Essay on The Golden Age of Greece: Humanism, Literature & Philosophy

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1495 Words
Date:  2023-03-26

The Golden Age of Greece is arguably the most prosperous period in the Greek civilization which saw the rise of Greece as a military and intellectual giant. In this period, the most recognized of the Greek playwrights wrote their plays which form the basis for philosophical and intellectual tenets in the present age. One factor that takes precedent in this age is the phenomenon of humanism which puts human feelings and interest before any other element in life. Literature in the golden age grows on this phenomenon of humanism by exploiting the feelings of man and using them in the plays of the time. Humanism, therefore, plays a huge role in the development of the Greek theater through the splendid plays of the time that were based on human feelings. The paper, therefore, explores the role played by humanism in the development of the Greek theater.

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Agamemnon and Oedipus the king are powerful but deeply flawed characters both in Greek mythology as well as the plays in the golden age. Agamemnon has lain to waste Greece and is set to return home. However, his wife plots his downfall for sacrificing their only daughter Iphigenia. The play explores the murder of the King by first debating his faults and whether he deserved death or not (Aeschylus 10). Later his son kills his mother to avenge the death of Agamemnon. The series of vents are related to the humanist approach of the golden where humans and not the gods were the subject of the theater. While Oedipus the King dabs with the divine will, the character of Oedipus is debated just like the decisions taken by the characters in Agamemnon. The texts are a good example of the golden age in Greek literature and theater, the shift of focus from the gods to humans.

The Greek theater in the golden age benefits immensely from the humanism phenomenon in the golden by exploring the idea arrange of feelings in people exhibited in the plays. According to the Greeks, to be human is to be great but at the same time also deeply flawed. Initially, there was a bias towards the depiction of the gods and the glory and power. To some extent, the purity of the person was seen as ideal (Horcher 87). However, in the golden age, it was more common for a man to be a hero as well as have flaws in them. Agamemnon was a great leader but he had weakness especially in the pursuit of power. Agamemnon accepts to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. The text, therefore, depicts Agamemnon as a wise leader and elegant military commander yet he is so obsessed with fighting Troy that he sacrifices his only a daughter. The Greek, therefore, gains from this focus on the human feelings which are well presented in the plays of the time. The feelings make for a pivotal point in the revolution of the theater in the golden age.

Working on the emotions of the people brings the humanism perception bringing the literature closer to the people in the golden age. The Greek society was governed by gods and had a strong belief in the workings of the gods and their importance in the liv of the people. However, even the gods had a human side to them. The gods took a personal interest in the lives of the people and regularly intervened both in anger and in rejoicing. Achilles is exceptional as a person and a great warrior but he is also flawed in the same way as Agamemnon. The two are pitted against each other and even though Achilles is divine and given powers by the gods, he is fallen by an arrow to his heels which are his weakest point (Aeschylus 24). Achilles embodies the involvement of the gods the human affairs and such are given qualities of man which includes the weakness of man. The Greek theater, therefore, develops based on this focus on man and the comparison of man with the gods.

Humanism helps to lower the stands on the expectation of man on fellow men as perfectionism should not be compared to the gods but rather the humans. The gods were elevated beings and them, therefore, were not the best when working on the expectations of man. The theaters at the time make man the center of the conversation by showing that the measure of a man is the man himself and he ought to be accepted that way (Goodman and Angus 23). To assume that man would be like the gods would be preposterous and therefore man was to apply to different standards altogether. Through the depiction of Agamemnon, the Trojans and Achilles in the Trojan War, the theater found a relationship with the people as they were more realistic. The development of the theater, therefore, benefits on this focus n man rather than comparing him with the gods. By focusing on man, the Greek literature and theater become popular with the people as well as laying a foundation in exploiting the relationships between man and not just the gods.

The physical appearance of man is also a humanistic aspect that is explored and adds to the diversification of the topics in the theater at the time. In ancient Greece, the physical body is as much important as the divine manifestation of the gods. The beauty of the people, therefore, becomes an object that the literature in the golden focuses primarily in a bid to elevate the human. Physical attributes of the hero and villains as well as the gods are described in great detail which helps to bring the texts closer to the people (Kim 103). Physical prowess was necessary for this age as it was practical and almost necessary that stays in shape due to the constant wars. As such, the descriptions of the beauty of the women as well as the strength of the men and the gods adds flavor to the theater as they try to describe what the people relate to. Humanism therefore also extends to the human physical appearance which the texts explore at length.

Beauty is explored in another dimension even with this immense physical strength and beauty the subjects are still human, whether they are completely human or half-gods. There is beauty in the weakness of man such that the golden age makes an effort to depict all the heroes with certain imperfections which sometimes are fatal. Achilles' weakness is his heels, Agamemnon is let down by his hubris which is the same case for Oedipus the King (Sophocles 20). The flaws are a beauty in themselves which in some way are created in the tenets which are plays in the golden age. To have a failing is therefore considered human and perfection is just a dream and impossible accruing to the plays. The theater, therefore, develops through celebrating the people and advancing the notions that humanity is about incompleteness, mistakes, and weakness. It is not possible to be strong physically and in mind without some limitations. Instead of condemning weakness, the golden age celebrated it by focusing on people as they are.

Arguments by the philosopher in the golden age as reflected in the works of the time are more objective rather than subjective conclusions. The golden age ushers an age in which every aspect of human life is questioned and both des of the argument laid bare. It is also worth noting that it is one person working on the arguments in the texts and they objectively weigh the arguments and deliver an objective conclusion (Kim 107). The narrator in the text of Agamemnon manages to present both sides objectively and is even able to critic Agamemnon, Achilles and the Trojans in the same breath. It is in considering the human part of the situation that the author can make such arguments through the understanding that no person is perfect and will; therefore, try to work on the motivations as well flaws that led to situations such as the war between Greece and Troy.


In conclusion, the golden age of the Greek theater gins slot from the shift of focus from the goes to the humans. Humanity is no longer placed on the same level as gods and the flaws of man are appreciated s part of human nature. Through this shift, the Greek theater found an outlet to explore human relations, their feelings and motivation in everyday situations. Agamemnon and Oedipus Rex are good examples of how humanist approaches to theater contributed to its development through delving into human subjects.

Works Cited

Goodman, Anthony, and Angus MacKay. Impact of Humanism on Western Europe During the Renaissance, The. Routledge, 2014.Goward, Barbara. Aeschylus: Agamemnon. London: Duckworth, 2005.

Horcher, Ferenc. "Dramatic Mimesis and Civic Education in Aristotle, Cicero and Renaissance Humanism." Aisthesis. Pratiche, linguaggi e saperi dell'estetico 10.1 (2017): 87-96.

Kim, Jae Kyoung. "Humanism and Globalization." International Theatre Olympics. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore, 2016. 101-115.Sophocles, and David D. Mulroy. Oedipus Rex. Madison, Wis: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.

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