The Golden Age Of Athens: An Analysis

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The Golden Age of Athens is a title given to the period 480 – 404 BC. It is also known as Classical Greece and The Age of Pericles. During this period Athens experienced hitherto unsurpassed “splendour and … standard of living” (Athens Guide, n.d., 6th para) and influenced architecture, the arts, education, science and philosophy until the present day.
Butler (n.d.) cites three broad dimensions that led to the led to the end of the Athenian Golden Age, namely: economic and military changes; the spread of Greek civilization; and chronic warfare. I will discuss the first of these.
Discussion - economic and military changes.
In the context of the region and the time, Athens had a well-diversified and relatively complex economy during
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It initially benefited the poorer majority at the expense of the elite, who bore disproportionate cost; then Athens ultimate defeat took away the employment opportunities, economic power and political standing less well off.
This spiral, at first expansive then destructive, is simplistically depicted below. As noted in the introduction, this is only one of the dimensions that led to the led to the end of the Athenian Golden Age. However, it is now a well-trodden pathway. Glubb (1977) considered a series of empires from the Assyrian (859-612 BC) to the British (1700-1950) and identified six common stages of their rise and fall: outburst (pioneering); conquest; commerce; affluence; intellect; and decay. These stages could be superimposed onto the spiral depicted above.
My conclusions
From my reading to date about Greek civilization in the 4th and 5th centuries BC, I consider that Butler’s premise on economic and military changes, which is essentially that it ultimately systematically undermined Athens, is valid. There were undoubtedly other factors that contributed to and perhaps hastened the end of the Athenian Golden Age, in particular the untimely epidemic that devastated Athens and its leadership in 429
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over the last seventy years. The U.S.A.:
• Benefited significantly from World War II (WWII), building rather than losing infrastructure, profiting from the supply of munitions and equipment, and losing comparatively little of its human capital.
• Implemented economic policies based on or akin to Roosevelt’s New Deal both prior to and after WWII, including Keynesian infrastructure spending, public education and social security that underpinned the rise of the middle classes and laid the foundations for sustained postwar economic success.
• Built a massive military-industrial base that has often provided nearly half of global military spending over the post WWII period and still accounts for around 40% (Shah, 2013).
• Is now facing severe rundowns in domestic infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates a $2.2 trillion infrastructure backlog – “One of every eight bridges is structurally deficient, and 85 percent of public transit systems are struggling to carry the growing number of riders. As ASCE President Blaine D. Leonard puts it, We are still driving on Eisenhower's roads and sending our kids to Roosevelt's schools." (Kettl, 2010, 3rd
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