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Athens "Golden Age" Essay

1311 words - 5 pages

A "Golden Age" for Athens?
The 5th century BCE was a period of great development in Ancient Greece, and specifically in Athens. The development of so many cultural achievements within Athens and the Athenian Empire has led scholars to deem this period a "Golden Age." It is true that his period had many achievements, but in the light of the Athenians treatment of women, metics (non-Athenians living in Athens), and slaves it is given to question whether or not the period can truly be called "Golden." The 5th century and the Athenian Empire gave birth to an amazing amount of accomplishments. One such accomplishment was the minting of standard Athenian coins that were used throughout the Athenian holdings as valid for trade. The use of standard Athenian-minted coins helped the Athenians establish and maintain control over their empire by helping to control trade and the economy of the area to the Athenians' benefit. Since Athens regularly received tribute from the states it controlled, Pericles, the leader of Athens, began a building project in Athens that was legendary. Athens had been sacked by the Persians during the Persian Wars and Pericles set out to rebuild the city. The city's walls had already been rebuilt right after the end of the second Persian War so Pericles rebuilt temples, public grounds, and other impressive structures. One of the most famous structures to result from Pericles' building project was the Parthenon. The Parthenon and other such structures re-established Athens's glory and while some Athenians criticized the projects as too lavish, most Athenians enjoyed the benefits of the program. A major benefit to the Athenian people was that there was an abundance of work in the polis. The 5th century BCE was also an important time for Athenian thought. "Sophists," paid teachers, taught rhetoric amongst other subjects to wealthy Athenian citizens. The Sophists were criticized by Athenians who thought that Sophists were destroying Greek tradition by emphasizing rationalism over a belief in superstition, however it was this rationalism that became so important to Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato, both who belonged to the 5th century BCE. The Sophists high regard for rhetoric was later of great use to citizen addressing the Assembly in the developing Athenian democracy. Athenian democracy is perhaps considered the crowning achievement of the 5th century BCE. Democracy grew out of the status that poorer Athenians were gaining as rowers for the ships of the large Athenian fleet. Since these poorer Athenians now played a large part in the Athenian military, they ga8ined more say in the Athenian government. This led to a democratic government where "every male citizen over 18 years was eligible to attend and vote in the Assembly, which made all the important decisions of Athens in the 5th century BC_" (Demand 223). This democratic government is considered by some scholars to show the full enlightenment of the Athenians in the...

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