History 104A, September 26: Gold leads to Art, Philosophy, Perfection and even War.
First of all, the gamers association -- I thought it was a
gaming club -- going out and shooting deer or something. The gamers
association at Ohlone is holding a Texas hold em poker tournament
Friday, cafeteria, September 30th, starting at 1:00. The games start
at 2:00. The sign-ups is at 1:00 or it goes until 9:00 o'clock or
until you lose all your money. Noncash prizes only. Proceeds to go
to the hurricane fund Katrina. If any of you are interested in
playing poker, since nobody seems to have any classes on Friday
afternoons. Does anybody have a class on Friday afternoon? I take it
back. Four of you do. Okay. We are preparing, coming down for the
exam that is scheduled for Friday. We have a group meeting Wednesday,
and some of you still have to turn in papers from missing the last
group meeting, just as a reminder.
We left off with the defeat of the Persians during what was
called the Persian wars in 479 BCE. And we are now going into what
has been known as the golden age of Greece. Building economics,
social life, peace, part of what we refer to as a golden age, which is
going to somewhat end in about 50-60 years with the Peloponnesian
wars. Peloponnesia, if you recall, is the peninsula that Sparta is
located on in southern Greece. And this is the war between Athens and
Sparta, between the land power, Sparta, and the sea power, Athens.
What happens at the end of the Persian wars is the beginning of
Athenian imperialism. Athens feeling its oats, feels superior because
of the defeat of Persia begins to not only about an alliance between
cities, but begins to force certain cities to join when at the name
the Delian League, for the office like NATO, National Atlantic Treaty
Organization. It is the alliance quote/unquote of free states, not
quite so free. Fearful of Athens, as they always were distrustful of
those New York liberals or San Francisco liberals, Sparta retaliates
by creating a Peloponnesian league, a league of basically monarchies,
aristocracies, and more the landlocked powers, although they do
identify with certain colonies overseas. During this expansion of
Athens wealth booms into the city and a tremendous construction
projects are undertaken, including the building of the Acropolis from
wood and miner buildings to major monuments, major structures made out
of rock. And the most famous of which is the Parthenon.
The Parthenon is dedicated to Sparta, Athena. And there was
supposed to be a statute in there some 80 feet high covered in gold
army that was dedicated to Athena. The Parthenon stood for a thousand
years until about 1800 when Greeks went to war with Turkey. And the
Greeks kept their munitions there, and the Turks bombarded it and much
of it blew up. You can see it right behind me here on the hill --
well, you can't see it too well. My batteries are dead, up on top
they're sort of faded in the background.
An individual in the period of 1800 ADCE Greek declared its
independence from Turkey and again war broke out and that was part of
the reason for it. Many Englishmen, romanticizing Greece, including
lord Byron the poet, went to war there. Another man, Elgin, and he
proceeded to bring back to the British museum what were known as the
Elgin marbles which are many of the pieces of the artwork that were on
the Parthenon along the edges. Now, the Parthenon is a fascinating
structure because it very much reflects the Greek attitude in life,
perfection, but the image of perfection, not necessarily the reality.
The Greeks looked at everything from a sort of intellectual
perspective. And the Parthenon was built in such a way that from the
city, the distances between the columns looked even, the shape of the
columns looked straight up and down. In reality, mathematically, they
had figured out how to create that imaging by creating different
features. The columns would buckle sort of in the middle. The steps
would be a little uneven and slightly bent, so it would look perfect;
in other words, the striving for perfection and certainly during the
golden age. And that's another element that I would add to Greek life
with the hubris, the fates, the polis, is the striving for perfection.
The 1950 comic book heroes were perfect. They were super men and
even Batman had his perfection, maybe a little perverted with Robin,
but we can't be sure. Has anybody seen the new Batman movie yet? Any
good? The 1950s was a period where people strived for perfection.
You lived for only two groupings. One was the working class group
that were imperfect, and I'm talking the ivy league look. You sat in
a classroom like in the 1950s and everybody looked alike. Basically
everybody had crew cuts or flat tops, buttoned down shirts, and the
girls had madras dress and penny loafers for men and women and that's
the way you dressed. They looked like Rich Cunningham from Happy
Days/Nickelodeon again. And the women and the working class blue
color group, when they went through college, they didn't go. We have
working class people today that didn't go to college. They wore blue
genes, T-shirts with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeves. They had
the long hair and sort of the Fronzerilli motorcycle jackets. The
women in that group wore pedal pushers, white sneakers, sort of like
Grease with the jackets that were too big for them with the gang names
on the back. In the 1960s, and Superman we went through an era that
was similar to the Hellenistic area in Greece. We began to look at
the particulars individually. Today we see the long hair, short hair,
beards, side burns, and that's just on the women. Differences in
choice and appearance. Spiderman was not the perfect body. He was a
brooding hero, always feeling guilty, having trouble sleeping. He
didn't have that superman perfection. And he even wound up with
women, living with a woman as well. Of course, as I said, superman
was faster than a speeding bullet and don't mess around with women
until basically the 1970s, but that's another story for those who know
their comic book heroes.
The Greeks even set the perfections of their heroes and they're
Gods into a ratio so that you had a certain ratio -- two, three,
seven -- anybody remember the ratio they used? For the head, for the
body, for the arm? It was all done to create a certain level of
perfection. This was an am imagining of life. And again goes back to
what I said earlier -- well, maybe I didn't develop this. I talked
about hubris and not being as good as the Gods, and I talked about
fate. I didn't identify the difference between Greek Gods and our
Gods. Our Gods are images we are supposed to adhere to. We try to
achieve the perfection of our Gods. Our Gods are trustworthy,
healthy, loyal, cheerful, obedient, and reverent. They're all good.
To the Greeks, their Gods were something above humankind. You were
not to emulate them or imitate them because that would be committing
hubris. What they did, you would not do. If Zeus ran around with
other women and turned himself into a swan or became a snake and
impregnated Alexander's mother so that it was a half God, we could not
therefore run around with women because that would be committing a
crime of thinking that they were as good as the Gods. So it was not
looking up to them in that sense. They simply existed, which is
difficult again for many of us to understand. And so that perfection
of the Parthenon or the attempt at making an imaging of perfection was
that same imaging that existed in Greek society.
During most of this golden age in the building and development
the council, the man who reflect Athenian democracy was Pericles who
we have at least a report of his words defending and identifying what
democracy was all about. Pericles received a lot of advise from his
mistress who was educated and well read. She was not Greek. Greek
women, as I said, were to be in the homes bearing children. Pericles'
mistress Aspasia A-S-P-A-S-C-I-A I think was a Persian and of the
class of high class prostitutes. She was a Geisha girl in a sense
like in Japan, highly educated, well dressed, or what we call I guess
in some cities, high paid escorts. Yes, prostitution, the oldest
profession has existed since Lilith as we talked about earlier in the
The Athenians, as I mentioned, created an educational system that
pretty much allowed the parents to dictate what the education would
be. And there was this conflict that was occurring in the background
with Sparta. In the year 43l BCE Athens and Sparta went to war. That
war was devastating for lots of Greeks because of the allied cities.
The Spartans pretty well devastated the Athenian army, but Athens had
its walls and could hide in its city; however, at around 429 BCE a
plague broke out, perhaps the bubonic plague, wipes out a large
portion of the city and within some time even killing Pericles, the
counsel of Athens. Yet Athens continued to hold behind the wall of
the city and the Spartans had control of the outside carry. The
Spartans decided to build ships to cut off the trade that was coming
into Athens. And by 404 BCE, a war for almost 30 years, the Athenians
finally fell to the Spartans. The Spartans were magnanimous in the
fact they didn't destroy Athens or didn't burn it to the ground or
occupy it for very long. What they do was set up a government of
Athenians who were favorable to the Spartan philosophy. They created
a puppet government, if you will. It was, at this time, that a man
named Socrates ran into trouble.
Now understand that many times in the books you'll read that
Socrates was a free thinker, that he believed in promoting democracy
and that was this opposition to the Spartan government, that he was a
sophists. None of that is actually valid. Socrates we have some idea
of what his philosophy was from his best known student, Plato. He
believed in a republic which was a system where an elite group ruled
and made the decisions for everyone else because they were
philosophers, philosopher kings. And it was a caste system, not an
elected democratic structure. And when he had students around him,
when he questioned people in his Socratic method, he was leading them
into a direction that we're going to talk about more when we discuss
Plato, a direction of identifying the superiority of understanding
wisdom, beauty, and justice. He did not believe in the Athenian Gods,
the Greek Gods. And that certainly was detrimental to the ruling
class now in Athens who use the Gods to control the people in the
sense perhaps Carl Marx referred to it, religion is the opium of the
people. And in a church state where the state dictates to be the
religious control, they can dictate to you your method of life through
the religion, and pretty much that's what had now gone on in Athens
In 399 Socrates was brought to trial for basically endangering
the morals of minors, questioning the establishment. And as I
indicated, he was convicted and ordered to take hemlock. And the
jury, as I indicated, of 501 people gave him the death penalty. He
had the option of giving an alternative. And he gave the option, the
alternative that was to give him a pension for life. He said he had
lived his life, he was 70 years old, and he deserved a pension.
The period of 399 to about 353 is still some development, some
art, and much more creative kind of perfection art in Greece. I
mentioned one of the most famous statues from the period the
Discabolos, the discus thrower by a man named Myron showing movement,
showing the perfection of the body, the Hercules with the steroid
looking body that they did during this period of time. But the Greek
cities still prevail, although once again, somewhat under the
dominance of Sparta at this time. Athens maintained its economic
trade and yet had more of a conservative kind of government.
But in the north of Greece, in a place called Macedonia, there
was a new group arising. And that was the Macedonians, under Philip
of Macedonia and later his son Alexander. But before I move onto
that, I do want to talk a little about the culture of Greece and some
of the philosophies, if you will, of ancient Greece including Plato
and Aristotle. I'm going to cut the computer for a second because I
want to use the board here.
The Greeks again perhaps famous for philosophers because of their
belief in individuality, allowing free thought, emphasizing free
thought, have come up with every kind of development almost that we
have today including the atom theory. Again, it's one of those
periods in history where the individual was allowed to speculate.
Obviously, we don't see much development in the way of science, what
we would refer to them as armchair philosophies. Another, Aristotle
but quite different in philosophy, does develop on what we might call
the beginnings of science in his approach, which is, some
experimentation, some investigation, and some rational thought and
rational interpretation. Maybe I should deal with the Greek Gods
first if I can remember them. Maybe you can help me here. Who are
some of the Greek Gods?
THE PROFESSOR: And Zeus was the chief God, the head God. And
the Roman name?
THE PROFESSOR: The 12 Olympians. Zeus, Jupiter, identified with
the sun basically. The oak tree was identified with Jupiter -- I'm
sorry, with Zeus and Jupiter. Zeus had two twin brothers basically or
they looked like him and it was often difficult to tell the
difference. Who were they? Who were the basic brothers who looked
like him and when we found statues, we had trouble telling who they
were? One was the God of the sea. And his name? What was the Roman
name for the God of the sea? Poseidon is the Greek name. And the
Roman name -- I'm surprised you didn't pick up on -- Neptune. They
were often made looking very much alike, but Zeus had a lightning bolt
that he threw, where Neptune threw the trident, which is a pitch folk
with three points to it. And of course the other God identified as
part of that trinity was Hades, God of the underworld, whose name for
the Romans was Pluto. Hades reflected wealth. By way, Neptune was
identified with the bull and horses, but guarded the sea. Zeus'
wife -- what was her name? Hera. And the Roman name for Hera was
Juno. She was the God of marriage despite the fact she had trouble
with her own and was identified with the God, the mother Goddess also
with the cow. Any of the other Gods you can think of?
THE PROFESSOR: We mentioned earlier Athena was a Goddess of
wisdom. She also gave the olive and she was identified as a warrior
God. And as Goddess of wisdom, what animal symbolized Athena?
A An elephant.
THE PROFESSOR: An owl. Many years ago I ran a chess program at
a Chinese school called The Wisdom School. I developed a logo using
the owl. But I found out that the owl is sort of an evil symbol to
the Chinese. It's not that symbol of wisdom, so they said it was
okay, but you have to be careful on those things. What is Athena's
name in Roman Gods? Minerva without my New York R at the end,
Minerva. Goddess of beauty? Did you mention your own name? I
thought so. Goddess of beauty? Come on. What's the Roman name for
the Goddess of beauty? You know this one I'm sure. We're not
studying any of these things in your readings?
Q Is it Venus?
THE PROFESSOR: Yes. Venus is the Roman name for the Goddess of
beauty. Now, you know, yes. But the Greek name for the Goddess of
beauty is Aphrodite. Messenger of the Gods? Flew around with wings
on his heels?
THE PROFESSOR: Hermes. And the Greek or Roman name or Hermes
was? Mercury. How many have we got? Some of you are writing them
down. How many have we got so far?
THE PROFESSOR: Seven. God of war, that's one that everybody
THE PROFESSOR: Aries is the God of war. The Roman name is?
Women are from Venus and men are from --
THE PROFESSOR: Mars. The God of the smith, the God of fire, the
God that loved Venus and who was married to her but she played Sex In
the City. The Roman name was Vulcan?
THE PROFESSOR: Hephstus, the God of fire, smith of the Gods.
That should be 10?
THE PROFESSOR: Nine. The God of male beauty and male wisdom?
This God had body and mind, the Greek concept that you have to have a
sound mind and a sound body? And interestingly, the same name in both
Greek and Roman? Apollo. Goddess of the hunt?
THE PROFESSOR: Athena was the God of wisdom and wore armor; is
that correct? The Goddess of the hunt, the Roman name was Diana and
the Greek name was Artemis. That's from the three musketeers. I'm
missing one. Danged if I can figure out which one I'm missing. Okay,
we've got 11 of 12 anyway. There were also some minor deities and
they often fought among themselves, as we can see in the Trojan war.
And they took sides in that war.
We started to talk about philosophy. And the first Greek
philosopher that we deal with generally is writing in the -- just
coming out of the just ages, the archaic sage and his name is Thales.
He's often described as an absent minded professor, one of those
nerds, constantly thinking. And they talk about him one day staring
at the stars trying to figure out the meaning of life and walking
along and fell into a well. It is also said that because of his study
of the stars, he made a lot of money. We could tell when various
crops would be good. We could predict good weather, poor weather,
probably a meteorologist if you will. And so he knew when to tell
people when to put in large sums of money. And he apparently became
extremely wealthy, made use of it practically. He talked about how
the universe had originated, observing how a large part of water
played in nature and how silt developed in the water and standing
water. And he concluded that all life originated in water. Now,
perhaps it came from outer space on meteors and landed in the water
and therefore we have a so called surface now on tonight. And he
believed that all forms of life would return to water. He believed
that Earth itself rested on an ocean like a floating block of wood and
that the heavenly bodies consisted of burning ground and that the moon
received its life from the sun. Now, remember this is in the sixth
century BCE, some of it not quite as accurate. We don't really -- as
the Earth lie on an ocean, but close in the sense of the magma and the
floating and certainly the floating apart of Earth in early millions
of years ago.
Again, in the early 16th century another Greek philosopher and
I'll spell this one A-N-A-X-I-M-A-N-D-E-R. Anaximander, he wrote a
book called Nature. He believed that the first principles of life
were infinite and that it embodied all forms of matter. In other
words, he sort of saw it as the big bang thesis, that the heaven and
Earth all had their beginnings at that time and they will return. And
also talked about the rough concept of evolution. I'm not sure you
need to know all these names by any means, but to get a feel for
Thales, yes, Pythagoras, yes, but some of these others, like Heracles
believed that fire was the primary form of life. Pythagoras, of
course you know, of course, because of the Pythagorean theory. He
developed in 474 BC and he migrated to a Greek colony. His philosophy
fell into mathematics and science and he organized it to religion. He
belonged to a discipline sort of like monks in the medieval system.
His whole basic system was pretty much based on numbers. We developed
geometric theorems and he felt that a number held its place like for
them -- water, fair, air -- held for the physicists. Numbers were the
primary methods or the numbers of the expression and he dealt through
numbers. We believed that the Earth was a sphere, round, and he
studied the movement of the Earth and he was a firm believer in the
transmigration of souls, the transmigration of souls. What is the
transmigration of souls? What's the word we use for it? Anybody
here? Anybody ever hear of transmigration of souls? Or our next
governor's sister, being Warren Betty or Beatty. He's saying that
he's going to run against Arnold. Wouldn't that be a first, Hollywood
stars running against each other?
A Shirley McClain.
THE PROFESSOR: Who is famous for her believe in reincarnation.
Transmigration of souls is reincarnation. And he believed that God
was identified with one, the number one was God. Again, one of those
Xenophanes -- matter is indestructible, the universe always
existed and studied fossils. He believed that the God's crimes were
shameful and that the stories were false, that Gods had to be
Well, I've got about five minutes. I think I'm going to jump
ahead -- excerpt Democritus. Democritus was the one who came up with
the concept of atoms moving around an empty space and they were all
part and made up of these atoms, these infinitesimal individual units
called atoms. Again, we're talking about the period 2500 years ago.
Plato, fourth century -- basically again, in his republic and
other writings, we delineate a concept. To Plato, the universe was
created out of basic form and it continued to develop and unfold.
This form was not reality; it was the beginning of reality. If you
will, it was unreal. And with this form's expansion, we saw people
who were becoming an animal, becoming some of whom had more knowledge
of what Plato called the universals. Here we had particulars that
came into being as a becoming and particulars, the parts. The
universals that a few people could understand were wisdom, perfection,
beauty, justice. In our world, we had the imperfect of wisdom,
beauty, and justice, but a few individuals who were to become the
philosopher kings could understand that perfection. So Plato, we know
this is a table. We know it because somewhere in these universals
there is an image of a table. And so we understand what a table is.
We understand what a cat is. But they're not perfect. You see this
is that Greek sense again of that perfection that we can't achieve.
But some people get closer to it. They understand it better. And
these are the people that come out of these cogs, these wheels, these
spokes that are going to be the rulers of society. This is reality.
This is what is. And for Plato, in a sense, one might say this is
God. And there are people that understand God on a higher level.
They will be the rulers. They may come out of the working class.
They may come out of the military class. You go out and test to find
those who understand it better. It was sort of like a Mandarin system
where, in China, they went around and tested the people in the
villages to see if they could study in the universities and become
part of society.
Again, to Plato, the universals you cannot understand. Most of
us can't achieve this knowledge. Most of us are in the world of
becoming. We see the elephant. We may understand it. But the men in
the cave feeling the trunk, feeling the backside, feeling the tusks,
will put together something else, but there may be someone who has a
better understanding of what that elephant is in reality. And
Aristotle, although a student of Plato, was just the opposite. That's
what we'll finish up on on Wednesday.