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Greece and Rome

The ancient culture of Greece as well as Rome was developed to a very high level, outranking the majority of developing countries of current days. The high principles of morality and a careful, diligent education were called upon in order to create ideal members of the Greek and Roman societies. Well-known philosophers, poets, doctors, and historians shared their knowledge among the people; moreover, some of their studies are even used today. The decline of these two powerful ancient empires brought up to a halt the development of the whole Europe and influenced Asia, however, their cultural contribution is vital for many spheres of humans’ life.

In the culture practices of ancient Greece, paideia defined bringing up and effective education of the perfect member of the city-state (polis). It comprised different types of schooling: practical, topic-based and the one, which entirely focused on the socialization of each person within the aristocratic way of things of the polis. To the practical side of this education belonged subjects, which can be defined with the modern term of the liberal arts (philosophy, grammar, and rhetoric are some of the examples), including such scientific disciplines as medicine and arithmetic. A successful and perfect member of this polis would have a great deal of moral, intellectual and physical sophistication. Therefore, extensive application of wrestling  and gymnastics trainings was valued, because of its effect on the human body together with the education on morality, which, as the Greeks thought, was nothing without studying music, philosophy and poetry.

The opinions of the great minds of that time differed on which side should be developed more: physical or intellectual. Plato, Aristotle, and others stressed on profound intellectual studies, whereas Xenophon emphasized the importance of athletic appearance. Such an approach to the upbringing of a well-developed Greek man was widely spread across the Greek-speaking world, except for Sparta where a very strict and martial form of education better known as the agoge was applied.

Proskynesis describes a long-established Persian act of showing your minority in front of a person that belongs to a higher social rank. As Herodotus said in his “Histories”, an individual of an equal rank was kissed on the lips, a person of a little bit lower rank had to give a kiss on the cheek, and the unlucky who belonged to a very inferior social class had to get down to his or her knees in front of the other person before them.

Greeks had their own opinion on proskynesis, considering it as absolutely ridiculous and barbarian to prostrate in front of the mere mortal. Such utter worship was reserved only for the gods and no one else. Therefore, many Greeks probably believed that the Persians respected their king as a real god who was the only Persian who was granted with proskynesis from everyone in the state. The misunderstanding of this situation by others led to multiple cultural conflicts. In his time, Alexander the Great proposed to make this practice popular during his lifetime, which would help to adapt to those Persian cities, which he conquered. However, the Greeks could not accept it. Finally, Alexander the Great gave up the idea and the practice was left solely to the Persians.

Diocletian (the emperor: A.D. 284-305) is commonly believed to have introduced this practice to the Roman Empire, causing a break with the Republican establishments of the principate, which had the form, if different intentions, of the contemporary republican government. Nonetheless, there is a proof that an informal type of proskynesis was widely practiced at the justified court of Septimius Severus. Furthermore, from the political point of view, the reason for such change helped to promote the role of the emperor from the mere “first citizen” to the ruler with some supernatural powers or god-like abilities, far from his subjects, consequently, reducing the possibility of a successful revolt, which had deteriorated the Empire during the preceding fifty years.

In about the same way, the emperor was called no more as "Imperator" on coins, which literally meant “commander-in-chief” but as “Our Lord” – “Dominus Noster”. When Constantine I was converted to Christianity, proskynesis was introduced as a constituent part of a sophisticated ritual, and the emperor overtook the role of the vice-regent of God on earth.

Xenophon was also known as Xenophon of Athens. Xenophon deserved the fame of being an outstanding Greek soldier, historian, philosopher, mercenary, as well as a great admirer and contemporary of Socrates. He is well-known for his historical writings of his own times in the fourth century BC, noting the sayings of Socrates, and describing life in the Persian Empire and ancient Greece.

The historians do not have an exact answer to the question when Xenophon was born. Nevertheless, most of them agree that his birth must have occurred around 430 BC somewhere near the city of Athens. Xenophon was lucky enough to be born in the family of the upper class, and as a result, he obtained an access to some privileges that belonged only to the aristocracy of ancient Attica.

Being just a young man, Xenophon of Athens participated in an interesting expedition, which was led by Cyrus the Younger in opposition to king Artaxerxes II of Persiahis who happened to be his elder brother in 401 BC. There, Xenophon writes how he had asked the veteran Socrates for a piece of advice concerning whether to join Cyrus or not, and that Socrates told him to go to the inspired by divinity Delphic oracle. Xenophon's request to the oracle was not concerned with the same topic, but he was curious to know which of the gods he has to pray to and make a sacrifice, so that he can realize his intended journey in the best way and return home safe and with a good fortune. The oracle answered his question and provided him with the detailed information to his requests. When Xenophon came back to Athens and told Socrates of the advice of the oracle, Socrates reprimanded him for asking such a dishonest question.

The greatest work by Xenophon is his book “Anabasis”, which records his entire expedition he joined against the Persians as well as his journey home. Alexander the Great used  “Anabasis” as a field guide in his early phases of the expedition to Persia.

The Greeks understood ‘anabasis’ as an expedition led from a coastline and far into the center of a country. The journey of Cyrus, which Xenophon joined, is indeed an anabasis that made a route from Ionia located on the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea and to the heart of Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. The majority of Xenophon's story is taken up with the march back home as well as the route from the center of Babylon to the coastline of the Black Sea. Surprisingly, but Socrates makes a small part appearance when Xenophon requires whether he has to accompany the expedition. This short episode shows the reverence of Socrates for the powerful Oracle of Delphi.

Xenophon's report of the expedition echoed through the whole Greece, where, just two generations later, some supposed, it might have inspired Philip of Macedon to suppose that a disciplined and lean Hellene army can be strong enough to defeat the entire Persian army, which was many times its size.Except for the military history, the “Anabasis” related, the principle teachings of classical philosophy are described there too. Moreover, Xenophon outlined the ethics of leadership and morals of the government as exhibited by the army. Many historians consider it to be quite exemplifying of Socratic philosophy.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus was born on December 8th, 65 BC, and is known in the English-speaking world simply as Horace. He deserved to be called the leading Roman poet of lyrics with the reign of Augustus. He is the author of popular poetic book “The Odes”. This Latin lyric book was a combination of best Roman practices: sometimes lofty, but still full of grace and charm, abundant in the figures, and daring in the choice of words. “The Odes” feature is quite a complicated combination of measures: Sapphics and alcaics are difficult to fit into the Latin syntax and structure. In spite of the traditional metres, Horace developed a new, sophisticated style. The biggest impact on his poetry had Hellenistic aesthetics of elegance, brevity and polish, which he widely applied in his own verses.

Horace’s verses were genuinely elegant: hexameter (Epistles and Sermones) as well as caustic iambic poetry (for example, Epodes) were borrowed from the Archaic Greeks. The hexameters are very complicated in their composition: quite amusing but definitely not lacking seriousness, friendly in tone. Horace managed to instill satire into his works with a great carefulness. On the other hand, Horace’s iambic poetry is considered to be repulsive by many modern audiences.

The poetry by Horace had a great influence on many creative minds of modern times and it still retains many followers. However, after World War I the number of these followers declined (probably due to the mistrust towards imperial glory and old-fashioned patriotism, with which Horace had become associated). The studies of Horatian poetry have become so intensive and diverse in recent years that it is no longer possible for a single scholar to research on all documents available.

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