This sense of well-being was embodied by Queen Elizabeth who liked to wear sumptuous costumes and jewellery, and be entertained in style at her court. But life in Tudor England did not always reflect such splendour. The sixteenth century was also a time when the poor became poorer, books and opinions were censored, and plots to overthrow the Queen were rife. Were women fit to rule the country?
Then philosophy migrated from every direction to Athens itself, at the center, the wealthiest commercial power and the most famous democracy of the time [ note ]. Socrates, although uninterested in wealth himself, nevertheless was a creature of the marketplace, where there were always people to meet and where he could, in effect, bargain over definitions rather than over prices.
Similarly, although Socrates avoided participation in democratic politics, it is hard to imagine his idiosyncratic individualism, and the uncompromising self-assertion of his defense speech, without either wealth or birth to justify his privileges, occurring in any other political context.
If a commercial democracy like Athens provided the social and intellectual context that fostered the development of philosophy, we might expect that philosophy would not occur in the kind of Greek city that was neither commercial nor democratic.
As it happens, the great rival of Athens, Sparta, was just such a city. Sparta had a peculiar, oligarchic constitution, with two kings and a small number of enfranchised citizens.
Most of the subjects of the Spartan state had little or no political power, and many of them were helots, who were essentially held as slaves and could be killed by a Spartan citizen at any time for any reason -- annual war was formally declared on the helots for just that purpose. The whole business of the Spartan citizenry was war.
Unlike Athens, Sparta had no nearby seaport. It was not engaged in or interested in commerce. It had no resident alien population like Athens -- there was no reason for foreigners of any sort to come to Sparta.
Spartan citizens were allowed to possess little money, and Spartan men were expected, officially, to eat all their meals at a common mess, where the food was legendarily bad -- all to toughen them up.
Spartans Why elizabeth was different from the other monarchs so little to say that the term "Laconic," from Laconia, the environs of Sparta, is still used to mean "of few words" -- as "Spartan" itself is still used to mean simple and ascetic.
While this gave Sparta the best army in Greece, regarded by all as next to invincible, and helped Sparta defeat Athens in the Peloponnesian Warwe do not find at Sparta any of the accoutrements otherwise normally associated with Classical Greek civilization: Socrates would have found few takers for his conversation at Sparta -- and it is hard to imagine the city tolerating his questions for anything like the thirty or more years that Athens did.
Next to nothing remains at the site of Sparta to attract tourists the nearby Mediaeval complex at Mistra is of much greater interestwhile Athens is one of the major tourist destinations of the world.
Thucydides and philosophers e. Plato and Aristotle at Athens who write about her. A story about Thales throws a curious light on the polarization between commercial culture and its opposition. Finally, he was sufficiently irked by the derision and criticisms that he decided to teach everyone a lesson.
By studying the stars according to Aristotlehe determined that there was to be an exceptionally large olive harvest that year. Borrowing some money, he secured all the olive presses used to get the oil, of course in Miletus, and when the harvest came in, he took advantage of his monopoly to charge everyone dearly.
This story curiously contains internal evidence of its own falsehood. One cannot determine the nature of the harvest by studying the stars; otherwise astrologers would make their fortunes on the commodities markets, not by selling their analyses to the public [ note ].
So if Thales did not monopolize the olive presses with the help of astrology, and is unlikely to have done what this story relates, we might ask if he was the kind of impractical person portrayed in the story in the first place.
It would not seem so from all the other accounts we have about him. The tendency of this evidence goes in two directions: First, Thales seems to engage in activities that would be consistent with any other Milesian engaged in business.
Indeed, the Greeks had another basic export besides olive oil and wine, and that was warriors. Since the Greek cities fought among themselves all the time, the occasional peace left many of them seeking to continue the wars by other means. Indeed, the kings relied so heavily on Greek mercenaries, and there were so many Greek traders swarming over Egypt, that considerable tensions arose.
Their references to things Egyptian were sometimes mocking: As a colony, Naucratis was a little unusual, existing under the sovereignty of Egypt, and also because several Greek cities joined in the founding.
As it happened, Miletus was one of the founders of Naucratis. The degree of involvement with Miletus in Egypt thus makes it more than probable that Thales, engaged in the ordinary business of his fellow citizens, would have found himself there, probably more than once.
This is then consistent with the story of Thales discovering how to measure the height of the pyramids [ note ] -- and also with the story of Thales learning navigational techniques from the Phoenicians.
Since the Phoenicians were secretive about their affairs, especially to rivals, this reinforces the report, mentioned already, that Thales was of Phoenician derivation.
A dreamer who goes around falling into wells does not sound like someone to hire for military engineering projects; but that is the account from Herodotus that we have of Thales, who is supposed to have actually diverted a river around behind the Lydian army so that it could avoid too deep a ford.Fr.
Dwight Longenecker is a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative.A graduate of Oxford University, he is the author of sixteen books, including The Romance of Religion and Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise attheheels.com contributes to many magazines, papers, and journals, including Crisis, Integrated .
The Origin of Philosophy: The Attributes of Mythic/ Mythopoeic Thought. The pioneering work on this subject was The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man, An Essay on Speculative Thought in the Ancient Near East by Henri Frankfort, H.A.
Frankfort, John A. Wilson, Thorkild Jacobsen, and William A. Irwin (University of Chicago Press, , . Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots.
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