Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Greece

Historical materialism and more

Two things stand out about this museum, 1) is how concise and point-on are the write-ups on Greek history manifested in the displays and 2) how everything is tightly woven eg the Greek myths, Gods, and philosophy and the economic, social and political development of what at one time evolved into and devolved from the Greek empire.

For example there is prominently near the entry a take on Socrates which said that Socrates broke with the subjective philsophers of the past, who tried to define man in terms of the Gods and the myths, into a philosophy of what is man's purpose, e.g. the "good life", or, perhaps more precisely per Aristotle, the moral life.

There was a clear path of development in the art and the history of man, from the pre-state day to the creation of the state. The creation of the state then meant, dialectically, the development of the individual. Works (statues, potteries, bronzes) become less derivative of Egyptian works (become more clearly 'classical') and were signed by the artist.

The exhibit narratives were clear that societies developed through material advancement. The creation of cities allowed the stronger family unit which helped to allow material needs to be met. Once the cities had met their needs they looked elsewhere to "expand markets". This allowed the flourishing and cross-fertilization of art and culture in the region.

The creation of the nation-state and "the path to democracy" in 500 BC, led through the 'inevitable stage of dictatorship". The tyrants had to balance the classes to keep peace in the kingdom; these classes consisted of 1) the nobility and the recent urban rich and 2) those living in the rural areas. This balance required giving a vote to all "freely born" peoples.

Technological advancement manifested itself in the arts, as well as in state-craft and commerce. It is only when humility is forgotten that ego and over-reach foretell a decline.