• Anna Darelli-Anderson

Concepts of Proper Societal/Governmental Leadership


It is said that concepts of proper societal and governmental leadership were born in ancient societies, that principles from pagan religions can be seen in modern Christianity, and that even today's approach to morality and ethics is owed, for example, to ancient Greek philosophers and others from that long-ago time.

In thinking of the Mediterranean World and the origins of influential ancient societies such as Rome and Greece, particularly how it applies to other areas and cultures of the world, the western states are generally unique in promoting the ideas of government inherited from classical antiquity. However, an issue one may come across in regard to this is the definition of "western states." The scope of this phrase is quite subjective depending on whether it is thought of, among others, in a political, geographical, cultural, or religious context. Unsurprisingly, the idea of the "Western world" has its roots in the Greco-Roman civilization. Broadly, the term contrasted Europe with what early-modern Europeans saw as the East - the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and remote Far East. Furthermore, the United States has been included in this definition since its founding in 1776, as its people were those of Western European descent. An excellent example of the Greco-Roman influence on modern western states is that of the adaption of Athenian Democracy within the American government.

Though it may be possible to find examples of democracy and citizenship in places such as China, India, or the Islamic world, it is doubtful that it is found on a large scale. This may come from the fact that Europeans clearly separated themselves from the "Eastern world" in the Middle Ages; or, it may come from the vast differences in people, cultures, and religions. If one were to look at the governments of any area in the Middle East, for example, they would find that they have been ultimately unchanging for centuries due to the dedicated beliefs of the population in that particular region. This is not to say that the Greco-Roman or modern influence is not found there, but perhaps only on a small scale. The conquests of Alexander the Great in the East are examples of this influence. The military colonies, local governments, and trade arrangements that were set up in India and China during the Hellenistic era originated from classical antiquity.

Regarding Christianity and modern philosophy, pagan customs and rituals, as well as the ancient thinkers, were a major influence. Halloween, Christmas, Easter, some traditional doctrines, and even how to worship God properly are all central to paganism. The Celtic Druids believed that late in the year the barrier between the supernatural and our world weakened and came down. Christians now enjoy Halloween due to the ancient Druids' ritual of building fires to appease the spirits and making jack-o-lanterns for poor souls in limbo. Christmas began as a 12-day festival at the time of winter solstice by the Druids in ancient France and Britain. This festival was held in honor of the Sun God as he defeated the ice giant. The Druids decorated green plants and displayed trees to show victory. Unsurprisingly, eventually Roman missionaries ventured to this area of Europe and convinced the people to worship the Son of God instead of the Sun God and the tradition was adopted by Christians. A fundamental Christian doctrine teaches that people have immortal souls; yet even this idea is derived from ancient Egypt and Babylon, further advanced by Greek philosophers.

Moreover, the Socratic method, introduced by Socrates, is used daily within education, encouraging students to ask questions. Plato founded the first institute for higher learning, the predecessor of our universities and colleges. Aristotle was the first to "combine logic, science, metaphysics, politics, aesthetics and morality into a single system of western philosophy." (1) 

References:

(1) Stephanie. 2014. Ancient Greek philosophy: the birth of the modern world. Retrieved from http://www.thetravelchica.com/2014/01/ancient-greek-philosophy-birthmodern-world/

Anna Darelli-Anderson

University of Utah

Department of Surgery

Office of Surgical Education

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© 2020 by Anna Darelli-Anderson