Salient Features of Greek Thought

Salient Features of Greek Thought

The Greek political thought have positive significant features which justify our consideration.

Exclusively Political Character of Treatise:

The ancient Greek Political Thought varies from the Political Thought of other ancient countries like Egypt, Bobylonia, Syria, Persia, India, China etc., formed treatise of purely political nature. On the other hand ancient civilizations the political ideas were inter-mixed with mythology and religious literature.  For example in India the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Manu Smriti, deal with political problems which are not totally political treatises.  They were mainly religious works in which political ideas were inter- mixed with religion and mythology and has to make special efforts to distinguish the politics form religion.  In the case of Greek Political Thought the existence of number of independent treatises which are meant to study the political problems.

Main Concentration on Nature of State:

‘One of the important feature of the ancient Greek Political Thought was that it related itself mainly with the nature of the state and the concept that man is a political animal. The Greek writers did not reflect themselves with the problems relating to the relations between the State and Church, or State and Industry which was the part of political thought of later thinkers.’  When they consider man as a social animal they did not consider him as an isolated and independent individual and tried to understand him in relation to the social whole viz., the state.  And the state become the centre of Greek political thinkers. They discussed the origin and end of the state and distinguished between various forms of states like Monarchy. Aristocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, Tyranny etc. they also highlighted the points that forms of government, determine the order in which the changes take place in governments and the laws governing them.


Social Nature of Man:

‘The Greek thinkers were the first to put weight on social nature of man and highlight that an individual could not think as an lonely and independently.  He could get perfection only in a healthy state, so they considered state as essential for the sake of life as well as good life.’

The City State:

Another significant feature of Greek political thought was that it is positioned around the city states, in which men shared with community for common life and purpose, it was an ample social organization in which citizens uninterruptedly took part.  Greek political thinkers did not identify the state and society.  As Barker has observe, “the Greeks were never tried of telling themselves that while in their communities each man counted for what he was worth and exercised his share of influence in the common life. It was place of a common life and the home of a union of classes.  Like within common walls drew new natural intimacy.  It did not abolish the prestige of wealth and birth and culture, it established a tradition of easy inter course between all classes. The city state was also not different from church.  It was be –all and end-all of the actions of its citizens and included the entire cooperative actions of the citizens.

Importance of Education:

Greek thinkers gave top significance to education and stressed its importance in making the people on par with the spirit of constitution. They highlighted on practical system of education which could help in promoting modesty, self- control, patriotism, sociability and other similar qualities.  The responsibility to promote education was of state among the citizens and was considered as a moral and political institution but also an educational institution. The Greeks laid main pressure on state to skillful system of education.


Greek given an important position to rationalism in their thought. They consider that reason is an aspect of the importance and man was free, when he had freedom of reasoning, this made man to identify himself with corporate life, which made to stop his personal and selfish interests and just into the jurisdiction of wider interpretations and higher purposes.  Greek thinkers gave advantaged positions to persons who had the rational faculty and demoted those persons who did not have reason, have much low status.  ‘They gave much importance to reason and ware against of a thing which was not justified on ground of reason.’

Concept of law:

‘The Greek concept of law was connected with their belief in reason.  They measured life-breath of the state was law, because it characterized the cane of the rational being.’  The people who make laws were stimulated by the divine power and was also pronouncement of God.  They thought that law and justice as two sides of the same coin, and considered the justice done by the law.

Views on Justice:

‘The Greek political thinkers gave top priority to justice, which enabled a citizen to discharge his duties properly, and contributed towards development of human faculties.’  Justice was implied to mean willing obedience to the laws of state.  According to Plato “Justice was the virtue of social and injustice it’s vice”.

Views on Citizenship:

‘The Greek thinkers opined that merely payment of taxes and vote did not mean citizenship.  It meant the direct contribution in the management of state as a soldier, as judge, as a legislator in person not through Deputy.  The Greeks ruled out the concept of representative government, the Greek did not extend rights of citizenship to slaves,’ because they felt the slaves could not discharge their duties towards the state.  Even they denied working classes the right to rule because they did not have speculative mind.  They opined that only the classes which enjoyed leisure and owned lands can actively participate in the affairs of state, because they are free from economic burden, hence, the concept of citizenship was limited.

Belief in Inequality:

‘The Greeks considered equality as impracticable unnatural and undesirable they argued that the majority of individuals who were inferior, lazy, unfit for education could be sacrificed at the altar of the minority of excellent and wise.’  They measured that disparity is natural and allowed the dominance of Greeks over barbarous, of the free man over the slave; of the gentle man artisan etc., they however acceptable equality with in a class.  They opined that equality was not an ideal thing it was something unnatural and hence it is unrealistic and unwanted.

Individualistic Element:

The Greek political thinkers gave a significant position to the individual, their thought and claimed it was the right of individual to articulate his own thoughts and direct these thoughts publicly and act according to the dictator of conscience.  Plato highlighted in his laws that society, a group of individuals and the individual was self-determined.  Similarly, Epicurus said “there is no such thing as human society.  Even man is concerned for himself….. Justice never is anything in itself, but in delays of men with one another in any place whatever and at any time.  It is a time of contract not to harm or to be harmed”.

Primacy of Discussions:

Another important feature of Greeks was that, they committed great importance to discussion. They approved the method of discussion for present their ideas and philosophy, and truth can be exposed only through proper reasoning and discussion.  The novel method adopted by them was between two parties one presenting the issue and other replying to those issues with philosophical ideas.  They thought that truth would hide in the absence of discussion.  It comes in light with discussion.  In fact some of the concepts and ideas discussed by the ancient Greeks were focal point of discussion of political thought even in our times.

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