||We have travelled
rather far in our study of Greek science, and yet we have not until now
come to Greece itself. And even now, the men whose names we are to consider
were, for the most part, born in outlying portions of the empire; they
differed from the others we have considered only in the fact that they
were drawn presently to the capital. The change is due to a most interesting
sequence of historical events. In the day when Thales and his immediate
successors taught in Miletus, when the great men of the Italic school were
in their prime, there was no single undisputed Centre of Greek influence.
The Greeks were a disorganized company of petty nations, welded together
chiefly by unity of speech; but now, early in the fifth century B.C., occurred
that famous attack upon the Western world by the Persians under Darius
and his son and successor Xerxes. A few months of battling determined the
fate of the Western world. The Orientals were hurled back; the glorious
memories of Marathon,
stimulated the patriotism and enthusiasm of all children of the Greek race.
The Greeks, for the first time, occupied the centre of the historical stage;
for the brief interval of about half a century the different Grecian principalities
lived together in relative harmony. One city was recognized as the metropolis
of the loosely bound empire; one city became the home of culture and the
Mecca towards which all eyes turned; that city, of course, was Athens.
For a brief time all roads led to Athens, as, at a later date, they all
led to Rome. The waterways which alone bound the widely scattered parts
of Hellas into a united whole led out from Athens and back to Athens, as
the spokes of a wheel to its hub. Athens was the commercial centre, and,
largely for that reason, it became the centre of culture and intellectual
influence also. The wise men from the colonies visited the metropolis,
and the wise Athenians went out to the colonies. Whoever aspired to become
a leader in politics, in art, in literature, or in philosophy, made his
way to the capital, and so, with almost bewildering suddenness, there blossomed
the civilization of the age of Pericles; the civilization which produced
aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, and Thucydides; the civilization
which made possible the building of the Parthenon.