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PINDAR AND THE PROBLEM OF · FREEDOM B. R. ENGLISH T HE question of human freedom has forced itself upon minds in every age, and all history is littered with tentative and partial solutions of the problem. In the realm of practical affairs the answer invariably assumes one form; and energetic leaders in modem public life join hands across the ages with those political realists in fifth-century Athens who declared that men rule wherever they can by a necessary law of their nature. Invariably, also, this crude elucidation of the problem in terms of power presently comes to demand a form of intellectual statemen t more in accord with the professions and pious wishes of civilized society. Hence arises a philosophy whose function is to reinforce power-politics by means of an intellectual structure wherein the conscience of men who have in part emerged from the level of brutes may find comfortable asylum. Power, crude and uncultured in the beginning, becomes conservative with old age, and ·reaches after the garb of respectability. . Even tually it comes to seek a greater degree of stability by means of decentralization, and regularizes its position by making use of those forms of expression which meet with universal acceptance, such as constitutional governmen t and codified law. There have, of course, .been other answers to the same question throughout the course of history. Where power for some reason is lacking, freedom (with which justice is usually associated) looks for a mode of expression more in accord with its own impotence. Sometimes it assumes an idealistic form which disregards concrete facts; and in seeking to establish an existence and efficacy in a world 103 -, THE UNIVERSITY OF TqRONTO QUARTERLY which transcends ordinary experience, it has invariably found a fai'thful ally in religion. In any case freedom is never identified for long with licen tious irresponsibility. The cas ting off of one yoke is considered but a prelude to the assumption of another: mere emancipation is not enough,and freedom always involves, sooner or later, a rigid discipline of its own formulation. The problem is, therefore, at once fundamental and universal, and proper understanding of particular local manifestations can proceed only from a knowledge of the universal as embodied in history. I t is also true, however) that one example sheds ligh t upon another, and it is for this reason that we may feel justified in pausing to consider one instance which occurred during the early years of the fifth century B.C., when the Greeks were defending their right to exist as a free people against the threat of Persian domination. Ideas on the subject of human freedom such as those expounded by Pindar never die. They recur periodically, though acciden tal differences in form prevent their immediate recognition. , I The conflict with Persia represents a critical juncture in the history of Greece. As a result of its impact, the Greeks were suddenly ushered in to a new world. Many of the factors which had hitherto determined life among them-such as the jealous guarding of local interests and the uncompromising claim on the part of each city-state to control its own affairs-became relatively unimportant in the face of an external menace which threatened life itself. A congress of representatives met at the Isthmus in the autumn of 48 I B.C., and, although hampered by the abstention of many powerful states, endeavoured· to formulate a Parihellenic policy. Common fear resulted in an effective measure of concerted action,. and the 104 PINDAR AND THE PROBLEM OF FREEDOM danger was ultimately overcome. But so deep-rooted were the prejudices and habits of the Greeks on the mainland 'that the majority of them awoke in 479 B.C. as from an evil dream, and desired nothing better than to relapse into their former condition of city-state sectionalism. The cities of Asia Minor and the Aegean were forced by the danger of their geographical position to favour a more permanent arrangement for federil! action; but so stubborn were the old traditions that the new idea introduced at .this point was destined to rend Greece asunder before the close of the century. Thus it may...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 103-119
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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