Essay on Athenians Constitution and Sophism

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Boston College
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In this paper, I will discuss the Athenian constitution together with sophism and its effects. The first section will focus on the Athenian constitution and the life of the Aristocrats. I will write about the impact of Aristocrats in the Athenians including religion, political and social life. The second part will focus on sophism and its effects. Likewise, the civil wars fought by the Athenians in the leadership of various leaders will also be focused on in this part and the change of power from one leader to another. I will primarily focus my writing from these sources. Constitution of Athens by Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Plutarch lives of Solon (560BC), Parallel Lives by Plutarch Pericles, Solon, and Alcibiades.

Q1. The Athenian Constitution

According to Aristocrats, knowledge was to be perceived by the learner. Most of the aristocrat victims were young and wealthy men who wanted to gain knowledge and fame across the land. The essential learning taught to these young people included mathematics and athletics, which led them to believe in their religion among the Athenians (Aristotle 2). Symposium contest was held by Aristocrats to proof the impact of education in the community. Young men were taught etiquette and simple life skills such as table manners and how to conduct themselves during meal time with their elders. In Athenian, young people from Aristocrats learned a lot from the respected Athenian men. These lessons were taught in the gymnasium. There was a mutual relationship between older and younger men where the later were taught about sexual affairs, which was an avenue for these young men to gain knowledge and access privileges as an Athenian citizen. During this time the young men acquired a lot of mental and life skills that the Aristocrats were well known for. These skills in sophism included; Rhetoric, science, poetry, public speaking, and cross-examination. All these came to act after the introduction of democracy by Cleisthenes as the leader of the Athenians.

Cleisthenes divided the city into ten equal part and created boundaries among the tribes in the city. Each of the tribe had a leader (Aristotle 10). Cleisthenes was introducing a new way life by creating division among the different classes of people. The class of Aristocrats who wanted to be elected by peasant had to take skills of rhetorical and cross-examination as a persuasive method to convince the peasant to vote for them (Aristotle 7). In such cases when a speaker uses rhetorical and physiological skills, he or she is referred as a sophist. The ability to use rhetorical captivates the mind of the audiences as it speaks of their grievances and problems. Early politicians of Athens had noted this and took advantage of rhetorical to manipulate the poor unsuspecting peasants. Making weak points stronger and the ability to use cross-examination during arguments and discussions were secret psychological weapons of the sophists. It made them look stronger, educated and dominant in the Athenian society.

Pericles was greatly interested in natural philosophy thus having a chance to be taught by Anaxagoras. Anaxagoras had a diverse knowledge in natural philosophy and basic science majorly in natural physics. Pericles was later to become an expert in natural philosophy almost outdoing his teacher Anaxagoras. Pericles latter underwent cross-examination lessons under his professional teacher Zeno. Zeno had the ability to argue using cross-examination to the extent of making strong points weak or even making both parties to be at the same level of argument. In most cases, many opposers were left baffled and amazed at Zeno ability to cross-examine. Pericles had learned a lot, but he was not in a position to convince people politically due to his poor financial status. At that time he was facing a great challenge from Cimon, another Aristocrat taught by the Sophists.

Pericles learned how to debate politically and won many contests under the supervision of his music teacher Damo (Aristotle 12). Damon was a political teacher but camouflaged in music. Pericles ventured into politics in Athens facing considerable opposition from Cimon. Cimon was wealthy and had many resources to the extent of buying votes from the peasants. Pericles at this time was using his physiological ability to convince people to vote for him. Pericles was witty, intelligent and out stood Cimon using rhetoric until Damonte bore an idea. Damonte advised Pericles to gain money from the public by borrowing. Most of the money Pericles utilized in the community rather than benefiting himself or buying votes. He constructed public buildings. By building such, the people of Athens saw how much concerned Pericles was with Athenians welfare. Pericles manipulated people and let them say what he wanted through his physiological power. He used psychology to dominated Athenians for a long time. Cimon, therefore, told the people about Pericles spending in a bid to divert their interest in him. Pericles, in turn, convinced the people that it was their money that was developing Athens.

Q2. The Nature of Sophism and Its Effect

Sophism made many dynamics in the Athenians society after it was embraced. It (Athenian Constitution) brought a great impact on religion and political setup of the Athenians. It led to the conversation of the Aristocrats into sophisticated. Cleisthenes was now the political leader of the Athenians. During his dominance, Cleisthenes introduced a new ruling and election system. In his new system, anyone regardless of social or economic power was in a position to be elected to a political position. The peasants were many regarding number leading them to have many political positions in the government. In his system of electing people, aspirants were chosen at random for elections. Cleisthenes system also includes division in tribes causing the formation of tribal leaders to head their tribes. This system never favored the Aristocrat as they were scholars and educated than the peasants. It was the knowledge of sophism that created the gap between the Aristocrats and the Peasants. The aristocrats were still holding senior positions in politics under the merit of sophism. Peasants were staunch believers of God, unlike Aristocrats who believed in sophism. The sophism as a religion majorly based its beliefs on superstition, oracles, and omens (Thucydides 9). That made a big religion gap between the Peasants and the Aristocrats. In the case of decision making, the Aristocrats would console oracles before presiding over any religious or social functions. In times of wars, the Athenians would perform oracles and wait for a signal to proceed for wars. Sea expeditions were also to be determined by oracles. A good example is when Pericles had a sea voyage, and an eclipse appeared. The passengers and crew aboard the ship considered the voyage to be doomed because of the eclipse. Persie used his knowledge in natural philosophy by explaining to them how the eclipse work he further demonstrated by using his gown against the light by blocking the moonlight. The people on board later came to understand the philosophy behind Eclipse. The superstition part of it was thrown away.

During the pelopsia war in Melos, the Melonians declined to join the Athenians in their battle. The Athenians decided to go for war on one condition. The Athenians told the Melos that if they win the war, they will sell all their women and children and have all the men killed. After the war, the Athenians won leading to the killing of the Melonian men and having their women and children sold for money. The fate of the melanins was sealed. In this case, sophism was used by consulting the oracles.

Solon was considered by the Athenians to have enough wealth in the community (640-560 BCE). He introduced the policy where class and standard created a margin between the poor and the rich. Solon came up with a law that forbids slaves from accessing basic human rights. Likewise, slaves were not allowed to have lovers. He embraced athletics by hosting torch lighting ceremonies.

Socrates was charged with being an atheist and a sophist at the same time. Due to the ability to clarify matters, he was termed as a god. In a real sense, Socrates was using sophism that involved cross-examination science, which he mostly used to convince young men into his learning. Socrates had the ability to argue and win in debates no matter what side he took. Socrates won even when he took weaker sides of the debate. The Athenians termed him as a god. Chaperon had to intervene the matter through the oracles. The Oracle was an avenue where the gods communicated with the Athenians. It came to pass that Socrates was the best sophist of time. The Socrates argument was different from the sophists pertaining different things. The Sophists believed that the truth was brought about by knowledge while Socrates believed that to look for the absolute truth one must have an objective during the fact-finding mission. Socrates further stated that sophism never used reasoning while approaching matters rather they used emotional and history to influence the people. Socrates termed the sophists as people who only got paid to deliver speeches and quests without thinking of the impact it will cause to the community. Socrates was later called the pioneer of western philosophy. Socrates was sympathetic of the sophists in most of his speeches and doctrines.

At this time Pericles was experiencing much completion from Cimon. Cimon was now using his wealth to gain popularity among the Athenians. Cimon was feeding the hungry and giving them access to his property. The hungry were allowed to pick fruits from his orchard and went to the extent of offering food and clothing to the less fortunate in Athens. At this time the Persian war was being fought (Peloponnesian War 431 BCE). Cimon was successful in the wars and won many victories. Cimon brought back much treasure from war and used them to lure people into liking him (Aristotle 10). Pericles was now facing hardship since Cimon convinced Athenians that Pericles was misusing their funds and spending it on his personal gain. Pericles was criticized by both Cimon and the general public of Athens. Pericles had to change his political style. Pericles came up with the idea whereby all public funds was directed to the building of public buildings. Structures were built at a fast rate than usual. Cimon kept on wars, but now he was losing these battles. Pericles was now blamed for the battle loss. Pericles built a wall around the city of Athens, but Athenians lamented for Pericles had convinced them to go to war. In the year 429 Pericles died of a plague that had hit Athens. Pericles was in the preparation to go to war in a fury to clear all the blame that the Athenians had.

The wall that Pericles had built is what caused the plague to be epidemic killing even him (495-429BCE). After the death of Pericles came the rise of Alcibiades a young courageous and a skilled public speaker (451-403 BCE). Many people praised Alcibiades for his prowess and intelligence in diverse fields. Orators praised Alcibiades in their speeches, and some even went to the extent of terming him a man with an extraordinary gift and powerful speech that command Alcibiades went to war with the Athenians. The Athenians lost most of the wars. This lead to Alcibiades to hide his identity. Alcibiades was tricked into revealing his identity. Thus, Soldiers were sent and killed him in his hiding by spearing and use of arrows. That was the downfall of Alcibiades.

Conclusively, sophism brought many dynamics in the Athenian society. Leaders fought for various positions in the name of sophism, and its effects were enormous. People were able to see things at different angle concerning social and natur...

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