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AN ERA OF ART AND LEARNING
Felix F. CarcJegna
In the half century from 479 B.C. to 429 B.C., the world of learning was
blessed with an era of plenty. This short peri. id stands out above all others
in the history of man as the one in which genius so abounded and culture made
such progressive strides. Philosophy, drama, poetry, architecture, sculpture,
and painting all had their champions — among them names the world has never
forgotten. The names of Socrates, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristonhanes , Pindar,
Phidias and Polygnotus stand out as beacons in their field, men whose contri-
butions to the world of art and learning still amaze this modern world. If a
man were asked to pick that one period and that one place which saw the richest
and most valuable products of the human mind, his choice would have to be the
city of Athens as it flourished in the Golden Age of Greece, No other period
or place can approach the brilliance of this age in its variety and complete-
ness; in its inestimable value to the educated man.
AN ERA OF ART AND LEARNING
Certainly to the educated man the thought has at sine time occured, "What
period in the history of the worlrt has given most to the advancement of culture
and learning?" During what age did the Muses shower their gifts most abundantly
upon man? Out from amid the glories of many nations and many eras, there glows
radiantly a single golden beam surpassing all in its brilliance. It is indeed
a golden age — the Golden Age of Greece s that of all ages blessed by an abundance
of genius not since given to any other era; an age of progress, one of art and
letters; of drama and philosophy; of magnificsnt architecture and sculpture un-
rivaled. This was the Golden Age of Greece and its heart was Athens.
Hellas awoke one morning and found that Athens, from a small inland town,
had risen to dizzy heights of beauty and splendor, the like of vhich the world
will probably never see again. In 479 B.C. Athens, leveled to the ground by
the Persian hordes of Xerc^s, lie in ruins; in 429 B.C. the greatest works of
the Golden Age had been accomplished. What miracle had taken place? How was
it possible that within the lifetime of one man such a transformation could
take place? There could be only one answer and that answer was genius. Out
from amid the turmoil and confusion of reconstruction after the Persian War,
there arose the figure of one roan destined to show the world an en never to
be repeated. This man was Pericles. Under his guidance Athens became the
most progressive city in Greece — the center of wealth, learning, music, poetry,
drama aw 1 sculpture. Indeed Pericles was a very fortunate statesman, for his
life fell at a time when artistic genius was abundant.
A wave of inspiration seemed to pas^ over the architects and sculptors of
Greece. Up from the ashes and destruction arose the Acropolis of Athens. Pome
of the greatest masterpieces the world has ever known adornnd this citadel. The
Parthenon and Propylea are among the famous temples on the Acropolis which call to
mind the architectural magnificence ot this flourishing age. Both of these
marvels were built under the guidance of the immortal Phidias, probably the
greatest sculptor yet given to this world. His famous statue of Zeus, a colossal
work in itself, expressed the mastery of his technique and reflected the height
of Greek culture which was fast being attained.
It was during this era that painting first -.-\ssed from the stage of vase
and urn decoration, In the person of Polygnotus, the world receives its first
real artist — a painter of character and morals; a man -vho could depict men as
they ought to be. Here was the beginning of painting as we know it; the rep-
resentation of emotions as well as forms.
From art we turn to letters. In two departments of literature, the drama
and history, the achievements of the age nf Pericles have never been surpassed,
and in a third, the department of philosophy, the foundation was laid for
triumphs not less splendid. A group of divinely gifted poets, beginning with
Aeschylus, who had fought at Ivferathon, and Pindar, who was crowned poet laureate
of the Olympic and Pythian Games, awoke as If by enchantment, and made the air
of Greece tuneful with sweet ::.nd mighty sonr:. Throngs of Athenians attended
the plays held ix the vast open air theaters. The playwrites produce^ series
after series of unriv.iled plays. Aeschylus and and Sophocles sang of the gods ^nd
war in their tragedies, which were thronged with legendary and heroic figures.
No less popular were the plays of Aristophanes, whose comedy served as an in-
carnation to Greece from the deep tragedies thvt prevailed,
Just as this age was not without poetry which made Its appeal to the imagin-
ation and emotions, so it did not lack brilliant prose which leaned itself to
reflection and criticism. It was during the Golden Age of Greece that the science
of history was bom, Herodotus, the Father of History, was the first to record In
writing the customs and events of the world about him, Even as he so far excelled
all who came before him, so in turn was he surpassed by his successor, Thucydides.
In the person of Thucydides the world obtained its first critical historian and
the greatest historian of antiquity.
Hardly a field of learning was left untouched in the Athens of Pericles.
Probably the greatest contribution handed down to posterity by the Greeks was
their philosophy. The names of Socrates, Anexagoras and ^emocritus are well
known in the philosophical world. It is remarkable what strides these men made
in a pagan world shrouded in the mists of mythological and legendary lore.
Socrates, through his pupil, Plato, determined the entire subsequent course of
speculative thought for centuries to follow. The Greek philosophers of the
Golden Age showed the way in their field, and up to this day their work- 1 ! are
regarded as basic in the science of philosoohy.
Never again has the world made such rapid progress as that which marked the
rise of Athens. Never again hss the world produced such a flow of genius as deluged
the Golden Age of Greece. It is remarkable how so many men of such great talent
could have b en assembled in one place and in such a short span of ;>ears. '"ithin
half a century, Athans had not only seen the works of men, most of which have not
been surpassed to this day, but she had the rare privilege of witnessing the
genius of the pioneer. The cmtrlbutions of many of her sons marked in themselves
the beginning of new sciences, or at least tremendous advancements in sciences
already begun. '.Yithin the Golden Age, the Grecian styles of architecture, still
used today, were developed; painting as we know it now was given its start; the
drama and the theater were established with customs vhich hav 8 been a part, of
practically every play since; philosophical thinking was at last begun and truth
became the quest of man. Indeed, there was a guiding light shining down upon
Athens, and beneath the brilliance of its glow, all Greece was tinted .vith a
golden hue. It was genius and the Golden Age of Greece.
Harrison, James A.
Stobart, J, C.
Vlachos, Nicholas P.
"The Glory That Was Greece"
"Pericles and The Golden Age of Athens"
"Hellas and Hellenism"