Athens, Or Aesthetic Culture And The Art Of Expression -- By: William S. Tyler

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 020:77 (Jan 1863)
Article: Athens, Or Aesthetic Culture And The Art Of Expression
Author: William S. Tyler

Athens, Or Aesthetic Culture And The Art Of Expression1

Rev. W. S. Tyler

Among the distinguishing characteristics of Athens, as they are sketched by a master-hand in the funeral oration of Pericles,2 especial prominence is given to freedom of individual culture, together with the versatility of character and the variety of pursuits and attainments which are the natural result of spontaneous development. These, in the estimation of that consummate orator, statesman, and ruler, who has given his name to the golden age of Athenian glory, made Athens worthy of the heroes who fell on the field of battle, and upon whose patriotic and heroic virtues he was chosen to pronounce a eulogy. Unlike the Spartans, and most of the other nations of antiquity, the Athenians excelled alike in the arts of war and the arts of peace. The land and the sea were equally subject to their dominion.

Agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, all flourished at Athens, and in those colonies which Athenian enterprize established on the shores of the Mediterranean. The virgin goddess who gave name to the city and presided over its affairs, was goddess at once of war and of wisdom: while she extended her patronage over the useful arts, the fine arts, at the same time, rejoiced under her inspiration. “The same persons,” says Pericles, in the oration just referred to, “pay attention at once to their own private concerns and those of the public; and the same class of men who are engaged in the labors of life, show no want of skill in the affairs of government. For we are the only people who deem him that takes no part in state affairs not only indolent, but utterly worthless.” Nor were the mass of Athenian citizens more adepts in the science and practice of government, than they were connoisseurs in literature and the fine arts. The Greeks cultivated every species of literature, science, and art, and they excelled in every species to which they gave their attention. As we gaze on the monuments of their genius which have come down to us, we are at a loss to determine which is the most admirable, which the most perfect, the history or the philosophy, the oratory or the sculpture and architecture, the poetry or the mathematics. As proof of this, it is only necessary to mention the names of Euclid and Sophocles, of Thucydides and Plato, of Phidias and Demosthenes, representative men of this representative city and people. The muses were all born in Greece, all daughters of the Grecian god Zeus, and brought up at the feet of his son Apollo; and the sacred nine, as they are represented in the Hall of the Muses in the Vatican, grouped around their divi...

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