, with each citizen over the age of 18 allowed to vote for different representatives. Then, the representatives ultimately make the specific decisions on certain issues while the citizens usually leave input and cannot do much else. The early government in Athens was similar to that of Sparta. It consisted of a basileus (king), 12 archons, and the Areopagus Council. All of these members were chosen from an exclusive group of aristocratic families. All citizens from the four traditional Ionian tribes in Ancient Athens had the right to share their opinion at an assembly, but ultimately the political decisions were made solely by the Eupatrid 60
families (Demand 141-2). In today's government, the majority of the senators (around 97%) also come from occupations in the top 15% of the Labor Force (Matthews 15). Because our social classes are typical determined by economic success, the senators for the US would be considered equal to those of the Eupatrid families as the upper class. Later, a new council was formed under Solon that held 100 representatives from each of the four tribes. This council was able to keep the Areopagus Council in check. Solon also changed the classification of holding office from birth status to a level of wealth. With this, he divided the people into new classes based upon their work and economic advances (Demand 147-8). Individuals with high wealth seem to have a strong influence on politics today. By using their small fortunes, they can influence the outcome of elections, government regulations of businesses, and tax policies (Wolff 1384). "A number of recent theorists have suggested that political leaders tend to be chosen from near the top of a society's prestige hierarchy. If this is true, a society's class or caste system may have as much to do with the nature of a nation's political leaders as electoral systems, political parties, and other formal devices for the choice of leaders" (Matthews 6). This could be seen in both Athens and the United States government now. Even later still, the government kept evolving with the new Kleisthenistic tribes each having citizens from the city (Athens), the coast, and the inland. This ensured that each demographic would receive representation, and no one tribe could have a stronger presence ay political assemblies in Athens. This new council also replaced the Solonian Council of 400. The council had 50 members from each of the 10 new tribes. 61
Through a rotation system, the executive body held all of these men in groups of ten throughout the course of a year (Demand 159). Helping to ensure diversification, this rotation can be seen as one of the best improvements yet. The majority of US Senators seem to come from families where the parents had upper-middle class occupations, while the children of lower-class families only made up 4% of the senate. Over time, it seems that the number of Senators from lower class families has actually been decreasing (Matthews 7-8). In potential correlation, American Senators also seem to be among the most educated citizens. This could be attributed to the large difference in opportunities for education among different classes due to financial pressures and levels of motivation (Matthews 12). Americans tend to hold a high expectation for educations and experience before electing a representative. As the cost of education has been increasing, it is becoming even more difficult for those from lower classes with the same level of intelligence to acquire as much schooling. Does this mean that the government representation in the United States is not effectively representing all of its citizens? In 2012, 14.88% of the population in the United States was in poverty. That is approximately 14,999,840 people (PolicyMap). Compared with the 100 Senators, it seems like quite a difficult task to accurately represent and understand all of the struggles faced by the lowest class of citizens. Even in Greece, there were leaders that recognized how influential money could be and how it affected the city-state as a whole. Solon gave a speech in which he accused the citizens of being willing to destroy the city over money, and the leaders who were unjust and greedy because "their wealth depend[ed] on crime" (Demand 145). He followed up this speech by releasing those 62
who were enslaved due to debt and abolished debt-slavery for the future. He did not, however, redistribute the land or abolish the concept of indebtedness in general (Demand 147). Because of his actions, he was able to allow those who were economically sound to remain so without being able to cause additional harm to the lower class. Solon was not the only one with these visions, though; Peisistratus made sure that loans were offered at good rates to farmers so that they were able to decrease their dependence on aristocratic neighbors. There needs to be some sort of movement to provide better representation for those struggling in the US today. The "helping hands" mindset from the upper class may make them more sympathetic, but they will still not truly understand what the lower class has to endure without experiencing it for themselves. 63
Works Cited Battle of Thermopylae: This is SPARTA!. Writ. Matt Keed, Sara Padrusch, and David W. Padrusch. Dir. David W. Padrusch. History Channel. Television. Demand, Nancy. A History of Ancient Greece. Overture Books. 55-71, 118-132, 140- 161. Print. Martin, Thomas R. Ancient Greece. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. Print. Matthews, Donald R. "United States Senators and the Class Structure." The Public Opinion Quarterly 18.1 (1954): 5-22. Web. PolicyMap. Web. . Vasel, Kathryn. "There's Still a Pay Disparity Between men and women. But Millennials are Closing the Gap." CNN 19 November 2014. Web. Wolff, Edward N. and Ajit Zacharias. "Class Structure and Economic Inequality." Cambridge Journal of Economics 37 (2013): 1381-1406. Web. 64


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