Greek Society vs. Socrates
What make a man virtuous? Throughout many texts of Greek society the picture of a perfect man is painted and apparent. This man, the “perfect man”, is the virtuous Greek citizen. Who is virtuous not only in the eyes of society, but also at home, in war, and in his relationship to the God(s). Also in Greek society, there was a man named Socrates who’s opinion differed with his culture’s thoughts, and he constructed his own thoughts and beliefs of what characteristics a virtuous man should hold. Not only did Greek society have thoughts of what their virtuous man should be; Roman society did as well. All cultures have a belief of what a virtuous human is and it is described in four ways: in the home, at war, political life, and one’s relationship to the God(s).
First, Greek society’s virtuous man was noble. Noble men in Greek society “lived to prove their strength and honor in combat against their equals, which was the one true test of social value” (Kishlansky 44). The virtuous man is described as a great warrior in Greek society. For example, in Homer’s
The Iliad, Achilles is described as the greatest warrior in the world. Also, he was practically invulnerable as a fighter because at birth, his moth had dipped him in the River Styx, rendering him immortal everywhere but the heel, where she had held him (Sources of the West 40). As apparent by Achilles reputation as the greatest warrior in the world it is evident that society held him up as the example of a virtuous man.
Virtuous men in Greek society were not only warriors but fathers as well. The head of the household was in charge of perpetuating the family, worshiping acncestors, maintaining family’s economic worth, insisted good dowries for children, and took care of elderly parents. A virtuous man was not only noble and head of the household, but a leader in the political aspect of the polis he lived within. Aristocrats, who were free men, had the privilege of sitting on juries and also to help make the laws that governed the polis.
The virtuous man was also very religious and in charge of his family’s worshiping of the polis’ Gods and also the worshiping of the family’s ancestors. Noble men were very athletic and participated in games to help honor the Gods and prepare themselves for war. These athletic competitions were held in gymnasiums; which was the central feature of the polis. The gymnasiums gave the successful athlete the opportunity to honor his family and polis, and also brought the athlete closer to the Gods after winning.
The picture of a virtuous man in Greek society was one that was able to obtain many victories, serve his polis politically, worship the Gods, and run a household. The man all men tried to become is perfect in every way in personal and public life. He was powerful, intelligent, resourceful, cunning, and skillful. This man would take care of his family and make the decisions of the house,...