VII. GREEK SCIENCE IN THE EARLY ATTIC PERIOD
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 out- lying 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, Salamis, and Plataea 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.
Sometime during the early part of this golden age there came to Athens a middle-aged man from Clazomenae, who, from our present stand-point, was a more interesting personality than perhaps any other in the great galaxy of remarkable men assembled there. The name of this new-comer was Anaxagoras. It was said in after-time, we know not with what degree of truth, that he had been a pupil of Anaximenes. If so, he was a pupil who departed far from the teachings of his master. What we know for certain is that Anaxagoras was a truly original thinker, and that he became a close friend—in a sense the teacher—of Pericles and of Euripides. Just how long he remained at Athens is not certain; but the time came when he had made himself in some way objectionable to the Athenian populace through his teachings. Filled with the spirit of the investigator, he could not accept the current conceptions as to the gods. He was a sceptic, an innovator. Such men are never welcome; they are the chief factors in the progress of thought, but they must look always to posterity for recognition of their worth; from their contemporaries they receive, not thanks, but persecution. Sometimes this persecution takes one form, sometimes another; to the credit of the Greeks be it said, that with them it usually led to nothing more severe than banishment. In the case of Anaxagoras, it is alleged that the sentence pronounced was death; but that, thanks to the influence of Pericles, this sentence was commuted to banishment. In any event, the aged philosopher was sent away from the city of his adoption. He retired to Lampsacus. "It is not I that have lost the Athenians," he said; "it is the Athenians that have lost me."