Liberties of the Ancients and Moderns

Liberty was thought of differently in ancient Greece than it is in the modern western world.  It was based on the liberty of the community and not of the individual.  For example, an ancient Greek citizen’s liberty allowed him his right to go out and vote and elect magistrates and councils and other subjects relating to the state.  Of course, Greeks had a few individual liberties, but liberty in their minds was conceptually based on the community and the good of the city-state.  Us in the modern day do not think of this as true liberty.

Our definition of liberty is founded mostly on individual rights such as freedom of speech and the press, the freedom of religion, the protection of property, etc.  The ancients would think of these rights as outlandish and unheard of.  And though the ancients had good ideas about the way a government should be run, they had rather awkward (to us) ideas regarding religion and tradition.  The ancient Greek governments were democracies, that is, the people of the city-state decided what should be done about foreign as well as internal affairs.  But they had one right that is appalling to moderns: ostracism.  Ostracism happened when enough people wrote a person’s name on clay pieces to exile him for ten years, even if he hadn’t done anything wrong.

The ancients and the moderns have conflicting views of liberty when it comes to the individual’s rights, but similar ideas of an ideal government.


Epicureanism was a philosophy named after Epicurus, the founder of the school of epicureanism.  It is one of the four main philosophies in the hellenistic world, the others being skepticism, cynicism, and stoicism.  Epicureanism is the belief that life revolves around pleasure.  Not pleasure of the senses but long-lasting pleasures like friendship and virtue were regarded as the best kinds of pleasures in life by epicureans.  Restraining the idea of hedonism to the highest pleasures, that of mental freedom from fear and worry, was the main teaching of the ultimate pleasure in the philosophy.  Epicureans believed that if their was a god or gods, that they don’t care about humans.  And since they don’t care, humans should pursue lives of pleasures.


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