Tag Archives: greek


The Berlin Painter.  A Silen, Hermes, and a Fawn, early 5C BCE.  Red Figure Pottery.  Athens.

In the Homeric epics the various city-states of Greece are all under kings, and monarchy lasted for centuries. Finally, not long after Delphi had begun its civilizing Apolline teaching, and after the Phoenicians had taught the Greeks their near-perfect alphabet, in most city-states the kings gave way to aristocrats.

The aristocrats carried further the civilizing processes. They enjoyed verse sung to the lyre, and they advanced to new forms, producing that fusion of literature and music which the Greeks called moo-see-kay, from the moo-sai (Muses), who were generous in their interests, and inspiring. [Tumblr would not accept the Greek script I used, so I tried to render the words phonetically.]

The lidded vase above may serve as a symbol of Athens in the fifth century, when democracy was beginning to supplant aristocracy. With its elaborate contrast of the hesitant, snub-nosed, horse-tailed old silen and the dashing, aristocratic young god, the picture is almost too artful an antithesis. A more delicate fawn could not live.

The aristocrats, in their graceful cultivation of mind, hand, eye, and voice, demonstrated to the rest of Greece (and to us) the right balance by which discipline was rigorous without being harsh, and expression was free and strong without loss of precision and control. 

–Alston Hurd Chase, Phillips Academy, & Henry Phillips, Jr., Phillips Exeter Academy: A New Introduction to Greek (1961)


Mid 17th-century, egg-tempera on wood icon (47 x 32.8cm), at Iviron Monastery, Mt. Athos