Gilbert Murray's Hellenism And the Modern World PDF

By Gilbert Murray

Excerpt from Hellenism and the fashionable World

We of the West may perhaps research from Mr. Toynbee's publication may be to take nice care, after we are bringing aid to a couple 'barbarian' or 'less complex' country in want, that what we predict of as beneficiant support won't appear to the recipient extra like contemptuous almsgiving or maybe conceited interference.

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It was written by Thucydides after the fall of Athens, to try to show people what the Beloved City really had been in the time of her greatness under her greatest leader. There may well be some idealization, but what is instructive to us is the sort of ideal that Athens pursued, not the question whether she reached it or not. -36- It is not at all the ideal that would suit presentday Berlin or Moscow; nor yet ancient Sparta, nor Rome, nor Babylon nor Jerusalem. It is modern and -- in the strict sense of the word -Liberal, Liberalis, or in Greek ἐλενΘέριος "fit for a Free Man", without fear or hatred or inward slavery.

A recent Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in Oxford, when wishing to get some thought exactly expressed, used sometimes to write it in Greek as being clearer than either German or English. Equally remarkable and almost equally modern was the actual freedom of speech, both political -34- and religious. The three or four condemnations for 'impiety' like that of Socrates, which occurred in the course of a terrible and prolonged war, became famous scandals. Considering how democratic Athenian courts were, and how superstitious any Demos is when really frightened, it is a surprisingly small list.

Because they were atheists? or because the Jews, as their Bible confessed, 'abhorred' all gentile gods and all gentiles? Only after long and fierce conflicts did the Graeco-Roman world at last find what it sought in an œcumenical Church, which survived the wrecks of empires and combined the aspirations of Hebrew and Hellene. Thus Rome gave us the framework, as Athens and Jerusalem on the whole gave the inner content of our living Christian civilization. -19- II HISTORICAL HELLENISM THE REAL GREECE W HAT WAS IT really like, this Hellenic civilization that had such a penetrating effect, that made Rome turn Hellenic, made Hebrew religion turn Hellenic, and has left the word 'Hellenism' as a sort of ideal heritage to many nations?

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