Friday, October 21, 2016

Living in Ancient Greece by Don Nardo, ed. ****

History comes in two flavors: politics and daily life. Living in Ancient Greece by Don Nardo, ed is of the second type.While Pericles and Aristotle are mentioned in passing, the emphasis is on daily life with chapters on dress, food, education, crafts, and medicine.

It is full of interesting details, such that Greek pottery which is iconic of ancient Greece (500 BCE) traces it origin back to Crete 2,000 year earlier. One of the authors makes the interesting claim that that Euclid's volume on geometry (Elements) is distinguished because "no book except the Bible has enjoyed such a long subsequent reign."

While this book is a collection of excerpts from fourteen scholarly papers, it is short (around 130 pages) and accessible to intermediate, or advance upper elementary students, who might be reporting on ancient Greece, especially Athens.

One interesting aspect of Athenian law was that there were no lawyers. People needed to represent themselves. However, they could deliver a defense written by professionals. The happy benefit of this practice is that historians have access to transcripts of trials.

In an early experiment of "stand your ground" legislation, Athens allowed the husband to kill his wife's lover, but only if there was no other motivation, no monetary gain, and no other animosity.

Prior to killing his wife's lover, the husband reports during his trial that he said this:
It is not I who shall be killing you, but the law of the State, which you, in transgressing, have valued less highly than you own pleasure... Thus members of the jury, this man met the fate which the laws prescribe for wrong-doers of this kind.
This seems remarkably contemporary even though it happened almost 2,500 years ago.

In another contemporary echo, the original Hippocratic Oath prohibited abortion.

No comments: