Understand the model of humanistic training adopted by classical civilization (Greco-Roman) and its consequences.
- Recognize the development of the Classical education model in the societies of so-called classical antiquity.
- Understand and analyze how Classical education in civilizations, comes to be seen as an essential problem for humanity.
Classical Education: the case of Ancient Greece
We call classical education the teaching developed in the West, between the Greeks and Romans, during the 5th century BC and the 5th century AD.
While part of the civilizations of Eastern Antiquity arose around rivers, the civilizations of Classical Antiquity arose in the peninsulas (Balkan and Italic) of the Mediterranean basin. The first were agricultural-sedentary, while the Peninsular-Mediterranean civilizations of Classical Antiquity were mercantile-slave.
The Greek civilization emerged in the extreme south of the Balkan peninsula (Hélades), whose settlers, the Indo-Europeans, gave rise to the Greeks or Hellenes. These were organized into City-States ( poleis , in Greek), founded colonies in the Mediterranean and were a people of navigators and traders. Classical culture (Hellenism) reached its apogee in the so-called “Century of Pericles” (5th century BC) and soon after Greece was dominated by the Macedonians. The main legacies of Greek culture to the West were philosophy, science and democracy.
The Greek values were expanded by the Macedonians to the world known until then, conquered by Philip of Macedonia, in the process of Hellenization of the East.
The Greek-Macedonian decline coincided with the rise of Rome, a city that emerged in central Italy. In its political evolution, Rome knew, successively, the Monarchy, the Republic and the Empire. After the conquest of Italy, Rome carried out the conquest of the Mediterranean and unified the world of its time.
In its expansion to the East, it incorporated Greek culture, which merged with Latin and gave rise to Greco-Latin culture. In addition to the role of intermediary between Greece and the West, Rome has transmitted to us its own cultural legacy, whose most important contributions were Roman law, literature, the Latin language and Christianity.
The Homeric Period and the Mycenaean Civilization
In the second millennium BC, Greece was invaded by several nomadic-pastoral tribes originating from the plains of Eastern Europe (Achaeans, Ionians, Aeolians and Dorians) and gave rise to Greek civilization. Around 1700 BC, the Achaeans settled in the Peloponnese Peninsula, south of Greece. They conquered the city of Mycenae, built there by the Cretans, and through the Aegean Sea they established contact with the island of Crete.
Contacts between Achaeans and Cretans led to the formation of the Mycenaean or Creto-Mycenaean civilization which, in turn, exerted a significant influence on Greek civilization. The dispute for supremacy in the Mediterranean led to the struggle between Achaeans and Cretans, culminating in the destruction of the latter. Around 1200 BC, the Dorians invaded Greece. The conquest of the Peloponnese caused the flight of part of the Achaeans to the islands of the Aegean Sea and to the coasts of Asia Minor, the consequence of which was the colonization of these regions by the Greeks.
The Homeric times began (12th-8th century BC), so called because, supposedly, the poet Homer, author, it is believed, of the Iliad and the Odyssey , epic poems, lived there at that time. These poems, masterpieces of Greek literature, reveal fundamental aspects of the life of Mycenaean and post-Mycenaean Greece, whose organization was based on the gentile community.
This was formed by a group of people related by consanguineous ties and descendants of a common ancestor. The gentile, agricultural and pastoral economy was based on communal land ownership. Society was egalitarian and characterized by the absence of social classes.
At the end of the Homeric period, population growth and the scarcity of fertile lands led to the breakdown of the gentile community. The beginning of the formation of the City-States dates from this period.
The Archaic Period (18th-6th century BC)
This is a period marked by major economic and social transformations and characterized by the emergence and development of City-States ( poleis ). With the 8th century emigration process that marks the end of the Homeric Period, numerous colonies were founded. The Greek world, until then restricted to Greece, the islands of the Aegean Sea and the coast of Asia Minor, extended to the East and to the West.
Colonization and relations between mainland Greece and the new colonies brought about great transformations. Industry and shipbuilding developed; maritime trade took on international dimensions. As a result, a wealthy middle class of artisans, shipowners and merchants emerged in Greek society.
However, competition from imported products ruined small farmers and concentrated land ownership in the hands of the aristocracy. The cities were hit by a strong social and political crisis. A struggle broke out between the people ( demos ) and the aristocracy. The situation led to the emergence of tyrants and legislators. The former sought a solution through reforms, and the latter led popular insurrections and gained power through violence. In the poles, where the victory belonged to the nobility, the aristocratic regime was consolidated. In those where the demos was victorious, reforms led to democracy.
The many transformations led to the development of reflections that culminated in the emergence of rational thinking. In addition to the emergence and development of the polis , the introduction of writing, the use of currency and the written law by legislators are also achievements of this moment.
According to Jean-Pierre Vernant (2008), philosophy is born with the polis , which is a human and not a divine creation. Philosophy arises at the historical moment in which the use of reason ( logos ) is affirmed, replacing the myth ( allegory ) to solve the problems of life, linked to the emergence of the city-state. The constant practice of political discussion in the public square ( agora ) by citizens, especially in Athens from Cleisthenes onwards, would have contributed to the well-formulated and convincing reasoning. Over time, it would have become the adopted way of thinking about things. Philosophy, therefore, is the daughter of the polis .
Classic Period (Classical education)
Classical education :The Classical Education Greek period corresponds, traditionally, to the 5th and 4th centuries BC In this period, Greece reached, at the same time, its apogee and its decadence. The first case coincides with the government of Pericles in Athens, which perfected democracy. Pericles, in the 5th century, hired the best architects and sculptors of the time. These built courts, temples, theaters and gymnasiums. The Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Pallas Athena, protector of the city, is considered one of the most outstanding works.
The ruler of Athens also encouraged the arts. It was in the 5th century BC that the first historical accounts appeared, with the works of Herodotus and Thucydides that approached, respectively, the Medical Wars and the Peloponnesian War. Philosophy rose to prominence with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and medicine developed with Hippocrates.
It was in the “Century of Pericles”, as the 5th century BC was known, therefore, that production in the arts, literature and philosophy outlined the cultural heritage of the Greeks for the western world.
The classical period also marks the decline of Greece, ravaged by internal conflicts.
This period begins with the conquest of Greece by Macedonia, in the 4th century BC, and extends to the 2nd century BC Initially ruled by Philip II, the Macedonians conquered Greece, weakened by internal struggles, and then set out to conquer from the East. It was up to Alexander the Great, son of Philip II, to conquer it.
Educated by Aristotle, Alexander assimilated Greek culture and was responsible for the conquest of Asia Minor, Persia, reaching the banks of the Indus River in India. His great work, however, took place on the cultural plane that survived the collapse of his empire. Alexander’s expansion ended up spreading Greek culture throughout the East. The cities founded by them (several of them named after them) became true centers for the diffusion of Greek culture. We call Hellenism or Hellenistic culture the fusion of Greek culture with Eastern culture (Classical education).
Integral Education or Paideia
According to Gadotti (2006), Greece served as the cradle of Western culture, civilization and Classical education. The cultural development of the Greeks, with their universal vision and reflection on the world and existence, produced an original way of dealing with education, whose emphasis was given to integral formation, which consisted of the integration between culture and society.
This conception generated the concept of paideia , a word that would have emerged around the 5th century BC, difficult to define, but which expressed an ideal of integral, humanistic training.
It is the Greeks who, for the first time, put education as an essential problem for humanity, producing a philosophical reflection on its importance in human formation. From the Sophists, and with the Socratic and Post-Socratic philosophers, the concept of Classical education reaches the status of philosophical reflection.
The Greeks gave an inordinate value to art, literature, science and philosophy. The education of the integral man should cover physical training, the body (through gymnastics), the mind (through philosophy and science) and morals and feelings (through music and the arts). Therefore, students should undergo a program that addresses all aspects of human life. In this type of education the Greeks studied literature, history, geography, grammar, rhetoric, gymnastics, science, music and other knowledge.
In the beginning, before writing, education was the responsibility of the family itself, according to religious tradition. With the constitution of the landowners aristocracy, the young people of the ruling class were entrusted to preceptors. Schools only appear with the first poleis , with the aim of meeting the demand for instruction. In the classical period the school was already established, especially in Athens.