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A History of Ancient Greece

Philosophy Of History
Book: Part II. The Greek World.
Author: Hegel, G.W.F.
Date: 1857


Translation: Sibree, J., M.A.

Section I. The Elements Of The Greek Spirit.

Greece is [that form of] the Substantial [i.e. of Moral and Intellectual
Principle,] which is at the same time individual. The Universal [the
Abstract], as such, is overcome; ^1 the submersion in Nature no longer exists,
and consentaneously the unwieldy character of geographical relations has also
vanished. The country now under consideration is a section of territory
spreading itself in various forms through the sea, - a multitude of islands,
and a continent which itself exhibits insular features. The Peloponnesus is
connected with the continent only by a narrow isthmus: the whole of Greece is
indented by bays in numberless shapes. The partition into small divisions of
territory is the universal characteristic, while that at the same time, the
relationship and connection between them is facilitated by the sea. We find
here mountains, plains, valleys, and streams of limited extent: no great
river, no absolute Valley-Plain presents itself; but the ground is diversified
by mountains and rivers in such a way as to allow no prominence to a single
massive feature. We see no such display of physical grandeur as is exhibited
in the East, - no stream such as the Ganges, the Indus, &c., on whose plains a
race delivered over to monotony is stimulated to no change, because its
horizon always exhibits one unvarying form. On the contrary, that divided and
multiform character everywhere prevails which perfectly corresponds with the
varied life of Greek races and the versatility of the Greek Spirit.

[Footnote 1: That, is blind obedience to moral requirements, - to principle
abstracted personal conviction or inclination, as among the Chinese. - Tr.]

This is the elementary character of the Spirit of the Greeks, implying
the origination of their culture from independent individualities; - a
condition in which individuals take their own ground, and are not, from the
very beginning, patriarchally united by a bond of Nature, but realize a union
through some other medium, - through Law and Custom having the sanction of
Spirit. For beyond all other nations that of Greece attained its form by
growth. At the origin of their national unity, separation as a generic
feature - inherent distinctness of character - is the chief point that has to
be considered. The first phase in the subjugation of this, constitutes the
primary period of Greek culture; and only through such distinctness of
character, and such a subjugation of it, was the beautiful free Greek Spirit
produced. Of this principle we must have a clear conception. It is a
superficial and absurd idea that such a beautiful and truly free life can be
produced by a process so incomplex as the development of a race keeping within
the limits of blood-relationship and friendship. Even the plant, which
supplies the nearest analogy to such a calm, homogeneous unfolding, lives and
grows only by means of the antithetic activities of light, air, and water.
The only real antithesis that Spirit can have, is itself spiritual: viz., its
inherent heterogeneity, through which alone it acquires the power of realizing
itself as Spirit. The history of Greece exhibits at its commencement this
interchange and mixture of partly homesprung, partly quite foreign stocks; and
it was Attica itself - whose people was destined to attain the acme of
Hellenic bloom - that was the asylum of the most various stocks and families.
Every world-historical people, except the Asiatic kingdoms, - which stand
detached from the grand historical catena, - has been formed in this way.
Thus the Greeks, like the Romans, developed themselves from a colluvies - a
conflux of the most various nations. Of the multitude of tribes which we meet
in Greece, we cannot say which was the original Greek people, and which
immigrated from foreign lands and distant parts of the globe; for the period
of which we speak belongs entirely to the unhistorical and obscure. The
Pelasgi were at that time a principal race in Greece. The most various
attempts have been made by the learned to harmonize the confused and
contradictory account which we have respecting them, - a hazy and obscure
period being a special object and stimulus to erudition. Remarkable as the
earliest centres of incipient culture are Thrace, the native land of Orpheus,
- and Thesaly; countries which at a later date retreated more or less into the
background. From Phthiotis, the country of Achilles, proceeds the common name
Hellenes, - a name which, as Thucydides remarks, presents itself as little in
Homer in this comprehensive sense, as the term Barbarians, from whom the
Greeks were not yet clearly distinguished. It must be left to special history
to trace the several tribes, and their transformations. In general we may
assume, that the tribes and individuals were prone to leave their country when
too great a population occupied it, and that consequently these tribes were in
a migratory condition, and practised mutual depredation. "Even now," says the
discerning Thucydides, "the Ozolion Locrians, the Aetolians, and Acarnanians
retain their ancient mode of life; the custom of carrying weapons, too, has
maintained itself among them as a relic of their ancient predatory habits."
Respecting the Athenians, he says, that they were the first who laid aside
arms in time of peace. In such a state of things agriculture was not pursued;
the inhabitants had not only to defend themselves against freebooters, but
also to contend with wild beasts (even in Herodotus's time many lions infested
the banks of the Nestus and Achelous); at a later time tame cattle became
especially an object of plunder, and even after agriculture had become more
general, men were still entrapped and sold for slaves. In depicting this
original condition of Greece, Thucydides goes still further into detail.

Greece, then, was in this state of turbulence, insecurity, and rapine,
and its tribes were continually migrating.

The other element in which the national life of the Hellenes was versed,
was the Sea. The physique of their country led them to this amphibious
existence, and allowed them to skim freely over the waves, as they spread
themselves freely over the land, - not roving about like the nomad
populations, nor torpidly vegetating like those of the river districts.
Piracy, not trade, was the chief object of maritime occupations; and, as we
gather from Homer, it was not yet reckoned discreditable. The suppression of
piracy is ascribed to Minos, and Crete is renowned as the land where security
was first enjoyed; for there the state of things which we meet with again in
Sparta was early realized, viz., the establishment in power of one party, and
the subjugation of the other, which was compelled to obey and work for the
former.

We have just spoken of heterogeneity as an element of the Greek Spirit,
and it is well known that the rudiments of Greek civilization are connected
with the advent of foreigners. This origin of their moral life the Greeks
have preserved, with grateful recollection, in a form of recognition which we
may call mythological. In their mythology we have a definite record of the
introduction of agriculture by Triptolemus, who was instructed by Ceres, and
of the institution of marriage, &c. Prometheus, whose origin is referred to
the distant Caucasus, is celebrated as having first taught men the production
and the use of fire. The introduction of iron was likewise of great
importance to the Greeks; and while Homer speaks only of bronze, Aeschylus
calls iron "Scythian." The introduction of the olive, of the art of spinning
and weaving, and the creation of the horse by Poseidon, belong to the same
category.

More historical than these rudiments of culture is the alleged arrival of
foreigners; tradition tells us how the various states were founded by such
foreigners. Thus, Athens owes its origin to Cecrops, an Egyptian, whose
history, however, is involved in obscurity. The race of Deucalion, the son of
Prometheus, is brought into connection with the various Greek tribes. Pelops
of Phrygia, the son of Tantalus, is also mentioned; next, Danaus, from Egypt:
from him descend Acrisius, Danae, and Perseus. Pelops is said to have brought
great wealth with him to the Peloponnesus, and to have acquired great respect
and power there. Danaus settled in Argos. Especially important is the
arrival of Cadmus, of Phoenician origin, with whom phonetic writing is said to
have been introduced into Greece; Herodotus refers it to Phoenicia, and
ancient inscriptions then extant are cited to support the assertion. Cadmus,
according to the legend, founded Thebes.

We thus observe a colonization by civilized peoples, who were in advance
of the Greeks in point of culture: though we cannot compare this colonization
with that of the English in North America, for the latter have not been
blended with the aborigines, but have dispossessed them; whereas in the case
of the settlers in Greece the adventitious and autochthonic elements were
mixed together. The date assigned to the arrival of these colonists is very
remote - the 14th and 15th century B.C. Cadmus is said to have founded Thebes
about 1490 B.C. - a date with which the Exodus of Moses from Egypt (1500 B.C.)
nearly coincides. Amphictyon is also mentioned among the Founders of Greek
institutions; he is said to have established at Thermopylae a union between
many small tribes of Hellas proper and Thessaly, - a combination with which
the great Amphictyonic league is said to have originated.

These foreigners, then, are reputed to have established fixed centres in
Greece by the erection of fortresses and the founding of royal houses. In
Argolis, the walls of which the ancient fortresses consisted, were called
Cyclopian; some of them have been discovered even in recent times, since, on
account of their solidity, they are indestructible.

These walls consist partly of irregular blocks, whose interstices are
filled up with small stones, - partly of masses of stones carefully fitted
into each other. Such walls are those of Tiryns and Mycenae. Even now the
gate with the lions, at Mycenae, can be recognized by the description of
Pausanias. It is stated of Proetus, who ruled in Argos, that he brought with
him from Lycia the Cyclopes who built these walls. It is, however, supposed
that they were erected by the ancient Pelasgi. To the fortresses protected by
such walls the princes of the heroic times generally attached their dwellings.
Especially remarkable are the Treasure-houses built by them, such as the
Treasure-house of Minyas at Orchomenus, and that of Atreus at Mycenae. These
fortresses, then, were the nuclei of small states; they gave a greater
security to agriculture; they protected commercial intercourse against
robbery. They were, however, as Thucydides informs us, not placed in the
immediate vicinity of the sea, on account of piracy; maritime towns being of
later date. Thus with those royal abodes originated the firm establishment of
society. The relation of princes to subjects, and to each other, we learn
best from Homer. It did not depend on a state of things established by law,
but on superiority in riches, possessions, martial accoutrements, personal
bravery, preeminence in insight and wisdom, and lastly, on descent and
ancestry; for the princes, as heroes, were regarded as of a higher race. Their
subjects obeyed them, not as distinguished from them by conditions of Caste,
nor as in a state of serfdom, nor in the patriarchal relation - according to
which the chief is only the head of the tribe or family to which all belong -
nor yet as the result of the express necessity for a constitutional
government; but only from the need, universally felt, of being held together,
and of obeying a ruler accustomed to command - without envy and ill-will
towards him. The Prince has just so much personal authority as he possess the
ability to acquire and to assert; but as this superiority is only the
individually heroic, resting on personal merit, it does not continue long.
Thus in Homer we see the suitors of Penelope taking possession of the property
of the absent Ulysses, without showing the slightest respect to his son.
Achilles, in his inquiries about his father, when Ulysses descends to Hades,
indicates the supposition that, as he is old, he will be no longer honoured.
Manners are still very simple: princes prepare their own repasts; and Ulysses
labours at the construction of his own house. In Homer's Iliad we find a King
of Kings, a generalissimo in the great national undertaking, - but the other
magnates environ him as a freely deliberating council: the prince is honoured,
but he is obliged to arrange everything to the satisfaction of the others; he
indulges in violent conduct towards Achilles, but, in revenge, the latter
withdraws from the struggle. Equally lax is the relation of the several
chiefs to the people at large, among whom there are always individuals who
claim attention and respect. The various peoples do not fight as mercenaries
of the prince in his battles, nor as a stupid serf-like herd driven to the
contest, nor yet in their own interest; but as the companions of their
honoured chieftain, - as witnesses of his exploits, and his defenders in
peril. A perfect resemblance to these relations is also presented in the
Greek Pantheon. Zeus is the Father of the Gods, but each one of them has his
own will; Zeus respects them, and they him: he may sometimes scold and
threaten them, and they then allow his will to prevail, or retreat grumbling;
but they do not permit matters to come to an extremity, and Zeus so arranges
matters on the whole - by making this concession to one, that to another - as
to produce satisfaction. In the terrestrial, as well as in the Olympian
world, there is, therefore, only a lax bond of unity maintained; royalty has
not yet become monarchy, for it is only a more extensive society that the need
of the latter is felt.

While this state of things prevailed, and social relations were such as
have been described, that striking and great event took place - the union of
the whole of Greece in a national undertaking, viz., the Trojan War; with
which began that more extensive connection with Asia which had very important
results for the Greeks. (The expedition of Jason to Colchis - also mentioned
by the poets - and which bears an earlier date, was, as compared with the war
of Troy, a very limited and isolated undertaking.) The occasion of that united
expedition is said to have been the violation of the laws of hospitality by
the son of an Asiatic prince, in carrying off the wife of his host. Agamemnon
assembles the princes of Greece through the power and influence which he
possesses. Thucydides ascribes his authority to his hereditary sovereignty,
combined with naval power (Hom. Il. ii. 108), in which he was far superior to
the rest. It appears, however, that the combination was effected without
external compulsion, and that the whole armament was convened simply on the
strength of individual consent. The Hellenes were then brought to act
unitedly, to an extent of which there is no subsequent example. The result of
their exertions was the conquest and destruction of Troy, though they had no
design of making it a permanent possession. No external result, therefore, in
the way of settlement ensued, any more than an enduring political union, as
the effect of the uniting of the nation in the accomplishment of this single
achievement. But the poet supplied an imperishable portraiture of their youth
and of their national spirit, to the imagination of the Greek people; and the
picture of this beautiful human heroism hovered as a directing ideal before
their whole development and culture. So likewise, in the Middle Ages, we see
the whole of Christendom united to attain one object - the conquest of the
Holy Sepulchre; but, in spite of all the victories achieved, with just as
little permanent result. The Crusades are the Trojan War of newly awakened
Christendom, waged against the simple, homogeneous clearness of Mahometanism.

The royal houses perished, partly as the consequence of particular
atrocities, partly through gradual extinction. There was no strictly moral
bond connecting them with the tribes which they governed. The same relative
position is occupied by the people and the royal houses in the Greek Tragedy
also. The people is the Chorus, - passive, deedless: the heroes perform the
deeds, and incur the consequent responsibility. There is nothing in common
between them; the people have no directing power, but only appeal to the gods.
Such heroic personalities as those of the princes in question, are so
remarkably suited for subjects of dramatic art on this very account - that
they form their resolutions independently and individually, and are not guided
by universal laws binding on every citizen; their conduct and their ruin is
individual. The people appears separated from the royal houses, and these are
regarded as an alien body - a higher race, fighting out the battles and
undergoing the penalties of their fate, for themselves alone. Royalty having
performed that which it had to perform, thereby rendered itself superfluous.
The several dynasties are the agents of their own destruction, or perish not
as the result of animosity, or of struggles on the side of the people: rather
the families of the sovereigns are left in calm enjoyment of their power - a
proof that the democratic government which followed is not regarded as
something absolutely diverse. How sharply do the annals of other times
contrast with this!

This fall of the royal houses occurs after the Trojan war, and many
changes now present themselves. The Peloponnesus was conquered by the
Heraclidae, who introduced a calmer state of things, which was not again
interrupted by the incessant migrations of races. The history now becomes
more obscure; and though the several occurrences of the Trojan war are very
circumstantially described to us, we are uncertain respecting the important
transactions of the time immediately following, for a space of many centuries.
No united undertaking distinguishes them, unless we regard as such that of
which Thucydides speaks, viz., the war between the Chalcidians and Eretrians
in Euboea, in which many nations took part. The towns vegetate in isolation,
or at most distinguish themselves by war with their neighbours. Yet, they
enjoy prosperity in this isolated condition, by means of trade; a kind of
progress to which their being rent by many party-struggles offers no
opposition. In the same way, we observe in the Middle Ages the towns of Italy
- which, both internally and externally, were engaged in continual struggle -
attaining so high a degree of prosperity. The flourishing state of the Greek
towns at that time is proved, according to Thucydides, also by the colonies
sent out in every direction. Thus, Athens colonized Ionia and several
islands; and colonies from the Peloponnesus settled in Italy and Sicily.
Colonies, on the other hand, became relatively mother states; e.g. Miletus,
which founded many cities on the Propontis and the Black Sea. This sending
out of colonies - especially during the period between the Trojan war and
Cyrus - presents us with a remarkable phenomenon. It can be thus explained.
In the several towns the people had the governmental power in their hands,
since they gave the final decision in political affairs. In consequence of
the long repose enjoyed by them, the population and the development of the
community advanced rapidly; and the immediate result was the amassing of great
riches, contemporaneously with which fact great want and poverty make their
appearance. Industry, in our sense, did not exist; and the lands were soon
occupied. Nevertheless a part of the poorer classes would not submit to the
degradations of poverty, for every one felt himself a free citizen. The only
expedient, therefore, that remained, was colonization. In another country,
those who suffered distress in their own, might seek a free soil, and gain a
living as free citizens by its cultivation. Colonization thus became a means
of maintaining some degree of equality among the citizens; but this means is
only a palliative, and the original inequality, founded on the difference of
property, immediately reappears. The old passions were rekindled with fresh
violence, and riches were soon made use of for securing power: thus "Tyrants"
gained ascendancy in the cities of Greece. Thucydides says, "When Greece
increased in riches, Tyrants arose in the cities, and the Greeks devoted
themselves more zealously to the sea." At the time of Cyrus, the History of
Greece acquires its peculiar interest; we see the various states now
displaying their particular character. This is the date, too, of the
formation of the distinct Greek Spirit. Religion and political institutions
are developed with it, and it is these important phases of national life which
must now occupy our attention.

In tracing up the rudiments of Greek culture, we first recal attention to
the fact, that the physical condition of the country does not exhibit such a
characteristic unity, such a uniform mass, as to exercise a powerful influence
over the inhabitants. On the contrary, it is diversified, and produces no
decided impression. Nor have we here the unwieldy unity of a family or
national combination; but, in the presence of scenery and displays of
elemental power broken up into fragmentary forms, men's attention is more
largely directed to themselves, and to the extension of their immature
capabilities. Thus we see the Greeks - divided and separated from each other
- thrown back upon their inner spirit and personal energy, yet at the same
time most variously excited and cautiously circumspect. We behold them quite
undetermined and irresolute in the presence of Nature, dependent on its
contingencies, and listening anxiously to each signal from the external world;
but, on the other hand, intelligently taking cognizance of and appropriating
that outward existence, and shewing boldness and independent vigour in
contending with it. These are the simple elements of their culture and
religion. In tracing up their mythological conceptions, we find natural
objects forming the basis - not en masse, however; only in dissevered forms.
The Diana of Ephesus (that is, Nature as the universal Mother), the Cybele and
Astarte of Syria, - such comprehensive conceptions remained Asiatic, and were
not transmitted to Greece. For the Greeks only watch the objects of Nature,
and form surmises respecting them; inquiring, in the depth of their souls, for
the hidden meaning. According to Aristotle's dictum, that Philosophy proceeds
from Wonder, the Greek view of Nature also proceeds from wonder of this kind.
Not that in their experience, Spirit meets something extraordinary, which it
compares with the common order of things; for the intelligent view of a
regular course of Nature, and the reference of phenomena to that standard, do
not yet present themselves; but the Greek Spirit was excited to wonder at the
Natural in Nature. It does not maintain the position of stupid indifference
to it as something existing, and there an end of it; but regards it as
something in the first instance foreign, in which, however, it has a
presentiment of confidence, and the belief that it bears something within it
which is friendly to the human Spirit, and to which it may be permitted to
sustain a positive relation. This Wonder, and this Presentiment, are here the
fundamental categories; though the Hellenes did not content themselves with
these moods of feelings, but projected the hidden meaning, which was the
subject of the surmise, into a distinct conception as an object of
consciousness. The Natural holds its place in their minds only after
undergoing some transformation by Spirit - not immediately. Man regards
Nature only as an excitement to his faculties, and only the Spiritual which he
has evolved from it can have any influence over him. Nor is this commencement
of the Spiritual apprehension of Nature to be regarded as an explanation
suggested by us; it meets us in a multitude of conceptions formed by the
Greeks themselves. The position of curious surmise, of attentive eagerness to
catch the meaning of Nature, is indicated to us in the comprehensive idea of
Pan. To the Greeks Pan did not represent the objective Whole, but that
indefinite neutral ground which involves the element of the subjective; he
embodies that thrill which pervades us in the silence of the forests; he was,
therefore, especially worshipped in sylvan Arcadia: (a "panic terror" is the
common expression for a groundless fright). Pan, this thrill-exciting being,
is also represented as playing on the flute; we have not the bare internal
presentiment, for Pan makes himself audible on the seven-reeded pipe. In what
has been stated we have, on the one hand, the Indefinite, which, however,
holds communication is only a subjective imagining - an explanation furnished
by the percipient himself. On the same principle the Greeks listened to the
murmuring of the fountains, and asked what might be thereby signified; but the
signification which they were led to attach to it was not the objective
meaning of the fountain, but the subjective - that of the subject itself,
which further exalts the Naiad to a Muse. The Naiads, or Fountains, are the
external, objective origin of the Muses. Yet the immortal songs of the Muses
are not that which is heard in the murmuring of the fountains; they are the
productions of the thoughtfully listening Spirit - creative while observant.
The interpretation and explanation of Nature and its transformations - the
indication of their sense and import - is the act of the subjective Spirit.
The general idea which this embodies, is the form in which man realizes his
relationship to Nature. weighty import in question. to that delirium into
which men fall during sickness; and interpreter, is wanted to explain these
dreams and this delirium. That Nature answered the questions which the Greek
put to her, is in this converse sense true, that he obtained an answer to the
questions of Nature from his own Spirit. The insight of the Seer becomes
thereby purely poetical; Spirit supplies the signification which the natural
image expresses. Everywhere the Greeks desired a clear presentation and
interpretation of the Natural. Homer tells us, in the last book of the
Odyssey, that while the Greeks were overwhelmed with sorrow for Achilles, a
violent agitation came over the sea: the Greeks were on the point of
dispersing in terror, when the experienced Nestor arose and interpreted the
phenomenon to them. Thetis, he said, was coming, with her nymphs, to lament
for the death of her son. When a pestilence broke out in the camp of the
Greeks, the Priest Calchas explained that Apollo was incensed at their not
having restored the daughter of his priest Chryses when a ransom had been
offered. The Oracle was originally interpreted exactly in this way. The
oldest Oracle was at Dodona (in the district of the modern Janina). Herodotus
says that the first priestesses of the temple there, were from Egypt; yet this
temple is stated to be an ancient Greek one. The rustling of the leaves of
the sacred oaks was the form of prognostication there. Bowls of metal were
also suspended in the grove. But the sounds of the bowls dashing against each
other were quite indefinite, and had no objective sense; the sense - the
signification - was imparted to the sounds only by the human beings who heard
them. Thus also the Delphic priestesses, in a senseless, distracted state -
in the intoxication of enthusiasm - uttered unintelligible sounds. In the cave
of Trophonius the noise of subterranean waters was heard, and apparitions were
seen: but these indefinite phenomena acquired a meaning only through the
interpreting, comprehending Spirit. It must also be observed, that these
excitements of Spirit are in the first instance external, natural impulses.
Succeeding them are internal changes taking place in the human being himself -
such as dreams, or the delirium of the Delphic priestess. At the commencement
of the Iliad, Achilles is excited against Agamemnon, and is on the point of
drawing his sword; but on a sudden he checks the movement of his arm, and
recollects himself in his wrath, reflecting on his relation to Agamemnon. The
Poet explains this by saying that it was Pallas-Athene (Wisdom or
Consideration) that restrained him. When Ulysses among the Phaeacians, has
thrown his discus farther than the rest, and one of the Phaeacians shews a
friendly disposition towards him, the Poet recognises in him Pallas-Athene.
Such an explanation denotes the perception of the inner meaning, the sense,
the underlying truth; and the poets were in this way the teachers of the
Greeks - especially Homer. It in fact is Poesy - not a capricious indulgence
of fancy, but an imagination which introduces the Spiritual into the Natural,
- in short a richly intelligent perception. The Greek Spirit, on the whole,
therefore, is free from superstition, since it changes the sensuous into the
sensible - the Intellectual - so that [oracular] decisions are derived from
Spirit; although superstition comes in again from another quarter, as will be
observed when impulsions from another source than the Spiritual, are allowed
to tell upon opinion and action.

But the stimuli that operated on the Spirit of the Greeks are not to be
limited to these objective and subjective excitements. The traditional
element derived from foreign countries, the culture, the divinities and ritual
observances transmitted to them ab extra must also be included. It has been
long a much vexed question whether the arts and the religion of the Greeks
were developed independently or through foreign suggestion. Under the conduct
of a one-sided understanding the controversy is interminable; for it is no
less a fact of history that the Greeks derived conceptions from India, Syria,
and Egypt, than that the Greek conceptions are peculiar to themselves, and
those others alien. Herodotus (II. 53) asserts, with equal decision, that
"Homer and Hesiod invented a Theogony for the Greeks, and assigned to the gods
their appropriate epithets" (a most weighty sentence, which has been the
subject of deep investigation, especially by Creuzer), - and, in another
place, that Greece took the names of its divinities from Egypt, and that the
Greeks made inquiry at Dodona, whether they ought to adopt these names or not.
This appears self-contradictory: it is, however, quite consistent; for the
fact is that the Greeks evolved the Spiritual from the materials which they
had received. The Natural, as explained by man, - i.e. its internal essential
element - is, as a universal principle, the beginning of the Divine. Just as
in Art the Greeks may have acquired a mastery of technical matters from others
- from the Egyptians especially - so in their religion the commencement might
have been from without; but by their independent spirit they transformed the
one as well as the other.

Traces of such foreign rudiments may be generally discovered (Creuzer, in
his "Symbolik," dwells especially on this point). The amours of Zeus appear
indeed as something isolated, extraneous, adventitious, but it may be shown
that foreign theogonic representations form their basis. Hercules is, among
the Hellenes, that Spiritual Humanity which by native energy attains Olympus
through the twelve far-famed labours: but the foreign idea that lies at the
basis is the Sun, completing its revolution through the twelve signs of the
Zodiac. The Mysteries were only such ancient rudiments, and certainly
contained no greater wisdom than already existed in the consciousness of the
Greeks. All Athenians were initiated in the mysteries - Socrates excepted,
who refused initiation, because he knew well that science and art are not the
product of mysteries, and that Wisdom never lies among arcana. True science
has its place much rather in the open field of consciousness.

In summing up the constituents of the Greek Spirit, we find its
fundamental characteristic to be, that the freedom of Spirit is conditioned by
and has an essential relation to some stimulus supplied by Nature. Greek
freedom of thought is excited by an alien existence; but it is free because it
transforms and virtually reproduces the stimulus by its own operation. This
phase of Spirit is the medium between the loss of individuality on the part of
man (such as we observe in the Asiatic principle, in which the Spiritual and
Divine exists only under a Natural form), and Infinite Subjectivity as pure
certainty of itself - the position that the Ego is the ground of all that can
lay claim to substantial existence. The Greek Spirit as the medium between
these two, begins with Nature, but transforms it into a mere objective form of
its (Spirit's) own existence; Spirituality is therefore not yet absolutely
free; not yet absolutely self-produced, - is not self-stimulation. Setting
out from surmise and wonder, the Greek Spirit advances to definite conceptions
of the hidden meanings of Nature. In the subject itself too, the same harmony
is produced. In Man, the side of his subjective existence which he owes to
Nature, is the Heart, the Disposition, Passion, and Variety of Temperament:
this side is then developed in a spiritual direction to free Individuality; so
that the character is not placed in a relation to universally valid moral
authorities, assuming the form of duties, but the Moral appears as a nature
peculiar to the individual - an exertion of will, the result of disposition
and individual constitution. This stamps the Greek character as that of
Individuality conditioned by Beauty, which is produced by Spirit, transforming
the merely Natural into an expression of its own being. The activity of
Spirit does not yet possess in itself the material and organ of expression,
but needs the excitement of Nature and the matter which Nature supplies: it is
not free, self-determining Spirituality, but mere naturalness formed to
Spirituality - Spiritual Individuality. The Greek Spirit is the plastic
artist, forming the stone into a work of art. In this formative process the
stone does not remain mere stone, - the form being only superinduced from
without; but it is made an expression of the Spiritual, even contrary to its
nature, and thus transformed. Conversely, the artist needs for his spiritual
conceptions, stone, colours, sensuous forms to express his idea. Without such
an element he can no more be conscious of the idea himself, than give it an
objective form for the contemplation of others; since it cannot in Thought
alone become an object to him. The Egyptian Spirit also was a similar
labourer in Matter, but the Natural had not yet been subjected to the
Spiritual. No advance was made beyond a struggle and contest with it; the
Natural still took an independent position, and formed one side of the image,
as in the body of the Sphinx. In Greek Beauty the Sensuous is only a sign, an
expression, an envelope, in which Spirit manifests itself.

It must be added, that while the Greek Spirit is a transforming artist of
this kind, it knows itself free in its productions; for it is their creator,
and they are what is called the "work of man." They are, however, not merely
this, but Eternal Truth - the energizing of Spirit in its innate essence, and
quite as really not created as created by man. He has a respect and
veneration for these conceptions and images, - this Olympian Zeus - this
Pallas of the Acropolis, - and in the same way for the laws, political, and
ethical, that guide his actions. But He, the human being, is the womb that
conceived them, he the breast that suckled them, he the Spiritual to which
their grandeur and purity is owing. Thus he feels himself calm in
contemplating them, and not only free in himself, but possessing the
consciousness of his freedom; thus the honour of the Human is swallowed up in
the worship of the Divine. Men honour the Divine in and for itself, but at
the same time as their deed, their production, their phenomenal existence;
thus the Divine receives its honour through the respect paid to the Human, and
the Human in virtue of the honour paid to the Divine.

Such are the qualities of that Beautiful Individuality, which constitutes
the centre of the Greek character. We must now consider the several
radiations which this idea throws out in realizing itself. All issue in works
of art, and we may arrange under three heads: the subjective work of art, that
is, the culture of the man himself; - the objective work of art, i.e., the
shaping of the world of divinities; - lastly, the political work of art - the
form of the Constitution, and the relations of the Individuals who compose it.

 

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