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The Greek Idea of Humanism

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                Almost every culture has its own idea and manifestation of humanism. However, because of a highly developed “warrior code”, the Greek idea of humanism is primarily based on human excellence and the qualities of loyalty, courage, honor and strength. Thales himself uttered the words “know thy self” as Greek philosophers gradually think of freedom of thought and develop a more rational approach on things that honor man and his achievements. Pericles, a known Greek philosopher even influenced the development of democracy (Potter, 64-69).

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Greek humanism, is also reflected in the artworks of classical Greece. Take for instance the Parthenon, a temple for the Greek goddess Athena. Known as the goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill, Athena is nonetheless the icon of Greek humanism. When associating the heroic nature of Greek humanism, it can be said that the worship of Athena plays a strong role in people’s belief in courage and strength. Despite a warrior code that is superior to any others, Greek warriors, nevertheless, pray to Athena to lend them her wisdom and war instincts to win.

The Parthenon itself was built after the Battle of Marathon which was won by the Greeks against the Persians.

            It is no question that Greek humanism is all about exploring human abilities and achievements as it continues to strive for human perfection. As Protagoras would say, “man is the measure of everything.” Polykleitos’ sculpture of Doryphoros, is shows a perfectly proportioned body and depicts an athlete holding a spear. As we all know the Olympics originated from the Greeks. Ancient Olympics is not just some sports event but an important Greek ritual. These goes to show how the Greek value honor and strength.

            Even the the sculpture of the Riace Warrior show Greek humanism. The Riace Warrior is an example of how Greek humanism tend to value human excellence through courage, strength and loyalty through their unsurpassable warrior code. Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos, meanwhile, depicts the Greek’s search for perfection and knowledge as Praxiteles tried to to make a perfectly proportioned body of a woman, in a depiction of Aphrodite doing her ritual bath. As Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, Praxiteles made sure that his sculpture will show the beauty that the goddess is known for.

            Nike Adjusting Her Sandal is also an allusion to the heroic value of Greek humanism. Nike is not only the goddess of victory, she is also the constant companion of Athena. “Nike” means “victory” and “triumph” which accompanies the Greek humanism idea of courage, strength and honor. Being a Greek warrior is not only showing courage in the battlefield, it is also about winning.

            There is no doubt that Greek humanism influenced Western art as much as it affected our current belief in democracy and freedom of thought. It thought us to strive for victory and perfection. The architecture of important buildings today like the Bulfinch Mass Statehouse, University of Virginia and Virginia Statehouse are inspireb by that of the temple of Parthenon.

            To think that these are government and academic institutions, the Greek architecture used helps in giving off the image of freedom and thought and excellence in a democratic society. Not only that, it gives off the air of classical beauty and perfection. All of these reflect the classical Greek humanism.

            In the same sense, Enrico Causici’s sculpture Liberty and the Eagle is similar to classical Greek sculpture, not only in its use of draperies but it’s use of Polykleito’s contrapposto style on the pelvic area. Meanwhile, the eagle in the sculpture is said to represent to liberty while the serpent is said to represent wisdom. Liberty and wisdom is the center concept of Greek humanism along with excellence and perfection. As mentioned earlier, early roots of democracy can be traced back to the beginnings of Greek humanism. Modern American culture is ruled by democracy and freedom of thought and expression. Everyone is living the American dream which measures up Greek humanism’s search for human excellence and victory.

            The Statue of War and Peace by Luigi Persico also used classical Greek contrapposto style first used by Polykleitos, while the Statue of Peace also used draperies. While the Statue of Peace depict beauty and perfection, the Statue of War depicts loyalty, courage, honor and strength. Both show human excellence in different levels, as Greek humanism focuses on how the Greek can be at the top of every game.

Potter, Charles. Humanism: A New Religion. Simon and Schuster, 1930.


Cite this The Greek Idea of Humanism

The Greek Idea of Humanism. (2016, Sep 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/classical-greece/

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