Greece is a land of mystery and myth. It tempts us with extraordinary feats and stories of gods. Classical Greece influences every aspect of our society. We see it in our architecture, our government, our literature, and our entertainment. The extraordinary work that came out of Classical Greece was the result of the Athenians trying to find escape, peace, and an outlet for all that was going on. To escape war, creative geniuses rose up and became the icons of Classical Greece.
What we see as part of Greek heritage is more than just art. Our entire society is based on the Greek principals of science, philosophy, psychology, medicine, law, and ethics. There is not an area of our society that you can point to that the Greek culture did not have some influence in.
Plays began in Greek society. We have them everywhere today, but they developed in the Ancient world. They were not as varied either. The dramatic genre of the tragedy was developed after the Greek victory over the Persians and became very popular as the story focused on heroes and the ordinary man. Wonders were told of men who risked it all and performed feats unheard of while facing challenges every other human also faced. Aeschylus was one of the first to bring tragedy to the Athenians with plays focused on justice and order. The Peloponnesian War brought the world comedy through Aristophanes. His plays fulfilled the need to escape the horror of the war.
The end of the Persian War called for a cleansing of any artistic influences from Persia and surrounding areas in the visual arts: vases, sculptures, and architecture. The artists began to create a new Greek style that has become iconic of the period. A focus on man and mythology developed in statues, reliefs, and temples. Myron was one sculptor known for his realistic pieces. They are seen now in museums around the world and copied by many today as the perfect pieces of art.
From the Persian War to the Peloponnesian Wars, the Greeks would find themselves exhausted and their great world falling apart. The chaos of it all prompted many great thinkers to look for balance in nature. It was Anaxagoras that developed the idea that all material things were made up of small pieces that the eye could not perceive. Leucippus and Democritus took it further and brought the world the term “atom”. This has led to advancements in our society today that is amazing and terrifying.
Hippocrates believed that the body was not as mysterious as most people thought, with disorders being real and not divine curses. This led into the realm of philosophy, where order, politics, religion, and life in general was questioned. Schools rose up from the various camps that educated the Greeks. Protagoras questioned the existence of the gods. Thrasymachus questioned the value and truth of justice. Medicine developed and became a vocation.
In a chance to make sense of it all, history was born. Herodotus and Thucydides wrote on the Greco-Persian War and the Peloponnesian Wars. It was more than retellings of stories. These men explored various aspects and documented events in a way that had never happened before. It was a profound way to record events and look at the past.
During the wars that became their ultimate downfall, the Greeks sought for order and balance in their world. Strife was the driving force behind the gifts Classical Greece gave the world. It was the escape for the masses. It was the basis for the Roman civilization and many great Western ones after that. Still today, the influences from these conflicts have driven societies.
Sarah B. Pomeroy et al., Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 242–246.