Contemporary Thinkers: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aguinas


Question #1 : Please discuss the political organization of the Greek city-
states, particularly Athenian democracy at the time of Pericles, Plato, and
Aristotle. Also discuss the backgrounds of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and
the fate of the Greek city-states historically.

During the time of Pericles, Plato, and Aristotle, Greece was divided
into city-states with a wide variety of constitutions, ranging from Sparta\'s
military dictatorship to Athens\' direct democracy.
Most city-states had about 300,000 people, each divided into one of
three classes : citizens, metics, or slaves. The citizens represented a total
of one - third the population. The members of this class participated directly
with politics in the various institutions, and decisions were derived by popular
vote, known as direct democracy. This class was further divided into three
councils : Assembly of Ecclesia, Council of 500, and the Council of 50. The
largest council was the Assembly of Ecclesia, which was a body of all male
citizens over the age of twenty. The Council of 500 consisted of 500 members,
chosen from lottery and election from the Assembly of Ecclesia. The Council of
50 was made up of 50 members chosen from the Council of 500. The second class
of people in the city-states was the Metics. This class was made up of people
that were not citizens, either because they were not born in the city-state, or
they were prevented from being citizens. The third class were the slaves.
These people were captured from wars and subject to serve the city-state without
pay. The interesting observation in the organization of the Greek city-state is
that only one-third the population had any power. The other two thirds (made up
of metics and slaves) were subject to the decisions derived by the citizens, and
contained no power nor voice in the political system. Athenian Democracy had
such a division of classes. This democracy had a minority who ruled over the
majority, each citizen participated directly in the affairs of the city. The
Greek city-state contained a body of up to 500 jurors who would try cases.
There also existed a body of ten elected generals who would oversee
foreign policy and war. One such elected general of Athens was a political
idealist, Pericles. Pericles had singular control of the Athenian democracy and
was involved in a war against Sparta and its allies that was concluded in 446-
445 B.C.. After peace was declared, he tightened Athenian control of the empire.
“He crushed major rebellions, imposed democratic government, dispatched colonies
of Athenian citizens to strategic areas, and made tribute collection (the main
source of Athenian wealth) more efficient. Convinced of the inevitability of war
with Sparta and the Peloponnesians, Pericles made an alliance with Corinth\'s
enemy, Corcyra , knowing that it could lead to armed hostilities. He refused
Sparta\'s demand that he revoke the Megarian decree, which denied Megara access
to the harbors of the empire. These actions led to the Peloponnesian War .
Pericles, who was relying on the fleet and the empire\'s resources, planned to
avoid a pitched battle with the Peloponnesians and to abandon the countryside to
them. He fell victim to the plague, however, never to know that the war he
initiated would result in the disastrous defeat of Athens. “(GME “PERICLES”)
Socrates, was a Greek thinker whose work marked a decisive turning point
in the history of philosophy. He invented a method of teaching by asking
questions (the Socratic method), pioneered the search for definitions, and
turned philosophy away from a study of the way things are toward a
consideration of virtue and the health of the human soul. Socrates believed that
to do wrong is to damage one\'s soul, and that this is the worst thing one can do.
From this it follows that it is always worse to do wrong than to be wronged, and
that one must never return wrong for wrong. He was born in Athens and lived all
his life there, leaving only to serve as a soldier in the Peloponnesian War. He
attracted a number of prominent disciples in his role as a teacher of wisdom.
One such disciple was Plato.
Plato was born in Athens around 430 BC. Both his parents were of
distinguished Athenian families, and his stepfather, an associate of Pericles,
was an active participant in the political and cultural life of Periclean Athens.
Plato seems as a young man to have been destined for an aristocratic political
career. The excesses of Athenian political life, however, both under the
oligarchical rule (404-403) of the so-called Thirty Tyrants and under the
restored democracy, seem to have led