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Cultural Traits Of The Ancient Greeks English Literature Essay

Cultural traits can be identified as attributes of a specific civilization in relation to their geography and time period that the civilization existed. The ancient Greek civilization is one of several that we have studied who’s cultural traits can be identified as Greek and some that were partly adopted. Many of these cultural traits are evident in works of art that survived the collapse of the Greek civilization. Like many other ancient civilizations, their cultural traits can be identified through literary works. Cultural traits from the ancient Greeks can be found today in our current society. In the next three paragraphs I will discuss some of the ancient Greek cultural traits, how they are displayed in their literature and how some of these are still evident in present day society.

The ancient Greek civilization, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting civilizations in history. It was during this time period that we take notice of new and important ways of thinking displayed by an ancient culture, in this case, the Greeks. The ancient Greeks were the first civilization to start stressing the importance of intelligence and having a natural understanding of the world around them. This particular trait is due mostly in part to the Sophists, more commonly known as the professors of the ancient world. The Sophists greatly encouraged being intelligent and asking questions in search of the truth. They believed the truth was relative to each individual situation and that there are no single truths. This trait is an important change that was beneficial for all societies preceding the Greeks even though it created trouble for them during this time period. As the common folk began to ask questions and improve their intelligence, the political organizations and the Greek government had their hands full trying to keep the masses at bay. This trait would eventually contribute to the fall of the ancient Greek empire. The Greeks were a very anthropocentric culture believing man was the center of everything. They demonstrate this through their religion, which was partly adopted by the earlier Mycenaeans, and the gods they believed in. Even though they worshipped the gods, to them they were only referees and man was essentially the master of his own destiny. The society was dominated by the male gender by not lending any power and very little rights to the women. However, this is not unusual among ancient civilizations. The ancient Greeks also valued morals and tried to keep them at a high standard. This trait was also very important to the advancement of this and later societies by trying to maintain one’s family and hold it together using good morals.

Two literary works that demonstrate the ancient Greeks cultural traits are Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Sophocles makes this evident at the very beginning of Oedipus the King when Oedipus talks to the commoners who are kneeling at an altar praying. He asks them why they don’t come and voice their concerns to him instead of the Gods. Oedipus believes he could do more than the God’s to help them and the city of Thebes. This is exemplary of the ancient Greek anthropocentric view. The importance of holding a family together is also demonstrated by Oedipus. When he receives the prophecy stating he would kill his father and marry his mother, he leaves the city of Corinth. It would be morally wrong for this prophecy to come true and that is why Oedipus disappears to Thebes. Going against wise council from Jocasta, Oedipus goes in search for the truth and discovers that in doing so he had fulfilled his prophecy and had ashamed his family. This embarrassment leads to the suicide of Jocasta and the blindness of Oedipus who at this point has completely self-destructed. In this story, Sophocles is saying, stay morally true to your family or lose everything you once loved. Accepting wise council from the ones closest to you displays much intelligence. Aristophanes displays these same traits in Lysistrata. In this story, Lysistrata demonstrates a keen intellect by devising the plan that eventually brings peace to Greece. This takes great insight into what is actually causing the problem and coming up with a clever solution. Aristophanes also demonstrates how the Greeks were a very patriarchal society. He does this when the women in the story talk about their normal duties around the home and in society, which wasn’t much more than household slaves. Lysistrata also makes an example of how good morals keep a family together. Aristophanes does so when the women talk about how they never see their husbands and it makes them sad. Lysistrata and the other Greek woman make it known to the men how important the family is by taking away what they enjoy the most, in this case its sex.

These same traits are the foundation of today’s society. That’s the only reason I’m taking this class. It is important to get an education. It increases my ability to make good decisions in life and find a good job. This will in turn make my life easier and give me the ability to spend more time doing the things that I love. Finding a mate in this world can be tough. Intelligence just happens to be one of the two most sought after qualities by a woman. To me, this is just a few of the many examples of how intelligence plays a role in everything that I do. Morals are also essential to have in today’s society. That point has been stressed to me since the very beginning of my life. Without morals it would be very hard to make friends or keep a good reputation among co-workers at just about any job one could think of. It seems that good morals have been on decline in recent years. As the divorce rate increases it seems that the crime rate has increased at almost the same pace. Research has shown that 90% of divorces are caused by finances. This could all be alleviated by getting an education to help make one’s income more stable. Society has in my opinion made leaps and bounds in the treatment of women.

Women’s rights have come a long way in the last 50 years by gaining higher average wages and the right to vote. Most don’t realize that women, logistically, were the reason America played a major role in ending World War II. I don’t think that today’s society has the same anthropocentric view of the world that ancient Greeks did. However, I do believe that a certain amount of anthropocentrism is inherent in human nature. Even with religion playing a major role in today’s society, I still observe men and women walking around believing that they ultimately have the final say on what happens in their environment. This doesn’t mean people believe they are the center of the universe. It just means that we help ourselves before we help our environment. This in turn may eventually lead to the demise of the human race because we need our environment to survive

In conclusion, I have identified several traits that were possessed by the ancient Greek culture and how these traits were evident in their literary works. It is important to understand how ancient civilizations worked so that we can learn from their mistakes. This will help people in today’s society progress as a whole. If we hadn’t learned from our past, we wouldn’t have but a small portion of the technology and artistic culture that we have today. I think that people as a whole really want the best for other people. By understanding other cultures, ancient or present, we can better understand who we are and where we are headed.


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