Intrduction to Humanities

This should be addressed to Claudia Watts

Some of the greatest literature of the western heritage was produced by the Greeks during the Archaic Age (Osborne, 2015). Their first writings was set to poetry, starting with Homer’s “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”. Greek poems have been passed down and studied for many years. In fact, even today we study Greeks poems. Epic and lyric poems are some of the more common forms of Greek literature that were written during the time of the Greeks. Although epic and lyric are both forms of Greek poetry, they differ in many ways. The first way that they differ is in length. An Epic is as long as a novel in modern days. An example of this would be “The Divine Comedy,” written by the famous Greek poet, Dante Alighieri (Dante, Durling, & Martinez, 2011). In fact, most copies of “The Odyssey” are three hundred plus pages. A lyric on the other hand is much smaller in size. A Greek lyric poem is usually just a page long. The second way both epic and lyric poems differ is the form that they are written in. Both epic and lyric poem comes in many different forms but an epic poem is always written in a poetic form that includes rhyming. A Lyric poem may also come in many forms, however, a Greek lyric poem can be written in a free verse where lines do not rhyme.

Another way that both Greek epic and lyric poems differ is the purpose for which they were written. The purpose of an epic poem is to show a hero and their exploits (Matthews, Noble, & Platt, 2014). Again a great example of this would be “The Divine Comedy,” which shows our hero Dante as he travels from hell then to purgatory and then to heaven. A Greek lyric poem is usually written to show an individual emotion. An example of this would be from the lyrical poem written by Sappho. “There are meadows, too, where the horses graze knee deep in flowers, yes, and the breezes blow here honey sweet and softer” (Sappho, & Powell, J., 2007). As one can see, Sappho aims to describe and convey the emotion felt by the scene in this lyrical poem. On the other hand, in “The Divine Comedy,” the aim is to describe the journey. “In the heaven that receives most of his light have I been, and I have seen things that one who come down from there cannot remember and cannot utter (Dante, et al., 2011).” This passage describes Dante’s entry and his journey into heaven. One could compare Greek epic poems to modern day novels. Although they are both very different , they both can describe a journey that a hero may take. As for Greek lyric, they could be compared to modern day haikus. Haikus and Greek lyric poems can both be written without rhymes, even though Haikus are written in a strict format.

2.This should be addressed to Tara Patterson

There exists a duality between Greek religion and Greek philosophy. While at first glance they appear to be two separate entities, they in fact work in tandem to provide answers for every question put forth by the people of ancient Greece, but in two very different ways.

Similar to that of Mesopotamia, Greek Religion was polytheistic, meaning they worshipped multiple gods and goddesses (Mathews, Noble & Platt, 2014). Unlike Mesopotamia however, each polis, or city-state, of Ancient Greece worshipped their own individual deities, eventually recognizing a pantheon of twelve major deities (Religion, 2018). Greek religion also differed from the religions of other ancient civilizations because it was more of a public affair than a private one, and it was considered a civic duty to participate in religious ceremonies and festivals (Mathews, Noble & Platt, 2014). The Olympian deities themselves differed from that of the gods of other civilizations as well because they were assigned human like physical qualities and personalities (Mathews, Noble & Platt, 2014). They were not viewed as an abstract entity that lived in the sky, or a half human half animal such as was common depiction in ancient Egypt, but rather a living breathing immortal being that would reign from their place on Mt. Olympus and would interact with the Greek people.

The distinction between Greek Religion and Greek philosophy really comes in to play when we consider Greek Mythology. These myths were developed to explain the natural phenomena occurring around them by attributing every occurrence to the actions of the gods and their distinct histories (Religion, 2018).

A class of free thinkers arrived on the scene during the Archaic Age who would bring in to question the power and even the existence of the gods (Mathews, Noble & Platt, 2014). These free thinkers were the fathers of natural philosophy that would use science, reasoning, and math to explain the world around them, rather than the doings of the gods. While religion answered many of the questions of life, it had little to say regarding morals and principles (Religion, 2018). Questions of human behavior and how to live life well were instead discussed and debated among the philosophers (Religion, 2018).

The values of Greek Philosophy are found in American culture and society today in the mindfulness movement that is occurring. The Greek philosopher Socrates understood the importance of refining not just the shape of our lives, but taking care of the shape of our soul as well by nourishing it with internal stimulation just as often as we do with external stimuli (Roshwald, 1999). This concept is catching on more and more in modern western society as realization is dawning on the masses that along with the influx of technological advances, we have unwittingly moved away from true intimate connection with ourselves and with the people and the world around us. The relevancy of this school of thought is summed up best in Roshwald’s article when he says, “The millionaire who neglects his own mind and soul, the politician who has no time and energy to cultivate his personal need for knowledge or beauty, the countless people who have not developed the art of contemplation, intellectual or artistic–all these stand reminded that, in their own interest, they had better address themselves to the improvement of their souls” (1999).

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