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Socrates was born about 470 B.C.E. in the midst of the golden age of the most famous city that ever was, Athens, and he lived through its greatest triumphs to its ultimate tragedy. His birth came a decade after an Athenian-led coalition of Greek city-states repulsed an invasion by the mightiest empire of its time, that of Persia. The Athens of his time was not only a great naval power and commercial hub, but the center of the most fascinating combination of political and cultural experimentation the world had ever seen.

More… “Dead Philosopher Walking”

Robert Zaller is a Distinguished University Professor of History at Drexel University.

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In one of the most famous political cartoons of the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson stands in the pose of a triumphant Roman emperor below the soaring Roman columns of his mansion, the Hermitage. He unfurls a decree, indicating his order to withdraw U.S. Treasury funds from the Bank of the United States (B.U.S.), the nation’s central bank. Jupiter’s thunderbolts emanating from the scroll zap the Greek Doric columns of the Bank, knocking it and the Bank’s president Nicholas Biddle, a noted Grecophile, to the ground.

The politician Charles Ingersoll likened Biddle’s fate at the hands of Jackson to Acteon, an unwitting victim of Greek mythology, ripped apart by “dogs” who, in better days for the Bank, “licked his hands and fawned on his footsteps.” In other cartoons during the period of the Bank War, as the fight over the political and economic role of the central bank came to… More…

Greek clocks do not waste but eat minutes. Greek noses, when curious, eat you. If Greek hands are hungry, you will soon get money, or be beaten. In Greece, too much work does not harm but eats you; you are not being scolded but eaten, you are not getting a boot but being eaten or even… eating wood (namely, getting beaten with a stick). Your head is not itching, but eating, and you are not searching thoroughly but are eating the world, hoping you won’t be eaten by the woodworm. Not only do you have to be aware of eating someone with your eyes, but also of not forgetting that in aging you are actually eating your own bread.

Ancient Greeks seemed to know the dialectics between language and food. Pindar offered food via his poetry. The thought of his lyric works as refreshing drinks and his melodies as sounding… More…

 

If the Olympic Village descends into orgiastic debauchery this summer — as it did during the 2004 Olympics, when 130,000 free condoms were given away along with 30,000 sachets of lubricant, or during the 2000 Sydney Games, when the Durex supply had to be supplemented with an emergency shipment of 20,000 extras — athletes in Beijing will be only be upholding the finest traditions of classical Greece. Back in Plato’s day, sex and sport were always intertwined: In classical gymnasiums, Greeks competed stark naked beneath a statue of Eros, and the workout rooms were prime pick-up spots. In the first Olympic Village — an enclave in the rural city of Elis where, every fourth year, the cream of ancient athletes gathered for 30 days before the Games — this lusty atmosphere reached a frenzied pitch, with groupies arriving… More…