The Golden Age of Athens

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The Golden Age of Athens

A “golden age” is a time of peace, prosperity, and happiness, and often occurs when cultural activities such as art or writing reach a peak. The Greek city-state of Athens reached its Golden Age between 480-404 BCE. This era is also referred to as the Age of Pericles, for the Athenian statesman who led the city from 461-429 BCE.

During its Golden Age, Athens was an artistic and intellectual hub. If there was a new contribution in the arts or sciences during this era in Greece, chances are that it was the work of an Athenian.

Athenians had an appreciation for poetry and drama. They enjoyed theater events in the genres of comedy, tragedy, and satire. Like today, they wore costumes and read from scripts.

The performers wore masks and would stand in a semicircle. Some performers even gained celebrity-like status. Two of the most famous stage performers of the Golden Age were Euripides and Sophocles.

The Golden Age of Athens

Aesthetics (beauty), logic, and order mattered very much to the Athenians. Fine architecture and sculpture became important in their society. Athenians put a lot of time, effort, and great amounts of money into these art forms. The Parthenon is the most well-known building of this era. It was made to honor the Greek goddess Athena. There were many other buildings and statues constructed in honor of the Athenians’ gods. Skilled artisans also built monuments to honor the memory of military victory, athletic events, and other occasions. Their buildings were unique and featured many types of pillars. The world still appreciates these pillars today, and you can see them replicated on many government and residential buildings.

The Athenians also valued the preservation of history. Even today, you can read the works of the Athenian historian Herodotus. He became known as the “father of history,” because he documented historical information spanning the Persian Wars along with his own travels. Another famous historian during this time was Thucydides. In addition to being a general in the Athenian Navy, he preserved the historical events of the Peloponnesian war. Xenophon was another soldier know for historical writing. He wrote about war tactics, politics, the general history of Greece, and even horse breeding.

Another common association with Athens is philosophy. The word “philosophy,” comes from a Greek word (philosophia) which means “the love of wisdom.” Socrates and Plato are two of the most well-known philosophers of the Golden Age. Socrates is credited with the Socratic method of teaching, while Plato wrote many philosophical works. His most famous written work is The Republic.

Ancient Greece also produced many important thinkers in the realm of science. Hippocrates applied logic to the field of medicine and collected information on hundreds of patients. His work helped advance the understanding on what causes disease or death, and also swayed people away from believing in supernatural causes.

Math and science were also important in Athenian history. Much of what we learn in math and science classes today comes from Golden Age Athens. For example, Pythagoras developed the Pythagorean theorem while Euclid introduced the world to Geometry. The lever and pulley system was first explained by Archimedes, who also deducted the first accurate calculation of Pi (π).

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