Town and Country

The formation of the city-state in ancient Greece is one of the founding achievements in Western civillisation. The city-state was a sublimation of differences, the parts acting in concert to create a greater whole. Athens was a plurality, a city that arose from a collection of villages.
The Acropolis was the center of the building of the city. It was fundamentally organised unlike the remainder of the city.
During wartime, the inhabitants of the countryside would retreat into the city. Thucydides wrote of the heartache experienced by the country folk when they watched the invaders (the Spartans and their allies) destroying their crops. Greece was not a fertile land and the predominant crops – vines and olive trees – took years to bring to fruition. Their destruction was tragic and difficult to behold from behind the safety of the city walls.
Taken as a provocation to go out into the battlefield, Pericles addressed the people in a speech at the Assembly, to persuade the folk from giving in to the provocation:
“However well of a man may be in his private life, he will still be involved in the gereal ruin if his country is destroyed; whereas, so long as the state id secure, individuals have a much greater chance of recovering from their private misfortunes. Therefore, since a state can suppport individuals in their sufferring, but no one person by himself can bear the load that rests upon the state, is it not right for us all to rally to her defence?… For you have been so dismayed by the disaster in your homes that you are losing grip on the common safety; you are attacking me for having spoken in favour of war and yourselves for having voted for it.” (Thucydides, Book Two (60) from History of the Peloponnesian War)
Without the city-state, the temples to thier gods would not have been built. The Academy would not have been conceived. And the philosophers would still be wandering about in the desert like John the Baptist, living off wild honey and locusts. The Word would not have been invented in its written form, carved in the side of the earth’s womb. Balancing the needs between a worship of a higher ideal that required sacrifice and the necessities of a hard nature living off the land but also enjoying its abundant harvests, came the festival – the Great Dionysia, the spring festival and the staging of dramas by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes to name the few handed down to I am emale in scraps, by chance and circumstance, representative of the power of the city-state in the hour of its revival.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s