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Tagged with " political leadership"
21 Jun
2017

Is the U.S. Facing the Same Risks as Ancient Greece?

 

The Ancient World of Greece

I recently returned from a fascinating and educational trip in Greece. We traveled to Athens and four of the islands in The Cyclades–Mykonos, Delos, Paros and Santorini– plus Crete. We also traveled through time back 4000 years as we visited antiquities and ancient excavations of the Bronze Age.

Blue Mediterranean Sea as viewed from Santorini, Greece

Another view of Santorini, coastal hillside dwellings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I am not a historian, I will not go into detail about these ancient civilizations. However, as we visited the ancient sites of the Minoan civilization (2000-1450 BCE), I was impressed by their architecture and expressive culture and the art which decorated their palaces. In these sites on Santorini and Crete we saw “well-appointed, monumental structures with large courts, colonnades, staircases, religious crypts, light-wells, drainage systems, extensive storage magazines and even ‘theatre’ areas for public spectacles.” Amazing architecture created 4000 years ago!

What Can We Learn for Today?

Sign pointing to site of Akrotiri in Greece, destroyed by eruption of volcano Thera in ancient times.

Unfortunately, these magnificent cities were either destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Thera which destroyed Akrotiri on Santorini between 1650-1550 BCE or by the more aggressive and militaristic Mycenaean culture. And, according to our guide, Minoan culture was more creative and expressive, perhaps even advanced. I found myself asking, as we in the U.S.  struggle with our definitions of “greatness” and the role of our leadership in the world, what can we learn from these cultures that have risen and fallen in the past?

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, have eliminated flourishing civilizations and advanced cultures for millennia around the world. Aggression and militaristic invasions by stronger cultures have undermined societies providing cultural, social or economic leadership, and set back cultural advancement for centuries. During the period we refer to as the “Dark Ages,” European cultures retreated and lost the benefit of many Roman innovations for centuries.

Will We Wither and Fail?

Ancient Greek artifacts, remnants of furniture

Do we face these risks in the U.S now? We are divided about our definitions of “greatness” as well as what our leadership role means. Global warming threatens our planet. Yet, if we don’t take action or don’t take action fast enough, “natural” disasters are likely to weaken and destroy cities and towns in our own country, or bring out international aggressive pursuit of water rights where drought threatens. Or, the mixed signals of the US role in international agreements, diplomacy and world leadership, might result in the use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East or the Korean Peninsula. Many other issues can also be listed. Will the U.S. also wither and fail to maintain our democratic, technological and political leadership in the world?

What is your definition of “greatness” for the U.S.? Will we go the way of other failed or weakened civilizations? Or, will we be able to salvage our leadership and establish a better and more progressive role in the future?

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