The Golden Age of Athens
A “golden age” is a time of peace, prosperity, and happiness, often when cultural activities like 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 to 429 BCE.
During its Golden Age, Athens, Greece 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, there were costumes and scripts to read. But, the actors wore masks and stood in a semicircle. Some performers even had celebrity-like status. Two of the most famous stage performers of the Golden Age were Euripides and Sophocles.
Aesthetics (beauty), logic, and order mattered very much to the Athenians. So, fine sculpture and architecture were important in their society. They put a lot of time and great amounts of money into these. The Parthenon is the most famous building of this era. It was a building 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 valued the preservation of history. Even today, you can read the works of an Athenian historian named 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 was Thucydides. In addition to being a general in Athens’ Navy, he preserved the historical events of the Peloponnesian war. Another soldier known for his historical writing is Xenophon. He wrote about war tactics, politics, 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 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 society, too. Much of what we learn in math and science classes today comes from Golden Age Athens. For example, the Pythagorean theorem was developed by Pythagoras. Geometry became a field of study thanks to Euclid. The lever and pulley were first explained by Archimedes, who also deducted the first accurate calculation of Pi (π).