What Can We Learn from Ancient Greece?

We've all heard the mantras, whether from Hegel or Santayana, about the importance of history consisting in learning from previous mistakes so as not to repeat them. In some special cases, however, the importance of learning from history is the opposite: it's about understanding not only the twists and turns of our own trajectory but about being exposed to a variety of social, aesthetic and philosophical alternatives, to various experiments in governance and culture, to different understandings of ways of being in the world. In short, it's also about having our own preconceptions challenged and expanded.

And in a few select cases, history provides us with beacons of hope, with ideals worth striving for, with models to emulate, purify and improve on. And if there is one place where the universal existential aspects of the human condition have been explored, enacted, dramatized and confronted in sublime ways, all while struggling to balance the dualities of fatalism and agency, mind and body, self-interest and moral obligation, discipline and frenzy, the eternal and the ethereal, that place has got to be Ancient Greece.

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